Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Dracula: Prince Of Darkness

Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

Runtime: 90 minutes

Directed by: Terence Fisher

Starring: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Andrew Keir, Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer

From: Hammer

This is one of three movies I watched on TCM last night. The second I will post a review of tonight and the third one will be tomorrow afternoon. The review of this average movie is below: 

Last night via TCM I finally saw this film, which is usually hard to track down. I was hoping it'd be better than just average, but beggars can't be choosers. It brings back Dracula to the halls of Hammer, and it's done so in not as preposterous a way as I had feared; incidentally, one day I should watch the Peter Cushing Brides of Dracula, as I've heard good things about it.

The plot here revolves around two couples (both on the annoying side) who are on vacation in Eastern Europe and they happen to land in what is now Castle Dracula, which of course is different from the former Castle Dracula. The Count has a master and he is alright, but not the most interesting character. That is a problem with this movie, there aren't enough interesting characters. There's no cad like Paul from Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, let alone Van Helsing from Horror of Dracula; this movie was dying for someone awesome like Peter Cushing who could play an awesome character... technically he is in this movie, but only in archival footage at the beginning, where we see clips from Horror of Dracula. I mean, it can't just be Lee being Lee, i.e. being a badass as a forbidding and chilling vampire.

Still, this is at least watchable. As typical, mood and atmosphere are nailed. It is a nice setting that is decently brought to life. Characters like Father Sandor or Ludwig are at least fine and it is cool part of the film takes place at a monastery. In addition, I see why Barbara Shelley was known as a scream queen of the time and the score from James Bernard was pretty cool. The direction from Terence Fisher was nice.

Unfortunately, despite some cool moments, this does not rise above average for me. I also wonder what the exact reason was for Lee not having any dialogue at all; it was either that the script sucked and he hated his lines (Lee's take) or that he was never given any dialogue to begin with (the scriptwriter's take). Either way, at least Lee was still unforgettable in the role when the only noise he made was hissing a few times. As he does not have a huge role, however, I can only say this is an average picture.

Monday, October 24, 2016

It Happened One Night

It Happened One Night (1934)

Runtime: 105 minutes

Directed by: Frank Capra

Starring: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karnes, Jameson Thomas

From: Columbia

It was about time I saw this movie again and gave it a review here; it is a great film. I talk all about it below: 

This is a classic comedy I have seen before, albeit that viewing was years ago, so it was time for a revisit. Comedy is definitely subjective but I much rather experience the humor offered by these movies of old rather than all the vulgarity and filth that seems to permeate throughout comedy in these modern times.

The plot may have been already cliché in 1934: a rich girl who is tired of daddy's way overbearing presence escapes his grasp so she can elope with a hotshot pilot, only to meet up with a straight-shootin' newspaper reporter while on the journey from Miami to New York City, and at first they don't get along, but eventually... like I said, not inventing the wheel. Yet, when it's so gosh darn entertaining...

It's a fun story where-among other things-you get to see what it was like to ride on the bus & stay in random hotels in the middle of nowhere in the 1930's. Yet it is the endless charm of both Gable and Colbert that go a long way to making this so memorable. It's standard stuff where he teacher her not to be such a spoiled brat and she teaches him not to be such a sardonic wiseass; like I said, it's their charm that helps. Besides the main characters being so memorable and amusing, there's also various supporting characters; my favorite was the incredibly annoying Shapeley; the way that he was dealt with: incredibly uproarious. As this was right before the Hays Code took place, we got some moments that would soon go away for many years... the most memorable being the likely still effective way that Colbert gets a male driver to stop while hitchhiking.

One of the rare movies to win The Big Five Oscars, I will likely always be captivated by this; that is even with the basic plot and an odd coda where we don't actually see the two leads. For my tastes it will always be effective as a humorous picture with a heart of gold.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

All Quiet On The Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Runtime: 133 minutes

Directed by: Lewis Milestone

Starring: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, Ben Alexander, Scott Kolk, John Wray

From: Universal

This is a first time watch for me and now I regret not seeing this much sooner, as it's an excellent motion picture. I explain why below: 

I decided I needed a change of pace so I went with a classic that somehow I had never seen before. Considering my rating, I now wish I would have given this a spin much sooner. I've never read the novel by Erich Maria Remarque either, but it made for a hell of a movie.

The plot isn't too complicated: we follow a group of young German soldiers from the time they decide to enlist after hearing a rousing and idealistic speech to the dying days of World War I. As I am sure most are aware, this is still famous as an anti-war piece and while this does not demonize war, it certainly presents the rigors and difficulty of combat. Those soldiers go in all happy and inspired to serve the Fatherland; they quickly learn right from boot camp how arduous things will be; they have to see friends die, deal with brutal trench warfare, hear bombs and gunshots go off constantly when they try to sleep in a bunker, try to get healthy in an overwhelmed hospital, and even when they are on leave, people at home have no idea as to what the war is really like. It's a harsh uncompromising look at life in combat, yet you see that you can make new friends with your fellow soldiers. It's bound to happen when you are bivouaced in perilous situations for weeks and months at a time.

The movie is on the bleak side and because this is Pre-Code there are some rather harsh moments you see (the most unforgettable involves a pair of severed hands), yet I always loved watching this and was enwrapped throughout. The young men are all interesting but it's the older soldiers you see who are unforgettable... the wacky Tjaden, the gruff Westhus and especially the mentor figure Katczinsky; Kat is pretty awesome. In addition, the movie is directed quite well by director Lewis Milestone. There's plenty of action and all of it seen clearly and the camera pans around quite a bit as you see dozens of people killed; the action scenes are not dated or out of place in modern times. It was very nice for a 1930 picture, that is for sure.

This won the Academy Award for Best Picture that year; while I haven't seen the other films nominated (I hadn't even heard of some of them), I will guess that this was the right film to win. Even 86 years later its message is presented perfectly. To me this a must-see.

Friday, October 21, 2016

An Update

The past two nights I have rewatched movies. The first one was Exorcist II: The Heretic; yes, that is still hilariously bad. The other one was Dracula Rises from the Grave, which is a good Hammer horror. For the next few days it should be reviews that I have never posted here before.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Exorcist

The Exorcist (1973)

Runtime: I saw the Extended Director's Cut, which is 132 minutes long

Directed by: William Friedkin

Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, Linda Blair, Lee J. Cobb, Max Von Sydow

From: Warner Bros.

I am glad I finally saw this again; it's been way too long. It is as great as most people say it is. I talk all about it below: 

NOTE: I am reviewing the Extended Director's Cut that is found on the movie's Blu-ray. I was lucky enough to see this movie on the big screen last night and that was the version I saw.

This is a film I have watched a few times before in my life and yet the last viewing was years ago. I can't quite explain why, because I always thought the movie was deserving of the excellent praise it's gotten over the years, as it is excellent. After watching it theatrically, my opinion hasn't changed. I can't say for certainty if this is the scariest film of all time; I can say it's one of the best horror films of all time.

I can now fully appreciate how great the movie is. There definitely have been plenty of possession movies over the years; no matter your religious affiliation or even if you believe in God or not, the idea of a foreign entity possessing you is downright terrifying. Yet, a lot of those films are “meh” at best and only a few are worthwhile. Here, we get to know the main characters and it does help as you feel awful for actress mom Chris when her daughter Regan has the worst possible thing happen to her and mom is distraught she can't fix this problem herself. Besides that main story, there's other compelling plotlines, such as a priest suffering a crises of faith, an older priest confronting a demonic old enemy, and a detective investigating a homicide.

There are quality performances all around, and some of them are quite excellent. Ellen Burstyn as the poor mom, Linda Blair in an incredibly difficult role, and Jason Miller as Father Damien Karras. You feel awful when you see Regan deteriorate and become worse and worse, and you hope Father Karras will be able to deal with the death of his elderly mother and help rid the demon Pazuzu from Regan's body. The movie takes its time telling its story and yet it's never boring. While I certainly don't agree with some of the methods that William Friedkin did to get the performances he wanted (unwittingly injuring both Burstyn and Blair... never a good thing), it was a greatly directed movie.

As an aside, I wonder which real life director or directors combined into a composite was the character of European director Burke Dennings, a haughty person who turned into a loudmouthed fool once drunk; he had to have been based off of at least one actual European director.

Anyhow, this spawned sequels of varying quality and now a TV show that just made its debut-and apparently isn't a pile of crap like I expected it to be-and yet it's pretty much impossible to match the original, a masterpiece.

The Invitation

The Invitation (2015)

Runtime: 100 minutes

Directed by: Karyn Kusama

Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, Emayatza Corinealdi, Lindsay Burdge

From: Drafthouse Films

Here is a movie I saw that has gotten quite a bit of hype since it came out last year. As happens sometimes with modern films, I did not understand the hype and in fact did not even think the movie was good. I tried to explain why on Letterboxd, which I copied and pasted below: 

I'll be honest here, I am seeing this movie now as I have been putting off posting a Top 10 of 2015 list for WAY too long. I will watch a few candidates then no matter what I'll post the list soon. As this is on Netflix Instant, it was an easy way to see something that a lot of people seem to like.

Although, one reason I still haven't completed a Top 10 list is that I saw a few 2015 films (including yes, Fury Road) which most people loved but left me cold. Sadly, this was another one of those movies. Thankfully I went into this pretty cold, not knowing much besides the general plot description of a guy and his girlfriend getting an invite to a party at his ex-wife's house, then things go wrong... the general idea of the plot was not what I had a problem with; it was the execution... and also, me wanting to execute most of the party-goers! I went in cold, and the movie just left me cold instead of enthralled, excited, or any kind of positive emotion, really.

I don't know about y'all, but I couldn't stand most of the people in the movie. They were just tremendously off-putting and I did not want to spend more than an hour and a half with them, even if that may have been the movie's intention. While the movie nailed the awkward aspect, otherwise this did not do much to excite me. The way the story plays out and is fleshed out, just ridiculous; and you have to go on this languid journey with a bunch of weirdo D-bags that act so inconsistent. I was hoping for more than just strange A-holes who went out of their way to be tools and make you feel uneasy, but I didn't get it.

Unfortunately, this movie also pretty much lulled me to sleep at times. There were some decent moments (after a bad opening act), the adding of some diversity was nice and audience surrogate Will (the guy who was invited to the party) was alright; otherwise, though, I was disappointed with this and how most seem to love it and I was just left feeling “meh” about the whole experience. It was not a journey I enjoyed taking, that is for sure. To use the proper analogy, it was like being at a party filled with vapid cretins-you know, like the ones featured in this film-and you want to leave but whether because of a friend wanting to stay or what have you, you are stuck there... so you end up in a corner finishing a beer, feeling like you are watching grass grow as you'd rather be anywhere else than there.

Monday, October 17, 2016


Dolemite (1975)

Runtime: 90 minutes

Directed by: D'Urville Martin

Starring: Rudy Ray Moore, D'Urville Martin, Jerry Jones, Lady Reed, All of Dolemite's Girls

From: Dimension Pictures

Yep, I saw this cult classic late Saturday night. I have seen it a few times before, and while I always laugh at how inept it is and how often you see the boom mic, it's still quite charming, at least to me... as long as you ignore the obvious misogyny, that is. I give my thoughts below: 

It was about time I reviewed this cult classic for Letterboxd. I had seen it a few times in my life but the last viewing was a long while ago. Thus, when TCM Underground showed it last night, I had to check it out.

Now, I understand why there are those that hate this. If you can't stand Rudy Ray Moore and his persona (or his not so great acting ability) then this will be a slog for you. This definitely is real low budget and in terms of filmmaking, it's terrible. The boom mic is visible an incredible number of times. The acting and performances... sometimes quite bad, although not as bad as the “martial arts” that Dolemite displays. Blows miss by a country mile yet they don't try to mask it with camera placement; oh no, it's as clear as day. No wonder that one of the biggest inspirations for Black Dynamite was this, including the intentional mistakes that Dynamite made.

All that said, this is so hilarious at the same time. The vibe, the funky soundtrack, the amazing 70's clothing, and most of all the incredible raps from Dolemite... tremendous. While the story certainly meanders (some time is spent seeing Moore doing his stand-up act), it's all entertaining to me. After all, how can you hate a movie with a character named HAMBURGER PIMP?

It's a simple tale where Dolemite tries to get revenge on the man who set him up and sent him to jail (Willie Green) and yet I do dig this movie for what it is. Moore did this with his own money after he couldn't get a movie with a traditional studio, thus this grungy low-budget effort which is charmingly inept. This is one of those films that is tough to rate as several ratings could apply. I guess I'll give it 3 stars and move on with my day.