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Real name: Joe Wawrzyniak
Hair: Rapidly receding, but what's still left is dirty blonde & often uncombed
Eyes: Piercing blue. Not exactly Meg Fosterish, but leaning in that striking direction
Favorite hat: Fedora, a man's hat
Favorite shirt: loud Hawaiian shirts, the uglier the better
Favorite pants: Khaki, usually rumpled
Date of birth: June 1st, 1972
Homestate: New Jersey, where both myself and the drive-in were born
Height: 6 feet, 4 inches, very tall
Weight: 215 pounds, really thin
Nicknames: The Woodman, The Woodster,
The Woodmeister, Awesome Anders
Mr. Wood, Woody A, Good Ol' WA, Woods,
Woody Baby (ladies only, please)
Persona: Film nerd and damn proud of it
Voice: Deep, oily, soothing pus ooze late night disc jockey tenor
Favorite song: "Una Paloma Blanca" 2005 remix by George Baker
Motto: "If you wanna be the s**t, you gotta know your s**t. Otherwise, you ain't s**t."
Religion: Godless heathen atheist and proud of it, too
I'm especially fond of horror and exploitation movies. I think the 70's was the best-ever decade for film. Watch a lot of cult movies and drive-in films; the sleazier and/or weirder they are, the more I dig 'em. Enjoy out of the mainstream independent films, rock pics, sci-fi end-of-the-world items and made-for-TV movies as well.
Just to stop my life from being too dull I have a little sideline hobby singing downhome Southern-fried country and western music. I'm the lead singer/songwriter in a funky band called Hillbilly Joe and the Jersey Bumpkins. We're a bunch of s**t-kickin', fiddle-pickin', banjo-pluckin' rowdy rednecks who love to spit, chew, screw and drink Mountain Dew (and I ain't talkin' 'bout the soda). We perform at truckstops, greasy spoons, swap meets, flea markets, seedy honkytonk dives, trailer parks, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and especially church social gatherings every Sunday afternoon. Songs we perform include such good, clean, wholesome family numbers as "Thank God I'm A Country *beep* "On the Floor Again," "I *beep* Your Sister and She's A Lousy Lay," and "The Wife Beating Song." The latter charming ditty I wrote in fifteen minutes at the tail end of a severe weekend whiskey bender. The lyrics are as follows:
I punch the dawg
I kick the cat
I beat the wife
With a bat
She called the cops
I'm in jail
Spendin' the night
Can't pay bail
While I'm here
I really hope
My hairy cellmate Bubba
Don't drop the soap
Now, isn't that a truly special song just ripe to bursting with wit, warmth, tasteful humor and a teeming surplus of poignant heartfelt humanity? Your darn totin' it sure is. Keep watching "American Idol" because I'm gonna be on it any day now.
I also act in hard-core porno films under the alias IGiveYouMyWood. Among the hard-core movies I've starred in are "Layin' the Ladies," "Stickin' It to Your Sister," "Lovin' My Cousin" (a Hillbilly Joe favorite), and the sentimental yuletide classic "Santa's Special Sausage." All these films and many more can be ordered from the following website: www.getmywood.com.
Moreover, I'm a shameless hack writer who does numerous film reviews and articles for such underground publications as "Vex," "Cult Movies" (my article on Bigfoot films was nominated for a Rondo Award in 2003, but alas I didn't win), "The Exploitation Journal," "Screem," and "Shock Cinema." I also write album reviews for a local Garden State rock zine called "Jersey Beat."
I average at one film comment a day on the IMDb and even write snappy little bios on such lesser known actors and actresses as Vic Diaz, Victor Israel, Joy Bang, Michael Ironside, Michelle Stacy, James Whitworth, Frances Raines, Roberta Collins, Rick Dean, Candice Rialson, Monica Gayle, Harley Cross, Bill Thurman, Michael Sopkiw, Nicholas Worth, Jennifer Ashley, Sondra Currie, Bruno VeSota, Sharon Kelly, Tim Thomerson, Tony Musante, Lina Romay, Pamela Franklin, Kelli Maroney, Jewel Shepard, Starr Andreeff, and Patty Shepard. I've also written bios for such directors as Richard Compton (R.I.P.), my good friend Keith Crocker, William Lustig, Jeff Lieberman, Jeff Burr, Fred Dekker, Kevin S. Tenney, Lewis Teague, Jack Arnold, Lee Frost, Don Edmonds, and Gary Sherman. In a pitiful attempt at displaying range and versatility, I've whipped up bios for longtime favorite singer/songwriters Kim Carnes, Carol Connors, Jackie DeShannon, John Prine, Joe South and Tony Joe White, country singers Dave Dudley and Eddie Rabbitt, blues singer/guitarist T-Model Ford, rock'n'roll guitarists Davie Allan and Link Wray, and crime novelist Charles Willeford. In fact, I have over 1,000 mini-bios posted all over the IMDb and am currently listed as #3 in the IMDb statistics top twenty list of writers on mini-bios. Plus I add pieces of trivia and quotes for folks all over the IMDb (one of the folks I've added several quotes for is none other than Fred Astaire!). Hell, I even add magazine interviews, pictorials and cover photos, too. And TV commercials, too. I'm not a prolific writer; I'm just a guy who writes a lot.
I would love to hear from film fans the world over. I hope you enjoy my writing and comments.
I own more DVDs than I care to list and have seen more movies than I would care to admit to. I average three or fours DVDs a week, so my collection gets bigger and bigger all the time. Before you ask, I store my DVDs in a very large basement. I also store the bodies of stray drifters I pick on the way home from work in my basement as well. Wait a minute; forget that last sentence. I actually eat as much of the bodies as I can (thus saving money on food so I can buy more DVDs) and burn what I can't eat in my incinerator (thus saving money on heating as well). When in Jersey be sure to stop by my house. I'd be glad to have you over for diner. However, you wouldn't be a guest in my house; you would be the main course instead. Cheers!
Don't always do what the nice officer says
Dutiful, but naïve fast food manager Sandra (a strong and credible performance by Ann Dowd) receives a phone call from a man claiming to be a police officer (a creepy turn by Pat Healy) who informs Sandra that employee Becky (a fine and appealing portrayal by Dreama Walker) has stolen money from a costumer. Things get sticky when the fake cop guy begins telling Sandra and other folks to do things that cross the line between right and wrong.
Writer/director Craig Zobel relates the absorbing story at a constant pace, takes time to flesh out the two main characters, grounds the gripping and disturbing premise in a thoroughly plausible workaday reality, generates a good deal of tension, and, most importantly, makes a potent and provocative point on the potential perils inherent in blindly following authority no questions asked. Moreover, this film acquires an extra chilling edge from the fact that it's based on a harrowing real-life incident and that everything that occurs in the narrative is within the realm of possibility.
Dowd and Walker both do sterling work in their demanding roles; they receive sturdy support from Philip Ettinger as the incredulous Kevin, Ashlie Atkinson as harried shift supervisor Marti, Bill Camp as the laid-back Van, Nikiya Mathis as the sassy Connie, and Stephen Payne as the crusty Harold. Both Andrew Stone's sharp widescreen cinematography and Heather McIntosh's spare moody score are up to par. Unsettling for sure, but undeniably effective just the same.
The Lift (1972)
Cool comedy short
A harried working man (Michael Fuller, who kind of looks like Paul Bartel) has his daily routine disrupted by an uncooperative elevator. Writer/director Robert Zemeckis astutely captures the frantic hustle and bustle of modern life as well as shows how man's reliance on technology tends to add to his anguish and frustration rather than detracts from same. In addition, there's a wickedly amusing sense of pitch-black humor evident throughout, with the last gag in particular rating as a brutally funny punchline. Shot in stark black and white, with no dialogue and a groovy jazz score, this short provides an interesting inkling of Zemeckis' considerable talent and grasp of dark irony.
Vanishing on 7th Street (2010)
Nifty little apocalyptic sci-fi/horror chiller
A mysterious sudden blackout causes the majority of people in Detroit to disappear into thin air. Several desperate survivors seek shelter in a bar with a gas-powered generator. Said survivors must figure a way to stay alive before the darkness claims them next.
Director Brad Johnson ably crafts an eerie and unsettling atmosphere, relates the intriguing story at a gradual pace, generates a significant amount of tension, and maintains a grimly serious tone throughout. Anthony Jaswinski's tight script not only keeps the fantastic premise firmly grounded on a touchingly intimate human level, but also has a compellingly ambiguous aspect to it that further enhances the overall creepiness that permeates every last uncanny frame. The sound acting by the sturdy cast rates as another major asset: Hayden Christensen as cocky TV reporter Luke, John Leguizamo as rattled projectionist Paul, Thandie Newton as the distraught Rosemary, Jacob Latimore as scrappy kid James, and Taylor Groothuis as resourceful little girl Briana. Larry Fessenden pops up in a small part as an ill-fated bike messenger. The shots of the emptied out streets and dark figures lurking in the shadows are genuinely spooky. Both Uta Briesewitz's crisp widescreen cinematography and Lucas Vidal's shivery score are up to par. A real on the money nail-biter.
American Hero (2015)
Nice little seriocomic sleeper
Drug-addled all-around foul-up Melvin (a fine and likeable performance by Stephen Dorff) decides to finally get his act together so he can use his heretofore suppressed telekinetic powers to do some good. Melvin is assisted on his noble quest by his easygoing disabled best friend Lucille (a spirited and engaging portrayal by Eddie Griffin).
Writer/director Nick Love relates the enjoyable and engrossing story at a constant pace, grounds the premise in a plausibly mundane everyday reality, offers a surprisingly thoughtful and effective mix of comedy and drama, and further provides a flavorsome evocation of the New Orleans setting. Moreover, Melvin's deep-seated need for some kind of redemption as well as his friendship with the fiercely loyal, but long-suffering Lucille give this movie an unexpectedly substantial amount of wrenching poignancy. In addition, there are sound supporting contributions from Luis Da Silva Jr. as the rowdy Lyle, Yohance Myles as concerned science teacher Lucas, Andrea Cohen as Melvin's caring mom Eileen, Raeden Cohen as snippy sister Clarice, and Christopher Berry as wastoid pal Danny. A sweet movie.
Monsters: Rain Dance (1989)
Ripping off the locals is never a good idea
Unscrupulous treasure hunter Tom Solo (well played to the jerky hilt by Kent McCord) and his self-absorbed wife Vanessa (a sharp portrayal by Teri Copley) make a living scamming Native Americans by acquiring valuable objects from them at dirt cheap prices. The couple finally meet their match in the form of a sinister statue.
Director Richard Friedman keeps the absorbing story moving along at a constant pace as well as generates a good deal of tension and maintains a serious tone throughout. The two main characters are perfectly hateful and obnoxious; it's a treat to see this despicable pair get their nasty just desserts. Betty Carvalho has a memorably angry bit as an embittered old woman. The death god idol (Antonio Hoyos in a funky outfit) looks really gnarly and fearsome. A solid show.
Monsters: The Match Game (1989)
Be careful about the scary tales that you tell
Two couples decide to spend the night in an old Victorian mansion that's rumored to be haunted. The young folks take turns relating a scary story concerning the long deceased owner of said abode that comes terrifyingly true.
Director Michael Brandon keeps the enjoyable and involving story moving along at a quick pace, ably crafts a spooky atmosphere, and makes the most out of the old dark house setting. The sound acting by the capable cast keeps things buzzing: Ashley Laurence of "Hellraiser" fame as the perky Jodie, Bryon Thomas as the strange Paul, Tori Spelling as the willful Beverly, and Sasha Jenson as the jerky Matthew. The zombie Herbert (Tom Woodruff Jr. under lots of funky make-up) looks genuinely creepy and hideous. An on the money episode.
Drive Hard (2014)
Nifty little car chase action comedy romp
Former ace racecar driver turned unhappy driving instructor Peter Roberts (a sturdy and likeable performance by Thomas Jane) winds up becoming the reluctant wheelman for shifty criminal Simon Keller (smoothly played by John Cusack) after Keller steals 9 million from a bank. Both the cops and the mob give hot pursuit.
Director Brian Trenchard-Smith keeps the enjoyable and engrossing story moving along at a zippy pace, maintains an engaging tongue-in-cheek tone throughout, makes nice use of the scenic Queensland Gold Coast locations, and stages the exciting car chases and shoot outs with his customary muscular aplomb. Jane and Cusack display an utterly disarming and amusing chemistry in the lead roles; their constant back and forth bickering and initially strained attempts at male bonding are a riot to behold. Moreover, there are sound supporting contributions from Zoe Ventoura as the hard-nosed Agent Walker, Yesse Spence as Peter's fed-up wife Tessa, Damien Garvey as the corrupt Detective Chief Inspector Smith, Andrew Buchanan as Smith's worrywart partner Detective Blanchard, Christopher Sommers as a dim-witted shotgun-toting gas station attendant, and Carol Burns as a crazy pistol-packing grandma. The spirited score by Bryce Jacobs hits the stirring spot. Tony O'Loughlan's slick cinematography provides a pleasing polished look. A fun B-flick.
TruInside: Election (2016)
Excellent doc on the making of "Election"
This 41-minute episode of this show covers a good deal of interesting and informative ground on the making of the cult comedy classic "Election." Writer Tom Perotta reveals that he had a hard time getting the novel the film is based on published because it didn't fit comfortably into a single genre. (A similar fate befell the movie at the marketing stage.) Reese Witherspoon discusses spending two weeks in Omaha hanging out with teenagers so she could get a bead on her memorably ruthless overachiever character. Chris Klein and Jessica Campbell look back at their film debuts with great fondness. Frankie Ingrassia reveals that her agent tried to talk her out of playing her risqué role. Among the other things addresssed herein are the ingenious casting of Matthew Broderick as a guy going through a mid-life crisis, the use of actual staff and students as extras from the high school the film was shot on location at, how the movie tested terribly, and the original more upbeat ending that just didn't work. Recommended viewing for fans of the film.
A harrowing dsecent into the beautifully black heart of film noir
Hapless nightclub pianist Al Roberts (ably played to the antsy hilt by Tom Neal) decides to hitchhike across the country from New York to California. Complications ensue after Roberts makes the bad decision to assume the identity of amiable gambler Charles Haskell Jr. (a solid and likeable performance by Edmund MacDonald) after Haskell suddenly dies. Things get even worse when Roberts crosses the toxic path of the bitter, vengeful, and manipulative Vera (an awesomely forceful and intimidating portrayal by Ann Savage).
Director Edgar G. Ulmer does a masterful job of crafting and sustaining a potently unsettling feeling of pure dread and despair that never lets up for a minute; the exceptionally bleak fatalistic and nihilistic tone stays fiercely true to itself right to the unflinching grim end. The terrific acting by the three leads keeps this movie humming: Neal astutely nails the raw sweaty desperation of his hard-luck chump character, Claudia Drake registers well as Al's sweet gal pal Sue Harvey, and, most astonishing of all, Savage leaves a strong lasting impression as one of the single most nasty and formidable femme fatales to ever connive her way across the screen. Martin Goldsmith's clever and compact script boasts lots of snappy dialogue and a serpentine narrative that winds towards an inevitable downbeat conclusion with the insidious stealth and unavoidability of a terminal disease. The spare stripped-down two-cent production values further enhance the overall feeling of absolute unease and desolation. Essential viewing.
An interesting and illuminating documentary
This 75-minute doc covers a lot of engrossing and illuminating ground on the life and career of notorious B-movie maverick Edgar G. Ulmer. Among the folks interviewed are directors Roger Corman, Wim Wenders, Joe Dante, John Landis, and Peter Bogdonovich, film historians Tom Weaver and Gregory W. Mank, actors John Saxon and William Schallert, actress Ann Savage, and Ulmer's daughter Arianne, who has some especially poignant comments to make about her father (for example, she reveals that she saw her dad the most on film sets). Among the things we learn about Ulmer was that he was a nomad from the beginning, that he had a tendency to wildly embellish on the facts concerning his work in cinema, he made ethnic movies in New York City in the 1930's, he was at his happiest working for the low-budget outfit PRC, his films often have displaced figures as the main characters, his last picture "The Cavern" took fifteen years to get made, Ulmer had aspirations of being a big studio director, and he was paralyzed for the last five years of his life. Recommended viewing for Edgar Ulmer fans.
The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962)
A delightfully trashy schlock horror gem
Driven and single-minded scientist Dr. Bill Cortner (an earnest and engaging performance by Jason Evers) searches for a new body for his fiancé Jan Compton (robustly essayed with tremendous rip-snorting gusto and passion by Virginia Leith) after she gets decapitated in a car accident.
Director Joseph Green keeps the enjoyably inane story moving along at a steady pace, maintains an appropriately lurid tone throughout, treats the outrageous premise in a generally serious manner, and delivers a few moments of shockingly explicit and excessive gore. Better still, Green tosses in several hot babes for tasty good measure, with striking statuesque brunette Adele Lamont a particular foxy stand-out as the bitter model Doris Powell. Green's pulpy script not only makes a spot-on accurate and illuminating statement on how men are prone to crassly objectify women, but also further offers an equally incisive exploration of the depraved and deranged depths of male obsession. Leith brings a fierce intensity to her angry and tragic character that adds a genuinely unsettling sense of pathos to the otherwise insanely sleazy proceedings. Anthony La Penna hams it up deliciously as pathetic crippled assistant Kurt. The freaky pinhead monster (hulking Eddie Carmel) who goes on the rampage at the exciting fiery climax is a hysterical hoot to behold. The cool jazzy score hits the swinging spot. A super fun B-flick.
One of the better comic episodes
Dancer and aspiring actress Suzy St. Claire (a solid performance by Mary Jo Keenan) kills her overbearing boyfriend and dance partner Gary Gregory (nicely played to the jerky hilt by Neal Jones). Suzy goes as far as to cut up Gary's body into little pieces only to have one of his legs comes back to life to get revenge on her.
Director David Misch relates the enjoyably absurd story at a snappy pace as well as gets a good deal of laughs from the amusing sense of goofy gallows humor that includes loads of choice dopey puns. Dan Frazer contributes a sturdy turn as Suzy's pragmatic agent Sam. In addition, we even get a few nice bits of mild gore and the final shot is simply priceless. A real hoot.
Monsters: Their Divided Self (1989)
Diastrous comic episode
Psychiatrist Dr. Blackman (an earnest and engaging performance by Rich Hall) gets an impossible job in which he has to try and help out a pair of famous professional comedians who are also conjoined twins who absolutely hate each other.
Director Frank De Palma crucially fails to find the correct and comfortable tongue-in-cheek tone that would make this slight and silly premise work. Moreover, the constant bickering between David L. Lander's debonair James and Keith MacKechnie's crude Robert proves to be tiresome and annoying instead of witty and amusing. Karen Huber as the ditsy Elegy Kaiser likewise comes across as extremely irritating and unappealing. The forced "happy" ending rings totally false, too. Only the sincere acting by both Hall and Eyde Byrde as loyal, but long-suffering housekeeper Velma are the sole saving graces of this otherwise painfully unfunny and obnoxious misfire.
The Passion of Martin (1991)
Savagely amusing comedy short
Lonely photographer Martin (an excellent anguished portrayal by Charley Hayward) develops an intense and unhealthy fixation on Rebecca (a charming and vibrant performance by the lovely Lisa Zane) after meeting her at a wedding reception. Complications ensue when the liberated and free-spirited Rebecca fails to live up to Martin's romantic ideals.
This early UCLA thesis film from writer/director Alexander Payne offers a full display of his fiercely mordant wit and skewed worldview, with Payne mercilessly mocking such worthy targets as obsession, pretentious artsy fartsy types, and the more tragic and damaging aspects of love with often wickedly funny results. Moreover, Payne's use of various snazzy stylistic flourishes that include freeze frames, slow motion, and an especially barbed voiceover done by Martin prove that the guy was a substantial cinematic talent to be reckoned with right from the start. The twisted surprise "happy" ending packs a startling kick. A bitterly hysterical hoot.
Twisted little exploitation flick
Callous macho stud Carlo (well played to the hateful slimy hilt by George Eastman) drives his sweet and vulnerable lover Francoise (an appealing portrayal by fetching brunette Patricia Gori) to commit suicide by kicking her to the curb after having his wanton way with her. Her sister Emanuelle (a fine and credible performance by foxy blonde Rosemarie Lindt) decides to exact a harsh revenge by chaining Carlo up in a secret room in her house.
Infamous Italian sleazemeister Joe D'Amato, who also co-wrote the sick script with Bruno Mattei, keeps the engrossingly sordid story moving along at a steady pace, maintains an appropriately harsh seamy tone throughout, and ends the seedy plot on a pleasing grim note. Moreover, D'Amato not only delivers an extremely satisfying serving of tasty bare female flesh and sizzling soft-core sex (a lesbian threesome rates as a definite arousing highlight), but also tosses in several moments of hideously gruesome violence for gory good measure. D'Amato's slick cinematography provides an impressive glossy look. Gianni Marchetti's groovy melodic score hits the funky-grinding spot. A nice slice of prime 70's Eurosleaze.
White Dog (1982)
A tough film on a difficult subject
Struggling actress Julie Sawyer (a fine and sympathetic performance by Kristy McNichol) adopts a beautiful big white German shepherd that she discovers much to her horror has been trained to attack black people. Determined animal trainer Keys (a superb portrayal by Paul Winfield) decides to try to make the dog unlearn this terrible conditioning.
Director Samuel Fuller, who also co-wrote the searing script with Curtis Hanson, relates the gripping story at a constant pace, maintains a bold and confrontational tone throughout, and brings a palpable sense of anger and sadness to the grim premise. Moreover, Fuller does a remarkably convincing job of presenting the dog as a pitiable victim instead of a fearsome monster; the poor canine is clearly the toxic product of a cruel upbringing, which in turn makes the potent and provocative point that racism is a learned trait that's ingrained in one's psyche at an early age.
McNichol and especially Winfield both do sterling work in their roles. Burl Ives plays heart cigar-chomping animal sanctuary owner Carruthers with delightfully lip-smacking gusto. Popping up in nifty bits are such familiar faces as Bob Minor, Dick Miller, Paul Bartel, and even Fuller himself as Julie's agent. Kudos are also in order for Ennio Morricone's haunting melancholy score and the polished cinematography by Bruce Surtees. The five dogs who portray the titular canine all deserve props for their exceptional work. The tragic ending packs a devastating punch. By no means a comforting film, but an undeniably powerful and unsettling one.
Four-Legged Time Bomb (2008)
Nice retrospective documentary
This 45-minute documentary covers a good deal of interesting and informative ground on the making of Samuel Fuller's controversial "White Dog." This doc features illuminating interviews with producer Jon Davison, co-writer Curtis Hanson, and Fuller's widow Christa Lang. Among the things we learn in this doc was that Roman Polanski was originally slated to direct the picture, five dogs were used to play the white dog, Paramount barely released the film after the word got out that Fuller had made a racist movie, Burl Ives had to use cue cards because he had trouble remembering his lines, Fuller initially wanted to do the dog POV shots in black and white, and Paul Winfield did his own stunts. In addition, we also find out that Jodie Foster was considered to play Julie, Billy Dee Williams was the first choice for Keys, and Fuller originally wanted Lee Marvin to portray Carruthers. Worth a watch for fans of the film.
Monsters: The Mother Instinct (1989)
Don't mess with an old lady's melons
Greedy and abusive scumbag Nelson (a nicely slimy portrayal by Tom Gilroy) plots to steal a miraculous melon juice formula that his elderly crippled mother-in-law (a solid and credible performance by Elizabeth Franz) has developed from her plants.
Director Bette Gordon relates the engrossing story at a steady pace as well as maintains an appropriately serious tone throughout. Finn Carter elicits sympathy as Nelson's sweet, but timid and browbeaten wife Sheila. Moreover, the character of Nelson rates as an extremely hateful jerk; it's very satisfying to see this vile fink meet a highly fitting gruesome end in the form of being eaten by a giant bloodworm. The funky bloodworm creatures look pretty creepy, too. A nifty show.
Monsters: Parents from Space (1989)
Sweet little girl Cindy (a solid and sympathetic portrayal by Mary Griffin) discovers that her horribly abusive elderly foster parents have been replaced by a couple of much nicer and kinder aliens.
Director Gerald Cotts relates the enjoyable story at a snappy pace as well as maintains a charming whimsical tone throughout. Frank Gorshin and Peggy Cass are both perfectly hateful and grotesque as the bad parents; they also manage to convey a more friendly and appealing side when both their characters are possessed by the benign extraterrestrials. Ann Hillary contributes an amusing turn as ditsy social worker Mrs. Rogers. The nice upbeat ending hits the heartwarming spot, too. While this episode is pretty slight, it nonetheless still makes for a pleasant enough diversion.
Very touching episode
Three survivors of a plague that has decimated everyone else in a small town hole up in the basement of a library around Christmastime. Meanwhile, an alien being conducts experiments and does research on the human race on the top floor of the library. Is the alien benign or malign in its intentions?
Director Peter Stein relates the absorbing story at a constant pace as well as generates a good deal of tension and maintains an intriguing enigmatic tone throughout. The fine acting by the able cast rates as another substantial asset: Jenna von Oy makes a favorable impression as sweet little girl Amy, Mark Hofmaier likewise does well as Amy's sensible father, and Brian Fitzpatrick contributes a perfectly hateful turn as the angry and suspicious Carl. F. Paul Wilson's thoughtful script not only makes inspired use of the yuletide setting, but also offers a strong and provocative point concerning the potential perils of judging a book strictly by its cover. The sad ending based on a tragic misunderstanding between the two different species packs a devastating punch. A super poignant and powerful show.
Enjoyable and informative
This nifty little documentary covers the seamy world of exploitation cinema in a refreshingly tasteful and straightforward manner from the early days of black and white road show items to the wild'n'heady heyday of the turbulent 1960's. While this doc could have benefitted from being a tad longer and more comprehensive (the gloriously sleazy 1970's aren't even mentioned), the stuff contained herein is loads of trashy fun to both behold and learn about. Covering everything from racy foreign fare to nudie cuties, there's a little something for everyone featured herein. Moreover, the interviews with such top exploiters as Roger Corman (as smooth and eloquent as ever), rascally David F. Friedman, feisty Doris Wishman, a surprisingly laid-back Harry Novak, and the especially sharp and astute Sam Arkoff are delightful and illuminating in equal measure. The lively interview with Maila Nurmi (a.k.a. Vampira) rates as another definite highlight; she was still full of life and humor even at an advanced elderly age. Best of all, this doc does a convincing job of showing how various social upheavals and traumatic events created an ideal climate that enabled exploitation movies to come into being and proliferate throughout the decades. Recommended viewing for fans of exploitation fare.
Cracking British crime thriller
A group of criminals led by sly mastermind Paul Clifton (an excellent performance by Stanley Baker) devise an intricate plan to rob the Royal Mail train on its route from Glasgow to London.
Director Peter Yates, who also co-wrote the intelligent script with Edward Boyd and George Markstein, relates the gripping true story at a steady pace, generates plenty of tension, maintains a serious no-nonsense tone throughout, adroitly uses a plain no-frills documentary style that grounds the premise in an utterly credible workaday reality, covers in fascinatingly meticulous detail the precise planning of the heist, and stages both an exciting car chase and the thrilling robbery itself with utmost skill and aplomb. The ace acting from the tip-top cast rates as another substantial asset: Joanna Pettet as Clifton's fed-up wife Kate, James Booth as the shrewd and determined Inspector George Langdon, Frank Finlay as timid banker Robinson, Barry Foster as smartaleck driver Frank, William Marlowe as the pragmatic Dave Aitken, and George Sewell as the greedy Ben. Kudos are also in order for Douglas Slocombe's crisp cinematography and John Keating's spare, yet still stirring and spirited score. An on the money film.
Mikey and Nicky (1976)
The last night of a man at the end of his rope
Antsy small-time bookie Nicky (superbly played with jolting intensity by John Cassavetes) hides out in a hotel after he steals money from a local mobster. Nicky calls on his old chum Mikey (Peter Falk in peak amiable form) to bail him out of the jam he's now in.
Writer/director Elaine May relates the simple, yet still absorbing story at a deliberate pace, offers a vivid and compelling evocation of a really sad and sordid criminal underworld, grounds the premise in a plausibly drab workaday reality, and presents a fiercely incisive and affecting exploration on male friendship, with a specific emphasis on the themes of trust, loyalty, and betrayal. Moreover, May manages to see the poignant wounded humanity in the two deeply flawed main characters, who alternate between being sympathetic and repellent throughout.
Falk and Cassavetes both do sterling work in their roles, with Cassavetes in particular astutely nailing the paranoid desperation of a frightened man who's doomed and knows it. In addition, there are fine supporting contributions from Ned Beatty as rather bumbling businesslike hitman Kinney, Rose Arrick as Mikey's concerned wife Annie, Carol Grace as meek doormat Nellie, William Hickey and Sanford Meisner as a couple of weary mob capos, Joyce Van Patten as Nicky's fed-up estranged wife Jan, M. Emmet Walsh as a huffy bus driver, and Peter R. Scoppa as an anal diner counterman. Victor J. Kemper's stark cinematography further adds to the overall gritty reality. The occasional outbursts of sudden violence pack a startling punch. The downbeat ending is likewise positively devastating. Not an easy film to watch at times, but an impossible one to forget.
Monsters: Fools' Gold (1989)
Don't mess with the troll
A trio of construction workers discover a hidden cave that contains treasure that's guarded by a lethal and territorial troll (Debbie Lee Carrington in a gnarly outfit). Director Greg Cannon keeps the enjoyable and engrossing story moving along at a snappy pace as well as milks a good deal of claustrophobic tension from the claustrophobic setting. The tight script by Michael Reaves makes a nice point about the perils of greed. The sound acting by the capable cast keeps things humming: Jeff Conaway as the cocky Phil, Mary Cadorette as uptight supervisor Sherrie, and T.J. Castronovo as weary veteran Joe. Moreover, there are even a few fairly gruesome moments in which the troll burns folks with its deadly touch. A nifty show.
Monsters: Rouse Him Not (1988)
Artist Linda McGuire (nicely played by Laraine Newman) resides in an old house located in the country. One day Linda receives a visit from John Thurston (a smooth and ingratiating performance by Alex Cord), who's doing research on a warlock who used to live in said house.
Director Mark Shostrom alas crucially fails to generate much in the way of any essential tension or creepy atmosphere. Moreover, the meandering story for the most part proves to be overly talky and uneventful. The hideous monster in the basement looks pretty gnarly, but isn't in the episode enough. Fortunately, Newman and especially Cord both do commendable work in their roles while Terrance Evans contributes an enjoyably grumpy turn as cranky local Mr. Ritzen. A really blah and forgettable show.