Wednesday, July 06, 2011

What I Watched In June

A trip to the Drive-In netted one great Super-Hero film (X-MEN) and one lousy pirate mess (do I need to type out the title?). I always love watching movies under the stars while eating food that’s incredibly bad for me and I hope to repeat the experience at least one more time before the summer is over.

I finally delved into a huge stack of the great Roy Rogers westerns he made for Republic studios in the 1950s. I’ve only ever seen a couple of them but each one left a good impression so I’m looking forward to checking out the entire run. They all (so far) are sturdy B-movies of the fast, fun variety. Although I like Roy quite a bit and find him to be a good presence on screen the real draw for these films is that they were filmed in a strange color process called TruColor. This was an odd three strip film process that was Republic’s own form of Technicolor. You can always tell that you’re watching a TruColor movie because the colors seem just a little bit off. They aren’t wrong, but they often seem a shade to one side or the other of what they are supposed to represent.

I can recommend the sharp NICK CARTER film from 1939 to anyone interested in budget programmer mysteries of the period. It is very well done and Walter Pidgeon as the master detective is perfect. MANFISH is a very rare low budget movie filmed in Jamaica. Believe it or not it’s a cock-eyed adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe short stories ‘The Gold Bug’ and The Tell-Tell Heart’ with both stories actually meshing together pretty well. It’s not a great movie but it’s worth a look for Lon Chaney Jr. fans. At last I checked THE BIG GUNDOWN off my lengthy Spaghetti Western list and it was fantastic. I should be used to being impressed by director Sergio Sollima but I had some doubts because this was a film made so early in the SW cycle. I should not have worried as Lee Van Cleef brings his A game and so does Tomas Milian- highly recommend.

Sadly, GREEN LANTERN was a mess of a missed opportunity. This had everything in place to be a really strong superhero film but it feels like it got second guessed and ‘created by committee’ to death. The movie has a lot of problems- it has a confused storyline that is poorly integrated with the character’s origin story; the villain is big cloud; somehow everyone knew each other as children; Hal Jordan /Green Lantern comes off as an ass instead of a brave pilot and they never give the other Lanterns enough screen time to make an impression. The biggest problem is that a lot of the fiddling with the story seems to have been done after the filming was completed. Evidence of this narrative tampering pops up constantly when characters repeatedly reference things that we are never shown as if we saw or heard it happen earlier in the movie. Sloppy.

MACISTE CONTRO I MOSTRI (1962)- 6 (a.k.a. Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules- goofy fun)
CASINO ROYALE (2006)- 9 (rewatch)
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011)- 9 (now THIS is how you ret-con a series!)
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (2011)- 3 (overlong, over done and boring)
SUSANNA PASS (1949)- 6 (Roy Rogers TruColor western)
MYSTERY SUBMARINE (1963)- 6 (British WWII tale)
DON’T GO IN THE BASEMENT (1973)- 4 (low budget Texas exploitation film)
NICK CARTER, MASTER DETECTIVE (1939)- 7 (fast, fun mystery)
WINTER’S BONE (2010)- 7 (modern Ozark noir)
MANFISH (1956)- 5 (low budget Caribbean adventure with Lon Chaney, Jr.)
SUPER 8 (2011)- 9 (excellent film)
THE BIG GUNDOWN (1966)- 8 (Lee Van Cleef/Tomas Milian western)
THE FILE OF THE GOLDEN GOOSE (1969)- 5 (flatly directed police thriller)
DETROIT 9000 (1973)- 7 (cool Blaxplitation)
DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)- 9 (rewatch of the longer cut)
THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK (1976)- 7 (rewatch)
CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA (1961)- 4 (silly comedy from Corman)
GREEN LANTERN (2011)- 4 (doesn’t quite have what it takes- feels done-by-committee)
MATALO! (1970)- 2 (sad, dull spaghetti western)
BAD TEACHER (2011)- 6 (good but not great comedy)
THE MURDER CLINIC (1966)- 8 (very good Gothic mystery)
THE NIGHT THE WORLD EXPLODED (1957) – 5 (glad I finally caught up with this)

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