Good weekend to everyone. I hope all of you have recovered from Junesploitation. Though I am not watching a movie a day anymore, I have watched a lot of things over the past fortnight. There has been a lot on Turner Classic Movies that I have tried to get around to seeing.BOBBY JO AND THE OUTLAW (1976, dir. Mark L. Lester) – I watched this on TCM Underground this morning for some B-movie fun. An entertaining drive-in movie about outlaw couples on the run. If the cars are substituted with horses, this is very much a western. There is more than a little of Bonnie and Clyde mixed in, too. Lynda Carter is, of course, the standout in the film. Flawed yet good for the budget and very much a product of the 1970s. BLOW OUT (1981, dir. Brian De Palma) – Of all the major American directors to emerge in the 1970s, De Palma is the only one whose filmography remains relatively unknown to me.(I actually own a few of his films on DVDs I have not gotten to watching.) One thing I can say is that De Palma throws a lot of style at you. I loved the camerawork in Blow Out. The way he piled one plot element on top of another and another really started to get to me by the ending, though. It is very over-the-top. I did enjoy the film overall.With Elvis Presley as the featured star of the month, I have gotten around to a few of the King's feature films.CLAMBAKE (1967) “Clambake! Gonna have a clambake…”Elvis plays a Texas oil heir on the search for true love in sunny Florida. I can understand why Elvis had such a low opinion of this film. The plot is goofy, the songs are frequently silly, and the set colors and costumes border on kitsch. The musical number for the title track is definitely 1960s kitsch, yet all of this lends a certain 1960s charm to the proceedings. Shelley Fabares and Bill Bixby are fun to watch as a gold digger and the millionaire she goes after. There is so much rear-screen projection used that it almost becomes humorous. Clambake is the definition of a time waster but is completely harmless entertainment. SPINOUT (1966) – Elvis is a racecar driver and a rock’n’roll singer pursued by three women eager for marriage. Which one will he choose? I did find Spinout to be more tolerable than Clambake. The songs are slightly better, and there is a fun factor to the goofy story that I responded to. Shelley Fabares is in this film as well. She had a chemistry with Elvis that comes off of the screen. The race sequence at the conclusion is very silly and entertaining, making this a worthy carsploitation flick. BLUE HAWAII (1961) – After experiencing the flaws of Elvis’ later films, Blue Hawaii came as a refreshing surprise. Though the plot of this is not superior to the other films, everything feels fresh in Blue Hawaii. Elvis is youthful and having fun working in Hawaii, the songs tend to be catchy, and the female cast around him is very lively. There are parts that seem like advertisements for the Hawaii Tourism Board, but I have no problem with looking at beautiful Hawaiian landscapes. A good place to start for Elvis films.
There were other watches apart from the TCM channel.I went to the Mahoning Drive-In on July 9 for the VHS Fest weekend. The featured films that night were Fred Olen Ray’s HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS (1988), a European horror production named RABID GRANNIES (1988), and Olaf Ittenbach’s SOV debut BLACK PAST (1989). As an exercise in titillation and gore, HOLLYWOOD lives up to its name. The plot concerns a cult of chainsaw-worshipping women lead by Gunnar Hansen, Leatherface himself. RABID GRANNIES is a mishmash of horror and comedy about two old ladies who get possessed during a birthday dinner and kill their family. Some of it works and some does not. The best film of the night was BLACK PAST. The home-made gore effects, full of severed limbs and intestines coming out of stomachs, are extremely impressive. Ittenbach, who was only around twenty when he made it, displayed a cinematic eye that is frequently absent in shot-on-video productions.HARD TARGET (1993, dir. John Woo) – Entertaining 1990s nonsensical action. (How did all of those vehicles get through the bayou?) The version I saw was edited for regular television, but the action seemed intact. JCVD is a fightin’ Cajun and Lance Hendrickson is the bad guy organizing human hunts that he takes down. Anyone with a knowledge of French would never mistake JCVD as a Cajun. MEMORIES OF MURDER (2003, dir. Bong Joon Ho)A tale of serial killings more about the failures of society than the search for the killer. In 1986, a team of provincial police detectives are joined by a detective from Seoul to catch a man raping and murdering women in the countryside. All of this is happening in the backdrop of political unrest against the military government of the time. Nobody comes off in a good light by the conclusion. After watching this and Parasite, I am still not sure what I think about Bong Joon Ho. Sometimes his style feels a little too controlled. I will still continue to delve into his work.
Did anybody purchase anything from the Kino Lorber June sale? Any noteworthy acquisitions recently?I picked up Blu-rays of High Plains Drifter, Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia, The Whip and The Body, Man With A Movie Camera, The Silent Partner, and Black Magic Rites. With the Vinegar Syndrome half-way sale purchase and others (a bunch of inexpensive Asian film DVDs at Big Lots), I have more movies than ever to get to.Mario Bava's films have certainly become comfort watches over the past decade. Looking at The Whip And The Body disc, I am more impressed with that film than before. The transfer is dreamier in mood than streaming versions I have seen.
No $$$ left from the ongoing Barnes & Noble 50% off Criterion Sale to go over and blow the rest on the Kino Lorber sale. :'(
I did seriously look at the Wong Kar-Wai set but chose to hold off. Most of the time I will get a chance to see the films. Criterion releases tend to end up airing on TCM at some point, and what remains of the Netflix rental service still stocks a lot Criterion discs. Memories of Murder was a rental, for example. Moreover, most of the films I re-watch, moreover, are genre films, not Antonioni or Bergman. The great art film phase of my movie-viewing life was around twenty years ago.
Agree, the TCM factor weighs in heavily on my Criterion purchase decisions. It makes me look at the replayability of the feature and the quality/quantity of the bonus features as deciding factors. Since they're cheaper and usually light on bonus features, my Kino Lorbers are more impulse buys than my carefully-chosen B&N Criterion haul. 🤓🥸
Saw Pig, the new Nic Cage flick, yesterday, and really liked it. If you stop and think long about the premise of Pig, it's pretty wild, and most movies like that succeed by stomping the bonkers pedal to the floor. Pig doesn't do that. Instead, it manages to stay reserved and grounded in ways that make an outlandish plot feel very real, and the emotional beats really land. There aren't many movies I can think of that operate this way, and that's always a cool experience at the theater. Plus, fun fact, my niece was PA for Nic Cage on this movie!
Weather permitting, I'll be watching "Pig" later tonight at AMC Lincoln 68th. 🤟😉
Saw it last night. Can’t stop thinking about it.
Thunderstorms and lighting in NYC tonight. No "Pig" until weather mellows out in Gotham.🥺😭
This summer has been stormy, J.M. It has felt like the tropics have moved up to the Northeast the past few weeks.
Glad you didn't travel, JM. Was bad. I wonder what the news about the subways will be this morning. Yikes.
I went down a bit of a rabbit hole last month, falling in love with Leigh Lawson, who was the best looking, sweetest prince of 1970s British cinema (even though he always was more of a theater actor). I thought he wasn't just charming, he was MAGICALLY charming, and special. "Magically" charming is hard for me to explain...something about being very childlike and clowning and yet being very naughty...but cute 💁🏻♀️. I can't explain it. Anyway I was gratified to find out he had a long relationship (and a son) with Hayley Mills, who I also thought had magic charm. In my fangirl brain they recognized that quality in each other. Oh also they both starred in Disney things - Leigh later in life, and Hayley early obviously. Disney's like entire brand is magic charm. (So it's a real thing, see?!)Anyway. I got so obsessed that I read Leigh's book, The Dream, on Kindle. Guess what he talks about? He tells an anecdote about Al Pacino who was almost cast as Saint Francis of Assisi in Franco Zeffirelli's BROTHER SUN, SISTER MOON! But when they asked him to sing he got angry and swore and stormed out of the casting place. They all thought he was done for.BROTHER SUN, SISTER MOON (1972), dir: Franco ZeffirelliWasn't sure at first about seeing this one because I thought Zeffirelli would turn the story of Saint Francis of Assissi into Romeo & Juliet somehow (blasphemous, also I don't like his R&J). But mostly I didn't want to mix something extremely frivolous - my drooling over a pretty face, with something I take extremely seriously- the story of St Francis of Assisi. But guess what, it was OK! I got to see Leigh Lawson play the prettiest crusader with the softest heart (the story takes place during The Crusades). AND I was actually really moved and cried through almost the whole second half, esp at the parts with the Pope played by Alec Guinness. TESS (1979), dir: Roman PolanskiThomas Hardy wrote this progressive story in 1890 about a beautiful young girl who gets raped, and who's life is consequently tragic and ruined. It was extremely critical of the church and rape culture of the time. Without getting too upset, I'll just say: I do not think Polanski's adaptation lives up to Hardy's novel, thematically. It is an extremely pretty movie, though. Very visually sensual. The rape scene is very pretty. Très indulgent, Roman Polanski.
LOVE AMONG THE RUINS (1975), dir: George CukorKatherine Hepburn plays a rich aging actress who is being sued by a MAGICALLY CHARMING young man (played by Leigh Lawson, of course), for jilting him and breaking their engagement. The lawyer she hires for her defense (Laurence Olivier) is an ex-lover of hers, who's heart she broke 40 years ago, who she doesn't remember. This is a super theatrical comedy. My favorite kind. Leigh Lawson's completely in his sweet spot. He was usually typecast as this kind of character for the rest of the decade. I super recommend this one. Masters at work!IT'S NOT THE SIZE THAT COUNTS (1974)A comedy where Leigh Lawson has charmed and slept with so many women who are not his wife that he is now being carted off to jail (?)...except that he charms the copper and she lets him free. Then through some freak accident he becomes the only man on earth who isn't impotent so now even more ladies all want to sleep with him, and all the men are trying to control which ladies he procreates with. Vincent Price is in it, kind of randomly. It starts off OK but the movie just gives up on the joke toward the middle it seems. TRISTAN AND ISOLDE (1981)Leigh Lawson is the sweet King Mark in this medieval love story. There is a JAZZ saxophone mixed in with celestial harp-like music during a sex scene. It's inexplicable. Christoph Waltz does his evil "Au Revoir Shoshanna" smile while he's ruining another woman's life. GHOST STORY (1974)Leigh Lawson is the prettiest ghost! He plays handsome Robert, who's sister, played by Marianne Faithful, is incestuously in love with him. I guess this is supposed to be a "horror" story? It wasn't good but there was more written about this movie online than almost any other movie I saw him in. Does anyone know where I can find/watch THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE (1977)?
That certainly is a deep dive, Meredith. Lawson was not in a lot of movies, and most seem obscure. Finding them all must not have been easy. It looks like there is more written about his personal life (Hayley Mills and Twiggy) than his work.
Casual, you're right. And I feel so silly. I even watched all the tv episodes and smaller movies I could find him in and cursed the theater and theater people for not recording his/their stage productions (what are they thinking?). He was in more plays through the decades than movies. I kind of can't wait to get out of this rabbit hole. One would think I have no responsibilities and nothing else to be taking care of in my life! Ah!
"The Empty Man" is now streaming on HBO Max. This film is a prime example of a studio not knowing how to market a film and also being dumped into theaters during the early stages of the Pandemic for like a week and then just straight up shelved to VOD. Hell, 20th Century doesn't even have a physical release for this which I would buy in a Heartbeat. I was super surprised at how much I liked this film when I saw it and if you go in blind you might be as well. It's long for a Horror flick, but it's deceptively smarter than the title or trailer shows. It's also really well done. One of my favs of last year. Cheers.
F9 (theaters): Ok....there's a lot to unpack here. For starters, i was late to the game for the Fast and Furious franchise. Oh sure i saw the first one and maybe a sequel or two and enjoyed them for what they were. But it wasnt realllly my thing. Then along came F5. And that was (and is) an AWESOME entry into the series...the best thus far. It held on for a bit but frankly around F8 and Hobbes/Shaw the preverbial wheels came off for me. So i went into F9 not expecting much. It accomplished that.F9 is a VEXING movie. Ill stay spoilerish free...actually...f@#$ that..im gonna give some minor spoilers cuz why not. First: this flick could benefit strongly from shaving 45-1hr off the run time. seriously. like i LOVE long movies when it works but theres ZERO reason for it in this flick. Second: i do think this one is a bit better than the last couple but that doesnt mean im saying rush out and see it. Third: there is a running gag with two main characters where they LITERALLY discuss one of the oft trolled topics of the series, namely that no one ever gets a scratch. its this weird meta joke that almost works but frankly i take it as more of a slap in the face of "you still watching? we are NEVER going to get hurt or deal in reality". weird. fourth: i do appreciate the amount of callback references and individuals..folks who really love the series will be pleased. fifth: so there's a bit in the third act (spoilers) which..and i say this will all respect...could NOT have been conceived by anyone other than a 12 year old involving a random plot line that sends two of the FF fam into space in a car spaceeship. Its quadupling down on the observation that this series just keeps getting crazier...and NOT in a good way. Sixth: the dom brother storyline is SO tacked on its ridiculous BUT i kinda dug how they handled the flashbacks with alt actors and didnt mind it as much as i thought...however giving his bro redemption is tantamount to giving kylo ren redemption: a weak weak f@#$ing choice. So...honestly for FF fans..just wait and see it when it streams. its a fine diversion full of cgi car craziness and tacked on "family". it continues to create bond or Mission impossible-esque adventures boiled down to the point of mediocrity. i cant say i wasnt entertained...cuz i kinda was....but that comes with a balance of meh-ness that frankly is a shame. Will i see F10 and F11? Angrily i say i will. And i know when the credits roll i'll say to myself..."Fool me once, shame on you....fool me 9, 10, 11 times, shame on family, shame on toretto, and shame on this series for ALWAYS taking the road easiest traveled."
Jaws (1975, blu ray): not sure if you've heard of this one, but its pretty solid. Its the story of a d@ck mayor, a cranky fisherman, and a boat named after a killer whale. In the end its primarily an after school special about safely handling scuba gear and maybe the dangers of "swimming promiscuously". 4 stars
I thought "Jaws" was about a fashion-deficient small town mayor trying to save his hard-working constituents from an alcoholic police chief and a hippie-dippie scientist on a major power trip.😉😁
ok...i snort-laughed at "fashion-deficient small town mayor". You win this round Vargas!
Rewatched ESCAPE ROOM (2019) and then went out and caught the sequel ESCAPE ROOM CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS (2021). This new one really digs deep into the more ridiculous aspects of the first. I suspect the filmmakers are in on the joke, winking to the audience as they say, "Can you believe we're getting away with this?" I can't argue that these movies are good, but... maybe I like them? On the other hand, I finished up the Netflix FEAR STREET trilogy, and I daresay these are legit great. Not perfect (do we need this many songs?) but they're pure fun from start to finish. They've got that classic late-night sleepover party movie vibe. Highly recommended for everybody's #ScaryMovieMonth lists. THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT (2021) was... just okay. Felt like more of the same, although there were a few cool "Boo!" moments. MONSTER HUNTER (2020) is just as dumb as you'd think, but it has Milla J. letting her nerd flag fly, and Tony Jaa jumping around, so there's that. My favorite part is the Blu-ray featurette where the director calls his own film the "modern-day Lawrence of Arabia." INLAND EMPIRE (2006). Who are the rabbits? We all are.
Oh man! I saw "Escape Room: TOURNAMENT of Champions" in a theater strictly to get away from hot, oprossive summer weather... and halfway through it l wanted to bolt the air-conditioned theater to escape this dumber-than-dirt flick. Easily the worst movie of 2021... until l watch "Space Jam 2." 🙄🤢🤮
You know a movie is destined to become a classic when you forget the name of it a day after you see it.
Did you know that 2019's "Escape Room" cost $9 million and made over $150 million worldwide? 😳🤯 Somehow the new one costs $15 million but looks so much cheaper (the beach puzzle, the "acid rain" NYC street, etc.) than the prequel. Me thinks the real joke the filmmakers and the studio (Sony/Columbia) are in is how much profit they can squeeze from the sequel(s) by keeping production costs as low as humanly possible. 🤑😨
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Hi gang! Hope everyone's enjoying their weekend!I really liked Disney's newest animation, Raya and the Last Dragon, but I've also been watching old Disney animations from the 50's and 60's lately, and I'm nostalgic for the day when animation was so expensive the movies came in at around 80 minutes.The Fear Street trilogy were pretty great, and the last one tied everything up in a neat little bow. But it left me wondering, what's the difference between a trilogy of movies and a miniseries these days? These are classified as three movies even though they're a continuing story, while Small Axe is somehow a miniseries?Steven Spielberg's 1941 is a weird one. Written by Zemeckis & Gale and directed by Spielberg, it has great ingredients, but somehow the movie is less than the sum of its parts. Some really fun sequences are offset by a lot of cringy stuff.I also revisited both Kill Bills for the first time in about a decade, and was surprised how well I still remembered them. Maybe it helps that I listen to the soundtracks constantly. And I saw The Wizard of Oz for the first time. At least I think it was the first time, I'm familiar with a lot of the imagery through osmosis from popular culture, but I believe I hadn't seen it in its entirety before. And, well, the story's not anything amazing, but I still had a great time viewing it as a technical marvel of its day. And Luca was fun.
Saw Pig. LOVED PIG. It’s a movie exists as both something we haven’t seen before but yet also something we are familiar with. In terms of plot, it’s like…no, it is, a certain set of movies straight out of the 70s. In terms of logistics and subversion -true, true subversion- in the world it navigates…it’s brilliantly fresh. I loved it. Go in knowing nothing or as little as possible.
I used to like Wes Anderson movies. I can't tell - did I change, or did they?
That the problem for me, his movies didn't change. It was fun and different for a while, but now they all seem... same-ey
It's us! They feel so hyper now.