Sunday, April 28, 2019

Fool's Views (4/1 – 4/15)

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Howdy, folks!

Due to a busy schedule of self-defense workshops with IMPACT Chicago (and proofreading a certain autobiography that should be hitting bookshelves later this summer), I spent a bit less time taking in the flickers during the first bit of April. However, I was pleased to have finally caught up with Takashi Miike’s Dead or Alive trilogy (courtesy of the good folks at Arrow Video), which sparked an interest in tracking down some of the prolific Japanese director’s other work that I had missed out on (stay tuned). Also included were a revisit of the then-and-now (or is it then-and-then?) cinematic adventures of Fast Eddie Felson, a game of Hopscotch, and one more dash of De Palma.

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



Dressed to Kill (1981) d. De Palma, Brian (USA) (4th viewing)


The Manitou (1978) d. Girdler, William (USA) (3rd viewing)


Master of Dark Shadows (2019) d. Gregory, David (USA) (1st viewing)


Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972) d. Martino, Sergio (Italy) (2nd viewing)



Hopscotch (1980) d. Neame, Ronald (UK (1st viewing)

After letting a longtime Soviet friend/foe (Herbert Lom) off the hook, CIA agent Miles Kendig (Walter Matthau) finds himself grounded with a desk job by his fed-up superior (Ned Beatty). In retaliation, he retires to Austria where he meets up with a former flame (Glenda Jackson) and proposes to write a tell-all memoir about his experiences in the field, prompting his superiors to send former partner Joe Cutter (Sam Waterston) to bring him in or take him down. This jaunty diversion, which gets its title from Kendig’s ability to constantly stay one step ahead of his pursuers, is more comedy than thriller, and the material suits its aging star perfectly. Based on a novel by Brian Garfield (Death Wish) who co-wrote the screenplay with Bryan Forbes (Séance on a Wet Afternoon).

Randy Writes a Novel (2018) d. Warrington, Anthony (Australia) (1st viewing)

I had never heard of Randy Feltface, so when my friend Jon Kitley sent along an 71-minute YouTube clip, I was a bit dubious about spending the evening watching an Australian muppet stand-up comedian. Oh, Me of Little Faith. In addition to being a hilarious storyteller who makes frequent references to the fact that we are, in fact, WATCHING A PUPPET, Randy (Heath McIver is the one with his hand up Randy’s backside, though all concerned have done a fair job of concealing that bit of intel) manages to make cogent observations about online shopping, relationships, addiction, and veganism. You can (and should) learn more about Randy at and

Silkwood (1983) d. Nichols, Mike (USA) (2nd viewing)

This popped back up on my radar last year while I was viewing and re-viewing various Kurt Russell movies, but it’s Meryl Streep’s show all the way as Karen Silkwood, the chemical technician and labor union activist whose whistle-blowing activities in the mid-1970s found her dead in a suspicious car crash while en route to meet with a reporter from The New York Times. The year after winning the Oscar for Sophie’s Choice, Streep trades in her frail Polish protagonist for a foul-mouthed blue-collar Oklahoma drawl, challenging her resistant co-workers at a nuclear power plant to fight for their own betterment after multiple safety violations are revealed. The great supporting cast includes Russell, Cher (Oscar-nominated for her second big-screen role), Craig T. Nelson, Bruce McGill, Fred Ward, Ron Silver, Diana Scarwid, and a young David Strathairn.

Spielberg (2017) d. Lacy, Susan (USA) (1st viewing)

Despite a 2.5 hour running time, this documentary about the most successful and popular film director in Hollywood history feels a little wanting in covering his enormous professional career, although we do get a glimpse at his formative family life and early years behind the camera. Unsurprisingly, more attention is given to his highs (Jaws, Close Encounters, E.T., Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan) than his lows (1941, Hook, The Terminal, A.I. Artificial Intelligence), although I was surprised at how little screen time is given to Raiders of the Lost Ark and its sequels. It’s fun to see fellow classmen Brian De Palma, George Lucas, and Martin Scorsese weighing in on their professional jealousy and admiration for the Little Film Geek Who Could.


The Hustler (1961) d. Rossen, Robert (USA) (2nd viewing)

It’s one of those “classics” that I know I’m supposed to love and appreciate. I can manage the latter, particularly Eugene Shuftan’s excellent black-and-white cinematography and Kenyon Hopkins’ achingly mournful score, and the performances by Paul Newman, Piper Laurie, George C. Scott, and Jackie Gleason as “Minnesota Fats” are all anchored and fascinating in their various shades of self-reproach. But with so many characters mad at themselves and the world, it’s hard to root for anyone. And after learning writer/director Rossen was one of those who named names during the HUAC/McCarthy witch hunts, I’m even more surprised the film found a mainstream audience and critical acclaim. Willie Mosconi performed several of Newman’s trick shots while Gleason did all of his own table work. Fun fact: the real-life pool player we now as Minnesota Fats legally changed his name from Rudolf Wanderone to Minnesota Fats after seeing the movie, rather than the movie being based on him!

The Color of Money (1986) d. Scorsese, Martin (USA) (2nd viewing)

I admit, my budding cinephile was well and truly snarked back in 1986 when Paul Newman ended up winning his sole Oscar over fellow nominees Bob Hoskins (Mona Lisa), William Hurt (Children of a Lesser God), Dexter Gordon (Round Midnight), James Woods (Salvador), and shoulda-been-nominated Jeff Goldblum for The Fly, as it seemed like such an obvious case of Hollywood honoring the artist instead of the performance. 30 years later, my opinion hasn’t changed much – Newman is perfectly fine as an older, craftier “Fast Eddie” Felson, lending his veteran skills to the role, but there aren’t many surprises and the nuances that he brings are, I’m sorry, expected from a 40-year professional. Also puzzling is Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s nomination for Best Supporting Actress, as she’s watchable but hardly a revelation. The real surprise is Tom Cruise (as Felson’s new protégé), who brings completely different flavors of egotism and fragility than what we had seen earlier the same year in Top Gun – that’s not Maverick holding the cue, even though that would have sufficed, and Cruise deserves credit for making the effort.


Dead or Alive (1999) d. Miike, Takashi (Japan) (1st viewing)
Dead or Alive 2: Birds (2000) d. Miike, Takashi (Japan) (1st viewing)
Dead or Alive: Final (2002) d. Miike, Takashi (Japan) (1st viewing)

Beginning with an explosive, six-minute montage of sex, drugs, and violence, and ending with a phallus-headed battle robot taking flight, the unforgettable Dead or Alive trilogy cemented Miike’s reputation overseas as one of the most provocative enfants terrible of Japanese cinema, yet also one of its most talented and innovative filmmakers. Each unique in theme and tone, the trilogy-in-name-only showcases Miike at the peak of his strengths, creating three very distinct movies connected only by their two popular main actors, each film a separate yet superb example of crime drama, character study, and action filmmaking.

In Dead or Alive, gangster Ryuichi (Riki Takeuchi) and his ethnically Chinese gang make a play to take over the drug trade in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district by massacring the competition. But he meets his match in detective Jojima (Show Aikawa), who will do everything to stop them. Dead or Alive 2: Birds casts Aikawa and Takeuchi together again, but as new characters, a pair of rival yakuza assassins who turn out to be childhood friends; after a botched hit, they flee together to the island where they grew up, and decide to devote their deadly skills to a more humanitarian cause. In Dead or Alive: Final, Takeuchi and Aikawa are catapulted into a future Yokohama ruled by multilingual gangs and cyborg soldiers, where they once again butt heads in the action-packed, Blade Runner-tinged finale to the trilogy.

The Dead or Alive Trilogy is available now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video and can be ordered HERE:

2019 Totals to Date: 135 films, 86 1st time views, 67 horror, 3 cinema


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