Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Mystery Street

Mystery Street (1950)

Runtime: 93 minutes

Directed by: John Sturges

Starring: Ricardo Montalban, Sally Forrest, Bruce Bennett, Elsa Lanchester, Marshall Thompson

From: MGM

Last night I saw a film noir, and I picked one that happened to be decent. It was on Turner Classic Movies, and sure it has a famous face as the lead, but it can be argued that Lanchester's role (as a crazy middle-aged lady) is the real highlight. I give the details below: 

Yesterday, TCM spent all day showing Ricardo Montalban movies, and this film noir sounded interesting due to him being one of the stars and there being a forensics angle. I could always stand to watch more film noir, definitely. The CSI sort of thing is only part of the movie, but I still found it pretty enjoyable overall.

The plot is that a dame is found murdered on the beach in the Cape Cod region of Massachusetts. This blonde woman is a prostitute, and in fact was pregnant. Her body is found months later on the beach and Bruce Bennett (as a Harvard forensics expert) has to team with police officer Montalban to try and crack the case. No one even tries to do the distinctive Boston accent, but that's old Hollywood for ya. Anyhow, of course they are a wacky duo who don't always get along, and the cop is someone who is direct and to the point but only a few times does he come across as rude. As I am a nerd, I enjoyed the forensics stuff and how despite it being decades ago, a lot could be determined just from looking at the victim's skeleton, and superimposing a skull onto faces of missing persons can make things a lot easier.

The plot is not trying to discover who the killer was... we see the killer as he does the killing. Rather, it's watching the leads try to crack the case as various characters get involved and you see Ricardo interview suspects, do an interrogation, and other investigative work. While you can probably guess how it ends early on in the film, it is still a solid-enough mystery where I could enjoy its noir photography (from John Alton, who lensed the Anthony Mann noir movies, for example), the colorful supporting characters, and how Ricardo was shown to be a cop that does make mistakes... even serious ones.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Killer Klowns From Outer Space

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

Runtime: 88 minutes

Directed by: Stephen Chiodo

Starring: Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson, John Vernon, Royal Dano

From: Chiodo Brothers Productions and Sarlui/Diamant

This is another rewatch of something I saw many years ago. It will be leaving Amazon Prime soon, so it seemed like the best time for a revisit. I enjoyed this, as I explained below:

As sometimes happens, I watch a movie soon before it either leaves a streaming service or it leaves Prime and it's not free any longer; the latter is the case with this motion picture (it won't be on Prime any longer after August 31, 2017), which I have seen before but this is another case where that last viewing was many years ago.

There isn't too much to say about the movie... it is extremely silly on purpose. On the surface, a film which "borrows" the plot from The Blob where giant aliens that look like clowns end up on Earth in a circus tent spaceship and they kidnap people & store them in cotton candy cocoons sounds stupid, but the movie is so goofy yet earnest, it's entertaining. Many of the tropes involving clowns/the circus are explored, and usually spoofed. I do have to give it props... the budget was clearly pretty low yet there are some nice matte paintings and there several sets which are well-done and colorful. While some of the acting isn't the best, John Vernon as the A-hole police chief Mooney is the best, as a pretty rotten cop who believes that suspects have zero rights.

For years, the filmmakers have been wanting to do a sequel and I hope it can happen one day, as I will presume there are enough fans of this cult classic where it'd be worthwhile. Depending on if you have coulrophobia (a fear of clowns) will determine if you find this scary or not... I say it's still fun and does accomplish exactly what it set out to do. As you have a theatrical version of It coming out soon and those clown sighting from last fall-which I presume will come back this fall because of It-it especially makes me wish a sequel to this could come out now.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Jurassic World Is Still A Bad Movie

I confirmed that last night. That is all.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Creature From Black Lake

Creature from Black Lake (1976)

Runtime: 91 minutes

Directed by: Joy N. Houck Jr.

Starring: Dennis Fimple, John David Carson, Jack Elam, Dub Taylor, Bill Thurman

From: Jim McCullough Productions

This is a random movie I stumbled upon last night and I had no idea it even existed before then. I explain how this film lensed by Dean Cundey (no, really) came to my attention and if it's any good below: 

Last night I was going to watch something else. My Blu-ray player has an Amazon app so I am able to stream movies that way. The app was on and in the recommendations section was this film, which I had never heard of before. The brief plot description stated that it was people looking for a Bigfoot-like creature in the Louisiana swamps, and that's what it was. Jack Elam and Dub Taylor were listed as the stars but they actually have supporting roles. Dennis Fimple and John David Carson were the college student leads, and even if they were both grad students and even if one of the characters fought in Vietnam, they are still the two oldest “college” kids I have ever seen.

I understand the plot is typical to the 70's Bigfoot genre; I can say for certain it's entirely predictable. The leads are from Chicago so naturally they stick out as city slickers in rural Louisiana, filled with what may be pejoratively described as “rednecks”. The residents of Oil City are unwilling to talk about “the creature” and the large old sheriff wishes they would leave. Taylor plays an old grandfather and Elam is a trapper who drinks moonshine out of a giant jug. Like I said, there are few surprises.

At least I can still say the movie is watchable, explaining my average rating. The two leads are goofy and yet they have their charm, so even if it goes long stretches without the creature showing up, you aren't bored to tears. As for Sasquatch, you never get a great look at him. It may be due to the Amazon Prime print of this being a VHS fullscreen rip, but the critter was always in the dark. At least for those that are familiar with the movie or like it enough from a previous viewing (as someone I know does), I was told that in the future, Synapse Films will release the movie on DVD and Blu-ray; at least that way it can be seen in its proper form. I am sure that would be better than any possible remake, as it'd probably be found footage and it could be condescending. Instead, the movie should remain in the 70's along with things like The Legend of Boggy Creek (it had to be a big inspiration for this) where its easygoing nature works best.

Ghost Dad

Ghost Dad (1990)

Runtime: 83 minutes

Directed by: Sidney Poitier

Starring: The Now Infamous Bill Cosby, Kimberly Russell (no relation), Denise Nicholas, Ian Bannen, Barry Corbin

From: Universal

Yes, I saw this movie last night... and it wasn't the first time I had watched this before. What a sordid tale I have to tell about this bad (and bizarre) movie; peep the details below:

My name is Blair Russell, and I once saw Ghost Dad theatrically. Yes, it is another film my mother took me to see along with my two younger sisters; I was a 9 year old when I saw this, probably the first days of July, 1990. Honestly, I don't have a great explanation as to WHY I got to see this on the big screen? .. was it my mom, was it my sisters... I dunno. I hope it wasn't me who wanted to watch the film! Truthfully, I did not remember a damn thing about the movie so it might as well have been me viewing it for the first time.

After the experience of this a second time... my mom may have been horrified at what she saw! I mean, aside from it not being good, this movie is very weird. It's not like I did not see odd things in the 80's on TV or in other movies. But it was rated PG so I imagine she wasn't expecting it to be so dark, let alone there being a joke about Cosby having erectile dysfunction-and yikes is that an uncomfortable moment now-the teen daughter being referred to as a “bitch” or Bobby Briggs from Twin Peaks (Dana Ashbrook) sticking his tongue out at the teen daughter in a cunnilingus manner. I will presume she did not like those moments or wanted us to see/hear them at that age.

The whole film, what a misguided mess it was, and like I said I had no memory of anything. It was quite the eye-opening experience realizing how strange this was. Cosby dies after a cab ride from hell from a bearded dude who worships Satan. A boy who was like 13 years old sees Ghost Dad not try to hide that he's a ghost, so the boy thinks that Dad is an alien (?!), but threatens blackmail... but Cosby threatens great bodily harm if he squeals, and that can't be the only time he's reacted that way to people threatening to expose secrets... I really did try to divorce myself from knowing what Old Bill was like in real life while watching this, but it was impossible to do so during that scene.

But back to the film; it's rather dark as you see a dysfunctional family deal with dad becoming Ghost Dad. It actually is depressing, as the mom died a few years ago and they are practically broke as dad spent a lot to try and save mom. All that goes along with lighthearted sight gags and like I said, GD sometimes doesn't try to hide him doing things when it's light out (as he can only be seen in the dark, and it takes a lot of effort just for him to interact physically) and there's the general absurdity of him trying to carry on as a living human being, including trying to finish an important deal at his job. It is so ill-judged; I imagine people don't want to track down these movies and I understand why, but in the 70's Sidney Poitier did fine behind the director's chair as he and Cosby did a few films together. This time he did not step in front of the camera also, but even if he did, this would not suddenly make this a good film. To think that Leonard Part 6 is even weirder and even worse.

Oh, and one last thing: this uses a song from a film popular among some film fans. It is not too surprising that this tune was used for The Warriors trailer, as the song fit the images and the soundtrack for the Walter Hill cult classic. Paramount was one of the companies behind Sorcerer, so that's how they were able to use the film's theme, Tangerine Dream's Betrayal. Well, Betrayal also appears in this film! Universal was the other company, so that explains it; you hear it during that aforementioned taxi ride from hell. I was shocked, then amused to see it be used in a scene involving plenty of stressful driving. It certainly beats the supporting character who is a guy named Edith... but it's pronounced "Ed-dith" and it is even less funny in the movie than it sounds from me describing it.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Lion King

The Lion King (1994)

Runtime: 88 minutes

Directed by: Roger Allers/Rob Minkoff

Starring: An all-star voice cast

From: Disney

Yes, I got to see this theatrically; some other Disney animated films (although mainly from the 21st century) will sometimes be shown at a few different AMC Theatres locations. Thankfully, this is something I can still rank really highly. I give the details below: 

Tuesday night I was at an AMC Theatres in Tampa and I saw two movies there in a row. The second was the new Korean movie The Battleship Island, and the first was The Lion King. Yes, some AMC locations are playing it this week. The rest of the year, those places will show older Disney movies... mainly from the 21st century. Back in 1994 as a 13 year old, my mom took me and my two younger sisters to see this. I know I watched it on VHS after the fact but the last viewing had to be at least 20 years ago.

Even now this movie is still popular, with there being a successful Broadway play based on the film being a raging success. The crowd at this screening wasn't large and I wish the parents would have done a better job of parenting their children, but I was still able to focus on what is a great movie. Everyone should know the story by now... and not just because it was obviously inspired by Hamlet and possibly was inspired by the Japanese anime Kimba the White Lion. It is an enjoyable tale which works both for kids and adults; I am glad it was not cloying or obnoxious for the adults. I avoid most of the kids movies made in recent years but I understand I would likely find them to be pretty putrid. This movie even managed to do burping and farting jokes well; it has come to my attention that those aforementioned kids movies commonly have such jokes and they aren't done with any skill whatsoever. In addition, it also has nice messages for the kids.

Aside from the story and the gorgeous traditional animation and the quality songs from Tim Rice & Elton John, I also appreciate Scar for being such a villainous lion, a schemer who is totally amoral. Jeremy Irons was an excellent choice to voice such a character. I am glad I got to see this again, and in a big way. I was reminded of how Disney Animation experienced a renaissance and they made those critical and public darlings, before that changed. To be honest, I look at things like Frozen, and that doesn't look appealing to me. At least people actually watched them, unlike Atlantis: The Lost Empire or Treasure Planet. I think their negative impact on Pixar is more objectionable but that is another topic for another time, as is how this movie is getting a live-action remake which I know will be a giant box office hit but I will presume it will totally be pointless.At least this movie will always be around for people to watch and love.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Battleship Island

The Battleship Island (2017)

Runtime: 132 minutes

Directed by: Ryoo Seung-Wan

Starring: Hwang Jung-Min, So Ji-Sub, Song Joong-Ki, Lee Jung-Hyun, Kim Su-An

From: Filmmaker R&K

After way too long, I finally saw a Korean movie... and I got to see this theatrically. I talk about it below: 

Yesterday, I made a day trip to Tampa. It was not the only thing I did, but the main event was seeing a pair of movies at an AMC Theatres; I'll review the other one tomorrow. I figured that if I had the chance to see a South Korean film on the big screen, I should take that chance. It's pretty rare one comes down here that I think I'll enjoy and don't have reservations about, which is why I did not seek out The Handmaiden. The last one for me was last August with the great Train to Busan, which unfortunately had two awful audience members that I actually would have confronted after the movie if they wouldn't have bolted out of there... and I am not a confrontational person at all. I wish people by them would have told the two to shut their cakeholes, but thankfully the crowd at this screening was much better, although there weren't many people around. More on the audience later, as they do play a part in how I rate this.

I am not surprised this has a mixed reaction here and elsewhere. Me, I can rate it highly despite some uneven moments. It's in 1945, where Japan has occupied Korea, and various Koreans are forced to work in a coal mine on Hashima Island, which is best known now for movie fans as the location where Raoul Silva lived in Skyfall. Then, Japan used forced labor, and knowing this was a Korean movie there was a chance this would be a punishing sit as it could show just how brutal it was to be there. Thankfully I did not think it was a grueling experience, although the Japanese are shown doing some horrible things and there are plenty of graphic moments. There is carnage seen-how much of it, I dare not say-and when it happens, I was glad I could see this theatrically. There also is the usage of 40's jazz... some of the people we follow are musicians in a band, so sometimes you hear that genre of music.

It's a typical modern Korean movie, including there being a character known as “crying child.” The world is brought to life pretty well, whether you were down in the coal mines or living in squalor above ground. I am biased towards movies from this country, but I will note that the movie worked for the audience. Most of the people at my screening were Korean, and whether it was nationalistic pride over seeing their countrymen doing battle with the enemy and/or what happened in the final 10 minutes, I heard some of them become obviously emotional. I know the experience of watching this at home won't be quite the same for me or anyone reading this-I am glad I got to watch it in a big way and hopefully I'll have more opportunities to watch Korean movies theatrically.