Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Jaws of Satan (1981)

AKA: King Kobra

Director: Bob Claver

Writers: James Callaway, Gerry Holland

Composer: Roger Kellaway

Starring: Fritz Weaver, Gretchen Corbett, Jon Korkes, Norman Lloyd, Diana Douglas, Bob Hannah, Nancy Priddy, Christina Applegate, John McCurry

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Something you wouldn't dare to imagine is alive!

Plot: A preacher whose ancestors were cursed by Druids battles Satan, who has taken the form of a huge snake.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

This isn't all that bad.  It's smacks of being a JAWS (1975) clone but with snakes and, uh, Satan.  That was different.  The acting runs the gamut of bad to good to better than what this film deserves but overall it's just an OK horror picture that doesn't get boring or overstay its welcome.  That's the good thing about this is that I was surprised it didn't take a trip to Dullsville and stay the night.  It comes close, though.  They got creative when it came to when to use real snakes and when to bring in the phony ones.  Using Desoto Caverns in Childersburg, Alabama for the big finale was great.  I just visited there a year ago.  It's OK.  There are far better caves in the region.  The problem with Desoto Caverns is all you have access to is the one large room.  The owners are super Christian and it shows in their tour.  If you've never been to a cave then you'll dig it but you won't if you've gone to some good ones.  I found it a moderate wast of $25.  But I'm not here to talk about some tarted up whore of a cave.  There's a wasted opportunity when one character steps into a tub where there's a large deadly snake in the back.  The camera is on the front of the tub showing the woman's lower legs and feet and then she slowly steps back to eventually reveal that the snake disappeared and it's slithering in another room.  There was very little suspense.  A better way to handle that would be to cut away just before we would see the snake, have her slip a little and scream as she falls a bit.  Then show us the snake isn't there.  And there's the tease and promise of nudity but there isn't any.  The naughty bits are cleverly hidden by furniture and shit.  But I didn't make this picture, obviously; Bob Claver did.   This the only feature film he worked on.  He directed and produced  gobs and gobs of TV shows for almost 30 years.  So often it's painfully obvious when a predominately TV director makes a movie but not so much here and that's a good thing.  The Shout TV anamorphic widescreen print looks marvelous. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Red Sparrow (2018)

Director: Francis Lawrence

Writers: Justin Haythe, Jason Matthews

Composer: James Newton Howard

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Ciaran Hinds, Joely Richardson, Bill Camp, Jeremy Irons, Thekla Reuten, Douglas Hodge

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Seductive. Deceptive. Deadly.

Plot: Dominika Egorova, a famous Russian prima ballerina for the renowned Bolshoi Ballet, sees her brilliant career end abruptly--and as a result--she is faced with a difficult decision when her shady uncle, Vanya Egorov, sends her to serve the State. Now, as a secret agent or, a Sparrow, Dominika after intensive training to learn how to use her body as a weapon to sexually manipulate prestigious targets, is recruited to make contact with CIA Agent, Nate Nash, to reveal the identity of his unknown Russian informant.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I saw the trailer only once and I couldn't help but think this is the Marvel Black Widow origin story.  But then I saw it and that notion fell fast.  This movie is fantastic.  I loved it.  It is a well made picture in every department.  Lawrence's performance is quiet and reserved and that serves her character's deception well.  I didn't know where her loyalties lay until shortly before the end credits rolled.  The story is intriguing without being overly complicated but it's strength is playing to the danger and deceit.  I can see how people might be turned off to the length and deliberately slow pacing but I found it necessary to tell the story properly.  Every scene has a purpose and the character moments and actions serve the story.  Yeah, it's two hours and twenty minutes but every minute adds to the characters, their motivations and to the picture as a whole.  I wouldn't change any of it.  At first I was struck by how much time was spent with Dominika and her build up to becoming a Sparrow but as I got more into the picture I realized that there wasn't a wasted moment.  It's not an action filled spy thriller but there are moments when it's necessary like the knife fight in the final act.  It's brutal and everyone is getting cut.  I cringed a lot.  It's a beautifully shot film and it needs to be seen on the big screen.  It's only been out two weeks but with the speed at how fast movies leave these days unless it's making seriously large dollars, it's not likely to be around much longer.   I'm looking forward to spending more time with this one and I hope the Blu-ray is loaded with extras and a commentary.  I saw that the novel this is based on has two sequels.  I sincerely hope this picture does well enough that those that matter film them but I suspect, without having read them, that they might be more traditional spy thrillers than this one. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Tripping the Rift: The Movie (2008)

Director: Bernie Denk

Writers: Mark Amato, Ken Goin, Lanier Laney, John Minnis, Terry Sweeney

Composer: Mario Sevigny

Starring: Stephen Root, Maurice LaMarche, Jenny McCarthy, John Melendez, Gayle Garfinkle, Rick Jones, Danny Blanco Hall, Daniel Brochu

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Star Wars meets South Park

Plot: What begins for Chode and crew as a routine mission to protect a pissed-off princess will soon become a filth- splattered saga of dismembered royalty, indestructible clown assassins and desperately horny housewives. What vile act has Chode committed to bring down the ultimate wrath of Bobo? Can Gus, Six, T'nuk, Whip and Bob stop a time-traveling killing machine from ruining a booze-soaked birthday party? How much does a lap- dance cost at the Grope-A-Cabana on Omicron 9?

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

It seems like forever ago when I first heard of TRIPPING THE RIFT when I saw the original 2000 short.  I'd heard of a TV series and this movie coming out of it but I never saw anything else until now.  From my fondness of the short to the great voice cast, I thought for sure this would be a whole lot of fun.  It's nicely done from a technical standpoint.  It looks good, the voice acting is great and at no point was I bored.  BUT then again it's not nearly as funny as it should be.  I dug the countless movie references.  Those were fun but it's not enough. You need to have some genuine laughs for this to sustain the short 74 minute run time.  I found it amusing but with talent like this, you want to shoot higher than mildly entertaining.  If more time had been spent on the script they probably would've achieved that.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Infiltrator (2016)

Director: Brad Furman

Writers: Ellen Sue Brown, Robert Mazur

Composer: Chris Hajian

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Olympia Dukakis, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger, Benjamin Bratt, Amy Ryan, Yul Vazquez, Joseph Gilgun, Carsten Hayes, Mark Holden

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The true story of one man against the biggest drug cartel in history.

Plot: A U.S. Customs official uncovers a money laundering scheme involving Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Definitely.

I liked the film but I didn't love it.  It's a well made picture with good performances and everything is done like you would want in a major motion picture but the one thing that was missing was tension.  I didn't feel it.  Now it's possible this story was meant to be told exactly as it lays out without trying to be more compelling than it is.  If that's the case then they succeeded but if the filmmakers were going for something that had some suspense and more substantial meat to it then it misses the mark.  I'm perfectly OK with that, too, as it's an entertaining and interesting picture.  Over the past couple of years I've watched a lot of films, TV shows (like NARCOS) and documentaries on this subject and they've nearly all been great so maybe, just maybe, I'm approaching the limit or, at the very least, the bar has been set high just from having watched so much good product in a short period of time.  Shit, that was a long sentence.  The performances are very good and fans of any of these fine actors won't go away disappointed.  The only thing I was left with is how odd Cranston looks, at his age in his 60s, sporting that jet black hair and jet black mustache playing a man half his age.  He's such a good actor that he sells it but the sheer darkness of his hair is unnatural.  He was also the executive producer of Robert Mazur's true story.  I watched this on Amazon Prime.  If I came across the Blu on this I'd definitely pick it up if it has extras and the price is right.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Dreadnaught (1981)

Original title: Yong Zhe Wu Ju

Director: Woo-Ping Yuen

Writer: Jing Wong

Starring: Biao Yuen, Ka-Yan Leung, Shun-Yee Yuen, Tak-Hing Kwant, Chung-Hsing Chao, Yun-Kin Chow, Lee Chun-Wa, Mei Sheng Fan

More info: IMDb

Plot: A short-tempered, violent criminal named "White Tiger" is on the run from the police and joins a theater troupe for disguise, killing anyone who angers him or who suspects his identity. One person he unsuccessfully tries to kill several times is a cowardly laundry man named "Mousy" who manages to escape mostly by running and hiding. When a very close friend of Mousy's is killed by the White Tiger, Mousy overcomes his cowardliness enough to seek revenge.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not but I'll definitely re-watch the dragon/lion dance scenes again.

I don't know about anyone else but I watch these 70s & 80s Kung Fu flicks for the fights.  The humor rarely hits with me as it's usually coming from way over the top characters who can't possibly exist in real life.  The story just needs to serve as a thread on which the Kung Fu action hangs.  Those are my criteria.  This one is a prime example.  The fights are creative and fun and those dragon/lion dance sequences are just marvelous.  The print I watched looked great in anamorphic widescreen.  It was dubbed in English which wasn't bad but I got the feeling I would have preferred to watch it in the original Cantonese with English subs.  Maybe the overbearing comic relief would've been toned down.  This picture is one of the good ones from a genre and time when there were a lot of bad to just OK films.  It's definitely worth checking out.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Hell Ship Mutiny (1957)

Directors: Lee Sholem, Elmo Williams

Writers: DeVallon Scott, Wells Root

Composers: Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter

Starring: Jon Hall, John Carradine, Peter Lorre, Roberta Haynes, Mike Mazurki, Charles Mauu, Stanley Adams, Danny Richards Jr.

More info: IMDb

Tagline: AN EXCITING STORY!.. Of Passionate Love...and High-Adventure in the South Pacific!

Plot: Jim Knight is the captain of a ship trading in the South Seas. He runs into trouble when he makes port at an island where crooks Malone and Ross hold the natives under their cruel domination while they seek a fortune in pearls. Knight and his crew are taken prisoners and he falls for native princess Mareva, and her non-plump charms are more than enough motivation for Knight to put an end to Malone and his henchmen, and also the the greedy police commissioner Lamoret.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

The IMDb trivia says that this 65 minute picture is three episodes of an unsold TV series called KNIGHT OF THE SOUTH SEAS and while watching it it's pretty obvious.  It's one story but you can feel the natural breaks after the first and second 22 minutes.  Hall is decent enough in the lead but he forgot to put that new after shave lotion called Charisma.  Fortunately we've got John Carradine in the role of the bad guy and that guy knows how to play those roles.  He's a cold murderous bastard in this one.  Something else to look forward to is Peter Lorre who wasn't too far off from having finished playing Le Chiffre in CASINO ROYALE (1954) (HELL SHIP was filmed in '55).  You know it's bad when you get a lot of narration and Hall provides plenty of that.  The action is OK as is about everything else.  The only thing that stands out is Carradine and Lorre.  It's on YouTube so check it out free for nothing if you're so inclined.

Friday, March 9, 2018

When Men Carried Clubs and Women Played Ding-Dong (1971)

Original title: Quando gli Uomini Armarono la Clava e... con le Donne Fecero din-don

Director: Bruno Corbucci

Writers: Fabio Pittorru, Masssimo Felisatti, Bruno Corbucci

Composer: Giancarlo Chiaramello

Starring: Antonio Sabato, Aldo Giuffre, Vittorio Caprioli, Nadia Cassini, Howard Ross, Elio Pandolfi, Lucretia Love, Pia Giancaro, Gisela Hahn

More info: IMDb

Tagline: a new name for an old game...

My rating: Prehistoric cave-stud Ari wins lovely virgin Listra in a pig-catching contest, but their attempts at "Ding-Dong" keep getting interrupted by idiot battles between his tribe, The Cave Dwellers, and their neighbors, The Lake Dwellers. Annoyed that hubby would rather make war than Ding-Dong, Listra organizes the women of both tribes to go on strike and "abstain Ding-Dong" until the men stop fighting.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Ah, the Italian cinema.  Back in the 60s and 70s they'd make anything and make it so many times that they'd exhaust a genre completely before moving on to the next "big thing".  The comedy is base level just like you'd expect and there are times when it's mildly amusing.  The trailer tells you everything you need to know in case the title didn't do that all on its own.  It's silly as shit but there are some things that elevate this more than say something in the same genre from Roger Corman.  The Italians bring a certain playfulness to the picture that helps.  And then you also get their European sensibilities...that's just code for boobs!

Female nudity is scattered around until the end that's just enough to keep you watching even if you aren't laughing.  The women ARE FUCKING HOT!  Usually in these caveman pictures they're all attractive except for the older ones (the grandma types).  Corbucci (who co-wrote DJANGO (1966), by the way)) & Co. said "Fuck that shit!  It's all smokin' hot & tan broads in this picture!" and we're better for it.  The dudes have dark tans, too, but there are few good looking ones.  Sabato has a nice build but he's sportin' some wacky ass caveman/mongoloid hair.  If you've watched the trailer, and you should seriously see how dorky this picture is in a nutshell, then you've heard the catchy and goofy as shit theme song.  The print I watched was anamorphic widescreen but it was dirty and the colors were a little dark.  It was in a lot better shape than I woul'dve expected something like this to be in.  It's a reasonably shot flick with a decent enough pacing but the comedy is about as dumb as it can get.  Fortunately, if there's one thing I've learned about Italian movies it's that their women LOVED to get naked!  Aristophanes would be so proud.