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5/10
plain filmmaking
12 December 2017
Father Daniel Clemens (Christian Slater) does money solicitation and financial work for the church. He's called in for admiror Father Andrews who was arrested for murder. Andrews can't prove his innocence due to the seal of confession. Clemens has his friend McCaran (Stephen Rea). Cardinal Ledesna (Gordon Pinsent) orders Clemens to handle the case. He struggles to do PR and investigate with the help of reporter Madeline Finney (Molly Parker) with whom he has a past.

This is a Canadian production that pulled in some bigger actors. Stephen Rea is woefully underserved. It's obvious what they're setting him up for but it's a waste of a great actor. As a mystery, it doesn't lay out the clues and twists that well. The filmmaking is plain. It needs a better filmmaker to inject real intensity and brooding mood. Neither writer nor director seem to have gone on to do much else. The church's internal battle needs something bigger and more ominous. The forbidden love between Daniel and Madeline has no heat and is awkward when the heat is turned up. There are elements of a better film but this puts it together like a movie of the week. It's only when Stephen Rea, Slater, and Parker join forces do the movie starts pulling together.
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5/10
horror or spoof
12 December 2017
New couple Clifford Sturges (Eugene Levy) and Gloria Wellaby (Andrea Martin) are driving their troublesome car when it breaks down near the small town of Farnhamville. They are told about the legend of 3 cannibal women luring men to their deaths. They stay at the house in the urban legend hosted by the Reverend and his three female followers.

With Levy and Martin, I assumed that this is a spoof or at least a horror comedy. I'm not sure if there is any comedic intent and I don't know what is suppose to be funny. There is actually a very effective section as the old woman recounts the cannibal girls legend. I love these beautiful women luring the two nerds especially. It's effective horror and works great as a story. There are interesting ways to go with that dynamic. Levy and Martin don't really fit and they aren't going with their strengths anyways. After a certain point, the movie left me scratching my head.
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6/10
small Canadian indie
11 December 2017
It's WWII in a small working class Canadian town. Jeannie Dougall (Carol Kane) is a good girl living at home with her parents (Donald Pleasence, Doris Petrie). Her brother Jimmie comes home on furlough with military buddy Billy (Doug McGrath). After a night of drinking, Jeannie's friend rejects Billy who ends up raping her instead. Jeannie gets pregnant. Her father refuses to believe a soldier would act dishonorably. He forces her to marry his elderly drunken war buddy Sandy to maintain his honor.

This is a small Canadian indie. It's pretty good. The accent is a little tough. The production is definitely older. It's grimy and old working class. The acting from Pleasence and Petrie is terrific. Carol Kane is sadly naive and in need of a big hug. It does need more in terms of intensity. I wonder if the movie needs a scene where Jeannie begs Billy to accept his part in the pregnancy. This movie needs something to elevate the drama.
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5/10
Not the worst
11 December 2017
Charlie Martin, from a long line of frat leaders, is overjoyed as a new pledge to Alpha house. During his first party, he launches fireworks that cause major damage. College dean Kravitz (Tom Green) revokes their charter. Three years later, rival frat Kappa Nu tries to take their house. Charlie has to get the frat reinstated with his two mates to stop the takeover by challenging rival leader AJ to a duel. They win the duel but need 12 more members in a week to get reinstated.

This is very much a standard boobies frat movie. There are lots of boobs and that includes the idiot guys. Actually, the guys are not irredeemable. Most of the college kids are functional and forgettable. Tom Green gets a small role and completely Tom Greens it. He's ridiculous and no longer that funny. This is not the worst of this kind of movie but I can't give this a pass.
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6/10
classic sci-fi B-movie
11 December 2017
Outside Sand Rock, Arizona, amateur astronomer/writer John Putnam (Richard Carlson) and girlfriend schoolteacher Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush) are stargazing when a meteorite lands nearby. They get their neighbor to fly his helicopter out to the crash site and John discovers a spaceship. An alien had already escaped and a landslide buries the ship. Sheriff Matt Warren is leery of the outsider Putnam who has enticed the beloved Fields. The army and the media dismiss his story as a publicity stunt.

The name itself is a sci-fi classic. It immediately invokes an era of 50's sci-fi B-movies. I'm not sure how well the 3-D works. Nobody is throwing things at the screen or coming at the camera. It does have some ghostly projection scenes which I would be curious to see in 3-D. The spaceship design is pretty good with the 50's feel. The creature design is a little odd as a cyclops blob. It's different but it's not great. The sound stage for outside desert work is a little too fake especially since so many scenes already have solid outside shots. The premise is a nicer body snatcher story so the tension is not raised that high. In the end, the alien is not the threat which makes this more akin to a Twilight Zone episode and inspired Spielberg's Encounters.
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5/10
needs more with the girls and less Shelley Long
10 December 2017
The Wilderness Girls of America is considering closing the Beverly Hills chapter with only 8 active members. Rich wife Phyllis (Shelley Long) is the new troop leader for the sake of her daughter Hannah (Jenny Lewis) and furthest from a wilderness girl. She is about to divorce husband Freddy Nefler (Craig T. Nelson). The girls are from different backgrounds. Phyllis runs afoul of militaristic troop leader Velda Plendor (Betty Thomas) who sends in assistant Annie Herman (Mary Gross) to infiltrate them.

The premise is silly but it could still work as a kids movie. In fact, that's where it falters. It concentrates too much on Shelley Long when it should spend the time with the girls. The best moment is making a birthday party for one of the girls. The movie needs more of those moments and time together for the girls. This really needed to be a true kids movie but the studio made it a Shelley Long vehicle. There are some fascinating stars when they were small girls. Tori Spelling is one of the villains and I'm surprised to see a young Carla Gugino. The story is pretty standard in this family fare. Some of it is enjoyable but it could have been much better.
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5/10
harsher western
10 December 2017
It's 1887 Cuchillo, New Mexico. Masked men escape after a bank robbery. There's a bounty on them for killing a well connected man. The leader Henry (Chad Michael Murray) ruthlessly kills an elderly couple after being told the news of the bounty. They are pursued by Josiah (Luke Wilson) and his posse. Henry and the remaining two barge in on George Tildon and his family on their homestead.

This is drawing inspiration from the harsher exploitation elements with the western genre. It's doing too much hand-held and panning around. I'm not sure Wilson and Murray fit in this more brutal movie. They are too Hollywood with a certain personality. I keep thinking a Tarantino would infuse this with better dialogue and more intense thrills. He would have elevated the tension when they are staying in that cabin. It drags on and on despite the wild revelations. It's trying for a lot of things but it's not fully satisfying. There is value in trying but it keeps missing. I question why they don't kill George right from the start. He's a big guy who seems dangerous in a hand to hand fight. This movie tries hard at times but keeps playing a flat note.
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7/10
romantic western epic
10 December 2017
It's 1888 Australia. Young Jim Craig loses his father in a logging accident partly due to a wild horse herd led by a black stallion. Fellow mountain men claim that Jim has not earn the experience to work the property. Spur (Kirk Douglas) is an one-legged miner friend of the family. Jim goes into town and finds work at the ranch of Spur's wealthy brother Harrison (Kirk Douglas). It's love at first fight with Harrison's daughter Jessica (Sigrid Thornton). The brothers ignore each other over a 20 year old sibling feud.

This is an Australian western romantic epic. I remember this movie being a trailer mention during my childhood with the cable movie channel. It didn't appeal to a young boy for obvious reasons. This is very much a romantic frontier fable. It is traditional western with a dash of modern independence. The landscape is as epic as the story construct. The only strange aspect is that I kept wondering why Jim doesn't tell Jessica about her uncle Spur. It's strange for him to keep a secret from her. It might work even better if the brothers were played by different actors and they reveal their secret family connection late in the movie. Otherwise, it's a great romantic epic.
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6/10
Neil and Marsha
10 December 2017
Broadway star Georgia Hines (Marsha Mason) has finished with her rehab. Her friends include gay struggling actor Jimmy Perrino and socialite Toby Landau. Her estranged daughter Polly (Kristy McNichol) wants to move in for a year. Her former boyfriend David Lowe has written a play about her and wants her to play the part.

The combination of Neil Simon and Marsha Mason makes this an almost instant awards bait movie. That comes with both good and bad baggage. There is something writery about Neil's writing. He's trying too hard with the humor. It doesn't feel natural sometimes. I do like the mother daughter chemistry. The boyfriend is problematic and I hoped for her to avoid him at all costs although I understand the needs of an actress. This definitely has Neil's sensibilities but it doesn't have enough cinematic flair. It's a step down from their earlier collaboration. Also watch out for young hottie Kevin Bacon. Then there is falling off the wagon. It hits on certain good notes but I'm uncertain about other notes being played.
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Private Parts (1972)
6/10
Paul Bartel's first time
10 December 2017
Cheryl Stratton came out to L.A. from Cleveland with Judy. The roommates have a fight and she pleads with Aunt Martha for a place to stay at her rundown downtown hotel. The hotel houses a motley group of strange personalities and a serial killer among them.

This is Paul Bartel's first full length film. It has his outlandish tastes and quite frankly his amateurish style. This is an indie black comedy horror. The lead Ayn Ruymen can be stretching too hard at times to be this wide-eye innocent. She's not the best actress. Lucille Benson who plays Martha is the best of the lot. The characters are weird but jokes are not widespread. There is a quirky indie charm about the whole enterprise. It's quirky weirdness with a water doll, Psycho peeping, and serial killings. Like many first times, it's a bit messy. It's awkward at times. Not everything works but some of this is unforgettable.
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