9 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Friday Foster (1975)
Solid Pam Grier
29 August 2006
Pam Grier is back in action in the big screen adaptation of 'Friday Foster'. Friday Foster debuted in January 1970 as the first comic strip to star a black woman. It was syndicated and featured soap operatic story lines drawn in a realistic style, similar to Mary Worth, and starred an ex- model turned photojournalist somewhat like Diahann Carol.

I think a lot of blaxploitation fans have a hard time getting their heads around this movie because it's a different role for Pam Grier than the gritty asskicker she played so well in movies like Coffy. Nonetheless, this film gives Pam an opportunity to show range as an actress. I think Pam Grier is one of the most beautiful actresses in the history of film with real star charisma. It's good to see her getting credit.

Although it has the elements of classic blaxploitation - car chases, shootouts - Friday Foster is fun, light hearted comic strip of a film. Definitely see it.
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Grey Gardens (1975)
23 June 2006
I saw this film a couple of weeks ago, and it's been stuck in my head ever since. It stars two spellbinding characters in what is unfortunately a mediocre documentary. To get the true story of the Beales, I had to wade through all of the DVD's bonus material and commentaries and search the web.

Although the Maysles and their fans (not to mention Edith and Edie themselves) bristle at the suggestion that this film is exploitative, this is exploitation in the truest sense of the word. Very little effort is every made to explain the Beales or how they came to the condition they were in - the Maysles approach seems to be to just turn the camera on and wait for Edith and Edie to say something outrageous. The sound, even on the Criterion re-release is poor and difficult to follow. Although I appreciate this film was made somewhat early in the history of documentary film, it's ironic to compare it to Geraldo Rivera's (!) far superior series on the sexual abuse of mentally retarded patients at Willowbrook State School in Staten Island from 1972, four years before Grey Gardens was shot.

To paraphrase a review in the New Yorker, there were many things Edith and Edie needed in their lives, and a documentary wasn't one of them.

As for Edith and Edie, the thing I kept thinking while watching the film was "where the hell is their family"? They were living in dangerous, unhealthy, unsafe conditions. How is it that Jackie O, married to one of the richest men on Earth (or the wealthy Bouvier family themselves) couldn't afford to get Edith and Edie a decent home? Or at the very least hire a part-time housekeeper or caregiver to come in and keep an eye on them both? It's shameful and a lasting disgrace to the entire Bouvier family.

Although this review may sound negative I would strongly recommend Grey Gardens to anyone who enjoys documentaries. Perhaps someday someone will come along and do a documentary about this documentary - bringing in the rich backstory (and afterstory) of the Beales and the whole subsection of Hamptons society in the 1970's.
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Natural City (2003)
Beautiful ...
18 May 2005
I would put this as one of the most beautiful science fiction films ever made ...

As much as this is an homage to Blade Runner it also draws heavily from the Matrix and HK Cop films. Like a great hip hop record or a Tarantino film, it weaves familiar elements together in a way that not only seems fresh but gives you a new appreciation for the original sources.

One of the things I loved most about this movie was its look and in particular the way the CGI was integrated almost seamlessly with 'real' live action cinematography. As opposed to many western sci-fi movies, for example the new Star Wars movies or I, Robot where the actors are shot on a green screen and then composted over a completely synthetic background.

Natural City might use a shot of a cityscape and then drop in CGI elements like a craft flying over. They employ another technique which was used a lot in 70's scifi films like Logan's Run - inter cutting SFX scenes with live action that was just shot on real, futuristic-looking locations. This really balances out the artificiality of the effects and shows that a little can go a long way ...

The result is an extremely realistic look and feel to the movie. I believe that this is what the world could look like in 2080.

Natural City's only real flaw, in my eyes, is that it does tend to get slow in a few key spots. But every shot in this film is so gorgeous it's hard to know where they would cut.

All in all I really enjoyed this film and would highly recommend it.
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MUST-SEE for Kung Fu Fans
7 March 2005
"Five Fingers of Death" is a classic of 70's kung fu cinema. As the film that "broke out" HK cinema to the west, this is a must see for any serious fan of the genre. It's also a damn entertaining film, with hard-hitting, non-stop action, solid and mostly believable fight choreography and great over-the-top 70's era dubbing ("Oh I see ... so you want it THE HARD WAY!! HWAA!!").

"Five Fingers" is an eye-for-an-eye revenge tale ... and I mean literally, eye for an eye! It's great to see Lo Lieh portraying a hero. He played so many great villains later in his career - including Pai Mei in the classic FIST OF THE WHITE LOTUS, which was one of the characters Tarantino used in creating the Pai Mei of KILL BILL.

My only complaint is that I wish there was a better quality DVD - mine looks like it was a VHS transfer. Overall this is a great film - don't miss it!

Bart Blackstone Film Club - Hollywood, CA
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Mojave Moon (1996)
Don't write this off ...
27 February 2005
It would be easy to dismiss this as just another bad film. Actually, it is a bad film but it's redeemed by a couple of strong elements, most notably the appearance of Angelina Jolie and Danny Aiello. This is one of Jolie's earlier films, coming after Hackers but before her breakout performance in Gia, and you can really see her coming into her own as a star. A star is someone you can't take your eyes off of when they're on screen - Jolie is beautiful and sexy as hell but beyond that, even at this early stage, she's got a certain indescribable something that makes it hard to take your eyes off of her.

Aiello, of course, is great at playing the kind of lovable schmuck he plays in this film. The loser with a heart of gold. In this film he's 50, just gone through a nasty divorce and trying to figure out life in LA. Unlike some of the other posts up here I could totally see him going out to the desert and getting mixed up with some of the crazy characters there. He's got an empty life and he's looking for something - anything - to give him a reason to keep going.

Ann Archer has been better in other things, but she's rarely been made to look more beautiful than this.

On top of all that, it's a great looking film that uses some really cool LA locations. Much of it was shot in Johnnies, a googie style diner on Wilshire Boulevard that Tarantino has used. Other locations include a cool 50's era motel (anyone know where this was?) and of course, the great California desert.

So overall I wouldn't say this is a great film, but it's worth watching.
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Spetters (1980)
Don't miss this one!
19 January 2005
I just saw this film last night and was really amazed by it. Unlike the Verhoeven films that most American audiences are familiar with (Robocop, Total Recall etc) it was a compelling coming of age piece set in Holland. Like most of his early Dutch films, you can feel many of the hallmarks of his style coming together and it's a testament to his skill as a director that he can make a small character-driven film about ordinary people like SPETTERS every bit as compelling as a gigantic special effects driven spectacle like ROBOCOP.

This is an 80's disco motocross movie that has very little disco and very little motocross. What it has are many strong characters, all of them navigating life transitions and trying to figure out their place in the world.

As for the "shocking" scenes that a lot of people are referring to in the posts, there is a fair amount of sex and nudity (male especially) in this film but to call it "shocking" is misleading. The reason the film's frank treatment of sexuality is so eye opening is the way Verhoeven handles it as no big deal. Two men sneak into a subway for a tryst, and you actually see one of the guys go down on the other guy. Two pairs of teenagers sneak into an abandoned building to have sex and you see it. Or when a man and a woman lay in bed talking after having sex, you see the guy totally naked as well as the girl. What happens happens and it's presented as is.

Verhoeven doesn't cut away from nudity, but at the same time doesn't artificially sexualize it by zooming in it, laying in sexy background music etc etc. Like the co-ed shower scene in STARSHIP TROOPERS, it's presented in a completely matter of fact way. Verhoeven doesn't allude to anything in these scenes, and it gives the film a power and honesty and that wouldn't be there otherwise.

Overall I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND this movie to anyone.

Bart Blackstone * Film Club Hollywood, CA
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Highly Entertaining Spaghetti Western
16 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
(one *slight* spoiler in the last line)

What a great movie, one of the best spag westerns I've seen so far. I didn't find this movie to be as funny as I thought it was going to be based on the other reviews I've read, but I did find it to be a thoroughly entertaining gem with a slightly twisted world-view.

For me the strong appeal of this film was a result of the many strong characters and just as importantly, a tight, well written script which gets more and more compelling with each passing scene. By the time the film reached its conclusion I was totally drawn in.

I'm not surprised that there were so many sequels to this ... at the end, when Trinity and Bambino (Terrence Hill and Bud Spencer) inevitably ride off into the sunset their characters are so interesting you really want to follow them and find out what's going to happen to them next. Not to mention the other characters like the Major and the drunk Mexican (I heard this was really Sonny Bono in one of his early roles? Just kidding.)

I liked the ending of this film. Although there's never any doubt that Trinity and Bambino will prevail, the way they win the day was unexpected, and, in keeping with the traditional western archetype, the violent men who win with their fists and revolvers suddenly find themselves out of place in the stable society they help to build.

I would not say this is the greatest western of all of all time, but definitely an entertaining way to spend a Saturday afternoon and the type of characters and plot I wish we would see more of from today's filmmakers.

Plus ... how often do you get to see a bunch of Mormons kicking holy ass?

Bart Blackstone * Film Club Hollywood CA
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Django (1966)
Jackson Must Die!
15 January 2005
I'm having a hard time figuring out some of the recent negative posts up here regarding this film. What's not to like? This is high- powered hyper-stylized spag western that grabs you from the first scene and barely lets up for all of it's 90 minutes. I wouldn't say this is better than Leone (I don't think any of the other posts did either) but this is a damn entertaining film with style and attitude to spare.

If you like highly violent, stylized over the top films like HARD BOILED or Tarantino's stuff this film is for you. Also hats off to Blue Underground for putting together a great DVD package.

Also was it just me, or did one of the broken down whores have a 5 o'clock shadow? I noticed in the trailer her name was Jose - anyone want to fill me in on that?

Bart Blackstone * Film Club
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19 July 2004
We have a sort of "secret society" of film, TV and design people that meets every other week to watch under-appreciated films here in the Hollywood Hills. We just screened "Pepe Le Moko" last week and everyone was floored ... this is a masterpiece of the French gangster genre and it's effect on other films, most notably "Casablanca' which came out just five years later, is major. I loved the claustrophobic staging within the Casbah and Gabin's bad-ass attitude. This one's a classic.
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