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post #121 of 287 Old 05-31-2012, 04:22 AM
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Labyrinth (1986), directed by Jim Henson.

Young Sarah is at a difficult, temperamental age: she has both soft toys and lipstick. She's also the World's Worst Babysitter: after cursing her baby brother he is kidnapped by the Goblin King and to rescue him she has to cross a strange and complex maze, enduring all sorts of Alice-like adventures.

It's a PG funny/scary fantasy epic for younger children, done with muppets: how scary can it be? Adults will miss a coherent plot, although there are entertaining funny bits and clever visual humor. It flopped at the theater but has a big fan base on home video.

Jennifer Connelly is only 15 here so don't ogle her. She is growing up fast, though. At that age she had an inexpressive baby-face, but is likeable throughout. A nice lesson for younger viewers is her struggle to remember and get back to her quest, undeterred by worldly distractions.

David Bowie is a glam-rock Goblin King, witty, charismatic, a bit sinister and definitely masculine. Just the sort who might appear in an adolescent girl's dreams, along with the usual big furry animal companions. He does a few songs, but the incidental soundtrack suffers from Eighties Synthesizer Score Disease.

You could try to extract psycho-sexual metaphors, but the time would be better spent on Neil Jordan's The Company of Wolves (1984) (not for children).

Available on Blu-ray. The commentary track by the graphics designer has some good bits. It was three years of his life (and he spent five on The Dark Crystal). Baby Toby was played by his baby Toby, who peed on David Bowie and was paid for it.

The film had a royal premier in Britain and Prince Charles was the only one to laugh at the farting Bog of Eternal Stench. He mentioned how funny it was when he met the designer again years later.



-Bill

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post #122 of 287 Old 06-22-2012, 04:59 AM
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Time Bandits (1981), produced and directed by Terry Gilliam.

A wild rampage through time and space, suitable for children. Although marvelously inventive, Gilliam sometimes lacks focus and tends to both wander and throw in the kitchen sink. This is a good vehicle for his talent: a bizarre, episodic ride that requires very little explanation or coherency.

It's funny but also dark: the past is pretty grubby (apart from the immaculate Robin Hood) and people eat rats. The ending was controversial and Gilliam tricked the studio into allowing it. Parents were understandably disturbed, little boys cheered, and little girls expressed motherly concern for Kevin's fate.

It's still Gilliam's most successful film in the US. It made Brazil possible.

We're given time to stop and think only in the ancient Greece segment, where Kevin thinks he's found a new home. The role of King Agamemnon was written with Sean Connery in mind, although they didn't imagine they could actually get him. Since they couldn't afford his usual fee he agreed to take a percentage instead, a wise decision. Gilliam praised his talent and helpfulness in filming.

Ian Holm appears as Napoleon for neither the first nor the last time: "That's what I like! Little things hitting each other!" David Warner is great as the Evil Genius (aka the Devil) as is Ralph Richardson as the Supreme Being. And I don't mean to slight the dwarves.

The idea that the fantasy/dream/adventure is inspired by the mundane elements of waking life, by the toys in the bedroom, has become a standard movie trope. You see it in Labyrinth and The Company of Wolves, and as far back as The Wizard of Oz. And how about stage productions of Peter Pan where the same actor plays both Captain Hook and Mr Darling, the father?

Is the Land of Legend a part of Creation and does it really include a seagoing ogre and his wife, and a giant with a ship for a hat? I've never heard of them.

Available on Blu-ray. The encoding is 1080i, a hint that the disc was made from a master prepared for TV broadcast. Detail is sometimes good but the black levels are all over the place. The director has a funny 18 minute interview.

time-bandits.jpg

-Bill
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post #123 of 287 Old 06-27-2012, 05:18 AM
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Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), directed by Barry Levinson.

I hadn't thought about this one for years until it unexpectedly showed up at Redbox on DVD.

It's a PG-13 family-friendly adventure supposing young Holmes and Watson were at school together. Some light comedy and detection at first, then a more serious investigation into a series of suicide/murders, finally moving into a long overblown Temple of Doom plot involving a secret religious cult staffed by the murderously superstitious foreign minions you find in Victorian adventures.

Holmes has a girlfriend! What he wants most in life is "never to be alone." We know how that worked out. The story explains how he became a lonely confirmed bachelor.

Executive Producer Steven Spielberg exerts a heavy influence: sugary sweet bits, the Temple of Doom, and a score suggesting Indiana Jones.

Many hallucinogenic drug sequences. A menacing knight made of stained glass was cutting edge fx at the time. Watson looks a lot like a proto-Harry Potter. We even have a Malfoy character.

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-Bill
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post #124 of 287 Old 06-29-2012, 07:49 AM
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Funny that you reviewed this film as I just happened to run across this on Amazon Prime HD and revisited it. Your review is spot on. As far as Time Bandits is concerned that's one movie I've never been able to get into and I've seen it several times over the years. If I'm not mistaken I think 12 Monkeys was Gilliam's most successful U.S. release to date and that film is at the top of my list of favorite Gilliam movies.

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post #125 of 287 Old 06-29-2012, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr.G View Post

If I'm not mistaken I think 12 Monkeys was Gilliam's most successful U.S. release to date and that film is at the top of my list of favorite Gilliam movies.
I have long been a Terry Gilliam fan but have never thought much of Time Bandits beyond admiring its inventiveness. My favorite Gilliam films are Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Fisher King but I think highly of Twelve Monkeys and Brazil, too.
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post #126 of 287 Old 07-08-2012, 09:47 AM
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The Dark Crystal (1982), directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz.

An ambitious fantasy epic done with muppet technology. It's hard to know who this is intended for: it's a bit serious for younger children and often grotesque, with the evil vulture-like Skeksis eating live food. Adults will find some humor, but how often do adult viewers want to sit through a feature-length puppet show?

I saw it in the theater and all I remembered was the (to me) twist ending. I've just seen it again and am still fuzzy on the plot. A thousand years after the Dark Crystal is damaged two powerful races are dying. The two remaining Gelflings, our boy and girl heroes, must find the missing shard and repair the Crystal before three suns align, else something really bad will happen.

It's worth seeing at least once for the amazing evocation of an alien planet, with life forms both strange and familiar, enchanting and grotesque. It's rich with ruins and layers of ancient history. I love the gigantic orrery of a complicated solar system and the crab-like warrior creatures. Both were said to be dangerous to be near when filming.

A problem: our young Gelflings have carved immobile faces, making them seem more wooden than some of the other creatures. Jim Henson wanted them to look more like classic puppets for some reason.

Nice Trevor Jones score, big like a real movie!

Available on Blu-ray. As with the Labyrinth disc, graphic designer Brian Froud's commentary track gives background on the production. It was vast labor, five years of his life. He points out that it's not all pure puppetry; they used every trick they could. In both films the graphics came first, adapted for available technology, and the story followed from that.
Quote:
Aughra: Where is he?

Jen: He's dead.

Aughra: Could be anywhere, then.

* * *

Jen: Wings? You have wings! I don't have wings

Kira: Of course not - you're a boy

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-Bill
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post #127 of 287 Old 07-17-2012, 05:17 AM
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Somewhere in Time (1980), directed by Jeannot Szwarc.

A time travel romance, leisurely paced and without many surprises if you're familiar with the genre, which is surprisingly popular. This one did not do well and the critics were unkind, but it has a small devoted fan base.

How goopy is it? Pretty goopy. Christopher Reeve is a 1980 playwright tearfully obsessed with the photo of 1912 actress Jane Seymour. The ageless Christopher Plummer is her manager and guard dog.

No time travel apparatus required; it's done with a hypnotic trance. Note the pocket watch, one of those paradoxical objects you find in time travel stories: there is no way for it to enter the plot. Timerider used a medallion, in both cases exchanged after sex. What's that mean?

As with most romances it has a girly orientation. Christopher Reeve was too gorgeous to invite much male empathy. His awkward boyishness is endearing to women in hunky men, but not in anyone else. Ditto his stalker-like behavior.

This suggests a topic: what sort of romance movie would appeal to men? Obviously men find the erotic to be romantic. As do women, after sufficient time, torment, and testing. But what sort of pre-sex plot would tug at the male heart?

I can think of a few offhand examples:

  • James Bond is in a jam in On Her Majesty's Secret Service and the bad guys are closing in. Old flame Diana Rigg skates up at the ice arena. He looks up and she says something like "Need help, James?" I always thought that was a good moment.
  • In Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility, the older Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman) has unrequited regard for the younger, headstrong Marianne (Kate Winslet). When she's feverish and probably dying, he rides like hell to bring her mother to her. As he's leaving the sickroom she raises her head and says "Thank you, Colonel," the first kind words she's ever spoken to him. In the commentary track Emma Thompson says "Here's where the men get teary." It's true.
  • Would Groundhog Day be a guy romance?

Pretty John Barry score, although syrupy Rachmaninoff often intrudes. Filmed on Mackinac Island, Michigan. No motor vehicles allowed. Fans still assemble in costume at the Grand Hotel there.

Grim quality 4:3 letterboxed DVD with director's commentary. He's still enthusiastic about the film and lavishes praise on everyone involved. He says present and past were filmed with different stock, which I hadn't noticed. The past is supposed to have a pastel, French Impressionist painting look. The studio cut his budget and he didn't have the final edit.

somewhere-in-time.jpg

-Bill
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post #128 of 287 Old 07-17-2012, 09:10 AM
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LOL. Funny review and I can't really disagree with any of it...but...I do watch it from time to time (no pun intended). I also agree about the DVD quality...horrible. But I did the Disc to Digital upgrade to get the VUDU HDX streaming version and it is a dramatic improvement quality-wise. So it seems that Universal has farmed out the HD version to VUDU and not bothered to master it to Blu-ray which is strange since many hard-core fans would gobble it up. Perhaps it's in the offing...

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post #129 of 287 Old 07-17-2012, 09:23 AM
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I also agree about the DVD quality...horrible. But I did the Disc to Digital upgrade to get the VUDU HDX streaming version and it is a dramatic improvement quality-wise. So it seems that Universal has farmed out the HD version to VUDU and not bothered to master it to Blu-ray

That's interesting! I've always presumed that disc formats would have the best available quality for any given title, but we may be moving into the era where that is no longer true.

-Bill
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post #130 of 287 Old 07-19-2012, 05:01 AM
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Altered States (1980), directed by Ken Russell.
Quote:
Emily: Sometimes I wonder if it's me that's being made love to. I feel like I'm being harpooned by some raging monk in the act of receiving God.

Eddie: Am I really that weird in bed?

Emily: Sometimes.

Eddie: Shall I try to change?

Emily: No, I kind of like it.

Let me just give you the quick summary: Love is the answer.

You may think this is about sensory deprivation experiments and psych-scientists getting high on their own supply of Hinchi Indian mushroom mix, exploring altered states of consciousness leading to dramatic physical transformations and even ruptures in dimensional boundaries. (You need really powerful drugs for that).

Those are just plot incidentals. In obsessed William Hurt's drug-facilitated quest for ultimate truth, the real story is his return from that far out orbit, rediscovering hearth and home, simple humanity and the love of a good woman. As his wife told him in the beginning:
Quote:
You'd sell your soul to find the great truth. Well, human life doesn't have great truths. We're born in doubt. We spend our lives persuading ourselves we're alive. And one way we do that is we love each other, like I love you.

Blair Brown as Cosmic Earth Mother is there is save him, comforting arms always open. Then he saves her. And they were naked and unashamed.

I have always loved this film. It's a bold and confident vision, expressed without hesitation or apology. Believe it or not it is one of Ken Russell's more straightforward narratives, as those who remember Lisztomania will confirm, often in vivid terms.

Yes, it's hard to tell if it has a coherent mythology supporting the wild hallucinogenic visions and physical transformations. That's ok, make of it what you will.

Yes, the language is high-flown, but I knew people who talked like that, or tried to. The drunken restaurant patter is just perfect and the expressions of the "normal" observers just priceless.

I wish Russell and the others had done a commentary track. Some of the imagery flies by too quickly to see clearly and I'd like to hear their interpretations.

Nudity and passion scenes but no serious violence or gore, apart from some animal carcasses. Much intimidating imagery.

Fine score, both poignant and lyrical in the human scenes, kinetic and scary in the psychedelica.

Notes:

  • I knew people who took stuff like this very seriously, for example the students of Timothy Leary's Eight-circuit model of consciousness. They thought all cosmic truth and future evolution could be found in the DNA (or actual atoms?) and this was accessible with the right disciplines and drugs. What were they actually after? I don't know. It did not work out well for the people I knew.
  • We always have suspicions about psych scientists: ministering angels or secret head cases? Is Eddy doing science or is that just a cover for his personal exaltation? In his case, is there a difference?
  • The basement lab hallways have that influential Alien industrial design and lighting. This was made just the next year; was there time for the crew to see the earlier film?
  • I like how she has his dream of running from the dogs.
  • I like her house at the end after the lab catastrophe, the stained glass alcoves suggesting the little organic capsules of life from the visions.
  • I like her physicality during the catastrophe, the way she flails against the door.
  • The Primal Man moves like a dancer, which damages the illusion.
  • The prof is sleeping with a student and she still calls him "Dr Jessup" when he gets out of bed.
  • I showed this to a young woman (a snotty art student) years ago and she said "That looks so 80s." It wasn't a complement. She might have meant the nudity.

The Blu-ray is a huge upgrade from the early dismal DVD and I am happy to have it. The colors are fine and the detail often very good. That said, it does have a more-or-less processed look and appears grainless. Fabric detail on the dark jackets is sometimes crushed.

altered-states.jpg

-Bill
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post #131 of 287 Old 08-01-2012, 01:34 PM
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I picked up the "Outland" Bluray for $8 at Fry's. The PQ was good and in OAR (2:40:1) and Hyams has an excellent commentary. This was one film I always wanted to collect but heard so many bad things about the DVD and Netflix WI even had it P&S.
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post #132 of 287 Old 08-16-2012, 05:31 AM
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The Siege of Firebase Gloria (1989), directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith.
Quote:
[Sgt Major, after an enemy attack is repulsed]: Go out and kill the wounded; I don't want any surprises tonight.

A Marine patrol discovers a massacred village and other signs that something big is about to happen: it's the eve of the Tet Offensive. They make it to a remote firebase to find the whacked out CO is not managing very well: he wears nothing but boots, smokes too much dope and spends his days in intimate congress with girlie magazines.

The Sergeant Major (R. Lee Ermey) decides to retire the CO (but "I don't want him killed") and assumes command, fortifying the outpost as best he can. Over the next days they repel repeated assaults from superior forces, losing their outer defenses and pulling back into ever tighter circles. Finally they are overrun and it's hand to hand, looking bad...

A Vietnam war action picture heavy with blood, sweat and testosterone. It's meant to be realistic-looking with plenty of severed limbs and heads and wind-rows of enemy dead, but we also get familiar war movie cliches. We get some perspective from the other side, where the attackers are disciplined and have their own rough soldierly humor.

Ermey, as you might expect, brings conviction and unpolished believability to the role. Wings Hauser has intense passion as a man eaten up with his private grief. You don't want to ask him: "What kind of animal are you?"

Despite some roughness to the plot and acting it's exciting as the fighting just gets worse and worse, a real nail-biter nicely staged. The orphan boy from the village obviously represents "the future": whoever is holding him at the end wins. I could have done without the voice-over narration.

Made in the Philippines. The score is from the usual 80s filmmaker's friend: the one-man-orchestra-in-a-box synthesizer.

MGM Limited Edition Collection DVD-R. "Made from the best available materials", meaning some scenes have enough noise to look like snowfall. But it's watchable and I'm happy to have it. This had been on my want list for years when it popped up as a manufactured on demand disc.

siege-of-firebase-gloria.jpg

-Bill
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post #133 of 287 Old 08-19-2012, 08:55 AM
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Might be Wing's finest performance. Man, I loved that guy. No matter how bad the film was he was always interesting. Not that this is a bad film, despite the faults you mention. Liked the real reason given at the end for the Tet offensive. The North Vietnamese taking care of two birds with one stone.

"There is no truth. There's just what you believe."
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post #134 of 287 Old 09-03-2012, 03:57 AM
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Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), directed by Barry Levinson.
I hadn't thought about this one for years until it unexpectedly showed up at Redbox on DVD.
It's a PG-13 family-friendly adventure supposing young Holmes and Watson were at school together. Some light comedy and detection at first, then a more serious investigation into a series of suicide/murders, finally moving into a long overblown Temple of Doom plot involving a secret religious cult staffed by the murderously superstitious foreign minions you find in Victorian adventures.
Holmes has a girlfriend! What he wants most in life is "never to be alone." We know how that worked out. The story explains how he became a lonely confirmed bachelor.
Executive Producer Steven Spielberg exerts a heavy influence: sugary sweet bits, the Temple of Doom, and a score suggesting Indiana Jones.
Many hallucinogenic drug sequences. A menacing knight made of stained glass was cutting edge fx at the time. Watson looks a lot like a proto-Harry Potter. We even have a Malfoy character.
young-sherlock-holmes.jpg
Ysh_poster.jpg
-Bill
The third one looks kind of like Harry Potter. lol
Seems interesting, I love the story of Sherlock Holmes.
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post #135 of 287 Old 09-13-2012, 03:40 AM
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Gone With The Wind

Definitely classic masterpiece! smile.gif
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post #136 of 287 Old 09-13-2012, 05:56 AM
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Gone With The Wind

Films *cough* of the *cough* eighties... wink.gif
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post #137 of 287 Old 09-16-2012, 08:02 AM
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Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982), directed by Carl Reiner.

The best spoofs are made by people who appreciate and enjoy the original material. That's obviously the case with this mashup of 1940s noir and detective films.

It's more or less one joke, but a good one: while pursuing a ridiculous case for lovely client Rachel Ward, private eye Steve Martin enters into classic film clips and interacts with the old stars, always torquing the original plots and dialogue in a absurd direction.

Neither Martin nor Reiner have much natural comic restraint and I would have dialed back some of the wild and crazy silliness. Still, I laughed, though sometimes feeling about 12 years old. Cheap laughs are better than no laughs.

It's great revisiting these b&w classics. The wikipedia article lists the films and stars used. The only ones I've reviewed here are:

Last film for both costumer Edith Head (who contributed the title) and composer Miklos Rozsa who did many fine scores back in the day.

My thumbnails are from the 4:3 letterboxed DVD, although the quality is not bad for that type of disc. According to DVDCompare an anamorphic edition is only available in the "Steve Martin: The Wild and Crazy Comedy Collection" 2-disc set, which also contains The Jerk and The Lonely Guy.

dead-men-dont-wear-plaid.jpg

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post #138 of 287 Old 09-18-2012, 05:33 AM
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The Empire Strikes Back (1980), directed by Irvin Kershner.

I have never seen a movie audience so hysterically excited as when the STAR WARS logo appeared and the main fanfare played at the beginning of this film. It was an opening night happiness riot: people wanted more Star Wars, let's just do it again, and that's what they got.

I'm sure everyone understands this is the best of the whole series, finally achieving the serial adventure tone they claimed to be striving for, and even elevating it to geeky tragic opera proportions. With the Dark Side triumphant and all our non-droid characters growing deeper, making sacrifices and in pain, it was probably the first time young SF viewers considered that this fun stuff might rise to a new level of art.

That's true even though the first 20 minutes on the ice planet is pretty much of a waste, with particularly clunky dialogue. I don't know the behind-the-scenes history, but it's hard to believe the same people wrote this part at the same time as the rest of the film.

Everything picks up when Vader appears and the ground assault begins. It's off to the races with amazing plot developments and action scenes. Han and Leia get some quiet time and Luke has to reflect on the Force, but otherwise it's non-stop one damn thing after another, seeming a bit rushed in retrospect.

The space scenes, clouds and landscapes are particularly lovely this time. The cloud city has a nice 1940s SF look, which is just right as this is the sequel to a 1930s space opera.

The Lucas re-edits are less intrusive this time, although I was happy with the original cloud city towers. I liked the original glimpse of the Emperor better: evil, to be effective, must be appealing. The original character had a hint of majesty, but the one used for the rest of the series is just reptilian.

Misc notes:

  • In the theater, the early scene of the rescue craft swooping over the snow fields induced roller-coaster vertigo in an appreciative audience.
  • Both the Millennium Falcon and Vader's costume get good upgrades.
  • The Yoda muppet is surprisingly good.
  • The subtitles have Yoda saying "Always in motion is the future". I always thought he said "emotion" instead of "in motion". Either works.
  • The giant space slug destroys any seriousness we were trying to work up for that scene.
  • The John Williams score is a vital component in the carbonite and Luke-Vader climax.
  • I knew that Leia was a Jedi. The musical cue gives it away when she flies back to rescue Luke.

Available on Blu-ray.

empire-strikes-back.jpg

-Bill
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post #139 of 287 Old 09-18-2012, 03:45 PM
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Great thread. Really enjoy your feedback and reviews Bill. The only one I disagree with is Big Trouble in Little China. I still find it to be an amazingly fun ride. To me Russell isn't trying to figure out the role, he's nailing it. Burton doesn't understand most of what's going on around him and the performance reflects that beautifully. He simply knows he trusts Wang and he's going to get his truck back. So many good and memorable lines. And the score, which Carpenter himself did, is still great. It may be a bit dated because of the synth used, but it's still so unique and fits the movie so well. If you find yourself thinking to hard on this crazy mix of Chinese mysticism and 80's action, just remember what Lo Pan had to say:

Shut up, Mr. Burton! You were not brought upon this world to get it!

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post #140 of 287 Old 10-01-2012, 07:35 AM
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Octopussy (1983), directed by John Glen.

Bond #13, Roger Moore's sixth, has a busy plot and rich design, with lavish Indian locations. Action is only intermittent until the final third, when Moore actually bestirs himself and shows some concern when stopping a nuclear bomb from detonating at an air base in Germany.

We have distributed villains: Steven Berkoff as a rogue Soviet general trying to start WW3, Louis Jourdan as a refined and dapper Afghan prince (!) and Maud Adams as the title character, who turns out to be an ally.

Most impressive are those characters who speak her name with a straight face. She says it was a nickname from her father, who later committed suicide with a gun given to him by Bond. Could these facts be related?

Didn't James Coburn's "Flint" also encounter and island of deadly Amazons many years earlier? But that was a spoof on James Bond. These women are also trained circus performers who can storm a fortified castle.

We have several series low points: Bond in a crocodile infiltration craft, in a gorilla suit and clown makeup. Bond swinging through the trees yodeling like Tarzan, and his assault on the fortress in a Union Jack hot air balloon.

Screenplay by George MacDonald Fraser, whom I revere, although not for this. John Barry score. Bond girl survival rate: 100%. Maud Adams appeared earlier in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974).

Available on Blu-ray, currently a Walmart exclusive. Fine image.

octopussy.jpg

-Bill
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post #141 of 287 Old 10-08-2012, 08:18 AM
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Legend (1985), directed by Ridley Scott.

I had not seen this since it was in the theater and this was my first time with the director's cut and Jerry Goldsmith's score.

The magic forest settings are just boggling in their poster-art beauty. The air is filled with floating fluff and the people wear skin glitter. Almost all of it was done on a sound-stage without CGI.

The plot is like a first effort from a teen girl who has just discovered elves and fairies. Evil demon "Darkness" wants to conquer "Light" but the sacred unicorns stand in his way. Unicorns are attracted to "Innocence" so the goblin soldiers follow young Princess Lili and use her as unicorn bait.

What exactly Lili is innocent of is not very clear. She runs wild and hangs out with ragged forest-guy Jack (young Tom Cruise). Her willfulness harms the unicorns (she just wanted to touch the horn -- see where that leads?) and she must enter Darkness's fortress to try to make it up.

This is kind of cloying with its garden gnomes and Disneyfied fairies, including a Tinkerbell floating light and drunken Irish elves: "Twas a tirrible sight for a sober mon!" Even the goblin soldiers are more like naughty children than anything else.

And yet: Lili's striking hellish dance with the cloaked phantom, a presentiment of her future self, is weirdly erotic, like something Powell & Pressburger would have tried in one of their opera or ballet fantasies of the 1940s. Or like the recent Black Swan movie.

"Darkness" (Tim Curry with amazing makeup and head-gear) becomes smitten with Lili. Why would that be? If he is drawn to her virtues then he can't be entirely evil. Does "good" corrupt (or redeem) "evil"? Or does he just want to defile her purity? He seems pleased when she pretends to have crossed over to the dark side.

I think he's just demonically male. Every guy will understand his frustration and scarcely maintained politeness while coping with his lady's diffidence and lack of compliance with his desires.

Mia Sara's sexy black costume includes a filmy band of fabric across her chest; I don't think I noticed that in the theater.

Available on Blu-ray with both theatrical and director's cuts. My thumbnails are from the latter, but the theatrical version is from a better source. It is brighter and more saturated in spots: see the ruddy skin tones on the peasant woman who is Lili's friend. Detail seems similar on both and image quality is mostly just fair.

The director's cut is 20 minutes longer but still omits some bits from the theatrical version. The longer edit is darker, more suggestive; the shorter more obvious.

Jerry Goldsmith provides a typically fine symphonic score for the director's cut. The theatrical version uses a simpler Tangerine Dream track with closing songs by Jon Anderson and Bryan Ferry. It suggests 1970s art-rock album covers and fantasy posters, which is an interesting treatment, but as background music it sometimes descends into synthesizer drone.

For vivid comparison of the scores, watch Lili's dance with her dark phantom. The synthesizer track is a plain music-box theme, where Goldsmith provides a danse macabre, a hellishly stormy and erotic waltz.

The director provides a relaxed and chatty commentary track with many interesting production details:
  • They burned down the huge sound stage with its intricate forest and had to move some of the snow scenes outdoors, but still at the studio.
  • The underwater bits were done in Florida with actual alligators watching nearby.
  • He regrets using soap bubble magic effects for one of the elves (Gump, who was inspired by Mickey Rooney's 1935 "Puck").
  • He thinks this is a family picture, while admitting some scenes go too far, as the background butchering in Hell's kitchen. He doesn't show the demon's hand being cut off because he didn't want it to be too violent.
  • Originally Lili was to transform into a cat-like creature as a result of her temptation, then fight her way back to humanity. No budget for it.
  • He doesn't dislike the Tangerine Dream score but prefers his original Goldsmith. As I did above, he praises the music for Lili's dance.
  • He's delighted by cheap physical effects that work, like Oona's fairy light dangling on a bit of fishing line. "That would be $200,000 in CGI today."
  • Generous praise for everyone involved.
  • He was surprised that Mia Sara had a pleasant singing voice and Goldsmith was pleased with it.
  • He doesn't seem much bothered that it was a flop. He still likes it.

I didn't hear him talk about his intent: why did he want to make it? Fairy tales have always been rich matter for operas, ballets and movies, and the semi-comic versions worked up for film are a popular genre, for example Willow and The Princess Bride. Did he just want to try it out himself?

legend.jpg

-Bill
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post #142 of 287 Old 10-30-2012, 06:41 AM
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Stripes (1981), produced and directed by Ivan Reitman.

When a cab driver loses his job, car and girlfriend in the same day (she's one of those casual nudity cuties found in 80s films -- that drives him over the edge) he convinces his pal to join the Army with him. They don't fit in at all but find love with some attractive (and female!) MPs and invade Czechoslovakia in an impromptu rescue mission.

It's a fine ensemble cast but mostly a Bill Murray vehicle. If you like his goofy persona and sarcastic quips you'll probably like the movie. It coasts along nicely enough. Quite a bit of improvised comedy. It's quotable.

Warren Oates has comic talent (see 1941) but he's wasted as Sgt Hulka.

P.J. Soles does her own casual nudity just as she did in Carrie and Halloween, bless her.

One of the charms of the film is picking out later famous faces, some very early in their careers:

  • Harold Ramis
  • Sean Young
  • John Candy
  • John Larroquette
  • Judge Reinhold
  • William Lucking
  • Joe Flaherty
  • Dave Thomas

I wish Conrad Dunn (Francis aka "Psycho") had gotten more work. He was a regular in the Nero Wolfe series.

The location filming was in and around Louisville and Ft Knox, Kentucky. The Army cooperated with the production; I wonder what they thought they were doing? On the other hand our heroes become real heroes and get heroically laid, so maybe it worked out as a recruiting tool.

Elmer Bernstein score.

The DVD has a happy commentary track by Reitman and one of the other writer/producers. This is the first time I've seen the extended cut: more background on the buddies, a drug-humor commando raid on South America, and a bit more light sex play with the girlfriends.

Those guys in pane #7 below: I always get them confused and there they are together.

stripes.jpg

-Bill
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post #143 of 287 Old 11-06-2012, 05:09 AM
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Return of the Jedi (1983), directed by Richard Marquand.

The first act is rescuing Han Solo (that's a plan?), then we catch up with Yoda and it's off to the forest moon. The final third proceeds on three tracks: a exciting space battle, comical Ewok combat, and the overblown confrontation between Luke, Vader, and the Emperor.

Disappointment begins early when Vader arrives at Death Star II and says "I'm here to put you back on schedule." Roustabout foreman, taking names and inspecting schedules; that's a come down.

It's has good aspects, particularly in the action scenes, and Carrie Fisher provides fan service with her bondage bikini. It's really Darth Vader's story: he's the only character showing any development. Lucas liked this part so much he made three more movies about it.

Of course, once the pieces are all on the board and the mythology established, fans just want to see it keep going, more of the same. It provides that, but overall is a let down after the previous film:

  • The Ewoks stink. Sorry.
  • "What I said was true, from a certain point of view." That would be the screenwriter's POV as he desperately pretends this plot was intended from the beginning.
  • Can't Luke fight the Emperor without succumbing to hate and giving in to the Dark Side? Why not stick a light saber in him in a coolly detached frame of mind? How are proper Jedi supposed to do it? We know they fight wars.
  • The Emperor's evil seems troweled on by particularly unimaginative schoolyard bullies.
  • I don't know what I expected Vader to look like, but it wasn't Humpty Dumpty or Mr Potato-Head.
  • During the exciting final segment, they switch between the space battle and Luke's struggle with Vader and the Emperor, which is ok, but also to the absurd Ewok shenanigans, ruining the drama.

The customary revisions serve to spiff up some special effects, modify the mythology, and add clutter to the images. We get new imperial scenes of celebration at the end and they (thank you!) replace the original Ewok "yip-yip" song.

Maybe it was new gear in the theater, but I noticed a big jump in surround sound effects when I first saw this. During the cycle chase through the forest you could hear individual branches and leaves rushing by. That was new!

Available on Blu-ray.

return-of-the-jedi.jpg

-Bill
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post #144 of 287 Old 11-08-2012, 05:12 AM
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The Living Daylights (1987), directed by John Glen.

James Bond discovers that a Russian general who defects and then vanishes is wrapped up in an arms smuggling operation that...well, I'm forgetting already. It's inconsequential.

Bond #15 is Timothy Dalton's first of two. He brings a darker, more cynical and serious edge to the character. We have no doubt that he is an assassin. He has a dry and understated sense of humor.

He's better than the material given him. The plot is weak and the villains feeble. They just can't get away from the gadget silliness and spoof stunts like using a cello case as a sled. Dalton handles it well and if you subtract the unfortunate bits, it's a glossy and action-packed average entry in the series. Apart from swimsuit art there is less sex content than usual. He's a fighter not (principally) a lover.

The locations include Gibralter, Bratislava, Vienna, Tangiers (all on location) and Soviet-occupied Afghanistan (probably actually Morroco).

In the latter country Bond allies with colorful Mujahideen who deal in opium and assault an airbase on horseback. How the wheel turns. It makes your head spin sometimes.

Available on Blu-ray.

living-daylights.jpg

-Bill
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post #145 of 287 Old 11-08-2012, 07:36 AM
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^^^ Bill, that last photo (of Bond and the villain hanging on to the cargo net) is the highlight stunt of the movie. The Blu-ray picture quality was gotten much criticism, I thought it was decent but not as good as it could have been.

- G

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post #146 of 287 Old 11-08-2012, 08:42 AM
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I enjoy your reviews. About this:
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

The Evil Dead (1981)


I was of two minds when watching this: first, how well does it work as a low-budget horror film? As per tradition, some comical interludes lure us into a false sense of security and the actual fear factor creeps up on us while we aren't expecting it.

I'm always amazed that anyone has ever thought The Evil Dead to be in the category of an actual "horror movie" or that the word "scary" is used in connection with it. As if it were serious horror at all. It isn't. It's straight up farce. Darker, somewhat more subtle than the even more cartoony follow-up, but still, there does not seem anything in the movie that takes itself seriously as true horror. It seems a winking, goofy, send-up to me through and through and I can't believe anyone was scared by it.
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post #147 of 287 Old 11-12-2012, 04:50 AM
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Blood Simple (1984), written, produced and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.

A cheating wife, a murderously jealous husband, a big-hat-no-cattle cowboy private investigator who will do anything. Texas. A plot like nightmares you've had, where you've done something terrible and there is no going back. A nylon jacket won't mop up that blood. How to get the stains out of the back seat? Driving at night, sounds from the back of the car. "Truth is...he was alive when I buried him."

The Coen's first film made a big splash. It's a fine, atmospheric little thriller with unexpected twists. No one sees everything that is happening and they are not people who communicate very well. The boyfriend is just starting to figure it out when he stands in front of the wrong window.

Two of my favorite "ugly" guys -- Dan Hedaya and M. Emmet Walsh -- together!

Bleak, autumnal little score by Carter Burwell. It doesn't match the landscape, but suits the mood.

The title refers to the unreliable mental state people have when it gets bloody. "Don't go simple on me."

Available on Blu-ray, only fair quality. This is the director's cut which trimmed a few scenes, unnecessarily I thought when I first saw it.

The intro and commentary track are both spoofs. The commentary is funny but a little goes a long way.

blood-simple.jpg

-Bill
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post #148 of 287 Old 11-20-2012, 05:38 AM
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Cutter's Way (1981), directed by Ivan Passer.

A group of low-lifes develop a bone-headed plan to blackmail a rich man they think has committed murder. If he pays it's proof of guilt and they can take it to the cops. Not keeping the money, no, of course not. What they don't consider is how easily a powerful and vicious killer might deal with them in return.

We have:

  • John Heard as "Cutter", a maniacal veteran with one eye, one arm and one leg, an energetic bundle of drunken self-loathing, resentment and dangerous intelligence.
  • Lisa Eichhorn as "Mo", his wife. Alcoholic but the responsible one of the group. She's complicated.
  • Jeff Bridges as "Dick Bone" (seriously), the slacker who lives on a boat and compulsively lays as many woman as he can each day. Sometimes they pay him a little for it.

It's a quirky little mystery, more of a character study and actors showcase than a thriller. We don't get around to the blackmail action until the final half hour. Oddly enough it turns out to be about "heroes" and their unlikely origin. The characters are "interesting" but not terribly likeable.

Jack Nitzsche provides an eerie, eclectic score.

The movie was barely promoted, a victim of studio politics. Said the director: "I think United Artists murdered the film. Or at least they tried to murder it."

cutters-way.jpg

-Bill
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post #149 of 287 Old 11-27-2012, 07:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

Blood Simple (1984), written, produced and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.

-Bill

Imo, BLOOD SIMPLE is one of the greatest "first films" of all time. I think it still holds up as one of the Coen Brothers' three or four best movies, which is saying a lot.
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post #150 of 287 Old 11-29-2012, 12:36 PM
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No Retreat No Surrender (1986)
It's quite possibly as good as The Karate Kid. The basic premise is that a teenage boy, who has been taught to avoid fighting by his father, has to dig deep and rise to the occasion. In his fits of angst he is trained by the freaking ghost of Bruce Lee. His closest friend serves as comic relief and creates the best training montage of any 80's movie. I should mention it stars JCVD but he isn't the main character and is the final boss. If you like 80's action movies and The Karate Kid you will probably like this one. Corey Yuen writes and directs.
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