jc1305us

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Reviews

The Wild Wild West
(1965)

A ton of fun
Admittedly, I have not watched every episode of this series, but the ones I have watched, all have the same things in common: Great chemistry between leads Robert Conrad and Ross Martin, great guest stars, wonderful costumes and sets, and really out there, but cool plots. For a series that started in the late 60's, it was probably more than anyone then could have hoped for! Robots, spies, crazy disguises, femme fatales, evil masterminds, cool weapons and gadgets (all in the same episode at times!) made WWW a fun watch. Try and spot all the great character actors appearing through the run, its a blast. Give Wild Wild West a shot, you'll be thankful you did!

RiffTrax: Missile X the Neutron Bomb Incident
(2017)

Top 3 mst3k/RiffTrax films
Found this one on Amazon and I must say, it is phenomenal! The secret to a great rifftrax or mat3k film, is the combination of a fairly terrible film with the great jokes from our riff masters. Some films just don't lend themselves to the riffing treatment. But Missle X is the one of the best (see Mitchell, and Suoersonic Man as two of the other top 3) The movie is bad, but is somewhat competent (it starred Peter Graves) the jokes are great, and pre-revolution Iran is the filming location adds to the fun. Definitely check it out!

Blue Collar
(1978)

Stays with you
"Blue Collar" features Richard Pryor's best performance by a mile. A tour de force from a man that is consistently ranked one of the best comedians of all time. But here he is playing a very sympathetic, but strong working man, with his two buddies, the equally excellent Yaphet Koto and Harvey Keitel. Together they decide they've had enough of just barely ekeing out a living in an automobile plant, and vow to take a chance, by robbing the auto unions safe. What unravels, is the true heart of the story. Their friendships will be tested, as the corrupt union will stop at nothing to exact their pound of flesh. One will be bought, one will be driven to the FBI, and one will be murdered.

A really fascinating character study, of three men who give it their all, day in and day out, but with little to show for it. Highly Recommended.

Raise the Titanic
(1980)

Should have been a hit, but landed with a thud
"Raise the Titanic" is one of those films that should have been a blockbuster, a great cast, an interesting premise, and a HUGE budget. So what happened? To be honest, I'm not sure. It's an entertaining film, certainly, but it just doesn't seem to be highly regarded by most movie fans. I think part of it is that it's so far fetched that it was too much for audiences to swallow.

The actors are all good, why Richard Jordan didn't have a bigger film career is surprising. He's good in everything he's in. The always reliable Jason Robards is also on board, and is a plus, but the script is the ultimate let down here. It's a bit hokey, and has the feel of the later, sillier James Bond films (Think Moonraker) Its a shame, Raise the Titanic is entertaining, but just not a great movie.

The Ipcress File
(1965)

Very enjoyable British spy film...
...But not your typical James Bond schlock. A much more grounded, and intriguing spy film, that may have more in common with John LeCarre, than James Bond. The story does have a somewhat unbelievable premise for it's main antagonist, but it does not hurt the film in the least, as the performances are too good. Give this a try if you're looking for a break from the overdone James Bond style films.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil
(1989)

Such a fun movie
Pairing Wilder and Pryor usually made for movie gold, and this is no exception. Coming at the end of their fruitful partnership, the chemistry between the deaf Wilder, and blind Pryor is so natural, you'd think they were friends their whole lives. (Turns out they really didn't socialize off set) A very original premise, a murder is committed and both men have either heard the shot, or seen the shooter, but not both! What turns out is such a funny, big hearted film that I watch it every time it's on tv. A big plus I'd the movie is the characters that populate the background, including a completely hysterical police captain, who nearly steals the show. Just watch the scene where they raid a motel. I was literally laughing with tears in my eyes! Such a fun movie, highly recommended!

Count Dracula
(1977)

Probably the most faithful Dracula
Leave it to the BBC to produce a really faithful version of one of the most famous novels of all time. The leads are wonderful, and add so much gravity to the proceedings. Bosco Hogan as Jonathan Harker is excellent, and as Count Dracula, Louis Jordan is a revelation. He plays the suave, urbane Dracula to perfection, with a thinly veiled heart of evil.

There are some great touches, including the wonderful music, and the oddly effective special effects, which some may say are hopelessly dated, but I find very well done indeed. Please skip the Coppola disaster and watch this instead!

The King of Marvin Gardens
(1972)

Watch "Atlantic City" Instead
I really wanted to like this movie. After seeing "Atlantic City" with Burt Lancaster, I wanted to see this earlier film, as it was set in the same dying seaside town. On that note, I was not disappointed, as "King of Marvin Gardens" really does showcase Atlantic City as it was, for better or for worse. The better being the beautiful hotel used for filming, by the early 70's a bit run down (Like the rest of the USA it would seem) but it still had loads of charm, and old school grandeur. Alas, the hotel was torn down for the banal glass box Bally's casino, in 1978. A sad ending to a once fabled resort hotel.

Be that as it may, the movie is similarly lost. Two great leads, Jack Nicholson, as David Staebler and Bruce Dern as Jason Staebler, are IMO wasted in a film that plods along. I spent nearly the whole film waiting for something to happen, but like Dern's scheming character, it really was for naught. The climax, not as shocking as I'd expected, and the ending, rather anti-climactic. But I guess that was the point of the whole movie, how two brothers, one a depressed radio personality, and the other a con artist dreamer, wind up exactly as they were meant to.

Supported by Ellen Burstyn, and Julia Ann Robinson, as two women are along for the ride with Jason's con. The whole thing has a very dreary feel to it. The most interesting piece of casting, would be Scatman Crothers as Lewis, the defect boss of Atlantic City, but we see so little of him, that it's hard to really get a feel for the character. He shows very small bits of menace, but it's never really explored further. A real shame, as I was really looking forward to seeing Crothers as the heavy.

All in all, a great postcard of pre-gambling Atlantic City, but that's about it unfortunately.

California Suite
(1978)

Awful
An absolute waste of time to watch this unfunny, overlong, examination of a day in the lives of 8 people you couldn't possibly care less about. (With one minor exception) 4 stories, each taking place at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Jane Fonda and Alan Alda are a divorced couple fighting over child care (How anyone could have been married to Fonda's character and not strangled her is a mystery) Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor play doctors (and brothers in law) who are on a vacation with their wives. Another waste of time, it's slapstick comedy that is not funny) Walter Matthau is a married man who has a rendezvous with a hooker and must keep his wife from finding out. (Matthau looks terrible and is not funny) and finally Maggie Smith and Michael Caine as an academy award nominee and her gay husband. Smith gives a good performance and won an Oscar, but it's not enough to save this pile of junk.

Atlantic City
(1980)

You live too much in the past
1980's 'Atlantic City' should be considered one of the great second acts in American acting. Burt Lancaster at 67, far past his prime, helps makes this movie into an absolute classic. Starring as Lou Paschal, a low level mob associate, who's been reduced by time and circumstances, to a caretaker to his old bosses widow.

All is well, until he spies his next door neighbor, Susan Sarandon sensuously cleaning herself with lemons,after a shift as a clam bar waitress. Smitten, the much older Lou can only love her from a distance until fate steps in, in the form of Sarandon's ex husband and pregnant sister, who have dropped in.

Unbeknownst to Sarandon, her ex husband (Robert Joy) has stolen a stash of cocaine intended for the Philly mob, and intends to cut it and sell it in Atlantic City. When Paschal sees that getting together with Joy may bring him closer to Sarandon, he spins tales of his greatly exaggerated criminal past, constantly reminiscing about AC's glory days. Not long after, Joy is tracked down and killed by the mob, leaving Lou to sell the stolen drugs, allowing him to wine and dine Sarandon. Interested by Lou's stories of gangsters and crime, she becomes his unlikely lover.

But all will not end well, the mob has not forgotten about their drugs or money. It's only a matter of time before Lou and Sarandon will be forced to make hard decisions that may mean life or death.

Filmed at a time when Atlantic City was in a state of flux, between the resort years, and the casinos that would come, this film is nostalgic and wistful, but with both feet planted firmly in the decaying, dying city Atlantic City had become by that point. Expertly directed by Louis Malle, from an amazing script, it features an incredible supporting cast that has stood the test of time. Highly Recommended.

Bugsy Malone
(1976)

Alan Parker & Paul Williams are geniuses
Found this last night for the first time (I had seen about 5 seconds as a kid) and had to check it out, Wow. Let me say, this is such a fun, and in someways strange movie. You want to laugh at first, but it slowly grows on you! What else can be said about the songs. Paul Williams is a treasure. The songs are heartfelt, and catchy as hell (Even though they're dubbed) Try and get "My name is Talulah" "So you want to be a boxer" & "Bad Guys" out of your head. You can't. The story is good, as the kids play it straight. One scene I loved is when Bugsy's girl Blousy is daydreaming about being a Hollywood movie star. The close up on her face, and the absolutely beautiful music Paul Williams adds, makes the scene so much more than it may have been. Absolutely beautiful, I must have watched it then times already. I'm going to try and get my kids to watch this, they love musicals. Highly Recommended!

King Solomon's Mines
(1950)

A wonderful journey
I watched this on TCM, expecting a swashbuckling 1950's MGM backlot picture. Boy was I wrong! Filmed on location in Africa, it is an intelligent, vivid, and wonderful portrayal of not only Africa and it's amazing landscape and animals, but it's amazing diversity of tribes and people. Set in 1892, Stewart Granger ( who was born to play this role) is Alan Quartermane, an Englishman who has lived in Africa for years as a guide to wealthy tourists who would hunt on the African plain. After a hunt goes badly, and his trusted aide is killed by an elephant stampede, he is re thinking his choice of profession. But along comes Deborah Kerr, and her brother, who make him an offer he can't refuse, lead them on a trek to find Kerr's lost husband who has traveled to uncharted Africa in search of a legendary lost diamond mine. Incredible cinematography, locales, animals, and a very forward looking portrayal of the different tribes the group come across are all presented. Each character is fleshed out, and what could have been a very one dimensional treatment of the tribespeople, is actually treated with the utmost dignity and respect. Quartermane respects and reveres the tribesmen, and thus the movie avoids the usual racial stereotypes of the era. It's a wonderful travelogue film, with an excellent story and characters you will root for. Well worth a watch.

Seconds
(1966)

If Rod Serling made movies
Caught "Seconds" on demand, and I was intrigued. A middle aged man is given an extreme plastic surgery makeover while his death is staged, so he can go on living a new life. But, all that glitters is not gold. The film introduces us to Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) a mild mannered, middle aged married bank executive. Settled into a comfortable existence, we can sense that there is something missing. He and his wife seem distant. Maybe it has to do with the phone calls he's been receiving. Perhaps that the calls are from a friend that died recently, have something to do with it. Told by his "dead" friend about the procedure, Hamilton decides to go see for himself. In an anonymous building in Manhattan, he meets Jeff Corey, and Will Geer, as the director and owner, respectively, of a company that will fake Hamilton's death, and recreate him as a new man, in the form of Rock Hudson. Unfortunately , Hamilton has a hard time adjusting to his new life and wants a do over. But there are no second chances here... One of the things I love about this movie is the absolute creepiness hanging over every scene, courtesy of director John Frankenheimer and his excellent cast. You just know it's not going to end up well for Hamilton, but the journey is the fun here. Highly Recommended

Farewell, My Lovely
(1975)

I knew I was in for a treat when I heard the opening theme
There's something about LA in the 40's that makes some great material. Perhaps because we think of it as a simpler time, or that it was a sun bathed paradise, but deep down it had its share of dark secrets, just like every other place. Philip Marlowe's LA is no different. A true gem of a film and the spiritual companion to Chinatown, this movie really does peel back the glitz and glamour of Tinseltown to reveal its seedy underbelly. Prostitution, murder, corrupt cops. It's all here, and expertly acted by the best Marlowe, Robert Mitchum. A tired, acerbic, street smart private eye who has seen it all. But he doesn't see this. A case involving a recently released convict and the search for his girl Velma lead him down the darkest paths, to places he never dared go. An absolutely stunning movie, it's one of my all time favorites.

Defending Your Life
(1991)

A desert island film.
I've been meaning to write a review of Defending Your Life for years, so here goes. I first saw this movie in the early 90's on HBO as a teenager. Even then, I knew it was special. Hilariously funny, thought provoking, romantic, and most importantly, timeless. We follow Daniel Miller, a successful Los Angeles yuppie, who, in his new car, on his birthday, is struck and killed in a collision with a bus while fiddling with the CD player. He awakes in a strange place, a sort of purgatory, which happens to look a lot like a hotel. Disoriented, and unaware what's going on, he learns that he has died, and in order for him to move on, he must defend the actions he has taken in life, to a two judge tribunal. Representing Daniel in his case, is the great Rip Torn, (RIP) while the prosecutor, is charmingly referred to as "The Dragon Lady" (Lee Remick) As the movie moves forward, we see many scenes from Daniels life, that illustrate why he should or shouldn't move on. So many funny moments are shown, showing Daniel to be a victim of his own fears and self doubt. All seems lost for Daniel, but he meets the beautiful Meryl Streep, a newly arrived decedent, who is happy go lucky and confident, in other words, the opposite of Daniel. Without giving away too much, they form a great team, and the movie finally reveals its true purpose, the ability to overcome fear and doubt. It is so well done, with such great lines, and performances, that you'll be laughing very often. Very few do a better put upon guy character than Albert Brooks. A really uplifting, engaging, thought provoking movie that is in my personal top 10. Highly recommended!!

Foul Play
(1978)

They don't make them like this anymore
I just watched Foul Play for the first time, and I must say, it is a wonderful, well written, acted and directed film, that stands the rest of time and then some. A true love letter to San Francisco, to a time, a place. On top of the excellent plot, I can't say enough about the acting. Goldie Hawn is at the height of her career. Beautiful, smart, sexy, all of the things that many actresses are not these days. Chevy Chase is also excellent playing it straight, as a policeman trying to unravel a mystery while falling in love with a woman he is trying to protect. Their love scene should be studied in film school, to show how it's done. Maybe the best I've ever seen. The chemistry is so natural, and the love is so evident, it's amazing they didn't wind up together after the movie wrapped. Throw in a stellar supporting cast, Brian Dennehy, Dudley Moore, Rachel Roberts, Burgess Meredith, Billy Barty (in a great cameo!) with absolutely knockout scenery filmed on location in San Francisco, and you have an all time classic. You'll be humming Barry Manilow's 'Ready to take a chance again' after the first 5 minutes and you'll want to rewatch this great film. So highly recommended!

Entrapment
(1999)

Enjoyable heist movie
"Entrapment" is one of those movies that, when it's on cable, you can stop and watch wherever you find yourself in the film. My guess is that it has something to do with the fun plot, (a heist movie with lots of gadgets and great locations) but more likely is the star power of Sean Connery, who at almost 70 years old (!) delivers another wonderful performance as the aging cat burglar Mac. Along with a very good and very easy on the eyes Catherine Zeta Jones, Ving Rhames adds a nice touch as a sidekick. Stick with this one, it's a fun ride.

Sorcerer
(1977)

Blown away!!
Many times, I stumble across a movie that tells a great story in such a way, that I'm constantly thinking about it after I've seen it for the first time. Sunset Blvd and Chinatown, among many others come to mind. This is such a movie. It's hard to overstate how good this film truly is. One of the top directors of the new Hollywood 70's William Friedkin, and one of the best scripts you'll ever see put to screen and it makes for a damn fine show. Four men, escaping to South America, after commuting various heinous crimes, find themselves in a place worse than jail, a poverty stricken hellhole where life is cheap, and the options are few. With no chance of really getting out, the men are resigned to their fates, until an opportunity comes calling: Transport highly volatile dynamite 200 miles across jungle terrain in order to put out an oil well fire. Four men of different backgrounds, an American on the run from the mob, a Frenchman who dropped everything after being caught embezzling money from his company, a Palestinian terrorist, and a Mexican hitman. They seemingly have nothing to offer each other until they come face to face with fear, death, and their own fates. An adventure tale that has no lighthearted moments, and an ending that is one of the most twisting you'll see, you'll see why Friedkin talks about the Sorceror of the films title being a metaphor for the fates that control all of our lives. Thrilling, dire, heart stopping, this is a film for the ages! Highly recommended!!

Hired Gun
(2016)

A must for music lovers
What a wonderful, engaging, funny, sometimes sad look at the life of a session musician, the guys who are hired to play on another musicians recordings. I consider this the companion piece to the excellent "Wrecking Crew" documentary.Often anonymous, these guys and girls are the backbone to many of your favorite artists. As someone who played drums for many years and dreamt of being in a traveling band, I realized years ago what a grind touring could be. Many artists are interviewed and they are all candid about the business side of music, and what it takes to make it. Rob zombie puts it thus: You have to be the best musician, but also willing to put the spotlight on the main artist. Most importantly though, you need to be someone that can live on the road 24/7 with others and not be annoying! Toiling away, night after night, for little pay can drain anyone, and it does take a toll. Even those that were very successful can be dumped for no reason, sending the artist out looking for work. Liberty Devitto, the drummer for Billy Joel for many years, was dumped by Joel along with his bandmates, one of whom later killed himself. It's a hell of a way to make a living, and the heights are high, but the pitfalls are always around the corner. A must watch for any music fan!

Singin' in the Rain
(1952)

Didn't expect to like it as much as I do
Being from the generation that grew up in the 1980's, I missed out on the golden age of Hollywood, both the studio system heyday, and the second golden age, the 1970's. As a lover of old movies, it's hard to believe that it took as long as it did to watch "Singin' in the rain" not being a great fan of musicals, I was skeptical. Silly me! The absolute talent on display is simply breathtaking. You simply cannot take your eyes off the screen when Gene Kelly, Donald O'connor and Debbie Reynolds are dancing. The story is great, the acting is incredible, and the production had to be seen to be believed. If you've never seen "Singin' in the rain" you will not be disappointed!

A Night to Remember
(1958)

An amazing piece of filmmaking
1958's 'A night to remember' is, and should be considered the definitive movie detailing the infamous doomed liner 'Titanic' sunk on her maiden voyage, in April 1912.

Watching this film in High definition, it is abundantly clear, that this is a class job of movie making. The sets, which are extraordinary, the effects, which to my eye are still wonderful, and most importantly the characters and story, are all done to an extraordinary standard. You really do feel that you are a fly on the wall, or even more terrifyingly, a passenger on the doomed ship. I found myself so engrossed in the goings on that I wanted to shout to the passengers to run to the lifeboats! Shot by the incomparable Geoffrey Unsworth, the film is a feast for the eyes, detailing the splendor of the Gilded Age, and the interior of the recreated Titanic. Even that, though would be a lost effort, if not for the wonderful cast and script taken from Walter Lord's book of the same name.

According to the trivia section actual survivors were on hand to lend their expertise. Absolutely incredible. Of all the tragedies that have befallen the world, the sinking of the Titanic continues to fascinate the public. With so many unanswered questions, theories, what-ifs, stories, and lives lost, the Titanic will continue to fascinate for another 100 years. This film really does the story justice, a must watch!

Avanti!
(1972)

Senza Fine
Coming at the beginning of what would become Billy Wilder's least successful period, Avanti! Is an utterly charming, lovely film that sadly did not see the success that perhaps it should have. The ALWAYS great Jack Lemmon is Walter Armbruster Jr, a Titan of industry, who arrives on the Italian island of Ischia to collect the remains of his departed father, killed in a car accident while on his annual one month rejuvenation vacation at an Italian spa and resort. Juliet Mills, as Ms Piggott, is an Englishwoman who has arrived with the same task, although it is her mother she has come to claim. When informed by Ms Piggott that his father used his month long sabbatical as an excuse to spend time with his English mistress, Armbruster is crestfallen. How could he reconcile the family man he knew with the man he now sees he really was?

Avanti really is about a father son relationship, about how the people we look up to and think we know can and are just as flawed as anyone else. But even those flaws can reveal things, like the true love that existed between the late couple. As Armbruster Jr. wonders how he will get his father home for his lavish funeral that is expected, he begins to realize that what he wants for his father, and what his father really wanted may be two separate things. Along the way, he also comes to terms with his own stifling marriage and his own image as a devoted husband. Will love show him another way?

As well as fine performances from the leads, we get an extraordinary performance from Clive Revill as the maitr'e d hotel, Carlo Carlucci, who gets almost all the best lines (and hits them out of the park) to see his performance, and realize it is not an Italian actor, is incredible!

Take some time to watch Avanti! Then take some more and watch it again, it really is a wonderful film, and one of Wilder's forgotten gems.

Black Mirror
(2011)

An insult to Twilight Zone
I watched the opening episode of this series in that faint hope that a series would come along that MAYBE had some really timeless qualities that the Twilight Zone had, namely, smart, innovative, fantasy, horror, science fiction. What I came across was an absolute waste of time. After watching the series opener "National anthem" I was horrified. Horrified that someone would conceive and execute such a vile, disgusting piece of television such as this. Instead of fantasy, charm, literacy, and magic, we get an absolutely disgusting piece of rubbish. Rod Serling is turning over in his grave after this garbage was likened to TZ by Netflix. Everyone involved in this should be embarrassed, but I doubt that's possible anymore in the world we live in. But I guess that was the point wasn't it? Please do yourself a favor and watch literally anything but this.

Buddy Buddy
(1981)

Not as bad as you've heard
I was lucky enough to find this movie posted on that famous video site, and sat down for what I thought was going to be a disaster. Billy Wilder's final film, as I've read and heard, was a disaster. Awful, a terrible end to the most brilliant of film careers. Well, after watching "Buddy Buddy" I find that I don't agree with that harsh assessment.

Jack Lemmon plays his usual role, the put on Everyman. But to say that in a negative light is wrong. He played that character so well, that it is a pleasure to see him do it again. This time, he is trying to win back his estranged wife of 12 years, who has left him for a sex clinic doctor.

Playing against type, is Walter Matthau playing a hit-man who has one last job to complete before retirement and a life of leisure on an island near Tahiti. As fate would have it, both men find themselves in the same hotel with much different objectives. Lemmon to end his life, and Matthau to end a mob snitches life, before he's able to testify in a big trial.

Needless to say, hijinks ensue, and in my opinion, some really funny scenes. I won't spoil it, but give Buddy Buddy a chance. Is it "The Odd Couple"? No. Is it worth a watch for some harmless entertainment? Absolutely.

Superman III
(1983)

Good, but could have been so much better
They say the third time is the charm, but I might tend to think that this movie proves the law of diminishing returns. To be fair though, the first two Superman movies were SO good, with such great stories and talented casts, that even had all the elements come together for a third film with all the original cast and crew, it still might not measure up. Oh what could have been though! After being fired while directing Superman II, Richard Donner (Who directed the original) was replaced by British filmmaker Richard Lester, who, a competent director in his own right, was maybe not the right fit for the tone of the original Superman films. Out was the somewhat dark, serious film, and in was the overly slapstick style that began in the middle of Superman II.

Returning to direct the third installment, Lester again throws sight gags at us as if it was his job. The opening montage starts out with a bank robbery then slides down the slope into pratfalls, and pie in the face routines. Richard Pryor as computer genius August 'Gus' Gorman, lays it on a bit thick, and is really wasted in what could have been a better part. But really, there lies the problem with Superman III. Instead of battling Lex Luthor, or Zod, Superman is set upon by Richard Pryor, a boring business tycoon and a supercomputer! Instead of a known villain, we get jobbed. As if the producers just didn't care to invest the time into really writing a strong story with a great conflict.

What they do accomplish however, is staging some very good action sequences, whereby Superman saves the day in several different scenes. The most exciting in my opinion, being the fight between the 'Good' and 'Evil' Superman, a high point for the series. In addition, the back story of Clark's life in Smallville is brought to the fore as we are introduced to Lana, Clark's high school crush, (Annette O'Tool) in a fun trip back to where it all began for Clark on Earth.

Kudos must go to Christopher Reeve for his portrayal of three characters, Clark Kent, Superman, and Bizzarro Superman. He was a wonderful talent and this movie really shows off his acting chops. The rest of the cast holds their own, but the script is not up to par, so you really can't blame them. What could have been a GREAT cap to the series is only a fair effort, a shame as this was the last gasp of a great series of films.

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