Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Capped my month of June with another inexplicably unseen film from the 80s, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986). After Wrath of Khan I lost interest in Star Trek. Until I saw Undiscovered Country and started watching ST:TNG in syndication. But I never bother to go back to these missing films in-between. Not sure why. Anyhoo, this one lives up to reputation as being one of the more corny installments but it's also quite fun as crew returns to present day Earth and talks with whales. Gotta love that poster, amiright?
  • June New: 58
  • June Re-watch: 6
  • June Total: 64
  • 2010 TOTAL: 387

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Young Detectives in Love

After returning an unplayable DVD to Netflix, another one arrived so I could watch this highly anticipated comedy Mystery Team (2009) from Derrick Comedy. Unfortunately I think I was a victim to pre-screening hype from all those who watched this flick over the past year with an audience and Derrick Comedy in attendance. That is say that this little film was overwhelmingly embraced leading to unrealistic expectations. Is it funny? Yeah sure. It's like a perverse Encyclopedia Brown. But I wasn't bowled over. Would work better in a movie night setting.

Because I haven't seen any of the Poltergeist sequels I grabbed 2+3 DVD set from the library and plopped down to watch Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986). From the get-go this became rather apparent that it was a very unnecessary sequel. It's more of the same from the first film but missing the soul and true scare factor. It just rehashes the same ground and it never really feels like the cast is trying. Not good.
  • June New: 57
  • June Re-watch: 6
  • June Total: 63
  • 2010 TOTAL: 386

Monday, June 28, 2010

Daddy Dearest

Was glad to tackle another film from my DVR (compliments to TCM) as I've been working to clear the entire hard drive so I can exchange my faulty cable box. Slow going but was able to finally see the remarkable Strange Cargo (1940) featuring a sexy Joan Crawford and the wiling Clark Gable. Largely this is a prison break film that eventually becomes a lost at sea film. The set-up sequences are quite excellent but the real heart of the film is dialogue and interaction between prisoners & Crawford on the high seas. It's then that this movie really becomes a character study of the human condition. Definitely worth watching and I hope to see this again someday.
  • June New: 55
  • June Re-watch: 6
  • June Total: 61
  • 2010 TOTAL: 384

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Witchy Woman

After my time at the Japan Festival, which was decent this year, I went over to Classic Cinemas in Elk Grove for a late matinee of Jonah Hex (2010). Heard nothing but bad leading up to its release but I'm sucker for these kinds of films (i.e. action adventure comic book adaptations). Generally didn't have any feeling for this as each scene unfolded. The Megan Fox digital smoothing was distracting but really mattered not as this really isn't a good film. It might be too much to ask for a better cut down the road but who knows. Don't really care one way or another.

Finished a much, much better film in Josef von Sternberg's The Scarlet Empress (1934). Sternberg's rather lavish & opulent film about the rise of Catherine the Great in mid-18th Century war torn Russia is quite the spectacle. The crown jewel of course is Marlene Dietrich, who seems to float through her scenes as if she's auditioning for Glinda the Good Witch. Besides Dietrich, this is one to watch for Josef Sternberg's stylized eye in creating sets and scenes that lend more towards a fantasy pic rather than bio-pic. In B&W, the shadows often work in his favor but I think this would've also been an amazing color production.
  • June New: 54
  • June Re-watch: 6
  • June Total: 60
  • 2010 TOTAL: 383

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Wow, oh man, wow. Wicked, Wicked (1973) is a little gem I DVR'd from TCM that despite being a "gimmick" film doesn't get enough credit (or a proper DVD release!). I just love this film and its "gimmick" which really isn't a gimmick when you consider all the movies have used this particular technique of split-screen in a major motion picture. But at least this film sticks with its "Duo-Vision" for the duration making for a very entertaining watch for a murder mystery at Hotel del Coronado on the coast of San Diego. If this film didn't employ the split-screen it probably wouldn't be half as good since the actual thriller killer aspect isn't developed that well. I will say that having been to the Hotel del Coronado, walking the property and beach, made the film all that more interesting to me. But would still recommend to anyone as a curiosity piece.

Still on my Lung Ti (or Ti Lung, depending on your preference) kick, I picked up The Deadly Breaking Sword (1979) from Netflix. I can say that this is another of the better Shaw Brothers productions but didn't care for Lung Ti in the villain role. He doesn't remain entirely a villain but as the wandering swordsman with the "breaking sword" to defeat all the other reputable challengers, it didn't work for me. Lung Ti is less convincing when he goes sinister. I prefer him as a more likable character. Still offers some great action sequences.
  • June New: 52
  • June Re-watch: 6
  • June Total: 58
  • 2010 TOTAL: 381

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wired for Sound

After sitting on this documentary for so long I finally spun it up. James Marsh's harrowing Man on Wire (2008) is everything you've heard it is (and remains the highest rated film at Rotten Tomatoes, as of this writing). What makes it so compelling is the realization that in a post-9/11 world, this high wire feat on the twin towers could never happen (at least how they pulled it off back in 1974). Captivating throughout.

From NWI, dug into the DC Universe animated feature Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010). Very solid storyline of an alternate Earth where the "heroes" are really the villains. Lex Luthor travels to our Earth to enlist the aid of the Justice League to save the alternate Earth. Decent animation & story w/solid voice work altho why they chose Billy Baldwin over Kevin Conroy for Batman is beyond me. Conroy is the voice the Batman! Like other recent DC animated features, it's quite violent. Thankfully.

Also on NWI I took several notes during The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made (2004) marking those I haven't seen. Surprisingly, many of the films featured in this I have seen (most are bad cinema staples). If you enjoy bad movies this is a worth watching to notate the films for future viewings.
  • June New: 50
  • June Re-watch: 6
  • June Total: 56
  • 2010 TOTAL: 379

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I believe it was a recent episode of Cinema Diabolica where they discussed the films of Lucio Fulci and in particular Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971), which I hadn't seen. But it is definitely one I've been meaning to get to. Fortunately Netflix still had this OOP DVD. Overall this is a great Fulci film even if not my favorite (I lean more towards The House by the Cemetery and Gates of Hell from my youth). But this is a good giallo psychological thriller with several great images and sequences as you're left guessing what's real and what's a dream. A very good watch if you can still get your hands on the DVD.
  • June New: 47
  • June Re-watch: 6
  • June Total: 53
  • 2010 TOTAL: 376

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Another Ghost Story

Was a little surprised that my library had Lamberto Bava's Ghost Son (2006). This film is Paul Solet's Grace before he made Grace. Yet it lacks the execution and true horror that makes Grace so good. Bava's attempt at baby horror is more silly than effective as the story involves a dead man returning to possess the soul of his unborn baby. Why this man would suddenly turn evil is never really explained. What this film does have going for it is lots of Laura Harring nudity(!). That might have been the only thing keeping my interest. Oh, and there's Pete Postlethwaite!

Went out to Streets of Woodfield for the late showing of Toy Story 3 (2010). After experiencing that obnoxious crowd (mostly teens) I probably won't be doing that again. Fortunately I still enjoyed the film immensely. Already expect to place this one in my top ten for 2010. Such a rich & emotional film. Thank you, Pixar!
  • June New: 46
  • June Re-watch: 6
  • June Total: 52
  • 2010 TOTAL: 375

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Smut Sells

I'd seen enough clips from Street Trash (1987) that it seemed as though I'd seen the entire film. But this is truly the first time I have seen this cinematic wonder. I can only imagine what it would be like to witness this 80s b-movie treasure at the Drafthouse as it really is the perfect movie night flick. Someday I hope I can catch this one on the big screen w/an audience. It would be a blast, I'm sure.

Dipped back into my DVR storage for College Confidential (1960) featuring Steve Allen in the main role of a Sociology professor who finds himself embroiled in controversy for allegedly exposing his students to indecent subject matter during a "lifestyle" survey. Despite the lousy imdb ranking (4.3!), I found this to be a very watchable film. Granted it's far from being great but it does convey the sensationalism of a media blow-up fairly well. And all the woman are stunning in particular Cathy Crosby and her reveal during the trial. She's gorgeous! Plus another Elisha Cook Jr. sighting!
  • June New: 44
  • June Re-watch: 6
  • June Total: 50
  • 2010 TOTAL: 373

Monday, June 21, 2010

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Frank Capra's The Younger Generation (1929) is a partial silent film and part talkie, which was odd when the characters do actually begin audible conversation since nearly the first half of the film is entirely silent w/dialogue cards. Anyways, it's a rags to riches story about a Jewish family moving on up out of the NYC slums to Park Avenue thanks to their successful son and his antiques business. But his father is unhappy and yearns for the old neighborhood. Throw in his rebellious sister and dramedy ensues.
  • June New: 42
  • June Re-watch: 6
  • June Total: 48
  • 2010 TOTAL: 371

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bullet in the Head

Have been looking forward to Jackie Chan's turn in another gritty crime drama and I'm happy to report that Shinjuku Incident (2010 USA) delivers. The story involves Chinese immigrants surviving in the streets of Tokyo dealing with the various yakuza factions that rule those streets. Jackie Chan proves (again) that, yes, he can act and doesn't need to rely on his physical abilities to carry a film. It's quite refreshing to see him as a bonafide anti-hero (he's a goddamn assassin!) and still remain charismatic as he climbs the ranks to lead his people under the Japanese reign. Daniel Wu is also pretty good altho I didn't really buy his character turn in the 3rd act. Always great to see Naoto Takenaka. Not perfect but a damn good watch.
  • June New: 41
  • June Re-watch: 6
  • June Total: 47
  • 2010 TOTAL: 370

Saturday, June 19, 2010

All The Pretty Horses

Recently checked out Leonard Maltin's 151 Best Movies You've Never Seen book and started noted the films I haven't seen. One was the Paul Weitz film American Dreamz (2006), which is a satire of American Idol. Great cast and good intentions but not quite the homerun I was expected based on Maltin's glowing review. But I will watch anything with Willem Dafoe and almost anything with Dennis Quaid. Wish this one was more memorable.

Now for a much better film and one I had heard so much about out of the festival circuit all of last year, the Aussie revenge thriller The Horseman (2008), directed by Steven Kastrissios and starring the dynamic Peter Marshall in the lead. Wow. This is one powerful & intense flick! One that has you cringing with every encounter as Christian (Marshall) chops his way thru his victims seeking vengeance & retribution for crimes against his daughter. It really is the journey about what lengths a father would endure. Highly recommended.
  • June New: 40
  • June Re-watch: 6
  • June Total: 46
  • 2010 TOTAL: 369

Friday, June 18, 2010

Gourd in the Brain

Color me surprised to find Pumpkinhead (1988) in my library. Before tonight I had really only seen this in bits & pieces on cable throughout the years. Tonight I watched it and watched it again w/the commentary! Quite a fun film with the terrific Lance Henriksen. RIP Stan Winston.

Again, in anticipation of Toy Story 3, I revisited Toy Story 2 (1999). Always felt this was the stronger of the first two films and I stand by that after this viewing. I think b/c it nails the "collector mentality" so well (and, sadly, I can identify with it far too well). Such a great film.
  • June New: 38
  • June Re-watch: 6
  • June Total: 44
  • 2010 TOTAL: 367

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Admission: I've never been a big fan of Wallace & Gromit. There I said it. It's one of the reasons why I haven't watched much of their films ("their" as if they are real). But I stumbled on Wallace & Gromit - The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) the other day so what the hey. Yeah, it's pretty good w/some good voice acting and stopmo claymation. Very inventive. Still not a big fan.

Finally from TCM the rather odd Gypsy Girl (1966) that has a much better plot summary than it actually delivers: "A young, lonely, mentaly retarded teenage girl finds solace in burying dead animals after the sudden death of a friend of hers." Sounds cool, right? But, erm, doesn't really nail that or pay off in way that kept me interested. Felt it could've been much better if really had stuck to that synopsis rather than meander thru the character interactions without ever really developing the main character Brydie White. That is to say, I didn't get sense of her real motivation. Young Ian McShane is fine and provides some stability to the plot but still not enough to make it compelling. Didn't work for me.

In anticipation of viewing Toy Story 3 on the big screen I decided to revisit Toy Story (1995). Forgot the subtle nod to classic horror film. Really love this movie even more now.
  • June New: 37
  • June Re-watch: 5
  • June Total: 42
  • 2010 TOTAL: 365

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ghost in the Machine

From the quickpicks shelf at my library a couple of 2009 quick pick films: The Haunting in Connecticut (2009) and Pirate Radio (2009). Missed both these last year and while both are reasonably decent films neither are stellar. That isn't to say they are aren't worth watching but nothing very memorable about either. The Boat That Rocked (as I prefer to call it) does sport quite a great cast with some fine moments but that absurd depiction of their "disaster" in the end was hard to swallow (really? Joking as your ship is sinking in ocean?). But, damn, do I ever love Bill Nighy. Haunting features a fine Virginia Madsen in an otherwise played out "based on true events" ghost story.
  • June New: 35
  • June Re-watch: 4
  • June Total: 39
  • 2010 TOTAL: 362

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Armored Apocalypse

Dipped back into the Inglorious Bastards 2: Hell Heroes DVD, this time for Apocalypse Mercenaries (1986) directed by Leandro Lucchetti. Another not so hot 80s macaroni combat film yet has an awesome score, which is a little surprising given the mismatched stock footage used for several scenes. If you can tolerate that this one is worth a look simply for the score.

Followed that with Nimród Antal's Armored (2009). Wish I could say that I liked this but really there isn't much to see in this glorified television film with movie actors. Everyone from Matt Dillon to Jean Reno to Laurence Fishburne provide competent performances but the film just isn't that interesting. And the fact that it's tied up rather neatly by the end just confirms how meh this really is. Rent it if you want but don't expect much.

One more from the Inglorious Bastards 2: Hell Heroes DVD: Afganistan - The Last War Bus (1989) a.k.a. War Bus 2. This one is my favorite of the 3 I've watched from this set mainly b/c of Mark Gregory as Johnny Hondo as the lead hero. Doesn't mean this is a good film (it's not) but it was more enjoyable than the others. Maybe it's because this ragtag team fashions an armored vehicle from a bus (hence the name). Silly but I kinda dug it. Still bad.

To cap the evening I revisited the creepy Invaders from Mars (1953). This film frightened me as a child and occasionally I think of the imagery & sequences it presents. I think the idea of alien possession really got to me and made me concerned for the same thing happening to my own father. Film holds up and still resides on my top 5 alien invader list for good cause.
  • June New: 33
  • June Re-watch: 4
  • June Total: 37
  • 2010 TOTAL: 360

Monday, June 14, 2010

Losing My Head

Only time for one film tonight: A Severed Head (1970), not available on DVD but thanks to TCM I was able to record earlier. Title is a bit misleading if you are unaware of this British comedy. In a nutshell, this is a film about the various affairs between middle-aged bourgeois as each discover the liaisons and attempt to deal with them. The cast is solid with Ian Holm as the centerpiece (and most frustrated of the lot). Lee Remick, Richard Attenborough, and Claire Bloom also star. Found the first half, the discovery period, much more entertaining than the conclusion but still a good watch.
  • June New: 30
  • June Re-watch: 3
  • June Total: 33
  • 2010 TOTAL: 356

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Demon Dreams Deliver

Was twitter tipped about DVD 4-Packs on sale at Target so I ran out and picked up... several. Was thrilled to get A Nightmare on Elm Street 1-4 in addition to the NOES 5-8 pack b/c I've been wanting to revisit all the NOES films ever since the Never Sleep Again doc was released, which I plan to watch after viewing all the films again. Today I fired up the original (& best) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Yes, it's a little dated but still the classic in the halls of horror film.

Followed that with Lamberto Bava's Demons (1985), which is a classic in its own right. Always enjoy films centered around films particularly horror. This one delivers on all counts. If our group was able to schedule more frequent movie nights, I would certainly include this film on the road map.

Received the Inglorious Bastards 2: Hell Heroes DVD from Netflix mainly b/c it features 4 lesser war films I wanted to view. Sadly (and as expected) all the transfers are pretty awful but still watchable (barely). Wanting to see more Umberto Lenzi I opted for Bridge To Hell (1986) first. Unfortunately this is not a good film and, to be honest, the better bad scenes are stock footage from previous films. The story isn't original (escaped POWs attempt to steal treasure from the German soldiers) and overall it's a mishmash of bad editing and acting. Very forgettable. Le sigh.

Lastly from TCM was the rather nifty little voodoo horror flick Black Moon (1934) featuring another favorite starlet Fay Wray. Just wish Wray rec'd more attention than a top-billing. Not a great film but effective with a few good sequences. Worth a look for pre-code & Wray fans.
  • June New: 29
  • June Re-watch: 3
  • June Total: 32
  • 2010 TOTAL: 355

Saturday, June 12, 2010

NWI Monkey Madness

Not sure what got into me but this sure turned out to be a marathon day (evening) of movie watching. I blame Netflix Watch Instantly. First up Battle of Shaolin (1977) featuring the wiry Don Wong on his quest to rescue his girlfriend from the brothels. Ultimately he must face Lieh Lo as the bigger than badass villain w/decapitator chains. Angela Mao is also great w/her razor blade shoes but doesn't get enough scenes. The coin sequence w/The Sparrow (Chiang-lung Wen) is excellent!

Next the disturbing short film by Nacho Cerdà, Aftermath (1994), which doesn't look like it's 16 years old. But it's also quite unbelievable that something this obscene was released in 1994. Seriously, it looks like it was made recently. Definitely not for easily shaken... necrophilia!

Needing a breather, flipped to Blood Monkey (2007) expecting it to be bad. Oy! It's worse than bad and not in a good way. Avoid!

Next in my queue was the Chuck Norris supernatural thriller Hellbound (1994). Okay, so this is not a good flick but it was amusing to me for a few reasons (besides Chuck Norris). It's set in Chicago (until they travel to Israel) and they fight demons. It's as silly as it sounds.

Had never watched all of Joe Dante's comedy Matinee (1993) so I felt obligated to see it thru (think this stems from not being much of a John Goodman fan in the early 90s). Under more informed conditions I can appreciate this film much more now as it really is a nice homage to the William Castle gimmick flicks. Recommended viewing for all film fans.

And finally finished up Luigi Cozzi's campy Starcrash a.k.a. The Adventures of Stella Star (1978) featuring one of my favorite screen queens Caroline Munro in addition to the one and only David Hasselhoff! Amazing. And Amazingly bad. However this is bad in the good way. I love this film and all its low budget Star Wars wannabe silliness & glory (including light sabers! Look at that poster art!). Looks like it's finally getting a UK DVD release later this month and a domestic Blu-ray release in September. I will buy this!!
  • June New: 26
  • June Re-watch: 2
  • June Total: 28
  • 2010 TOTAL: 351