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cute kids movie, 28 January 2016

Postman Wilson Daniels (Fred MacMurray) hates dogs and is allergic to them. His son Wilby is entranced by the new French girl Franceska Andrassy. She invites him to her home. She has shaggy sheepdog and from a painting, the family seems to have a shaggy dog for a long time. He stumble into a room and accidentally takes a ring. After reading the inscription, he finds himself turning into a shaggy dog from time to time. His slick friend Buzz Miller asks out both Allison D'Allessio (Annette Funicello) and Francesca to the dance. To solve the problem, Buzz gets Wilby to come along and lie to both girls. Just when things couldn't be more complicated, Wilby as a dog overhears a plan to steal military secret.

This is a cute Disney family movie. It's got plenty of clean cut fun. Who doesn't like a dog in pajamas? It's nothing too hilarious. It's a light-weight comedy. There is a serious espionage story that doesn't really fit the tone. It is still funny at times but the darker material does take its toll.

action hero Gene Hackman, 28 January 2016

In L.A., Carol Hunnicut (Anne Archer) goes on a blind date. She witnesses mobster Leo Watts kill his date which is actually a mob lawyer. She is unseen in the bathroom. Police detective Dominick Benti (M. Emmet Walsh) discovers Carol's fingerprints. Deputy district attorney Robert Caulfield (Gene Hackman) disobeys his superior and fly to Carol's remote cabin in Canada with Benti. Another helicopter arrives with mob hit men. They kill Benti and Caulfield escapes with Hunnicut. They climb on a train from the remote Alberta location heading for Vancouver.

I don't completely buy Gene Hackman in this semi-action movie. He is an everyman kind of actor. Putting him in an action movie sometimes work. There are a few unbelievable moments. The action starts with a helicopter unable to stop a pick-up truck going through the woods. I expect those kinds of scenes from Schwarzenegger or Sly. It's a little odd in a Gene Hackman movie. I really wish the bad guys were in a truck and the truck crashed chasing them down the mountain. That would keep the action in realm of reality. This is an OK straight forward action movie on a train.

not necessarily the right match, 28 January 2016

Godfrey (William Powell) is a bum in the dumps during the Great Depression. Spoiled socialite Cornelia Bullock (Gail Patrick) offers him $5 to be part of a scavenger game. Godfrey is not happy and corners her younger sister Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard). Flighty Irene explains that everybody brings back something unwanted. Godfrey volunteers to go back with Irene to be the forgotten man and win the game for her. She wins and he berates the whole crowd. She hires him as the family butler and looking to make him her protégé. Mean-spirited Cornelia wants him fired. The wealthy chaotic family is a mess.

Comedy does change from era to era. The most interesting aspect of these early talkies is that the rom-com formula isn't set yet. It would be more formulaic for Godfrey to couple with Cornelia. The couple first has to hate each other before they fall in love. Although Lombard is older than Patrick, Irene is suppose to be the younger sister. It would feel better to have the older gentleman fall for the older sister. Irene is too flighty and it's hard to take her puppy love that seriously. She is much better as a student of life learning from Godfrey.

compelling epic, 28 January 2016

It's 1854. Entitled aristocratic John Hanning Speke (Iain Glen) arrives on the East African Coast on leave from the Army. He recruits Captain Richard Francis Burton (Patrick Bergin) on a journey to find the source of the Nile. Burton is an expert on natives. They call the location Mountains of the Moon. The expedition is soon attacked by a local tribe. Burton and Speke barely escape. Back in England, Burton is organizing a new expedition with the Royal Geographical Society. Isabel Arundell is a well-read spinster and completely taken with Burton. With Speke at his side, Burton returns to Africa to lead a grand expedition following Arab slave trade routes into the interior. They rescue escaped slave Mabruki (Delroy Lindo) from the lions.

It is an epic Victorian adventure. It's too bad that few saw it and it continues that few people knows about it. It is grand and a character study. The black Africans are not cartoon characters. One can compare it to Lawrence of Arabia. The cinematography is not quite as great but the story is every bit as compelling. This is an old fashion epic that is being made less and less. There is so much in this story. Surprisingly, the last half hour takes place in England. Changing tone from tense adventure in Africa to Academic back-fighting in London can be tough but the movie never stops being interesting.

fun classic Disney for the first hour, 28 January 2016

Ned Brainard (Fred MacMurray) is an accident-prone professor in Medfield College of Technology. Betsy Carlisle (Nancy Olson) tries to marry him for the third time. Despite all the precautions, he still can't make it to the ceremony after a lab accident which creates an incredible substance Flubber. Professor Shelby Ashton is all too happy to pick up the pieces with Betsy. Ruthless businessman Alonzo Hawk is threatening the college by withholding a loan renewal and building track housing over the college. He is also not happy with Brainard's treatment of his failing son. Brainard keeps failing to explain Flubber to Betsy. Alonzo Hawk figures out Brainard's secret and looking to make a bundle off of Flubber. However, Brainard wants to give his discovery over to the government.

This black and white Disney film is fun magic for the first hour. Fred MacMurray is full of charms. I really like the small town feel. It's so much fun. The only drawback is the involvement of the military. It doesn't feel like the right fit for a fun family movie. Also it doesn't make sense that people still don't believe him after seeing it in action. The second half does have its silly charms and its idiotic fun.

Meridian (1990) (V)
guilty pleasure, 28 January 2016

Gina (Charlie Spradling) is restoring an old painting from the church in Italy. Her school friend Catherine (Sherilyn Fenn) returns to take over her family castle after being away for 10 years. A wizard supposedly create the castle and Martha has been the caretaker even since Catherine can remember. The two friends are taken by a traveling circus and invite them in for diner. Durint the diner, the girls are drugged. Catherine is taken to the bedroom by the leader Lawrence (Malcolm Jamieson) and given to his masked twin Oliver.

This is made by B-movie horror director Charles Band although this has more in common with pulpy romance novels. This is either softcore porn with better than average plot or a B-movie horror with plenty of nudity. It's substantively not good compared to normal movies but this is simply a guilty pleasure. Sherilyn Fenn from Twin Peaks has always been gorgeous and this movie introduced the beautiful Charlie to me.

good surrealism, 28 January 2016

Joe Bank (Tom Hanks) has a depressing job in the Advertising Dept of American Panascope in Long Island City, New York. They make rectal probes. He suffers under his supervisor Mr. Waturi (Dan Hedaya). He's diagnosed with terminal brain cloud with six months to live. He quits and asks out his co-worker DeDe (Meg Ryan). Wealthy businessman Samuel Graynamore (Lloyd Bridges) needs to placate locals on an island to mine a rare mineral. He hires Joe to jump into the volcano to appease their god. Joe hires limo driver Marshall (Ossie Davis) to help him spend the money. Samuel's flighty daughter Angelica (Meg Ryan) picks him up at the airport in L.A. Angelica's half-sister Patricia (Meg Ray) captains the yacht that brings him to the island.

I like his surrealistic work life. It reminds me of Brazil. The movie does get uneven at times. After getting the credit cards, Joe goes back into the real world. I expected more surrealism. After that, the surrealism returns with Meg Ryan playing another character. It makes shopping in Manhattan out of step.

The 3 Meg Ryan performances are a little jarring at first. I enjoy DeDe as a little wacky and a little darker than her usual fare. Angelica is not as enjoyable. She seems to be trying to hard with her voice. She should pull back a little with the crazy voice and she could replace Ossie Davis on his shopping trips. Patricia is classic Meg and shows their easy chemistry once again. Overall, this may be uneven at times but there are plenty of interesting imaginative concepts.

Stone Cold (1991)
Bosworth limited, 27 January 2016

Joe Huff (Brian Bosworth) takes out a hold-up gang in a supermarket all by himself. A violent motorcycle gang called The Brotherhood led by Chains Cooper (Lance Henriksen) and his right-hand man Ice Hensley (William Forsythe) is murdering and causing havoc. Suspended Alabama cop Huff is forced by the FBI to go undercover to infiltrate the gang.

This has some good action scenes especially for a B-movie. It's got a couple of solid actors, Henriksen and Forsythe, to play the fun villains. It all boils down to Bosworth. I don't expect much and that's what he has. He has a limited range. I wouldn't call him charming. He lets his size do most of the acting. I also wouldn't call him stiff. He can walk. He can talk. However he can't do more. He is at most second tier and more realistically third tier action star material.

Blue Steel (1989)
interesting style, 27 January 2016

NYPD rookie beat cop Megan Turner (Jamie Lee Curtis) kills a hold-up robber on her first day. One of the victims, psychotic Eugene Hunt (Ron Silver) steals the robber's gun. None of the victims can corroborate Megan's story and she struggles to clear her name. Hunt starts killing with the gun and engineers a romance with Turner. A shell casing with Turner's name carved into it is found at the crime scene and she's reinstated working under homicide detective Nick Mann (Clancy Brown) on the case. Eventually, Hunt reveals himself to Turner and later, attacks her and her friend Tracy (Elizabeth Peña).

Director Kathryn Bigelow instills a kind of dark brutality to this story. The slow motion action isn't thrilling but has an artistic flavor. Curtis is great and Silver is interesting as a psychopath. There are problems with the story. I can't believe that nobody saw the gun. It would be more believable if it is only a kid behind the counter who doesn't want to get involved. At its best, I'm reminded of other dark thrillers like Se7en but there are a few head-scratchers too.

tired repeat and silly villains, 27 January 2016

Disgraced karate teacher John Kreese loses his students and his dojo. He finds help from his Vetnam war buddy Terry Silver who is a wealthy toxic waste disposal businessman. Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) return from Okinawa to find their apartment being demolished. Daniel uses his college fund to buy Miyagi a bonsai tree workshop. Jessica Andrews (Robyn Lively) makes pottery across the street. Terry Silver buys properties for Kreese to restart his dojo. Miyagi won't let Daniel defend his title. Terry recruits thugs to force Daniel to enter the tournament. Miyagi won't train him and Terry tricks him into being his student. Terry teaches him all the wrong techniques.

The major problem is that this repeats the original and even ends with the same tournament. There are also a few minor annoyances. I doubt the cops would ignore the vandalism and the beatings. There has to be a more devious way to force Daniel into the tournament. Those young thugs are cheesy villains but Thomas Ian Griffith is infinitely worst. I love Martin Kove but his character mostly gets sidelined. The most disappointing is Daniel himself. After all these years, he has not grown much. The third film should have Daniel be a big brother to someone else. It's an obvious way for the franchise to continue but they decide to do a repeat.

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