Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Foxhole in Cairo (1960)

Director: John Llewellyn Moxey

Writer: John Llewellyn Moxey

Composers: Douglas Gamley, Ken Jones, Wolfram Rohrig

Starring: James Robertson Justice, Adrian Hoven, Niall MacGinnis, Peter van Eyck, Robert Urquhart, Neil McCallum, Fenella Fielding, Gloria Mestre, Albert Lieven, John Westbrook, Lee Montague, Michael Caine

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Greatest Spy Story of the Desert War!

Plot: A German agent in Libya is allowed to get back to Rommel with false information.

My rating:  6/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

This average British WWII thriller can get a little ho-hum but there are some things that are worth your while.  Michael Caine has a few lines and minutes on screen, the very scrummy Gloria Mestre belly dances a couple of times and provides a little skin, there are some nice moments in the story that kept me alert and it plays out like a procedural but set in WWII North Africa.  Oh, and this guy is the British leader kick some ass and do it with class:

Minor spoilers but you know this is going to end with the Brits winning the day against the Nazis, the best moment in the picture is at the end when he storms into the room, slapping the Luger out of the bad guy's hand and gives a rousing, air punching speech to the woman he saved from death.  It's one of those, "We've outsmarted the Jerrys and Rommel has a surprise coming when we push him and his nasty boys back to the Rhineland" kind of speech.  It's hilarious and super fun.  But then it's at the end of 75 minutes but it's not a bad 75 minutes and that should be enough to justify watching it.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Confessions of an Opium Eater (1962)

Director: Albert Zugsmith

Writers: Robert Hill, Thomas De Quincey

Composer: Albert Glasser

Starring: Vincent Price, Linda Ho, Richard Loo, June Kyoto Lu, Philip Ahn, Yvonne Moray, Caroline Kido

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Take One Daring Step Beyond the Threshold of Your Imagination!

Plot: In 19th century San Francisco's Chinatown, American adventurer Gilbert De Quincey is saving slave girls owned by the Chinese Tong factions.

My rating:7/10

Will I watch it again? Maybe.

Here's an unusual film that seems like a sure-fire winner.  You've got a GREAT title and you can't go wrong with Vincent Price...ever.  Albert Glasser's score is lively and fun.   The cinematography is really nice and I love the B&W photography.  On top of that the camera angles are nifty, it's nicely edited and Gilbert's (Price) 7 minute drug trip is friggin' wild, creative and fun.  The use of slow motion during it sells it, helping put you in his shoes.  There's a lot to like in this picture and I do recommend it but there's one thing and it's slow, sometimes it's really slow and hard to get through.  It doesn't help that at times it's too talky.  Price's narration tends to ramble.  Don't watch this late at night when you're sleepy, that's for sure, but do make a point to see it.  Despite some drowsy moments it's still an unusual, interesting and entertaining movie.  Price fans just need to know he's in it.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Flesh and Fantasy (1943)

Director: Julien Duvivier

Writers: Ellis St. Joseph, Oscar Wilde, Laszlo Vadnay, Ernest Pascal, Samuel Hoffenstein, Ellis St. Joseph

Composer: Alexander Tansman

Starring: Edward G. Robinson, Charles Boyer, Barbara Stanwyck, Betty Field, Robert Cummings, Thomas Mitchell, Charles Winniger, Anna Lee, Dame May Whitty, C. Aubrey Smith, Robert Benchley, Edgar Barrier, David Hoffman

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The motion picture above all!

Plot: Two men discuss the occult, introducing three weird tales: 1) Plain, bitter Henrietta secretly loves law student Michael. Then on Mardi Gras night, a mysterious stranger gives her a mask of beauty that she must return at midnight. 2) At a party, palmist Podgers makes uncannily accurate predictions, later telling skeptic Marshal Tyler that he will murder someone. The notion obsesses Tyler, with ironic consequences. 3) High wire artist Gaspar dreams of falling, then loses his nerve. He recognizes Joan from his dreams, and falls for her. Will any of his dreams, involving Joan and disaster, come true?

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Astounding.  This is what you get when Universal releases a picture that's produced and made by Europeans.  It's a star-studded Hollywood cast but in a much more sensitive, stylish and dark picture than what American audiences were getting.  This is very much akin to THE TWILIGHT ZONE before that became a thing at the end of the 50s.  The first story about an unattractive woman wearing a Mardi Gras mask for the evening to find happiness is a dark romance.  It's beautifully filmed. The lighting and makeup on Henrietta (Field) is very well done.  When she gets close to finding what she wants there's a moment of sadness that had me welling up a little.  I was surprised at how much punch this little story has.  The second story is the best by far and it's very, very dark.  This is the horror story of the lot and it's a real peach.  Robinson kills in this role.  He's so friggin' good.  What he does after a palm reader tells him he's going to murder someone is amazing.  I didn't see where this was going but then I was along for the ride and what a journey this one is!  The special effects with Marshall (Robinson) talking to himself are outstanding.  It's most impressive and it adds another level of strange horror to the already grim story.  The ending is great and it takes us right into the final tale without the need for the two men telling stories that are the reason these stories are here. 

This one is probably the least fantastical and exciting.  I suspect it's the last story because it stars Boyer who also produced the picture.  It's still a good thriller with an unexpected ending which I liked.  The ONE thing that hurt this film was the score for the first segment and partway into the second one.  It's wildly upbeat and cheerful which completely goes against the events on the screen.  It's so bad that it feels like it was lifted from another movie by someone as a joke who wanted to ruin it.  Everything else about the visuals and story is dark and it required nothing more than simple music to help set the tone.  He finally got it right in the second and third stories but that first one is a real head scratcher for why he chose to go that fluffy.  This is a top notch fantasy/horror anthology with a great cast and it's one that shouldn't be missed.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Limitless (2011)

Director: Neil Burger

Writers: Leslie Dixon, Alan Glynn

Composer: Paul Leonard-Morgan

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish, Andrew Howard, Anna Friel, Johnny Whitworth, Brian Anthony Wilson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: What if a pill could make you rich and powerful?

Plot: With the help of a mysterious pill that enables the user to access 100 percent of his brain abilities, a struggling writer becomes a financial wizard, but it also puts him in a new world with lots of dangers.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Right off the bat the visuals in the opening credits set you up for the film that follows.  It's almost dizzying but it's creative, fun and it gives you the feeling of what our protagonist is about to experience before we even know what it's about.  The performances are good, especially from Cooper.  He's fantastic.  The story is interesting, intriguing and tight.  There's some plain ole luck when it comes to how they explain how Eddie gets away with the gunfight in his apartment but that's a minor quibble.  The ending is really fucking good.  I loved it.  I sure would like to get my hands on some of those pills.  My memory problems would disappear.  Highly recommended.  It's fun, smart and entertaining all the way through. And here's something cool, there was a single season run of a TV series with the same name that takes place after this picture and Cooper shows up from time to time.  I've got to see this.

Friday, May 19, 2017

One More Train to Rob (1971)

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen

Writers: William Roberts, Don Tait, Dick Nelson

Composer: David Shire

Starring: Geroge Peppard, Diana Muldaur, John Vernon, France Nuyen, Steve Sander, Soon-Tek Oh, Richard Loo, Robert Donner, John Doucette, C.K. Yang, Marie Windsor, Timothy Scott, Joan Sawlee, Hal Needham, Harry Carey Jr., Ben Cooper, Merlin Olsen, Don 'Red' Barry

More info: IMDb

Tagline: He'd been cheated out of his gold... and his woman... now the only weapon he had left was... revenge!

Plot: After taking the fall for a train robbery, Harker Flet is released from prison and exacts revenge on his former partners who cheated him out of his share.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

There's no denying that George Peppard is charisma incarnate in this picture.  I've never seen him more naturally likable.  He's really a blast and the only reason you should see this.  Everybody else is fine, too, but it's Peppard that makes this watchable.  John Vernon is always fun, especially when he's in villain mode where he is here.  The story is OK (the dialogue can be a little ridiculous) but the picture has that clean and polished look that lightens the tone like one of those 60s TV Western shows in color.  The pacing is good but the real beauty is watching Peppard do his thing.  Vernon's last scene is silly as shit.  I hated it.  The whole flick is on YouTube.  Watch it before it disappears.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Dead Man Walking (1995)

Director: Tim Robbins

Writers: Helen Prejean, Tim Robbins

Composer: David Robbins

Starring: Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Robert Prosky, Raymond J. Barry, R. Lee Ermey, Celia Weston, Lois Smith, Scott Wilson, Roberta Maxwell, Margo Martindale, Clany Brown, Peter Sarsgaard, Jack Black

More info: IMDb

Plot: A nun, while comforting a convicted killer on death row, empathizes with both the killer and his victim's families.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

After all these years I finally got around to this one.  It's Robbins' second film as director and it's a stark contrast to his first, BOB ROBERTS (1992).  The picture does a good job of covering the different sides of the death penalty issue.  The scene I like the most is when Helen (Sarandon) visits the parents of one of the victims wonderfully played by R. Lee Ermey and Celia Weston.  It all goes well and emotion until it doesn't and that transition was very nicely acted.  It's a very leisurely paced film that at times dragged but then I think some of that was on purpose to help drag the viewer closer to what the characters are feeling.  The MGM DVD has a non-anamorphic widescreen print with two extras - the theatrical trailer (fullscreen) and a commentary track from Robbins.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Anderson Tapes (1971)

Director: Sidney Lumet

Writers: Lawrence Sanders, Frank Pierson

Composer: Quincy Jones

Starring: Sean Connery, Dyan Cannon, Martin Balsam, Ralph Meeker, Alan King, Christopher Walken, Val Avery, Dick Anthony Williams, Garrett Morris, Margaret Hamilton, Conrad Bain, Judith Lowry, Max Showalter

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Crime of the Century!

Plot: After Duke Anderson is released from prison after ten years for taking the rap for a scion of a Mafia family, he cashes in a debt of honor with the mob to bankroll a caper.

My rating:  6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.  Twice is enough.

It's been a good twenty-five years since I last saw this and I feel the same about it now as I did then - it's an OK heist movie.  The cast is loaded with actors that I really dig.  Balsam hams it up as a flamboyant homosexual but he is fun.  I would've liked more of a violent edge to Connery and some of the others.  The first half of the film is the heist setup with the second half being the execution.  Connery's plan is too ambitious to think that they might get away with it.  And things get ridiculous when there's a computer whiz kid in the joint that throws a monkey wrench into the works.  I liked the technical parts (directing, editing and so on) so I guess my issue is with the story.  The last minute of the picture adds an extra bit of "oh, shit" but it's not all that effective and any power it's supposed to have has been diminished by the lackluster story.  The Columbia DVD is part of the Martini Movies collection so you get two 1.5 minutes clips compilations on how to be a leading man and how to drink.  They're forgettable and annoying.  The movie itself and the theatrical trailer are both anamorphic widescreen.