Monday, January 26, 2015

Blackhat

Blackhat (2015)

31% on Rotten Tomatoes (out of 123 reviews)

Runntime: 133 minutes

Directed by: Michael Mann

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Tang Wei, Wang Leehorn, Holt McCallany

From: Legendary/Universal

Here's my first 2015 motion picture. It was one I wanted to see last week but due to circumstances beyond my control I had to wait until last night to do so. My Letterboxd review is below and I'll return Wednesday afternoon.

My first 2015 film is one I was interested in seeing, even after hearing very mixed reviews, a middling score on the IMDb and a rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I had still heard some who rate it pretty highly meaning that there was the possibility I'd enjoy it myself.

While I understand the complaints (except for the one about it being “boring”), it was a film I enjoyed, even if it wasn't great, it can be quite ridiculous-including Thor as an expert computer hacker-and it doesn't always make sense and it's amusing how the villain's ultimate plan seems awfully familiar to the plan presented in a not beloved action film from the 80's that I won't reveal for spoiler reasons. Despite such niggles, I was entertained even if I did not think it was as great as it could have been considering the director.

Looking at what happened last year, cyberterrorism is a now relevant fact of life. Its ultimate end goal isn't quite what is portrayed here but it can still be quite damaging so I was glad to see a film about various hackers, from the destructive kind (known as black hat hackers) or the other ones (white hat and grey hat) and the various tricks of the trade they do to succeed. I am not a leet hacker myself by any means but I am familiar with various concepts of the computer world so I was happy to see them presented in the film. You don't need extensive knowledge of that field to understand the movie but for me I was happy to know such info.

It being an adventure that not only takes place in the United States but also Hong Kong then Southeast Asia was of interest to me, along with the multi-ethnic cast, which delivered performances that are at least fine. The cinematography-well, not the grainy hand-held-is pretty and I enjoyed the action scenes that we got. Thus, overall this was something I am glad I saw on the big screen and I am glad I enjoyed this cybercrime thriller more than many others did.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Supernova

Supernova (2000)

Runtime: 90 minutes

Directed by: Walter Hill... and Jack Sholder... and even Francis Ford Coppola

Starring: James Spader, Angela Bassett, Peter Facinelli, Robin Tunney, Lou Diamond Phillips

From: MGM

Here is a movie I had never seen until late last night. It's not an all-time terrible movie, but... it's still no good.

In the Letterboxd review below I reference the official trailer for the movie. It is SO misleading in tone at first I thought it was one of those spoof trailers a la “someone cutting together a Mary Poppins trailer to make it look like a horror film” sort of deal but it's actually legit. The trailer, then the review. I won't return until Monday night.


Unlike those that recently saw this motion picture via the new Scream Factory Blu (I wish I could see the half hour documentary on the disc about the disastrous production of this movie); rather I saw it last night via the MGMHD channel. I had never seen this movie before-the toxic buzz scared me away-but after seeing some people I know recently talk about it here and elsewhere I figured now was the time to check it out. I had never even seen the trailer before. As others have noted, it is SO inaccurate as to what the movie actually is. Just why did they try to make it look like a space comedy with horror elements?

First things first, the movie isn't so awful I was filled with rage or had to fight myself from changing the channel. Much of the CGI doesn't look too bad and at least the capable cast tries (even if James Spader is really the only person to succeed, w/ his Spadering). Unfortunately, things are just oh so dull and it's really derivative of many other films, all of which are better and more interesting than this.

To echo others, it's just obvious there were production woes. Things can be real disjointed and too often it doesn't make much sense. All I know is that MGM constantly clashed with original director Walter Hill and Hill got fed up and left. In came in veteran genre director Jack Sholder than even Francis Ford Coppola, but nothing could save what is a boring tale of a medical spaceship answering a distress call and picking up a mysterious passenger with an “alien artifact”. Things happen then we get a pretty goofy and unsatisfying ending.

There isn't too much else to say about this. While it lost a lot of money for MGM I will presume they have no one to blame but themselves for that. There's really no reason to ever see this and I presume the featurette about the behind the scenes drama is much more engrossing than the actual film.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Night Of The Juggler

Night of the Juggler (1980)

Runtime: 101 minutes

Directed by: At least some of it by Sidney J. Furie, but also by Robert Butler

Starring: James Brolin, Cliff Gorman, Richard S. Castellano, Linda Miller, Barton Heyman

From: Columbia

Today I went to the sleazy side by watching a cult favorite which is at least partially a cult movie due to it never being officially on disc for various reasons. Some people wanted me to see it and it turns out their recommendation was correct and I rate it quite highly. The Letterboxd review is below and I'll return tomorrow night.

Due to some prodding from a few people on a messageboard, I was finally given enough motivation to see this film, which is barely remembered today except for a cult following. It was only released on VHS and has never officially been on disc. Conjecture says that it's because the film's rights are now owned by some sort of soap company (!) and while there are a number of well-known independent outlets that can put it out on Blu, I guess they've refused all offers up to now. It's a shame. Yes, I'll admit I watched it on YouTube as that's really the only way to see it now.

The film is rather ridiculous and over the top and immoral... but in a gleeful manner. Sean Boyd (James Brolin, w/magnificent beard) is an ex-cop turned truck driver who is back home in New York City after completing a run. His daughter is celebrating her 15th birthday and she's off to school... until she's kidnapped by a racist psychopath (Cliff Gorman) who mistakenly believes he has taken the kid of a rich family, who will acquiesce and pay him a large ransom. Boyd sees the kidnapping and off we go, starting with a long chase scene and from there the breakneck pace rarely lets up as he is ultra-determined to get his daughter back, no matter if it's dealing with a no-nonsense cop (Richard S. Castellano), a Sergeant that he used to work with but he exposed was doing something illegal (Dan Hedaya) and the Sergeant is looking for revenge, or a wide variety of colorful and wacky characters who are happy to say politically incorrect things.

While I understand how some would think it's an unflattering look at New York City, I wasn't too bothered by that and instead I marveled at how that place was so bad that a kidnapping could happen in a busy park and no one bats an eye, or how the South Bronx looked so bad and burned-out it looked like it had just survived the apocalypse. Yet all those vivid characters you meet on the journey are rather memorable and earthy it makes the film feel real and alive... even when you see such things as a police officer trying to kill Boyd with shotgun blasts... on a crowded public street. Liam Neeson's Taken this is not in the genre of "rescuing your kidnapped daughter".

The cast does help with their performances. Brolin is aces as the dad who simply wishes to save his kid. Besides the people I already mentioned there's Mandy Patinkin in a small role as a Puerto Rican cab driver who... well, “manic” may not be a strong enough word for how crazed he acts but he was definitely memorable. The score from Artie Kane was unforgettable too and I don't know what the ratio is but I understand at least parts of the film were done by Sidney J. Furie before he left and Robert Butler (who once directed a Disney film but later went on to do such goofy films as Turbulence and Up the Creek) did the rest.

If you enjoy films involving the Sleazy New York City of old-or just enjoy trashy motion pictures in general-then this is a must-see and maybe one of these days it'll finally be able to be released on disc and find a larger modern audience.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I'm Pushing Things Back A Day

I hate doing it but this week has been busier for me than expected so no time for movie-watching. I will return tomorrow night with a film review, maybe another noir and maybe not.

Monday, January 19, 2015

"C"-Man

“C”-Man (1949)

Runtime: 77 minutes

Directed by: Joseph Lerner

Starring: Dean Jagger, John Carradine, Harry Landers, Lottie Elwen, Rene Paul

From: Laurel Films

I return to the world of film noir with this random film I found. Unfortunately this is only about average at best but at least I gave this obscure motion picture a shot. The Letterboxd review is below and I'll return Wednesday night.

I'll be honest here, I watched this tonight as I realized I hadn't watched a film noir in about two months and I stumbled across this film on a certain website and I was not only interested in it “being shot in a semi-documentary style” but also its two main stars being Dean Jagger and John Carradine; note that Carradine's role is rather small, lasting just a few minutes long.

The film is definitely low-budget but they tried shooting it different, so that's why it's called a semi-documentary. It has that look and style. The musical score is odd and yet it somehow fits, even if it's overbearing at times. While it's shot better than expected, unfortunately the story (about various people who are looking for an expensive and fancy necklace, with Dean Jagger's Customs Agent for the U.S. Treasury Department Cliff Holden leading the way; his buddy gets killed in the mess so now it's personal) is too often confused and for being the hero, Cliff Holden doesn't have the moves like Jagger; rather, he's ineffectual too often and he lucks into a few things.

While it may look the part (looking at old New York City was interesting too), have occasional narration, have some hard-boiled dialogue and there are sleazy bad guys, overall I can only rate this as average at best.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tonight's The Night For Letterboxd Things

What I mean is that among various things I'll be doing tonight, I'll type up the descriptions that will appear with two new lists I'll be compiling for the site, one being the films of Myrna Loy that I've seen and the other being the film noir I have watched since September of 2014. I've been thinking of doing that for awhile now and tonight's finally the night. I'll post both tomorrow.

Last night I didn't feel like watching anything as I wasn't in the mood, and besides still not being at 100%, there's too much going on today. However, tomorrow I'll have the time to watch something then give it a review, so expect that tomorrow night.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Special Bulletin

Special Bulletin (1983)

Runtime: 101 minutes

Directed by: Edward Zwick

Starring: Ed Flanders, Kathryn Walker, Roxanne Hart, Christopher Allport, David Rasche

From: Ohlmeyer Communications Company

Yes, I watched a TV movie last night, one aired on NBC back in 1983. I'll explain why I did so in the Letterboxd review below. I'll return tomorrow night.

I typically do not watch old TV movies. Sure, I am old enough to remember the days when the networks used to make TV films to show each Sunday night, but I usually didn't watch them. I certainly did not see this as a two year old when it made its debut. Rather, it was something I found out about via Letterboxd and last night via means I won't elaborate upon I checked it out.

Without Warning (the 1994 film shown on CBS that actually did cause an uproar despite them making it clear it was not real) was not the first TV movie which presented a faux real newscast of a major incident, as this did so 11 years earlier. In this case it was a fictional TV network-known as RBS-covering an incident in Charleston, South Carolina, where some terrorists force a local reporter and cameraman to come on a tugboat in the harbor and broadcast their demands; they aren't foreign but instead intelligent Americans who are terrified of nuclear weapons so ironically they construct their own nuclear bomb and if they aren't given all the detonators around Charleston (over 900, so they say) to be sunk in the ocean, up goes their bomb. We only see the story from the perspective of the newscast and it's not in real time. Rather, it's shown as segments of the newscast as the drama plays out over a little more than 24 hours of time.

While some parts are kind of goofy and the special effects are low-fi, otherwise this is a movie that unfortunately is still relevant today. Nuclear fears aren't as big a fear now but it is not so hard to believe there would be terrorists of different agendas who wish to make big demands and use the media to push their beliefs. The antagonists aren't Bond villains by any means; they're awkward, argue with each other, get stressed out, and otherwise are believable as smart people who are nevertheless way over their heads with this extremely dangerous ploy.

While there are barbs thrown at the way of the government, more often there are digs at the media; for example, how they cover huge events like this, their role in influencing the public and sometimes even those that commit such heinous acts, the insensitivity, all the conjecture that seems to be guesses at best and BS made up at worst, the hype/sensationalism, the exploitative nature, etc.

Sad to say this is still true in 2015, especially with all the cable news networks. CNN is the one that comes to mind first, as they had a rather gross 2014 from all I've heard. I certainly don't get my news from such biased sources that seem to be usually wrong anyhow. Imagining such an event being covered by them if it happened tomorrow... I am sure it would look a lot like what you saw in this movie, only a lot worse.

It was interesting to see some familiar faces in the cast, like Ed Flanders, Roxanne Hart, David Rasche, and in one of his first film roles, a 15 second appearance from Michael Madsen.

The reason why I rate it the way I do is that it's well-acted, it comes across as a legit news broadcast from the time period, and the story is always interesting and still applicable to today.