Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Flying Leathernecks (1951)

Director: Nicholas Ray

Writers: James Edward Grang, Kenneth Gamet, Beirne Lay Jr.

Composer: Roy Webb

Starring: John Wayne, Robert Ryan, Don Taylor, Janis Carter, Jay C. Flippen, William Harrigan, James Bell, Barry Kelley, Maurice Jara, Adam Williams, James Dobson

More info: IMDb


Plot: Major Kirby leads The Wildcats squadron into the historic WWII battle of Guadalcanal.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

You'd think by watching the trailer, some of the poster artwork and the title that this picture would be loaded with WWII action.  It's not.  In fact, there's very little action and that's a problem.  The romance stuff doesn't figure in much, which is good, but in this film any of it is too much.  On top of that, it's not all that enjoyable.  There's a good bit of by the numbers war drama which I expect in flicks of that kind from this era (and from John Wayne war pictures) but there's so little action that I feel like I was duped into thinking that was one thing when it's clearly another.   It's disappointing to say the least.  But then it's not a bad movie.  The actors do a fine job and no one is phoning it in.  Wayne, when he gives more than a rat's ass, does a good job as does Ryan but there's nothing all that exciting going on.  The Warner Bros. DVD looks great and the sole extra is the theatrical trailer.

Dark Blue (2002)

Director: Ron Shelton

Writers: James Ellroy, David Ayer

Composer: Terence Blanchard

Starring: Kurt Russell, Scott Speedman, Michael Michele, Brendan Gleeson, Ving Rhames, Kurupt, Dash Mihok, Jonathan Banks, Lolita Davidovich

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Sworn to protect / Sworn to serve / Sworn to secrecy

Plot: A robbery homicide investigation triggers a series of events that will cause a corrupt LAPD officer to question his tactics.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Kurt Russell is always brimming with charisma and he's a very good actor.  Even when he plays the bad guy or one who's morally ambiguous, it's hard not to like him.  Here, he's a corrupt cop in a corrupt department.  It's easy to empathize with him but at the same time, he's done some bad things.  His big moment at the end is great but is it enough to redeem him?  Maybe but that's a judgment the viewer has to make for him/herself.   Russell plays a sometimes likable bastard.  The backdrop of Los Angeles in the wake of the Rodney King trial (the verdict doesn't come until the end) is brilliant.  The city is a powder keg waiting to explode.  It's not necessary to make that the forefront because anyone who was around then knows the chaos that will come of it.  Even if you're unaware of that event this picture does a great job at the underlying tension that's beginning to boil over into every citizen's life.  It's not a great crime thriller but it's a good one and with Russell leading the cast, I'm OK with that.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Violent City (1970)

Original title: Citta Violenta

AKA: The Family

Director: Sergio Sollima

Writers: Arduino Maiuri, Massimo De Rita, Sauro Scavolini, Gianfranco Calligarich, Lina Wertmuller, Sergio Sollima

Composer: Ennio Morricone

Starring: Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland, Michel Constantin, Telly Savalas, Umberto Orsini, Ray Saunders, Benjamin Lev, Peter Dane, George Savalas, Beryl Salvatore, Robert Spafford, Goffredo Unger

More info: IMDb

Tagline: "The Godfather" Gave You an Offer You Couldn't Refuse. "The Family" Gives You No Alternative.

Plot: After a bloody double-cross leaves him for dead, professional hit man Jeff tracks the shooter and his beautiful mistress to New Orleans. But when Jeff takes both revenge and the woman, he finds himself blackmailed by a powerful crime boss who wants the fiercely independent gunman to join his organization. Jeff refuses, and is hunted through an unforgiving city where love is like a loaded gun and debts of vengeance are paid in bullets.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes!!!

#50 on Project: Badass Charles Bronson

LEVEL OF BADASSICITY (10 being the highest): 10

This has been one of my favorite Bronson pictures for twenty years.  It's a damn fine film.  Bronson is great as is Ireland and Savalas.  The characters and the story have more depth than your typical crime thriller.  It takes a while for the story to unfold until you know most of what's been going on but there are some twists and turns that ultimately make this a film about more than just revenge.  But let's not forget that revenge is sweet although it's sweeter for us the viewer than it is for Bronson.  And the ending is masterfully executed.  I LOVE this movie.  Even Ennio Morricone's score has balls.  You also get some shots of New Orleans not seen in other movies.  This picture is a great example of how good a Bronson picture could be and one that a lot of people probably haven't seen.  If you haven't, you should fix that.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Director: Edgar Wright

Writers: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright

Composers: Dan Mudford, Pete Woodhead

Starring: Simon Pegg, Kate Ashfield, Nick Frost, Lucy Davis, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Dylan Moran, Martin Freeman, Matt Lucas, Julia Davis, Mark Gatiss, David Walliams, Edgar Wright

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It's just one of those days when you're feeling a little...dead.

Plot: Life isn't too good for Shaun (Pegg). He lives with his best friend Ed (Frost), neglects his girlfriend Liz (Ashfield) and despises his step-dad (Nighy). When Liz dumps Shaun, he vows to get his life back on track. Unfortunatly, this is the day that the dead has decided to come back to life. With a cricket bat and Ed by his side, Shaun sets out to rescue those he loves and those he doesn't love, and heads to the safest place he knows...the Winchester.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

While this doesn't work so much as a horror film (it's not trying to be all that scary), it works wonderfully well as a comedy with a horror backdrop.  It's also funny in its own right regardless of the setting.  The cast, writing, direction, et al are equally fun.  It's not so much as a spoof, although they do have fun with zombie tropes, it's just a well-crafted comedy that's going for more than just a funny flick, it's a good movie period.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Plan B (2001)

Director: Greg Yaitanes

Writer: Lisa Lutz

Composer: Brian Tyler

Starring: Frank Pellegrino, Paul Sorvino, Anthony DeSando, Diane Keaton, Nick Sandow, Maury Chaykin, Bob Balaban, Burt Young

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Ready, Fire... Aim!

Plot: A bookkeeper who thinks she killed three mobsters is subsequently promoted by her boss to be a hitman.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

The cast is great.  There are a lot of folks in this picture that I really dig a lot.  The big winner is Paul Sorvino who takes his Paulie character from GOODFELLAS (1990) and ratchets up the the funny a little.  He's wonderful.  The rest of the cast does a fine job too but this picture needs some tightening up.  It's really trying hard to be a screwball comedy but it only sometimes succeeds.  When it doesn't it's the pacing that drags it down and sometimes it's a little too frenetic.  Regarding that, for as fast as it pretends to be at times the moments that surround those scenes can't keep up.  It's a film that really wants to be fast and fun but it doesn't always achieve that.  Still, when you've got people like Sorvino and Keaton heading the cast it's worth a look just to see them in funny mode.  The Warner Bros. DVD looks great in anamorphic widescreen and you get a few extras.  First up is a commentary track from the director, then there's twelve minutes of screen tests and lastly three minutes of deleted scenes (non-anamorphic widescreen).

Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle (2009) TV series

Creator: Stewart Lee

Writers: Stewart Lee, Sean Gray

Starring: Stewart Lee, Christopher Morris

More info: IMDb

Plot: A sketch comedy show within Lee's stand-up comedy routine where each show has its own theme.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Fuckin' A is this show funny.  From the first minute I was sold.  I'd never even heard of Lee, which is a shame as I'm a big fan of stand-up comedy, and I'm almost instantly hooked on this guy's delivery.  He's hilarious.  Not only are a lot of his stand-up bits on the show funny but the sketches in between them are also good.  I had a blast burning through the six episodes in season one.  Unfortunately that's all I had.  I was pleased to see that there are three more seasons with a total of 18 episodes.  Now all I need to do is find them.  It's so refreshing when I discover a new voice in comedy like this. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

92 in the Shade (1975)

Director: Thomas McGuane

Writer: Thomas McGuane

Composer: Michael J. Lewis

Starring: Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Margot Kidder, Burgess Meredith, Harry Dean Stanton, Elizabeth Ashley, Sylvia Miles, William Hickey, Louise Latham, Joe Spinell, William Roerick, Evelyn Russell, John Quade, John Heffernan, Warren J. Kemmerling, Scott Palmer

More info: IMDb

Tagline: As The Temperature Rises, The Tension Mounts And Someone Just Might Get Killed.

Plot:  A young drifter returns to his home in Key West, Florida and attempts to open a fishing charter business, provoking a dangerous feud with a rival fishing guide.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.


IMDb boggles my mind sometimes.  It says this is a comedy and it's far from it.  Burgess Meredith is the liveliest actor on screen and he's clearly having fun but that's the extent of anything approaching funny. It's got a great cast.  That's what I liked most about it.  I'm a fan of all of them.  Oates plays a mean, grouchy bastard with a violent streak.  He and some others play a joke on Fonda that backfires on them in a way they couldn't have expected.  When Tom (Fonda) leaves his boat to retrieve a fish his two clients snagged, he gets back to the boat to find them completely gone without a trace.  He searches for hours and gives up.  Back at the bar by the dock he sees everyone having a great time at his expense.  Tom flips his shit and later blows up Nichol's (Oates) boat in retaliation.  Yeah, that's a rational response.  Nichol literally wants to kill Tom.  Here's another rational response.  I heard what Nichol said but he didn't show he was going to kill Tom for the rest of the film.  Then a slimy tourist (beautifully played by Joe Spinell) shows up to charter a boat and at the end of the picture he's paired with Tom.  Now it's at this point I'm thinking Slatt (Spinell) is going to off Tom when they're out in the marsh but then Nichol shows up and shoots Tom.  Roll credits.  The fuck?  There's a lot more to it than that but it mainly involves other characters.  I'd say that maybe the novel this is based on would fill in the holes but then the screenplay was written and directed by the author.  Plus I'm not too keen on reading the book unless someone tells me it's a compelling read.  The problem with the movie is there's a whole lot of potential in it but very little to make sense of.  Some scenes are dropped in without any explanation why they even exist.  I'm disappointed to say the least.  Much of the cast really is wonderful and it's worth watching just for them, especially Meredith.  He's a real peach!