Thursday, April 26, 2018

Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans

Runtime: 94 minutes

Directed by: F.W. Murnau

Starring: George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston, Bodil Rosing, J. Farrell MacDonald

From: What later became 20th Century Fox

For awhile now I've known this to have received an incredible amount of hype among hardcore films fans; after last night, I saw that it was warranted: 

It was about time I watched another silent, so why not see one that is said to be among the best silents ever made? I now can confirm it is pretty great. The melodramatic story has themes as old as time itself but it's presented in an expert manner.

Things aren't much more complicated than a love triangle where a metropolitan woman from the city has an affair with a married farmer (he has a wife and a young son) out in a rural area and the mistress wants her lover to murder his wife. The rest of the film is his decision whether or not to do so, and the ramifications. It sounds basic and the plot isn't too terribly complex as presented, yet it's always riveting due to how the story is presented.

Around these parts I am sure I don't need to explain F.W. Murnau's credentials or why he's so highly revered even today. He brought his German Expressionist style to Hollywood in what was his first American picture; he was given carte blanche to make whatever he wanted by the studio that was to become 20th Century Fox, and the style he had honed over the years was used here to bring this fable to life. I won't spoil much of what was shown-and if you are familiar with Murnau you have some sort of idea anyhow as to the sorts of images that are here-but there is a tremendous tracking shot that is still impressive today; back in '27 it must have been mind-blowing. Visually, the movie is absolutely dazzling, with various tricks used to create a distinctive look throughout, not to mention all the flourishes that pop up.

There are few intertitles shown; the movie and how it was shot expresses the plot perfectly with only a few cards to explain things or note what someone is saying. As I sometimes say, this is another one of those movies better seen than described; all the hype it's gotten over the decades as a masterpiece worthy of viewing: that is indeed true.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Best Of Cinerama

Best of Cinerama (1963)

Runtime: 143 minutes

This is not only a documentary but it's a best-of featuring clips from the previous Cinerama non-fiction movies.

From: Cinerama Productions Corporation

This was something different that I am glad I got to watch last night as a breath of fresh air: 

A few months ago Flicker Alley put up a Cinerama release for streaming on Amazon; that was Cinerama's Russian Adventure, which was something I did enjoy as a film involving various sights & sounds of The Soviet Union on a simulated curved screen was pretty rad to me. Even if the offerings they put up on the streaming services are in mono instead of 5.1 DTS like it is on disc... just recently they put up this film for streaming; it was clips from the five previous productions done by Cinerama Productions Corporation.

Among the footage you get to see is: being on a rollercoaster, skiing down a hill, riding on a bobsleigh, various locations in Europe, seeing Pope Pius XII, a bullfighting ring in Spain (no, you don't see any of the bulls get killed or even struck by knives; it cuts away before any of that is shown), footage from what was Cypress Gardens in Florida, a train in Darjeeling that wasn't The Darjeeling Limited, a New Orleans brass band, and much more--along the way are cheesy obviously phony storylines; thankfully those only occasionally happen and they are pretty silly. The very end is pretty serious as various locations associated w/ Jesus Christ are seen from the perspective of a low-flying airplane.

There is some goofiness present and there's a condescending moment or two; in addition I haven't seen this footage in context to the original films they were a part of... yet I can still give this a nice rating. Plenty of pretty scenery from literally around the world is displayed and you also get to see not only the Vienna Boys Choir sing a song but a bit from the opera Aira is shown and heard. I can comprehend how in a production that lasts almost 2 ½ hours and is leisurely paced, some may think there were lulls; in contrast, I was always captivated by the wide variety of images I got to witness.

I did not even have to imagine what it must have been like for people back in the 50's and 60's to experience this movies in a world which was filled with mono sound and black & white TV's to be awed by these productions, but I am happy Flicker Alley restores and releases these curios.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Enforcer

The Enforcer (1976)

Runtime: 96 minutes

Directed by: James Fargo

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Tyne Daly, Harry Guardino, Bradford Dillman, John Mitchum

From: Warner Bros.

This movie isn't bad yet there are better options if you want to see a Dirty Harry flick: 

Last July I rewatched Magnum Force, so it's been more than enough time for me to continue my revisiting of the Dirty Harry franchise. This has never been my favorite in the franchise and I'll explain why that's the case.

It starts off fine: what proves to be the villains do their first killings. They are Vietnam vets who dress like dirty hippies and they want a lot of money; that's pretty much it... you don't really get to know these cats or even spend a lot of time with them. The Scorpio Killer or a band of rogue vigilante cops, they ain't in terms of being memorable or even worthy of being followed closely. Dirty Harry also gets a nice introduction, going OTT in stopping a robbery. Amazingly, the police don't condone their officers driving into buildings as it's not only dangerous but they have to foot the bill in repairs.

The biggest plot point: both the movie and Harry are against affirmative action. Just mentioning such things I know could bring up controversy but that is clear to me when they had the “wackiness” of Inspector Callahan not only team up with a woman, but one who only got the position to meet a new quota and have diversity be seen by the public. Sure, that lady (played by Tyne Daly) has been a cop for years but it was a desk job and Harry's fears of having a partner who is woefully inexperienced is a valid argument. Of course at first she's not good in her new role and their professional relationship is not convivial at first... only for her performance and Harry's opinion of her to improve, but the movie seems to give off a certain measure about such things, and considering the ending I say THAT is a valid argument in of itself.

As I heard various people say here and elsewhere, the film is shot like a TV movie and visually, it definitely is not as dynamic like the first two even if there are a few crane shots throughout. Yet for me there was enough to where I can still say this is good. The Dirty Harry character and Eastwood's charm helps out a lot. There are moments that at least amused me, such as one guy getting shot in the balls, a few minutes spent in a massage parlor, a few quality one-liners are delivered, one scene has a sweet 70's van, and if you ever wanted to hear Clint be called “honky” and “whitey”, there's a black militant subplot-which was little more than a red herring. But the films in the series before this were better and I recall the ones after this were more memorable.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III

Runtime: The much-preferable unrated cut is 85 minutes long and that's what I saw

Directed by: Jeff Burr

Starring: Kate Hodge, Ken Foree, R.A. Mihailoff, William Butler, Viggo Mortensen (lol)

From: New Line Cinema

I know not many people enjoy this movie; maybe they'd like it more if they saw the unrated cut...

NOTE: The version I am reviewing here is the unrated cut as featured on the Warner Archive Blu that came out just earlier this year. I wish that was the one that could easily be accessed via streaming except the R-rated cut that is on sites like Amazon Video.

This was the second of two movies I saw yesterday, also the third movie in a horror franchise. The original TCM (besides being the film which resulted in my most popular review) is still a classic and TCM 2 took time for me to warm up to as it is rather bonkers and out there. Many people don't care for this entry and I feel awful the MPAA massacred it so it was rather neutered for an R-rated picture. My never hating this movie has nothing to do with how the rest of the entries in this franchise after this was released have been utter disasters for the most part.

I understand those that don't like this, as it isn't a classic and it isn't zany fun like the second, not to mention the first two are more memorable. This seems to ignore everything that happens in 2. The lead couple here are arguing fools and some of the dialogue is groan-inducing. Even in unrated form it isn't too terribly gory. Yet I don't think this movie is bad. It's an easy watch and none of the characters are so annoying that it's a turn-off. Viggo Mortensen having a supporting role is funny in hindsight but the true highlight was Ken Foree, both his skills as an actor and the role he played, a survivalist who has a glorious scene near the end... at least if you're viewing the unrated cut. I hope the majority of people who have watched and reviewed this have seen that version and reviewed that.

The ending is baffling, yet in a hilarious way-it reminded me of an alternate version of a movie that everyone hates, but I won't name here-and that in fact was the dreaded “studio interference.” I'll say that's part of the film's charm, along with the few moments of dark humor. I'll say this is fine as a horror film as there are some pretty intense scenes. The Blu's picture and sound are really good, which is nice as there are plenty of scenes set and filmed outdoors at night. The extras look to be ports from the original DVD release-which also has the R-rated version that the Blu doesn't have-yet I am glad I made this purchase.

Omen III: The Final Conflict

Runtime: 108 minutes

Directed by: Graham Baker

Starring: Sam Neill, Rossano Brazzi, Don Gordon, Lisa Harrow, Barnaby Holm

From: 20th Century Fox

As I saw Damien: Omen II on Saturday night, I figured this should be the one of the two horror movies I watched yesterday. This isn't as good as the first two but at least it's a different sort of story and there were some shocking moments, even if the movie wasn't as epic as you'd expect from an adult Damien Thorn (Sam Neill! That and the also in 1981 Possession was his first major roles) doing battle against not only a secret sect of priests wishing to kill The Antichrist but also the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

I am amused that they paid no care to the timeline and there had to be a retcon that the first two took place in decades past, as this was set in the early 80's; it'd have been more amusing to see them try to figure out what the 2000's would have been from 80's eyes. Anyhow, Damien is a successful philanthropist and via dealing with the President, becomes the Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Between the talk of recessions, high-ranking politicians doing backroom deals and some people in real life thinking it ironic that The Antichrist is hanging out in The White House (insert your own jokes if you wish) and some parts of this are kind of creepy in 2018.

The movie's story does not finish on a high note and one major aspect seems like a major cop-out; plus, the ending itself was on the goofy side and was underwhelming, if I have to be blunt here. It's a shame-yet overall I can still say this is average. Having Neill as the lead definitely was an asset, and the character definitely does some evil things; his (or rather, its) solution to trying and find the infant that is Jesus Christ reborn is logical but wow... the movie is watchable even if it isn't something you want to scrutinize too closely when it comes to the plot being realistic or making much sense.

Not all the deaths in this are wacky over the top gold like in the last film but some are, and those kills made me laugh as they were over the top... although, not as over the top as Damien's rants against Jesus, or as he liked to call him, “Nazarene”. Much to my delight, he even had a sex scene; I only say that as the end of the last film strongly implied that Damien's ever-increasing powers meant that he became “more desirable to the chicks”, as in one scene he has a girl on each arm as he walks into a room, then like a true playa he talks to those two and also several other girls. Not surprisingly his sexual habits are not too dissimilar to Christian Grey...

While this is definitely flawed, I did not think this was heinously bad so I can give an average rating.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Damien: Omen II

Damien: Omen II (1978)

Runtime: 106 minutes

Directed by: Don Taylor/Mike Hodges

Starring: William Holden, Lee Grant, Jonathan Scott-Taylor, Robert Foxworth, Nicholas Pryor

From: 20th Century Fox

This is a film that by horror movie sequel standards, is perhaps great. By the usual standard, it is not bad: 

I only saw one movie yesterday but I figured it was time for me to see the first sequel to a film that is one of the better horror flicks of the 70's. This isn't as good as that movie and in fact is on the preposterous side, yet manages to provide enough entertainment where I can give this a decent rating. The fact that this was a huge inspiration for the Final Destination franchise played a part in my enjoyment.

William Holden and Lee Grant provided the star power that Gregory Peck and Lee Remick did in the first time; they are the uncle and aunt of Damien Thorn; after the original's ending, Damien goes to live with them and he lives a privileged life. He and his cousin go to a military school. Meanwhile, Thorn Industries dabbles in many things, including improved agriculture techniques; one key person in power wishes to buy land across the world so they can make a profit by planting those crops in areas experiencing the worst famine. That subplot does not mean too much in the end but the entire scenario sounds sadly entirely believable in the world we currently live in.

The movie's story is not the best and many things about this pales in comparison to the original: the plot, the suspense, the terror, etc. Yet it is always watchable and by the standards of horror movie sequels, I can't really complain. The performance by Jonathan Scott-Taylor (Damien) was fine. What a variety of people in this film: the great Lance Henriksen, Lew Ayres, Silvia Sidney, and Meshach Taylor all in the same film. Plus, Jerry Goldsmith delivered as much of a bombastic film score as he did in the original, except that this had more electronic sounds; otherwise there's plenty of choir chanting you get to hear.

The most memorable aspect: the deaths you get to see in the film. For those that love the Final Destination franchise, you'll also love some of the kills you get to see here, as a few are rather elaborate and over the top. One involves a raven & a giant vehicle; another has Taylor in his place of employment that is especially ludicrous and it about made me howl with laughter but it was certainly something I'll never forget. Such moments helped make this movie tolerable despite the various story flaws.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

An Update

The past day or two I've been suffering from a malaise so I haven't watched any films; just a random short that I talked about on Letterboxd. However, I feel better now so the next few days, the plan is to see at least one film a day.