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Woodyanders

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Fun chopsocky vampire horror outing, 22 September 2017
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

17th century China. Four bumbling, but brave and highly proficient martial arts students must destroy a lethal vampire king who's been terrorizing the woodland area surrounding the Jiang estate.

Director Wellson Chin keeps the eventful and enjoyable story whisking along at a snappy pace, offers a flavorsome period atmosphere, sprinkles in nice touches of loopy humor, delivers oodles of outrageous gore, and stages the assorted berserk karate fights, wild swordplay, and insane vampire attack set pieces with considerable go-for-broke aplomb. Tsui Hark's nutty script not only has a nifty nod to the 1930's horror classic "Mystery of the Wax Museum," but also presents a ferocious all-powerful head vampire who flies and belches fire. Moreover, the goofy protagonists are quite likable, Anya makes for an extremely fair damsel in distress, and Chun Hua Ji cuts a formidable figure as the tough and valiant Master Mao Shan. J.M. Logan's spirited score hits the stirring spot. The sharp cinematography by Herman Yau, Kwong-Hung Chan, and Sunny Tsang Tat Sze gives this picture a pleasing moody look. An infectiously off-the-wall blast.

Raquel! (1970) (TV)
Raquel Welch sings (and seriously sizzles) in this enjoyable TV special, 21 September 2017
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This TV special was clearly done as an obvious showcase for Raquel Welch to display her talents as a singer, dancer, and comedienne. Raquel naturally looks absolutely gorgeous and radiates plenty of charm. Moreover, Raquel belts out such popular hit songs as "Everybody's Talking'," "Good Morning Starshine," "Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine" (this one's a gloriously tripped-out psychedelic doozy!), and "California Dreamin'" with considerable verve and surprising competence as well as registers nicely as a sprightly and entertaining dancer, with the crazy/sexy space girl routine rating as a definite wacky highlight. John Wayne pokes good-natured fun at himself and, with Raquel in tow, visits a Mexican orphanage. Tom Jones pours on his trademark robust lounge lizard glitz with aplomb and sings a lively medley of songs with Raquel. The show only falters when Raquel teams up with Bop Hope: Their goofy "Rocky Raccoon" comedy sketch just isn't that funny, although Raquel's Mae West impression ain't half bad. Director David Winters keeps everything zipping at a snappy pace and makes the most out of the breathtaking scenery. Stephen H. Burum's vibrant cinematography boasts lots of groovy stylistic flourishes and provides an impressive sense of scope. The globe-trotting locations add an extra tasty exotic flavor. Essential viewing for Raquel fans.

Injects fresh blood and startling emotion into the vampire horror genre, 20 September 2017
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Bullied misfit teenager Oskar (a fine and affecting performance by Karle Hedebrant) befriends new neighbor Eli (a haunting and deeply moving portrayal by Lina Leandersson), who's a pallid and enigmatic young lass who only comes out at night. Could Eli be responsible for a spate of disappearances in the area? Director Tomas Alfredson, working from a thoughtful and original script by John Ajvide Lindqvist, relates the engrossing story at a deliberate pace, ably crafts a potently unsettling gloom-doom atmosphere, makes excellent use of the bleak wintry landscape, and grounds the fantastic premise in a plausibly drab mundane reality. Moreover, Alfredson warrants additional praise for keeping the graphic gore to a refreshing minimum and eschewing cheap jump scares in favor of creating and sustaining a quietly discomfiting melancholy tone instead. Better still, the touching friendship between the two oddball main characters gives this picture a surprisingly substantial amount of poignancy and resonance complete with a strong central message on the basic human need for companionship and the bitter lonely price one must pay for immortality. Kudos are also for both Johan Soderquist's spare moody score and Hoyte Van Hoytema's striking widescreen cinematography. An absolute corker.

Tense and absorbing thriller, 19 September 2017
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Graduate student and aspiring marathon runner Thomas "Babe" Levy (an excellent and engaging performance by Dustin Hoffman) discovers that his wayward brother Henry (the always terrific Roy Scheider) works as some kind of government agent which in turn causes Thomas to get embroiled in a complex and sinister plot concerning a missing cache of diamonds that vicious Nazi war criminal Christian Szell (superbly played with chilling conviction by Laurence Olivier) wants to gain possession of.

Director John Schlesinger, working from gripping and intricate script by William Goldman, keeps the riveting story hurtling along at a constant pace, makes nice use of gritty'n'grungy New York City locations, takes time to develop the characters, grounds the arresting premise in a plausibly harsh urban reality, and ably builds plenty of nerve-jangling suspense, with the legendary "Is it safe?" dental torture set piece rating as a genuinely harrowing set piece. The sound acting from the top-drawer cast keeps this film humming: William Devane as the shifty and untrustworthy Janeway, Marthe Keller as foxy foreign exchange student Elsa, Richard Bright and Marc Lawrence as a pair of brutish thugs, Tito Goya as brash street punk Melendez, and Fritz Weaver as exacting history professor Biesenthal. Conrad L. Hall's glossy cinematography provides a pleasing polished look. Michael Small's shuddery score hits the spine-tingling spot. An expertly crafted nail-biter.

Robert Altman's lovely 30's Depression-era gem, 18 September 2017
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

1930's, Mississippi. Naïve convicted murderer Bowie (a fine and engaging performance by Keith Carradine) escapes from prison along with the laid-back T-Dub (the always excellent Bert Remsen) and ill-tempered brute Chicamaw (a frightening portrayal by John Schuck). The trio embark on a bank robbing spree. Moreover, Bowie falls for simple country girl Keechie (beautifully played with touching sincerity by Shelley Duvall) after he decides to take refuge at a farmhouse.

Director Robert Altman, who also co-wrote the thoughtful script with Joan Tewkesbery and Calder Willingham, deftly crafts a flavorsome rural atmosphere as well as a vivid and authentic evocation of the Great Depression-era setting, relates the engrossing story at a leisurely pace, admirably refuses to either vilify or glamorize the outlaw lifestyle, and handles the sweet and tender romance between Bowie and Keechie with utterly disarming warmth and humanity. Moreover, Altman's inspired use of colorful and creative radio programs throughout serves as a sharp ironic counterpoint to the drab mundane world the characters exist in. In addition, there are sturdy supporting contributions from Louise Fletcher as T-Dub's disapproving sister Mattie, Tom Skerritt as crusty mechanic Dee Mobley, and Ann Latham as the sassy Lula. Jean Boffety's picturesque cinematography provides a pretty pastoral look. A real sleeper.

Riveting and suspenseful thriller, 17 September 2017
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A terrorist group from the Middle East plot to blow up the Goodyear blimp while it's hovering over a football stadium during a Super Bowl game that the president is scheduled to attend. It's up to ruthless Israeli agent Kabakov (Robert Shaw in fine rugged form) to stop them before it's too late.

Director John Frankenheimer, working from a taut and involving script by Ernest Lehman, Kenneth Ross, and Ivan Moffat, handles the gripping story with his customary clockwork precision: Frankenheimer ably generates plenty of nerve-wracking tension, maintains a hard gritty tone throughout, keeps the absorbing premise moving along at a steady pace, and stages the rousing action set pieces with rip-snorting aplomb, with the climax in particular standing out as a tour-de-force of gut-wrenching excitement.

The uniformly super acting from the topflight cast keeps this picture humming Marthe Keller excels as tough and determined ring leader Dahlia, Bruce Dern does his trademark crazy routine with striking results as deranged and vengeful Vietnam veteran blimp pilot Lander, Fritz Weaver lends sturdy support as no-nonsense FBI agent Corley, and Steven Keats holds his own as Kabakov's equally hard-nosed partner Moshevsky, plus there are praiseworthy contributions from Bekim Fehmiu as the vicious Fasil, Michael V. Gazzo as shady smuggler Muzi, William Daniels as snide shrink Pugh, and Walter Gotell as the redoubtable Colonel Riat. Moreover, this film earns extra points for depicting its two key antagonists in a sympathetic matter: You might not agree with what Lander and Dahlia doing, but you still understand exactly why they are willing to commit such a horrible and destructive act just the same. John A. Alonzo's slick widescreen cinematography provides an impressive polished look. The spirited score by John Williams hits the stirring spot. A bang-up nail-biter.

Delightful teen coming-of-age winner, 16 September 2017
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Working class small town teenager Dave (a fine and engaging performance by Dennis Christopher) aspires to be a champion cyclist and falls for college girl Katherine (an appealing portrayal by Robyn Douglass). Meanwhile, Dave's three friends -- macho Mike (a sturdy and likable turn by Dennis Quaid), smartaleck Cyril (amiable Daniel Stern), and short-tempered Moocher (an excellent Jackie Earle Haley) -- all try to figure out what they're going to due with the rest of their lives after high school.

Director Peter Yates brings a real warmth and sensitivity to the engrossing story along with an ideal balance of humor and pathos. Steve Tesich's thoughtful and observant script astutely pegs the awkward transition from blithe adolescent carefreeness to grim adult responsibility, poignantly addresses the basic human desire to amount to something, and incisively explores the fierce competitiveness that exists between the haves and the have nots. Moreover, there are marvelous supporting contributions from Paul Dooley as Dave's befuddled dad, Barbara Barrie as Dave's tolerant mother, Hart Bochner as stuck-up preppie jerk Rod, and Amy Wright as the sweet Nancy. Matthew F. Leonetti's sunny cinematography provides a pretty bright look. A real treat.

It (2017/I)
5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Very creepy and effective, 16 September 2017
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This adaptation of Stephen King's mammoth novel works exceptionally well because of how vivid and sympathetic the misfit main characters are: One really believes that these oddball kids are true friends who care about one another and have each other's backs. Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophie Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Glazer, and Wyatt Olaf are all uniformly fine and credible in their roles while Bill Skarsgard makes for a supremely frightening Pennywise. Moreover, director Andy Muschietti offers a flavorsome evocation of the late 1980's period setting (the News Kids on the Block reference is spot-on sidesplitting!), grounds the fantastic premise in a plausible everyday small town reality, and generates plenty of nerve-rattling suspense. Better still, the spooky supernatural evil of Pennywise is nicely contrasted by such chilling real-life horrors as vicious town bully Henry Bowers (a perfectly hateful portrayal by Jarred Blancard) and Beverly's repellent pedophile father. The special effects are likewise sound and convincing, the gore is generous, but never excessive, and the overall atmosphere tense and eerie throughout. An on the money scarefest.

Tense and gripping episode, 15 September 2017
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A commercial airliner finds itself transported back in time to the past after passing through a sound barrier. Can the flight crew find a way to return to the present before the plane runs out of fuel? Director Jus Addiss relates the riveting story at a snappy pace, ably crafts an intriguing air of mystery, and builds plenty of suspense. This episode further benefits from the way Rod Serling's smart script draws the flight crew in a realistic manner as consummate professionals who are thrust into a fantastic situation that's beyond their usual experience and ability to understand. The excellent acting by the top-rate cast rates as another significant asset, with John Anderson, Paul Comi, Sandy Kenyon, Wayne Heffley, and Harp McGuire all contributing strong and convincing portrayals of the bewildered flight crew. Moreover, Serling's admirable refusal to wrap things up in a neat little bow at the end results in this episode concluding on a chillingly ambiguous note instead. A knockout show.

Worthy 70's porn, 14 September 2017
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Vicious dominatrix Margaret (a perfectly steely and overbearing Darby Lloyd Rains) lives in an apartment with her beautiful submissive slave girl Roberta (an appealing portrayal by the fetching Barbara Carson). Complications ensue when Margaret's brother Billy (a likable performance by Alan Marlow) decides to pay a visit and tries to steal Roberta away from Margaret after he falls for her.

Director Ralph Ell keeps the engrossing story moving along at a steady pace, makes nice use of New York City locations, and maintains an appropriately sordid tone throughout. The sex scenes are quite hot and explicit, with the BDSM angle adding an extra kinky kick. Moreover, there are neat contributions from Melva Jackson as an aggressive hooker who picks up Billy in the park, Annie Sprinkle as a passive brunette client, and Nancy Dare as a lusty'n'luscious blonde. The funky-throbbing soundtrack hits the get-down groovy spot. C. Davis Smith's competent cinematography also earns a passing grade. The ending is a genuine surprise, too. Recommended viewing for fans of vintage Golden Age smut.


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