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7/10
Nice "little" giallo
14 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
After years at a boarding school, Nancy Thompson (Jenny Tamburi) arrives at her late mother's home and is introduced to her step-father, Marco (Silvano Tranquilli), whom she's never met, and his lady friend, Gianna (Rosalba Neri). Nancy's mother's death was ruled a suicide, but Nancy's not so sure. She suspects that either Marco or Gianna or dboth may have had a hand in her death. Nancy begins playing a dangerous game by pitting Marco and Gianna against each other in her attempt to get to the truth.

Smile Before Death is nice little giallo. With only three characters that have any real screen-time and only two or three different sets, it's what I'd definitely call "little". Nancy's mother's murder may not be overly complicated, but it's still a real treat to watch Nancy get to the bottom of things as Marco and Gianna turn on each other. It's a hoot watching Nancy play them like a fiddle. They fall for it hook, line, and sinker. It's some terrific writing given how "little" the movie is. Director Silvio Amadio (better known for his giallo, Amuck) does a remarkable job of keeping the interest high even though we already know where most of the film is headed. Amadio also does a fantastic job of springing not just one, but two twists near the film's finale. Both worked perfectly as far as I'm concerned. Fantastic job of filmmaking.

I can't say enough about the cast. I'm not really familiar with Tamburi, but here, she's perfect. Her transformation from shy schoolgirl to full-blown sexpot is a nice piece of acting. Tranquilli is a real pro, having appeared in a number of genre films I've seen in the past. As for Neri, I've sung her praises so many times in the past that doing so here would be pointless. I'll just say, she's good.

Based on my rating, it's obvious that the film isn't perfect in my eyes, but giallo fans really ought to check out this relatively obscure film. It's worth it.
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2/10
"You're not gonna believe this, but there's a snow cone vendor out there not wearing a bra."
13 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
As the title implies, Larry the Cable Guy has a new job as a health inspector. Larry finds himself saddled with a partner he didn't ask for, farting, the prospect of a new relationship, more farting, a boss who wants him fired, even more farting, and a series of mysterious food poisonings at some of the city's best restaurants. Larry's a busy guy.

I've seen a lot of dumb movies in my day, but Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector might just take the prize as the absolute dumbest. I think my IQ dropped a few points while I watched. The movie isn't much more than a continuous 80-something minute fart joke. The fart jokes go on and on and on. I didn't find the first one funny, so by the 50th, I was about ready to slit my wrists. Oh my God is this thing horrible! In between fart jokes, the movie finds time to offend just about every group imaginable. I'm not one that normally gets offended when watching a movie, but here, it slaps you in the face. Race, sexual orientation, handicaps, you name it - Larry treats them all with the same level of disdain and ridicule. It's bottom-of-the-barrel comedy. Still, I haven't rated the movie a 1/10 because, despite itself and my knowing better, there were a couple of moments that worked - most involving Larry's partner, Butlin.

I'm shocked the makers of Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector were able to convince some of these actors to take the job. Iris Bahr (playing the previously mentioned Butlin), Megyn Price, Joe Pantoliano, and Joanna Cassidy must have all really needed the work. I'm shocked any would lower themselves to appear in this dreck. I know they were paid, but I still feel sorry for them.
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6/10
"Sometimes I think we shall never get together on this earth until we find someone on Mars to hate."
11 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Berlin Express is a mystery set shortly after WWII on an Army transport train headed from Paris to Berlin. The train carries an assortment of characters, all with different backgrounds and allegiances. The trip is sidetracked in Frankfurt after the attempted assassination and later kidnapping of a German named Paul Lukas. Lukas has the ideas and wherewithal to deliver a unified post-WWII Germany. Others, however, do not want to see this happen and would rather Germany remain divided. I know a lot of this may sound vague and incomplete, but I've probably already given away too much of the mystery as it is.

Overall, I would describe Berlin Express as a nice, but never great, film. The movie opens with a voice-over narration that is absolutely necessary to set-up what's to come. These monologues can sometimes annoy me, but without it here, the film would have taken at least an additional hour to explain what was happening. The acting here is solid, but not necessarily spectacular. Robert Ryan and Merle Oberon head the talented United Nations-style cast. The mystery elements work in Berlin Express. Curt Siodmak is responsible for the twisted, sometimes confusing, but always engaging, screenplay. The big twist to the plot that comes near the 30 minute mark worked almost perfectly on me. It really caught me off guard. Most of the story is told in a documentary, matter-of-fact style that suits the somber surroundings. Speaking of the surroundings, the real star here are the locations. The movie was shot in the actual post-war ruins of Frankfurt. The bombed out building, the crumbling infrastructure, and the gut-wrenching homelessness are filmed magnificently. It's sad and horrific, but absolutely beautiful.
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4/10
"It's raining white women."
10 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The Angels are charged with locating two rings. These aren't, however, any ordinary pair of rings. They contain secret information that, when decrypted, reveal information on everyone in the Federal Witness Protection Program. When witnesses on the list start turning up dead, it's obvious the Angels will have to step up their efforts. But the baddie is someone well known to the Angels - someone who knows the way the Angels work and think. In fact, she was once an Angel herself.

I really got a kick out of the first Charlie's Angels movie. It was dumb, but it was fun. In Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle there's just too much. I'm not sure I've seen this since I originally saw it in the theater, so I forgot how busy it all is. There are too many jokes, there are too many ridiculous situations, there are too many over-the- top fight scenes, there is too much of Cameron Diaz's booty shaking (if that's possible), and there is way, way too much CGI. The first movie took the original Charlie's Angels and turned it up a notch or two. This one rips the knob off. It proves the old adage that too much of a good thing can sometimes be a bad thing.

The highlight of the film for me is the cast. Diaz, Lucy Liu, and Drew Barrymore all have a charm to them that's a joy to watch. When the film is just the three of them without the huge special effects, these moments work. Unfortunately, these scenes are too few and far between. Also, I really enjoyed seeing Demi Moore. But then again, I always enjoying seeing Demi Moore.

Unfortunately, there's not much here to recommend. A 4/10 is the best rating I can give Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.
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3/10
What a mess!
10 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
What a mess! Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Transformers 2 for the rest of this) fails in almost every way possible. You have a $200,000,000 or so budget and this is the best you can do? I'm not sure how often I've used this word to describe a film, but Transformers 2 is just stupid. Here's the long, but still incomplete, list of my many problems with the movie:

1. The plot is a disaster. More accurately, I should say the film lacks a plot. The movie is little more than one gag after the next, whether it's an attempt at comedy or a visual gag, none of it really flows into a cohesive film. I suppose the main point of the film is a Decepticaon known as The Fallen wants to use a machine buried under the pyramids to destroy the Sun. Why? It's never really explained why he wants to do this. If it is, it's lost in all the nonsense included in Transformers 2. The "destroy the Sun" bit is really nothing more than a McGuffin designed to make The Fallen look evil and create an adversary for Optimus to fight. There's no other purpose to it.

2. The comedy in this thing is misplaced and rarely funny. The "comedy" bits with the parents, the twin Autobots, and the roommate - none of their attempts at comedy are funny in the least. The parents are more cringey than funny, the twins are more offensive than funny, and the roommate is more annoying than funny. It doesn't work.

3. The runtime at 2.5 hours is at least an hour too long. There's so much unnecessary crap in Transformers 2 that could have been cut to make a tighter, more focused film. The scenes with the parents, the scenes with the roommate, and the whole Army/government power struggle could have been cut without affecting what little plot the movie has. Sitting through one unnecessary scene after the next makes Transformers 2 longer than it should have been and an incredibly arduous process.

4. I know some praise the special effects, but to me, they're weak. The robots look horrible. If they weren't meant to be giant piles of random junk thrown together haphazardly, then director Michael Bay succeeded in presenting his vision. But if all the expensive CGI was meant to present interesting, unique characters, the special effects fail on an epic scale. In the big fight scenes, it's almost impossible to distinguish on robot form the next. They all look equally horrible and just alike.

5. I suppose my biggest complaint and what all this leads to is that I'm not much of a fan of MIchael Bay's style of directing. Bigger and louder don't necessarily mean better. And the way the film jumps from one scene to the next, it makes me wonder if there's not a 6-year old with ADD trapped inside Bay's body. It gets annoying after about 5 minutes. Don't misunderstand - you can make a big special effects film if you've got a good story and interesting characters. But Bay seems to think that all you need to do is throw a wad of cash at CGI and that makes a good movie. Well, it doesn't as Transformers 2 proves.
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5/10
Reasonably entertaining, but odd Italian film
10 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Police Commissioner Verrazzano (Luc Merenda) is asked to investigate the death of a man originally ruled a suicide. The dead man's sister is convinced that someone murdered her brother. Soon after his investigation begins, Verrazzono's begins to suspect there might be something to the woman's story. It's obvious that someone doesn't want Verrazzono to find the truth.

Overall, Deadly Chase is a reasonably entertaining, but odd little film. It's not great and there are scenes that lack much of interest, but if you're a fan of 70s Italian genre films, it's at least worth checking out. Described as a Poliziotessch, it's not as violent as most in the genre. Sure, there are deaths and such, but the film lacks the over-the-top gun battles and explosions I usually associate with the genre. Instead, Deadly Chase is more of a mystery. The plot is similar to a Giallo with it's many twists and turns. It gets quite (unnecessarily) complicated and almost impossible to follow. But that's always part of the fun with an Italian film from the 70s.

I always enjoy seeing Luc Merenda. He has an easy going style about him that sets him apart from many of his contemporaries. I'm not saying he's better than someone like George Hinton or any other actor I could name from the period, just different. He's solid here. Merenda is joined by quite a cast of female costars, including Janet Agren, Patrizia Gori, María Baxa, and the always enjoyable Luciana Paluzzi. One of my complaints is that Paluzzi isn't really given much to do. Still, it's always a treat to see her on-screen.
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Speed Racer: The Car Hater (1967)
Season 1, Episode 26
6/10
"Listen! Stop driving cars! They're much too dangerous!"
3 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Even by Speed Racer standards, this is a bizarre episode. In The Car Hater, Speed and Co run into a man who has made his hatred for cars his life's obsession. His son was killed in a car crash, so he's out to rid the world of cars. l think one of my favorite scenes has to be where the titular Car Hater uses his horse whip to try to destroy the Mach 5. I know you want to destroy all cars, but with that whip, I doubt you'll be very successful. Another bit of interesting logic - after being unsuccessful with the whip, he hires some goons to tamper with all the cars in town, turning them into deathtraps on wheels. Murdering the citizens of Anytown is a better alternative? Also, you might hate cars, but riding your horse in the middle of the road, not to mention on a racetrack filled with high performance vehicles, is begging to get yourself killed. Again, bizarre.

Finally, I thought it was kind of weird that this episode, #26, opens with a several minute discussion on all of the special features of the Mach 5. It's done documentary style with Speed talking directly to the viewer. It exists outside The Car Hater's plot. I would have thought that this discussion would have occurred much earlier in the series. I'm guessing it was filmed and the makers were just waiting for a shorter episode to fit it in. It's just odd that it appears here.
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Highlander (1986)
7/10
"There can be only one!"
2 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) is an immortal Scottish swordsman who must do battle with others of his kind in modern day America. The battle will leave only one immortal left alive. Because as we're told repeatedly, "There can be only one!"

I doubt I've actually watched all of Highlander since I saw it in the theater back in 1986. Overall, it's a pretty fun experience with plenty of fights, mystical mumbo-jumbo, and a wonderfully over-the-top performance form scene chewing Sean Connery. I love the scene where Lambert calls Connery a "Spanish peacock". Good stuff. But the highlight for me has to be Clancy Brown as the evil Krugan. He's amazing. The voice, the menacing size, and the pure delight in his eyes during his fight scenes really make Highlander special. It's a really enjoyable performance.

I also enjoy all the mixed-up accents in Highlander. Clancy Brown is from a supposed ancient race of fighters, yet sounds like he's from modern day America. Lambert, despite his French accent, is a Scotsman. And the decidedly Scottish Connery is Spainish in the film. How bizarre.

Other than reeking of the worst of the 80s, my biggest complaint with the movie is with the sound. The looping and dubbing are horrible. It gets very distracting every once in a while. I think every line Lambert utters was dropped in in post. Ugh.
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Daredevil (2003)
3/10
"He paid in fluke. Fluke is a fish, Matt."
1 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Blinded as a child when a vat of radioactive goo hits his face, Matt Murdock discovers his other senses have been uber-heightened. As he grows, he trains as a fighter and learns to use his newly found powers to fight for good. That "good" includes bringing down Kingpin – the city's biggest crime lord and the man ultimately responsible for the death of his love, Elektra.

This was a first time viewing for me. It may not be fair, but watching the 2003 Daredevil film in 2017, it's impossible not to compare it with the Netflix series. Let's see – they both, obviously, feature the blind titular hero. They both feature a ruthless criminal named Kingpin. They both feature a love interest / fighter named Electra. And they both feature a lot of fight scenes. But beyond these superficial similarities, the movie and the series couldn't be more different. Ben Affleck looks horribly stiff – especially in his fight scenes. His movements are unnatural. Michael Clark Duncan might have been a wonderful actor, but like Affleck, he's also stiff - too stiff to be an effective Kingpin. I don't think the weight he gained for the role did him any favors. As bad as Affleck looks in the fight scenes, Jennifer Garner as Elektra is even worse. She looks like someone in an aerobic kickboxing class, not someone who could actually hurt you in a fight. Finally, while both films feature a ton of fighting, the stuff in the movie is child's play in comparison with the brutality displayed in the series. The fight scenes from Netflix's Daredevil are miles better and way more convincing.

If all that weren't bad enough, the 2003 movie also features an over- the-top Colin Farrell as Bullseye (and I don't mean over-the-top in a good way like I often do), a duller than dirt screenplay (boring), and a lot of bad CGI (the movie looks horrible). To put it bluntly, the movie stinks. I'm being terribly generous by giving it a 3/10.
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Star Pilot (1966)
5/10
Confusing but fun
30 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I haven't done this in a while, but for Star Pilot, I'm going to use the plot summary from IMDb: "Aliens from the constellation Hydra crash-land on the island of Sardinia. A prominent scientist, his daughter, several young technicians, and a pair of Oriental spies are taken hostage by the beings so they can use them to repair their spaceship's broken engine. With that done, they take off towards their home planet, taking the earthlings with them. However, the humans attempt to mutiny against their captors, inadvertently sending their tiny spaceship hurtling into the infinite beyond."

I used the IMDb plot summary because, even after watching Star Pilot, I'm not entirely sure what it was all about. The movie made very little sense to me. But even though I may have been confused during most of the movie, parts of it were still a lot of fun in a campy / cheesy sort of way. Instead of the usual write-up I do, here are a few random thoughts I have regarding Star Pilot:

1. While the cast wasn't much to write home about, it's always cool seeing Kirk Morris and Gordon Mitchell outside a Sword and Sandal film. I just wish Mitchell had been in the film for more than 20 seconds. Other than getting his name in the credits, I'm not really sure why the filmmakers even bothered.

2. There's a decent size chunk of the film "borrowed" from Doomsday Machine. The differences in film quality, acting, and everything else is a little jarring. It's shocking just how good the stuff from Doomsday Machine looks in comparison. The clips include a scene with Casey Kasem – minus Kasem's very recognizable voice.

3. Why bother with the Chinese secret agents? It adds absolutely nothing to the plot. It seems like such an unnecessary plot detail that amounts to nothing in the end.

4. I suppose that if I had to pick a highlight, it would be actress Leontine May's ever-shrinking wardrobe. She begins the film fairly modestly dressed, but by the end, she's wearing a full body fishnet with a few strategically placed feathers.

In some ways, the 5/10 I've given Star Pilot may not be fair. The copy I watched seemed to be horribly cut-up. IMDb lists a runtime of 89 minutes. The version I watched was only 81 minutes. I'm not sure how much difference the extra 8 minutes would make, but I'd certainly be up for giving it another go with a complete copy.
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