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2013 & 2012
Verson Jetorix watched:
THE MURDERERS ARE AMONG US (46)
The first German film released after World War II takes place in the nightmarish landscape that was Berlin at the time. Falling into the category of “rubble films,” this tells the story of a woman returning from a POW camp only to find her old apartment occupied by a doctor dealing with the guilt of his complacency in the face of Nazi barbarism. The two share the apartment while he determines to rid the world of the criminal living in their midst; his commandant who ordered the execution of an entire village on Christmas Eve. Basically a western, the Allies forbade the vigilante justice that would normally occur at the end of the film, but the milieu is startling and the characters take on an unexpected depth. Recommended for those interested in the link between the war and crime films that began in the late 50’s.
TARZAN'S GREATEST ADVENTURE (59)
Easily the coolest and darkest of the Tarzan films, this features gritty adventure, slimy bad guys with worse intentions, and the best Tarzan of all, Gordon Scott. When your bad guys include Anthony Quayle, Niall MacGinnes, Sean Connery, and Scilla Gabel, you know you're in for a sweaty ride. Even the ill-fated Al Mulock (Once Upon a Time in the West) has a hard time. Highly recommended and not just for Saturday afternoon.
Ron Fricke, who shot Koyaanisqatsi and Baraka (directing the latter), made this spectacular visual feast, the meaning of which can only echo that of his previous work. There isn't much to be said that Koyaanisqatsi, with infinite precision, didn't already say.
FEARLESS (77, encore)
I have a record of seeing this film four times now and I've written something on it every time. i know it's just a pretender - Merli's giallo, as it were - nevertheless I feel continually compelled to share my impressions. It's probably the only film in my collection to inspire such verbose reactions. This time I was impressed with the soundtrack of this post-Solange effort; definitely Pink Floyd-inspired, Wish You Were Here in particular.
I liked this tale of an art thief who gets in over his head even tho after all the shit he goes through (literally) it has an unlikely happy ending.
AGAIN THE RINGER (65)
The copy I got from eBay was zoomed in from 1:66.1 so people's heads were cut off pretty much all the time. Topping this were the intermittent English subtitles - very casual - for the German soundtrack which pretty much eliminate the story's subtleties and too many of the major plot points. This sequel to The Mysterious Magician stretches the formula as much as Wallace's original novel. I mean Eddie Arent has a beard. And Klaus Kinski plays the harp. Joachim Fuchsberger doesn't return but his picture shows up twice. At one point, a character is reading the book the movie is based upon. All of the above makes for a surreal entry in the series and it remains in the collection for now.
CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OPERA (36, encore)
Finally replaced my VHS tape for a DVD and it was good to revisit an old friend. Always nice to see Boris and he gets to ham it up here and wear a cool costume when he "sings" opera. He's a red herring in this mystery about a murder in an opera house that Charlie (Warner Oland) gets solves with the help of #1 son, Keye Luke. Comfort Chinese food.
JOHNNY CARSON: KING OF LATE NIGHT (12)
Part of the PBS American Masters series, this documentary captures the essence of the phenomenon that was Johnny Carson. No one alive in America in the 60s, 70s, or 80s went untouched by the most powerful yet accessible figure in television at the time. This is all I hoped it would be and more. Excuse me while I wax nostalgic about those hot Phoenix nights in the 1970s staying up to catch Carson in his wide ties and colorful jackets. The hues of that stage curtain are burned into my brain. You owe it to yourself to see this if you ever enjoyed The Tonight Show.
I LOVE YOUR WORK (05)
Celeb meltdown with extreme prejudice. Giovanni Ribisi channels his inner movie star who rides a tidal wave of fame, money, drink, and drugs and the other vessels of the lost into the belly of Moby Death. Overlong and underwritten, this fable of the famous scores for Ribisi's dedication and the inevitability of it all.
Guy Madden may someday be recognized as a quirky genius. But not today. I'll tell you one thing though: Udo Keir out acts the rest of the cast with one hand tied behind his back. Hats off.
THE VERDICT (46)
Excellent locked room mystery with Sydney Greenstreet as a disgraced police commissioner and Peter Lorre as his besotted artist friend. Very sharp and witty script (and some spot on improv from Lorre), nice B&W photography, and enough twists and turns to keep things interesting. Highly recommended.
GOD BLESS AMERICA (11)
I liked this rant about all the stupid, offensive, ignorant, insensitive, and downright mean people in this "civilization" of ours. Not everything works and some timing could be tightened up but it reflects how I feel about our amoral, uncaring society. The question is how do you parody this parody of America we're living in and the answer is, you don't! Just show it how it is and it will be uncomfortably funny enough and plenty ugly enough to matter. Recommended.
SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (12)
Casting is everything. Or so I would think. Aubry Plaza and Mark Duplass do a pretty damn good job of carrying this picture despite the shortcomings of an overreaching script. The story of these two daredevils trying to fill the gaping holes in their lives with a time travel fetish is good enough for me and should be good enough for you. Yeah, you bring your two-bit expectations and you won't be disappointed. Thumbs up.
GLEN AND RANDA (71)
Underrated post-apocalyptic vision by Jim (The Big Easy) McBride. An edgy, hippy-tinged take on society's mores and morals, this startling yet likable tale of innocence and barbarity and the necessity of both will engage those with a taste for vinegar in their sci-fi. Check it out.
THE FAIRY (11)
Deftly blends Jacques Tati, Jim Jarmusch, Aki Kaurismaki, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet to create a winning magic realism concoction. Dom, a hotel night clerk checks in Fiona, who calls herself a fairy, and grants him three wishes. From there, the two begin a charming journey involving smuggling, madhouses, and low speed pursuits. Quite funny. Recommended.
RIO CONCHOS (64)
Enjoyable who's-selling-guns-to-the-Indians tale with genre faves Stuart Whitman and Jim Brown, not to mention Tony Franciosa, Edmond O'Brien, Timothy Carey, and Vito Scotti! Richard Boone hams it up a bit as the revengin' Indian hater but all in all this is worth watching for western fans.
THE YOUNG RACERS (63)
William Campbell and Mark Damon race cars around Europe during the Grand Prix. Luana Anders is along for the ride. This is a cool movie. The fashions are early sixties Euro-chic, the locations are great, and the leads are all faves. The story and characters are interesting enough too which is a good thing because the racing scenes are not the focus of the film. A pleasant surprise, this is recommended for Corman and co. fans.
PERFECT SENSE (11)
I liked this contemporary sci-fi that has the world's population losing each of their senses one at a time. What begins as slightly annoying (the loss of smell and taste) becomes utterly horrible by the time the loss of hearing and finally sight leave the world in chaos. Good performances by Ewen MacGregor and Eva Green too.
JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI (11)
Jiro's quest for sushi perfection is a mouthwatering journey through the past and into the future for his two sons. Don't watch this hungry but watch it.
INTO THE ABYSS (11)
Werner Herzog reviews the senseless murders of three people by the lowlifes who eventually were murdered by the state for the crimes. Fascinating and repugnant, this was much better than I thought it would be. Recommended.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK (12)
Great-looking, half-baked gothic mystery starring Daniel Radcliffe as a bereaved lawyer who travels to a remote village and encounters ghosts. We know the supernatural element is just as much about the characters as the ghosts so this never really takes hold the way it should. It sure does look fabulous though.
SECRET OF STAMBOUL (36)
James Mason and the highly delectable Valerie Hobson (Bride of Frankenstein) star in an enjoyably old-fashioned spy story similar to the type that Casablanca raised to the highest level. Nice, shadowy photography and even more shadowy characters, this was fun from beginning to end.
PROJECT X (67)
A spy (Christopher George) with important but suppressed memories in his mind is given a new life inside his head that scientists hope will trigger his memory. William Castle brings us a trippy science fiction tale with animation overlays and other photographic hijinks to keep the kid in all of us interested, but this also contains some Matrix-level ideas that will tantalize the adults we’ve become. This has a live action Jonny Quest feel to it, so if you’re a sixties Saturday morning TV nostalgia freak like me, this comes highly-recommended.
ADVENTURER OF TORTUGA (64)
Rik Battaglia is the titular hero and Guy Madison plays the bad guy in this Italian/West German swashbuckler. Nothing extraordinary but it’s not bad either. A perfectly enjoyable Sunday afternoon movie if you like this type of thing (count me in).
The great Michael Powell directs a WWII spy story with the classic stunner Valerie Hobson. This time Danish freighter captain Conrad Veidt gets mixed up with German spies in a British port. Nice pictorial touches from Powell and a solid cast make this worthwhile.
BLACK SHIELD OF FALWORTH (54)
Longtime favorite knights-in-shining-armor adventure with upstart Tony Curtis on track for knighthood, revenge, and smooches with Janet Leigh. A colorful, fun old-fashioned treat for the sword-wielder in all of us.
The story’s not new, a bad cop goes to hell, but it’s definitely worth seeing for Woody Harrelson’s performance. He sharp as a razor, volatile, sad, and ultimately lost. The character deserves what he gets but you have to admire the skill Woody exhibits on the way down.
Mixed Martial artist Gina Carano seriously kicks ass in her first film. She plays a black ops specialist working for a government contractor who is framed and must get to the bottom of the conspiracy while trying to stay alive. It’s a good spy story but it’s an even better action flick, thanks to the skills of Carano, director Steven Soderbergh, and the fight and weapons choreographers. Recommended.
Ron Eldard (he was the touchy bad guy, Pete, in the Adventures of Brisco County Jr TV series) has been a roadie for the Blue Oyster Cult for the last quarter century when he is unceremoniously fired by the band. The only place he can go at this point is home to his mom and grow up. Eldard carries this little character piece that is occasionally underwritten but has good performances and enough true moments to pull the whole thing off. Recommended for aging rockers.
LE CERCLE ROUGE (70, encore)
Great French crime from Jean-Pierre Melville. Alain Delon, Gian-Maria Volante, and Yves Montand pull off an excellent heist but fall for the tactics of copper Bourvil. It's all about style and Melville knows what he's doing. If you don't believe me, watch The Asphalt Jungle -- Melville apes the best.
WHAT A CARVE UP! (61)
Here's something decidedly rare; a funny horror comedy. Sid James and Kenneth Conner (from the Carry On... series of parodies) do the Abbott and Costello shtick - except much funnier - when they visit an old dark house for the reading of Conner's uncle's will. Knockout Shirley Eaton (a few years before Goldfinger), tippler Dennis Price, lawyer Donald Pleasance, and butler Michael Gough contribute fine performances as various oddballs and victims about the house. Despite the occassional dead spot, so to speak, this was pretty darn funny overall.
LONDON BOULEVARD (11)
Excellent Brit crime. The core of the story is the old saw about a gangster coming out of stir who gets drawn back into the underworld. But it's all about style and lots of interesting things happen the way this old saw is told. Colin Farrell is quite good as the anti-hero, Ray Winstone does a great turn as the heavy, and Kiera Knightly does the lost, haunted celeb thing. But it's David Thewliss who steals the show as the extremely bored actor with access to lots of money and drugs who, caught in the whirlpool, fulfills his true destiny. Recommended.
HOUSE OF TOLERANCE (2011)
"Men have secrets but no mystery." Deceptively languid and exquisitely painful tale of a French brothel on the cusp of the 20th century - living high in the belle epoque and then fading under the glare of a changing society. A masterpiece of matter-of-fact eroticism, this is a film of great beauty, and devastating purpose in that beauty.
GAINSBOURG: A HEROIC LIFE (10)
A very trippy biopic about the man and his music. Eric Elmosnino channels Serge in an amazing performance. Another visually stunning movie, the artistic force that was Serge is captured fluently but don't expect a nut-n-bolts biography. Highly recommended for fans of film and music. Serge would approve.
PRINCE VALIANT (54, encore)
Great, old-fashioned adventure torn from the pages of Hal Foster's famous comic strip. Robert Wagner, with page boy haircut, is the upstart son of a exiled king out to expose the traitors and become a knight of the round table. Janet Leigh and Debra Paget look great and Sterling Hayden and James Mason make excellent good and bad guys, respectively. Henry Hathaway pulls the whole shebang off admirably. Bravo!
WORLD ON A WIRE (73)
Rainer Werner Fassbinder's sci-fi mini-series posits the idea of a man-made civilization within a computer that can be visited by "entering" one of the beings in the box. But are we at the top of the chain of universes here? Or is there a greater civilization above us doing the same thing? An obvious inspiration for The Matrix films including the idea of using a phone call to return to one's "real" world. Thoughtful and interesting if maybe a bit too long, this is well worth seeing for fans of the genre and the director.
THE RUM DIARY (11)
Ok, not a great movie - this sort of flounders in the second half - but that doesn't mean it isn't worth a watch. Performances are excellent all around and the dialog is quite funny and perceptive. This is a good looking movie too. Recommended for fans of the Deppster and Hunter Thompson.
Lars von Trier crosses Woody Allen with Terrence Mallick. A beautiful movie about an unhappy bride (Kirsten Dunst) and a planet on a collision course with Earth. A strong cast and good performances (especially from Charlotte Gainsbourg), gorgeous visuals, and a palatable sense of doom make this fascinating in a macabre sort of way. For those who burned out on Trier give this a shot.
Not unworthy American western pits bad guys Warren Oates (guts) and Kerwin Mathews (brains) against good guys Lee Van Cleef (brains) and Forrest Tucker (guts) in a stand off over a barge. You heard right. But actually its about the futility and absurdity of stubbornness with some homoerotic subtext thrown in. A western steeped in post-Wild Bunch and post-Once Upon a Time in the West influence, this features dope smoking (by bad guy Oates, of course) and sadism that is obviously not heart-felt. Said Oates has a few moments of true genius and the rest of the time he's merely brilliant. You know who you are who should see this once.
FUNERAL IN BERLIN (66, encore)
Hands down one of the great Cold War thrillers; at once deeply and irrevocably cynical yet steadfast and unaccountably conservative. The perfect example of well-managed insanity at the highest political levels. And it will look and sound great on blue-ray, whenever that happens. Moving into the top 100.
HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS (70)
Spawned by the popular late-sixties vampire soap opera, this is a lively, entertaining rehash of its first year. Lots of old-fashioned gothic horror trappings and a roving camera that never seems to settle down much. Fun even for those (myself included) without much exposure to the TV show.
ROMULUS AND REMUS (61)
Steve Reeves and Gordon Scott are the fabled brothers of different fates. Good looking movie with lots of action. Reeves ends up on top and kicks off the whole Rome thing.
BLANK CITY (10)
Totally worthy doc about the NYC DIY film scene in the late 70's and 80's. Nick Zedd, Richard Kerns, James Chance, Deborah Harry, Steve Buscemi, Ann Magnuson, Jim Jarmusch, etc. If any of those names mean anything to you, then check this out. Highly recommended.
MOLE MEN AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES (61)
Mark Forest is Maciste this time, infiltrating the Mole Men's underground kingdom where they enslave topsiders to work in the diamond mine. Many fights and feats of strength later, he wins. The Mole Men are ruled by an evil queen (Moira Orfei) who is being courted by her elder adviser's son played by Gianni Garko! Good locations, sets, and costumes, and plenty of action and difficult things for Maciste to do but the score is lame and the dubbing leaves everyone flat. In other words almost totally fun.
BRIGHTON ROCK (10)
Curious Brit crime based on Graham Greene’s novel (and a remake of the 1947 Richard Attenborough starrer). Set in the early 60s this time, it tells the tale of a young, vicious, overreaching gangster who eventually gets his just desserts. Violent, twisted, and stylish enough to hold the interest, this somehow doesn’t ring true. Sam Riley, who killed as Joy Division leader Ian Curtis in 2007’s Control, almost pulls off the psychopathic lead. But not quite. Worth a look for crime fans as a near miss.
Brad Harris teams up with Alan Steel to free the usurped and overthrow the usurpers. Features lizard king Serge Gainsbourg as the evil would-be ruler. All hand-to-hand, no armies. Our hero easily handles the spiked walls of death closing in on him and the tug o'war over a fire pit. Sinister's copy is wide but not enhanced. Plenty entertaining.
Beat Takeshi's yakuza crime thriller exposes the pointless loyalties and endless dances of death of the underworld. Great-looking movie. The purposefully labyrinthine plotting rises to the level of absurdity carrying with it any weight the brutal violence would have beyond the shock of it. Not enough Beat for my buck but worth a look for fans.
HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS (63)
Hercules takes on the Mongol hordes. And wins. This time it's Mark Forest fighting to protect a young heir to the throne against Genghis Khan's bad ass son Ken Clark. Lions and horses are among the mistreated but overall this is an entertaining peek at an alternate universe.
DAUGHTER OF DARKNESS (48)
In post-war Ireland, a young girl is sent packing to England because she riles up the local village boys with her unintentional (or so it seems) flirting. Now living on a farm in rural England, the girl's flirtations turn deadly and threaten the family who embraced her. I saw this as a flawed but interesting metaphor for a hidden but undeniable sinister force beneath the facade of a country trying to return to normalcy after the horrors of war. The farm family is matriarchal and it is the women in the film who recognize the interloper for what she is and handle the problem. Excellent photography drapes the film in deep shadow but the leading lady doesn't inspire the needed sultry innocence. Early roles for Barry Morse and Honor Blackman. Worth a look.
THE LION OF ST. MARK (64)
Gordon Scott is the Lion of St. Mark, a Scarlet Pimpernel-type, fighting pirates in Venice, and falling for hottie Gianna Maria Canale. The two leads are attractive and charismatic, the locations are used to good effect, photography and costumes are better than average, and there's plenty of action (some from other movies). Recommended for killing time, adventure style.
MANY RIVERS TO CROSS (55)
Bushrod gets pussy whipped. 18th century trapper Robert Taylor is pursued by obvious soul-mate Eleanor Parker. And guess what. Early west, stage-bound rom-com has a witty script and amiable players but be prepared for a theatrical feel. Earliest pairing of the skipper and the professor. Not to mention Marshal Dillon. Won't hurt you too much.
MAN OF THE WEST (58, encore)
Gary Cooper is terrific as the reformed criminal dragged back into his sordid past when he meets up with his old gang. Anthony Mann's Oedipal tale unfolds in a brutal and uncompromising dance of death and redemption. Highly recommended.
ANOTHER EARTH (11)
A mirror planet to ours appears in the sky. Meanwhile a repentant woman seeks the man whose life she ruined in a car wreck. The metaphorical pairing makes for an intriguing start but I couldn't help feel that more experienced filmmakers would have fulfilled its promise. Worth a look.
POINT BLANK (10)
Fun French crime thriller. Circumstances put an everyman into a situation where he must outwit thugs and cops to rescue his pregnant wife. We've seen this before but it's the telling that makes it special. The breathtaking pace and iconic characters make this more of a crime fantasy. A few surprises and it looks great too.
ATTACK THE BLOCK (11)
Alien invasion in an unfamiliar milieu; the south London projects. Stylish, edgy, and funny, this has plenty going for it for rough and tumble SF fans. Not enough Nick Frost but still recommended.
CIRCLE OF DANGER (51)
Jacques Tournier's post-war mystery is not considered one of his best but much of it is compelling and the denouement shows the hand of a master. Ray Milland is quite good as the ambiguous searcher of truth in his brother's wartime death. Hitchcockian flavor and excellent photography complete the mix.
An homage to the giallo and the filmmakers who engender the form tells the story of a twisted girl who grows up to kill! The giallo conventions are here stripped down to the barest storytelling elements (very little is spoken) and embellished with stylistic excess. There is much to be enjoyed by giallo aficionados with a glass of absinthe in hand.
THE YESTERDAY MACHINE (63)
No budget wacko sci-fi shot in Texas, somewhere around East Jesus State, I think. It's the great Tim Holt doing a favor for some ambitious yet misguided friend of his to add marquee value to a property that MAYBE played a few southern drive-ins. It's a low-rent high class redneck fever dream about a mad scientist with a time machine trying to snatch Hitler before he dies in order to reignite the Reich. This is one of those universes where talking about something happening is as entertaining as showing it happen. Skip it already.