|Don't worry, he's really friendly once you get to know him...|
Been doing a lot of writing lately (wait, are we actually caught up????), but still managed to take a break from the smaller screen to the slightly larger one every once in a while. (Had the realization that this summer may mark my fewest excursions to the multiplex in recorded history; 2014’s popcorn crop just hasn’t looked very appealing to these old eyes. Do better, Hollywood.)
However, the home viewing has been an eclectic mix of new and old, as several bouts of martial arts traded time with she-wolves, melting men, golden boys, and giant female gorillas pitching woo. I think you’ll like, and if not, hey, you know there will be plenty more and different coming soon. Stay tuned!
As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.
Ginger Snaps (2000) d. Fawcett, John (Canada) (3rd viewing)
***CLICK HERE FOR FULL REVIEW***
Incredible Melting Man, The (1977) d. Sachs, William (USA) (3rd viewing)
***CLICK HERE FOR FULL REVIEW***
Queen Kong (1976) d. Agrama, Frank (UK) (1st viewing)
***CLICK HERE FOR FULL REVIEW***
Evel Knievel (1971) d. Chomsky, Marvin J. (USA) (1st viewing)
Filmmaker pal Robert Cappelletto slipped this one to me with a smirk, so I assumed I was in for a disaster of epic proportions. Imagine my surprise when the biopic of the legendary daredevil turned out to be surprisingly watchable and (gasp!) competently performed, with George Hamilton charming in the title role, perfectly capturing the mix of bravado and insecurity that drove the jumpsuited one to launch himself over an ever-increasing number of cars, trains, canyons, etc. In related news, how did Hamilton become such an easy punchline? He’s wonderful and effortless in everything I’ve seen him in, both comic and dramatic. Is it just the tan?
New Kids, The (1985) d. Cunningham, Sean S. (USA) (1st viewing)
After (ever-so-briefly) putting the Friday the 13th franchise to rest, Cunningham helmed this dark thriller about two teens (Shannon Presby, Lori Loughlin) who, after their parents are killed in a car accident, head down Florida way to live with relatives. But in addition to homework and hormones, they forced to deal with a gang of depraved students (led by a super-blonde James Spader) whose extracurricular activities include rape, dog-fighting, murder, and crimes against personal hygiene. For a seemingly quaint film about rural adolescents, it’s surprisingly violent and vicious, with decent performances from all involved.
Rage and Honor (1992) d. Winkless, Terence H. (USA) (1st viewing)
I keep giving Cynthia Rothrock a shot, but she has yet to dazzle me when she’s not doing the kick-over-the-head-and-hit-the-guy-standing-behind-her-in-the-face trick. For someone capable of such physical feats, the five-time world champion is shockingly dull in her non-fighting scenes, and she doesn’t get much help from co-stars Richard Norton, Brian Thompson, Catherine Bach (yes, Daisy Duke herself), and Body Bags’ Alex Datcher. Standard 80s plot, with dirty cops, drug dealers, and urban blight smacked down by flying fists and feet. Director Winkless’ other credits include 1988’s cockroach shocker The Nest, Bloodfist, and the Traci Lords update of Not of this Earth.
Shawshank Redemption, The (1994) d. Darabont, Frank (USA) (4th viewing)
“Get busy living or get busy dying.” Damn straight. That said, and not to take anything away from what is undeniably a terrific flick, the fact that it continues to stand as the #1 movie on IMDb after all these years surprises me to no end. I mean, it’s good, but is it that good?
Wolf of Wall Street, The (2013) d. Scorsese, Martin (USA) (1st viewing)
To call this an updating of Goodfellas with an eye on crooked stockbrokers as opposed to the mafia wouldn’t be far off, which is not intended as a dig. However, what’s more impressive is that even using his own playbook, the 72-year-old director gets the juices moving and earns laughter from the darkest, seamiest shadows. Public accusations of the film painting white collar criminal Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio, in a full-throttle Oscar-nominated turn) as a role model seem ill-aimed; he’s clearly a sociopath and I wanted to see him to go down more than Henry Hill – and he didn’t even murder anybody! Australian TV star Margot Robbie turns heads as Belfort’s drop-deadly gorgeous wife whose icy heart matches her hubby’s, and DiCaprio and Jonah Hill’s insta-legendary Quaalude scene is just as outrageous as you’ve heard.
WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT KILLIN’?:
Kill or Be Killed (1976) d. Hall, Ivan (South Africa) (1st viewing)
Kill and Kill Again (1981) d. Hall, Ivan (South Africa) (1st viewing)
Urged on by several nostalgia-loving friends, I picked up this double pack at a used record store, having been intrigued by the TV spots as a youth. The good news/bad news? These are no forgotten classics, but they’re still loads of chopsocky fun.
The first is a blatant Enter the Dragon rip-off, with crazed Nazi general Norman Coombes building up an unstoppable team of martial artists to challenge Japanese rival Raymond Ho-Tong’s squad, all in the name of honor. Our ringer is the sinewy and lusciously follicled James Ryan who, while no Laurence Olivier, has screen presence and definitely exhibits the goods in the arena. The follow-up picks up Ryan’s Steve Chase character five years later, where we find him a footloose and fancy free mercenary recruited by the government to spring a political prisoner. He assembles a Dirty Half-Dozen of fellow ass-kickers to bring the pain (and painful one-liners).
Interestingly, KoBK didn’t hit the States until 1980, where its success prompted Hall and Ryan to quickly reunite for the semi-sequel. Both films exhibit examples of cheeky humor, although KaKA is much more overt in the wackiness, including main villain Michael Mayer’s patently fake Castro-esque chin whiskers that go unmentioned throughout. Not sure what the legalities are, but it seems that KoBK remains unavailable through legit sources, but a 30th anniversary remastered widescreen DVD of KaKA was released in 2012 and is readily accessible on Amazon and elsewhere.
ROBERT REDFORD IN ’69:
Downhill Racer (1969) d. Ritchie, Michael (USA) (1st viewing)
Tell Them Willie Boy is Here (1969) d. Polonsky, Abraham (USA) (1st viewing)
Following my recent re-watch of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, I was compelled to scan Redford’s filmography to see the before/after equation of his star-making turn. I was stunned to learn that he had also appeared in two other films that year, all of which saw release within a few weeks of each other. The other shock was finding that, contrary to my (and I suspect many other viewers’) general impression of the star’s virtuous onscreen persona, all three pictures have him playing varying degrees of self-centered son-of-a-bitchery, and nailing it like a champ.
In Downhill Racer, Redford is an unapologetic prick, an inarticulate mountain boy who lacks class and team spirit, but he knows how to ski fast, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters to Olympic coach Gene Hackman. Innovative and thrilling camerawork enliven the slope sequences, which serve to counter the dour dramatic scenes where we glimpse the empty vessel behind the easy grin. Willie Boy has Redford playing a terse and angry local sheriff overshadowed by his noble (deceased) father, dealing with the political hot potato surrounding the murder of one Native American by another. Similarly, Robert Blake’s title character doesn’t curry much viewer empathy, unapologetically brutish and violent toward his bride-to-be (Katharine Ross, doing some serious redface), but he’s a proud and able opponent for Redford, who must bring him in, dead or alive.
Neither film did much in the way of box office, but both serve as complex character studies of emotionally stunted male characters, and one can only admire the rising star for choosing risky projects (even serving as an uncredited executive producer for Downhill) at a time when others might have toed the mainstream line. I’m looking forward to checking out more of his work in the weeks to come, both first time views and revisits.
2014 Totals to date: 207 films, 118 1st time views, 121 horror, 23 cinema