utgard14

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Reviews

Green Hell
(1940)

The sets are cool
A search for gold in Incan ruins is complicated by the arrival of a pretty lady. This is one of those old movies that you really want to love but it just doesn't work. The sets are terrific and would be reused to great effect by Universal in other films. On paper the cast is excellent. Sadly most are either underutilized or given parts that don't play to their strengths. Why was Alan Hale playing a straight role? The movie would have benefited greatly from one of his fun lighter performances. Doug Fairbanks huffs and puffs his way through the whole thing doing a poor Clark Gable imitation. And that awful part for Joan Bennett - don't get me started!

I've revisited this movie a few times over the years, hoping to find more to like about it. At its best it's a forgettable Saturday afternoon adventure flick. Unfortunately a lot of it is kind of dull and lacking in much style. You'd never guess James Whale directed this.

Adventure
(1945)

"I saw my soul disappear up Powell Street"
Flawed but interesting film, usually discussed for its backstory and famous tagline. You can definitely tell a variety of writers worked on the script. It bounces from one mood to the next but it's never better, in my opinion, than when someone's giving a monologue. All of the monologue scenes are gold. As for the stars, Greer Garson doesn't have much chemistry with Clark Gable but she is giving it her best. For his part this is the most unlikable character I've ever seen Gable play. His acting is great, especially in the aforementioned monologue scenes, but the character is just written poorly. Likely to the surprise of no one familiar with their work, Thomas Mitchell and Joan Blondell steal every scene they're in.

It's a little bit Random Harvest and a little bit every movie Gable was ever in dialed up to eleven. The script is a glorious mess but it saves the film from total mediocrity. Worth a look if one has the right expectations.

Deathstalker II
(1987)

"Right up there with Conan."
I can't believe I haven't reviewed this one already. It's one of my favorite B movies. Directed by breast enthusiast Jim Wynorski, it's a surprisingly funny entry into the mostly dreadful sword & sorcery fad of the '80s. John Terlesky gives a wonderfully likable performance as the titular hero. Monique Gabrielle is pretty and adorable. Her line delivery is a little amateurish (and possibly entirely ADR judging by the sound quality) but she seems to be having so much fun that it kind of adds to the charm of her performance. She plays dual roles here, one good girl one bad girl. And yes, she gets naked. The rest of the cast is enjoyable as well.

The sets and costumes and special effects are cheap but it never matters. This is the kind of fun movie that filmmakers just starting out should be trying to emulate, not whatever blockbuster or Oscar bait they just saw. Making a good B movie seems to be a lost art these days.

The Brasher Doubloon
(1947)

"There comes a time when one gun more is one gun too many."
Decent Raymond Chandler adaptation that suffers by comparison to the more esteemed Chandler films of the 1940s. Leading man George Montgomery comes across as a poor man's James Craig, who himself was a poor man's Clark Gable. This is a poverty-stricken casting choice for one of the all-time great fictional American characters, Philip Marlowe. Montgomery is just wrong for this part. He doesn't look right and more importantly he doesn't sound right. The rest of the cast is so-so with Nancy Guild a standout, alternating between sympathetic and insufferable. It's interesting to see a young Conrad Janis with hair so there's that.

The script and direction are the film's strength. While it's not as quotable as other Chandler works and it borrows liberally from better stories, most notably Chandler's own The Big Sleep and Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, it kept me glued to the screen the whole time. I also enjoyed the bits of atmosphere throughout. The windy scenes are especially well done.

This was made previously as a Michael Shayne picture. I enjoyed that version more, largely due to Lloyd Nolan being a more interesting and likable actor than George Montgomery. Check out both for the sake of comparison. Neither is a bad watch as long as you go into it knowing you're not getting Bogart.

Island of Doomed Men
(1940)

"What I own I keep."
Routine B picture with Peter Lorre as a sadistic slaver who owns a diamond mine on a private island. His newest slave is a government agent (Robert Wilcox) wrongfully convicted of murder. The new guy wastes no time romancing Lorre's beautiful wife (Rochelle Hudson), who desperately wants to leave the island and her evil husband. Lorre's the whole show here. He rises above the mediocre material. Wilcox is the kind of hero that makes you root for the villains. Hudson is sympathetic enough but it's hard to gain sympathy when the bad guy is portrayed with more color and charisma than the heroes. If you're a Peter Lorre fan, you'll like this more than most. I wouldn't recommend it to the more casual classic film fan though.

Cheerleader Camp
(1988)

"Line of duty my ass. Line of dirty more like it."
Slice of the 80s starring Betsy Russell, Lucinda Dickey, the hot blonde from Teen Wolf, and a middle-aged looking Leif Garrett as a teenager. Pretty generic slasher but worth a look for the babes, including several nudie models and a future porn star, as well as the always enjoyable George Buck Flower. The camerawork isn't half bad either for something like this. There is one disgusting scene early on where an obese man's pasty cottage cheese butt is right in your face for way too long. That's the stuff of nightmares but there's also great boobage on display from some of the ladies, so no complaints really.

The Twinkle in God's Eye
(1955)

Watchable for Mickey Rooney fans
I'm not a big fan of most of Mickey Rooney's 1950s work. I love young Mickey and even old Mickey but middle-aged Mickey rarely does it for me. This is one of the better vehicles for him from this period. Considering it's not a particularly special picture that says a lot. It's predictable and uninteresting and feels in many ways like a TV pilot. But Rooney's screen presence is pleasant and that kept me watching until the end. It's the kind of movie that's perfect to have on in the background. No matter how much of it you miss you'll have no trouble following the plot.

King Solomon's Mines
(1985)

Fine as a time waster but nothing better than that
Richard Chamberlain is not a bad actor. He's certainly better than a film like this deserves. That being said he's not a good fit for this part. Maybe the part as written in the novel or other film adaptations sure but this Allan Quatermain needed an actor that could take this script and bring it back out of the cornfield a bit. Someone not twenty years older than Sharon Stone would also help. The two have zero chemistry, romantic or otherwise. And yes, I know Chamberlain was gay but that didn't affect his chemistry with actresses in other films. For her part, Stone is very pretty but also gives one of the worst performances I've seen from any actress in the 80s. She really stinks up the joint. John Rhys-Davies is also in this. He was also in a couple of Indy films and another Indy-inspired 80s flick, Firewalker.

As an adventure it's pretty weak, limited by budget and imagination. As a comedy I suppose it fares a little better depending on one's comedic tastes. Little kids might laugh at it. Regardless, whatever fun the movie brings is in its humorous campy moments not in its sad attempts at mimicking Indiana Jones. This is my second time viewing it, which resulted in a bump up in my rating from 4 to 5. Maybe in a few years I'll try it again and it'll make it to 6.

The Honeymooners
(2005)

About what I expected
So this sucks. I figured it would. I will say that Gabrielle Union and Regina Hall were fine. Not just physically, I mean fine in their roles. They're very likable. Cedric was miscast. Well, if they were going to insist on someone playing the character like Gleason then yes he was miscast. Mike Epps was even worse. Art Carney's Norton was the scene stealer of The Honeymooners TV show. He was the template for decades of derivative secondary characters who walk into a scene, get big laughs, and exit the scene in short order. Epps had the most to live up to of anyone in the cast and he sadly fell short. In fairness, the writing was crap so not much they could do. Anyway, I wouldn't watch this again but your tastes may vary so try it if you're so inclined.

Firefox
(1982)

You don't know how lucky you are boy
I've seen all of Clint Eastwood's films. This was the last one from the 70s/80s that I saw. I held off for a long time because I thought it would suck. I expected a long boring talky spy drama. What a pleasant surprise when I watched it and discovered it was actually a combination of espionage thriller and action movie with a hint of science fiction thrown in as well. I've seen it three times since that initial viewing a few years ago. There are some silly moments but, for the most part, I really like this one and think it's pretty underrated. As far as 80s jet fighter movies go, it's not as iconic as Top Gun or as cheesy as Iron Eagle but it's probably my favorite of the three.

Butterfly
(1981)

Hi Ho Silver
Silly trash about a girl (Pia Zadora) trying to seduce her father (Stacy Keach) so he will help her steal silver from a mine he guards. A lot of that doesn't make sense. I won't spoil anything but there are some plot twists. Nothing that helps with the making sense part though. Anyway this was a vehicle for the diminutive Pia Zadora to break into Hollywood. At the time she was married to some rich oldster who did for her what John Derrick did for Bo: make bad movies about how hot his young wife is. Hilarious. See it for Pia, who is certainly very attractive but can't act to save her life. Some of the lines she says are real howlers. Lana Turner she is not. Orson Welles also has one of his career low points here as a judge. He appears to be intoxicated in his scenes. Must have read the script.

Gorky Park
(1983)

The winter's almost over
I was surprised to enjoy this as much as I did, given its issues. I'm not sure why they had a bunch of Brits (plus William Hurt with an accent) playing the Russians. However, I'm a big proponent of accepting a movie on its own terms so I tried not to hold that against it. Hurt's accent was terrible, and I'm not really sure exactly what part of our world that accent belongs, but his performance was strong enough to overcome it. All of the actors do well. With a cast like this that's hardly a shock. I was glued to my seat watching this for at least an hour and change, then admittedly the wheels start to spin a bit. I didn't care for the ending either and I'm not sure what purpose Brian Dennehy's character ultimately served. But in spite of these criticisms it's a pretty effective detective thriller. The Soviet Russia setting helps set it apart from many similar films.

52 Pick-Up
(1986)

"You've got good taste in broads."
Sleazy neo-noir with an excellent cast and arguably the last great directorial effort from John Frankenheimer. Great turns from John Glover and Clarence Williams III as the villains. Roy Scheider makes a character not that likable into someone you can root for. This is a story about unpleasant people who do unpleasant things. That the female characters get the worst of it is almost certainly the headline in most modern reviews. It's the kind of movie they would not make today in a number of ways. But if you have the stomach for it, it's an effective thriller.

I've Lived Before
(1956)

Better than I expected it to be
This shouldn't be very good. It's a B movie about a pilot who suspects he's reincarnated. It feels like an extended episode of One Step Beyond. The whole movie is just people talking. The only action is the opening plane scenes and one of those is almost certainly footage from another film. Still, I found myself glued to the screen from beginning to end. It probably could have been 10 minutes shorter but, besides that, I don't really have any complaints.

Illegally Yours
(1988)

Watchable enough but never funny
My initial review of this was pretty scathing. After thinking it over I've decided I was probably too harsh since I was able to finish the film in one sitting which says something positive in my view. This is yet another Peter Bogdanovich attempt at an homage to the screwball comedies of yesteryear. Sadly, unlike most of his early work this one misses the mark. I've read Bogdanovich and Rob Lowe were going for Cary Grant but instead they wind up with Woody Allen. Look no further than Lowe's physical mannerisms and diction which seem patterned after Woody Allen's distinct style of nervousing, to say nothing of that cringey narration which also reminds me of many Allen films. Happy to see Colleen Camp in a decent sized role. There's just too many characters in this, most of them played by actors who aren't great at comedy. The most annoying actor in the cast is Ira Heiden playing Lowe's brother. He's best known as the nerd from Nightmare on Elm Street 3. His shrill voice made me mute the TV every time he comes onscreen.

It's just not a good movie. There's no charm, no wit, no laughs, really no fun at all. I won't rate it lower because there is an effort even if the effort fails. It's something to kill a little time with I guess but nothing more significant than that.

Carbon Copy
(1981)

Really bad
I read some of the reviews and expected to like this. Most of the criticism seems aimed at the politically incorrect humor and with each passing year I give fewer and fewer effs about that. This is awful for reasons that have nothing to do with being offensive. It's like a bad pilot for a TV sitcom padded out to movie length. George Segal's career was declining at this point but Denzel Washington's was just beginning. Glad this didn't kill his career. I made it through about forty minutes of this without laughing once. If you decide to watch this, good luck.

Rescue Me
(1992)

I'm dumber just for having watched it
They should put a warning label on this one. Movies like this are puerile by concept but they can be fun provided everyone plays it right. This turd does not. It's not fun or funny and the action is worse than the worst episode of The A-Team. The characters are all annoying, played with a complete lack of skill by the cast. Michael Dudikoff's work in the American Ninja movies is like Brando compared to what he's doing here. Avoid this at all costs. Any movie that opens with close ups of Stephen Dorff's armpits should have all copies burned.

Running Scared
(1986)

Not a movie I love but it's ok
80s buddy cop movie that has a pretty good reputation, but for some reason I've never been able to get that into it. I like the leads and they are by far the best thing this movie has going for it. They have a nice friendly chemistry and banter well with one another. I can buy these guys as buddies. But the story is just as routine as it gets even by 1986 standards. Also Jimmy Smits is the villain. Who's afraid of him? Criticisms aside it's not a bad movie. It's very watchable thanks to Hines and Crystal but it does feel a little blah and ultimately forgettable. But hey I do like the soundtrack.

Separate Lives
(1995)

Because we were all waiting on the stars of Mr. Destiny to reunite
This is a real howler. An unintentionally hilarious "psychological thriller" that's bad on just about every level. If the opening two scenes don't make you laugh nothing will. I admit I'm a sucker for anything with Linda Hamilton. I'll even put up with Jim Belushi for her. Hell I've done that twice now and both times it was a miserable experience. Ok that's not fair because this one I at least got some chuckles out of. Anyway this movie is the pits but if you're in the mood to laugh give it a shot. It's so stupid it's beyond belief.

Toys
(1992)

A fantasy comedy written by people whose previous films tackled subjects like rape, suicide, infidelity, and murder - what could possibly go wrong?
First, the good - the sets, props, costumes, music, and supporting cast are all wonderful. The sights and sounds of this movie are first rate. Stills of this film are what drew me to see it in the first place. I was hoping its bad rep came from the same people who hate Dick Tracy and Bram Stoker's Dracula. Some people are just not fans of colorful stylistic movies. But unfortunately that's not the case here. Now, the bad - the story is dispiriting garbage and the main actors are terrible, although that particular blame should probably be placed at director Barry Levinson's feet.

At first glance, Robin Williams seems like ideal casting for a film like this. But for whatever reason he's just difficult to watch here. His character comes across as oddly uneven, perhaps even mentally ill. It made me uncomfortable watching him. Michael Gambon as the American general with a British accent is another casting flop. To be fair to the actor, the character is a one-dimensional cardboard villain just there to be a part of the film's anti-military message. But Gambon does nothing to help and his accent is distracting.

Speaking of the anti-military stuff, this is where the film has its biggest failing. It's easy to see what the writers are trying to do, trying to say. It's frustratingly easy because it's all so simple-minded it feels condescending. What should be a fun, fanciful fantasy that leaves you smiling and happy and full of wonder is instead a somber heavy-handed message movie that leaves you depressed. You can insert messages into stories like this with subtlety and achieve greater success than beating people over the head with it. See it for the production design. It's exceptional and worthy of a better film. Prepare yourself for the jarring juxtaposition of the bright colorful imagery of a children's fantasy and the dark downhearted proselytizing of a jaded middle-aged screenwriter.

Schlock
(1973)

"I believe we're on the verge of the greatest scientific breakthrough of the last eight or nine weeks."
Low budget comedy that helped launch the careers of director John Landis and makeup artist Rick Baker. It parodies everything from King Kong to Dragnet to 2001: A Space Odyssey and more. Funny stuff but it does lose steam the longer it goes on. Still worth a watch especially for Landis fans. I would also recommend the many would-be filmmakers whose crappy iPhone-shot home movies dominate the internet today take a look at how a proper low budget (really no budget) indie film can be done.

Flight to Mars
(1951)

"The Earthlings are here...let's get 'em!"
So-so sci-fi made with the sets and costumes of better movies. The plot is that humans go to Mars and find out people are alike all over. None of the protagonists are particularly likable. Cameron Mitchell's reporter character is the worst. I would've thrown him out the airlock. The Martians fare a little better with the machinations of Ikron (Morris Ankrum) being the best part of the second half of the movie. Worth a look for the great aesthetics that rarely disappoint in science fiction films from this period. Also worth a look for a few leggy attractive women in short skirts.

Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
(1953)

Not one of my faves
Later, and in my opinion lesser, Abbott and Costello monster comedy buoyed by a typically strong performance from Boris Karloff. The biggest issue I have with this one is that it's just not very funny. It's entertaining in its way but I don't think I laughed once in this most recent viewing. I've seen it several times in the past and the experience was similar. Another negative is that Bud Westmore's makeup effects for Mr. Hyde are pretty poor. He looks like a guy wearing a gorilla mask. Cheap. The accountants ruin everything I tell you. The positives are that the cast is generally likable (except Craig Stevens) and it all moves along briskly so you don't get bored. Just wish it was funnier.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy
(1955)

"When will they die?"
Last of the Abbott and Costello monster movies and arguably the worst. There are certainly some laughs to be had, although a lot of the gags are very predictable (Who didn't see that snake charmer bit coming a mile away). The biggest problems are that the mummy doesn't appear until near the end and it looks pretty shabby. Honestly the makeup effects in this are pathetic. Those fake beards were so ugly I had to look away every time those guys were onscreen. This is not Bud Westmore's finest work. Also Richard Deacon is an unintended hoot in the George Zucco type role. He's so miscast it's funny. Worth a look for A&C and Universal horror fans I guess but keep expectations low.

The Eiger Sanction
(1975)

"Screw Marlon Brando!"
Sort of an Americanized James Bond where government assassin Clint Eastwood travels to different locales fighting killing and boinking (not always in that order). It's got colorful characters, beautiful women, and a cartoon villain that would be right at home in a Roger Moore Bond flick. Gorgeous Vonetta McGee is reason alone to see this. Lots of pretty ladies in this film but she's on a whole other level.

Like most of Eastwood's 70s movies it's got plenty of grit and machismo. Certainly not one for the pearl clutchers. This is also one of those movies where you are reminded of what's missing in so many of today's movies. No I'm not talking about the politically incorrect stuff. That's another conversation. I'm talking about things like pacing and stuntwork and filming on location even if it might be slightly dangerous. Everything is faster and faker and more sanitized now. But I'll get off my soapbox before I start printing pamphlets. In closing, The Eiger Sanction is far from Eastwood's best but it is a good watch. Also I really love that jeep.

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