Friday, October 22, 2010

Review – Above Suspicion

As a horror movie buff, I’m used to Joan Crawford on the aging down slope of her career, taking any crappy job that would pay the bills and keep her in front of the camera a little longer. So it was weird to see her as the young, wise-cracking heroine of a World War Two spy movie. She and Fred MacMurray team up to play a vaguely Nick-and-Nora-Charles-esque couple asked by His Majesty’s government to detour from their European honeymoon to help track down a missing agent. Though they take to the task with brio, the plot swiftly mires in a relentless parade of secret messages stuffed in books, rendezvous triggered by watchwords and other mediocre bits of skullduggery. This isn’t the worst propaganda picture I’ve ever seen, but it isn’t exactly the best either. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Abandoned – Freaked

Clever? Stupid? Clever? Stupid? Clever? Nope, sorry. Stupid. 15 minutes.

Review - Fat Man and Little Boy

Though the title makes it sound like the movie is going to be about the bombs, it actually follows a more predictable route by focusing on the relationship between General Leslie Groves (Paul Newman) and J. Robert Oppenheimer (Dwight Schultz), the fathers of the atomic bomb. And as one might expect, the main theme is the crisis of conscience experienced by “Oppy” and his egghead crew in the face of the military’s desperate need for the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. Production values are good and coverage is thorough, though the tale does tap dance around a few of the more sinister questions raised by this particular union of science and war. Mildly amusing

Monday, October 18, 2010

Review – The Art of Action

Considering the “Starz/Encore presents” up front and Samuel L. Jackson doing the narration, I was expecting another run-of-the-mill assemblage of scenes from martial arts movies I’d seen a hundred times. So I was pleasantly surprised when this turned out to be a thoughtful, interesting documentary about the development of the martial arts genre. Most of the emphasis is on China, but the coverage is thorough, going all the way back to the suppression of the Shaolin temple and the spread of its arts to the Chinese opera. The picture also included footage from the silent era, which showed how little the genre has progressed in many ways. To be sure, Jackson’s pseudo-hip commentary isn’t particularly welcome. But this turns out to be a good movie despite him. Worth seeing

Friday, October 15, 2010

Abandoned – Assault of the Sasquatch

Redneck hunters, leg-hold traps and bear killing. And that's just before the opening credits finished. I lasted only five minutes.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review – The Buddy Holly Story

The most remarkable thing about this biopic is that prior to a lot of hard living and a bad head injury or two, Gary Busey actually had some talent. Holly’s music seems pretty tame by 21st century standards, so this story is a good reminder of just how radically brilliant his work was and just how much nonsense – racist and otherwise – he had to go through just to be heard. Unfortunately the final sequence – his very last show – serves as a sad reminder not only of how tragic his loss was but also how greatly his music suffered when it was overproduced and robbed of the simplicity that made it so great. The production values of this picture are fairly mediocre, but the subject is sufficiently fascinating to carry the day. Worth seeing

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Abandoned – Danger Beneath the Waves

Imagine Crimson Tide reshot as a cheap-ass Casper Van Dien movie and estimate how long you could keep watching it. I made it 34 minutes.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Review – The Accidental Tourist

I can’t say if it was subtle differences between the book and the movie, the passage of time between the two experiences or some other less tangible factor, but I didn’t like the movie anywhere near as much as I liked the book. The characters’ quirks seemed superficial rather than genuine. William Hurt was particularly awful. He’s proven on any number of occasions that he can plan an emotionally distant man, but when he’s called upon to let the wall drop and show some feeling, he looks more as if he’s having a particularly unpleasant hemorrhoidal flare-up. Nor can he make the slightest emotional connection with either fellow Body Heat alum Kathleen Turner as his estranged wife or Geena Davis as his wacky would-be girlfriend. Thus what in the book was a charming little story about an author who writes travel guides for people who hate to travel becomes a muddled mess of a motion picture. See if desperate

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Review – Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan

Of all the Star Trek movies, this is the only one with a plot that directly depends on one of the episodes of the original TV series. Ricardo “Mr. Rourke” Montalban’s superman character returns to seek revenge on Captain Kirk for stranding him on a dying planet many years earlier. Though the effects are a little primitive by today’s standards, much of it still holds up; a particular crowd favorite is the earwig sequence. Of course it’s amazing that between Montalban and William Shatner there’s any scenery left at the end of the picture. And the whole subplot with the genesis thing and Kirk’s son just goes nowhere and detracts from the more interesting dramatic points. All that notwithstanding, there have been plenty worse Star Trek movies. Mildly amusing

Review – The Devil's Bride

How can this much devil conjurin’ be this deadly dull? Christopher Lee turns in a rare performance as a good guy, an expert on the occult trying to keep a handful of friends from falling into the clutches of a Satanist circle. The struggle that ensues is clogged with so much silly mumbo jumbo that it’s impossible to take seriously. This might have worked as an episode in a half-hour-format horror series for television, but as a feature-length production it doesn’t make it. See if desperate

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Review – Daughters of Satan

This pack is lucky to have a father as merciful as Satan. If I’d been their dad, I would have drowned them at birth. This joint United States and Philippines production thoroughly humiliates a young Tom Selleck, who plays a man with amazingly terrible taste in art. He purchases a painting – the likes of which nobody would even bother to paint on the side of a van – of three witches being burned at the stake by the Inquisition, the draw being the middle victim’s resemblance to his wife. So it’s his bad luck that in addition to having one of his walls marred by this travesty it also turns out to be a gateway that allows the local “Satanites” entry to his home. Some of the cult’s rituals come across as torture porn before there even was such a thing, but otherwise this picture is undistinguished from every other bad horror movie from the 1970s. See if desperate

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Abandoned – Dead & Breakfast

Once again horror plus comedy equals stupid. A handful of familiar faces is all this thing has to offer. I made it 23 minutes into this.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Review – The Circus

Charlie Chaplin made two somewhat-silent movies after the rest of the world had moved on to sound, but this 1928 production is his last picture of the silent era. It has all the usual elements: the little fellow, the love interest who prefers someone else, the cruel boss, and of course endless opportunities for the physical comedy for which Chaplin had such an immense genius. This time around our hero blunders into a job at the title location, falls in love with the boss’s daughter, gets chased by a mule, ruins everyone else’s acts, and ends up the star of the show. Though The Gold Rush and Modern Times outshine it, this production is still better than most everything else out there. Buy the disc

Review – Dracula Has Risen from the Grave

Yes, indeed he’s back again (though technically he arose from being frozen rather than from an actual grave). Mad at the local monsignor for sticking a cross on his front door, our antihero goes in search of revenge. Christopher Lee does his usual job as the Count, but otherwise this is one of the lesser entries in Hammer Dracula set. Mildly amusing

Friday, October 1, 2010

Review – Blood Creek

Throughout big chunks of this movie I had the nagging feeling that I’d seen it before. Perhaps it was because I’ve seen so many cheap horror movies that they’re starting to blend together in my memory. Or maybe I started watching it sometime in the past, got bored or frustrated, gave up on it and then forgot about it. That certainly would have been an understandable reaction. A couple of rednecks and a family of immortal German farmers square off against an evil Nazi zombie-vampire-whatever trying to use a rune stone to grow a third eye and rule the universe from beyond the grave. The production ruins itself by paying only the scantest attention to plot and character, instead dwelling on fight sequences that seldom rise above a lot of flopping around on the ground. Oh, and violent animal death. Lots and lots of violent animal death. I don’t know why a good horror movie with Nazi occultist villains is so hard to make, but once again the goal proves elusive. Wish I’d skipped it