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Freaky Farley (2007)
Atrocious home movie
C'mon guys, you weren't even trying. When you have non-actors you have to spend some time coaxing decent performances out of them, not just go with what are obvious first or second takes. And don't have your lead actor slowly raise his knife to the heavens, time and time again, like someone out of an old silent movie, or have a fight scene with monsters that looks like an asinine game of patty cake. And don't have your female cast members who are killed by these trogs appear to have nothing more than a few facial scratches. If you want to go through all the travail of making a movie then make it count when you do -- don't be sloppy and lazy. It's not enough to gather a bunch of friends and family members and wannabes together and shoot something on the fly. If you're not serious about it then all you've got is a home movie.
Therefore, this is across-the-board awful, even as a low-budget lark. A real actor in the lead role would have helped immensely, but unfortunately Matt Farley is the star and he's appallingly inept. The only worthwhile performances are from Sharon Scalzo and Steff Deschenes, although they both suffer from having to mouth some terrible dialogue, and get saddled with embarrassingly directed death scenes.
Las Vegas: The Burning Bedouin (2007)
bittersweet and funny
A funny takeoff of 'Misery' with the star of the movie himself (Caan)flat on his back again. Sandra Bernhard plays a less-crazed, but more abrasive sort-of substitute for the Kathy Bates character. This episode also features a bittersweet side to Vanessa Marcil's Sam and the actress handles it well. It's just a TV show, but realistically there is no way a man in a coma for 20 years would wake up and both mentally and physically be essentially back to normal. But playing it closer to reality would have veered the show off into ER-like dramatics that it's not prepared to handle. But that aside, on a pleasant visual note there is also a trio of pretty olive-skinned beauties on display in this episode -- the standout, in my mind, the strikingly pretty Morena Baccarin (formerly featured prominently in the short-lived 'Firefly' Sci-Fi series).
A Hairball Coughed Up By Dick Clark
First try and find this film... a VIDEOTAPE TV movie from 1975. That's right: it wasn't even shot on film. But if you do find it (good luck), view this sorry thing with below-the-floor expectations and maybe, just maaaaaaybe you'll squeeze some entertainment out of it. Honestly, there's no need to bother trying. This is godawful nonsense that only rates a viewing for completists of the scintillating screen careers of Andrew Stevens. Michael Parks, and Tige Andrews. Andrews is listed as "Special Guest Star" which seems odd, until you realize by the end of the film that ol' Tige is barely on screen after the first few minutes. Dick Clark produced this sad spectacle and probably doesn't even recall it now (or would be willing to admit to it).
Let's see, what have we got: an embarrassing $1.99 werewolf mask... an embarrassing $1.99 wool-knit beanie hat worn by Michael Parks... a $2.99 replica of the Woodstock Festival stage, and a quick shot of some garbage strewn about in a clearing beyond the stage that is so small that this must have been where the Hamster Woodstock was held, not the full-size festival... a dune buggy chase with a werewolf at the wheel ... and flower child Beckie (Belinda Belaski) who is so tuned into the frequency of her dead pooch named Virgo that she can "feel his pain is not over." But your own pain can end with a quick skip to the finish, or a tossing of this garbage in the nearest receptacle.
Actually I make this sound better, in a supremely cheesy sense, than it truly is. Mostly it's tedious. Be warned. Woof!
I Love a Bandleader (1945)
Forgotten film about man who forgets
This is an obscure time filler from Columbia Pictures. Obviously lots of musical numbers, and they're not bad. But it's too bad that Phil Harris is the star. Not that he's awful or unlikeable, it's simply that he's too light and uninteresting a performer to carry a picture. Harris was leading his own band at the time and he's fine in that function, and in being a second banana to the antics of Jack Benny on radio, but his starring in a film is equivalent to seeing Carson bandleaders Tommy Newsome or Doc Severinson trying to be leading men.
The stale amnesia angle doesn't help either, but there it is. Harris and his assistant Eddie "Rochester" Anderson are painters doing a job at a nightclub. Harris tries to help in his small way with struggling singer Leslie Brooks, and clumsily falls on his head in the process and takes the ol' amnesia route. By circumstance and guesswork he's made to believe he's actually a bandleader. Oddly enough, he's got an innate talent for it and becomes a success -- and Anderson, even though he knows Harris is really a painter, attaches himself as a Man Friday in order to ride along on Harris' bandleader success. Brooks plays an angle as well, but falls in love with him in the process. There's a few more contrivances, a few more musical numbers, and a predictable finish. There's also a quick joke where Harris as his screen character makes fun of the real Harris as a bandleader. Actually, the only reason to watch this film is to catch the always pleasing Eddie Anderson. Obviously his race kept him from being the star of this movie, and that's too bad because he's the only one of Jack Benny's cast members who could carry a film -- and he certainly could have carried this one. Instead it's Harris who fills the screen (almost literally considering his bulk). Nonetheless, it's a pleasant little movie that's easy on the brain... but hard to see considering its virtual unavailability.
Peeping Tom Psychedelia
Any movie that is defended with the idea that it can only be enjoyed by viewing after taking drugs... well, c'mon, you know it's got to be pretty bad. And this is bad, no mistake about it. Sure, it's very colorful, and for the drug-inclined it's an eye-popping visual "overdose" of nostalgic psychedelia...
But at the the heart of this foolish fruity farrago is an offensive story of a geeky middle-aged man obsessing pervertedly over a pretty young woman living next door -- that obsession fueled by non-stop Peeping Tom activity. This sick invasion of privacy is treated as an excitable, joyous, comical diversion. It leads the geek professor to wild flights of fancy and lunatic dreams, giving us plenty of bizarre sequences filmed in full 60's psychedelic-meets-Richard Lester glory. But, wacky comedy-wise, it's weak tea in comparison to Lester's 'The Knack' or 'Help!' And considering the obvious Lester-Beatles influence (including the actor playing Birkin's boyfriend having a distinct Liverpudlian accent) it's no surprise that George Harrison provides the score.
Too bad that the score is awful. Whole scenes go by with virtually no dialogue, thus a catchy pop score from Harrison would be welcome, and add to the nostalgic value of the film beyond the psychedelia. Unfortunately we get the Shankar-sauce sitar-period Harrison. Only those finding a nostalgic trip from Indian music that sounds like the wailing of out-of-tune violins (or worse, the sound of a cat trapped inside bagpipes) will be pleased. Otherwise, it's an ear-offending slog.
And otherwise, filmically, you get a frantic but professional performance from Jack Macgowran, a lot of eye-catching shots of pretty cult-figure Jane Birkin, and a few comic bits that work.
Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974)
dated and tired
I guess Fonda's character can be considered "Crazy Larry" for his driving antics, but I'm not sure why Mary is considered "dirty." As for the film, it's not really dirty or crazy, more dated and lazy. Vic Morrow does the umpteenth version of the grousing sheriff in pursuit of the robbers, snapping at underlings with a pained hemorrhoidal delivery that is severely one note. When an assistant can't get him info about Mary fast enough, even using a computer, he complains about the computer! He's so ill-humored throughout that watching him becomes a chore. On the other side, there's the fetching Susan George, who is very easy on the eyes. Too bad her accent goes in every direction. Her character is also distinctly unlikeable for most of the movie. Fonda and Roarke are dull. In fact, Fonda is so utterly passive an actor that casting him in this role can only be attributed to 'Easy Rider' yet it's Dennis Hopper who would have fit the bill here. Fonda strains under the film's need to have him project an out-there personality. Imagine Fonda in Roarke's role and Hopper as Crazy Larry. More interesting, hypothetically, in my opinion.
The direction is routine. For a car chase film this one isn't very exciting, with many shots held far too long. There's also a cameo from Roddy McDowall that provides the usual bug-eyed, jaw-drop take he's so fond of. And considering how un-clever this film is, the ending seems appropriate -- the filmmakers having run out of ideas and shrugging "this is all we could think of." As I recall when the film came out that it was a hit. Now it seems dated, especially the dialogue (and some of the dialogue is just plain weird, almost non sequitur-like). Oh, and Tarantino loves this movie. But Tarantino loves virtually every movie from the early-to-mid-70's so that's not saying much.
Diamante Lobo (1976)
Don't blame this on God.
This is titled Diamante Lobo, although it was filmed in Israel and produced by the Israeli team of Golan Globus -- and its title means 'Wolf Diamond' in Spanish -- but it goes by many other names, including 'God's Gun.' Go figure. It's a Matzo Ball Western, hold the spaghetti. But it might as well be covered in pasta since it's got the look and the sound (especially the music score) of a tried-and-true Italian oater. Not to mention the old hand himself, Lee Van Cleef, is the star. Or should I say double-the-star since he plays two roles. Even so, he's overshadowed by Jack Palance playing only one role, but with enough grinning-breathy bravura (also known as ham acting) to fill three roles of his own. Poor drunk Richard Boone adds a few moments but his snarling menace is undercut by his late-career dissipation and his voice being dubbed by someone else. Leif Garrett is mostly mute, which helps, and doesn't sing, which helps even more. Danning is cute, and the rest of the cast and the film itself, is wallpaper. The word I'm searching for is "blah."
Paris, je t'aime (2006)
Paris, mostly from directors who miss the point
Sadly, this is an awful grab bag of mostly trivial stories. Certainly it is ambitious and interesting as a concept, and Paris looks beautiful, but the producers didn't rein in the directors and what appears winning in theory becomes a lazy mishmash in execution. Each director was given five minutes of screen time and two days to shoot their film. Almost all of the directors figured they could dispense with writers and do it themselves. A bit of ego, a bit of film school, and a misunderstanding that even five minutes of screen time requires a writer's hand, especially so since the short time frame demands concise story telling skills.
Indeed, some of these film makers, e.g. Christopher Doyle, have barely sat in a director's chair, much less be worth trumpeting as members of an extraordinary group of visionaries. And the concept involves love stories and the love for Paris. What connection is there with this concept and the filmography of Joel and Ethan Coen? In fact the heavy American and British presence seems more mercenary than visionary from the producing end of things. Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands playing two Americans finalizing their divorce in a restaurant could have been filmed in New York or Chicago and shipped over to France for attachment to the movie. Worse, this episode relegates a giant of French cinema, Gerard Depardieu, to the minuscule part of the restaurant owner. There's nothing wrong with having some stories about tourists and expatriates, but this collection relies far too much on it. The bulk of the Parisians in this film are relegated to background chatter and bit parts. Surprisingly, even the city is relegated to background fodder. It appears that almost none of the film makers have any sense of Paris, or what to do with it given the opportunity to make a small film there. Many take place in nondescript indoor locations, or in the case of the Elijah Wood episode, a meaningless dark street straight out of 'Sin City.' Story wise, this is a director's film. Therefore the writing is weak and in some cases almost non-existent. In the case of Cuaron's episode with Nick Nolte, even the direction is non-existent (almost entirely a long shot track of Nolte yakking away to his nubile daughter as they walk down a street -- once again, a heavy American element with no trace of Paris except some dialogue). Some of the vignettes have "punchlines", while others merely fade away or end pointless and lost. The two most "commercial" feature Steve Buscemi in a cartoonish skit in a Metro station, and an absurd tryst between Elijah Wood and a vampiress. Both stand out but for the wrong reasons. Buscemi is forced to say nothing throughout his episode, and to behave like a punching bag for no reason. At least it IS snappily directed, and makes its point and ends with an exclamation. But it's also more clichéd American-in-Paris tourism. The Wood vampiress story not only doesn't belong in this film, it is also extremely predictable as a vampire sketch.
Many of the other stories seem either a small part of a bigger film, or a made-up hodgepodge to fill five minutes. To each his own as to the merits of the results. Certainly this smörgåsbord provides enough promise in its theme to delight those who think they're getting a taste of Paris along with humanistic stories (rather than the usual gangster, spy, or sleaze films using the city for its location). But I think the producers should have demanded that the directors adhere to the concept rather than allow them free rein to indulge in half-thought out skits that have only an arbitrary connection to the locations of the title city.
The Yankee Clipper (1927)
Sails but doesn't soar
A young William Boyd stars as the captain of the title ship who is involved in a serious maritime challenge on behalf of the U.S. against arch rival Britain. It's a race to see which country's best sailing ship can get from Foochow, China to Boston the fastest. To do this they must sail across the Pacific and around the southern tip of South America. The prize is not only the Foochow tea trade but the winner gets the other's ship.
Boyd's journey quickly becomes encumbered by a young stowaway (Junior Coughlin) and the unexpected additions of a young woman and her craven fiancé. When one of Boyd's crew offers to help the woman and her fiancé escape, Boyd's troubles really start brewing up. From there it's fights, attempted mutiny, budding romance, and comedy relief... and, oh yes, a race to be won. The film has its moments and, thankfully, has none of the eye-rolling acting hysterics prevalent in so many silent movies. But it also doesn't have much personality. Boyd's star part lacks color, and the female lead's part isn't any better. Obviously the filmmakers keyed on the young boy to sell the movie to the real target audience.
The VHS copy I viewed comes with an intro from Junior Coughlin that looks like it was taped in the 80's.
Incident on a Dark Street (1973)
Busted Pilot covered in hair
Lots and lots of hair. The only enjoyment in watching this film is the nostalgic kind. That early 70's TV look, that cast, and those hairdos. Shatner is startling to look upon at first, with his oily hair and lamb-chop sideburns (not to mention his outfits). Then there is Richard Castellano, who is never less than repugnant to view, with a terrorist-torn-out-of-bed hairstyle that is a work of grunge art. His character is not much better.
As for the content of this TV movie, there's little to say. It was a pilot for a proposed 1973 NBC series called 'The Prosecutors.' It never got past this film. Familiar cast, familiar story, plodding execution. With almost iconic types like David Doyle and Murray Hamilton popping up, along with the camp master himself Shatner, it's hard to pay much attention to the story: you spend more time thinking "I remember that actor!" Unfortunately, the star of the film is the colorless James Olson. Now, if Shatner had been put in place of Olson this might have been far more entertaining. Oh, and Susan Stafford has a small role. Very pretty, but showed far more brains and talent when she got OUT of showbiz later.