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Birthdate: September 25
I bid you...velcome.
I'm a shameless movie fanatic who especially favours the following genres:
Favourite directors include:
George A. Romero
Hour of the Gun (1967)
Delivers the goods for Western fans.
Instead of telling the familiar Wyatt Earp - Doc Holliday story as it leads up to the shootout at the OK Corral, this film actually *begins* with the shootout and shows us all that came after (it purports to be based on fact). Earp (James Garner) and Doc (Jason Robards) are targeted by ruthless businessman Ike Clanton (Robert Ryan) and his minions. Earp, similarly, is motivated to strike back at Clanton and company when they target his brothers Morgan and Virgil.
Once again, director John Sturges ("Bad Day at Black Rock", "The Magnificent Seven") is right at home in this genre, but the script by Edward Anhalt isn't terribly inspired. Ultimately, this plays like a pretty standard revenge saga, but it's helped by efficient filmmaking and a typically nice Jerry Goldsmith music score. There are certainly good moments throughout, especially in scenes with Garner and Robards, who are believable as friends, loyal to each other through thick and thin. Especially potent is when Doc has figured out Earps' agenda. Earp claims that the mission to go after Clantons' men is all mandated by the law, but Doc can see otherwise.
The cast is stocked with highly recognizable faces (Albert Salmi, Charles Aidman, William Schallert, William Windom, Lonny Chapman, etc.), including a future star in the form of Jon Voight (cast as Curly Bill Brocius), who was two years away from "Midnight Cowboy" at this time. Garner and especially Robards are wonderful, although you won't ever see Garners' Earp show a lot of emotion. Ryan is excellent as always in one of his trademark villain roles. But it's the moving relationship between Earp and Doc that is the heart of the film.
Not a great, or especially memorable experience, but it does entertain in solid enough fashion.
Seven out of 10.
Money for Nothing (1993)
A fool and his money soon parted.
"Money for Nothing" is not uninteresting as a combination of drama and comedy, in this story based upon a real life incident. John Cusack is good as Joey Coyle, a Philadelphia longshoreman unable to get work. With no real prospects in life, he's ecstatic when fate seems to drop a miracle into his lap. $1.2 million in cash drops out of an unsecured armored car, and when Joey comes across the money, his instinct is to keep it. "Finders keepers", as they say. But Joey is not the type to just let the dough sit around. No, he starts throwing it around, even taking some of it to mob money launderers. Meanwhile, an efficient detective named Laurenzi (Michael Madsen) goes about tracking down the thief.
The set-up here should be compelling for a great many people. It'd be awfully tempting for a person to want to keep any money they found. Even if they returned it, the thought of keeping it just might cross their mind for a moment or two. So we can relate to Joey...for a while. At some point, he stops being all that sympathetic, or at least he starts getting overly stupid, which isn't all that surprising. Joey still feels that the universe is out to screw him when the deal with the mob is not to his liking. His friends and associates seem to want to be loyal, especially when he's at the bar and is buying everybody drinks, but his family (including a young James Gandolfini, playing Joey's brother) would prefer that he do the right thing.
Directed by Ramon Menendez ("Stand and Deliver"), this isn't a particularly great film, but it is reasonably entertaining. It is played partly for laughs (and was marketed as a comedy), but the overall effect is rather sad (especially when you learn of the real Joey Coyle's outcome). What really makes this one worth watching is wonderful Philly location work, and the efforts of a truly fantastic supporting cast: Madsen, Debi Mazar (who looks great), Benicio Del Toro, Michael Rapaport, Maury Chaykin, Fionnula Flanagan, Lenny Venito, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Frankie Faison. Cusack is consistently amusing in the lead.
Somewhat uneven (mostly because it wasn't all that funny to this viewer), but it's enjoyable to watch.
Seven out of 10.
I criminali della galassia (1966)
"I don't believe what I see, yet I see it."
Psychedelia mixes with "future" technology in this groovy Italian sci-fi flick. The set-up by screenwriter Ivan Reiner: the all-powerful "The Corporations" are competing fiercely with the "United Democracies". But a nefarious executive / mad scientist with The Corporations, Mr. Nurmi (Massimo Serato), has a plan that involves abducting various people within the U.D., adults and children alike. It's up to a can-do rescue unit led by the efficient Commander Mike Halstead (Tony Russel) to save the day.
This was the first in a "Gamma One" series of spaghetti science fiction features, also including "War of the Planets", "War Between the Planets", "The Snow Devils", and "The Green Slime". Directed by Antonio Margheriti, this colorful fluff is vividly designed and just full of eye candy - of both the scenic and the female human variety. It's not for all tastes, though. There will be viewers who will likely find it to be too slow and too dependent on talk rather than action. But that doesn't mean that the movie is devoid of amusements. There's a gut busting fight sequence at right about the half way point, and there are also elements such as sunglasses and trenchcoat wearing bald robot henchmen, hand held weapons that are supposedly lasers but act more like miniature flamethrowers, and a major deluge of Kool-Aid at the end. The costumes and sets are simply out of sight, and the music by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino is a joy.
The acting is acceptable for this kind of entertainment. Russel is a decent, amiable hero, and Lisa Gastoni is similarly appealing as his love interest. Serato is a fine villain in the classic tradition of mad scientists. And it's a special treat to see a very young and studly Franco Nero among the supporting cast.
It's best to go in blind, as this viewer did, so one can have a better sense of "What the Hell is going on?" while watching. The big twist leads to some pretty amusing visual gags. (It's nice to see that this movie does have a sense of humor about itself.) The special effects are primitive (such as model spaceships that seem to only go in circles), but this merely adds to the charm.
Worthy viewing if one loves schlock.
Seven out of 10.
I feel the Earth move, under my feet.
Corny characters abound in this uneven addition to the disaster film cycle of the 1970s. The city of Los Angeles is devastated, and I do mean DEVASTATED, when a quake of truly epic proportions jolts the city. Among those affected are engineer Graff (Charlton Heston), who'd rather spend his time with younger woman Denise (Genevieve Bujold) than his shrewish wife Remy (Ava Gardner), a hot headed cop named Slade (George Kennedy), Remy's dad (and Graff's boss) Royce (Lorne Greene), and daredevil motorcyclist Miles (Richard Roundtree).
This viewer does understand the *need* for set-up in a movie such as this. After all, it's important to have characters we can possibly care about before inundating them with spectacle. The problem was, I *didn't* care that much for these characters. Graff, despite being an adulterer, is more engaging and substantial than some of them, and Heston does a fine job in this part. Gardner is directed to camp it up a bit too much. But most of the performances are adequate, and there is some hilarity to be found in the casting. In real life, Greene wasn't very much older than Gardner, and in truth they look like they're practically the same age, anyway. Marjoe Gortner gets a particularly amusing role as Jody, an Army reservist who turns out to be both vindictive and a creep. Victoria Principal is lovely, but it's hard to take your eyes off the priceless white womans' afro that she's obliged to wear. As could be expected for the genre, there's many familiar faces in roles big and small. Keep your eyes peeled for Barry Sullivan, Lloyd Nolan, Walter Matthau (billed under his birth name), Monica Lewis, Gabriel Dell, Pedro Armendariz Jr., Lloyd Gough, John Randolph, Kip Niven, Scott Hylands, Donald Moffat, Jesse and Alan Vint, George Murdock, John Dennis, and H.B. Haggerty.
Getting to the good stuff may be a slog for some audience members, but the movie *does* reward you with entertaining action sequences and some hair raising moments, as well as matte shots supervised by Albert Whitlock, a legendary expert in the medium. John Williams' score is excellent, as is the widescreen photography. After the major set piece of "Earthquake" is over, the movie gets more interesting until it delivers another whammy right near the end.
As written by George Fox and "Godfather" author Mario Puzo, this isn't afraid to get grim, or have sad ends for some of its characters, and it does portray humanity at both its best and worst in times of crisis.
Seven out of 10.
That's NOT all, folks!
This is a decent, at times uproarious Warner Bros. cartoon compilation, with all the beloved characters delivering the expected laughs. It showcases some classic moments for legendary animator Friz Freleng, while linking it all together with new material.
Bugs kicks off the proceedings by introducing the short that won Freleng an Oscar, "Knighty Knight Bugs", in which the unflappable rabbit sets out to steal back the wondrous "Singing Sword" from the dastardly Black Knight (a.k.a. Yosemite Sam).
From there the action is divided into three acts: "Satan's Waiting", in which great Bugs vs. Sam moments are interwoven into a tale of Sam desperately trying to weasel his way out of Hell by offering Satan a replacement. Sam was always my favorite Looney Tune character, and watching him stew and rant and persistently try to get back at Bugs is hilarious stuff.
"The Unmentionables" prominently features gangster character Rocky, as Bugs plays Eliot Ness parody Elegant Mess, crack Federal agent assigned to bring him down. Warner Bros. had had such success with gangster classics like "Little Caesar" and "The Public Enemy", so it was only natural for them to use the Looney Tunes to make fun of this particular genre. This is fun stuff, but this viewers' least favorite segment of the movie.
Finally, we get to a cracking conclusion, "The Oswald Awards", a spot on skewering of Hollywood awards shows. The rivalry between Bugs and foul tempered Daffy Duck reaches a real fever pitch here. There's some good material with Sylvester and Tweety, and viewers are treated to an especially amusing short, "The Three Little Bops", which offers up a catchy ditty / spin on the old Three Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf tale.
It's still a treat to revisit these cartoon characters years later as an adult. Of course, with age and experience, one does appreciate more than just the priceless visual gags. There's some good material for adults, too, ex. a knight named "Sir Osis of the Liver".
Overall, a reasonably sharp and pretty funny collection of Looney Tunes insanity.
Seven out of 10.
Dracula's Dog (1978)
Mans' best friend wants your blood.
The Russian Army (who don't have Russian accents in this movie, by the way) are busy blasting, and they unearth the crypt of the Dracula family line. Also among those bones entombed are those of Veidt Schmidt (Reggie Nalder), the Counts' ghoulish slave, and Veidts' faithful canine companion, Zoltan. The bodies of Veidt and Zoltan are resurrected, and they travel to America in search of the Counts' last living descendant. That turns out to be family man Michael Drake (Michael Pataki), who's gone on a camping trip with his wife (Jan Shutan) and two kids (Libby Chase, John Levin). Drake will receive assistance from an intrepid Van Helsing type named Inspector Branco (Jose Ferrer), who tails the villain and his dog to L.A. Before too long, Zoltan has sunk his teeth into the necks of a few of the canines in the lake area, creating a pack of vampire dogs.
Admittedly, this is a fairly novel twist which the filmmakers exploit for all that it's worth. (Although there was also a vampire dog in the 1940s horror picture "The Face of Marble".) "Dracula's Dog" is low rent, to be sure, with less than stellar acting. Ferrer is just picking up a paycheck, Pataki really isn't cut out for family man type roles, and Nalder is required to basically stand around, most of the time. He either smiles for the camera repeatedly with that uniquely unhandsome face of his, or communicates telepathically with Zoltan. Also appearing are two other character actors with great faces, Simmy Bow and JoJo D'Amore, as fishermen in the area, and the sexy Arlene Martel as Russian Major Hessel. It's the dogs that come off the best, unsurprisingly.
This viewer did enjoy the decent electronic music score by Andrew Belling and the cinematography by Bruce Logan. There is also some wonderful gore devised by Stan Winston. Directed by Albert Band ("I Bury the Living"), this movie does get one thing right: the animal attack sequences, supervised by old pros Karl Lewis Miller and Lou Schumacher. These, at least, are done with skill, accompanied by rapid fire editing by Harry Keramidas. One moment has Pataki in a car besieged by killer canines, prefiguring the story "Cujo" by a few years. (See also "The Pack", made around this time.)
Minor league fare, but it may work for dedicated fans of animal attack horror. The final minute or so is both cute and sad at the same time.
Dog and puppy lovers may find some moments to be hard to take.
Six out of 10.
Willie Dynamite (1974)
Can you tell me how to get to Easy Street?
This Blaxploitation classic merits a viewing on at least two bases: one, you've got none other than Gordon of 'Sesame Street', a.k.a. actor Roscoe Orman, playing a pimp, and two, you have to love these COSTUMES! "Willie Dynamite" (Orman) is a capitalism-oriented flesh peddler with a wardrobe to die for. But he'll have a few thorns in his side: a pair of detectives (George Murdock, Albert Hall) out to righteously bust him, a mysterious enemy determined to screw him over, and a crusading social worker named Cora (Diana Sands), who acts as a patron saint to hookers.
Directed with style by Gilbert Moses, "Willie Dynamite" is generally engaging entertainment. Some viewers may be pleased to note that, although the rating is R, there's no excessive violence, and very little in the way of bare female skin. That doesn't mean, however, that it's not worth other peoples' time. It spins a decent yarn (screenplay by Ron Cutler, based on a story by Cutler and Joe Keyes Jr.) that unfolds at a respectable pace, gives us some agreeable action set pieces, and makes fine use of locations. There's a wonderful score provided by J.J. Johnson, and a rousing title theme song that gets you in the proper mood immediately.
Orman is great fun playing a charismatic antihero. The scenario lets you wait until the end to let you know whether or not Willie D. can be redeemed, leading to some poignant moments. Sands, sadly dying of cancer during this time, gives the best performance in the movie. Thalmus Rasulala is saddled with little to do as her attorney boyfriend. Similarly, there are other familiar faces here that are rather wasted. Judith Brown, Juanita Brown, Marcia McBroom, and Mary Charlotte Wilcox as some of Willie D.'s hookers mostly just take up space. The pretty Joyce Walker gets the lions' share of attention as novice ho Pashen. Roger Robinson, as an antagonistic pimp named Bell, is most amusing, but there may be viewers who will take offense to his stereotypical portrayal of a gay character.
"Willie Dynamite" is lively, funny, and sometimes touching. Blaxploitation completists will want to check it out, for sure.
Seven out of 10.
Turn it OFF!
George C. Scott is effective in this sordid tale, playing Jake VanDorn, a conservative and religious business owner in the Midwest. His daughter Kristen (Ilah Davis) goes on a "Calvinist Convention" to various other points in the U.S., including Bellflower, California. Soon he's heard that she's gone missing, and disgusted with the apparent uselessness of California police, he first hires a private detective, Andy Mast (Peter Boyle). It isn't that long before Mast unearths a bargain basement pornographic film that stars Kristen. Heartsick and enraged, Jake decides to do his own sleuthing, navigating the seedy California underworld, and eventually hooking up with a part time hooker / part time adult film actress, Niki (Season Hubley), whom he hires to assist in the search.
Writer / director Paul Schrader, unlike his uptight main character, isn't afraid to explore the whole idea of sex, and the attitude that less judgmental people have towards it. The way that he immerses his hero in the non stop array of seedy environments is never less than fascinating. Some viewers can easily find it sad, and yes, off putting as well, but his material is grimly compelling nevertheless. It's all brilliantly captured on film by a talented team including production designer Paul Sylbert and cinematographer Michael Chapman. The story does have a message in it about learning to be more open minded and not so critical towards others, something that Jake has realized by the end. This is driven home by the whole relationship between Jake and Niki, which is nicely developed by Schrader, Scott, and Hubley. While the tone is mostly fairly serious, there is some humor to be found as Jake sees that his confrontational approach in pornographic places of business doesn't work, and tries ruses like masquerading as an adult filmmaker.
The cast is superb. Scott anchors the tale with his sober performance, Hubley is just wonderful, and Boyle is fun to watch (in an interesting twist, Mast is actually rather sleazy himself). Dick Sargent lends a warm presence as Jakes' brother-in-law, who's concerned for his safety. There's a parade of familiar faces for viewers to enjoy: Gary Graham, Marc Alaimo, Hal Williams, Roy London, Bibi Besch, Tracey Walter, Reb Brown, and Ed Begley Jr. It's a truly gut wrenching moment when Jake recognizes his daughter in the $200 stag film, and Scott just acts the hell out of it.
Some people take issue with the resolution (and, admittedly, the character who's more or less established as the villain of the piece is barely in the film), but at least Schrader refrains from making it conventionally Hollywood-happy. There's some hope for the future, but also a nagging doubt. The actors play it well.
Overall, a good, solid drama.
Eight out of 10.
I think we're in deep schist here.
Brendan Fraser plays a scientist named Trevor Anderson, who goes in search of his long missing brother Max, who vanished over a decade ago. Along for the ride is Trevors' surly teen aged nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson), as well as Hannah (Anita Briem), the lovely Icelandic mountain guide they meet. Sealed inside a cave, they soon find themselves transported to a magical inner world deep inside the bowels of Planet Earth, encountering various perils such as a drooling T-Rex and a steadily rising temperature.
Much more inspired by the work of Jules Verne, rather than based on it, this *does* make the reading and dissection of the novel a major plot device. It also mentions people known as "Vernians", fans of the author who believed that he was writing fact and not fiction. There were some groan-inducing lines and moments for this viewer, and it's all rather silly and juvenile as it targets a family audience. It's the kind of experience that doesn't work as well outside of a 3-D format. Admittedly, the digital artists do create here some impressive, appealing visuals and environments, although the CGI monsters are not convincing in the slightest. (At one point, our intrepid heroes swing oars like bats at an army of piranha-like fish.) The little glowing hummingbirds are cute, to be sure. The sequence with the floating, magnetic rocks should raise some of the hairs on ones' head. Cinematography, production design, and music are all adequate to the occasion.
The movie benefits from fairly likable characters & performances. Fraser, Hutcherson, and Briem are all okay, and create some chemistry together. Seth Meyers appears in two scenes as Andersons' snide, sardonic colleague.
Lightweight, unmemorable, but passable entertainment. At least it's relatively brief at just over an hour and a half.
Six out of 10.
"You can't gunfight a man sitting on your ass." Wise words from 'Swifty' Morgan.
A follow-up rather than a sequel to "Support Your Local Sheriff", this rollicking Western comedy shares the same director and some of the same cast, but works as a self-contained story. James Garner is at his most charming as Latigo Smith, a rascally con artist in the Old West who's currently trying to escape Goldie (Marie Windsor), the woman he just married. He gets off a train in the small time mining town of Purgatory, where he makes friends with amiable old cowhand Jug May (Jack Elam). He learns that two local bigwigs, Taylor Barton (Harry Morgan) and Colonel Ames (John Dehner), are at war over mining interests, and that Ames has hired a notorious gunslinger named 'Swifty' Morgan. Sensing the opportunity for a con, and a hefty payday, Latigo tries to palm off Jug as Swifty. Then, inevitably, the real Swifty turns up.
I wouldn't be honest if I said that I laughed all that much at this movie (scripted by James Edward Grant, and directed by Burt Kennedy, both Western veterans). But it's just so lively, memorably performed, and incredibly LOUD (with explosions aplenty) that it's far from boring. Garner does have tremendous fun with his role, as Latigo attempts to remove an embarrassing tattoo from his chest and continuously has a weakness for the number 23. Elam delivers one of his most likable performances of all time. The cast is simply stacked with familiar faces; among them are Joan Blondell, Henry Jones, Dub Taylor, Kathleen Freeman, Dick Curtis, Willis Bouchey, Walter Burke, Gene Evans, Grady Sutton, and Ellen Corby. (You won't hear who plays the real Swifty from me; it's a special treat.) Everybody plays this material for all that they're worth. Sometimes they don't so much speak their dialogue as yell it. The only real drawback is the lovely Suzanne Pleshettes' love interest character Patience; this is a ridiculous woman who overreacts a LOT. Ms. Pleshette herself is fine; it's just the character as written that is a problem.
Things get off to a bright start and remain fun right up through the final monologue by Jug that reveals the fates of key players. People will howl in appreciation at his final line.
Seven out of 10.