Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Fool's Views (8/1 – 8/31)

Howdy, folks!

Managed a respectable tally for the month of August, and cranked out more full-length reviews than I had all year, so good news there. (I am currently in West Virginia, rehearsing Julius Caesar for the good people at Greenbrier Valley Theatre, so September is already shaping up to be a winner.)

Let’s get on with it! As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.



Blood Punch (2014) d. Paxson, Madellaine (USA) (1st viewing)


Deep Red (aka Profondo Rosso) (1975) d. Argento, Dario (Italy) (5th viewing)


The Horror of Party Beach (1964) d. Tenney, Del (USA) (2nd viewing)


I Didn't Come Here to Die (2010) d. Sullivan, Bradley Scott (USA) (1st viewing)

A half-dozen fresh-faced, attractive, energetic, and horny young adults head out to the great outdoors to prep a camp for underprivileged kids, only to stumble – sometimes literally – into a series of unfortunate events and encounters. Sound familiar? Rest assured, this thoroughly enjoyable spin on slasher tropes has more on its mind than lowbrow flesh and blood quotients, although it serves up plenty in both departments (the former courtesy of lovely and talented Emmy Robbin, the latter thanks to SPFX man David Templin).

Thanks to a fantastic cast (which includes Indiana Adams, Kurt Cole, Madi Goff, Travis Scott Newman, and Niko Red Star) and sure-handed writing and directing from Wisconsin-based first-timer Sullivan (who also edited and shot the sucker), the surprises, laughs, and blood packs come fast and furious, never overstaying its welcome at a lean 80 minutes. A shining example of solid independent horror, deserving of your time, and streaming for free on Amazon Prime. (Also notable for being yet another victim of the craptastic endlessly recycled “woman being dragged away” cover art for indie features.)

Jackals (2017) d. Greutert, Kevin (USA) (1st viewing)

There is one worthy twist in this occult thriller – unfortunately, it happens in the opening five minutes and I’m going to spoil it for you right now, but only because there are no other twists to be found in the remaining 82 and you probably have better things to do with your time. The film kicks off with several ski-masked men driving a pair of young men off the road, knocking them both unconscious, and throwing one of them (Ben Sullivan) in the back of the van and driving to a secluded cabin. It’s here that we discover that the kidnapping has been orchestrated by Justin’s family (headed by Jonathon Schaech and Deborah Kara Unger, both clearly mourning their once-bright careers) to get him away from a sinister cult. (Stephen Dorff is also on hand as an expert “de-programmer,” having long-since given up on his once-bright career.)

To no one’s surprise, the cult shows up wanting their boy back and the rest of the movie is a predictable parade of family members getting bumped off in gloomily sadistic fashion, just in case anyone was wondering how Greutert (director of Saw VI and VII) got the gig. Writer Jared Rivet occasionally teases us with false hope of rescue and/or valor, but it soon becomes apparent that no one is getting out alive and Evil’s hand is firmly on the rudder. Efficiently executed, ultimately pointless, and available now from Shout! Factory.

The Tingler (1959) d. Castle, William (USA) (3rd viewing)



24 x 36: A Movie About Movie Posters (2016) d. Burke, Kevin (USA) (1st viewing)

This not-bad documentary explores the rise of illustrated movie poster art – specifically 1970s highlights like Drew Struzan’s memorable Star Wars and Indiana Jones collages and Roger Kastel’s iconic Jaws one-sheet – and its decline in the late ’90s, giving way to the generic “floating heads” and two-tone color schemes (frequently orange/blue). Burke sits down with prominent art personalities and collectors to investigate how the shift occurred, as well as focusing on the rising “alternative poster art” subculture for t-shirts, Blu-ray releases, and, well, actual posters. The answers are about as revelatory as one might expect (overcautious studios and distributors using the movies’ stars to market their product as opposed to rolling the dice on cool imagery), but viewers do get to see some pretty cool art and artists showcased over the course of the 82-minute runtime. Available now from FilmRise and MVD Entertainment.

BlacKkKlansman (2018) d. Lee, Spike (USA) (1st viewing)

The real-life story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), an African-American officer on the Colorado Springs Police force, and his courageous infiltration of the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan is undeniably fascinating, and Lee has assembled a terrific ensemble of players to depict said events (particularly Adam Driver as Stallworth’s partner Flip Zimmerman and Topher Grace as white supremacist Grand Dragon David Dukes). That said, it never feels like more than the sum of its parts, with only a few moments of legit drama in its dramatization.

Good Time (2017) d. Safdie, Benny / Safdie, Josh (USA) (1st viewing)

Robert Pattinson scores a never-better turn as a lowlife small-time crook struggling to raise the bail to get his mentally impaired brother (Benny Safdie, also excellent) out of jail following a botched bank robbery. Supercharged by a pounding soundtrack, the sibling directors blaze through a series of “what could possibly happen next?” scenarios, with Pattinson’s unflagging determination and desperation veritably oozing off the screen. A breathtaking follow-up to their equally thrilling depiction of heroin addicts in love, 2014’s Heaven Knows What, announcing them as a major talent to watch.

Mogambo (1953) d. Ford, John (USA) (1st viewing)

Ford combines his patented formula for sweeping scenic vistas (in this case, the wilds of Kenya) with big-time star power for this fine melodrama of a big-game hunter (Clark Gable) who becomes romantically involved with a street-smart socialite (Ava Gardner) as well as the wife of a visiting anthropologist (Grace Kelly). Itself a remake of Red Dust (1932), one of Gable’s first big successes, the offscreen drama proved as captivating as anything captured through the lens, with much tension between the famed director and his stars, as well as a open-secret affair between Kelly and her much-older co-star Gable.


Christmas in Connecticut (1945) d. Godfrey, Peter (USA) (1st viewing)

Charming holiday favorite sees famous columnist Barbara Stanwyck trumpeting the art of home cooking and domesticity when in fact she lives alone and on take-out from “uncle” Felix’s (S.Z. Sakall) restaurant. When her publisher (Sydney Greenstreet) insists that she give a wounded war veteran (Jefferson Jones) a classic American Christmas, she concocts an elaborate charade with the help of successful architect (Reginald Gardiner) who has romantic notions of his own.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) d. Stoller, Nicholas (USA) (1st viewing)

Jason Segel (who also wrote the script) rises to leading man status as a sad sack composer whose TV-star girlfriend (Kristen Bell) leaves him for an obnoxious pop idol (Russell Brand). Looking to escape everyday life, Segel heads to Hawaii… where the two new lovebirds are also vacationing, but hotel desk concierge Mila Kunis might just provide the distraction he needs. Fun stuff.

French Kiss (1995) d. Kasdan, Lawrence (USA) (1st viewing)

Meg Ryan at her Meg Ryanest gets dumped by Timothy Hutton and flies off to France to get him back, encountering jewel thief Kevin Kline en route; it's absolutely her movie, and she kills it with so many little levels of insecurity and joy and doubt. While I enjoy Kline as a rule, it feels as though he’s in another movie than everyone else –his Fake Franche Accent next to authentico Francophones like Jean Reno and Francois Cluzet (who are both superb and should have had more to do) feels goofy and not in a good way. I enjoyed the slight but pleasing story overall but I wish that they had found Kline’s French counterpart and used this film to launch him to stardom. (Cluzet could have been great in the part.)

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988) d. Zucker, David (USA) (6th viewing)

While Airplane! may be more quotable, I would argue that this zany big-screen introduction of Lt. Frank Drebin (from the failed TV show Police Squad!) delivers more full-on belly laughs. Leslie Nielsen, who became an enormous comedy star afterwards, despite having already enjoyed a long career playing small-screen guest spots and big-screen heavies (Day of the Animals, Creepshow). Look up the memorable quotes on IMBd and let the smiles begin. (Watched with Zucker-Abrams-Zucker commentary, which is enlightening and entertaining in its own right.)

Overboard (1987) d. Marshall, Garry (USA) (1st viewing)

In their second onscreen pairing (following Swing Shift), Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell respectively play a snooty millionaire and a rough-and-tumble carpenter who end up playing house after she falls off her yacht and emerges from the briny deep with amnesia. While the premise is undeniably questionable in its overall morality, Russell’s character never takes advantage of his fictitious husbandly privileges, making her sleep on the couch (with the slobbering dogs) instead, which makes it a little less offensive than its initial premise led me to fear. And yes, we’ve added another Kurt Kredit to this year’s tally (8).


Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018) d. McQuarrie, Christopher (USA) (1st viewing)

While not as much sheer joyful fun as M:I - Ghost Protocol, this is a marvelous bounce-back from the dip that was Rogue Nation, with mind-blowing stunt work and an expanded ensemble of players that now includes Angela Bassett. I am still bummed they didn’t invite Paula Patton back to play with the boys, but it seems like Rebecca Ferguson has been given plenty to do to fill the void left by Jeremy Renner’s ongoing Avengers gigs. For those keeping track, this is the first direct sequel within the series, directly following the events (and antagonist) of Rogue Nation, as well as the first time we’ve had a repeat director. The bathroom fight is a decided highlight, and the holy guacamole helicopter jousting finale is a thing of wonder.

Top Gun (1986) d. Scott, Tony (USA) (5th viewing)

“Revvin’ up your engine, listen to her howlin’ roar, metal under tension, beggin’ you to touch and go. Highway to the Danger Zone. Ride into the Danger Zone. Headin’ into twilight, spreadin’ out her wings tonight. She got you jumpin’ off the deck and shovin’ into overdrive. Highway to the Danger Zone. I’ll take you ridin’ into the Danger Zone. You’ll never say hello to you until you get it on the red line overload. You’ll never know what you can do until you get it up as high as you can goooooooooo… Out along the edges always where I burn to be. The further on the edge, the hotter the intensity. Highway to the Danger Zone. Gonna take you right into the Danger Zone.”

You’re welcome.


My Favorite Brunette (1947) d. Nugent, Elliot (USA) (1st viewing)

Fast and furious vehicle for its wisecracking star, Bob Hope, playing a portrait photographer who longs to be a private detective, made even more popular through frequent television showings after it fell into public domain. When beautiful dame Dorothy Lamour (co-star of the “Road” pictures with Hope and Bing Crosby) shows up looking for someone to locate her scientist father, Hope steps into the trenchcoat and the stage is set for all manner of missing persons, mistaken identity, and misdirection for maximum comedic effect. Lon Chaney and Peter Lorre co-star, the former already slipping into decline, though his triumph as Lennie in 1939’s Of Mice and Men was still clear enough in people’s minds for Hope to make a few “rabbits” jokes. Other than its star, no connection to 1942’s My Favorite Blonde.

The Paleface (1948) d. McLeod, Norman Z. (USA) (1st viewing)

Hope stars as “Painless” Peter Potter, an inept frontier dentist who falls in with Calamity Jane (Jane Russell), she having been commissioned by the U.S. government to find out who has been smuggling guns to the Indians. Seen through the lens of 70 years gone by, it’s hard to muster much of a chuckle at the scene where Jane mows down a dozen or so Native Americans so that Potter can take credit and become a hero to the townspeople, but even without the PC concerns, it’s a lesser vessel for the comedian, with fewer snappy retorts and more physical mugging overall, despite the hefty screenwriting trio of Edmund L. Hartmann, Frank Tashlin, and Jack Rose. (Tashlin directed the sequel, Son of Paleface, in 1952 as one of his first feature efforts.) Oscar winner for Best Original Song, “Buttons and Bows.”

2017 Totals to date: 153 films, 104 1st time views, 58 horror, 21 cinema


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