Happy New Year!
Sunday, December 31, 2017
Saturday, December 30, 2017
Although Netflix has been a destination point for quality television for a number of years now, their feature film production arm has not exactly been top notch. There are number of Netflix produced feature films that you can see on the service but I'll just mention the two action movies that I'm aware of as 'Netflix films' and focus specifically on their big holiday release of BRIGHT.
Many months ago I watched their production SPECTRAL (2016) and observed at the time that it was a rolling disaster filled with obvious post production work to attempt to bring the film into some kind of serviceable form. That ultimately failed and created a movie that starts out interesting and then bumbles and trips its way straight into abject pointless stupidity and disaster. Proving that there seems to be some glitch with spotting script problems and/or just well-produced and thought out ideas for stories, we come now to BRIGHT (2017).
If you're curious, check it out but go in with lowered expectations and hope that NetFlix starts finding better scripts for their big action epics - and soon!
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Monday, December 25, 2017
Saturday, December 23, 2017
I'm a big fan of swashbuckling movies. I don't get to see nearly enough of them, mainly because every time I sit down to watch one I'm judging it against a pair of almost impossible to match films. The first film is The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) with Errol Flynn. When I first caught that movie I had no idea that it was setting such a high bar for adventure movies that almost everything I saw after that would seem a limp copy in comparison. The second film is similar but a little different - Richard Lester's 1973 film version of The Three Musketeers. Along with its continuation the Four Musketeers released in 1974 I consider this to be not just the best version on film of this amazing story but easily all together one of the best and most entertaining swashbuckling films ever made. I have watched both The Adventures of Robin Hood and the Three and Four Musketeers so many times that I feel I could quote them backwards and forwards. So when I say I love swashbuckling movies understand that, for me, those are the unassailable classics and everything else is just trying to match those amazing cinematic adventures.
Over the years I've watched a number of other Three Musketeer adaptations and films that are 3 Musketeers related in some way or another and I've always come away disappointed. Even the best of these films just seem to be missing a little something. It might be an odd bit of casting that doesn't work (usually an American in a role) making me feel as if they're not quite what they're supposed to be. Or something the sour note is as silly as just aiming the dialogue a little too young, as if the film were only supposed to be viewed as a kiddie Saturday afternoon feature. I also try to catch just about every Robin Hood movie that I can see and I have the same problem with most of them as well. Although I've enjoyed a number of alternate takes on the Robin Hood story most of them are only somewhere in the mid-range of entertaining and none of them come even remotely close to giving me that thrill of adventurous joy as that Errol Flynn classic.
Long story short - AT SWORD'S POINT is another mid-range swashbuckler but it's points of interest make it worth a look.
Thursday, December 21, 2017
There's a difference between a movie that takes place at Christmas and a Christmas movie. I think a lot depends on the mood of the story as to whether the film will key into the sentimental feelings the season usually fosters but even dark themes can merge with glad tidings if enough wit is used. To that point, I bring you SUSAN SLEPT HERE (1956).
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Sunday, December 17, 2017
I truly never thought that Marvel Studios would produce a funnier film than the first Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). But with Thor: Ragnarok we see that with his completely tilted attack on the material director Taika Waititi has crafted not just one of the best Marvel movies of the past few years, but by far the funniest. What's amazing about the film is not that it has a lot of jokes and laugh-out-loud ideas presented with style and colorful flair. The real joy is the deftness with which the humor is handled. Even though our main character Thor is often the butt of the joke - sometimes goofy, sometimes silly, sometimes just a little clueless - he's still the hero and he is still someone to be admired for his many heroic traits and courageous character. Yeah, he may accidentally hit himself in the head with a ball or lie about beating the Hulk in combat but he is the driving force to do the right thing and save his land and people.
The film wouldn't work as well as it does without the darker elements of the story though. There are real stakes and terrible consequences for a lot of characters in this story. We lose a number of my favorite Asgardians before the tale is over giving a sense of sinister threat that the great Cate Blanchet plays to perfection. Add to that the well handled story-arcs of several characters old and new and you have a smart movie with heart and warmth even as the violence of the titular event comes to pass. This is an excellent comic book film and one I can't wait to watch again.
I was a huge fan of both MAN OF STEEL (2013) and the much derided BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016). I like having a dark tale of superheroes if for no other reason than to provide contrast for the lighter standard of the Marvel films. What I primarily liked so much about those two movies was that they came at these characters from a more mature and grim perspective that allows for a more realistic view of what the reactions might be to a godlike creature intervening in human events. I understand I'm in the minority in my love of this approach as the constant bitching from aggrieved fans will attest. Still, I think these are excellent films with a smart take on these heroes and each time I watch them they feel like a breathe of fresh air.
IT (2017) - 8 (rewatch)
THOR: RAGNAROK (2017) - 9
THE DEVIL'S HONEY (1986) - 5 (Fulci's erotic exercise)
CROSSFIRE (1947)- 7 (Mitchum and Robert Taylor investigate a murder)
RAISING CAIN (1992) - 8 (rewatch of theatrical version)
FRANKENSTEIN 2000 (1991) - 3 (terrible effort from Joe D'Amato)
WEB OF THE SPIDER (1971) - 8 (the full length Italian version)
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 (1987) - 2 (so bad)
TERMINAL ISLAND (1973) - 5 (island-as-prison tale)
STRANGE LOVES OF THE VAMPIRE (1975) - 6 (rewatch)
ARIZONA COLT RETURNS (1970) - 5 (well directed but mediocre)
VILLAIN (1971) - 7 (British crime film with Richard Burton and Ian McShane)
CHAMBER OF HORRORS (1940)- 8 (rewatch on Blu-Ray)
JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017) - 7
THE MAYOR OF HELL (1933) - 7 (James Cagney reform school melodrama)
CONFESSIONS OF BOSTON BLACKIE (1941)- 5
Saturday, December 16, 2017
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Monday, December 11, 2017
December brings our annual Holiday Horrors episode! This year my two co-hosts have chosen a tale told twice and adapted from a 1953 comic book story by the legendary Johnny Craig. The story is about a murderous wife who decides to off her husband on Christmas Eve but then has to deal with an escaped axe welding killer dressed in a Santa Claus costume. The best laid plans of mice and murderers often go awry and this short story shows us a fine example. 'And All Through the House' was first filmed as part of the Amicus anthology movie directed by Freddie Francis in 1972. This may or may not have been the first instance in cinema of a killer Santa but it certainly struck home for viewers as it is the story that most people recall with great clarity even years after a viewing. Creepy, chilling and sinister in tone it is a difficult effort to beat.
In 1989 director Robert Zemeckis retold the tale as one of the first episodes of HBO's wildly successful series Tales From The Crypt. Adapted by Fred Dekker and lengthened out to fill a half hour time slot this version throws in a few extra curves, amps up the dark humor and broadens the performances for a more comic effect. The results are still pretty darned good but - as with any remake - the debates will never rest. Listen in as Troy Guinn, John Hudson and I discuss all three tellings of this Holiday Horror. We break down the differences and consider the qualities that each film brings to the table. We dig into the alterations, the motivations and the relative skill each version imparts to the main character as well as the portrayal of the nearly silent killer Kringle.