Monday, September 1, 2014

Dark Angel (a.k.a. I Come In Peace)

Dark Angel (i.e. I Come in Peace) (1990)

Runtime: 91 minutes

Directed by: Craig R. Baxley

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Brian Benben, Betsy Brantley, Matthias Hues

From: Vision PDG

Here's another movie I've seen before but for the first time I am checking out the Blu-from Shout Factory-I found in a store last year; of course, I am me and getting discs is a lot easier than me actually watching them. I can't explain it myself; that's just me. The long IMDb plot synopsis then the Letterboxd review:

"Jack Caine (Dolph Lundgren) is a Houston vice cop who's forgotten the rule book. His self-appointed mission is to stop the drugs trade and the number one supplier Victor Manning. Whilst involved in an undercover operation to entrap Victor Manning, his partner gets killed, and a sinister newcomer enters the scene... Along with F.B.I. agent Lawrence Smith, the two investigate a spate of mysterious deaths; normal non-junkies dying of massive heroin overdoses and bearing the same horrific puncture marks on the forehead. This, coupled with Caine's own evidence, indicates an alien force is present on the streets of Houston, killing and gathering stocks of a rare drug found only in the brain... Caine is used to fighting the toughest of criminals, but up to now they've all been human..."

Here's another Blu I've had for awhile and I've just gotten around to watching it now. It's the Shout Factory Blu and they did a real nice job with this cult film which I had seen before but that was years ago.

It's easy to see why this has a small but fervent fanbase: it's a film about a loose cannon cop (Dolph Lundgren!) who teams up with an FBI agent-of course they're a duo who are the opposite in just about every way-to investigate a case involving yuppie drug dealers and corrupt cops and turns out a giant man who's actually an alien is on the loose injecting people with heroin so that they can produce endorphins that he sucks out of their body as they are needed by addicts on his planet and oh yeah he's chased by another alien... who happens to be basketball player turned ESPN sports analyst Jay Bilas... and a weapon used by the bad guy looks like a CD but it's a lethal magnetized weapon. Very wacky, and awesome.

It's a low budget action movie and yet the budget doesn't hamper things; you get plenty of action, explosions, one-liners, comedy and intrigue with the mismatched duo as they investigate the bizarre case, and other things action fans crave like the endorphins the evil alien Talec desires. Additional assets are such things as the lead duo doing a great job in their roles, memorable characters all around (Bruce is unforgettable & Michael J. Pollard plays someone named BONER) and a really cool Jan Hammer score.

Whether you want to call it Dark Angel or I Come in Peace, this is a motion picture where I have to agree with its supporters: this is a quality action film and you just don't get films quite like this anymore.

I'll return tomorrow night.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Escape From New York

Escape from New York (1981)

Runtime: 99 minutes

Directed by: John Carpenter

Starring: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes

From: AVCO Embassy Pictures

This was not the movie I was expecting to watch today. But, complications happened (which I won't get into) and I figured it was time to start going through the pile of Blu-ray discs I have that I haven't gone through (that's a big pile, too; I can buy discs easily enough; it's just watching them that I am not so good at) and I decided upon this classic film which of course I'd seen before but not in a long time. They're thinking of doing a reboot but I'd rather not be depressed by thinking of such things. I mean, it's not the worst thing to reboot... I will just presume they will royally screw it up and it'll be a piece of crap. The IMDb synopsis then the Letterboxd review:

"In 1997, when the US President crashes into Manhattan, now a giant max. security prison, a convicted bank robber is sent in for a rescue." Yes, that's as basic a description as you'll get without it being inaccurate.

This was not the movie I was expecting to watch today. But, complications happened and I had to fall back upon a film which of course I've seen before but not in a long while and I hadn't checked out the Blu-ray I've had of the film for months now. With talks heating up again of there being a reboot of this (a major “sigh” to that story, by the way) I figured it'd be the perfect opportunity for me to finally review this for the site.

Everyone should know the plot by now so I won't recap that. Instead I'll jump right into my thoughts on the picture. I've always thought that while certain things about the plot/story could be nitpicked, what makes me rate the movie the way I do is a number of factors, from the awesome cast compiled & their performances to the incredible score from Carpenter/Alan Howarth, the look of a destroyed Manhattan being great as they filmed in the worst parts of the pretty much awful city of East St. Louis, to the general plot itself.

Oh, and Kurt Russell-no relation-was a great choice as the antihero Snake Plissken.

I'll be honest and say that there are definitely Carpenter films I prefer to this, such as The Thing or those movies that I need to watch and review for the site; I am looking at you, Assault on Precinct 13. That said, EFNY just has a COOL vibe to it and it helps erase enough deficiencies to give it a 3 ½ star rating. There are many colorful characters and they're cool and I'd like to hang out with them... even the villains.

Also, this is definitely better than Escape From L.A.; what a misguided film that was...

I'll return tomorrow night.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


Taxi! (1932)

Runtime: 69 minutes

Directed by: Roy Del Ruth

Starring: James Cagney, Loretta Young, George E. Stone, Guy Kibbee

From: Warner Brothers

Here's a short-ish review which is different from the review I did last night, for sure. It's a pretty obscure James Cagney I found at the site known as (redacted) and for rarity's sake I had to see it. The IMDb plot description then the Letterboxd review:

“Amidst a backdrop of growing violence and intimidation, independent cab drivers struggling against a consolidated juggernaut rally around hot-tempered Matt Nolan. Nolan is determined to keep competition alive on the streets, even if it means losing the woman he loves.”

This is a film I understand was tremendously hard to find until Warner Archives put it out on DVD recently; it wasn't even on VHS. This should not be confused with the TV show that featured Reverend Jim Ignatowski, the Luc Besson films from France or heaven forbid, the version with Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon.

Rather, this movie concerns a vicious feud going on in a major city between two taxi companies and right away you see that they aren't afraid to bash their own cars to ruin those of the competition, or engage in fistfights... or worse. The main stars are James Cagney and Loretta Young (who engage in a contentious romantic relationship) with a young George Raft in a small appearance.

There are “well, THAT escalated quickly” moments, broad stereotypical characters-including one named SKEETS-rampant sexism and other things which I found... well, interesting. I definitely was not comfortable when Cagney mentioned how he wanted to beat up Young with his fists. That's pretty terrible by 2014 standards.

At least you get to see him beat up several men-what a surprise, Cagney as someone with a quick temper-in a plot that is about the romance between the two stars as it is the feud between the two companies; it goes to such places as a dance contest, a seafood joint owned by a major Jewish stereotype and a nightclub; a joint named “The Cotton Pickers Club” where there are black entertainers... that also made me squeamish.

Melodrama is another word you can use to describe this. “A very ridiculous ending that made me laugh out loud” is an entire phrase to use here. Yet I was entertained by the melodrama (and how angry Cagney usually was) so I'll give it this rating and note three things:

* This is movie where James comes closing to uttering the line “You dirty rat!”, which he never actually said in a film.

* The two stars are swell dancers.

* If you ever wanted to hear Cagney spoke Yiddish (something he spoke fluently in real life) then this is the movie for you.

I'll return tomorrow night.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie (2014)

96% on Rotten Tomatoes (out of 198 reviews)

Runtime: 100 minutes

Directed by: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

Starring: The voices of Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Will Arnett

From: Warner Brothers/Village Roadshow

Yep... yep. Here's one of those review that most will strongly disagree with, and some will think that I am like Armond White. I usually don't watch movies like this but it doesn't mean I hate all of them; I've seen the Toy Story films as an adult (the first one, also as a teenager) and I rate all those 4 stars or higher as they're great movies. This one, though... at least already I got some support on Letterboxd for my against the grain review, from a person that said he couldn't even finish the movie.

I am sure everyone by now knows of the plot (and likely knows that there's a big plot twist, even if they don't fully know what it's all about) so let me skip ahead to the lengthy Letterboxd review and I'll mention that I'll return tomorrow afternoon with a shorter review.

I hope this rating (only 2 out of 5 stars) doesn't ruin anyone's long Labor Day weekend...

Here I am (rock you like a hurricane)... but no really, here I am finally watching a movie Letterboxd went wild for this year, the majority of the people I follow here having seen it already and most love it; me, I had no idea what to expect as I actually didn't think the trailers were all that great and I never really played with Lego's as a kid. But, as I haven't seen too many films from this year that would be appropriate for a Top 10 of this year list, I had to check it out on the chance I would put it on the list I'll do early next year.

Well, it's not going on the list. Let me explain why in a detailed (& hopefully not too long) manner.

I may have been hampered by how I heard so many people giving it so much praise and I had my expectations too high. It may have been that all the films these two directors have done, when I've seen their trailers I didn't think any of them were funny at all (that's why this is the first film of theirs I've even seen... and I don't think I'll see the others) and I've seen many of the “funny” gags elsewhere AND knew there would be a big plot twist and I just knew its basics... maybe the deck was stacked against me.

Or maybe I just thought the movie was more annoying than funny, with intolerable aggravating characters, an unbelievable buffoon for a “hero”, and “humor” that I mostly did not enjoy. What people find to be funny is SO subjective and throughout the years I've learned that my tastes there are usually pretty far off from most other people.

It is in fact ironic to me that in a movie preaching not conforming to what everyone does (before then changing its message quite a bit) that my opinion of it would be way off from how most people feel about it. Believe me, I am all for nonconformity and dissing the mass-market commercialization that is ever-present in today's society-especially in the United States and its entertainment field-and telling people not to go with the flow.

It's just that I did not really enjoy the film or was entertained by it. I was mostly just irritated by it, wondering what it is about this that most people love and yet I can't seem to grasp; I seem to think that way more often than a lot of people as I am a pretty “different” and “odd” individual in general but I really do wish I could see what's so special about this. All the pop culture references and bits actually reminded me of f'ing Family Guy, which is not a positive.

Oh, and I'd have to go into spoiler territory to discuss specific issues; however, I can say that once I saw what the big plot twist exactly was... it only made things worse and eye-rolling cheesy rather than did anything to warm my heart or make me feel good about life... or fit the story being told, for that matter.

At least I can say that there were some amusing gags and the way the movie looked was great; at least I can appreciate the aesthetic aspects of it.

Last year while reading about the film I was not only surprised that it was a thing (then disappointed by the fact it was a thing) but that it'd have such an elaborate plot. With that I hoped it would be worth seeing. Alas... if everyone else loves this I am OK with that, as I am OK with having my opinion and thinking that not Everything is Awesome with this motion picture.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Allan Quatermain And The Lost City Of Gold

Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1986... or 1987)

Runtime: 99 minutes

Directed by: Gary Nelson... and Newt Arnold

Starring: Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone, James Earl Jones, Henry Silva, Cassandra Peterson

From: Cannon

I know, I wasn't planning on seeing this so soon, but things changed and I'll explain why in a bit. The IMDb plot description then my Letterboxd review:

"Allan Quatermain once again teams up with Jesse Huston where the discovery of a mysterious old gold piece sends Quatermain looking for his long-lost brother, missing in the wilds of Africa after seeking a lost white race."

Remember when I said it'd be a long while before I'd see the sequel to King Solmon's Mines?

I lied.

Actually, I saw this last night as my plans to watch another movie fell through and I decided to go through the EPIX On Demand feature while I can still use it and saw that they had this movie; as it may be difficult for me to track this down in the future I had to bite the bullet and watch it, even if I thought it'd likely be bad... and oh it was.

This tale which has Allan looking for the title city and his missing brother has a number of problems, from the nonsensical story to an odious comic relief character that's never funny, appallingly bad special effects (I am pretty sure greenscreening if done right isn't supposed to give the actors a blue halo!) to an ending that just may be the most befuddling devoid of logic conclusion I've ever seen in a motion picture, no lie. You can read about it on Wikipedia if you wish but trust me, as seen it's even more inane and bewildering than it sounds.

However, there's James Earl Jones embarrassing himself by dressing up and playing an African warrior dude, Cassandra Peterson as a character that's not Elvira, and Henry Silva as the villain (come to think of it do I REALLY need to clarify that Silva's role in a movie is that of a bad guy?) who wears a purple & gold robe and a huge obviously fake wig; I just about howled with laughter when he first appeared, that's how goofy he looked.

Also, seeing it in a print that says it's HD (but still has a lot of print damage to it) isn't kind to the film; what helped make it have such a strange ending is that when you see some stunts being done, the wires are SO obvious; I mean, they're as clear as crystal and helped remind me that this was a troubled production where apparently there "were substantial reshoots". I say you shouldn't see either of these Cannon productions but if you must, King Solomon's Mines is the way to go.

I'll return tomorrow night.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

King Solomon's Mines (The Cannon Version)

King Solomon's Mines (1985)

Runtime: 100 minutes

Directed by: J. Lee Thompson

Starring: Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone, Herbert Lom, John Rhys-Davies, Ken Gampu

From: Cannon

Finally, I was able to salute the late Menahem Golan by watching something made by him, and this was something I hadn't seen before. I hadn't seen any of the other movies based on the H. Rider Haggard novel, either. After seeing this, I don't know about tracking down the sequel, Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold, although it may happen one of  these days... or years. The IMDb plot description, then what I said about the film on Letterboxd:

“Fortune hunter Allan Quatermain teams up with a resourceful woman to help her find her missing father lost in the wilds of 1900s (around World War I, to be exact) Africa while being pursued by hostile tribes and a rival German explorer.”

I finally paid tribute to the late Menahem Golan by watching a Cannon production. Despite being a child of the 80's and 90's I hadn't seen this movie before. Oh, I saw plenty of Golan-Globus films during my youth, just not this one. But, as it was on an EPIX channel late last night I figured it was about time to see this and tip my cap to Mr. Golan.

Well, maybe I should have chosen a Cannon movie I was more familiar with. Sure, this had a lot of action scenes, a Jerry Goldsmith score where he tried really hard to be John Williams, nice scenic Zimbabwe scenery, and villains Herbert Lom and John Rhys-Davies wisely deciding to camp it up. But, I can't rate it higher than 2 stars.

My initial reaction after watching this was, “What the hell did I just watch?” I know they wanted to be light in tone like the Indiana Jones films but this went way over that and this was a cartoony ridiculous preposterous film the entire time, with many goofy things, some actually clever things, and many stupid things also. It can be fun in a campy way at times and it's a breezy watch but that doesn't mean it's a good film or something I'd see again, as there are also some real annoying things.

I always love it when the HEROES of a picture use racial slurs; in this case it's against an Arab guy, but as he's aiding and abetting the villains I guess it's OK... well, maybe back then but not now. Then again this is a film where many Africans of the time (around World War I) are portrayed as painted up people in huts who carry around spears and some of them even cook human beings in giant pots, so there's more than one questionable racial moment...

Richard Chamberlain was goofy as Allan Quartermain but Sharon Stone as the lady that tags along... the character and the performance made me realize that I shouldn't rip on Willie from Temple of Doom ever again.

If I saw this as a kid I'd probably think higher of it; as a 33 year old man, this was just juvenile and silly too often. The special effects, many of them are SO dated and some look really bad. That doesn't apply to a giant creature you briefly see that appeared to be straight out of Roger Corman's warehouse, where it's been stored since about 1960; then again something you see at the very end is also likely from the same warehouse and it doesn't have the kitsch charm that made me howl with laughter with the first thing... then again, there's many things here that are dated even by 1985 standards.

I'll return tomorrow night; what I think I'll do is that I'll post again on Friday night and I may have to do a long epic post where I review several films that are "smaller" than the one I know I'll review tomorrow night from now till then at the same time. It just depends on how things turn out.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

RIP Richard Attenborough

This wasn't what I was planning on doing today but I found out about an hour ago that he passed away at the age of 90. Of course I know him best from Jurassic Park but he appeared in and directed a plethora of films, some of which I have in my collection. I figured that for Letterboxd I should rewatch the John Wayne film Brannigan (where he's a co-star), as the review I have for it there is quite brief and it deserves a better one for me, and I can tip my cap to Sir Richard in that new review.

Also, I won't be back until Wednesday night as in the meanwhile I'll watch some movies I reviewed here but never even posted a review for on Letterboxd due to the last viewings being years ago.