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Gun Battle at Monterey

Pretty Funny
This movie wastes the talents of Sterling Hayden (who obviously made this movie to fund his famous off-screen pursuits) and Ted de Corsia, who was a great Western villain. A movie about two bank robbers who escape, but one Reno, played by de Corsia, betrays and shoots Hayden's character. Hayden's character is rescued, recovers, and seeks vengeance. It was cheaply made in the coastal California area, and has beautiful scenery, but the script is horrible, and wastes the talents of everyone involved, including Lee Van Cleef, who is an additionally villain. This is a grade-Z Western. Don't watch unless you want a laugh.

Liberty Stands Still

A "Phone Booth" Ripoff
Liberty Stands Still, even though it wields considerable talent due to having starts such as Linda Fiorentino and Wesley Snipes, is one of those kinds of projects that happens too frequently in Hollywood. The storyline is a blatant ripoff of the plot of the movie Phone Booth. It is very common, given the lack of secrecy and discretion in Tinseltown, and the necessity of promoting and publicizing scripts, for there to be competing projects with the same or very similar plots. The plot for Phone Booth had been much publicized, especially since Will Smith was originally pegged to star in the movie. Even with Smith not making the movie, and Colin Farrell becoming the lead, the plot was novel and well known enough for someone to write something very, very similar.

Both movies involve a lead character who spends nearly the entire film stuck on the telephone as a prisoner to a sniper who threatens to shoot the lead if they move. In Phone Booth, Farrell plays a PR guy who is as cuddly as a piranha. His caller is obviously seeking revenge against him personally. In Liberty Stands Still, Fiorentino plays Liberty, the wife of a notorious arms dealer. Her tormentor, played by Snipes, is seeking revenge for the loss of a child killed by one of Liberty's husbands' guns.

The only major differences are 1) we see Snipes throughout the movie, while Kiefer Sutherland, who plays the corresponding character in Phone Booth, is unseen, and 2) Snipes is using Fiorentino's character to get back at her husband, not seeking revenge against her personally.

Phone Booth is a much better movie, although on its own, Liberty Stands Still has some merit. But if you have to choose, see Phone Booth first or only.

The Lost Man

Not One of Poitier's Best
The Lost Man is notable for several things, none of which includes it being a great example of cinema. Sidney Poitier's future wife, Joanna Shimkus. co-starred with him in this film. It's notable for being one of the first films of Poitier where he is trying to buck the system, rather than fit it. In most of his earlier films, he was always dealing with the problems of being a black man in a mostly white society, while living a respectable and useful existence. In this film, he plays a black revolutionary who is robbing "The Man's" bank in order to finance his group's activities. This group is a shadowy, seemingly monolithic entity that remains enigmatic throughout the film.

No one is horrible in this movie. It just doesn't stand up very well. If Poitier's black militant group had been more like the Black Panthers instead of what the Panther would have liked to have been, the movie might seem more of a product of its times. Instead, it comes like a black revolutionary fable. Interesting, but not compelling.

Shock Treatment

A Forgotten Gem
This movie is one of those that's great to watch in the dark with popcorn, on a rainy night, or come to think of it, pretty much anytime. The actors are great, and the mood is very intense. Whitman was early in his career, McDowell does his usual stellar work, and Lauren Bacall gives one of her best performances as someone who belongs in the asylum, not running it. This is a great old flick that deserves a lot more recognition that it gets. If you watch it, and like it, tell others about it so the word can be spread. This deserves to be released on DVD if it hasn't already, and should be mentioned with the other great Hollywood thrillers.

No Way Out

An Early Poitier Classic
This movie, even today, stands out as one of the best, and most honest of Hollywood films dealing racism and prejudice. Good friends Poitier and Widmark are anything but as they play, respectively, a hospital intern and a racist hoodlum. The scenes between them are can be hard to watch because of the raw, uncensored for the time slurs spouted by Widmark at Poitier. Widmark is not redeemed at the end, nor is the subject of racism mollycoddled. It is a tribute to this film that its' existence bear witness to the fact that Hollywood has long been capable of portraying some of life's most unpleasant realities. This film is a bright spot on the resumes of all involved, particularly Poitier, who plays someone who is human more than noble, and Widmark, who puts a realistic face on raw, naked bigotry.

Cutter's Trail

Decent Unsold Pilot
Cutter's Trail is an unsold pilot seeking to continue the great tradition of CBS's Gunsmoke. But this didn't make the cut. Pretty standard stuff with John Gavin as a New Mexico marshal who is trying to protect innocent townspeople from a band of ruthless cutthroats. Victor French, a perennial Gunsmoke/western villain, does his usual yeoman job, and the rest of the cast is okay, including Manuel Padilla, Jr, famous for playing the jungle boy "Jai" in the Tarzan television series starring Ron Ely. You could easily do worse that to watch this film. It is better than some motion picture westerns that you will find on television.

The Hard Man

Unremarkable But Watchable
The Hard Man does not stand out as anything unique, but it is an entertaining western that can hold your interest during viewing. Guy Madison does fine as the stalwart lawman/gunfighter brought in to clean up the town. Valerie French has the requisite beauty as the femme fatale, although it sounds as if her voice was dubbed by another actress. The greatest revelation about the Hard Man is seeing a pre-Ben Cartwright Lorne Greene play a ruthless, utterly despicable villain. This was made several years before Bonanza began, and Greene makes the most of playing the bad guy. This alone makes the movie worth watching. The Hard Man is a fine Western to watch to pass the time. The only thing noteworthy is to watch this while comparing Greene's character to his future Ben Cartwright role.

Lisa, Bright and Dark

A Great Hallmark Hall of Fame Movie
This is one of those Hallmark Hall of Fame specials that helped to cement their reputation for being well-made, well-acted quality production. Kay Lenz is outstanding as Lisa, and the supporting cast is also excellent. This is one that still holds up today, even though it was made many years ago. When this was made, mental illness wasn't a popular subject for serious treatment by television, but this sensitive,thoughtful movie helped to be a pioneer for all of the television movies dealing with mental illness (like Sybil, The Cracker Factory, and many others)that would come afterwards. The Seventies was a coming of age time for television drama. Lisa, Bright and Dark was a definite pioneer.

The Hunted

No Middle Ground
This is one of those movies that people will either love or hate. It has it's flaws for sure, but this movie speaks to primitive, macho mano-a-mano movie lovers.

How realistic the knife fights are in this movie remains to be seen, although kali, the martial art used as the base for the fight scenes, is a powerful fighting style. But they are exciting to watch, and both Jones and del Toro inhabit their characters with enough gusto and panache that the movie can be very enjoyable to watch.

It definitely won't be everyone's cup of tea, but the Hunted will make lots of action movie and martial arts movie fans pleased and satisfied.

I Spy

A Wonderful TV Show For All the Right Reasons
It so common that we like things because they help us to escape. We like things because we know they're not good for us. We like things because nobody else like them. And sometimes, we don't know why we like things, we just do.

Those of us who love and adore the 1965-1968 television series I-Spy have many reasons to like it. We can like it because it was the first, and up to this point the best, of the buddy pairings that have become so commonplace in TV and movies. Think about it. As far as drama/comedies go, who were the first evenly matched hero team? Crockett and Tubbs weren't, and don't compare. And there isn't anybody else worth mentioning. The rapport between Kelly and Scotty has never been equaled. Spenser and Hawk come the closest.

Then there's the presence of Bill Cosby, who wasn't handed charity. He was given an opportunity and made the most of it. The three Emmys on his mantel attest to his skill and his popularity.

Then there's the location filming. And the fun. And the charm. and some great guest performances along the way. This was and is a great show. Terrific and timeless.


One of The Best Crime Noir Movies
It is an awesome thing when a movie is planned, a great cast assembled, using a great storyline for a backdrop, and in the end, everything comes off as it should. It is not an infrequent occurrence in Hollywood that all of these components are in place, yet disaster strikes, and the movie is a dud.

With a pairing of Pacino and DeNiro, and it coming off as well as it does, that would probably be enough for moviegoers. But add Val Kilmer, Ashley Judd, Dennis Haysbert, and the always interesting Tom Sizemore, and you have a cast without weakness.

Michael Mann, as he proved with Ali, knows what to do with a great cast. As he demonstrated in Last of The Mohicans, Miami Vice, and Manhunter, he has a visual flair that is unequaled in Hollywood. He's one of the few directors whose visual style identifies his films even if you don't know who's directing.

I am hoping that sometime soon, there will be a sequel using Pacino's character. It would be more than worth the wait.

Edge of Darkness

One of The Best Television Miniseries Ever Made
Edge of Darkness is in a class by itself as far as filmmaking is concerned.

This troubling, disturbing, haunting film is a classic, and a must-see for people who enjoy riveting stories, great performances, and who have more than a few questions about how governments discreetly solve their problems.

Bob Peck gives a tour-de-force performance that encompasses so many different emotions. He represents the average British citizen who finds himself caught up in events he cannot control, nor completely understand. Joe Don Baker is appropriately over the top as Jedburgh, and the rest of the cast sparkles with an adroit script and keen, sharp direction.

The Challenge

A Hidden Martial Arts Classic
The Challenge is one of those genre movies that is so good that it not only breaks the genre mold but gets lost in the shuffle, hidden by lots of other movies not nearly as good.

Scott Glenn and Toshiro Mifune give excellent and their usual intense performances as a budding samurai cum boxer and his instructor, bonding as the instructor is caught up in a clan feud with his brother.

This movie is good for three reasons. One reason is the normal steadfast performances of its stars. The second is the keen, insightful direction of John Frankenheimer, a grossly underrated director who helmed such classics as The Train, Ronin, and The Manchurian Candidate. And the third is the able kenjutsu (swordfighting)and aikido of a then unknown American martial arts instructor based in Japan who at the time was going by Steve Seagal. I guess I don't have to tell you who he grew up to be.


One of The Greatest Post-Western Westerns
This movie stands out as one of the best of a subgenre that doesn't have a lot of great movies representing it. The Post-Western Westerns starting coming out in the mid-sixties until Westerns were hard to come by during the mid-seventies.

These "modern" westerns are distinguished by turning the "white hat good guy" and "black hat bad guy" on their ear. The good guys are not only not perfect, but ruefully flawed, and the bad guys are often people who made mistakes along the way and would not be a threat to society if they were left alone. Examples of other "modern" westerns are Unforgiven (The Clint Eastwood movie), Hang 'Em High (notice a pattern- another Eastwood movie), and Dances With Wolves.

Lancaster's Marshall Maddox is doing his job, but at this stage in his career, he is a walking, talking, killing machine who is ready to kill anyone who gets in his way, and some people who want very much to get out of his way. He is typical of the modern western. Where older westerns emphasized clear moral and ethical boundaries, modern westerns portray a world much less certain and easy to navigate. A world full of shadows and lots of gray ambiguities.

This is a perfect representation of how people felt in 1971. This is a very good film.

Experiment in Terror

A Creepy, Hair Raising Experiment
Blake Edwards is most known for comedies, particularly the Pink Panther movies, but one of his best movies is this spine-tingler. Featuring a great cast including Glenn Ford, Lee Remick, a very young Stephanie Powers, and a pre-Wild, Wild West Ross Martin as the villain, this movie has all of the suspense, and yes, terror, that so many movies don't have in the midst of all of their heavy-laden special effects. If you've never seen this, check it out and recommend it. This is one of Glenn Ford's last great movies. This is one that he'll be remembered for as much as some of his other, more famous movies. And it helps to raise the thriller bar in ways that other movies can't match.

The Bourne Identity

Different From The Book, But Great!
This version is radically different than the book and the television miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain, but it is much better than the TV version, and even though it strays far from the book, it stands on its own as a great action thriller.

Leave it to Doug Liman, best known for Swingers, to put together a highly charged action movie with lots of energy and panache. Damon is good as Bourne, Franka Potente is sweet and charming as his unwitting and unwilling accomplice, and Brian Cox is always solid in his familiar "intelligence official caught up in a big mess" role that he has played in five or six movies already.

This is a very good movie and definitely the best adaptation of a Ludlum book so far, even with all of the changes.


One of The Worst Movie Ever
Even the fact that I saw this movie at a free sneak review doesn't make up for the hour plus that I lost watching this horrible dreck of a movie. Mario van Peebles had a movie to remember in New Jack city, and he has a movie to forget in Solo. Where do I start? The plot is horrendous, the action is silly, the acting is campy, and the whole movie adds up to such a bad experience that it isn't even worth renting, much less buying or watching it on cable. Any cable station that shows this movie ought to give the viewers discounts on their cable bill. Definitely a contender for worst movie ever made. Definitely the worst movie of anyone who acted, wrote, produced, directed, or did FX for it.

The Bourne Identity

Not A Good Idea
As a Robert Ludlum fan, I was so excited when I found out that The Bourne Identity, probably his best book, was being adapted into a TV miniseries. I was very reticent when I found out that Richard Chamberlain had been cast as Jason Bourne.

My fears were all justified. Chamberlain is very poorly cast as Bourne. He is not believable in the action scenes, and he just isn't credible as Bourne. Overall, the movie outside of him is not too bad, but casting is everything or nothing, and in this case, it's nothing particularly good or convincing. Watch the theatrical version, which is much less faithful to the book, but a lot more enjoyable because Matt Damon is a lot more believable as Bourne.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

I don't Know If It Was Supposed To be Stupid
...but it is. One of Peter Weller's early claims to fame is this attempt at...something, what I'm not sure.

Satire, comedy, science fiction, campy action...who knows, and better yet, who cares? Well, I know some do, but this is a movie for a select group of people who can watch it, go with the flow, and enjoy something that seems to have been made up on the spot.

Memorable only as a movie that becomes a "cult" classic, and reinforces some of the less than positive meanings of the word. Not a memorable satire, not a great science fiction movie, not a great action movie, not a great...well, you get the picture, and maybe you shouldn't...

The Manchurian Candidate

A Great Thriller/Satire
This classic is one of the best films ever in two genres-thriller and satire. It is also the movie where Frank Sinatra gives his finest performance as an actor.

As a thriller, the movie keeps you interested by watching Sinatra's character try to hold it together as he begins to piece the conspiracy together. His fight scene with the always dependable Henry Silva is on the earliest displays of martial arts fighting in modern cinema.

As a satire, the movie savagely spoofs the insanity and lunacy of the McCarthy era, when just an accusation of communism could create panic and sensation. The 2004 remake, even with Denzel Washington and meryl Streep, has its work cut out for it.


Should Be Better Than What It Is
With a cast like Henry Fonda, Anthony Quinn, and Richard Widmark, this should easily be one of the best Westerns ever.

But it's not. I'm not sure whether the good parts were edited out, the original script was thrown out, or whether the writers and director didn't know what to do with such a great cast, bu Warlock manages to waste the efforts of everyone involved. Fonda and Quinn seem to be channeling a Earp/Holliday kind of relationship that is not explored or depicted in enough depth to make you care about what happens during the course of the film. Richard Widmark is sturdy as always, but there is just a strong sense of a wasted opportunity while watching this film.

Last Train from Gun Hill

An Underrated Classic
John Sturges a number of the best movies ever made - The Great Escape, The Gunfight at O.K. Corral, the Magnificent Seven, and here is a great movie he made that doesn't get mentioned with the all-time greats as it should.

Kirk Douglas is outstanding as the uncompromising sheriff on a mission of revenge when his Native American wife is killed by the spoiled son of a lifelong friend. Anthony Quinn is excellent as the hardbitten rancher who respects Douglas' character more than anybody (and whose life he saved in their youth), but who behaves one as a protective father, and two as a man who is rich and powerful, and used to getting what he wants. Carolyn Jones is also great as a woman caught in the middle of the two men.

No cop-outs, no easily resolutions. Just a great movie with a great cast.

The Tin Star

One of Fonda's Best Westerns...
...and that's saying a lot when you consider that he was in Fort Apache, My Darling Clementine, and The Ox-Box Incident. But this western, directed by the always dependable Anthony Mann, is a good example of a good story told without a lot of smoke and mirrors. The acting is dead-on, enough to convey character and emotion, but not too much to cheapen or overwhelm the story.

Great performances by Fonda as the grizzled veteran lawman/bounty hunter, Tony Perkins as the green, inexperienced town sheriff, John McIntyre as the town's doctor, and Neville Brand as the town bully. It is thoughtful and powerful, and displays a sense of right and wrong that is strong and uncompromising.

The Professionals

A Classic
This is one of those great, all-star movies where what happens is almost inconsequential because getting there is so much fun. Marvin and Lancaster give sharp-edged, self-assured performances, Palance is delightful as always, and the rest of the cast does their job in yeoman fashion. It has the edge and cynicism that marked the decline of western movie production, but it has enough fun with the audience, and itself to stand out from other westerns made at the same juncture. Richard Brooks deserves a lot of credit for keeping the genre going because few westerns made around this time were or are memorable. This movie is not always mentioned with the all-time great westerns...but it should be.

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