Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Mad Love

Mad Love (1935)

Runtime: 68 minutes

Directed by: Karl Freund

Starring: Peter Lorre, Frances Drake, Colin Clive, Ted Healy, Sara Halden

From: MGM

This is something I watched on TCM late last night. I chose it on a whim and it turned out to be a fine decision indeed. Read all about it below via my Letterboxd review: 

This was a movie that played late last night on Turner Classic Movies and I only decided to watch it shortly before it started once I noticed it was on the schedule. The movie was only 68 minutes long, starred a bald Peter Lorre, was a version of The Hands of Orlac, I saw some positive reviews, and it just seemed like the right film to see. Turns out, it was. If you know the Orlac story, this will be familiar: a pianist has his hands badly injured in an accident and a surgeon who has the hots for the pianist's wife Yvonne grafts the hands of a serial killer onto him, and he changes.

Ted Healy (yes, the leader of the act that would later become The Three Stooges after they dumped him) provides some comic relief, not all of it funny. The setting is France but this is not always convincing with all the Americans and American accents around... yet this wacky film which has everything from knife throwing and a serial killer who has an interest in Hoover Dam to a cleaning lady with a pet cockatoo, and Lorre's Dr. Gogol getting his jollies from looking at a wax figure of Yvonne-you see, she performs in a Grand Guignol-style production-is pretty entertaining nonetheless.

There are some truly ghoulish moments and the real highlight was Lorre in his American film debut. His character goes through a wide range of emotions and was gleefully over the top by the time the movie wraps up. The cast as a whole is fine but Lorre is the most memorable for sure. This is definitely silly and I understand how in the past there have been people as well-known as Peter Bogdanovich who hated it; I say that it is Old Peter who helped elevate the material. In addition, it is nicely filmed by German director Karl Freund and out of all movies, some parallels have been made between this and Citizen Kane, and beyond sharing Gregg Toland as a cinematographer; imagine Welles watching this and loving it.

This may not be as famous as the most famous 30's horror films out there, but if you love such things then this should definitely be tracked down for your viewing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Stone Cold Dead

Stone Cold Dead (1979)

Runtime: 109 minutes

Directed by: George Mendeluk

Starring: Richard Crenna, Paul Williams, Linda Sorensen, Belinda Montgomery, Chuck Shamata

From: Ko-Zak Productions

Here is a random movie I saw last night; I found out about it as I sometimes do, that being on a messageboard. I explain the whole thing via my Letterboxd review posted below:

About a month ago, I found out about this movie; yes, it was via someone on a messageboard. He noted that it was showing on MGMHD one morning; I don't get the channel anymore but it's also on Amazon Instant Video so I could see it that way. I finally watched it last night. The plot revolved around sleaze (a mysterious sniper is killing prostitutes, and Richard Crenna is a loose cannon cop who not only wants to find the killer but he also wants to clean up the streets of Toronto) and what really caught my eye was that playing the role of a pimp and heroin dealer was PAUL WILLIAMS. Yes, that Paul Williams, the diminutive singer and songwriter who seemingly vanished for years due to a bad alcohol and drug problem and he worked on Daft Punk's last album. I was so amused at the thought of him playing that character, I had to give this a watch.

Overall, I'll say that this was fine. There's certainly plenty of sleaze between the killer (they use a wacky sniper rifle with a Canon camera on it so they can take pictures as they make those kills; I imagine it'd be a lot more difficult to shoot such a contraption w/ a camera weighing it down, but I probably thought more about that than the movie did), multiple ladies shooting heroin, multiple women appearing topless, shots of what was then the red light district of Toronto, and a rather uncomfortable bit with a reverend who turns out to be a pervert. But to me the highlight is Williams as the pimp and dope dealer. He's dressed as a white pimp from the 70's and with the way he acted, it was tremendous. He is part of a certain sexual act and his reaction to that greatly amused me.

As for the movie, it is slowly paced and is 109 minutes long. Yet I was always interested in the story being told, even if the lead did not make much headway at first in solving this case. He also acted like a real heel at times and was not the sensitive type, pet fish at home aside. In one scene the pimp and heroin dealer Williams came off as more sympathetic, which I thought was interesting. But otherwise I was amused at him being a loose cannon cop, even in this day and age some of it comes off as a little awkward. I heard others say that this has giallo elements and I can't disagree between the kills with the sniper and how they were dressed. The funky score from Paul Zaza was pretty rad, I say. In terms of other people in the cast, there's Belinda Montgomery in a supporting role, Linnea Quigley in the beginning, a one scene role from George Chuvalo as-shock of shocks-a boxer and a blink and you miss it role from the great Michael Ironside.

The movie isn't a must-see but I was still entertained by this obscure flick; there were some unintentional laughs and the final act was nice as we find out who the killer is and the motivation is rather interesting. I have no knowledge of the novel Sin Sniper that this was based upon (both titles are awesome, in my eyes) but I can say that this movie is at least fine.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Green Room

Green Room (2015)

88% on Rotten Tomatoes (out of 138 reviews)

Runtime: 95 minutes

Directed by: Jeremy Saulnier

Starring: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Patrick Stewart

From: A24

I saw this movie last night on the big screen and while it's the best movie I've seen from the director, I still don't love his output like many do. That's just me and my tastes. I try to explain why below in my Letterboxd review:

You know, I've come to realize that the films of Jeremy Saulnier just aren't for me, and I am OK with that.

I've seen all three movies he's done now, and the only one I've hated was Murder Party. That said, when people gush all over Blue Ruin and this film and I only found the former to be average and the latter by star rating is the “best” I've seen him do and I honestly could only give it 3 stars despite what most others think... he's just not for me no matter the popular opinion. I wish that wasn't the case as I don't plan on ever being an outlier when it comes to opinions but it happens plenty of times.

By now people should be familiar with the plot of a douche-y punk band (really, that's what they were) who are poor and on tour on the other side of the country so they perform at a middle of nowhere club that actually is a skinhead/Neo-Nazi hangout and s*** goes wrong and they get stuck there and have to deal with the likes of Patrick Stewart. Now, the idea sounded like a winner so I was hoping that I would love this. Alas...

The general idea was a winner. There's plenty of intense moments for sure and with what the cast was given all performed nicely. However, there's the old canard with me, that being the plot and characters. I won't delve into any spoilers so don't worry about that; I'll just say that the protagonists-that being the band plus the character played by Imogen Poots-aren't all that likable and that is an issue when the antagonists are horrible white supremacists; hell, I at least admired how Patrick Stewart's character was matter of fact in trying to clean up the mess at the club, even if it meant killing some dopey young adults do some things that did not make a lot of sense to me. Honestly, how or why the band did some of the things they did, it did not make me admire them, I'll put it that way. In addition, stylistically I am not a big fan of those movies where you only have a small amount of violence but what you do get is over the top and gross gore; that isn't an automatic fail for me (I still rate Drive pretty highly. Only God Forgives, not so much, but there were far worse problems with that). Just note that this is one of those films.

I wish that I could love this like most do. The director and me are not compatible; it's me, not you, you know. At least there was still enough to where I can rate this as “fine”. As I said before, it's tense throughout, the cinematography is nice-along with the music-I have no complaints with the performances and there are some real inspired bits as they try to fight back against the bad guys. The rating is as high as I can personally go. At least I can say that this was better than the trailers for The Lobster and Swiss Army Man, which both played before this. Those look like all the negatives that some people attach to arthouse movies, and appear to be pure wankery to my eyes.

Friday, April 29, 2016

I'll Be Back Sunday Night

I have various things on my plate now so I haven't felt like watching any movies; I may go out to see something tomorrow night but either way I'll have a review then, barring anything catastrophic. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Last Shift

Last Shift (2014)

Runtime: 87 minutes

Directed by: Anthony DeBlasi

Starring: Juliana Harkavy, Joshua Mikel, J. LaRose, Natalie Victoria, Matt Doman

From: Skyra Entertainment

Here is a movie I have known about for awhile, and it happened to be set and filmed in a Florida town I had been in many times before. Read all the details about it from my Letterboxd review posted below: 

I have known of this movie since it came out last year. My biggest memory will forever be how due to its stylized logo, some people on a messageboard were literally confused as to whether it was Last Shift or Lost Shift, and I do understand the confusion. I heard mixed opinions about so I had no idea what to expect going in. There were comparisons to the awesome Assault on Precinct 13 (something I'll watch again soon so I can review it here) but those are really only due to the abandoned police station setting.

One reason for me to see this was that it was set and filmed in Sanford, Florida, a town only about an hour away from me; I had been through there or in there many times before, and in fact will be there tomorrow night to pick someone up from the medium-sized airport located in the city. The town is best known in America for the whole Trayvon Martin thing (those readers not in the United States who are not familiar with the case, I won't even get started on trying to explain that whole racial mess)... but I'll move on from that controversy and say they likely only filmed there because the city had an abandoned police station that could be used.

Why the setting? Well, the plot is that a lady cop who gets the pleasure of guarding a police station about to be abandoned (but has some biohazard materials that need to be cleared out by HAZMAT) and this is her first night on the force, and she's alone, and she experiences weird supernatural things... the only other thing I'll bring up is that a Manson-like family figures into the plot.

The story is on the ridiculous side, admittedly, and you certainly could nitpick various things. However, I tried to ignore those things. At first I wasn't sure about the movie; but, as it got going, I realized that I was enjoying what I was seeing. The one setting in one night thing is usually pretty intriguing to me. Much of the film you only see the lead on the character and if she would not have been interesting or the performance would have been bad, that would big a big problem. Thankfully the character of Officer Loren was always interesting, even if you don't know too much besides the basics about her and how her dad was a cop. Juliana Harkavy did a pretty good job in the role, especially considering it was typically only her on screen and the character had to go through a hellish experience.

Being vague, I will say that the ending which ties everything together, it was effective to me as I realized what the movie was all about and it not only explained some things but made the movie that much more disturbing. There are nice practical effects, creepy sights, an ever-increasing sense of dread, and overall while I know it is a movie which has gotten a mixed reception, to me it worked and I am glad I finally checked it out on Netflix Instant.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Purple Rain

Runtime: 111 minutes

Directed by: Albert Magnoli

Starring: The Purple One, Appolonia, Morris Day, and members of both The Revolution and The Time

From: Warner Bros.

I have watched this movie before, but the last viewing was long ago and unfortunately it was sad circumstances that prompted me seeing it last night. At least I got to see it on the big screen. Read all the details about it below in my Letterboxd review:

It did not take long after Prince passed away and entered the after world (a world of never-ending happiness, and you can always see the sun, day or night) for both AMC Theatres and Carmike Cinemas to play the movie in some of their locations for the upcoming week, two showings a day. I went to a location in Orlando to check it out; of course I had seen this before, but that was a long time ago and this was the perfect time to watch it again. The crowd there was larger than expected and I'll say more about them later; just know that it was among the best audience experience I have ever had.
I am sure everyone knows the plot of The Kid and his band The Revolution in Minneapolis and how he has to deal with a terrible life at home, a new girl, problems with his band, and a rivalry w/ Morris Day & The Time. I will say that it is easy to nitpick the plot or how it's told, but a big asset is that all of the songs on the soundtrack are great and all of the performances you see are incredible; Prince had boatloads of charisma whenever he appeared on screen, and when he performed he was pure sex. The crowd I saw this with, they loved the movie. They went wild for all of the performances and several times (especially during the risque Darling Nikki) I thought that some were about to throw their underwear at the screen! They laughed at the right moments and went “oooh!” during the harshest one-liners. It was a great experience, both the audience and seeing those artists on stage doing their thing. The opening 10 minutes of the movie where you see and hear both Let's Go Crazy and Jungle Love as the main characters get ready to hit the club and then they arrive there and interact with each other... it's an astounding 10 minutes. So is the final act concert.
As for the rest of the movie... I wish it wasn't so problematic. The Kid-to be honest-usually comes off as a real A-hole, and he's the protagonist. I understand it's made rather clear that his crappy family life at home (where dad usually yells and beats up his wife) is a big reason as to why he acts this way. It doesn't mean that it's enjoyable seeing this guy be a real ass and also act incredibly misogynistic towards both Appolonia and the two ladies in his band, Wendy & Lisa. If he really would have changed in the final act that would be something, but it can be argued that this does not fully happen and to me I question how much The Kid really does change. Then, there's the odd fact that even though Morris E. Day is ostensibly the heel, he actually comes across as a nicer guy... and he is something who not only had Jerome throw a woman into a dumpster but he said that horribly insensitive remark to Prince, although he immediately felt regretful about it. He doesn't act like a dick to his band like Prince does, he at least tries to help out Appolonia with her budding career, he does cool music also, is typically a funny A-hole, and even he and Jerome do their own wacky version of Abbott & Costello's Who's On First routine. It's odd, really.
Even with those issues, I can still give this a decent rating; the people I saw it with definitely helped in my enjoyment due to how invested in the picture they were. Anyhow, Prince was an incredibly talented musician... he was also incredibly eccentric, but throughout life I have learned that the most talented people are typically pretty odd compared to what is seen as “normal”. I know that since last Thursday his album sales have skyrocketed and whether digitally or on disc this movie has been one of the most purchased films on Amazon. A lot of people are clearly fans of his music, or at least his most famous albums. It was nice to see and hear him perform at his peak and as you have to sign up to the fail known as Tidal to most easily hear his streaming albums, it was nice to hear some great songs in that way, and it was nice to see again what is an amazing artifact of the 80's.

Superman III

Superman III (1983)

Runtime: 124 minutes

Directed by: Richard Lester

Starring: Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Annette O'Toole, Robert Vaughn, Annie Ross

From: Warner Bros.

I explain below why I skipped both versions of II for now; I'll see them sometime in May. I will be back Tuesday night with what I imagine will be a lengthy review of an appropriate movie I saw on the big screen a few hours ago. For now, the review of this movie that has gotten recent cult love... for reasons unclear to me:

Note: Next month I will spend two nights in a row watching the two versions of Superman II out there; I haven't had the time or feeling to do that as of late. From memory I know that they aren't as great as the original Superman but they certainly are better than this motion picture.

In the past few years I have seen several people online rate this movie rather highly and even say it's their favorite Reeve as Superman/Clark Kent movie and no offense to those people but I'll never understand that. Now, I can't compare it to the Bryan Singer film or the all-time polarizing works known as the entries that Zach Snyder did, but while this isn't quite as wretched as The Quest For Peace, this still isn't good and what a downturn for the franchise. It's a shame that Richard Donner had those problems with Alexander and Ilya Salkind, which resulted in there being those two versions of II and now Richard Lester did all the directing and we got a lot of goofy comedy, much of it not that humorous... even Richard Pryor did not hit a home run here as Gus Gorman, and I can't blame it on the “problems” he had before this, as even after he lit himself on fire he had good standup comedy bits. Despite his personal issues and how he apparently did not always act that nice on set, I usually think of Pryor highly as he was a very funny dude, just not always on the silver screen, as this is an example of.

I am sure everyone's familiar with the plot where Clark Kent hangs out with Lana Lang in Smallville and Richard Pryor is a bumbling computer genius (and I do laugh at what Hollywood of the early 1980's thought computers were or what they could do) who becomes a henchman of a rich businessman A-hole played by Robert Vaughn... Superman developed some new convenient powers and yes, for a segment of the movie he became a dick, which started what I presume is a still popular Superman Is A Dick meme. Now, parts of the movie do work and the general idea is fine; but, I say that there was too much comedy which did not seem appropriate for this series-even if the Reeve movies were always light in tone-and I say that was the biggest downfall of why this did not work overall. The villain's ultimate scheme being highly illogical did not help matters either.

I do have to say that while it's nonsensical, Superman As A Dick was certainly memorable and Superman vs. Clark Kent was quite the battle, if goofy at times... I just wonder what happened to Clark Kent during that dick phase; did he suddenly vanish from working at the Daily Planet? I guess so. While it could have lasted longer and been explored more in-depth, at least it was interesting. While she barely appeared in the movie because Margot Kidder supposed Richard Donner instead of Richard Lester, Lana Lang is at least a canon character and the nicest part of the movie was the relationship between her and Kent. Really, I don't fault anyone in the cast but I do have to give kudos to both Reeve and Annette O'Toole as Lana; I wished for more with them, her kid Ricky and even the drunkard Brad rather than Pryor in a wacky suit with a giant foam cowboy hat on.

Now, let me mention a few random things:

* Giorgio Moroder contributed a few songs; I think his music is pretty cool so I was fine with that. I do have to say, however, that his version of a country song with Roger Miller (yes, the guy who sang King of the Road two decades prior) was as daffy as you'd expect a Giorgio Moroder country song to be.

* The opening slapstick number over the credits, it was entertaining and all, but why was it in a Superman movie?

* The ultimate fate of Vera was also memorable, and also a little disturbing.

* Gus Gorman and his penny shaving scam, besides being immortalized in Office Space, I am amused that people have actually tried it in real life.

Like I said, this wasn't as low as the Superman character got on the silver screen, but the newfound appreciation this has in some circles does mystify me.