Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Nesting (1981)

AKA: Massacre Mansion

Director: Armand Weston

Writers: Daria Price, Armand Weston

Composers: Jack Malken, George Kim Scholes

Starring: Robin Groves, Christopher Loomis, Michael David Lally, John Carradine, Bill Rowley, David Tabor, Patrick Farrelly

More info: IMDb

Tagline: There was only one thing more terrifying than leaving the house... staying in it.

Plot: A writer suffering from agoraphobia rents an isolated house so she can concentrate on her writing. She doesn't know that the house is a former brothel, and is inhabited by the ghosts of dead prostitutes.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

There's a good story here but it's in the execution that brings it down.  Ghost whores seeking revenge from the grave?  Are you kidding me?  How did this not work better?  Robin Groves does a great job in the lead as Lauren, the woman tormented by all kinds of things.  She's got a lot to do, acting wise, and she sells it.  She's even better when you consider it's her first feature and second credit.  Some of the other actors are lacking in skill but it's not enough to hurt the flick all that much.  It's a good looking film.   The direction and cinematography are pretty good.  It's the pacing that almost kills it.  It's 103 minutes and it should be much shorter.  There's A LOT of back story told in flashback.  It is necessary to some degree to do it this way because the audience needs to be kept in the dark until the right moment just as Lauren was.  The music often feels cheap.  That could've been a budgetary restraint but the more likely reason is that this is the only score Scholes composed and the last of two that Malken wrote.  So there's that.  There is a little bit of welcome nudity and there's at least one terrific and grisly death.  I guess I'm disappointed this wasn't better than it was. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)

Director: S. Craig Zahler

Writer:  S. Craig Zahler

Composers: Jeff Herriott, S. Craig Zahler

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter, Don Johnson, Udo Kier, Marc Blucas, Dion Mucciacito, Geno Segers, Victor Almanzar, Tom Guiry, Willie C. Carpenter, Mustafa Shakir, Fred Melamed

More info: IMDb

Plot: A former boxer-turned-drug runner lands in a prison battleground after a deal gets deadly.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

OK, so the movie is two hours and twelve minutes long.  It starts off as one of those perfect storms of bad days for Bradley (Vaughn).  He's a tough guy but he has incredible will power and he's able to keep himself calm in the most fucked up situations.  He's not a violent man, per se, but he can dish out the violence at a moment's notice when he needs to.  This film is the textbook definition of liesurely paced.  It's slooooowwww.  Exactly halfway into the picture the plot thickens in a most unexpected way.  I realize that I paid for the whole seat but now I'm only using the edge.  Hahahahahaha.  But seriously, it's the kind of moment when you straighten yourself up and pay more attention.  Now there are periodic moments of violence and fucked up shit going on but the pacing never really picks up that much so it still feels slow.  I thought I knew where this was going but Zahler made sure I didn't and I love him for it.  It's unpredictable in a way that almost always comes from a fresh, new voice in filmmaking.  I really dig the film.  Don't let anyone spoil it for you.  It's the kind of movie that stuck with me for a couple of days and I began liking it more and more.  I think the next time I see it I'll have to juice up my score.  Fans of genre films should dig this but it's not some easily digestible piece of exploitation cinema.  It's roots are there but this is something smarter, classier and more challenging to watch and I'm better for it.  This is Zahler's second film.  His first is BONE TOMAHAWK (2015).  It's been on my watch list since it was released and now I feel ashamed for not having watched it yet.  I'm going to fix that very soon.  His third film could be out this year.  He's working with Vaughn, Carpenter, Johnson and Kier again and it has one of the coolest titles ever...DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE.  What a fucking amazing title.  If that weren't enough, it's also starring Mel Gibson (hopefully in full on hardcore mode) and Michael Jai White.

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (1977)

Director: Larry Cohen

Writer: Larry Cohen

Composer: Miklos Rozsa

Starring: Broderick Crawford, James Wainwright, Michael Parks, Jose Ferrer, Celeste Holm, Rip Torn, Dan Dailey, Ronee Blakley, Howard Da Silva, John Marley, Michael Sacks, Lloyd Nolan, Andrew Duggan, Jack Cassidy, George Plimpton, Tanya Roberts

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The files that escaped the shredder have become an incredible motion picture. From the Kennedys to Martin Luther King. From cab drivers to Congressmen. From housewives to hostesses. He had something on 58 million people. It was all in his files. Now you can see how he used it.

Plot:  The story of the late J. Edgar Hoover, who was head of the FBI from 1924-1972. The film follows Hoover from his racket-busting days through his reign under eight U.S. presidents.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Writer/producer/director covers over 50 years in the span of an hour and forty seven minutes.  That's a hell of a challenge but even more so when you're looking at someone as powerful as Hoover.  It can't be done.  OK, it probably can't be done well.  There are some nice bits in this picture but the acting is all over the place from bad (Da Silva as FDR) to fantastic (Parks as Bobby Kennedy) and the picture has problems.  One of the most glaring issues is Cohen presenting chunks of the film as almost like a greatest hits in Hoover's life.  Not all of these are moments that define who Hoover was or presented anything that you'd consider to be a part of a character arc.  I don't think that's necessarily a flaw but it would've been nice to have spent more time with Him and see him develop more.  It's like you're on a rushed vacation and you get five minutes to see the Grand Canyon and split.  Take a deep breath and soak in the fresh air, the majestic beauty, take a picture and load the kids back in the car for the Hoover Dam.  Wow.  That stream of conscious just turned into something remotely clever.  Neat.  Anyway, A lot of ground is covered and you get to see Hoover being the champion of the people and on the flipside, a racist asshole hellbent on destroying people.  It's worth watching for the gazillion character actors alone.  Crawford is good but he's not given much to do with his character.  There's no J. Edgar in a dress if that's what you were hoping to see.  Miklos Rozsa's score is good.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Bad Sister (1931)

Director: Hobart Henley

Writers: Booth Tarkington, Edwin H. Knopf, Tom Reed, Raymond L. Schrock

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Conrad Nagel, Sidney Fox, Charles Winninger, Emma Dunn, Zasu Pitts, Slim Summerville, Bert Roach, David Durand

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The girl who wanted everything!

Plot: Marianne falls in love with a con artist who has a hidden agenda.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Man, was Bette Davis looking young, and in her first picture, too!  It was also Sidney Fox's first but her career was cut short three years later when she died of a pill overdose.  This picture is still in the early days of talkies which means there's NO MUSIC.  That hurts because some scenes fall stale.  And being how this is a drama, it affects the pacing even more.  The story's OK but the real treat is seeing Davis in her first movie and Bogart in his fourth feature.  Bogart's Valentine Corliss is a snake in the grass but he's also a charming smooth talker.  He's good.  A lot of what I've seen of his early work is mostly his sidekick gangster roles where he's pretty stale.  It's nice seeing him in a different light.  The picture runs a little slow at times (mostly because of the lack of music) but it's all over in 68 minutes.  It probably doesn't help that this is a lower budget B-picture made to keep their stable of up and comers working and honing their craft.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Writers: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green

Composers: Benjamin Wallfisch, Hans Zimmer

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Jared Leto, Dave Bautista

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The key to the future is finally unearthed.

Plot: A young blade runner's discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who's been missing for thirty years.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I saw this in the theater last October.  I'm way behind on this.  I liked it but I didn't love it.  But I found myself thinking about it over the weeks and months since and it's been growing on me even though I haven't re-watched it yet.  Everything about it is well done.  I can't find fault with anything.  It looks amazing.  I guess I just need to watch it again on my big screen, alone, without any interruptions, kick my dogs up, sip on something nice and get lost in it's world.  Maybe cranking the speakers up or perhaps putting on the headphones might sound better.  I have a feeling that it's going to be much like the original 1982 film in that it might be too slow and eventually I'll have seen it enough times that I settle into it and absorb it for what it is.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Moon 44 (1990)

Director: Roland Emmerich

Writers: Dean Heyde, Oliver Eberle, Roland Emmerich, P.J. Mitchell

Composer: Joel Goldsmith

Starring: Michael Pare, Lisa Eichhorn, Dean Devlin, Brian Thompson, Malcolm McDowell, Stephen Geoffreys, Leon Rippy, Jochen Nickel, Roscoe Lee Browne

More info: IMDb

Tagline: In the Outer Zone... you need a friend.

Plot: In 2038, Earth's mineral resources are drained, there are space fights for the last deposits on other planets and satellites. This is the situation when one of the bigger mining corporations has lost many mineral moons except one and many of their fully automatic mining robots are disappearing on their flight home. Since nobody else wants the job, they send prisoners as a last resort to defend the mining station. Among them, internal affairs agent Felix Stone, assigned to clear the whereabouts of the expensive robots. In an atmosphere of corruption, fear and hatred, Stone gets between the fronts of rivaling groups and locates the person committing sabotage.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

There are times when the direction, pacing, sets and special effects are impressive and even more so when you consider the low budget.  Joel Goldsmith's (son of Jerry) score is very good and is reminiscent of his pop's style to the point where you'd think Jerry did it.  The problem with the film is that it drags a lot in the second half.  Between the training missions and the ship battles, there's a lot of repetition in the shots and none of them are exciting to begin with.  It helps having Malcolm McDowell and  Stephen Geoffreys but it's not enough to sustain 100 minutes.  And that's another problem in that it's too long.  There's enough good in this to satisfy any 30 year old direct to video sci-fi itch you've been having but lower your expectations.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Moon and Sixpence (1942)

Director: Albert Lewin

Writers: W. Somerset Maugham, Albert Lewin

Composer: Dimitri Tiomkin

Starring: George Sanders, Herbert Marshall, Doris Dudley, Eric Blore, Albert Bassermann, Florence Bates, Steven Geray, Elena Verdugo

More info: IMDb

Tagline: "Women are strange little beasts - you can treat them like dogs, beat them till your arms ache and still they love you." says Charles Strickland

Plot: Loosely inspired from Gauguin's life, the story of Charles Strickland, a middle-aged stockbrocker who abandons his middle-classed life, his family, his duties to start painting, what he has always wanted to do. He is from now on a awful human being, wholly devoted to his ideal: beauty.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

George Sanders is the subject of the film and gets the highest billing but he's got little screen time considering.  Are you surprised he plays a cad?  Typecasting?   What makes this performance different is that he's not charming and exudes a coldness without possibility of warmth.  He's emotionless which is interesting to see from him.  In other films where's he's a downright bastard, there's a certain playful charisma that shines through.  Not with the character of Charles Strickland.  The film is largely told in flashback through Geoffrey Wolfe (Marshall) as a novelist who tries to understand the man whose greatness was discovered after his death.  There is A LOT of narration.  It gets tedious after a while and it feels like the 88 minute running time can't finish fast enough.  That is until a turn of events that takes the story down a darker path which finds a small bright spot before it blackens deeper.  It's not pretty but it does make for a more compelling film.  I doubt that we're supposed to like Charles but it's also hard to find anything sympathetic in Sanders' performance.  Maybe that was the point.  He led a tragic life striving to find one truth which he struggled with until almost the end of his life.  It's an odd picture in some regards but simultaneously a curious and periodically compelling one.