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Mannix: Who Is Sylvia? (1970)
The Bradys were out of town that weekend
Act I opens with Joe entering a sophisticated Tudor-style mansion, but once inside, he finds himself right in the middle of the Brady living room, even that big Mondrian is above the foot of the stairs.
In early 1970 I suppose that set was not quite so iconic as it is today.
Of course, in a couple of years Mike Brady himself Robert Reed would portray Mannix's police counterpart Lt Tobias, working Mannix concurrently with his Brady day job.
The XKE-driving costar is Jessica Walters, famous today as the matriarch of Arrested Development.
The Haunting (1999)
More is Less
I'm a big fan of both Shirley Jackson's novel and then the 1963 Robert Wise film. Whereas the Wise film subscribes to the "Less is More" school, the 1999 filming falls victim to the "More is Less" approach. Despite a promising cast, the film gives them nothing to do except wander about in absurdly grandiose CGI interiors. The CGI itself is often disappointing, caught in that lost decade when the technology was more ambitious than convincing. But worse, the terrific dialog that Jackson wrote into the book, and that Wise remained faithful to, is lost. Indeed, the story bears little resemblance to the novel, except the broad outline of the four investigators plus the Dudleys and the name of the house and its builder.
While there are a couple of creepy scenes (think of the flip book), the film overall has the sensibility of a low-rent Monster House.
A pioneering and important work
based on Max Shulman's collection of short stories, this youth-oriented series was witty and irreverent with sharp writing and a peerlessly eclectic cast (Warren Beatty and Tuesday Weld, in particular shine) in addition to the leads Hickman and Denver. Hickman is the sensitive youth who aspires to be a poet under a hard-nosed father and doting mother. The father, played by Frank Faylen is outstanding as the hard-working store owner who fails to understand his impractical son's fancies and who frequently intones "I just gotta kill that boy, I gotta." Denver is particularly fun to watch, his comic style which would occasionally suffocate Gilligan's Island is tuned to the right intensity as Hickman's beatnik sidekick.
What particularly makes Dobie successful, particularly in the early seasons, is the almost surreal and self-contained world created by the writers. Just the names of the characters Thalia Menninger, Milton Armitage, Chatsworth Osborne Jr., Maynard G Krebs and Aphrodite Millican gives an idea of the tone of the series. Dobie begins every episode before Rodin's Thinker, speaking directly to the viewer with a pithy observation, which by the framing end sequence has been demonstrated or refuted. Unlike Father Knows Best and other family shows of its era, the Gillis family is dysfunctional, and the differences between Dobie and his father are not of a dramatic Rebel Without a Cause sort, but a gentler divergence of life views of a depression-era father and a postwar teenager.
The later seasons, much less inspired, take Dobie and Maynard out of high school into college and other adventures.
I hope at least the first season comes out as a season box set. It's an important part of our pop history.
Fantastic Four (2005)
Surprisingly Good, Maybe Very Good.
I was honestly expecting very little from the film; the cheesy-looking poster doesn't help. But thorough competence all-around (and I don't mean this patronizingly) makes for quite and entertaining 90 minutes. Start with the writing. It does a very good job at capturing the dynamic of the group, the constant bickering and sparring between the members, as well the impression of four people who have long been friends and understand each other very well. I remember being struck by the importance of the interrelationships as a kid reading the books and the cartoon series--it wasn't batman and superman working together. The plot and dialog are intelligently handled. The acting is quite good as well, Chiklis is a great Thing, and I also liked Gruffudd and McMahon as Mr Fantastic and Dr Doom. McMahon is sort of a welsh Kevin Spacey. (why is it that when I see American films and there are unknown actors who strike me as good, they seems to always be from the UK, NZ, or Aus??). The younger Storm kids are good as well. The action is quick-paced, the special effects very good, and it has the right amount of humor. Lastly, the sex, language and violence are fairly restrained, so my kids were able to enjoy it.
I admire the film because it's a fairly straightforward adaptation of the comic, competently handled in every aspect, does not go for (too many) cheap laughs, and does not inject overblown ambitions into the story. It's always a pleasure to be surprised by quality entertainment.
Red Line 7000 (1965)
A Hawks Challenge
In Todd McCarthy's Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood, the impetus behind RL7000 was a) Hawk's 10-year old son Gregg was into cars, or b) Hawks wanted to prove he could make a commercial film quickly for a million dollars. Too, Hawks loved cars, studied Mechanical Engineering at Cornell, raced cars after college, and made the racing film The Crowd Roars (1932) giving him the opportunity to work with Cagney (and wrangle a Deusenberg for himself from the Deusenberg company in exchange for product placement). In a sense, both films are indulgences which never translate into a coherent picture.
RL7000 comes off a bit more like a Roger Corman film than a Hawks film, probably due to budgetary constraints. We see lots of young unknowns, dancing, loud music, interludes of unevenly-acted drama interspersed with bouts of frenetic action. Caan is a good, brooding Bradoesque study, though he squints and smirks to distraction, Marianna Hill looks great, and seeing cars like Cobra Daytonas is pretty enjoyable for mid-60's sports car fans. Ultimately, the film has problems because Hawks doesn't get what he wants out of the actors. All of his other films have very strong acting; Hawks could always get great performances from Wayne, Grant, Bogart as well as the veteran character actors he used. He didn't have such luck with most of the primary cast of three men and three women. Their bonding as lovers and as male and female groups is integral to the credibility of the film, and it just doesn't happen.
Another possibility explaining the film's weakness is that this is the only one of Hawk's final six pictures (Rio Bravo to Rio Lobo) without writer Leigh Brackett on the team.
One also senses that Hawks tried too hard to be "hip," perhaps in reaction to the fact that some critics had complained that his previous picture "Man's Favorite Sport?" seemed old-fashioned. Thus the plot is periodically suspended for some truly bizarre song and dance numbers, even by mid-60's standards. It seems inconceivable that "Wildcat Jones" was given us by the same Hawks who gave us the immortal "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" number.
I want to like this movie, since I do subscribe to the school that a great director can never make a truly bad film. I also happen to love "Man's Favorite Sport?" which often critically lumped in with RL7000 as the two off-the-track films between a pair of Wayne/Hawks collaborations before and after. Furthermore, there are some vocal critics who love the film, such as Robin Wood. So I guess I need to watch it a few more times and hopefully can write a better review next go around.
The Thinking man's Thriller
An apotheosis of sorts.
A cinematic sub-genre yet to be discovered and adulated by the French culminated in 1985 with Lester's Commando. Criticially misunderstood at the time of its release, it was nevertheless an enormous popular success, and propelled Schwartzenegger squarely into the Quigley's Top Ten Moneymaker's poll (#6) for the first time.
Commando eludes simple analysis; it is a masterful melding of excess and economy. Ostensibly an action thriller, Commando defies simple categorization and succeeds largely on the strength of its own brazen self-confidence.
Whatever one's opinion of this controversial film, one thing is certain: Commando will continue to entertain and beguile audiences for generations to come.
The Babysitter (1980)
Different from what I was expecting, and not bad at all
My TIVO is programmed to get William Shatner films since he's usually so much fun to watch in action. But he proved relatively restrained in his role.
Frankly, I wasn't expecting much from this film, perhaps a kitschy hour and a half of entertainment.
I've never seen Remingston Steele, so as soon as a young Zimbalist comes on the screen I could no help thinking "wow, who is that?" She is very convincing in the role of an enigmatic housekeeper who works her way into the family of Shatner and Duke-Astin.
The film begins at a slow pace, but has the saving grace of not falling into the typical and predictable TV movie of the week plot.
The acting is very good all around, as well as Zimbalist, Duke-Astin and John Houseman turn in good performances.
I was surprised to see on IMDb after watching the film that it was directed by Peter Medak. I greatly respect Medak for his work in _The Changeling_ (1980), _The Krays_ (1990) and _Romeo is Bleeding_ (1993), all non-mainstream highly-respected (nearly cult) films. It is really surprising that Medak seems to weave between these films and TV sitcoms, movies of the week, and so on. His influence in creating the proper mood is, in retrospect, dominant in the film.
As someone else mentioned, the sound quality is quite bad and it is at times difficult to make out the dialog.
Con Air (1997)
The mad mad mad mad world of violence
While not as clever or amusing as _The Rock_, which this was apparently an effort to surpass, it certainly delivers the pyrotechnics. Cage, as always, delivers the best performance he can, given the confines of the script, and his best _Raising Arizona_ drawl.
The film's beginning sets a hopeful tone, we see the honorable Cage unjustly imprisoned and preparing to return to his home and the child he has never seen. Meanwhile, the penal system is filling the transport plane which will take Cage to freedom with a cast of the worst criminal psychos behind bars. There is an odd parallel to the beginning of _Stagecoach_ as the plane is loaded with the case of miscreants and a cursory description is given of each criminal. The film has a weakness for hyperbole, each character introduction, each scene, each explosion is meant to top the one before it.
Fortunately, the film does have a real ensemble cast, the full roster of villainous character actors: Malkovich, Rhames, Buscemi, Danny Trejo amongst the cons. The law is Cusack and Colm Meaney and Rachel Ticotin (Total Recall). Even Dave Chapelle is amongst the crooks.
Ultimately, the film maintains too straight a face during the ruckus. If you are going to ask the audience to accept one outrageous improbability after another, you need to keep it amusing. Chappelle keeps it funny while he's on screen but it's not long enough.
Unfortunately, the throttle has only one speed: pedal to the metal. Unlike Woo or McTiernan, who--predictable as they may arguably be--are able to build crescendos and know when to let off the gas, this one keeps on pushing harder and harder until we're feeling a bit catatonic. There is just a terrific amount of pyrotechnics and they use up twice as much powder each time. It never seems to end, which is usually a bad thing for an action movie.
But I shouldn't grouse too much. It is definitely an entertaining diversion, and Cage and Cusack are good in their roles, Colm Meaney is as always amusing. Malkovich and Buscemi are creepy enough but not the flamboyant psychos they could have been. Ironically, Cage has exactly that type of charisma (remember _Kiss of Death_, _Snake Eyes_, _Face Off_) but is forced to be restrain himself as the stolid ex-Army ranger.
Finally: what the HECK does bruckheimer have against Corvettes???
Pleasant fare--bad rap
I read someone once say that "films like _Move_ destroyed Gould's career in 1 and a half years." Maybe, maybe not, but _Move_ is really not a bad film at all: a bit counter-culture, but not obnoxiously so.
Gould is an intellectual New Yorker whose fortunes have led him to walk dogs in central park, and to author pornographic literature to make a living--a self-described "scatological existence." Prentiss (in a straight role) is his long-suffering wife, who watches as he suffers a mental breakdown. This film is of interest to Prentiss fans as it was her first big role in 5 years of eschewing Hollywood. Genevive Waite is the ditzy model Gould meets in the park.
Perhaps the film's greatest drawback (to us men, at least), is Gould's penchant for dropping his trousers to reveal an inordinately hirsute physique.
When all is said, its a film with its own charms, and the ending sweetly closes the story.
Matchstick Men (2003)
Cage is wonderful is a con-artist who, through a series of mishaps, decides to change his life. No one but Cage could pull off the very complex part. But the viewer is entirely at the mercy of the film as it develops in its own way. Its exploration of the art of the scam is similar to Mamet's _House of Games_, but much more aimed at the complex Cage character and the unexpected turns he encounters.
Don't you love it when you really like a film and then afterward discover it was directed by one of your favorite directors? I had no idea it was a Scott film. It's remarkable Scott is so successful in this modest film after his "big" films _Gladiator_ and _Black Hawk Down_.
Black Hawk Down (2001)
Oddly enough, I was underwhelmed by this film on first viewing--it was not the non-stop action-packed Bruckheimer-style thrill-fest I was initially expecting. But Black Hawk is in fact a remarkable film. Its slow and meticulous buildup is masterfully executed. The viewer is rapidly introduced to about a dozen characters during the long setup, and throughout the film, we see the action through their eyes. Scott segues from the frenetic to the lyrical effortlessly, from the cold-blue hardness of military action to the warn tones of the sun-drenched country.
Despite my opening comment, the film does have plenty of action, some of it the best ever filmed. The DVD shows some of the remarkable special effects (most of which were completely transparent to me, the before-and-after CGI comparisons are remarkable).
Acting is first-rate, especially considering most of the non-American cast had to adopt some remarkably powerful southern drawls--take Eric Bana for example.
I've always thought Scott was talented, from Alien and Blade Runner, but considered him somewhat superficial and technical. When Gladiator came out, I just remember sitting in the theater saying to myself "when did he become such a Great filmmaker?" Black Hawk confirms his greatness.
A number of sequences are beautifully executed, such as the capture of Atto, the men on one Blackhawk going out to get Bana, the other Blackhawk coming in to bring in Bloom crossing each other over the beach . Another wonderful sequence is the Mogadishu's early warning system as the raid flies in. Sequences flow into each other seamlessly and effortlessly. The scene where the soldiers drop down to secure Blackhawk #2 is one of the most harrowing in memory.
I think Scott makes absolutely no miscues in this one, every scene is deliberate and counts, and there is nothing throw-away or gratuitous.
I read Mark Bowden's book, and the film does inevitably compress some events and combine a few characters, but some of the more memorable characters, such as McGregor's Grimes and Sergeant Pilla were all real.
A final plus: lots of Elvis music.
Three O'Clock High (1987)
Vastly underrated / unnoticed film
3 O'Clock High is a wonderful film. It bears little resemblance to the 80's teen archetypes, such as _Fast Times at Ridgemond High_ or the Hughes films, excellent as those films may be. 3 O'Clock is purely plot-based; a sensitive view of teenage angst can be found elsewhere.
The basic plot: Jerry Mitchell, everyman adolescent, manages to get himself into an after-school fight with the school psychopath Buddy Revell by 8:00 am, and spends the next 7 hours contriving every scheme to escape the certain flogging which awaits him at 3pm. The film opens with a clicking alarm clock (peculiar for an electric clock) and ends with an image of the school clock; in between, clock dials, and class bells serve as symbolic death watch beetles.
Jerry's gradual disintegration amongst his friends, the school administration, and the school store manager as well as his physical and moral decline as the day wears on is very amusing.
What's memorable about the film is its radical cinematography which we presume is the contribution of long-time Coen collaborator cinematographer Barry Sonenfeld. Extreme wide-angle shots, and a clever technique of high-speed crane shots make for a very distinctive look (which I have never seen duplicated). While clever technique this could create a ponderous over-theatrical look (like some of Spielberg's 80's work as viewed today) or a vapid MTV look, Joanou uses the showy technique to great effect and the film looks as fresh today as it did nearly 20 years ago.
The enigmatic Buddy Revell is a wonderful creation, masterfully introduced by a continuous moving shot following, in succession, three sets of exchanges between students recounting Buddy's legendary reputation for psychotic violence. The roving camera threads through each group of students as deftly as if in a Fellini film, (at the risk of being bombastic).
As well as a sharp plot and dialog, and an innovative technique and excellent production values, the assembled cast is uniformly superb. Casey Siemaszko is perfect for the role, and Richard Tyson gives an absolutely straight interpretation of Buddy Revell. Seconday roles are played by character actors Jeffrey Tambor, John P. Ryan, Mitch Pileggi among others.
In conclusion, you know it's a special film because so many of the images and the dialog stick in one's mind. The cheerleaders tearing apart the effigy and skull as the horrified Jerry watches, the library shelves toppling like dominoes to reveal Jerry and Vince cowering in the corner, all of the scenes with "The Duker", the Dean of Discipline's dungeon of an office, the educational 8mm insect film, the sinister retelling of the Iliad, Jerry frantically attempting to break open a cash register using a world globe and fire extinguisher.
The film probably didn't make it big because no big names were connected to it. Joanou would go on to do a curiously unrelated string of projects, some music videos, television documentaries, and even sitcom work. He did do another mainstream film _State of Grace_ (1990) with Sean Penn, another excellent and underrated film.
Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)
Effective thriller--images eerily presage 9/11
Nothing terribly original, from either the viewpoint of the Die-hard series or the genre, nevertheless effective and exciting. McTiernan, returning from the original, proves his skill at large-scale destruction and general mayhem. Several of the huge explosions in various parts of Manhattan, shot in a realistic hand-held reportage style are especially sobering images after 9/11. Overall, very similar to the original film, with Euro-Psychos wreaking havoc upon New York instead of L.A.
Willis plays Willis playing McClane, which is not a bad thing. Irons and Jackson are enjoy enthusiastic and theatrical performances in their roles. The only minor downside is the absence of Willam Atherton, who's always fun to watch.
Casino Royale (1967)
What can you say about a film with 5 directors and 10 writers?
Occasional fun for the 60's lover, but completely incoherent as entertainment. I should confess that as a young kid I did love the film, just as I loved _What's new Pussycat_, and when I got a little older I became a guilty admirer of _The Blues Brothers_ and _1941_. So I am sucker for the comedy epic/ celebrity ensemble.
However, _Casino_ is simply over the top at being over the top. It seems impossible to create a successful film with 5 directors and 10 writers (not including Ian Fleming, but including Ben Hecht, Joseph Heller, Terry Southern and Billy Wilder !!). The story lacks even a real protagonist; Niven and Sellers trade places in that role. When they run out of story, pie fights emerge, or fusillades of bullets, or tremendous explosions.
The film is certainly not without its merits. Like _What's New Pussycat_ they did manage to corral some of the most beautiful women of the time together in the same film. When Andress is not speaking, as in the "Look of Love" sequence or in Seller's "shampoo" dream she's truly breathtaking. Allen is always funny, and Welles does a pretty good turn as le Chiffre. The Bacharach score and Herb Alpert open and closing sequences are memorable.
As a DVD extra, the American dramatic version of _Casino Royale_ (1954) is included on the DVD, which predated Connery by 8 years!!
Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1972)
Middle-aged crisis times three
Arkin gives a fine turn as a successful middle-aged middle-class fish restauranteur whose fingers smell of fish and who simply has to get in on this Sexual Revolution he's heard so much about. Thus follows three sequential trysts in his mother's apartment, the first with a the embittered Kellerman, the second with the flighty Prentiss and the final with the depressive Taylor, each ending in its own disastrous way. Arkin does a lot of his frustrated signature shouting and there's a lot of dialogue, but it is a Neil Simon play after all.
The Kellerman sequence is a bit tiresome and her many soliloquies bombastic and preachy. Taylor's vignette was more amusing--if you find bipolarism and melancholia amusing. Her demand that Arkin list three good people belabors the point.
But sandwiched between these two is the Prentiss episode, which is a gem. Prentiss plays the perky, quirky, dope-smoking character to a tee: "I know I'm a goofball but that's part of my charm." Those voice inflections changing 10 times a minute, those eye rolls, those downturned crooked smiles, teeter into the realm of self-parody but we're loving it. And it doesn't hurt at all that she simply looks like a million bucks.
Man's Favorite Sport? (1964)
Bringing up Fishies
Howard Hawks did of course create the classic _Bringing Up Baby_ and some comparison between _Favorite_ as a 26-year update of the former is inevitable. Hawks did plenty of screwball comedies, but above all, Hawks was a director who made GUY films; _Red River_ may be the ultimate man's man film of all time. And to some extent, this film is about Willoughby's (Hudson's) fraudulent expertise in "manly" activities such as camping, outdoor activities and--most critical to the plot--fishing.
Life is good for Hudson as the expert fisherman who is big man at Abercrombie and Fitch, until brash Abby Page (Prentiss) destroys his serene existence with a publicity stunt of having Hudson enter an annual fishing contest.
After resisting the idea, Hudson is soon forced to confess he's never fished in his life--that his reputation is a hoax. Rather than sensibly abandon the scheme, Prentiss decides she can teach Hudson how to fish in 3 days. This inevitably leads to all sorts of misadventures as Hudson is so inept he can't even swim! Some of the more amusing sequences are Hudson's inflatable waders exploding underwater, having a bear steal his trail-bike, or literally running across the surface of the lake to escape another bear. Some of the gags work better than others; the gags range from leisurely to elaborate, but all in good fun.
The fast-talking overlapping dialog is pure Hawks and (the uncredited) Brackett, and is wonderful.
Hudson has been criticized for not being Cary Grant (how could anyone be?) but he actually develops his own persona, different from both Grant and his own Hudson-Day characterizations. In this film, he is partially browbeaten by Prentiss and her sidekick Perschy, but ultimately, he voluntarily suffers through his ordeals as a matter of penance.
Paula on the other hand is a complete success: perky, beautiful, brash, and unpredictable--she gives a spectacularly energetic performance. This is the sole film is where Prentiss has the script and the screen time to refine her comic persona. While Perschy and Holt exist to create a triangle and fuel the high-jinx, they also define the limits of the Prentiss character; she is neither exotic like Perschy nor sultry like Holt. In comparison, she is pleasantly and very prettily tomboyish, often wearing outdoor sporting wear, and thoroughly competent at all things in which Hudson had professed expertise.
When compared with _Baby_, _Favorite_ perhaps begins with a potentially even richer premise, and is less fanciful, disposing of rich Connecticut dowagers and University endowments. But it never quite builds to the same frenetic pace and lacks the absurdity of the situations Grant finds himself in: remember "Mr. Bone?" Hawks does lift sequences right out of _Baby_ when Hudson shadows Perschy because the back of her dress is open, the "Love impulse in men manifests itself in conflict" from Dr. Lehman is used by Easy, the fish in the pants comes out of _Monkey Business_.
Yet the films are quite different. Grant's character is entirely asocial while Hudson's is the leader of the Hawksian male group. Furthermore, Hepburn is quickly determined to snare Grant, while Prentiss is to the end ambivalent or in self-denial.
I've seen it commented (including by the Voice film critic Molly Haskell) that the film is more satisfying when seen for the second time, and I wholeheartedly agree with this. This review replaces one which was not quite so laudatory. Three times is even better. Familiarity, in the case of this film, breeds endearment.
The sad part is that Paula Prentiss is so lovely and talented to watch in this film, and clearly the critics had huge expectations of her career, yet the next year she would do only three small parts in ensemble casts before withdrawing from films entirely for the next five years. These years, from when she was 26 through 31, were those where she certainly would have become a huge star.
The Horizontal Lieutenant (1962)
Jim and Paula together again
This is the final of four consecutive films Jim Hutton and Paula Prentiss made together in the early 60's. It is at times a trifle insensitive towards the Japanese, but that's about the worst thing you can say about this otherwise pleasant film. Trivia: Hutton's diminutive Nisei sidekick Sgt Tada, played by Yoshio Yoda, became "Fuji" in McHale's Navy.
Hutton, as usual plays the conniving but good-hearted Hutton character, and Prentiss--though described as "lanky" and "Miss High-Pockets"--is drop-dead gorgeous, even in G.I. Beige. She's just happy that the war transformed her "from a tall girl into a short commodity." This may be the last film which the producers felt compelled to write in some reference to Prentiss' Amazonian proportions.
Hutton, an intelligence officer, is sent to an occupied Pacific Islands to capture an inconsequential Japanese pilferer, and in due time, Prentiss shows up.
A talented collection of familiar character and comedic actors rounds out the cast.
The Honeymoon Machine (1961)
Not so bad...
Sure it's a little formulaic, but not deserving of the excoriation which precedes this mini-review. McQueen is just fine in the role, not so much a pure comic character as the fast-talking con-man Lieutenant, rather the sort of the role Tony Curtis used to play. And to keep the record straight, McQueen did other comedies, such as _Soldier in the Rain_, and the semi-comedic _Reivers_.
McQueen comes up with the idea of using a high-speed electronic computer to beat the roulette wheel and enlists Hutton and another sailor into the scheme.
Hutton, as the computer scientist doesn't have much to do, since he can't also play the fast-talking con-man. (And besides, he's a computer scientist!) But he does get to woo Prentiss, who amuses as the beautiful near-sighted heiress who talks to statues.
Weston up on the ledge with the blinker makes for a quite funny interlude as the others have noted.
But McQueen does not deserve the invective heaped upon him by the other reviewers of this film.
you must own the dvd
if you are a fan of this film, you must obtain the dvd version even if you've already got it in vhs (as i did). the dvd contains boorman's full-length commentary on the film, spoken as the film plays out. boorman's narration contains many entertaining insights into the story, the production and the actors. (he confides that the film was done "on a shoestring" and was not shot in cinemascope because of the added cost to the special effects. in another area, he relates that nichol williamson was not wanted by the studio, and that williamson and helen mirren were not on speaking terms when cast for this film). all in all, it's a wonderful package.
Last Action Hero (1993)
You either love it or hate it
This movie is of the "bigger is better," or "bigger is funnier" school, like Landis' "Blues Brothers" or Spielberg's "1941," and like those efforts tend to polarize the viewers into two camps. The first (which tend to be the majority) are turned off by the complexity and chaos, and are not amused by the cameos, inside jokes, the numerous excesses. The second group is a smaller but more fervent following, among whom i count myself.
"Last Action Hero" is unique within its genre, by having been directed by John McTiernan at the height of his considerable powers, having come off "Predator", "Die Hard", and "Hunt for Red October," and of course by starring Mr Schwarzenegger. That these two, at the pinnacle of their careers would collaborate on parody of their spectacularly successful formula is remarkable, and they both deliver earnest or often winning results. In the end, while not entirely successful, the film is far better than its reputation. It also contains some astonishing action sequences, particularly the car chase in the beginning of "Jack Slater IV" (two-wheeling past the truck, the minigun in the minivan, etc)
The Kids Are Alright (1979)
not only great music, but great filmmaking
i loved the Who in the late 70's and early 80's, so the timing of this 1979 film for me was fortuitous. as the other comments attest, the music and performances are simply fabulous. the viewer really gains an understanding of the complex nature of the band and its members. the archival footage and the old videos are wonderful historical points of reference about music in the 60's and 70's.
i recently acquired the "special edition" video and 20 years after, i can even more appreciate the masterful quality of this film. jeff stein, like ken burns, makes the documentary come alive. his skillful intermixing of several television interviews, voiceovers and archival footage, with complete videos and live performances make for the greatest rockumentary ever.
p.s. i noticed my "special edition" has excised a few minutes from the "quick one" video. are there any other changes? the video packagers make up for it to some extent with the bonus video of the single "the kids are alright"
Fine for an 11-year-old
"Fine for an 11-year-old" is not pejorative per se, but I saw it as an 11-year-old and loved it. This was back in the early 70's, and Moon shots were the thing and I followed each one religiously. To me, _Marooned_ was great drama.
Now 30 plus years later, MAROONED has become a bit creaky, the FX are a bit cheesy, and the drama a trifle hokey. On the other hand, Peck, Hackman, Janssen and Crenna are all earnest as hell, and the script is intelligent if melodramatic. Interestingly, MAROONED predates the Apollo 13 incident and is mentioned in Chaikin's book as having been seen by Commander Lovell before lift-off.
The Endless Summer 2 (1994)
beautiful and astonishing
this film lives up the hype of being even better than the legendary original. the style is precisely that of the original, but the leap is the technical quality of the photography. much of the photography is so beautiful and astonishing that it looks like james cameron computer generated it. you watch it, thinking "how the heck did they film that?" now i am a jersey boy, born in nyc, know nothing about surfing. but i know a great film and this is one.
gritty, authentic, beautiful--1970's style
In the French-connection style of filmmaking. Exciting, realistic, simple, gritty. Intense, but never histrionic. Colorful "New York" characters, beautifully acted. Spare direction, great soundtrack, and a wonderful on-location sense of utter authenticity. Today's films seem sugar-coated in comparison.