Monday, March 26, 2012

Fool's Views (3/12 – 3/18)



Back again, my friends. Crankin’ ‘em out, crankin’ ‘em out…

The Netflix gods smiled on me this week, as did the Chicago public library, and it is to them that I raise my figurative hat. I had discovered an array of older horror features that had somehow been overlooked in my travels on the Little Red Website, and was enjoying a pleasant nostalgic float down the black and white river (when I wasn’t deep in the shooting of pal Jason Coffman’s short film TAPE, that is. http://vimeo.com/38677838)

It was right about then that I got the call from Nathan Hanneman, editor of HorrorHound magazine and the brains behind their HorrorHound Weekend conventions, that I would be hosting several of the Q&A panels in Columbus the weekend of March 23-25, including the one featuring headliner Pam Grier. Needless to say, my priorities got switched in a hurry, and the Views changed gears from forgotten horrors to a deep dive into the blaxploitation pool. See me complaining? No, you don’t.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

HORROR:

BLACULA IS BEAUTIFUL:
Blacula (1972)
(3rd viewing) d. Crain, William
What could have been a truly terrible notion (see Blackenstein for evidence thereof) turns out to be a relatively solid and fun fright flick, thanks primarily to William Marshall’s dignified turn as an African price cursed with the Transylvanian bite. Played straight and well paced, it kicked off a whole wave of blaxploitation horror and still holds up 40 years later as a tongue-in-fanged-cheek delight.

Scream Blacula Scream (1973) (2nd viewing) d. Kelljan, Bob
The huge success of Blacula led to its inevitable sequel, one that acquits itself quite nicely as a follow-up to its well-received predecessor. Marshall is revived courtesy of a voodoo spell, but finding eternity too unbearable without his lady love, he seeks out priestess Pam Grier to exorcise his damned spirit from his vampiric frame. Campier and sillier, but still enjoyable. Directed by Count Yorga’s Kelljan.




FORGOTTEN VAMPS AND WERE...CATS:

Catman of Paris, The (1946)
(1st viewing) d. Selander, Lesley
To put the state of the genre in context, Universal was a breath away from handing over the horror reins to the likes of Abbott and Costello when Republic trotted out this tired variation on the lycanthrope theme. There’s a tasty touch of red herring flavoring the hairy proceedings concerning the curious case of notorious novelist Carl Esmond and the fact that people all around him keep succumbing to violent, animal-like attacks (that it’s only 65 minutes helps too), but there’s a reason it flew under the Doc’s radar this long.



Vampire, The (1957) (1st viewing) d. Landres, Paul
The Gramercy Pictures marketing team must have been snoozing when this mad scientist programmer slid past their desk. While small town doc John Beal does develop a blood-junkie condition when he mistakenly ingests an experimental drug (distilled from vampire bat DNA no less), his transformation into a puffy-faced Hyde-like creature must have confounded the crowds of monster kids expecting a dose of capes and fangs. As it stands, it’s still an engaging tale (Landres and writer Pat Fielder would continue their deconstruction of the myth in the following year’s Return of Dracula) with some daring low-budget tracking shots and an especially enjoyable performance by character actor Dabbs Greer.



Vampire's Ghost, The (1945) (1st viewing) d. Selander, Lesley
A puzzling title for a not-bad programmer, following an African expedition led by – you guessed it – a financier who just happens to be a vampire. He nibbles a couple people here, hypnotizes others there, baffles voodoo attacks, but eventually falls to the forces of good. All in under an hour. Huzzah!



Return of Dracula, The (1958) (1st viewing) d. Landres, Paul
Landres and writer Fielder kept the capes in place this time around, and all for the better in this Fool’s opinion, reviving the big bad Drac (Francis Lederer) who poses as a Smalltown, USA family’s visiting European cousin. Swept up by his exotic manner, budding young teen Norma Eberhardt easily falls under his spell and it’s up to John Wengraf’s Transylvanian cop to save the girl, the town and the day. Enjoyable black and white fare.




CIVILIAN:

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)
(1st viewing) d. Gibney, Alex
Oh, man. This one kinda blew my mind, listening to the story of how many people were involved in the grand Wall Street scheme and how easily heads were turned, eyes shut and ears closed by the sweet, sweet smell of all that is green. Wanna see where your 401k went 10 years ago? Here’s the answer, untangled by Gibney & Co. in a very watchable way.

Enter the Dragon (1973) (5th viewing) d. Clouse, Robert
A very special Fool's View Haiku for Bruce:

Died before release
Film made him legendary
Hardly knew ye, Lee

House Bunny, The (2008) (1st viewing) d. Wolf, Fred
Gorgeous Anna Faris is amazing in that she’s so damn funny that you almost forget just what a smokin’ sally she is. She seems like a person you could sit around farting and food fighting with, which ultimately only makes her hotter; the Hollywood starlet who acts like the best girlfriend you ever had. This relatable quality is her secret weapon, and it’s how she manages to pull off playing a Playboy bunny booted from Heff’s mansion who ends up taking over as house mother for a college sorority (headed by a amusingly nerdy Emma Stone), all with a PG-13 rating.





WHAM, BAM, THANK YOU PAM (GRIER):


Black Mama White Mama (1973)
(1st viewing) d. Romero, Eddie
Friday Foster (1975) (1st viewing) d. Marks, Arthur
Sheba, Baby (1975) (1st viewing) d. Girdler, William
Women in Cages (1971) (1st viewing) d. de Leon, Gerardo
In prepping for the Pam Grier Q&A panel, I knew I needed to bring my A-game and that meant catching up on as much of Miz Thang as I possibly could in the time available. Happily, this is a pleasant task as Grier is always watchable even if (or perhaps because) her films tend to err on the action-packed silly side. This held especially true for the assortment of flickers here, two of which (WIC and BMWM) were shot in the Philippines and two (FF and SB) back in the States. Grier always plays an indomitable spirit, one who faces incredible challenges and finds the courage to save the day (unless she’s playing the baddie, as in WIC, where she gets her comeuppance and how). FF is probably the least satisfying of the bunch, only because it never seems to take its given circumstances all that seriously, but even there you’re treated to a dynamite array of African-American talent such as Thalmus Rasulala, Godfrey Cambridge, Carl Weathers, Scatman Crothers, Yaphet Kotto, Ted Lange and Eartha Kitt. And yes, Virginia, sexy Pam takes her clothes off in most of these, all of which except BMWM (my favorite of the bunch, with SB close behind) are currently available streaming on Netflix.




SHAKE IT, DON’T BREAK IT
Inherit the Wind (1960)
(2nd viewing) d. Kramer, Stanley
Inherit the Wind (1999) (1st viewing) d. Petrie, Daniel
As I’ll be taking on the role of closed-minded evangelist Matthew Harrison Brady this summer, I thought I’d take a look at a couple screen dramatizations of the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial. Both use the screenplay developed by Nathan E. Douglas and Harold Jacob Smith, based on the original stage play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, and there are definite pluses and minuses to their tweaks. On the one hand, they stretch out the action over an additional day or two so that it doesn’t all happen conveniently in the courtroom – on the other, they conjure more than a few “precious” moments that ring out as melodrama. In the Kramer version, it’s Spencer Tracy carrying the sword of logic against Fredric March’s shield of faith while the Showtime TV-movie pairs Jack Lemmon with George C. Scott, and there’s no faulting any of this vaunted quartet’s turns – all are in top form, parrying and jousting with one another and clearly enjoying the task at hand. Petrie’s color version somehow carries a bit more artifice, with lines ringing out a little more bluntly, which is not to say there aren’t a few clunkers in Kramer’s as well. Overall, neither is a truly great film, but both sport terrific all-star casts having a great time with juicy subject matter that seems more timely than ever.

2012 Totals to date: 95 films, 83 1st time views, 39 horror, 5 cinema

Fool's Views (3/5 – 3/11)



Oh, man. Willie sung it best when he asked, “Ain’t it funny how time slips away…?”

So, catching up on the last three weeks, absolutely of the essence since things are about to get truly bonkers in the Foolish World of Dr. AC (which is saying something, considering the normal state of affairs). This week saw me catching up with several fright flicks from 2011 that slipped by, as well as a couple more that are about ready to break bad. Toss in a pinch of Polanski and a colander of Cahn and a tasty cinematic stew was ours for the slurping. Keeping it short and sweet, hope you like.

If you want more blathering, you know what to do… (cue the tagline)

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

HORROR:

SOMETHING OLD…


Cheezy Horror Trailers, Vol. 1 (2006)
(1st viewing) d. Various
Watched this streaming on Netflix, basically truth in advertising, except for several of the movies don’t really fall into the “cheezy” category and they even repeat several of them. I can’t say I recommend it, except that it might give you some inspiration for films to catch up with or revisit like a long lost friend.



It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) (2nd viewing) d. Cahn, Edward L.
At the conclusion of this sci-fi/horror yarn, hero Marshall Thompson dramatically intones, “Another name for Mars is death.” Perhaps, but Y-A-W-N is another word for this historically significant but shabby B-movie schlocker. A spaceship travels to Mars to apprehend Thompson, suspected of murdering his fellow crew members. His claims that the crimes were committed by a “mysterious creature” are soon borne out when the monster boards their ship and proceeds to literally suck the life out of the party one by one. Often cited as the blueprint for Alien, and while there are superficial similarities, “quickie king” Edward L. Cahn’s major coup here is the good fortune of Jerome Bixby’s script being the first to place a mean-tempered E. T. aboard a spaceship of hapless humans. Beyond that, the simplemindedness on display is pretty impressive. We have a supposed mass-murderer freely allowed to wander around, a trigger-happy crew that thinks nothing of blasting away with pistols and grenades aboard a spacecraft, a guy-in-a-rubber-suit (complete with zipper) monster whose frozen big-teeth expression fails to impress, and a hilarious melodramatic alien death scene that reaches Shakespearean proportions. One question: How does one actually get “beyond space?” Just asking.




SOMETHING NEW…


Dead, The (2010)
(1st viewing) d. Ford, Howard J./Ford, Jonathan
The Ford Bros. arrive in a big way with this well-crafted zombie flick, one that benefits greatly from its African location shooting, solid cast, impressive f/x and an atmosphere of sunlight-drenched dread.



Father's Day (2011) (1st viewing) d. Astron-6
Armed with $10K and a f*ckload of chutzpah, the five-man team that compose Canadian artistic collective Astron-6 churn out one of the sickest, depraved, hilarious and outside-the-box innovative horror/exploitation films in recent memory. Papa-plundering serial killers are but the crest of this creative volcano, delightfully and deliberately offensive at nearly every level.



Final Destination 5 (2011) (1st viewing) d. Quale, Steven
They’ve got the formula down pat and darn it if they don’t keep delivering the goods. This time it’s a suspension bridge accident that serves as the curtain-raiser, with scenes of acupuncture, lasik surgery and gymnastics gone awry filling out the in-your-3D-face highlights reel.



Fright Night (2011) (1st viewing) d. Gillespie, Craig
Hmmmm, my initial response to this remake of the ’85 classic’s announcement was one of chagrin, and the trailers did little to assuage my doubts. However, after hearing numerous positive reports from trustworthy sources, I decided to give it a whirl, and while I definitely would have opted for less craptastic CGI (employed for its 3D release, I suspect), there is a fair amount to enjoy here. Colin Farrell creates a different Jerry Dandridge for a new era, and while there is no replacing Roddy Mcdowall’s immortal Peter Vincent, David Tennant’s incarnation (a Chris Angel-type Vegas showman) has its merits. Not a complete waste of time.



Rabies (2010) (1st viewing) d. Keshales, Aharon/Papushado, Navot
The title is a bit of a distraction, but I certainly went mad for this flick, billed as Israel’s first horror effort. (If this is any indication of the blood-blasting instincts of the Promised Land’s population, I say hand over the checkbook and let these kids rock the house.) Superbly twisted screenplay in all senses of the word, delivering a wealth of memorable characters to toss together in the same dish and through an Altman-like series of close encounters, they proceed to slice, dice, hack, shoot and smash each other to bits. Highly recommended.




CIVILIAN:

Chinatown (1974)
(3rd viewing) d. Polanski, Roman
A true classic of the 70s, one that deserves its reputation and repeated viewings. Every performance is spot-on and Towne’s Oscar-winning script the textbook how-to example.



Source Code (2011) (1st viewing) d. Jones, Duncan
I love smart time-travel flicks, especially of the popcorn variety. Jones, who gave us the Sam Rockwell one-man ensemble piece Moon a couple years back returns and the news is good. Light, breezy, thrilling and satisfying.

2012 Totals to date: 80 films, 71 1st time views, 33 horror, 5 cinema

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fool's Views (2/20 – 3/4)



Hello my friends,

Didn’t forget about you last week, it was just that come the final tally, I’d only amassed a half dozen flicks – only two of which were vaguely horrific in tone (although The Help was pretty damn horriBLE).

So, we dived back in the oceans to see what else we could harvest, emerging with bushels overflowing with pearls, seaweed, an old boot and the occasional pirate’s doubloon. Needless to say, we’re now saddled with an embarrassment of riches, so I hope you’ve brought your appetites. Before you lies a banquet of ghostly lasses, Hammer classes, glitzy disco glasses, and a wealth of other tasty treats. Hope you like.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

HORROR:

Chronicle (2012)
(1st viewing) d. Trank, Josh
I know it’s early in the year, but this sci-fi winner has already emerged as one of the most pleasant surprises of 2012 and it’s clear by its box office superiority over the higher-profile Woman in Black redux that I’m not alone in my appreciation. The story is fairly standard stuff – three teens encounter a strange vessel interred deep below the ground and subsequently find themselves endowed with ever-increasing telekinetic powers – but it is director Trank’s handling of Max Landis’ material that surprises time and again with its emotional heft and legitimacy. The “found footage” angle requires substantial suspension of disbelief (and also seems to be abandoned completely in the final reel), but the performances by the trio of young performers (Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan) and the fantastic subject matter eases the load considerably.




Next of Kin (1984) (1st viewing) d. Williams, Tony
This Aussie haunted house thriller flew onto my radar thanks to Mark Hartley’s astonishingly entertaining Not Quite Hollywood documentary, but it was teammate in terror David Schmidt who clued me into the shamefully not-on-disc’s YouTube presence and for that, I’m eternally grateful. Jacki Kerin stars as a lass Down Under that, upon reading her recently deceased mother’s diary, discovers numerous dark secrets about the family nursing home. In addition to a glowing electronic score by Klaus Schulze, Gary Hansen’s elegant cinematography and the presence of John Jarratt (20 years before reaching genre-icon status with Wolf Creek), the slow-burn twists and turns of Michael Heath and director Williams’ script deliver the goods, effectively coupled with memorable screen imagery (the final reel’s sugar cube scene is a thing of wonder). The entire feature is located here, presented in a single 89-minute clip, and definitely worth your time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQnFGVmdjXw




Rosemary’s Baby (1968) (3rd viewing) d. Polanski, Roman
The blockbuster adaption of Ira Levin’s bestselling occult novel still maintains its punch 44 years after its initial release, but what struck me on this most recent viewing was just how easily it could have become just another schlocky “fun” horror film in the hands of producer William Castle. Having acquired the rights to Levin’s story, everyone’s favorite celluloid showman had hoped for this to be his entryway into directing studio-funded A-films, but Paramount head honcho Robert Evans instead gave the reins to hot new European import Polanski. Obviously, this proved to be a wise decision as the young auteur proceeded to imbue the outlandish story – Mia Farrow’s young expectant mother’s growing paranoia of a conspiracy surrounding her unborn child – with a grounded, soap opera realism, subverting expectations of genre without sacrificing an iota of tension or dread. Ruth Gordon won the Supporting Actress Oscar for her slyly fussy turn as Farrow and husband John Cassavetes’ intrusive neighbor, with able support from Ralph Bellamy, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans, Elisha Cook, Jr., Hammer’s dinosaur-lovin’ glamour gal Victoria Vetri and baby-faced Charles Grodin in his first major screen appearance. Watch (and listen) closely for cameos by Castle and Tony Curtis.




LA FEMME EN NOIR

Woman in Black, The (1989) (2nd viewing) d. Wise, Herbert
BBC version of Susan Hill’s engrossing ghost story follows Adrian Rawlins’ young, family-man solicitor called to handle the legalities of a recently deceased mansion owner in a remote English village. Upon arriving, he finds himself uncovering far deeper mysteries and secrets, ones that seem to link the hamlet residents’ tragic rash of children’s deaths with the vengeful spirits populating the mansion's shadowy confines. But the real magic is accomplished via the haunting spectral presence of Pauline Moran’s titular character – her fierce, hate-twisted visage providing more bona-fide chills than any number of computer-generated century phantoms. (The truly terrifying scene where she visits Rawlins in bed is worth the price of admission alone.) Thanks to solid performances, a superb adaptation by the legendary Nigel Kneale and Wise’s crisp direction on a presumably meager budget, this is one of the most underrated cinematic ghost stories out there, though the recent Hammer effort will hopefully raise some awareness.


Woman in Black, The (2012) (1st viewing) d. Watkins, James
Hammer’s latest offering envisions Daniel ("don't call me Harry") Radcliffe’s legal beagle as an epically grieving widower (which works quite well considering the cloud of death and pain that hangs over the Crythin village populace), and the hostility he encounters from both the locals and the estate’s long-dead vengeful spirits only increases our empathy toward him. Screenwriter Jane Goldman offers a worthy riff on Hill's novel, complemented by director Watkins’ solid atmospheric work, although the most effective moments are not the ones seemingly designed to appease a modern day audience (now you see ‘em now you don’t CGI ghosts, big aural jump scares) but the "classic" slow burn spooking sequences (gazing down long hallways, silent climbs up and down foreboding staircases). Ultimately, I admired the period effort more than loved it, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. Is it likely to leave lasting memories and have you looking under the bed? Probably not, but it's among the better studio-based genre efforts and ranks just below Let Me In and Wake Wood as far as Hammer's recent output. (I'd rank them 3 for 4, with The Resident being the only true disappointment under Simon Oakes 21st century stewardship.)




KRYPTIC ARMY ASSIGNMENT: HAMMER - THE STUDIO THAT DRIPPED BLOOD
Four Sided Triangle (1953) (1st viewing) d. Fisher, Terence
Surprisingly underrated pre-Quatermass Xperiment sci-fi effort from Hammer and its most prolific director concerns itself with two young scientists (Stephen Murray, John Van Eyssen) who collaborate on a fantastic new invention – a device that can replicate simply anything. (I absolutely loved the simplicity of this fanciful notion, hearkening back to a more innocent era of sci-fi when you could chalk up pretty much anything to this mystical thing called SCIENCE.) This astonishing innovation also provides an interesting solution to an ancillary problem between the two brainiacs: they're in love with the same woman (Barbara Payton). With her affections blowing Van Eyssen's way, Murray decides to reproduce his l'amour, which his succeeds in doing… with unexpected side effects. Certainly a trifle, but interesting enough to merit your attention. (If Van Eyssen seems familiar, it's probably from his turn as Jonathan Harker in 1958'S Horror of Dracula.)


Stop Me Before I Kill! (1960) (1st viewing) d. Guest, Val
This early Hammer's b/w thriller centers on Ronald Lewis' (Mr. Sardonicus, Scream of Fear) race car driver who, after suffering a near-fatal crash, finds himself entertaining murderous impulses toward his fetching new wife. Guest's spirited direction is commendable; ditto Diane Cilento's (The Wicker Man) lively French-accented turn as Lewis' devoted if increasingly frustrated bride. But the whole thing takes WAY too long to get where it's going (at 107 minutes, it's one of the longest Hammer films out there; apparently the original UK cut is a full 120), especially considering the "twist" is telegraphed miles and miles ahead such that only those who dozed off halfway through would be surprised by the outcome.






CIVILIAN:
Apple, The (1980)
(1st viewing) d. Golan, Menahem
I knew nothing about this wild-ass Christian allegory musical extravaganza before I went into it, whereupon it proceeded to wash over me like a tidal wave of glitter-filled foam and honey. The bounty of WTF moments is not to be underestimated – I highly recommend watching this with a crowd (as I was able to, courtesy of the ever-awesome combo of Jason Coffman, Autre Monde and Horrorbles), but I have no doubt it satisfies all on its own. Streaming on Netflix and available on disc, BIM awaits you…

Beginners (2011) (1st viewing) d. Mills, Mike
Much more than a vehicle for Christopher Plummer (which was how it came to be marketed and sold), what needs to be remembered is the vaunted veteran won his accolades in the Best Supporting Actor category which means that the lion’s share of the movie belongs to Ewan McGregor, mourning the death of his father while attempting to cultivate a relationship with Inglorious Basterds’ Melanie Laurent. Clearly Plummer has the flashier role as a man who emerges from the closet to embrace his homosexuality at the age of 75 – only to discover that he is dying of cancer – and he embodies it with the vigor and class that justifies his awards-season sweepage. But writer/director Mills has crafted much more than a septuagenarian novelty act; rather it’s a thoughtful, complex, funny and touching mediation on the myriad relationships we all share with one another.

Britney Spears Live: The Femme Fatale Tour (2011) (1st viewing) d. Kenney, Ted
Oh, pipe down. I actually count myself as a fan of Ms. Spears’ music (though I do not for a second deny her limitations as a singer), and as her videos and especially 2001’s Live from Las Vegas concert film evidence, she is capable of delivering some damn fine hip-gyrating, midriff-exposing, mane-whipping lip-synched entertainment. Unfortunately, I fear that the days where Brit was more fun to watch than listen to are fading fast, as her “woman” era pales beside her “not a girl” phase. I won’t use an unqualified “lazy” to describe her performance for the capacity Toronto crowd, but “uninspired” certainly fits the bill, an adjective that extends to the entire production. The backup dancers aren’t wow-worthy, the choreography is yawntastic, and worst of all, until the last few numbers, Spears seems to be performing as though saddled with a back injury, dead behind the eyes and only cursorily going through the motions. You’d think with her popularity ebbing, greater effort would be expended to prove the naysayers wrong, that she would attempt to connect with the remaining faithful, but instead it’s coastville. What a difference ten years can make. May be time to retire, Brit, because if you’re not even going to try, why should we?

Cash on Demand (1962) (1st viewing) d. Lawrence, Quentin
Marvelous Hammer suspense yarn pits Andre Morrell's charmingly sinister con man against starched shirt scrooge Peter Cushing, the former seeking to relieve the latter of his bank's holdings. Watching these two titans square off in adversarial fashion is pleasure enough (especially for those who've seen their excellent previous teaming as Holmes and Watson in 1959's Hound of the Baskervilles), but David T. Chantler & Lewis Greifer's script – based off Jacques Gillies' play – is tight and effective, providing Lawrence plenty of opportunities to heighten the tension. The Christmastime setting only sweetens the deal – this may need to become a holiday tradition.

Help, The (2011) (1st viewing) d. Taylor, Tate
This insultingly simplistic feel-good movie about overcoming racism in 60s Mississippi only makes me angrier the further I get from it. (No wonder it was the highest grossing Best Picture nominee of the year.) The notion that card-carrying negra-hater Bryce Dallas Howard could be undone by a bit of dirty pie and a front porch dressing down from Allison Janney is so ludicrous I feel as though I’d been dining on Octavia Spencer’s character’s night soil handiwork – the truth is that Howard’s Hilly Holbrook would have had every offending colored household burned to the ground and a few others beside without a second thought or glance backward. If history has taught us anything, it’s that the rich don’t have to get their own hands dirty to get the dirty work done. Yes, the acting from the mostly-female ensemble of players is all fine, but the saccharine glazed over the proceedings renders it moot. Gah.

Rampart (2011) (1st viewing) d. Moverman, Oren
Woody Harrelson reunites with his Messenger director for this scathing character study of a corrupt L.A. cop whose downward spiral only picks up velocity with his every move to, ahem, arrest it. One of the most despicable characters the amiable actor has ever tackled, effectively tapping into the inner darkness that remains his secret weapon. Not an easy movie to watch, since we find ourselves distancing ourselves further from our protagonist as he alienates himself from his every friend and ally, but thanks to Harrelson’s magnetic inhabitation we never completely look away. The strung-out, decidedly unglammed supporting cast includes Ned Beatty, Anne Heche, Robin Wright, Ben Foster and Ice Cube (who’s great).

This Means War (2012) (1st viewing) d. McG
While I would never deny the individual appeals of Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, but all seem wildly miscast in this mixmaster genre blend of romance, comedy and action about two CIA operatives vying for the same gal. Pine’s smarmy cocksman comes closest to the mark (though when he grows a heart things get dicey), but Hardy is no one’s leading man and Witherspoon as a flighty bird unfamiliar with the ways of workin’ it had my eye-rolling gene working overtime. Too stupid to buy into and too innocuous to raise any serious objections, it’s the celluloid equivalent of a microwave dinner – resembling food but lacking any craft, truth or nourishment, leaving one unsatisfied and slightly queasy.




DISCO GOES BETTER ON WHEELS





Roller Boogie (1979)
(1st viewing) d. Lester, Mark L.














Xanadu (1980) (1st viewing) d. Greenwald, Robert









A kitschy double feature brought to Chez AC via the Netflix streaming gods to ease the pain of a week of unfulfilled auditions, and boy howdy, did it do the trick. Boogie catches Linda Blair easing out of her awkward pudgy adolescence but not yet descended into her full-on exploitation bad-girl 80s persona, and as a poor little rich girl who only wants a little love and some wheel time on the boardwalk, she’s actually quite appealing. (As an added bonus, 50s sci-fi genre fave Beverly Garland shows up as Blair’s mum.) Jim Bray, as her paramour from the wrong side of the tracks, was clearly hired more for his prodigious roller skating talent as opposed to any thesping skills (it’s his only screen credit), but he does admittedly dazzle at times and Blair’s rink acrobatics considerably leveled up my appreciation of her as well.

By contrast, while the Olivia Newton-John vehicle has its goofy moments, it’s only during the flashy production number-laced endgame that Xanadu’s cheese reaches its desired peak of ripeness. The rest of the time, we’re stuck with moony artiste Michael Beck (a whole lot sunnier than in The Warriors) chasing down the feathered blonde of his dreams whilst building a fancy nightclub with Gene Kelly, who keeps grinning and twinkling for all he’s worth. Jeff Lynne’s ELO tunes and Newton-John’s vanilla pop keep things bouncing along, and famed animator Don Bluth even kicks in a sequence that’s as two dimensional as the rest of the flick.


2012 Totals to date: 71 films, 64 1st time views, 26 horror, 5 cinema


Linda Blair movies: 4