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Showing posts from September, 2015

Three the Hard Way (1974)

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Whenever you see parodies of blaxploitation films like Undercover Brother, once they dispense with some references to Shaft and Superfly they usually go to this one for the plot. 

It is quite understandable why they would.  Gordon Parks, Jr.'s follow-up to the gritty and controversial Superfly was this more mainstream comic-book style film starring three of the biggest African-American stars of the time.  A decent budget, stunt work by legend Hal Needham and an overarching sense of fun (and cool) makes this one of the more memorable entries in this genre despite the ridiculous plot.

When Jimmy Lait's (Jim Brown) old friend House (Junero Jennings) shows up with a gunshot wound and a wild story about a plot to kill the African-American population, it is understandable that he questions it at first.  However, the white supremacists behind the plot track down House and murder him in his hospital bed, kidnapping Jimmy's girlfriend Wendy (Sheila Frazier) in the process and gunn…

Invisible Invaders (1959)

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One way to tell that a movie was largely thrown together at the last minute, typically without a budget or without anyone involved really giving a damn, is when a good portion of it is narration.  Too many times this is the case with the 1950s science fiction b-movies.  They were often aimed at a Saturday matinee audience and, while many later became classics, most followed a tried-and-true formula. 

Invisible Invaders is one of those where it was obvious that everyone involved was concerned with nothing more than punching the clock.  A thin, worn-out plot is stretched to feature length by narration and tons of stock footage while everything lumbers to a predictable finale.

When Dr. Karol Noyman (John Carradine) blows himself up while experimenting with atomic energy, his colleague Dr. Adam Penner (Philip Tonge) announces his intention to withdraw from the U.S. nuclear program as he is concerned that the experiments will only lead to the death of mankind.  However, the night after Dr.…

They Came from Beyond Space (1967)

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It probably shouldn't be that surprising that 1960s British science fiction, especially from a studio like Amicus (which in many cases was a low-rent version of Hammer), would be quite reminiscent of Doctor Who.  By 1967 that television show had already been on four years and had, along with Quatermass, had largely set the tone for British sci-fi in the same way atom bombs, semi-communist invaders and giant bugs did in the United States in the 1950s.

A series of meteorites fall to Earth in a "v" pattern in a farm outside a small village in Cornwall.  A group of scientists led by Lee Mason (Jennifer Jayne) are sent to investigate and quickly become possessed by the aliens encased within.  Still disguising it as a scientific inquiry, Dr. Mason begins ordering everything from advanced scientific equipment to guns.

Concerned about Lee (being his girlfriend and all) and perplexed after another colleague, Arden (Bernard Kay) attempts to kidnap him but quickly flees, Dr. Curti…

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

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It is always interesting to see a cult film in the making.  Usually I end up hearing about films years down the road, or remembering from my childhood and wondering at the fact that they now have millions of fans despite the fact that there was largely and ambivalent attitude toward the film in the first place.

Edge of Tomorrow died at the box office.  Tom Cruise, with his Scientology and generally erratic behavior, has had a hard time maintaining his previous appeal unless he's noticeably doing a stunt that could get him killed.  Emily Blunt is a great actor, but not a big-name draw.  Add to that a horrible marketing campaign that made this look like another mindless bunch of CGI without a plot and you quickly had a disaster on your hands.  $178 million was blown on this, and it never made it back. 

It didn't help that many people were confused on what the name of the movie was, especially after it came out on DVD.  The tagline, "Live. Die. Repeat." is almost as bi…

V for Vendetta (2005)

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After The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, one can't really blame famed comic book writer Alan Moore for saying "screw this" and refusing to watch any movies made from his works.  In fact, he has even gone so far with V for Vendetta as removing any mention of him creating it at all, instead letting his illustrator have all the credit.  That's a shame because this, like The Watchmen, isn't a horrible adaptation at all.

That, of course, is being said by someone who has never read the actual comic.  I never read The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen either, but I don't have to when it comes to being able to say that it is an awful movie.  I understand that V, as written, was an anarchist, and a lot of backstory about racial cleansing is lost.  Still, it is understandable that some changes were made, as the two are 20 years apart.

In the movie it is inferred that the events are taking place in the early 2020s, with the Norsefire Party coming to full power in t…

The Last Starfighter (1984)

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Today a loan desktop (or laptop) PC or Mac is what is needed to create awesome (or so we're supposed to believe) computer graphics in place of the models used for decades in science fiction and fantasy films.  Imagine trying to do the same thing when your only option is to get time on a workstation for a Cray supercomputer.

Well, The Last Starfighter managed just that, with most of the space battles, ships and effects computer generated.  It was a technical revolution in 1984 and, unlike now, seemed to save the producers of the movie money.  There are still a number of models and technical effects used, but part of the joy of watching this film is seeing what those images looked like back then.  In truth, much of it looks like about the graphic level of Grand Theft Auto 4, with 3-D polygon renderings that flatten and blur when you get close.  Not so impressive for movie-making now, but unbelievably advanced for the time.

Keep in mind that a large part of the plot revolves around …

Bloody Birthday (1981)

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The early '80s is renowned as the time of the slasher film, with numerous titles both classic and horribly unwatchable.  What is typically not known is that the films themselves were butchered as much as the victims in them by the MPAA (may of the Freddy and Jason movies were much bloodier, and the original My Bloody Valentine was heavily censored).  What that meant is that, while promising boobs and blood, you got a very little of the former and not as much of the latter as you would expect. 

That is why Bloody Birthday is quite a surprise.  Not only does it have graphic nudity (and scenes bordering on softcore porn), but it makes up for a moderate amount of gore by making the killers a group of children.

Debbie (Elizabeth Hoy), Curtis (Billy Jayne) and Steven (Andrew Freeman) are all born at the same time during an eclipse on June 9, 1970.  A week before their birthday a couple of teenagers are murdered while having sex in an open grave.  Debbie's father James (Bert Kramer)…

Point Break (1991)

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The 1990s were hailed as one of the revival decades of cinema.  Not only was Hollywood putting out some films that were to become new classics, but independent and foreign films seemed to be reaching new heights as well.  In some ways it was like the early 1970s again. 

That includes the fact that films like Point Break were made. 

And it makes sense that it was.  At a time when practically any idea is making a load of money it is no surprise that someone pitched this and a producer decided to run with it.  And, despite everything that says this movie should have been an abject failure, things worked out to where it has endured and become more popular over time. 

A good amount of the credit goes to director Kathryn Bigelow, known these days for such movies as The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty.  At the time she hadbeen noticed for her modern vampire tale Near Dark and a crime drama featuring Jamie Lee Curtis called Blue Steel.  Her combination of beautiful surfing shots, realistic …

The Devil's Own (1966)

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It is hard to think of someone purposely choosing Hammer, the famous British movie studio that is largely known for breathing new life into Universal's carousel of monsters, as the place to produce their pet project.  That is exactly what Joan Fontaine, who plays the protagonist in this story did.  She bought the rights to the novel (called The Witches, which was also the original British title of this film) and suggested that Hammer make their version of it. 

Gwen Mayfield (Fontaine) is working a school teacher in Africa when the country she is in erupts into revolution and the school is attacked by the local witch doctor.  This lands Mayfield in a mental institution for a time.  Afterward, she seems to have been able to overcome her problems and to have been given a second chance at a rural school run by Stephanie (Kay Walsh) and Alan Bax (Alec McCowen). 

The problem is that things are not as they seem.  Townspeople, especially Granny Rigg (Gwen Ffrangcon Davies), are especiall…

The Fly (1958)

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I believe like most people my age that, even though I am quite aware of the 1950s movie of which it was a remake, I'm much more familiar with David Cronenberg's 1988 version of this movie starring Jeff Goldblum as a scientist that has his DNA combined with that of a fly when experimenting with teleportation.  For the longest time about all I ever saw of the original was in some old clip shows where it showed the reveal, and usually that was in black and white.  One would expect the older version to be a bit more stilted and less disturbing than Cronenberg's body horror take.

I think the reason this isn't seen as much as some classic horror films is the fact that it is much more disturbing than many of its contemporaries.  While Andre Delambre (David Hedison) is set up as a tragic dramatic character, his treatment of others in pursuit of his goals can bring up some questions about whether the single-minded insectoid determination at the end is more of a reflection of h…