Showing posts from 2018

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

While Godzilla has had numerous reboots, going from good to bad to just a force of nature to, even at one point, being the embodiment of the souls of Japan's war dead, King Kong hasn't had the same fortunes.  Sure, he never had to suffer a little ape blowing smoke rings, but his reputation has mainly rested on how good the 1933 film was, and still is.

The original movie got a mediocre sequel, then got to fight Godzilla in that monster's fourth movie in 1962 - a movie that got its own sequel, King Kong Escapes, in 1967.  We then got our own monster back for a 1976 remake, which then got its own sequel 10 years later - neither of which did the monster justice.  So, keeping with that two-sequel pattern, when I saw the advertisements to this, I thought that someone decided to rush out a sequel to Peter Jackson's 2005 version.

Instead, this is more of a sequel to (or prequel, really) to 2014's Godzilla.  While Toho is again working on building its own Godzilla universe…

Westworld (1973)

I was a bit confused when I heard that Westworld had become a television show.  Like many older films I remember watching this on Saturday mornings after the cartoons were over, and Yul Brynner's black-clad Gunslinger was always one of the most memorable villains of '70s sci-fi. 

So, how in the world were they going to turn Michael Crichton's rather simple tale of a park full of robots suddenly turning on its guests?  A completely new movie would not have surprised me, since Westworld, directed and written by Michael Crichton, in many ways feels like a Jurassic Park dry-run.  But stretching it out in 10 to 13 episode seasons? 

Happily the show decided to go on its own path while borrowing a few elements from the movie itself.  But, in the course of watching the show, I realized it was time to check out the film again.

After being introduced through a series of public relations interviews to the happy patrons of Delos, an amusement park featuring "accurate" repre…

Final Destination 2 (2003)

Final Destinationtried to add something new to the slasher genre, as it had suddenly become a thing again due to the Scream series.  In some ways it succeeded, with the invincible stalker becoming the unseen force of Death Itself.  Sure, occasionally there was a black cloud in a reflection or something, but mainly it was just some force causing a string of events to happen in order to make sure you died like you were supposed to.  Its intended victims were a group of teenagers that avoided an airline disaster due to the sudden vision of one of their classmate Alex (Devon Sawa, who does not appear in this sequel).

The original movie, ambitious in its plotting as it was (not a surprise since X-Files and American Horror Story writers Glen Morgan and James Wong were involved, with the latter directing), the execution left a lot to be desired.  Sawa spent most of the time looking like a dreamy-eyed puppy dog, while the entire movie took its plot way too seriously.  It also ended with one o…

Final Destination (2000)

The early 2000s, thanks to Scream, saw a brief resurgence in slasher films.  Like their heyday in the 1980s, they largely followed the same formula over and over again, and most (including the reboots of the '80s films) were horrible.  I'm not talking about laughably horrible, but just plain unwatchable.  They were cheap, there was nostalgia, and that was about it. 

The worst thing, and this was also because of Scream (which is actually a good slasher flick, in case you are wondering why I may be ragging on it), was many of the films became self-aware.  While there may be a fair amount of gore, the emphasis was on the genre rather than trying to actually make a good film within said genre. 

Perhaps that is why, in the end, the Final Destination movies still stand out after many of the others have been forgotten, and after the genre has been put to bed once again over a decade previous.

Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) is in his senior year at Mt. Abraham High School in New York.  H…

Chained for Life (1952)

Many of the current crop of television shows owe quite a bit to exploitation films of the past, and it constantly amuses me to see genres that have generally been treated with eye-rolling scorn catch the imagination of mainstream audiences.  Sons of Anarchy, despite its pretensions toward being an update of Hamlet, was at its heart a good, old fashioned biker gang movie stretched out to multiple seasons. Orange Is the New Black?  Women in prison films - and this one enjoyed largely by women, who in the past would have walked in on something like Chained Heat screaming about how they can't believe men could watch such trash.

American Horror Story is a mishmash of many obvious influences, through (at first) seemingly disconnected seasons which eventually weaved into their own universe, with some of it being better than others - and much, especially in later seasons, feeling frustratingly random.  One of the random bits in the fourth season, Freak Show, was lifted almost wholesale fr…

Hit Man (1972)

The Blaxploitation genre these days often gets a bit more credit than it deserves, largely due to directors like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez pushing the movies as an influence.  Truth is, there are a number of hidden gems that were made by this time, by both white and African-American directors, and it was a bit of a shame that the backlash against the worst aspects of these movies (mainly by white critics) led to the premature demise of this type of film making and, as a result, the careers of many involved.

The reason I think it gets too much credit for influencing big budget retro-exploitation is because, like most things removed from its proper time and place, only the best examples are remembered.  Classical music is a great example.  We are a century or more removed from the most influential composers.  On the other hand, we are also a century or more removed from thousands of mediocre composers whose material was played for light entertainment at dinner tables throu…

Shoot First, Die Later (1974)

Of all my hobbies I can definitely say that my top two are record collecting and delving deeper and deeper into what cinema has to offer.  While I do not collect DVDs like I do records, there is a connection.  There is just over a century of material and, while that may seem like a blink of an eye in the history of humanity or, indeed, the world, it is still enough time to have created enough material to keep an interested person finding something new for a lifetime.

Which brings me to my first poliziotteschi, Il poliziotto e' marcio, retitled Shoot First, Die Later for international distribution.  The original Italian translates roughly to The Rotten Cop, which is much more appropriate than the attempts of U.S. posters to make it look like some sort of James Bond knockoff. 

Domenico Malacarne (Luc Merenda) is Milan's top cop, gaining some unwanted media attention after he and his partner Garrito (Rosario Barelli) manage to chase down and arrest the perpetrators of a deadly j…

Marooned (1969)

There is a reason, despite the criticisms of Neil Degrasse Tyson, why science fantasy will always trump hard science fiction when it comes to the media of film.  It's kind of accepted that if you are taking the time to read a book that you have the patience, and possibly the intellect, to understand the concepts presented and are willing to marvel at many of the things the author gets right, even if its decades down the line.  With movies, however, it is a lot more interesting to watch a bunch of ships dogfighting, with full sound in space and maneuvers that ignore the fact that the lack of atmosphere in space make them unnecessary.

After 2001: A Space Odyssey, it's not surprising that film execs would think that maybe another slow-moving, largely fact-based science fiction film with convincing effects would hit it big.  So, in that vein, we have John Sturges taking over a movie that was originally meant to be directed by Frank Capra and adapting it from a book by Martin Caid…

Countdown (1968)

All great directors start somewhere.  Often, that is the only reason anyone really knows a movie exists.  Duel is an okay made-for-television film, but for all the killer car movies that came after it, it would largely be forgotten today if it was not for Steven Spielberg getting his start with it.  Even Stanley Kubrick started off a pulpy bit of noir called Killer's Kiss, which really isn't on anyone's list of classics.

With Countdown we get to see Robert Altman in his feature film debut.  He had done television and industrial films before, but here he gets to direct a rather staid, and sometimes dull, film about the impending moon landing.  Still, he and his cast do wring some life out of it despite the budget limitations and the fact that not a lot happens until about the last third.

Chiz (Robert Duvall) is set to become the first man on the moon as NASA's Apollo project comes to its fruition.  However, the Soviets manage to do a successful orbit of our satellite a…

Bright (2017)

While there are many advantages of the platform that Netflix pioneered - from being able to stream shows and movies to not having to worry about running up late fees if you forget to turn the tape or DVD back into the store - one of the things I have missed from the past were direct-to-video films.  As the drive-in and bargain theaters slowly faded away b-movies needed another outlet, and video stores were definitely it.

Honestly, most large studios won't take the chances of putting something with a limited audience in the theater, and many chains won't fill up one of their theaters with something like Bright when it's one more room they can jam a number of people into to see the newest Marvel offering - especially when the movie's director is one of the many responsible for dragging the competing DC universe through the muck.  After practically destroying the franchise with Suicide Squad, trying to convince the usual Hollywood machine to back an overly expensive pulp…

The Lost Continent (1968)

Saturday mornings as a kid in the 1970s and 1980s was great.  While I did like some cartoons, what I always waited for was a show on KPHO (now a CBS affiliate, but back then an independent station) called The World Beyond.  Opening with the sounds of Jon and Vangelis's "Curious Electric", and featuring a spinning galaxy, it featured everything from old Universal horror films to Godzilla vs. everything.  Sure, there were things to do outside, but they could wait.

That's not to say everything I ever saw on there was of the greatest quality.  They played the Hammer and American International films as well (edited slightly for content, of course), and that even included the lesser efforts, like The Lost Continent.  The last time I could remember seeing it was at my grandparents' cabin in Payson, and this was probably when I was 11 or 12.  I had seen it before, and it wasn't any better that time around.  The only thing that stuck with me over the years was the th…

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

If there is one thing a Cold War is good for it is spy thrillers.  That is why even the newer James Bond films are left hurting for convincing villains.  Communism, at least the way it was practiced behind the Iron Curtain, was the anathema of everything modern Western civilization stood for.  You didn't need a moustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash when you had at your disposal a hive mind of political fanatics that spit bullets and political dialectic equally.

We now know that things were more than a little different than we thought, but the outrageous fear both sides had for each other (usually based on exaggerated claims themselves or individual bad actors) made for some great stories.  Even to this day, if you want to do a spy story right, setting back in the days of the Cold War (like the television show The Americans).  There is only so much shadowy organizations like SPECTRE or Hydra can do on their own, after all.

This new version of John Le Carre's classic espionage no…

Road House (1989)

When you mention any '80s film there is inevitably rumors that a remake is in the works.  Not surprising, as even '90s movies seem fair game right now, and certain franchises, like Spiderman and Batman, seem to get rebooted every few years.  The problem is that certain movies can only belong in the time period they were made.  It has nothing to do with quality, but simply the fact that certain genre films only work in the era they were made.

The '80s contain many of these, and one of the foremost being action films.  Yes, the first two Expendables movies were fun, but they still felt like modern action films.  All the old guys get together for one more round.  It still feels way too much like, "Remember when?"  And, yes, many of us remember when rather clearly. 

That doesn't mean I remember everything fondly.  At the time Road House came out I consider Patrick Swayze another up-and-coming pretty boy without much substance.  I was forced to watch Dirty Dancin…