December 31, 2011

The Invasion (2007)

Despite my distaste for Nicole Kidman and her plastic face, my desire to see The Invasion, the remake of two previous classic body snatcher films, was very high. There are slight differences to the story that does not detract and the first two thirds of the film was involving. But the last third contained action sequences that came out of nowhere and had a tacked on happy ending that snatched the whole movie-going experience from my body.

December 14, 2011

The Screaming Woman (1972)

Olivia de Havilland earned her creepy-sweet chops before The Screaming Woman, a 1972 ABC Movie of the Week film presentation, but for this creepy-sweet performance she winningly recalls her 1948 Oscar winning role in The Snake Pit as a woman just released from an institution who hears the voice of another women buried under a foundation on her property. The script, loosely based on a Ray Bradbury story, is not a mystery as we are witness to all the comings and goings but there are some genuinely thrilling moments and frightening shots - and de Havilland can scream with the best of them. They really don't make television movies like this anymore so it would behoove you to check it out on my YouTube channel.

Visit for more info on The Screaming Woman

* The Screaming Woman is considered in the public domain.

December 11, 2011

The Well (1951)

The Well is an uncompromising, racially charged drama that pits white against black amidst the investigation into the disappearance of a black female child. Although the idiocy of the white racist characters comes off the worst, the film does not pander by putting the black characters on a pedestal. Yes, this story has been done before (life imitated art a little over a decade ago) but The Well still never ceases to make me well up - with anger and with joy.

Click the poster to read more on The Well

December 3, 2011

Garbo Talks (1984)

The legacy of Greta Garbo is such that the only time Garbo Talks (a movie that uses her appearance on screen as a denouement) comes alive is when Garbo herself is on screen - and she is silently portrayed by an actress! The movie itself is a pastiche of events in the life of a guy as he runs around New York City trying to find the legendary recluse for a visit with his dying mother (Anne Bancroft in an over-the-top performance as a Jewish mother that was almost distasteful). The film's creators ladled on the quirk factor while sprinkling emotion only slightly in this one.

November 17, 2011

The Thaw (2009)

The Thaw is surprisingly creepy with bugs crawling out of people's skin, hypodermic needles and hatchet amputations. It's also an involving treatise on global warming offering a good and plausible story. It's also really creepy.

November 13, 2011

Berserk! (1967)

A 64 year old Joan Crawford boards a hunky, 30 years young Ty Hardin in Berserk!, a murder mystery set in the world of a British circus troupe. Crawford looks phenomenal (as does Mr. Hardin) and there are some good supporting players (including a To Sir With Love-era Judy Geeson) that add to the camp value initiated by the lines that Crawford delivers. Circus fans might like the extended scenes (filmed in 1967) of real circus elephant and dog acts through which I fast forwarded.

Check out this
more informative review of Berserk! on Black Hole.

November 10, 2011

The Children's Hour (1961)

The Children's Hour is Lillian Hellman's heart-breaking tale of two women and the gossip that destroys them. Audrey Hepburn and (especially) Shirley MacLaine are mesmerizing as the women and Miriam Hopkins turns the table by appearing as the gossipmonger (as opposed to the Shirley MacLaine role she played in the first filmization, These Three in 1936). Kudos to all involved for keeping the gossip as it was written.

November 8, 2011

Arizona (1940)

I'm not a fan of westerns but Arizona is a a high-falutin', scootin', rootin', tootin shoot 'em up with an involving plot about civilizing the Tucson territory and two excellent performances by Jean Arthur and her very young (1940!) and very handsome love interest, William Holden. The black and white photography (shot on desert locations) is stunning and the action scenes (including wagon train attacks and a cattle stampede) are thrilling. And the lead character (Phoebe Titus as portrayed by Ms. Arthur) who uses her wits to build her businesses (and the territory) surely makes this the first post-modern feminist western - years before Johnny Guitar.

Download this out-of-print movie
with the instructions provided here;
the content was not uploaded by me.

October 14, 2011

Play Time (1967)

Had Robert Altman decided to make a cinematic ballet it might feel a lot like Jacques Tati's 1967 film, Playtime. The barest outline of a story follows Tati as Monseiur Hulot through his day in Paris, meeting friends and strangers with barely audible words, and ending at a raucous jazz club party. The lack of a compelling narrative might bore some but I found the film fascinating to watch and now see where Mad Men got it's signature look.

October 10, 2011

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (2011)

Had I known that James Franco played a scientist rather than an ape (à la Roddy MacDowell) in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes I would not have rushed to the cheap movie theatre to see it. Had I known that the only apes I would see were created with computers but with no genitals, I would have passed on the 3:10 showing. But I didn't know; I didn't know.

October 5, 2011

Trilogy of Terror (1975)

The 70's brought us many scary 72 minute (sans commercials) ABC Movie Of The Week films but none have maintained such a high profile as Trilogy of Terror starring Karen Black and a horrifying African doll. The first two stories (Julie and Millicent and Therese) are involving with good acting by Ms. Black but Amelia, the third in the trilogy, is truly terrifying. I can still here the sound that little freakin' doll makes as I write this review.

October 3, 2011

EdgePlay: A Film About The Runaways (2004)

Edgeplay: A Film About The Runaways is a fascinating documentary on The Runaways (produced and directed by former member Victory Tischler-Blue) made even more fascinating by Joan Jett's refusal to appear, or to allow her songs to be used. Sandy West's final scene in the film is a heart-breaking tale of her post-Runaways life; filmed a couple of years before her death from cancer, it seems this musical portion of her life was its nadir. Lita Ford, Cherie Currie and Kim Fowley are all here and tell a worthwhile tale of excessive rock and roll in big bad Los Angeles of the 70s.

October 1, 2011

Dead Set (2008)

You don't have to know the reality show Big Brother (or be British) to relish the five hour E4 television series Dead Set. It's a comedic (but not too comedic) and horrifying (blood and guts...yum!) take on the zombie apocalypse that rivets you to the tube. Watch it right now...for; I'm not kidding.

September 28, 2011

Flower Drum Song (1961)

Flower Drum Song is lesser Rodgers and Hammerstein - way lesser. The story is dated and dull (as is lead Miyoshi Umeki) and the music is only somewhat memorable. This is supposedly the least grossing Rodgers and Hammerstein film and deserves that reputation.

September 25, 2011

Orphan (2009)

Orphan needed a script parent to reel in some of the trite and ridiculous plot points but taut direction by Jaume Collet-Serra did keep me entertained and wondering how it would all play itself out. Vera Farmiga and most especially Isabelle Fuhrman are exceptional as the mother and titular child she and husband Peter Sarsgaard adopt; in fact, Fuhrman is so good she should have been rewarded with an Oscar nod. The ending is a tense-fest (with a classic line to end it all) but, when all is said and done, it seems more a lost opportunity than a good film.

September 23, 2011

Hello, Dolly! (1969)

Yes, she's too young, too pretty and too Jewish for the role Carol Channing performed but Barbra Streisand made the titular matchmaker her own using a timeless, pseudo-Mae West characterization and her trademark humor in this film version of Jerry Herman's Broadway hit Hello, Dolly! Yes, the production is overblown and the film is long (like these three lines) but the story moves along at a horse's clip, Walter Matthau shines (working up some chemistry with Streisand despite their reported dislike for each other), and the classic songs (including Just Leave Everything To Me, Before The Parade Passes By, Put On Your Sunday Clothes, and Hello Dolly - sung by Streisand with Louis Armstrong) are so catchy you'll be humming along even if you've never heard them before. So no, it's not a bad movie (although you might want to stay away if you're not a Streisand fan) and, contrary to popular belief, it brought in more money than the $26,000,000 it cost 20th Century Fox to make it.

June 25, 2011

Devil (2010)

I woke up at 1:30 AM with insomnia and clicked on the TV to find Devil, a film produced and based on a story, but not directed, by M. Night Shyamalan. Despite an interesting beginning this one won't bring him back to the fold (so to speak) but that said, once the movie ended and the bedroom was dark again, I swear every creak was whispering Beelzebub (a word NOT used in the movie). I couldn't tell if it was the movie or the time of night so I'll let you decide.

June 21, 2011

When Time Ran Out (1980)

When Time Ran Out was supposed to be the cherry on the 70s disaster film cake of Irwin Allen - despite its release in 1980. That date was a harbinger for this leaden volcano-explodes-and-people-escape-lava epic, which has a mixed bag of well paid actors (William Holden, Jacqueline Bisset, Edward Albert, Red Buttons, Valentina Cortese, Veronica Hamel, Alex Karras and Allen's wife, Sheila) running away from lava that, as pointed out early in the story, ...moves slowly enough to give us time so don't rush. The pacing never picks up so I would be remiss to not note the most interesting thing about this movie: actor Paul Newman used his salary to bankroll Newman's Own, a self-sustaining business which continues to contribute millions of dollars to charity even after his death.

June 19, 2011

Super 8 (2011)

Super 8 is the best Steven Speilberg movie ever made made by J.J. Abrams. Without going into detail, consider it a dark E.T. with all the humor and sweetness in tact. The acting (including Elle Fanning, Ron Eldard, Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler and Gabriel Basso - the latter also of The Big C for fans of that particular series) is superb, the effects spectacular and the soundtrack of late 70s tunes keeps you bopping. Take your best bell bottoms and feathered hair to the one BIG screen left in your town (the only screen on which to see this one) and DON'T leave before the credits begin.

June 18, 2011

Zuckerbaby (1985)

Zuckerbaby (Sugarbaby) is a slight, quiet story about over-the-top persistence and determination. Directed and written by Percy Adlon (before his English language breakout Bagdad Cafe (Out of Rosenheim), the film is quirky, hot and appealing despite a color scheme and roving camera work which might seem annoying or pretentious to some. I, though, went with it and was gleefully rewarded especially by Marianne Sägebrecht (also in Bagdad Cafe) who breaks all taboos with a raw and honest performance as the overweight mortician's assistant who decides to woo the slim, blond subway conductor (Eisi Gulp).

This film is not available on DVD but I have an AVI file if interested.

June 16, 2011

Sons of Perdition (2010)

The only outcome of religious fundamentalism is control of the masses and Sons of Perdition, a documentary about teens who will not be controlled, is an interesting watch. It illustrates the true horror behind the fictitious Big Love compound and the patriarchal rule behind the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It's not the most absorbing film but my heart goes out to these sons (and daughters) trying to make for themselves a better life.

June 15, 2011

Hostel: Part II (2007)

Part one (the beginning) of Hostel: Part II is mundane while part two, at least, brings a few surprises to the denouement. I liked seeing Heather Matarazzo in a horror film as well as Bijou Phillips, Roger Bart (of Broadway and The Midnight Meat Train) and Jordan Ladd (in a small yet non-pivotal role) but ultimately, the whole thing seemed like it was done before; like in part 1. Watch it while folding laundry as it doesn't really demand your full attention to get what's going on.

June 13, 2011

For The Boys (1991)

Bette Midler might be playing Bette Midler in For The Boys, the fictional story of USO entertainers Dixie Leonard and Eddie Sparks, but she nails it (as the former) and deservedly received an Academy Award nomination for her work. She sounds great in the many enjoyable musical sequences that pepper the story (using standards covering the film's fifty year span) and is supported by a fine cast (including James Caan as Sparks, George Segal, Melissa Manchester, Patrick O'Neal, Norman Fell and Dori Brenner). The movie is long and the make-up used to age the two stars is not the most realistic but I did find it to be absorbing and more than the sum of these parts.

June 11, 2011

Bridesmaids (2011)

Bridesmaids is laugh-out-loud funny, down-in-the-(literal)-gutter raunchy and sweet as a wedding cake. It's quite the combination put together by co-writer/lead Kristen Wiig with tremendous help from Maya Rudolph (who is always always phenomenal), Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper and Jill Clayburgh (in her last film appearance). There's more depth here than one might guess from the trailer and it all works beautifully together.

June 8, 2011

MacGruber (2010)

I decided to watch MacGruber for one reason: Kristen Wiig. Wiig is fun to watch and here she took a slight characterization and made it her own. Whenever she was off-screen though I sat stone-faced and wondered how a movie can be so humorless, and its implication that gay sex was a punishment was just distasteful.

June 7, 2011

The Group (1966)

It's easy to see how The Group was controversial in its day (touching on domestic violence, suicide, insanity and lesbianism) but it has not aged well. The group of college chums (portrayed by a stellar cast of Candice Bergen, Joan Hackett, Elizabeth Hartman, Shirley Knight, Joanna Pettet and Jessica Walter) are a bunch of idiot women, despite their educations, for whom I felt no affinity. And I've seen much better films by director Sidney Lumet.

June 6, 2011

Låt den rätte komma in (2008)

The Swedish film Låt den rätte komma in (Let The Right One In) tells what might happen to Bella and Edward (of Twilight fame) if their vampiric roles were reversed and they were about five years younger. Unlike that film though, Tomas Alfredson has directed a dark, fascinating story (set in 1982 Sweden) with incredible acting from the two preteen leads, Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson. It's not a fast-moving (or particularly bloody) horror film but it grabs you with its sympathetic characters, compelling cinematography, and the surprise inclusion of Försonade, a 1968 recording from future ABBA member, Agnetha Fältskog.

June 5, 2011

The Birds (1963)

There are so many incredibly composed and terrifying images in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds that it makes you wonder, if he could pull this off fifty years ago - why do today's filmmakers need computers for films far less memorable? The famed auteur (who can be seen in the film's first scene walking two dogs) has assembled a first-rate cast (Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, Veronica Cartwright) that brings to life this tense story of birds attacking a small Northern California town with old school effects, no music and no ending (sic). This is a scary film (you can feel the birds as they are shown pecking at each victim) - one of Hitchcock's best and with his legacy that's saying a lot.

June 3, 2011

Mr. Deeds (2002)

Any charm that Mr. Deeds musters is directly related to the Frank Capra original Mr. Deeds Goes To Town. Although both earn their pay by acting, Adam Sandler is no Gary Cooper and Winona Ryder is no Jean Arthur. Do yourself a favor and watch the 1936 classic instead; you'll be pixilated.

June 1, 2011

The Descent: Part 2 (2009)

Neil Marshall was the executive producer on The Descent: Part 2 which (like this review) picks up right after The Descent (depending on which of the two endings you saw). Although this story about the rescuers who enter the cave system to find the original spelunkers often strains credulity and mires in some broad characterizations, it is still claustrophobic and pretty scary. Krysten Cummings and Anna Skellern (new to the story) deserve special recognition for outstanding acting but anymore information than that would ruin the unexpected.

May 31, 2011

The Descent (2005)

In The Descent, six women go spelunking in an uncharted cave system and find physical (and emotional) horrors heretofore unknown. The story is first rate and the six actresses (Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder, MyAnna Buring and Nora Jane Noone) are bad-ass. Director Neil Marshall has created a bloody and claustrophobic (really claustrophobic) exercise in terror that never lets up.

May 30, 2011

Mayor of the Sunset Strip (2004)

Mayor of the Sunset Strip is a sad documentary. Despite the fascinating life he has lived, Rodney Bingenheimer reveals through his filmed interactions that although he has been to paradise, he has never been to me (quoting singer Charlene). When you learn of the amount of people this unsung hero of the music industry has helped and touched, it hurts that no one has really done the same for him...until this movie...which showcases how sad he seemingly is.

April 6, 2011

The Bad Seed (1956)

Thematically, The Bad Seed is the antithesis of an American film from the 50s as it asks us to ponder whether a blonde, white child with pigtails can commit murder? Quaint as the story is, there are a few unforeseen twists that keep everything moving along. The play from which this film was adapted is broad - characters, story, performances (Eileen Heckart, Patty McCormack and Nancy Kelly all Tony AND Oscar-nominated) and even an ending tagged on to the film because of the Production Code is broad - but for historical reasons, that's a good thing.

March 24, 2011

A Wedding (1978)

A Wedding displays lesser quality Robert Altman as the camera meanders through the titular ceremony and dinner while contrived and uninteresting situations happen to all involved - typical Altman minus the contrived and uninteresting. It's not as absorbing as Nashville or as funny as M.A.S.H. but the large and evolving cast did catch my eye with Carol Burnett, Vittorio Gassman, Geraldine Chaplin, Dina Merrill, Lillian Gish (luminescent even as a corpse), Pat McCormick and Mia Farrow standing out. But if you're not a real fan of bland familial scenes and happenstance, best be moving along.

March 19, 2011

Inception (2010)

Complication does not equal sophistication in Christopher Nolan's way-overrated dream film, Inception. Nolan changes his own rules to propel the story forward without regard to the laws of physics or the intelligence of the viewer. Some good effects wrap this one in the idea of smarts without the actual work to get them.

March 18, 2011

Soylent Green (1973)

Soylent Green is the final film in the Last Man Standing science fiction trilogy that Charlton Heston made in the late 60s/early 70s and it manages to be creepily interesting despite his presence. The movie takes place in 2022 (via 1973), it's tense, has an edgy story, and some far out scenes (including the scooper and Edward G. Robinson's final scene). Once you've seen it, you'll never EVER forget what Soylent Green is.