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post #1 of 276 Old 06-29-2010, 08:28 AM - Thread Starter
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To compliment the thread Review older films here: 1979 and earlier started by my colleague "Wild Bill McClain," I thought we'd open a new thread for review of films from the 1980s.

As per Bill's ground rules, let's let the reviews speak for themselves and avoid hashing them over. As always, be nice to everyone and they'll be nice to you.

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post #2 of 276 Old 06-29-2010, 08:32 AM - Thread Starter
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A week ago, I watched the 1984 film Romancing the Stone on Fox HD television. It was a s-l-o-w night for baseball. I'd seen the picture years ago but not in a theater so watching it in HD on a 47" LCD was a treat. I lol all over again. A well-made fun film.

So I decided to rent from Netflix the 1986 sequel The Jewel of the Nile on BD. I'd seen it in SD on a small screen when it first came out. I watched it last night on BD on the 83. We all know about sequels. It's rare that one lives up to the original and this one was no exception. Still it was a fun film even if predictable.

Also I watched both Special Features that were © 2006. The director Lewis Teague makes the point in one of them that it couldn't have been made in today's political climate in the Middle East. A film that portrays a despotic Arab ruler named Omar and Americans assist in his overthrow as the ruler of a Middle Eastern Arab nation might provoke a jihad! Teague says that in 1986 we were naïve and the film makers managed to avoid an international incident.

Except for the fake F-16. Douglas who was the film's producer says that initially he tried to get plans from General Dynamics, the manufacturer. They said "Are you kidding? It's a military secret!" So, studio technicians bought a small scale model of the plane at a toy store and scaled it up! When first rolled out on location in Morocco, both Arab and Israeli satellites picked it up and they asked serious questions about it. They found it hard to believe it wasn't flyable!

All three stars - Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito - appear in the Special Features, an act of courage considering it lends to direct comparison with their physical appearance of 20 years prior. Only DeVito has aged well. I suppose if you are already short and fat, there's not much bad that can happen over 20 years.

A fun night at the movies.

OAR anamorphic 2.35:1. I used the dts 5.1 audio track with subtitles. Technicolor.



Dana

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post #3 of 276 Old 06-29-2010, 08:33 AM
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"Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981)
My buddy and I walked from our neighborhood to the movie theater that was only a few miles away, not knowing what we were about to experience with this first filmed adventure of Indiana Jones. Wow! Our young minds were blown by the action in this amazing experience of a movie. It was certainly the most violent film we'd seen in our young lives, but we were not traumatized, merely thrilled by what Spielberg had created.

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post #4 of 276 Old 06-29-2010, 08:40 AM - Thread Starter
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Detective Constable "Dangerous" Davies is the central character in a series of comic novels by British writer Leslie Thomas. The first novel in the series was made into a film for UK TV in 1981. It later became a made-for-UK-TV series (available on Netflix).

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Davies is a low-ranked CID officer in the London borough of Willesden. He is nicknamed "Dangerous" ironically because he is said to be harmless. His real first name is never revealed. In the novels and TV series he is called "The Last Detective" from his superior's assessment of him as "the last detective, since he was never dispatched on any assignment unless it was very risky or there was no one else to send". Despite this, Davies is by no means a poor detective, and although he can take longer than his colleagues, and is dogged by bad luck, he does usually "get his man" in the end.

The first story had him drifting into the years-old unsolved case of the disappearance of Celia Norris, a local girl with a dark side. With his friend, the perpetually unemployed and well-read Mod Lewis (he spends all his time at the library to save on heating) he tracks down the culprit, collecting plenty of cuts, bumps and bruises along the way at the hands of the local thugs. At one point he is "binned" an empty dustbin is placed over his head, pinning his arms, and the outside is then hit with pickaxe handles.

Bernard Cribbins played Davies in the first television version of this story. At the end he was swathed in so many bandages as to be unrecognizable, and confined temporarily to a wheelchair.

This first film really stands alone. The UK TV series "The Last Detective" didn't get started until 2003. This one isn't readily available in this country so I took a chance and ordered it from Amazon UK.

It is humorous - maybe whimsical is a better word - but not over the top. Not a "Pink Panther" clone by any means. Really a fun movie to watch with an endearing central character.

One note of trivia. It was to be UK character actor Bernard Lee's last film. He died of cancer in January 1981, just days after the film was released. Lee is a personal favorite of mine with an extensive filmography going back to 1934. He was best known in this country for playing "M" in eleven James Bond movies.

This Region 2 SD DVD is in color of good quality. OAR 4x3. DD mono. Filmed on location in London. It has a subtle music background that adds a nice light touch.

Dana

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post #5 of 276 Old 06-29-2010, 09:10 AM - Thread Starter
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Not every review here is positive. Recently I watched the first half of the 1984 film "Swing Shift" with Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell and Christine Lahty.

According to the blurb on Netflix, this was the "comedy" that also "began Kurt Russell and Hawn's longtime real-life relationship."

The story line reported here indicates that Hawn and Russell with the producer had some of the director's work reshot so as to convert it from a serious film to a comedy.

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Swing Shift has become a case study for a star/producer interfering. Hawn and Russell saw the film as a lighthearted vehicle while the director Demme attempted to create a more serious film. Hawn and Warner Brothers requested a recut and partial re-shooting in order to get the movie they had hired Demme to film. Demme's director's cut exists on bootleg VHS only. Both cuts run 100 minutes.

I fail to see what's funny about wives of servicemen having romantic affairs while their husbands are overseas. Girl friends not waiting for their boy friends to return is one thing. Marital infidelity is quite another. IMHO.

I ejected it about half way through. The SD DVD played alright. Just trash.

Dana

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post #6 of 276 Old 07-03-2010, 06:48 PM
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Flash Gordon (1980), directed by Mike Hodges.

Pathetic earthlings. Hurling your bodies out into the void, without the slightest inkling of who or what is out here. If you had known anything about the true nature of the universe, anything at all, you would've hidden from it in terror.

I saw this in the theater. In the next row were two serious science fiction fans, very unhappy. I've always wanted serious SF in films too, but after a while you get tired of waiting and just want to have fun. Here they turn the Silly Dial up to 10. And sometimes to 11, which is too much: when the Hawkman says "they just winged me", or when they play the Wedding March for Ming's nuptials, I just wish they hadn't.

Still, you have to give them credit for achieving what they intended. No suspension of disbelief required, because there is no intended believable world. Time has made the production more than a bit clunky, but it still has an amount of grandeur. The music helps. There are moments when we glimpse a possibly more serious treatment.

Max von Sydow was born to play Ming the Merciless. All those years with Ingmar Bergman were just prelude. His Ming is more believable than his Jesus.

Brian Blessed and Timothy Dalton: I admire those distinguished British actors who will do anything. Ornella Muti: yeow. The only other picture I remember her in was Swann in Love. Everyone else: good job. What happened to you afterwards?

Back then I wanted one of the space shuttles to be named War Rocket Ajax. Dear Dale Arden: how does doing a cartwheel improve your aim? I wondered the same thing in The Matrix. The woodbeast is kind of cool, as is the swamp spider thing. Some of the laser blast and energy field effects look like the video games popular at the time.

I counted the word "pleasure" used with lewd emphasis 7 times. It's a PG film.

Available on Blu-ray. I notice it was filmed with some sort of star filter in some scenes, most noticeable when there is a lot of sparkly jewelry. That can't help the fine detail.



-Bill
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post #7 of 276 Old 07-03-2010, 08:06 PM
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I hear Empire Strikes Back was good.

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post #8 of 276 Old 07-03-2010, 08:36 PM
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ALIENS....I was 12 years old when I went to see this film with my mom and my twin brother. The most hair-raising experience with film, but I was so enthralled with the film it made me a believer. So much so that I like 'Aliens' over 'Alien'....it's a time thing I guess. I was at the prime age to see this movie, even if it was a couple years to early to see this film BTW the directors cut is the only way to see this film.......

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post #9 of 276 Old 07-11-2010, 07:45 PM - Thread Starter
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Tonight i watched The Accidental Tourist ...

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... a 1988 American drama film. It was directed by Lawrence Kasdan and scored by John Williams. The film's screenplay was adapted by Kasdan and Frank Galati from the novel of the same name by Anne Tyler. One of the most acclaimed films of 1988, it was nominated for several awards including four Academy Awards. The cast includes William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Geena Davis and Bill Pullman.

It's a Netflix rental and we can get a short plot synopsis there.

Quote:


An author of travel guides (William Hurt) must come to terms with the tragic murder of his young son and his estranged wife. But things begin to look up when he meets a lovely, kooky dog trainer (Geena Davis) who definitely marches to the beat of her own drum. Davis won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in this faithful adaptation of Ann Tyler's novel, which itself won A National Book Critics Circle Award.

The syntax of this brief summary is misleading. The wife is not murdered. The first sentence might better read "An author of travel guides (William Hurt) must come to terms with the tragic murder of his young son and the subsequent estrangement of his wife."

This SD DVD sat on my desk for days. I just couldn't imagine that a film that involved the loss of a son, something I have experienced within the past year, could be humorous ... and yet it is, as I found out when I finally decided to watch it. Often humor is effective because it cuts close to real life.

Roger Ebert wrote a fine review of the film and he sums it up well. "... I've never seen a movie so sad in which there was so much genuine laughter. 'The Accidental Tourist' is one of the best films of the year."

I'd originally put it in my rental queue due to the fine cast. It was a reunion for director/screen play writer Lawrence Kasdan along with Hurt and Turner whose careers were launched when they worked together in the i981 film "Body Heat." Only the imperfect summary of the film on Netflix gave me a clue about the plot. Maybe just as well.

I loved it. Geena Davs was irrepressible in the role of the character she played. She wanted the part when she first read the book. Smart woman. William Hurt was deserving of an Oscar himself for a stellar performance. The writer/director stayed close to the book including filming at some of the locations in Baltimore described in it. Smart man.

Finally, the dog(s) that played Edward - mainly "Bud" - were impressive, talented and lovable Cardigan Welsh Corgis.

I also watched the director's introduction and Geena Davis' commentary that were recorded in 2003. Geena talked more about winning the Oscar and what it meant to her and how exciting it was than about filming the movie. Obviously the film meant a lot to her personally and advanced her career. There's a genuineness about her that is refreshing.

If you watch it, you'll like it.

OAR Panavision 2.35:1. Technicolor. DD stereo. SD DVD.



Dana

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post #10 of 276 Old 07-14-2010, 08:03 AM - Thread Starter
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The Holcroft Covenant is a 1985 film based on the Robert Ludlum novel of the same name. The film starred Michael Caine, Victoria Tennant and Anthony Andrews. It was directed by John Frankenheimer.

The plot of the book is complicated.

Quote:


The novel concerns Noel Holcroft, New York architect—and secretly the son of Heinrich Clausen, chief economic advisor to the Third Reich. At some point in the 1970s, Holcroft is contacted by the Grande Banque de Geneve, concerning his father's will and testament. The testament says that in the last half of the war, Clausen found out about the Holocaust. Horrified and desperate to make amends, he and his two friends stole vast amounts of money, from thousands of individual sources throughout the Reich, and funneled them into a secure account in Zurich, Switzerland. Now, if Holcroft will contact the children of the two friends, they can form a group to distribute the funds and alleviate some of the pain of the Holocaust.

... Holcroft is continuously blindsided as good guys turn out to be bad guys, bad guys turn out to be good guys, and Holcroft, who has no training whatsoever in intelligence, is forced to learn on the job.

The book ran 500 pages. Therein lies the problem for the film. As Frankenheimer explains early in his audio commentary as the film rolls, his job entailed simplifying the typical twists and turns of a Robert Ludlum novel. Sad to say, it really doesn't come off.

The SD DVD originally attracted me because of the reputation of the director and the film's stars, all of whom I admired based on previous work. Michael Caine's reputation precedes him. Frankheimer notes he was a last minute replacement for another actor and practically gushes over Caine's professionalism and positive influence on the cast. Victoria Tennant I'd seen in the 1983 TV miniseries "Winds of War" and its 1988 sequel "War and Remembrance." She is smashingly beautiful and can act - a little. Anthony Andrews I'd seen in the lead role in the very well done British 1979 TV series "Danger UXB." They are all UK actors; only Caine is well known in this country.

In a supporting role is an actress who knew what it was like to have lived in Germany in the early days of the rise of Adolph Hitler - Lilli Palmer. She plays the mother of Michael Caine's character. A very well-preserved 70 at the time of filming, she died a year later. This was her last film. RIP.

The film got mixed reviews when it was first shown in theaters and I can see why. Even after Frankenheimer simplifies the plot, it has too many twists and turns. Caine's character says at one point that there are real bullets flying and people are really getting killed but it's hard to take it seriously. There's even a little comedy thrown in.

An excellent cast with a fine director, they just can't deliver the "spy thriller" the keep case promises. Still an interesting film.

SD DVD. OAR 1.85:1 widescreen. Mono audio. I used the English subtitles. I listened to part of the audio commentary offered by director John Frankenheimer. © 1999. Color.

Trivia. Extra dialogue was inserted after Michael Caine took over the lead role at the last minute to explain that he doesn't drive (in real life as well as in the movie). He explains to Victoria Tennant that one doesn't need to drive in New York City where his character resides on 42nd St. He goes on to say that he has a friend who lives in the country whose house is supposed to be an hour away from 42nd St., but the truth is that you can only get to 43rd St. in an hour driving a car. Probably even more true today than it was in 1985.


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post #11 of 276 Old 07-14-2010, 12:43 PM
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Karate Kid.

Story holds up very nicely.
The music? Not so much.

I have to admit I keep thinking the girls dressed..frumpy. Shorts and sweat shirt? My how times have changed.
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post #12 of 276 Old 07-14-2010, 03:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

Flash Gordon (1980), directed by Mike Hodges.

Pathetic earthlings. Hurling your bodies out into the void, without the slightest inkling of who or what is out here. If you had known anything about the true nature of the universe, anything at all, you would've hidden from it in terror.

I saw this in the theater. In the next row were two serious science fiction fans, very unhappy. I've always wanted serious SF in films too, but after a while you get tired of waiting and just want to have fun. Here they turn the Silly Dial up to 10. And sometimes to 11, which is too much: when the Hawkman says "they just winged me", or when they play the Wedding March for Ming's nuptials, I just wish they hadn't.

Still, you have to give them credit for achieving what they intended. No suspension of disbelief required, because there is no intended believable world. Time has made the production more than a bit clunky, but it still has an amount of grandeur. The music helps. There are moments when we glimpse a possibly more serious treatment.

Max von Sydow was born to play Ming the Merciless. All those years with Ingmar Bergman were just prelude. His Ming is more believable than his Jesus.

Brian Blessed and Timothy Dalton: I admire those distinguished British actors who will do anything. Ornella Muti: yeow. The only other picture I remember her in was Swann in Love. Everyone else: good job. What happened to you afterwards?

Back then I wanted one of the space shuttles to be named War Rocket Ajax. Dear Dale Arden: how does doing a cartwheel improve your aim? I wondered the same thing in The Matrix. The woodbeast is kind of cool, as is the swamp spider thing. Some of the laser blast and energy field effects look like the video games popular at the time.

I counted the word "pleasure" used with lewd emphasis 7 times. It's a PG film.

Available on Blu-ray. I notice it was filmed with some sort of star filter in some scenes, most noticeable when there is a lot of sparkly jewelry. That can't help the fine detail.



-Bill

To me, this whole movie seemed like something out of an S&M Nightmare.
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post #13 of 276 Old 07-14-2010, 11:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wytchone View Post

Karate Kid.

Story holds up very nicely.
The music? Not so much.

I have to admit I keep thinking the girls dressed..frumpy. Shorts and sweat shirt? My how times have changed.

We finished watching the other week and my wife commented on how Daniel Larusos pants are up around his stomach area.

I agree with the music!!

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post #14 of 276 Old 07-14-2010, 11:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drbonbi View Post

A week ago, I watched the 1984 film Romancing the Stone on Fox HD television. It was a s-l-o-w night for baseball. I'd seen the picture years ago but not in a theater so watching it in HD on a 47" LCD was a treat. I lol all over again. A well-made fun film.

So I decided to rent from Netflix the 1986 sequel The Jewel of the Nile on BD. I'd seen it in SD on a small screen when it first came out. I watched it last night on BD on the 83. We all know about sequels. It's rare that one lives up to the original and this one was no exception. Still it was a fun film even if predictable.

Also I watched both Special Features that were © 2006. The director Lewis Teague makes the point in one of them that it couldn't have been made in today's political climate in the Middle East. A film that portrays a despotic Arab ruler named Omar and Americans assist in his overthrow as the ruler of a Middle Eastern Arab nation might provoke a jihad! Teague says that in 1986 we were naïve and the film makers managed to avoid an international incident.

Except for the fake F-16. Douglas who was the film's producer says that initially he tried to get plans from General Dynamics, the manufacturer. They said "Are you kidding? It's a military secret!" So, studio technicians bought a small scale model of the plane at a toy store and scaled it up! When first rolled out on location in Morocco, both Arab and Israeli satellites picked it up and they asked serious questions about it. They found it hard to believe it wasn't flyable!

All three stars - Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito - appear in the Special Features, an act of courage considering it lends to direct comparison with their physical appearance of 20 years prior. Only DeVito has aged well. I suppose if you are already short and fat, there's not much bad that can happen over 20 years.

A fun night at the movies.

OAR anamorphic 2.35:1. I used the dts 5.1 audio track with subtitles. Technicolor.



Dana

I have never seen these films.

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post #15 of 276 Old 07-15-2010, 12:02 AM
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An American werewolf in london for me it was the first horror I experinced in the 80's. I went with my brothers and my old man. I remember my brother could not handle it especially the dreams he was having with the werewolf and the other underworld creatures knocking at the family door and killing them all.
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post #16 of 276 Old 07-15-2010, 06:04 AM
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Trouble in Mind (1985), written and directed by Alan Rudolph.

I was nuts about this movie back then and saw it in the theater many times, but the mood of that moment has passed. It's been so long that it seems like a different film. I still remember all the lines, and in fact I've been quoting them unknowingly all these years ("Wrong man at the right time don't mean s***, pal").

What was quirky and offbeat then seems more strained and farcical now. But at moments it still amazes the mind and tugs at the heart.

Hawk (Kris Kristofferson) is a police detective who has just spent years in jail for murdering a thug who needed killing. He did it for Wanda and returns to Rain City (Seattle in our world) hoping to get with her again, but she just wants to be friends. The years have made him bitter and our question is: is he too far gone, or does he have one last heroic soul-saving gesture in him?

Wanda (Geneviève Bujold) owns a diner. She collects stray people and is that sort of tough human glue that keeps a little society together. She likes Hawk, loves him even, but he is loads of trouble.

Coop (Keith Carradine) and Georgia (Lori Singer, who I always confused with Daryl Hannah back then) are dumb kids with a baby, looking for a new chance in the city. Crime is on Coop's mind and he partners with Solo (Joe Morton), a thief who writes poetry in the cafe.

Crime in Rain City is controlled by Hilly Blue (Divine, wearing men's clothes for the first time). If Hawk wants Georgia, what if the price is going up against Hilly Blue to save her dumb husband?

They call it neo-noir, whatever that means. The beginning and middle have a serious, if other-worldly, tone. The violent dramatic climax is bizarrely over the top, but the sad ending recovers.

An odd thing: I've always had a favorite diner wherever I've lived. I distinctly remember spending time at Wanda's Cafe but I can't remember where it was, and it's fictional anyway. How strange is that?

Mark Isham provides a cuttingly poignant score and Marianne Faithfull sings the title song. At the end she takes us out with a heartbreaking cover of Kristofferson's "El Gavilan":


Storm on the mountain
Stars in the sky
Running for glory
Freedom to fly

Will you remember
Way down the road
Somebody loves you
More than you know

Like many of David Lynch's films, it ends with a glimpse of Heaven.

I can't tell if this is merely out of print in NTSC/region 1 DVD, or if it was never available. I imported a PAL region 2 disc. The OAR is supposed to be 1.66; it has been zoomed to 1.78 here. An 18 minute extra has the director and Carradine telling funny stories about the picture years later.



-Bill
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post #17 of 276 Old 07-24-2010, 01:58 PM
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Swann in Love (1984), directed by Volker Schlöndorff.

I read Swann's Way years ago, but the only part I remember is the middle section called "Swann in Love", which is about his obsessive and degrading love for Odette, a courtesan. There is a special Hell for jealous lovers and Proust meticulously mapped it down to the wallpaper.

The film is more sexually explicit than the book, and the dialogue covers matters which Swann only suspects and fears in the text: that Odette works at brothels part time, that she goes with women, etc.

Jeremy Irons speaks his own French and is, as always, good at aristocratic languor and suppressed longing. Ornella Muti, last seen as Princess Aura in Flash Gordon, is a mysterious and sad-eyed Odette. She's in the love business and obviously has to keep her options open, much to Swann's irritation. She contributes a bit of nudity and some passion scenes.

Slow paced, just like the book. Proust wrote in bed and didn't care how long it took to read him. It's mostly conversation and situations.

Photographed by Sven Nykvist.



-Bill
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post #18 of 276 Old 08-02-2010, 06:24 AM
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Ladyhawke (1985), directed by Richard Donner.

A fine-looking medieval fantasy filmed in Italy. A new, lushly romantic fairy tale plot. Not as comical as Willow or The Princess Bride, which is both good and bad. Good because comic mugging doesn't always wear well, bad because what seemed serious then tends to be emotionally drippy now.

More good features:
  • The romantic leads. Rutger Hauer is a great knight, holding close his honor and quest for vengeance, but losing hope of love. Michelle Pfeiffer's exotic beauty fits the story well and she has the more enduring faith.
  • Fine supporting players, especially Leo McKern as the monk who is semi-crazed by guilt, seeking redemption. John Wood is pretty freaky as the bishop who made a bargain with the Evil One, and Ken Hutchison and Alfred Molina are good villains.
  • Great settings and photography, with an interesting mix of realism and fantasy costuming.

Not so good:
  • I don't think Matthew Broderick ruins the story, but I would have used someone else. On the one hand his wisecracking and sneakiness are what you would expect from a petty thief, but on the other he has an unavoidably contemporary persona.
  • Fans seem to be split on the music. Count me as one who would have the film rescored. It isn't all bad but the synthesizer action music has a cheap and frivolous tone that hurts the story. My regrets to Alan Parsons.
  • The ending. I don't mind the big romantic finish, that's inevitable and appropriate. But good grief: too much syrup is gagging.

It would be churlish to complain about astronomical errors in a movie about people turning into hawks and wolves. Filmmakers never get it right anyway.

The NTSC DVD is very old and the encoding ugly. It is a flipper disc with 4:3 pan & scan on one side and 4:3 letterboxed widescreen on the other, both single layer. The region 2 PAL DVD is anamorphic dual layer and a good upgrade, including better color. But it is still nothing to write home about and we need a hidef version. I'm sure there is a fan base large enough to support a Blu-ray edition.



-Bill
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post #19 of 276 Old 08-10-2010, 11:35 AM
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post #20 of 276 Old 08-13-2010, 04:21 AM
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Streets of Fire (1984), directed by Walter Hill.

When pop star Diane Lane is kidnapped by creepy motorcycle gang boss Willem Dafoe, her former flame and tough guy Michael Paré returns home to get her back. He acquires sidekick army girl Amy Madigan but has to put up with unusually snide manager Rick Moranis. He can get the girlfriend back, but does he want to keep her? And what happens when the gang comes around for revenge?

A western plot (the hero wears a duster and uses a lever-action rifle) in an alternative 1950s reality. Much comic snappy patter and brawling. I wish I had the exploding/burning car and motorcycle concession for this film.

It did poorly at the box office; maybe just bad timing. I don't know why it is so watchable but it's always been a favorite of mine. I don't particularly like 80s pop music but I like it here. The bluesy, heavy dobro score by Ry Cooder is very cool. Some Blasters tunes and Robert Townsend shows up with a doo-wop group.

The train and grubby under-the-El locations were shot in Chicago; looks just like it, too.

Walter Hill tends to deliver entertainment value. I'm fond of his Hard Times, Southern Comfort, and Last Man Standing. I'll have to revisit some of his other pictures. And note his projects as a producer: the Alien films, Deadwood. According the the IMDB his favorite directors are John Ford, Howard Hawks, John Huston, Raoul Walsh, Sam Peckinpah, and Sergio Leone. That makes perfect sense: all the hard men.

The DVD is 4:3 letterboxed. This was available as a Universal HD DVD but a Blu-ray has not yet appeared. I'd buy one.



-Bill
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post #21 of 276 Old 08-13-2010, 10:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

The train and grubby under-the-El locations were shot in Chicago; looks just like it, too.

Actually, almost the entire movie was shot on a studio backlot. Because the whole movie takes place at night, they made a giant tarp that draped over the entire backlot set, so that they could shoot during the daytime without looking like typical "day for night". You can imagine the problems that ensued when it rained.

Back in film school, I attended a lecture by the film's cinematographer. He had a lot of fun stories to tell about working on movies like this one, First Blood, Innerspace, and others.

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post #22 of 276 Old 08-18-2010, 01:12 PM
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The Fourth Protocol (1987), directed by John Mackenzie.

A dandy cold war thriller about a KGB boss's private attempt to smuggle pieces of an A-bomb into Britain, then assemble and explode it next to a US air base.

Some spy stories are about James Bond driving little vehicles under exploding volcanoes. This movie is an example of another type: based more on the realities of spy-craft, surveillance and signals, breaking and entering, tailing people, turning traitors and making them into double agents. The Brits are especially good at this type of story, in that they seem to have a tradition of upper crust spy-masters, as played here by the great Ian Richardson and Michael Gough. We always have a hint of paranoia, given that British intelligence was once compromised at a high level by the Cambridge Five.

Michael Caine is more of a working class character, unimpressed by titles and insubordinate to bureaucratic superiors. Sometimes you have to bend the rules and step outside of the lines. We see the hunt not only from his side, but also from the Russians who are trying to figure out what the crazy boss is up to.

Pierce Brosnan is a Soviet iron man soldier; undercover in the UK he becomes a suave killer. And yet: when bomb expert Joanna Cassidy tells him they are going to kill 2-5000 people, you can see second thoughts on his face. He is also miserable from sexual frustration. When he finally gets his chance with Cassidy we have an unsettling erotic encounter: each has betrayed the other, both believe the other will shortly be dead.

Constructing the bomb is nicely tense, although I don't think I would handle fissionable material with my bare hands. The final chase and takedown are very good. Caine is pissed at the aftermath, but what did he expect? That everyone would admit that an official of the USSR deliberately tried to start WW3?

One wrong note is Ned Beatty as a Russian spy guy. I don't begrudge him all the roles he wants, but this one just doesn't work.

The Soviet characters mention the "Illegals Directorate". A lot of intelligence gathering takes place through known embassy members. As long as certain lines are not crossed, both sides allow it. But some spies are deep undercover and unknown to the target countries. These are the "illegals". A diplomat who gets caught is expelled; an illegal goes to jail.

Frederick Forsyth adapted the screenplay from his novel. He tones down some of the political content; in the book the UK Labor Party contains nothing but communist dupes.

Exciting score by Lalo Schifrin.

I can't believe this is still not available on NTSC DVD. There are several PAL discs and http://www.wbshop.com/ has a Windows media version of some sort.



-Bill

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post #23 of 276 Old 08-26-2010, 02:29 PM
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Choose Me (1984), written and directed by Alan Rudolph.

Ex-prostitute Lesley Ann Warren owns a bar, likes men and has plenty of them, but is not happy. Geneviève Bujold is "Dr Love", a radio sex therapist who talks a good game but seems to have little hands-on experience. Keith Carradine has just walked away from a mental hospital where they say he lies about everything. He tells some wild stories but claims he never lies and we eventually see he is telling the truth. All the women really love his offbeat persona.

It's one of those intersecting story line movies. Quirky and semi-comic, I remember thinking this would be a good date film. It's mostly from the women's point of view, with lots of sex and relationship talk. The men have to brawl a bit, but that's what women like. Everyone smokes and drinks and the night life world is invoked with style.

What seemed quirky then is more theatrical now, with the clever plot design and little set speeches. Lighting, set design and some types of editing seemed more relaxed in the 80s. Everything is much more polished and exact now; they have it down to a science, and it's not that everything looks the same, but films do seem to be more "manufactured."

With Patrick Bauchau, Rae Dawn Chong, and John Larroquette.

Cool score by Teddy Pendergrass.



-Bill
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post #24 of 276 Old 08-29-2010, 09:17 AM
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Hope and Glory (1987), written, produced and directed by John Boorman.

Fine, semi-comic yet moving presentation of the first year of WW2 as seen by a ten year old boy, based on the director's life. Young actor Sebastian Rice-Edwards is just superb, but never made another movie. Five Oscar nominations, many other awards.

The background is the serious march of world history: from the declaration of war and start of the Phoney War, to the beginning of the Blitz and through the end of the Battle of Britain. We have great period detail of suburban life and the Home Front, and a scene of the mass evacuation of children.

But for young Billy it's a pretty good time. School is often interrupted and he can run wild with the other kids in the bombed out buildings, committing new mass destruction of their own. He has the start of a good shrapnel collection. Dad builds an air-raid shelter in the backyard and puts the car up on blocks. The neighborhood gets its own barrage balloon. (Ever wonder that that was about? It was bad luck for low-flying bombers to run into the cables and sometimes they held explosives. Keeping the bombers higher made them easier to track with anti-aircraft fire).

He starts learning about sex in the old fashioned way, and his big sister, fifteen and growing up fast, is doing some advanced dating with a Canadian soldier. From overheard conversations he realizes his mother and father have some sad history from years long before he was born.

In some ways his mother doesn't mind the coming of the war either. When everyone is poor and shabby together there is no need to keep up appearances. The men have somber reflections on the cost of the war, the injustice of who pays for it, and the promises made to them and broken after the first war.

The final half hour is almost a different story. After their house burns down the family moves in with the grandparents in an idyllic country place on the river. Grandad is a grumpy eccentric who keeps a shotgun near the dinner table: "Never let a rat sneak up on you, Bill!" The kids are wild and free.

Great cast all around, with Sarah Miles as mom and Ian Bannen as the grandfather (I love that guy). Well photographed by Philippe Rousselot.

The DVD is 4:3 letterboxed. I've seen worse and better. Notice a 1980s pattern here: films that were new when DVD was young get the worst treatment. The PAL disc is more recent but I can't tell from the online sources whether it is anamorphic.



-Bill
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post #25 of 276 Old 08-31-2010, 06:50 AM
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Henry V (1989), directed by Kenneth Branagh.

The game's afoot...Once more into the breach...We happy few, we band of brothers.

One of the best film versions of a Shakespeare play. Well photographed, exciting, realistic and intelligible. We do not have a cast of thousands for the battles, but even with a handful of soldiers the siege of Harfleur and battle of Agincourt are well done, the latter on a rainy day of fog, thick with mud and blood.

The text of the play apologizes for the poor staging:

Quote:


And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confin'd two mighty monarchies...

...but the film is a more vivid presentation. This is the first time I noticed the Homeric nature of the invocation: "O for a Muse of fire / that would ascend The brightest heaven of invention".

Henry V is the last play in a four part cycle and the back-story is important. Before he was king Henry was lively Prince Hal, something of a rakehell who hung out with Sir John Falstaff and his crew of bandits headquartered at Nell Quickley's tavern. Everyone expected him to be a terrible monarch, but he changed overnight, becoming very serious, and now no one knows what he is thinking or what he will do next.

His father usurped the throne and the previous king was murdered in prison. The night before the big battle Henry prays for forgiveness, worried that he is not a legitimate ruler. Like his father, he can't sleep. Presumably the lopsided victory comforts him.

Unlike the play where the Eastcheap gang is used comically, Branagh shows them unusually sober. They are all grieving for Falstaff and mourning the loss of Prince Hal to the monarchy. War is just looting for them and none end well.

Similarly, Fluellen (Ian Holm) has lost most of his witty repartee and become a dour soldier. In one scene the Welshman, an Irishman and a Scot argue about the conduct of a siege. Londoners must have found that hilarious.

I think I am as cynical and resistant to drum-beating propaganda as the next hardened movie watcher, but the St Crispin's Day speech really does produce goose-bumps. But, having seen this a few times, we now fast forward through the bit where the French princess (Emma Thompson) gets her English lesson.

Wonderful Patrick Doyle score. I like all his film music and he appears as one of the soldiers in the big battle.

I have brief notes on other productions of the play at Shakespeare on Film and Video.



-Bill
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post #26 of 276 Old 11-01-2010, 04:26 AM
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Big Trouble in Little China (1986), directed by John Carpenter.

Blowhard truck driver Jack Burton (Kurt Russell), with a line of patter like the cheapest pulp fiction, stumbles into a Chinese martial arts fantasy with warring street gangs, magicians, demons and many hells. He has no idea what is going on, and having seen the film several times, neither do I, which makes me feel some camaraderie towards him. An ancient undead sorcerer, David Lo Pan (James Hong) will recover his mortality (?) if he sacrifices the correct green-eyed woman. Jack just wants his truck back. And to save the girls.

It's audacious and has many funny bits. The whole thing never really comes together and I think Russell was still trying to figure out his character. Some of the scenes look like rehearsals.

James Hong is great in all of his manifestations. I once saw a posting from someone who sat next him at a dinner and didn't know who he was. They were talking about some kids' show. But...but... (I spluttered) what about Blade Runner, what about Big Trouble in Little China and a few hundred other TV shows...

Available on Blu-ray.



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post #27 of 276 Old 11-01-2010, 08:29 AM
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One of my favorite comedies from the period. Henry Winkler plays an ex Wall St. type who do to stress starts working at the morgue. He gets stuck on night shift and has to work with the new kid Micheal Keaton. Keaton gets the idea to use the morgue to run hookers, which include Shelly Long.

A good fun slap stick kind of movie. Keaton is hilarious.
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post #28 of 276 Old 11-07-2010, 09:42 AM
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An American Werewolf in London (1981), written and directed by John Landis.

This made a big splash at the time for its then-novel combination of comedy and explicit gore and its ambitious transformation effects, done without computer graphics.

Some good features:
  • Jenny Agutter!
  • The dream sequences are effective.
  • The casual nudity and light passion is a 1980s nostalgia rush.
  • Glimpses of the crazy porno film See You Next Wednesday.

Not so good:
  • David Naughton's acting.
  • The incidental dialogue is awkward.
  • Some of the light comic bits are feeble (eg: the unfunny funny policeman).
  • The moon-themed pop tunes are funny for about 5 seconds each but go on longer.

Although the explicit can be horridly fascinating, the unseen and suggested and hinted are scarier and more interesting. We see that here with the man in the subway passages, where we get just a glimpse of the creature from a distance.

I once had a vivid real-time dream of the first fifteen minutes of this movie, which is up to the attack on the moor. You think that wasn't scary? I'm not usually frightened by things that can't be real, but in dreams we have no critical filters. So when you are out in the dark and the creature bays nearby -- a great sound effect -- well, it is rather arresting.

Seeing films from this period reminds me how much the look of movies has changed since then. The editing is more of a science now. It's not that everything looks the same, but everything is more polished and consistent. That can be both good and bad.

Available on Blu-ray.



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post #29 of 276 Old 12-01-2010, 07:11 AM
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Kill Me Again (1989), directed by John Dahl.

This may be too subtle for me. Is it just low budget or an ironic collection of well-known scenes from pulp fiction?

We have:
  • A psycho killer and his treacherous girlfriend heisting mob money in the Nevada desert.
  • The private detective who owes the mob and would rather not have any more fingers broken. Would you believe he has a new gorgeous client who is in trouble?
  • Planning a fake death to help her disappear.
  • The mob wants to know who killed their man and took his briefcase full of money.
  • The old double-double cross.

You could assemble a lot of movies from those parts. It's all a bit half-baked, but worth seeing if you like the stars: Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, Michael Madsen.

Rated R for violence. Just a touch of passion, no nudity. According to the wikipedia article: "Originally dumped by the studio, the film was reissued into limited release after critical acclaim."

The original aspect ratio is 1.85 but my DVD was cropped to 1.33. Looks like that's the only version available in region 1; the PAL region 2 discs are widescreen but not anamorphic.



-Bill
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post #30 of 276 Old 12-04-2010, 05:55 AM
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Withnail and I (1987), written and directed by Bruce Robinson.

"My thumbs have gone weird!"

A British "fear and loathing" story set in 1969. If you like Hunter Thompson, this might be for you. In fact, Ralph Steadman did the original movie poster. If you don't like HST, well... maybe skip it. My wife did.

Unemployed actors Withnail (Richard E. Grant) and Marwood (Paul McGann) live a squalid existence of drugs, booze and bad craziness. The gonzo segments at the beginning and end are the best parts; the long middle is a trip to a bleak country house where Marwood fends off the aggressive sexual advances of Withnail's fruity Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths).

Ralph Brown as Danny the Drug Dealer is a great half-comic, half-sinister character. In a menacing argument:

Quote:



Withnail: There's nothing invented I couldn't take.

Danny: If I medicined you, you'd think a brain tumor was a birthday present.

Withnail: I could take double anything you could take.

Danny: Very, very foolish words, man.

There is a slight story to go with the craziness: Marwood getting fed up, getting a job and getting out, leaving Withnail behind, declaiming Hamlet to the wolves at the zoo.

Available on Blu-ray, but it's only marginally better than the Criterion DVD, which was 4:3 letterboxed! It ain't no oil painting. I swear I've seen a different edit but am not going to try to prove it.



-Bill
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