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7/10
An Upscale WIP Drama
28 February 2019
While no movie from the "women in prison genre" will ever be called a masterpiece, 1982's "The Concrete Jungle" is a cut above the rest, largely because it does take itself somewhat seriously, while it tells a plausible story of what goes on inside the prison system. There are no group shower scenes in this one, but there is some rather ugly, vile depictions of forced sex and other sordid goings on. The best thing about this one is it's effective study of power hierarchy inside the prison system, from guards over prisoners, to prisoners over weaker prisoners, and most interestingly between warden and direct underlings. Every angle is covered. Even the power that a man has over a woman, simply by using love as a weapon to control and deceive; it's all here. The most impressive thing is how this nightmarish world is captured, as the story's heroine, Elizabeth, sinks deeper into the sordid and desperate life behind bars. Tension builds to an almost unbearable level as the attacks of the 'Queen Bee' become more vicious, from beatings, to shooting up rivals with syringes of air, to razor blade attacks, as in the film's most effective scene, that finds the once timid Elizabeth, becoming the aggressor and cutting her abuser with the same blade that was pulled on her. Soap Opera legend Tracey Bregman shines in her role, and is convincing, especially when her character begins to change into one of the animals that had at first horrified her. This title has finally been restored for Bluray and it makes a big difference, as now the competent cinematography and it's highly polished look can now be appreciated. The director followed this successful movie with another WIP film the following year. "Chained Heat" with Linda Blair, which cranked up the exploitative elements considerably, but does not have the same quality of this lesser known, earlier film. As far as the genre goes, "Concrete Jungle" is one of the best. Also recommended are the prison movies "Vendetta," and "Red Heat," which is hard to find in an uncensored version.
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Welcome Back, Kotter (1975–1979)
7/10
The Slow Decline
26 February 2019
"Welcome Back, Kotter," classic tv at it's best, and later...it's worst. This was one of those 1970's shows that took place in an urban setting and dealt with the blue collar and low income segment of society, that people could either relate to, or laugh at. Along with "Good Times," and "Barney Miller," this was one of those "urban sit-coms," although WBK was a bit more silly than those other productions. But it wasn't without it's serious side, dealing with such issues as teen pregnancy, drug addiction, school bullying etc. Of course, like many shows of it's kind, "Welcome Back Kotter" began to run out of steam after the second season. The first two are excellent examples of 70's television gold. Things began to come apart in the third season, where smart comedy was being replaced with stupid slapstick moments, along with a ton of unfunny "baby jokes," when Gabe Kotter, teacher and mentor to his class of "Sweathogs," and his wife Julie had twin babies. The show also lost some realism when the couple moved into that large, deluxe New York apartment, a space that a Brooklyn public school teacher could never afford. I think that upscale set also alienated some of it's viewers, who watched the show because they could relate to the tough urban lifestyle. The show hit bottom during Season 4, with the loss of Gabe Kaplan, who has in fact the backbone of the whole show. This was Kaplan's creation, and the show was named after his character. His absence was a death blow to the whole production. Some blamed the departure of actor John Travolta, on the show's demise, but Travolta made so many appearances as a guest star during the fourth season, that his absence was barely felt. No, Gabe Kaplan as Mr. Kotter, was the most entertaining character, and the one that held the whole production together. All good things must come to an end, as this show did after four seasons. Today the show is still airing in reruns, on independent tv stations nationwide, and this attests to the show's timeless endurance.
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Bokusâ (1977)
7/10
The Japanese Rocky?
20 February 2019
Shuji Terayama's "Bokusa" was released shortly after the iconic film "Rocky" was unleashed upon the World, but this very Eastern film is hardly A "Japanese Rocky." It's many artistic, and sometimes avant-garde touches could not be more different from the style of that American produced film. Down on his luck Hayato, (the legendary Bunta Sugawara) is living a desolate life in a flophouse, slowly drinking himself to death, after his promising career as a champion boxer, crashes, when he suddenly decided to "quit boxing...." right in the middle of an important match. Fast forward a decade, and the story finds Hayato seeking revenge upon the young man that killed his brother, quite possibly intentionally, during a mishap on a construction site. The boy responsible, Kentaro, is an up and coming boxer who lacks the talents of the older man. An uneasy relationship develops between the men, when Kentaro convinces the washed up Hayato to train him, and mold him into a champion. That's the premise. The two men begin to form a kind of "father and son connection," as the grueling training process unfolds. But where a Western movie will tend to go for a sappy and sentimental angle, this strange production enters unfamiliar territory...unfamiliar at least, for a boxing movie. Art and boxing won't always blend well, unless you have a Master like Terayama behind the camera. He manages to incorporate the surreal touches that are synonymous with his name; the garish, artificial color schemes, which give the film a beautiful and odd look, the wild camera angles, as well as the inclusion of some truly bizarre characters, who seem like they have stepped out of some alternate reality. These touches are great, but they might diminish the emotional impact of the story, by alienating the viewer. Japanese cinema is truly art, that uses imagery, and not just a script, to tell a story. "Bokusa" still delivers what we expect from a boxing film, such as the adrenaline pumping training sequences, and the violent, exciting fight scenes, not to mention an unforgettable soundtrack that is unique and sometimes haunting, but always compliments the visuals. "Bokusa" is sadly and unjustly unavailable to Western audiences, but when you see it,you might understand why no American film distributor picked it up, as it is a very Eastern film that won't connect with everyone. But for fans of this genre, that are willing to take a gamble on something different, this is definitely worth tracking down. The only other film from director Shuji Terayama, that got general release in the West, was the erotic film "Fruits of Passion" with Klaus Kinski. The two films have many similarities, visual and otherwise.
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8/10
Ambitious Pink Film
19 February 2019
Director Noburo Tanaka was a prolific director of "pink films" throughout the 1970's, but unlike many other creators of these sex themed films, Tanaka strived for more than exploitation. For he was an artist, as can be seen when watching such titles as "Watcher In the Attic," his unforgettable "Midnight Fairy," and this film, concerning a man who befriends 3 violent, sex obsessed boys, who take advantage of his trust by assaulting his wife. There isn't a lot of actual "sex" in "Rape and Death of A Housewife," and much of the sex is really not meant to be sexually arousing. Instead Tanaka goes to great lengths to give depth and dimension to the characters, which is something unheard of in this genre. So much detail is paid to the story at hand that the viewer might forget that they are watching a 'pinku eiga." At times funny, and sometimes sad, but always interesting study of misfits and anti-social behavior.
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Union Depot (1932)
8/10
The Low Life Element
16 February 2019
Those fascinated with CRIME and have a weakness for these Pre-Code Hollywood productions, are going to appreciate this tale of seedy train station life. Douglas Fairbanks Jr, the most handsome guy of 1930's Hollywood, is utterly suave here, as Chick Miller, the transient vagrant, fresh out of jail and looking for a score. He finds an opportunity when a rich drunk loses his suitcase and ol' Chick helps himself to the nice suit and the bank roll inside. He becomes an instant gentleman, and the gorgeous Joan Blondell falls for him, when he helps her out of her own tough predicament. Blondell has these huge, sad and expressive eyes that can just melt the heart, and her and Douglas Fairbanks are irresistible as a couple. This movie has it all; comedy, crime, excitement, and romance. It's dark, gritty quality is right in line with the film style of the early 30's, and this, to many, is the true "Golden Age" of cinema. The Hayes Code of 1934 really seemed to strip movies of all their vitality; they ceased being realistic and began to look like artificial nonsense. No longer could life be portrayed as it really was, and that was an artistic loss. Thankfully we will always have movie diamonds like this to revisit and treasure. Fans of Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in particular, need to hunt this one down, as he absolutely OWNS this movie. "Union Depot" is a joy to behold.
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Golden Boy (1939)
5/10
Post Code Fluff
7 February 2019
Sometimes it's easy to spot films that were produced before the introduction of the "Moral Code" of 1934, when compared to squeaky clean fluff like "Golden Boy." Made in 1939, this film is very similar to those sentimentally sweet movies of the 50's. A story about a New York Italian kid with two passions; boxing...and playing the violin, should be a tough movie, considering the elements involved. But the obsession of "keeping it clean," to satisfy the rules of the Hayes Office, sapped so many of these films of their power. The performances are stilted and insincere, the fake New York slang that sounds so great in movies of this type from the early 30's, sounds patently fake awkward here. Also those looking for a boxing film will be sorely disappointed, as there is virtually no actual fight scenes in this flimsy movie. William Holden, though a fine actor and handsome guy, is utterly miscast as a boxer, although he does look comfortable with the violin. Comparing this movie to another boxing-themed film from 1931, "The Iron Man," that earlier film shines with all the seedy, tough grit that a fight themed movie needs. Lew Ayres was also a small guy, but he was more believable as a boxer, as he had the mannerisms and street style that a part like this requires. But that 1931 movie could never have been made in 1939. Those looking for a classic boxing themed movie would do better to skip "Golden Boy" and seek out "Iron Man," which is a stronger film.
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7/10
Forgive the Script...
6 February 2019
...To enjoy and marvel at the lush visuals of this, one of the very first movies shot in color, you might have to overlook the sappy script. It's unabashedly romantic in the most juvenile way, but the beauty cinematography is astounding. Those scenes in the Tunisian bazaar, the nightclub, and of course, those superb desert vistas, all make "Garden of Allah" a very worthwhile film. The filmmakers did an impressive job in creating the illusion of the Arabian landscape, and it's hard to believe this was actually filmed in Arizona and California! The story of a monk who abandons his Monastery and his faith, ending up in the Sahara, where he meets a woman who was raised in a convent, as a devout Christian, could have been more "spiced up," and most likely would have; if this was filmed before the "Moral Code" debut of 1934. Unfortunately it is done in a "sqeaky clean, saccharine style that would have been more common in the 1950's. The subject is Islam is barely touched upon, and that seems like a missed opportunity. Still, it is all worth it; just let yourself be dazzled by the visuals. To see the Great Marlene Dietrich in Technicolor is an almost surreal experience, as we are all so used to seeing the actress in black & white productions. It seems like this production was hampered, in a way, by it's color photography, in the same way as 3-D movies were compromised by the new "gimmick." Color was so new, almost in it's experimental stage, and it seems all the attention was given to the visuals, and the script was an afterthought. What we have in "Garden of Allah," is a fascinating Hollywood relic.
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8/10
An Insane Masterpiece
30 January 2019
To consider this as just another erotic "pink film" would be doing "Mayonaka no yosei" a terrible disservice. This is truly an incendiary work of art. The main character is a sociopath with a rabid hatred of the upper class, and a simultaneous obsession with one spoiled, elitist "princess," who is on the verge of marrying a successful and wealthy young man, to improve her own position in society. After brutally raping her fails to derail the marriage, Kazou goes even more insane and decides he will stop this wedding at any cost. After he accidentally stumbles into a brothel, where he meets the equally mentally disturbed "Canary," a young prostitute who is convinced that Kazou is her "daddy," and she will do anything in the world to keep him by her side. And from this basis it gets even more bizarre and surreal, until it reaches it's jaw dropping conclusion, that sees two "brides" come face to face in a battle to the death. This film has a similar hyper-violent feel to it as Kubrik's "Clockwork Orange," or a demented version of "Bonnie & Clyde," with photography and editing that is on par with the best art house films of it's time. It's one of those films where you can hardly believe what you are seeing. I don't know how this one isn't more well-known, as it is truly one of the best movies of it's genre.
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Furyo shonen (1961)
8/10
Bad Boys
30 January 2019
From the director of the equally brilliant, "Nanami: Inferno of First Love," comes this fine docudrama about life in a boys reform school outside Tokyo. Shot on stark, beautiful black & White film stock, the camera follows a boy as he first enters the prison-like compound, rebellious and angry at the system and society. The viewer then sees his experiences that led up to his incarceration, through a series of very powerful flashbacks. We see him as a little boy, roaming the street, starving, until he finds a car with some food in it, as well as a pair of sunglasses, that he sells to a beautiful girl in a nightclub. She takes him home and gives him a bath and he wonders why someone would be nice to him. Other scenes showing the boys robbing innocent people on the street, are sad and depressing, but they always express feelings of remorse after their crimes, which shows that there is hope for their future. And those b/w shots of neon-lit Tokyo are wonderful and stark. The city is portrayed here, as a playground for the boys, as they roam the street like a pack of hyenas, terrorizing anyone who catches their eye. Throughout the film we see the protagonist slowly change from an angry, violent kid, into a young adult that just might succeed in the world beyond the walls of the reform school. There is not one moment of insincerity or corny sentimentality throughout this fine picture, which possesses the style of the French New Wave films of the early 60's. Unlike the other reviewer here, I was able to find a beautiful quality print with excellent subtitles, and can definitely see this rare title being picked up by Criterion or Kino, as it deserves to be resurrected for a new generation. "Furyo Shonen," or "Bad Boys" is a great film that deals with the subject of juvenile delinquency. Also recommended is the Serbian film called "Special Education," another unjustly forgotten film about troubled youth. Highly recommended.
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Iron Man (1931)
8/10
Dark, Hypnotic & Seedy
29 January 2019
You might not like the Legendary Jean Harlow in this, one of her earliest efforts. She plays Rose, an absolutely despicable gold digger, who uses her man, Prizefighter 'Kid Mason,' for the money he makes in the ring. Innocently gullible Mason (Lew Ayres) doesn't realize his girl is an opportunist , even when she abandons him for Hollywood stardom when his winning streak comes to an end. This is an early talkie, and it shows in certain early scenes, that might seem a bit awkward. But this quality only adds to the shadowy, mysterious aura of the production. There is a barely disguised homosexual suggestiveness in the relationship between Mason and his manager/trainer, who dissolves into an alcoholic mess when his boxer chooses Rose over the friendship. And Harlow's 'Rose' is truly a vile character, who is completely amoral and duplicitous. She was so good at playing these types of women, and she doesn't disappoint here. If you want lurid entertainment, look no further than "Iron Man." You get booze, chain smoking, fixed fights, crooked promoters, prostitution etc. The early 1930's were a special time for cinema; the ability to film with live sound was so new, and before 1934, with the advent of the Hollywood "morality code," film makers could sure get away with a lot. If films like "Iron Man" and "Scarface" were made after 1934, I'm sure they would be quite different. Recommended for fans of boxing films, 30's noir, and especially Harlow enthusiasts.
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6/10
Grindhouse Classic
16 January 2019
This is not a great film, in fact it can't even be considered a "good film," when you take into account the poor, confusing editing, ugly cinematography and some bad acting. What makes "The Exterminator" a valuable movie, is it's "grindhouse credibility. This is one of the few movies of it's kind that actually makes me a little sick when I watch it, and similar films like "Death Wish" and "Vigilante" don't succeed in doing that. Yes, they are both way superior films, but they don't pack the punch that this sleazy movie from 1980 achieves in spades. You have the Vietnam Vet, still feeling the effects of one jungle, when he is thrust into another jungle, the urban jungle of New York city at the very end of the 1970's. The film's anti-hero is hunting the true filth of the Earth, mafioso, child molesters and murdering gang members. At the heart of the story is an ongoing struggle between him and "The Ghetto Ghouls," a hyper violent gang that is terrorizing New York. Offering some great, vintage location scenes of New York landmarks, like the West Side's meat packing district, the crime ridden Central Park, and the slime ridden Times Square. For these qualities the movie has value. It's a rough movie, but this one should be appreciated by fans of violent revenge movies from back in the day. The version I saw on Bluray appeared kind of choppy, like some scenes were missing. If there is an even nastier version of this one in existence, I can't even imagine what they cut..
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Mausoleum (1983)
7/10
Naughty, Nasty Nostalgia
30 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
A staple of 80s cable TV, this twisted, cult horror film could only be played after 10 pm on Showtime, due to its graphic nature. Deservedly so, as "Mausoleum" contains a lot of sex and bloody violence. This tale of a sexed up housewife who goes on a killing spree after being possessed by a demon that has been taking over the bodies of every first female of every generation of the Nomed family lineage, (Nomed is demon spelled backwards), truly must be seen to be believed. Now until I saw the beautifully restored version on Bluray, I thought this was a made for video production, but I must say it looks gorgeous, and the director's talents can finally be appreciated. The Italian Greats such as Bava and Argento, were obviously an influence, as can be seen by the film style and color scheme of the sets. This is truly the relic of a better time in cinema, and the young directors of today try to mimic this vintage style of film making, but this is the real deal. Just as nasty and sexy as I remember, "Mausoleum" is truly a guilty pleasure. I can't recommend the new Bluray from Vinegar Syndrome highly enough. They have been reviving many long forgotten gems like this one. This one will hold a special interest for gore hounds and those into gore makeup effects, as there is some truly memorable stuff here.
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Tigress (1969)
7/10
If Russ Meyer Was Spanish...
14 September 2018
"La Tigresa" is VERY similar to the films of Russ Meyer: overtly sexy, well endowed women, frequently undressed, in violent physical confrontations with other buxom babes. And like Meyer's films, we get an incredibly sordid and melodramatic story, about a young, innocent girl, who is turned bad by the lowlife scum that abuse and exploit her. After our beautiful heroine is slut shamed at the public swimming pool, and terrorized at the local high school, she must endure a home life with a crazy alcoholic father who extorts booze money from his timid daughter. After her father dies, trying to protect his timid daughter from being raped, she falls into despair. That is until she discovers she was inherited $500,000. Now most people would use that money to escape the ghetto for a better life. But not our heroine, who decides to transform herself into a blonde vixen, and find the scum who caused her father's death! "La Tigresa" is filled with crazy imagery and quick cut edits, and it seems the director was influenced greatly by Russ Meyers work. Although this is a Spanish production with Spanish dialog, it was actually filmed in New York, and features some wonderful scenes of the city during the late 60s. Highly recommended obscure Grindhouse classic that is absolutely worth tracking down.
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King Rikki (2002)
7/10
Violent Family Drama
11 July 2018
Using a unique style of having the protagonist speak directly to the audience, "Street King" is a modern retelling of Shakespeare's "Richard III," set in Gangland L.A. Jon Seda is perfect as Rikki, the gang leader who is carrying a vicious grudge, against the entire world, especially his family. As a child, his mother gave him away to relatives because she couldn't afford another mouth to feed. He returns and, under the guise of familial loyalty, he methodically, "dispatches" each brother who ranks higher than him, as he climbs the ranks of Gangland royalty, to top spot. This film is not for all tastes, and very "un-Hollywood." The main character has absolutely no redeeming qualities, honor or moral compass. He is the definitive "sociopath." This means there is nobody at all to root for, or even to relate to, unless you yourself, are also a sociopath. But J. Sena has so much damn charisma, that he pulls off the impossible, in that he still manages to charm the viewer, even as he is killing off his own family! No, this is not a mainstream film, and it's doubtful the film makers thought this would make any profit whatsoever. But that is somehow commendable. I imagine "Street King" must have a cult following within the gang community, specifically because of it's accurate portrayal of gang mentality, and of this utter lack of respect for human life. Violent and misogynistic, this ultra-low budget movie is definitely worth a look, especially for the off-the-rails performance of Jon Seda, who has 100 times more sex appeal and talent than 100 Johhny Depps..
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The Nice Guys (2016)
4/10
A True Piece of Garbage
3 July 2018
This abortion of a film represents everything that is awful about Hollywood today. Obviously directed by some 20-something, spoiled brat who thought that showing kids using four letter words and being sexual, would make this piece of crap "edgy." Well it doesn't. Pathetic jokes that flop, and desperate attempts to shock with pointless nudity, are what this film is all about. Supposedly set in the 70's it even fails at that; the movie looks patently 2016. It tries to be sexy and comes across as pathetic. I'm sure this one scored points at frat houses throughout America. As a fan of everything 70's, this movie made me kind of sick. Definitely the worst thing Gosling has ever attached himself too, and Russell Crowe's career remains firmly in the toilet with this one. The saddest thing is the high score this thing has; has the intelligence level of the masses really declined this much? So sad..
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Gladiator (1992)
9/10
Atmospheric Boxing Film
19 June 2018
I'm glad to read all the positive reviews about "Gladiator," as it truly is one of the finest boxing films out there. Great location shooting is one of the movie's strong points; the streets of Chicago look truly mean and cold, and the school that Tommy Riley has to attend looks more like a prison. Director Rowdy Herrington creates a world that is threatening, from the school gangs, to the nasty loan sharks who are after Tommy's father, and the brutal world of illegal boxing, which is a scene that has little to do with the legitimate sport of boxing. Coming from the affluent suburbs, Tommy has to adapt fast to the violent South Side Chicago scene, and being white doesn't help his situation. He finds some good friends in Lincoln and Romano. The three friends all become involved in the underground boxing tournaments, all for their own personal reasons, and soon find themselves in bad situations. It's nice to see an R rated boxing film, that doesn't shy away from the violence. Underground boxing is a truly violent sport, as there are no rules in the ring. It is boxing without honor or pity. The result is some surprisingly bloody matches. Fantastic, pulsating soundtrack perfectly evokes the time of the early 90's as does the accurate street style clothing of the time. I especially like the character Romano, a wise cracking, energetic Cuban boxer, always optimistic as he plans out his bright future as a professional fighter, that doesn't turn out the way he hopes. On a side note, I was very lucky to find the leather coat that the Romano character wears in one scene, in a shop that sells costumes and clothing worn in films. Every time I wear it I feel some of Romano's positive energy and it brightens my day. Anyway, I recommend this awesome boxing movie to fans, as it's one of the best. This is not glossy, soap opera junk like the lousy "South Paw," but rather the real deal..a tough fight film that does not pull it's punches.
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4/10
Meandering Bore
6 May 2018
If "Farewell to the Land" is trying to illuminate the pointless and dull existence of a loser with a life that is going nowhere, by making the viewer feel the same way, then the film maker has succeeded. Slow, mumbling, pointless film with utterly flat photography and uninteresting characters, this one holds zero entertainment value. And at 2 1/2 hours in length, it becomes an endurance test. I can't think of any reason to recommend tracking this movie down. There are certainly more worthwhile character studies for those looking for that kind of movie.
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8/10
Colossal
30 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The way in which "Hercules the Avenger" was made is fascinating and incredible from a cinematic point of view. Using scenes from two earlier "Hercules" films, and then creating a fantastic new story and an entirely new film; one which is superior to the films it borrowed from. This is a dark entry in the series, free of any suggestion of comic relief. Greek mythology comes alive as Gia, the Sun Goddess, desires revenge on Hercules for slaying the Hydra. Imprisoning Hercules in a delirious, neon -colored Hades, she sends her own evil son, Anteo, to Earth, to annihilate the family of Hercules, as well as their Kingdom. Anteo is an incredible villain, cruel and sociopathic and full of hatred for all mankind. As Hercules tries to rescue his son from the evil spell of Gia, Anteo takes the throne of Hercules, murdering men, women and children without a thought. Why people have a problem with the way this movie was conceived, is beyond me. All that matters is the end result. "Hercules the Avenger" takes the finest elements from Mario Bava's "Haunted World," and excises everything that dragged that lesser film down, such as the silly characters, the slapstick comedy, and continuity errors. The end result is a colossal film, filled with vast sets, jaw-dropping special effects, and a hypnotic struggle between Good and Evil. This film is supposedly an allegory to the rise of Fascism in Italy. Some of the set pieces are incredible, like the destruction of the city, as well as an impressive lion hunt that culminates in the on-screen slaying of at least one real lion. This practice of killing animals on screen is thankfully, a thing of the past. But to see actual "real" lions in place of the ridiculous CGI that we are all used to, is quite a surreal experience. And the volcano eruption that wipes out the city makes the similar destruction in the recent "Pompeii" look like a joke. Honestly, this film is INSANE. I would love to watch this on a huge screen with surround sound. This is one film that deserves a Bluray restoration, complete with the original Italian audio. To date it is my favorite Hercules movie. Highest recommendation.
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9/10
The Real Deal
26 April 2018
So many Hollywood movies attempt the gritty realism of THIS film, and almost never come close. "Together Brothers" is an astoundingly realistic and gritty look at urban strife, devastating poverty, and finally, loyalty among friends. Four teenagers decide they are going to find the guy who murdered the town police officer, who was so good and respectful to the kids, that they named him Mr. Cool. The film then takes the viewer on a journey through the dark underbelly of one of the poorest, saddest ghetto wastelands EVER captured on film. And it's not a movie set either; it's all real. Galveston Texas looks sort of like a shanty town here, with people living in gutted buildings and shacks, and instead of polished looking actors, real townspeople were used to create this amazing film. It's a town where everyone knows and looks out for each other. When the kids see one of their own murdered in cold blood, they want to do something. The actors were amazing, especially Ahmad Nurradin in the role of H.J, who gives a performance that is sincere and unforgettable. This film is surely one of the best movies of the 70's, and it amazes me how unknown it is. I hope "Together Brothers" isn't labeled "blaxploitation," because it certainly is not that.
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8/10
Does This Exist?
25 April 2018
Being one of millions of fans of the offbeat director, Paul Morrissey, I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants to know where, or even what, "News From Nowhere" is. Research turns up nothing, not one clip, not one movie still, not one review etc.. I have to wonder if this is even a real movie, and not a made up movie myth. Paul Morrissey made some of the best "arthouse" films when he was associated with Andy Warhol, and when he dropped that partnership, he continued to make some of the most eclectic and wonderful films throughout the 70's and 80's. Amazingly, many of them are not available commercially, but being such a fan of his work, i have managed to get my hands on his rarest titles. "Forty Deuce" is an incredible New York movie, capturing the grit and sleaze of the Port Authority drug/prostitution scene, and also the first role of Kevin Bacon, one of the biggest names from the 80's. And "Spike of Bensonhurst" is a fun movie, filled with big names like Ernest Borgnine, Sylvia Miles, action star Sacha Mitchell, and cult 80's heartthrob Rodney Harvey, along with Morrissey's unique Un-PC brand of humor. Both of these titles are unavailable. "Mixed Blood" however, is available, and it is my personal favorite, as well as the best documentation of New York City's "Alphabet City" ever committed to film. and now "News From Nowhere," another unattainable film from Paul Morrissey. Let's hope that this one finds it's way to the public!
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The Brady Bunch (1969–1974)
6/10
Wasted Opportunities
25 April 2018
Of course it's an iconic TV show, and we ALL watched at one point. But watching as an adult it becomes obvious how timid the writers of "The Brady Bunch" really were. It's as if they were terrified that they might offend ONE viewer somewhere in the Bible Belt. Because of this, nothing of substance ever happens to the Brady family. They wasted so many opportunities to tackle important subjects like drug usage, teen sex, or even a subject like lying to your parents. Considering this was the 1970's, I believe this lack of reality, alienated a lot of viewers, who preferred more honest fare like "Welcome Back Kotter" and "All In the Family." This show actually comes across as a product of the 1950's, which wasn't an appealing thing to 70's audiences. Because of this, most of the episodes are frustrating and forgettable. The show does improve with each passing season, as the kids get older, and the writers are forced to create something more believable, as nobody would accept the idea that Marsha and Greg were sexless plastic dolls. Looking back, the most memorable episodes were the edgiest ones. The final episode, when Bobby becomes the pool hustler, actually got it right; still sweet, but something that actually approached "being cool" to anyone over the age of 10. And I was amazed recently, while watching old reruns, to come across an episode that I had NEVER seen before. The subject matter was "bullying." The episode had a very un-PC message; that the way to handle a bully is to knock his teeth loose! And Peter does just that while defending Cindy against an older boy. He is actually praised for doing it as well, and regarded as a hero. I'm sure that is the reason that they NEVER show that episode. All in all, watching the "Brady Bunch" remains a nice way to pass time..but it could have been a lot more.
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Staying Alive (1983)
4/10
Soulless Sequel
23 April 2018
An unfortunate failure, this sequel to one of the most iconic movies ever made, gets just about everything wrong. Unfortunate, because it didn't have to be. Travolta is really at his physical peak here, in fact I think the guy looks sexier in this film than he did in "Saturday Night Fever." It certainly isn't his fault, as he resurrects the character of Tony Mannero quite nicely; he portrays him believably, as a guy who has matured somewhat in the course of 6 years; still a bit wild and insensitive, but with a more focused eye on his future goal. That goal of course, is to follow his dream of making it as a professional dancer. Living in New York, it is totally logical that he should head to Manhattan, and try his luck on the Broadway stage. "Staying Alive" is most effective at showing just how much things changed between 1977 and 1983. Big hair, spandex and synthesized junk music have replaced the cool, sexy look and sound of the 70's disco years. The best scenes of course, are those great outdoor location shots of Tony stalking around the Times Square/Broadway section of Manhattan, in that sexy black leather jacket and tight blue jeans. Unfortunately, everything else about this film is a complete failure; the cringe worthy synth-soundtrack, the vacuous, one dimensional characters, mere outlines of what some clueless writer imagined the showbiz people of the Broadway scene, to be. One of the main problems is, there is no longer an arc of development for the main character to go through. He basically becomes this more focused and mature version of Tony, by the end of the first film. In this one, there is no development, no life epiphanies., we have an utterly soulless story of a guy trying to make it on Broadway. Tony is no longer a real person, surrounded by his offbeat family and lovable friends; now we get this brain-dead love triangle, where two plastic 80's bimbos are fighting over his attentions. Honestly it is hard to even make a connection between this hollow mess, and that passionate, textured coming of age drama that was the great "Saturday Night Fever." Throughout it's 95 minute runtime, there is only one scene that is effective, and reminds us of the Greatness of the first film; when Tony walks over the Brooklyn Bridge and visits his childhood home from the original. The scene with him and his mother at the dining room table, is the ONLY scene that contains anything real. Such a sad waste of an opportunity; the dancing is quite good, and Travolta really doesn't disappoint, but this movie does, in every way possible. See this self indulgent mess of a film, if only out of curiosity, or to see Johnny Travolta at his absolute physical peak.
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7/10
NC-17 Territory
7 April 2018
Artistically filmed, at times beautiful, old school style martial arts movie, sounds like it would be aimed at a young audience. I mean, it has the word "ninja" in the title, right? But I must say, this is among the most violent movies I have seen, at least mainstream films. Even though some might argue that it is more "cartoon violence," or that it's only "CGI blood," you get endless scenes of decapitations, people getting their heads beat in, stabbings, shootings, etc..and a LOT of violent scenes involving children, beating each other to bloody pulp. It's probably not a good film for people under the age of 16. That being said, "Ninja Assassin" is much better than most expected it to be. Very non-Hollywood, the action is set in Berlin, and the flashback scenes, that represent a good portion of the film, are set in a remote Japanese training school in the mountains. These scenes are really beautifully photographed, and much time and detail is put into setting up the background story of Raizo, the Ninja who was a child orphan, kidnapped and kept hidden from the world, in a remote compound with other children. There the kids are trained by the sinister Ozunu, to be soulless killing machines. The training is brutal and relentless, and the ones who survive it, grow to be the Ninja assassins. However young Raizo, (played by the physically incredible Rain) manages to hold onto his humanity, and eventually grows to turn against the Ozunu clan; and because of this, he is hunted like a wild animal by the old Ozunu, who fears he will expose their highly secret society of killers. That is the basic premise of this very solid martial arts/action epic. And it is an adrenaline fueled movie to be sure, with the life or death chase at the heart of the film. As mentioned, this movie seems to be made outside of Hollywood's influence, which is evident in the wonderful detail paid to ancient Japanese customs, stunning, almost poetic cinematography, and the fact that the violence is so gut wrenching, that it's obvious they were not going for some money making PG-13 production. "Ninja Assassin" is the best action/fantasy movie of 2009, even though it didn't have a large audience. But this is a film that has gained a serious cult following over the years, and will most likely be enjoyed by those who appreciate the martial arts films from the 70's and 80's. Excellent, operatically bloody genre masterpiece.
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7/10
Must Have Been Gorgeous
4 April 2018
This Italian exploitation film, obviously inspired by the hugely successful "Blue Lagoon" of the previous year, must have been really gorgeous in it's original form. This island romance/adventure tale, concerning a handsome guy, who washes up on shore, to find himself stranded with Island native girl, Laura Gemser, was originally filmed in "scope;" the aspect ratio used to film huge epics. The island scenery, the deep blue waters and beach vistas, are unfortunately lost forever, as there has yet to be an acceptable video release of this movie. Dvd's from all regions of the world offer the same tired, faded, washed out print that is chopped down to 4x3 format. It is a shame, because "Emanuelle On Taboo Island" is one of the better films of this genre. Daniel (Paolo Giusti) and the beautiful Laura Gemser are not quite alone on the island. She has a brother, and their strange, incestuous relationship provides another level of drama and shock value , while Arthur Kennedy provides the gravitas with his respectable acting skills. As the father of the incestuous young ones, he is quite a formidable character, who doesn't take to the stranger invading their island paradise. It seems that "daddy" is a wanted fugitive, and he sees the intrusion of this outsider as a threat to his freedom. Sadly this film has a ridiculously low score here, and I'm sure the reason is that few people have ever seen it in it's original glory. Because first and foremost, "Emanuelle On Taboo Island" is a piece of visually stunning escapist fantasy, and it is a well-made erotic film. I hope it finds it way to a pristine BluRay edition, in the form that it was intended to be viewed.
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7/10
Grindhouse Classic
29 March 2018
Private Eye Al Connors is the smoothest private investigator since John Shaft. Born and bred in Harlem, but now living down in Fort Lauderdale, where he is an investigator for hire. In a similar plot line to "Shaft," Connors is hired by a local Drug Lord, to locate and bring home, his daughter, who has been kidnapped by a ruthless crime lord, "Big Daddy." This movie was obviously made with an extremely low budget, but also with the passion and dedication of a team of people who have a deep love and respect for film. Those faulting any movie for being "cheap," simply don't get it. We have all seen movies that cost many millions of dollars, that don't have one tenth the heart and soul, and style, of "The Guy From Harlem." It's all here; flashy clothes, sexy ladies, (and men,), beautiful classic cars, funky music. In short, this is a perfect example of the Independent/Blaxploitation genre. And this movie is SEXY. Loye Hawkins (Al Connors) is one good looking, light-skinned black dude with green eyes, who drives a red Cadillac , and wears his suits tight. And Cathy Davis (Wanda) has awesome 70's sex appeal. The story moves along at a brisk pace, and the dialog is sharp and often funny. There is a little nudity, but the film never becomes sleazy. Of course it's no masterpiece, but I have to wonder at all the nasty comments and low ratings. Who are those people, and why are they searching out this kind of movie, if they don't get it? Recommended for fans of TRUE independent, renegade cinema, crime thrillers, or those just looking for some beautiful 70's nostalgic cinema.
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