Friday, June 23, 2017

Eating Raoul

Eating Raoul (1982)

Runtime: 83 minutes

Directed by: Paul Bartel

Starring: Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Robert Beltran, Susan Saiger

From: Quartet Films

Wednesday night, I watched this for the first time on TCM, right after the channel showed Freaks, a film I've seen a few times before and reviewed here way back when. I may not do a review at all for the next few days as I may be preoccupied with other things. For now, let me talk about this cult classic:

This was the second movie I saw on Turner Classic Movies Wednesday night as they spent the entire night showing cult classics. It is another film I have known of for many years but I never saw; I did not know more than its basic premise until relatively recently. Turns out, it's a pretty funny dark comedy, and one that feels still relevant today, especially the opening, which highlights how such beliefs as self-indulgence and self-gratification are bad, a message I wish more Americans would have received long ago.

Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov play characters named Paul and Mary; they are Mr. and Mrs. Bland, a couple with an appropriate surname. They are squares straight out of the 60's, and stick out in the wild and woolly 1980's. They wish to open a restaurant out in the country but run into trouble after dealing with real A-holes. They stumble upon the idea to kill swingers and people who are real sleazebags. Things are complicated when the titular Raoul shows up and butts his way into their lives.

Things are quite deadpan throughout, there are obvious tonal shifts and not every aspect works. Yet, this was a passion project, done incrementally for an entire year; all its successes for failures is on the shoulders of director/star/co-writer Bartel. While I understand those that don't care for the movie, I say that its flaws give it character, and make it unique. Certainly, a darkly humorous tale involving the murder of skeevy people by people stuck in the past who end up changing into the type of individuals they so strongly dislike, and the kills are straight from a cartoon and are not the tremendously bloody affairs that they naturally would be,.. it definitely stands out. I won't spoil all the surprises the movie has, but there's not only a small appearance from The Real Don Steele, there's also a song from Los Lobos, a half-decade before they became famous.

Bartel and Woronov worked very well together and the fact that they were so enjoyable playing out of touch people helped make this a fun watch despite the macabre subject matter. Like I said, it's not for all tastes-pun intended-but for a segment of film fans this will be gravy.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Racket

The Racket (1928)

Runtime: 84 minutes

Directed by: Lewis Milestone

Starring: Thomas Meighan, Louis Wolheim, Marie Prevost, G. Pat Collins, George E. Stone

From: Paramount

This is a random silent film I saw last night on TCM, and thankfully it was worth seeing, even if I wouldn't rate it as “great”. I say a few words about it below: 

It's been awhile since I've watched a silent film so I decided I should take advantage of TCM showing some films of Louis Wolheim, who is best known for playing Kat in All Quiet on the Western Front. Here, he played the mobster villain. This is like a precursor to the gangster movies of the early 1930's; it's not as great as them but this is still entertaining. And yes, it was remade into a 1951 film starring Robert Mitchum.

The story is basic: an idealistic cop (Thomas Meighan) wishes to take out the bootlegging gangster villain Scarsi, but Scarsi has paid off the prosecutor and various cops, so the task is pretty difficult and he has to find other ways to get the task done. There are the expected shootouts but for a silent, it's rather wordy. I mean, the title cards have plenty of dialogue. I guess that shouldn't be a surprise considering this was the dying days of the silent before “the talkies” fully took over.

This film was feared lost for decades, a sad fate that many silent movies have faced. However, Howard Hughes was the producer and after his death, it was discovered that he had the only print hidden in his vault; that is a very Howard Hughes thing to do. It was restored and I am glad this was saved, as like I said I was entertained.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Assignment

The Assignment (2016)

Runtime: 95 minutes

Directed by: Walter Hill

Starring: Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shaloub, Anthony LaPaglia, Caitlin Gerard

From: SBS Films

This movie... it may sound outrageous on the surface but boy is it not a lot of fun to watch. I explain why below: 

This assignment, I give it... a failing grade.

If I did one line reviews, this is what I would say. As that is not my style, I'll explain more why this really did not work for me. Ever since I first heard about this movie a few years ago (back when it was first announced) I knew that it wasn't the best of ideas in this day and age. I mean, this is a film set in modern times where a mad doctor character-yes, really-performs an unwilling sex change operation on a hitman and the now hitwoman is looking for revenge. Naturally, a segment of people would not be happy with that, and indeed they were not. But, despite all the bad things I had heard (including all the previous titles this had: Tomboy, Tomboy: A Revenger's Tale and (Re)assignment), I wanted to give it a shot. While I haven't seen all of the movies that Walter Hill has directed, the ones I've seen I have all thought they were at least good. That streak was broken in spectacular fashion.

Like I said, this is about a hitman named FRANK KITCHEN (which at least is acknowledged as a fake name) who runs afoul of some people, and mad doctor Sigourney Weaver performs the sex change, and the character now known as Tomboy is looking for revenge. Note that playing both Frank and Tomboy was Michelle Rodriguez. Yes. Frank wears a beard, and a bearded Michelle Rodriguez is absolutely preposterous and impossible to take seriously. Even worse, they went for shock value by showing Frank take a shower, and Michelle was a hairy dude, and you saw his penis! Her being hairy with a prosthetic wanger likely will get a few people's rocks off, but for everyone else it will inspire much laughter.

The worst sin of all: this movie is incredibly boring. I am not a member of the trans* community as I am a heterosexual white male but my personal tastes were not offended. I was more offended by how pointless the whole thing was. The sex change doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. It's just a cheap gimmick. The original story was from the late 70's, and it was far different: the surgery happened on a young punk who killed a surgeon's wife, and he did it as revenge, but the now woman is still killing people. That sounds more interesting than what we got here.

Hell, imagine if a movie from Hong Kong, South Korea, or Japan did the same premise. It wouldn't be politically correct but it'd be lunacy and definitely entertaining. Instead, this was a slog to get through as it was amazingly dull. It looks very cheap, and the CG blood was not realistic in the slightest. What action we do get was as basic and uncreative as possible; John Wick, Frank/Tomboy was not.

Even though I did get those unintended laughs and the cast had some other names I recognized (like Tony Shaloub and Anthony LaPaglia), no way could I ever recommend this. There are plenty of Walter Hill flicks to see for the first time or watch again before you watch this cinematic Ambien, where its premise is squandered-for example, Tomboy only uses her newfound feminine sexuality to her advantage once-and the movie is not as smart as it likes to think it is. Weaver being “wise” by quoting Shakespeare and Poe doesn't impress me much. Neither did the same comic book transitions that ruined the Director's Cut of The Warriors that regrettably is the easiest version of the cult classic to track down and watch. The nonlinear storytelling did not do anything to improve the bland plot either. Watch a Hill film like The Driver or 48 Hrs. instead.

An American Werewolf In London

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Runtime: 97 minutes

Directed by: John Landis

Starring: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne, John Woodvine, Lila Kaye

From: PolyGram

I hadn't seen this in a very long time. I was happy to revisit it on Saturday night. Peep the details below: 

Remember how I said on Friday in my last review that I would be gone for a few days due to an Internet issue?

I lied.

Actually, that's being too harsh. Early on Saturday, my cable provider (also my Internet provider) was called and they suggested that it was the router which was the issue. Well, they were right. It was very old anyhow so it was time to replace it. Clearly, the nearby lightning strike screwed it up; I am thankful that nothing else electronic was affected. Anyhow, the new router is great and performs far better than the old one. But onto the review...

This is another one of those films that I had seen before, but the last viewing was many years ago. I remembered it as being very good, and after last night I still feel that way. I imagine most have seen this too so I don't need to spent too much time recapping the plot of what happens to backpackers David and Jack in England. I will say that this movie manages to blend sadness, comedy, and horror together very well. As the movie takes its time and the infamous transformation-still utterly horrifying 36 years later-doesn't happen until an hour in, you have time to know all the major characters and by the final act, you feel very awful for David, especially when he realizes that he is in the twilight of his short life and he has become resigned to his fate... that's pathos. There are darkly humorous moments, which contrasts with the horror beats and all the gory moments. Seeing your undead friend a few times, and he is gradually decomposing... it's probably all three.

There are rumors that there will be a remake, and as it's modern Hollywood, I have zero faith it'll be any good. And that's even with Max Landis attached, who is a pretty awful human being but not a bad screenwriter and you'd hope he would want to do a great version of his dad's movie. I know the transformation would happen within the first half hour, the humor wouldn't be as funny (and heavens knows, the dark discussion about how David should kill himself wouldn't be there), the joke of having several Moon songs on the soundtrack-including three classic renditions of Blue Moon-would be gone... the incredible Rick Baker effects would be replaced by CG that would look atrocious in comparison and hell, there'd probably be a remake of Blue Moon by some talentless schlubs like Imagine Dragons, Lana Del Rey, D.R.A.M., Lil Yachty... hell, they'd probably all collaborate together for a true contender for the worst popular music song of the 21st century.

But anyway... even today people argue over if this or The Howling is “the best” werewolf movie; I say this is a little better but both definitely should be watched. I understand those that prefer Howling due to them not like AWIL's humor or how it is oddly paced. To think that they came out within 6 months of one another. Besides those two and the Lon Chaney The Wolf Man, there's plenty of arguing over which ones are the next best; there's certainly a consensus in that there are plenty of terrible werewolf flicks out there and who knows how many more years it'll be until we get another classic. If Universal's disastrous Dark Universe actually continues, I have already designated their Wolf Man to not be a classic. Sigh... at least this movie will always be around for people to watch.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Black Magic

Black Magic (Jiang Tou) (1975)

Runtime: 93 minutes

Directed by: Ho Meng-Hua

Starring: Ti Lung, Tanny Tien, Lily Li, Ku Feng, Lo Lieh

From: Shaw Brothers

It's been far too long since I had seen some Shaw Brothers; this is unique in that it's a 1970's horror film set in the 1970's. It's greatly 70's, which of course I love. Read all the details below:

Last night I realized that once again, it's been far too long since I've seen a Shaw Brothers movie. Many of them can legally be seen online, so I should check them out more often. Naturally, most of those are their bread and butter of period martial arts films. However, they of course dabbled in other genres and yet not a lot of that can legally be rented or streamed for free via Amazon Prime. In the horror genres, films like Seeding of a Ghost and The Boxer's Exile are pretty outrageous (at least from what I hear) so on that front, hiding those is understandable. Thankfully, this movie was available on the usual sites so I saw it via Prime.

This is a mild version of what they would do later in this genre. I say that and this has gross-out moments & magic spells that usually require breast milk as an ingredient-yeah, several women appear topless. Basically, in a modern times setting (meaning, mid 1970's) an evil sorcerer creates various spells and one of them is a love potion (number 9?) that a horrible rich woman wants so a guy she has the hots for will fall in love with her and he would ditch his bride to be. There is also a good wizard who occasionally does battle with the sorcerer; their final confrontation, ooh boy those special effects... “charmingly bad” is how I would describe it. There is even Lo Lieh in a supporting role as a real lout.

As my mind is on other things, I won't continue prattling on about the movie, except that while it's not bugf*** insane as later entries from the studio, it is still a good time and if you enjoy the 1970's milieu in general like I do, you'll enjoy all the wacky wallpaper and clothing on display. I guess I should mention that the score (from Yung-Yu Chen) repeats a familiar motif often yet at times is electronic noise, which does make it intriguing.

An Update

Friday, I experienced a problem with my Internet due to a lightning strike right by where I live. Saturday, I discovered it was because the router (which was very old anyhow) went on the fritz after the strike. Thus, I got a new one and it works great.

In the past few days, I rewatched Avatar because that same day I went to the new Avatar section of Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom; it was breathtaking. Tonight I'll post a review and tomorrow I'll post two reviews. After that I'll be call caught up here.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Friday The 13th: Part VII: The New Blood

Friday the 13th: Part VII: The New Blood (1988)

Runtime: 88 minutes

Directed by: John Carl Buechler

Starring: The typical random names you got in these movies, plus Terry Kiser

From: Paramount

I watched this on Tuesday night, for reasons I explain in the review. I don't rate this too highly; after all, I am not sure where in the lore of telekinesis is the idea that those people also see into the future... ???

As yesterday (June 13) is the canon birthday of Jason Voorhees, what better time than to see a Jason movie I hadn't reviewed here before? That, and the Friday videogame was recently released. I've heard mixed reviews about it, but once I get a modern gaming system years in the future, I know I'll play it. This has never been my favorite in the franchise; it's a shame as part of it was its legendary battle with the MPAA, where TNB got its ass kicked as at the time, the MPAA was real anal about horror movies so all the kills were neutered and the original version was destroyed years ago and it's a darn shame as a rough VHS copy exists of a few deaths and not seeing them on the big screen is a load of hogwash.

Unfortunately, the movie has other issues besides that. The movie basically being Carrie vs. Jason (they tried to do Freddy vs. Jason back then but not too surprisingly, things went awry and what a long and sordid tale it was before the film finally happened) is definitely wacky and something different, but it has always fallen a little flat to me. Sure, Terry Kiser did what he's good at and play a real jerk but him trying to exploit the telekinetic powers of teenager Tina doesn't work like it should. The fact that the other teenagers you see (aside from the amazingly bitchy Melissa) are incredibly bland and forgettable doesn't help either. The acting overall isn't always the best, but aside from Kiser I can say that Lar Park-Lincoln (as Tina) did a nice job. And of course, so did fan favorite Kane Hodder in his debut as Jason.

The final battle between Tina and Jason is pretty cool. I can't complain about the fight where Tina does various things to try and stop the unstoppable zombie killer... until Mr. Voorhees is finally dispatched. Yikes. I know that wasn't how it was originally drawn up, but stupidity led to what we got. I feel bad for director John Carl Buechler; he had done special effects for low-budget horror movies for years, and he directed the first Troll movie. He got a plum job and look at all the nonsense he had to deal with, between a goofy story, the movie being censored to death, and certain people meddling when they shouldn't have. He deserved better.