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post #391 of 456 Old 06-21-2017, 12:54 PM
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Crimes of Passion (1984), directed by Ken Russell.

Ken Russell, Sex Doctor! Erratic as he was at film directing, it's probably best he stuck to that. I remember liking this a lot but now... well, times have changed, as has the viewer.

Our cast:

  • Kathleen Turner is a cold and tightly wound fashion designer by day, but after hours moonlights as "China Blue", a specialty prostitute who will do any sort of role-playing nastiness.
  • Anthony Perkins provides his reliably bizarre talents to enact a crazed self-loathing street preacher who wants to do something to China. Save her, kill her, something.
  • John Laughlin is an ordinary working guy and family man, sexually frustrated to the breaking point, who becomes enamored of China in both of her characters.
  • Annie Potts has the thankless role of his frigid, hectoring wife who doesn't want to hear about this sex stuff.

The good:

  • It is bold filmmaking, like experimental theater where the audience is meant to be uncomfortable.
  • Films seldom have such raw and honest conversations on sex as the midnight pillow talk of the husband and wife.
  • Dramatic visual design, lurid neon in the red light district, natural tones in suburbia.

The bad:

  • Russell has repellent notions of sex. The fantasies, costumes, smutty patter: they all drain the images of what appeal they might have. Maybe he intends that. I can't tell.
  • Back then the dialogue seemed like properly stylized stage-speak. Now it is just plain bad, like the writer's outline of the characters' messages or a rough first draft of what he wants them to say.
  • Even as overblown psychotic plot development the ending makes no sense. And what did they do with the body?
  • Rick Wakeman's brief score tends toward the irritating and we have to have a music video.

This is brave work by Kathleen Turner, still early in her career and already enthusiastically trying new and risky roles. By contrast, she did the soft adventure/romance Romancing the Stone (1984) the same year.

Available on Blu-ray from Arrow Video, containing both the theatrical and director's cut, which is I think just the original version before it was trimmed to earn an R rating. More porn-like explicitness, and a savage scene where China cuffs a big policeman and rides hard, including brutal work with his nightstick up his backside.

The director and writer provide a commentary track. Russell is always funny but I'm never sure how accurate. He had to leave the session and I bailed after that.

He says: the reason Anthony Perkins looks like he has slept in his clothes is that he would take them home every night and sleep in them.



-Bill

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post #392 of 456 Old 06-23-2017, 09:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BOBAH1 View Post
have one good old film - Kidnapping, Caucasian Style.
This one? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060584/.

That's from 1967. You want this thread: https://www.avsforum.com/forum/44-mov...9-earlier.html

Tell us more.

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post #393 of 456 Old 06-23-2017, 05:18 PM
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post #394 of 456 Old 07-08-2017, 10:14 AM
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Bagdad Cafe 1987

A great quirky fun movie.

Stars: CCH Pounder, Jack Palance,Marianne Sagebrecht

Synopsys: A lonely German woman ends up in the most desolate motel on Earth and decides to make it brighter.

This movie has such a high replay value for me.

My mother was of German descent and loved to clean. This movie is about that but its main theme is friendship.

It's definately one of the Great Movies of the 80s.
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post #395 of 456 Old 07-08-2017, 12:24 PM
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I loved Bagdad Cafe too. Marianne Sägebrecht, who played the lonely German woman, was marvelous.

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post #396 of 456 Old 07-08-2017, 08:07 PM
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Originally Posted by gwsat View Post
I loved Bagdad Cafe too. Marianne Sägebrecht, who played the lonely German woman, was marvelous.
I was watching "Miss Sofie's Instincts", a 19990s German Miss Marple, on MHZ last month. In one episode a homeless woman needed help. I recognized her. It was Marianne Sägebrecht. Her acting was impeccable.

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post #397 of 456 Old 07-15-2017, 04:57 PM
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Lair of the White Worm (1988), written, produced and directed by Ken Russell.

This R-rated horror spoof is meant to be funny, exciting, sexy and gross. It does all that if you can get your mind into the correct silliness space. The humor and style are not very subtle but that's Ken Russell: take a good idea and beat it senseless. I love the guy.

Audience interest might have been greater if more people understood that in old English "worm" is "dragon". The clever invention is a vampire cult with snakes instead of bats, dating back to Roman times, with a reincarnated modern priestess who serves her subterranean god.

Special thanks to the serpent-like Amanda Donohoe who strips naked more than once, tongues a phallic relic and wears a carved stone strap-on for special ceremonial occasions. Keeping your seductive sense of humor through all that must take some doing.

Also with young Hugh Grant and Peter Capaldi. Playing sisters are not-quite-a-princess Catherine Oxenberg and Sammi Davis, last seen in Mona Lisa (1986) and Hope and Glory (1987).

Part of the grossness are some hallucinogenic previous-lives visions of bloody death by those stone strap-ons. The sexual violence is pretty bad here, but flashes by quickly. Still, my wife won't watch the film because of these bits.

We also learn what the kilted Scotsman keeps in that hairy thing between his legs.

Inspired by the actual folklore of the Lambton Worm. The song lyrics shown in the article are used in the film. That exotic cave location is Thor's Cavern.

Adapted from a book of the same title by Bram Stoker. I read it years ago and remember thinking it was rubbish, and nothing like the film.

1980s synth score.

Available on Blu-ray with two commentary tracks:

  • The director's commentary is brought forward from the DVD. He's funny and perhaps affecting drunkenness. Some of his stories are tall tales. The rest: I can't always tell.
  • A later excited conversation with Russell's last wife. Lots of stories about Ken and his pictures.



-Bill
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post #398 of 456 Old 07-29-2017, 01:17 PM
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This wasnt too bad of a movie, I can watch anything with Christopher Walken. I caught it on cable and was suprised I had not heard of it. At the 2:50 mark in the trailer I laughed my ass off, I was waiting for a Tugg Speedman intro lol. Tell me you werent thinking the same thing.

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post #399 of 456 Old 08-15-2017, 05:18 PM
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Eating Raoul (1982), directed by Paul Bartel.

Quote:

"Just remember to get the money up front. And whatever they want to do, stop if it draws blood". -- Doris the Dominatrix.
Paul and Mary Bland have a happily sexless marriage, sharing a love of wine and dreams of their own restaurant: "Paul & Mary's Country Kitchen". Their bane is an infestation of degenerate swingers who have invaded their apartment building. After inadvertently killing a couple of men who were trying to mess with Mary they hit upon a plan of advertising for sexual services, then killing and robbing their customers.

Enter Raoul, locksmith by day, burglar by night. He offers them body disposal services and new opportunities for Mary.

I remember this being outrageously campy; it's still funny but the humor seems very blunt, like John Waters crossed with Mel Brooks. The acting is supposed to be obviously bad, which lets director Bartel star in his own film.

There must be a name for the anti-sex sex comedy genre but I don't know what it is.

Both Mary Woronov and assorted swingers provide light nudity. Introducing Robert Beltran.

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion.



-Bill
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post #400 of 456 Old 09-03-2017, 11:22 AM
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Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome



I see that Bill's already reviewed this here. This has always been one of my favorite under-appreciated films of the 1980's.

Here's my latest take on the BD: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome Blu-ray review.

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post #401 of 456 Old 09-23-2017, 08:13 AM
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Paris, Texas (1984), directed by Wim Wenders.

A man wandering in the Texas desert has gone feral. Not vicious, just withdrawn and mute, a face formed by hopelessness and suffering. He visibly flinches when he sees himself in a mirror and heads back out into the wilderness. It takes time to domesticate what has become wild.

The story proceeds in three acts: (1) Travis is collected by his brother who works hard to get him indoors and talking again, (2) their return to LA where Travis must be reacquainted with his young son, and (3) their road trip back to Texas to find Mom.

The story of this shattered family, how it broke apart and how it might be reassembled, is revealed slowly. In some ways it is a western; like The Searchers (1956) after the hero recovers the lost woman and returns her to her family, he turns and heads out again, alone.

A couple of bits I had forgotten:

  • Quite plausibly, the walls on the girls side of the peep show rooms are unfinished with bare insulation. The customers never see it.
  • Sitting at an intersection, left goes to Mom, right back to LA. "Left, Dad", says the kid.

After about 100 credits as a supporting and character actor, the great Harry Dean Stanton finally gets the lead in a role he believes in. Dean Stockwell, used to so many eccentric characters, gets to play a normal guy. Nastassja Kinski gets to be American and we welcome her. Great work from each of them.

Photographed by Wenders' long-time cameraman Robby Müller. I first saw most of these films on video tape and remembered nothing about their visual composition. In the Blu-ray era they are just gorgeous and I am amazed on what those two could do on the day of shooting, picking up beauty as they found it.

I did see this one in the theater, but to me it looks better on home video and also seems to run faster. 2h25m is probably too long for many viewers, but it did not seem overlong to me this time.

Ry Cooder provides a lovely, hurting slide guitar concerto with cantina music on the side. He says the main theme is adapted from Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground by Blind Willie Johnson, 1927.

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion with a meticulous commentary by the director wherein I learn:

  • He had wanted to work with Sam Shepard before but the studio wouldn't allow it because Shepard, although an accomplished playwright, had done no screenplays yet. No one wants to be the first.
  • They wrote the story up to LA and had planned to write the rest while shooting, but Shepard was away on another project. He contributed at a long distance and wrote the peep show dialogue. (An aside: those bits sound like recited playwright-speak to me).
  • All real locations, all direct photography. (The peep show setting was constructed; he said he didn't think anything like that existed in reality).
  • He fell in love with a split-lens and used it as much as possible. It allows both foreground and background to be in focus.
  • He did not storyboard any of the scenes, just got the actors to run through it on the day and worked out the shots with Müller on the spot. Note that what he calls "storyboarding" meant staying up the night before and planning the next day. To others it would imply much more elaborate preparation.
  • Cooder composed while watching the film. He would repeat each reel and play along until he got what he wanted.
  • Stanton made up his own bits of doing dishes, singing Mexican songs, cleaning shoes. (I remember another actor -- was it Kris Kristofferson? -- telling how he got into films: "There was this guy who used to hang out at the bar, singing Mexican songs..." That was Harry Dean).
  • One of those sweaters Kinski wears: Wenders knew what he wanted but couldn't find it. His costumer located it the morning of the scene at a yard sale.
  • He says of Kinksi: we make a film together every ten years, thinking of Wrong Move (1975) and Faraway, So Close! (1993). They were overdue when he recorded the track and are long overdue now.



-Bill
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post #402 of 456 Old 10-02-2017, 03:11 PM
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Re-Animator (1985), directed by Stuart Gordon.

I saw this just once before, probably on a crummy video tape. I remember not liking it much because (a) the gruesomeness is way beyond what I need to see, (b) this is really not representative of Lovecraft's better work, and (c) I wish they would leave the cats out it.

Now, on Blu-ray: it's still excessively gruesome but undeniably funny. To my astonishment I read that critics really liked it. Was there something in the water that year?

Mainly I want to praise Barbara Crampton for a courageous horror/sexploitation performance: stark naked, strapped to a cold metal table, fondled and molested by a decapitated head. ("My mother's favorite scene", she says dryly). What a good sport. She did similar great work the next year in From Beyond (1986) with the same crew.

Revisiting these small 1980s films, I am always shocked and pleased by their natural color. It has become rare in the age of digital color grading.

What I learned from the commentary tracks:

  • Made in 18 days, working all day and all night. The director said he went blind for a while at the end.
  • He researched real morgues and says his depiction is more accurate than most films. No long refrigerator trays, just plastic bags on tables.
  • He says he really doesn't have the stomach for this material, but gets used to it.
  • Similarly, Jeffrey Combs had never done any horror work. Freaked out at the time, he seems like a natural since.
  • If the first reanimated corpse looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger: that's his body double.
  • The original actress dropped out at the last minute, probably because her mother read that special scene in the script.
  • They watched a lot of horror movies to prepare. The director says he was most influenced by Roman Polanski, the camera movements in Rosemary's Baby (1968).
  • They were naive enough to expect an "R" rating and the MPAA just laughed at them. They released it Unrated and surprisingly it got shown and was well-liked by critics.
  • Later Vestron Video did a cut with additional footage to produce an R-rated video tape. Problem: once it was rated it became illegal to show the original unrated version. They had to ask that the R rating be revoked, said to be the first time that ever happened.
  • For the last scene of the glowing serum and the scream in the dark, Gordon credits Stephen King's Pet Sematary -- the book, since the film was not made until four years later.
  • The Herbert West stories were at one time long out of print. It took months for Gordon to get special permission to read them in the rare book collection of the library. (Since then a Lovecraft volume has appeared in the literary Library of America series, where I read the stories. The volume is edited by Peter Straub. Paperbacks have been issued since the movie appeared)
  • Someone gave him valuable insight about the Frankenstein myth: it is about masturbation, the attempt to create life without women. Naturally, it is the female character who sees the flaw in the plan and she is the only one with ethical objections to these loony experiments.

Available on Blu-ray. My thumbnails are from the earlier Image disc; there is a newer Arrow special edition.

The Image disc has several extras, an informative commentary track from the director, and a fun hysterical cast commentary similar to their efforts on the From Beyond (1986) disc: non-stop stories, shout-outs, yelling and screaming at the movie.



-Bill
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post #403 of 456 Old 10-02-2017, 07:25 PM
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  • Similarly, Jeffrey Combs had never done any horror work. Freaked out at the time, he seems like a natural since.
I think Combs might hold the record for the most number of different roles in a TV franchise. He appeared in Star Trek DS9, Enterprise and Voyager and played a total of 6 different roles combined. (4 in DS9)
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post #404 of 456 Old 10-05-2017, 07:04 AM
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The Hit (1984), directed by Stephen Frears.

Criterion DVD. The edited gang commentary track has many good stories.



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Good news, everyone! The Hit is available for streaming on Filmstruck.

[Title URL updated to Wikipedia]
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One of my favorites of the 80's (and there were many greats during the 80's).

Not typical slapstick that many comedies of the era were. It was a little bit higher brow if you will.

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post #406 of 456 Old 10-05-2017, 09:38 AM
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Good news, everyone! The Hit is available for streaming on Filmstruck.

[Title URL updated to Wikipedia]
Thanks for the tip about Filmstruck. It had somehow remained below my radar until I saw your post. I just setup my 14 day free trial and started watching The Hit. I am a long time Criterion Collection guy so the Filmstruck + Criterion Channel plan for $99.00 a year after 14 day free trial was in my wheelhouse so I signed up.

I notice that The Hit has only DVD quality. Are there other Criterion Channel titles that have HD quality?
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post #407 of 456 Old 10-05-2017, 11:49 AM
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Thanks for the tip about Filmstruck. It had somehow remained below my radar until I saw your post. I just setup my 14 day free trial and started watching The Hit. I am a long time Criterion Collection guy so the Filmstruck + Criterion Channel plan for $99.00 a year after 14 day free trial was in my wheelhouse so I signed up.

I notice that The Hit has only DVD quality. Are there other Criterion Channel titles that have HD quality?
I believe so. Probably the streams' quality is determined by the master they have available. The stream of Chungking Express seems to be of HD quality.
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post #408 of 456 Old 10-20-2017, 12:31 PM
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Blade Runner (1982), directed by Ridley Scott.

I saw this on opening night at the great Cinerama theater where my moving-going gang saw premiers of all the great science fiction and adventure films of that era: Star Wars (1977), Alien (1979), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and others great and not so great. The theater is long gone now, replaced by a Wells Fargo ice arena.

We had no idea the film was a flop at the time. We were loopy over Ridley Scott for Alien (1979) and this seemed like another work of artistic SF genius.

I've seen it many times since and watched all the different cuts on home video and I don't suppose there is much new to discover. I have a jumbo paperback: Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon. If I were to actually read that and view all the disc extras I would know more about the film, but in this case I like to stick with what is on the screen.

I hadn't seen the theatrical cut for a long time and wanted to give it another look. That first night we complained about the bad voice-over narration and the tacked-on happy ending, but (a) your first time is always special, whatever its flaws, and (b) the narration adds another dimension of weirdness to an already overstuffed creative vision. The Hollywood ending reminds us that we are in a movie-making tradition, not some totally new art form.

I see much more film history context now. We recognized the futuristic skyscraper quotes of Metropolis (1927) and the film-noir detective plot at the time (although now M. Emmet Walsh's lines all sound like cop-movie cliches). I see more comedy: the classic car and punk haircuts in rainy LA always got a laugh, but now Harrison Ford getting beaten up by Brion James and Daryl Hannah seems like comedy action, until the guns come out. Ford hangs off the film-famous Bradbury Building like Harold Lloyd in Safety Last! (1923).

Random notes:

  • Vangelis provides the best synth score of the 80s, with sax and chime additions. That soaring, falling main theme -- decadence at the moment of triumph -- fits the story and images perfectly.
  • The film has its own pace, particularly those leisurely scenes in the apartments.
  • I don't think viewers who have grown up since realize how strange the haircuts and clothing looked at the time.
  • Egyptian themed pyramids with 1940s fashions: that is a combination.
  • The city prefigures William Gibson's Sprawl and much else in written cyberpunk. The future is a mixture of high and low: it doesn't arrive for everyone at the same time.
  • We were fascinated by prospects of physical immortality back then. Dr. Eldon Tyrell, the "god of biomechanics" was a sort of dark lord to us. So far the computer barons are the world's richest men, but the biologists may still get their turn.
  • I've heard that the theory of Deckard being a replicant emerged much later, but we discussed it the first night. Our supporting evidence: the glowing eyes, his estrangement from other people and sympathy for the Nexus fugitives, the photos on his piano as fake memories, and a curious gap in the plot: that there were six replicants, three male and three female. One was killed at the Tyrell building, plus Roy, Leon, Pris and Zhora leaves one missing. Was that Deckard reprogrammed to be a Blade Runner? Against that: he doesn't seem to have great physical strength (does Rachel?) and the others don't recognize him (or do they?)
  • I've heard that the missing sixth replicant was explained in cut scenes or missing script, but we didn't know that at the time. The way Bryant and Gaff treat Deckard: it's very suggestive to me.
  • Leon has photos, too. They are holograms. It took me forever to realize that Rachel's snapshot turns to sound and video when held. I thought it was a magical invocation of her memory implant.
  • In moments of work-related stress we would always quote James Hong: "I just do eyes".
  • Roy, riding the exterior elevator after killing Tyrell, sees stars flowing by. Is that a flashback from his space travel?
  • Hereafter Rutger Hauer would always be the witty Aryan menace.
  • Remember that the escaped Nexus replicants are children: "Gosh, you have a lot of nice toys here".
  • On the run, need money? Both women do sex work. (I'm presuming things about Pris). For a fugitive, Zhora isn't doing a lot of concealment.
  • Is Harrison Ford playing "gay" in Zhora's dressing room? Bogart did the same thing in The Big Sleep (1946).
  • That sex scene with Deckard and Rachel: I have a book Idols of perversity: fantasies of feminine evil in fin-de-siècle culture, which claims the Victorians had a notion of "therapeutic rape". The film comes close to that. (I haven't seen the phrase used elsewhere).

Available on Blu-ray, and the "Final Cut" is now on UHD. My thumbnails are from the old five-disc "Complete Collector's Edition" Blu-ray set.



-Bill
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post #409 of 456 Old 10-20-2017, 04:05 PM
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Bill -- I too have the old 5 disk Complete Collectors Edition of Blade Runner. Last week I bought the UHD HDR TrueHD Atmos Final Cut version. It was nearly a religious experience. It looked startlingly beautiful and its wonderful soundtrack, especially the beautifully eerie Vangelis score, was a sonic delight.

I am a certifiable Blade Runner nerd so I saw Blade Runner 2049 the day it opened. I liked it almost as much as the original so was sickened when it missed its boxoffice expectations by a wide mark. Anyway, the UHD HDR Atmos disk of this one will be a day one buy for me.

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The Adventures of Mark Twain (1985), produced and directed by Will Vinton.

Mark Twain pilots a magical airship to rendezvous with Halley's Comet: "I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year and I expect to go out with it" (which in fact he did in 1910).

Kids stowaway and have adventures from excerpts from several of his stories, the longest and funniest of which explores the domestic life of Adam and Eve. A truly bizarre, unsettling episode features the "Mysterious Stranger", a masked faceless Satan who delivers cryptic notes on the nature of humanity.

This is a Claymation feature directed by the creator of that medium with a screenplay by his wife. You can tell the makers are Twain enthusiasts who put in a lot of details that are going to fly by the kids. The characterizations are good:

  • Mark Twain: his sardonic, pessimistic wit revealing loneliness and despair. He is proud at having been a riverboat pilot.
  • Tom Sawyer: lively, somewhat cruel imagination, always complicating his plots to match his literary fantasies.
  • Huck Finn: large-hearted saintly kindness.
  • Becky Thatcher: I don't recall if she is given much character in the books. Here, Twain calls her "Angel Fish". In reality during his last years an "Angel Fish Club" of girl fans served as his surrogate granddaughters. You can see how he supplemented their education:



The airship looks like a combination balloon and Mississippi riverboat. When they need to lighten the load he ejects the experimental typesetting machine; he lost a fortune on that.

I had never heard of this before a friend loaned me the DVD. The Claymation adds a whole dimension of weirdness: on the one hand -- like Ray Harryhausen's stop motion effects -- it seems like a rudimentary craft. On the other the artists employ amazing inventiveness. It is great for fantasy transformations, sometimes humorous but often not.

James Whitmore provides the voice of Twain.

Available on Blu-ray, although my thumbnails are from the DVD.



-Bill
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post #411 of 456 Old 11-09-2017, 07:24 AM
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Absolutely never heard of that one. Looks interesting.
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post #412 of 456 Old 11-09-2017, 07:36 AM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
The Adventures of Mark Twain (1985), produced and directed by Will Vinton.

Mark Twain pilots a magical airship to rendezvous with Halley's Comet: "I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year and I expect to go out with it" (which in fact he did in 1910).

Kids stowaway and have adventures from excerpts from several of his stories, the longest and funniest of which explores the domestic life of Adam and Eve. A truly bizarre, unsettling episode features the "Mysterious Stranger", a masked faceless Satan who delivers cryptic notes on the nature of humanity.

This is a Claymation feature directed by the creator of that medium with a screenplay by his wife. You can tell the makers are Twain enthusiasts who put in a lot of details that are going to fly by the kids. The characterizations are good:

  • Mark Twain: his sardonic, pessimistic wit revealing loneliness and despair. He is proud at having been a riverboat pilot.
  • Tom Sawyer: lively, somewhat cruel imagination, always complicating his plots to match his literary fantasies.
  • Huck Finn: large-hearted saintly kindness.
  • Becky Thatcher: I don't recall if she is given much character in the books. Here, Twain calls her "Angel Fish". In reality during his last years an "Angel Fish Club" of girl fans served as his surrogate granddaughters. You can see how he supplemented their education:



The airship looks like a combination balloon and Mississippi riverboat. When they need to lighten the load he ejects the experimental typesetting machine; he lost a fortune on that.

I had never heard of this before a friend loaned me the DVD. The Claymation adds a whole dimension of weirdness: on the one hand -- like Ray Harryhausen's stop motion effects -- it seems like a rudimentary craft. On the other the artists employ amazing inventiveness. It is great for fantasy transformations, sometimes humorous but often not.

James Whitmore provides the voice of Twain.

Available on Blu-ray, although my thumbnails are from the DVD.

-Bill
Doing some research here, found and interesting tidbit. Will Vinton's studio in Portland is now Laika Studios, the company that released the movies Coraline, Paranorman, The Boxtrolls, and Kubo and the Two Strings. Like Will, Laika has been advancing stop motion technology with each film. Personally I enjoy their work far more than most CGI animation today. I think I'll pick up a few of the Vinton films.
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post #413 of 456 Old 11-20-2017, 07:20 PM
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The Moderns (1988), written and directed by Alan Rudolph.

Nick Hart is an American artist living in Paris, not selling many paintings and reduced to drawing caricatures for a gossip columnist. Complicating his life: he has a chance to make some money forging paintings for a rich woman who wants to put one over on her cheating husband. Then of all the cafes and coffee houses in Paris, in walks his own long-fled wife with another husband, the fierce condom magnate.

Not too heavy, done with a light sardonic touch, a fantasy of quiet wit and a little boxing. This and two others directed by Rudolph are among my favorites of the 1980s: Choose Me (1984) and Trouble in Mind (1985). The Moderns is currently the only one of the three on Blu-ray.

I think of them as a trilogy, even though they are nothing alike in theme or plot, just all made during the creative burst of a few years. Same director, each has Keith Carradine and Geneviève Bujold, and all were produced by Alive Films, the indie outfit which also gave us El Norte, Koyaanisqatsi, Stop Making Sense, Insignificance (1985), The Hit (1984), A Private Function and Kiss of the Spider Woman.

For a certain generation Paris in the 1920s is a lodestone, a creative nexus never equaled. Plenty of expatriate Americans artists and writers in a place where it didn't matter if you were broke. You could still work and party and feel alive.

Is that really how it was? And how long did it last? This is set at that moment when Lost Generation Paris had been "discovered" and the tourists, poseurs and phonies were moving in. Which the film uses: this is the fantasy Paris, with stock footage of the time but actually made in Montreal, with obvious painted backdrops and little Eiffel Towers out the windows. "Forgery" is the theme: who can detect the real paintings? What is life and what the imitation?

Our players:

  • Keith Carradine: our artist, tough enough, the most grounded of the characters. His father was an art forger.
  • Linda Fiorentino: his reappeared wife, awkward and drinking too much. She has a degrading, uncomfortable-looking passion scene in a bathtub. Later she tells Hart: "Not in the tub. Trust me".
  • John Lone: her rich new husband, volcanicly intense, jealous and dominating. Wants to buy his way into society and is secretly uncertain and self-doubting.
  • Geneviève Bujold: former nun, now a friendly if unscrupulous art dealer. Knows everyone.
  • Kevin J. O'Connor: young Ernest Hemingway, published but still inventing his tough guy persona. He tends to speak in pithy but meaningless aphorisms. Hemingway's A Moveable Feast -- not published until after his death -- is a memoir of that time.
  • Geraldine Chaplin: the rich and treacherous spurned wife who needs the forgeries.
  • Wallace Shawn: the brainy and comical gossip columnist: "If it weren't for me they'd think surreal was a breakfast food" and "Paris is finished. Let's go to Hollywood where the pictures move".

Carradine did one of the painting copies himself. Their professional artist arrived and said: "It's perfect. What do you need me for?" Carradine also made the film poster, an adaptation of a period painting:



Inspired score by Mark Isham. He sometimes brings up this lovely gamelan beat from underneath. The 1980s were a time of beautiful percussion, like Moroder's Afro-pop texture in Cat People (1982).

Isham also features that French tune I can never recall, and will link here as an aid to memory:


It was written in 1930; the movie is set in 1926.

Available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory. A thoughtful 1h36m making-of feature has memories by Rudolph, Carradine, and producer Carolyn Pfeiffer.

They'd been wanting to make this film for years. Rudolph called it "the most rejected script in Hollywood" and it lost money. Speaking about a scene were some paintings are thrown on the fire: "Making movies is like that. We put everything we have into them and no one sees them".



-Bill
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post #414 of 456 Old 12-06-2017, 07:33 AM
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Stormy Monday (1988), written, scored and directed by Mike Figgis.

We assemble our cast in Newcastle, an old industrial town "up north", spiffed up for this film with neon nightlife and extra jazz clubs. We have:

  • Two thugs in a Jaguar, up from London to get a club owner to sign some papers.
  • The club owner is Sting in his best film performance. Cool, cynical, sincere about jazz and dangerous when he needs to be.
  • Melanie Griffith, waitress and reluctant sex worker, persuading local politicians to cooperate with her boss...
  • ...Tommy Lee Jones, menacing and in a hurry to complete his property developments with the local Thatcherite forces.
  • Young Sean Bean, new in town, thin and sensitive and not a tough guy here, crossing paths and tangled up with everyone else.

It is not a complicated plot, but it doesn't need to be. We explore the characters and their interactions, watch the night life and listen to the jazz. It is intense enough when the big wheels start to roll. In a crime film people are going to get hurt.

Photographed by Roger Deakins. Mournful jazz score by the director. B.B. King performs the title song over the closing credits.

Available on Blu-ray from Arrow. Not a lot of high def detail on this one, but it is an upgrade from my old DVD flipper disc.

The commentary track is a frank conversation with the director. This was his first feature film and a Newcastle homecoming for both him and Sting.

He put in much biographical experience. He played in jazz bands and was a janitor at clubs. That bit where London hard men come to town and are turned around by the local tough guys: it really happened, although the bone-breaking gear was his invention for the film.

Melanie Griffith was their star and had a veto over her leading man. Tim Roth was not handsome enough but Sean Bean passed muster. Her character claims to be from "New Ulm, MN", the birthplace of Tippi Hedren, Griffith's mother.

Tommy Lee Jones was a bit scary and stormed out saying he hadn't realized the film would be so anti-American. Figgis argued that wasn't the case and says people generally like American culture (the music, say) but do resist business and political domination. He quotes John Lennon: "First time anyone hears Elvis Presley they become American".



-Bill
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post #415 of 456 Old 01-09-2018, 08:23 AM
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Flesh + Blood (1985), directed by Paul Verhoeven.

When mercenaries, promised loot and pillage of a town they have taken, are betrayed by their captain they strike out on their own and become land pirates. They have their own women and a crazed omen-seeking Cardinal who makes them zealous but crazed religious bandits.

I saw bits of this on cable long ago and remember it being really nasty. It still is, but is an odd combination of romantic action/adventure with filthy sadism and violent sexploitation. Verhoeven confessed a cynical outlook and intended an "apocalyptic" story. We're not cheering for anyone shown.

Seeing the poster:



...audiences were probably expecting a fantasy like Ladyhawke (1985) (Rutger Hauer again!) or Krull (1983), or maybe something slightly edgier like Excalibur (1981).

Instead they got:

  • A stillborn baby, buried in a mud puddle.
  • A nun, accidentally slashed in the skull with a sword, suffers seizures and convulsions thereafter.
  • Young lovers having a meet-cute beneath the legs of rotting hanging men. They dig up the aphrodisiac mandrake root, which we are told grows from the final emission of a dying man.
  • Kidnapping and gang-rape of the young woman...
  • ...who has to pretend to enjoy it so she can ingratiate herself with the leader, surviving and biding her time.
  • Appearance of the Plague, where a man hugs a child and unknowingly bursts a large pustule and smears the infected fluid on his face. ("That was too much", admitted the director).
  • A dog laps up infected blood, sickens, is killed and dismembered and the pieces flung over over the castle wall and down a well to serve as an early bio-weapon.
  • The young woman's betrothed is captured, chained like a dog and used for target practice.

(The film was much edited to get an R rating, so I don't know how much of the above was shown in the US theaters).

And yet: we have Jennifer Jason Leigh (age 23) lovely when she's cleaned up and sporting with Rutger Hauer in the hot tub, surrounded by romantic candles. As always I am floored by the courage of actresses willing to give their all to these difficult roles, in this case scenes of rape and complete nudity.

And as is often the case, I am conflicted. Erotic displays in film have their appeal but the violence and general nastiness of the context make it seem wrong and guilt-inducing.

After all that, the film does turn into a over-the-top fantasy in the final act, with an impossible da Vinci-inspired siege engine, a statue of a saint that falls and stabs our crazed Cardinal, and lightning striking a tree and melting the iron chain of our young lover. (Verhoeven: "We lost the sense of reality there. Actually, we lost it in several places").

Rutger Hauer and Brion James are reunited from Blade Runner (1982). Also with a small part and slight nudity is Nancy Cartwright, later a voice actress well known for The Simpsons.

Basil Poledouris score. Filmed in Spain.

Available on DVD; not a very good image. This is the complete cut. When released in theaters a lot of nudity, violence and sexual violence had been removed to get an R rating.

The director gives a non-stop commentary track. This was his first American picture and his fifth and last with Rutger Hauer.

He says it took him a while to learn how to make American movies. That form requires clean heroes and happy endings. When making a European film he doesn't mind showing everyone as just plain bad, doing whatever Darwin or Nietzsche requires to survive.

Orion Pictures put up most of the money and insisted on story changes, which may be the source of the inconsistent tone. For Verhoeven it was about the betrayed friendship between Rutger Hauer and his captain; the studio wanted a romantic triangle between Hauer, Leigh, and her betrothed.

He had seen Leigh in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and tested her for the part, warning her about the extreme sex and violence, and he praises her for her courage and sense of adventure. She defended the film and objected to the theatrical cuts.



-Bill
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post #416 of 456 Old 02-13-2018, 07:08 AM
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The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989), written and directed by Steve Kloves.

Two brothers (Beau and Jeff Bridges) have had a nightclub piano act all their adult lives. Scraping by, making a living, one is pretty happy with the life. The introverted younger brother hates it. He is a skilled, perhaps inspired jazz pianist, but lacks the courage to strike out on his own.

The catalyst for their split is new singer Michelle Pfeiffer, a former professional escort with no lack of courage.

Want to make a film without much money? First time director? With a good script, good casting and an experienced cinematographer you can still make a great movie. Both funny and a little sad, but without bleakness. An invocation of club life, both elegant and shabby, and the contrast of talent and mediocrity. Do they make them like this anymore?

Score by Dave Grusin who also dubs Jeff Bridges' piano. (Both brothers could really play, which helps their performances).

Set in Seattle and partly filmed there.

Available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time.

The first commentary track has Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo interviewing the director:

  • This was his first film as director and he praises the cast and crew for supporting him.
  • Sydney Pollack was one of the producers in his corner, defending him from the studio and letting him do it his own way.
  • He directed only one other film and is chiefly a writer, most notably for the Harry Potter movies.
  • He resisted casting acting brothers to play brothers, but when Jeff Bridges introduced him to Beau he was sold.
  • All the actors who read the script loved it and all the studios hated it, wanting a much happier Hollywood ending. And: "Must star someone from Saturday Night Live..."
  • Afterwards Michelle Pfeiffer brought him Thelma and Louise but he was busy with other things.
  • He points out that Pfeiffer has a good voice, but not a professionally great one. (She had record offers after, which she thought was ridiculous). Her talent was to act the hell out of the lyrics. A better voice would have turned the picture into a fantasy.

The second commentary track is by cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, made for DVD ten years after the film. It is sometimes intermittent ("I get caught up watching the film", he says) but has often interesting details on lighting and lenses, and the creative interchange while making a good movie like this one.

He says the brothers really fought during the fight scene. Jeff drank a little to get into the mood and Beau got a broken finger.

"People sometimes comment on my style. I try not to have one. Every film is different".



-Bill
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post #417 of 456 Old 02-28-2018, 10:59 AM
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2010 (1984), written, produced, photographed and directed by Peter Hyams.

As the tense US and USSR draw near to World War III, the abandoned Discovery still orbits Jupiter, with HAL shut down and last survivor Dave Bowman absent and presumed dead. Mysteriously, the spacecraft has begun to move. Must be the unknown Monolith-makers, right? Time to risk a joint mission to determine what the hell is going on.

I've always defended this sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). No, it is not a landmark film like Kubrick's original. Yes, the tone is different and it lacks the metaphysical strangeness of the first movie, but it has heart and excitement without villains, and a positive ending still rooted in mystery.

Adapted from a book by Arthur C. Clarke. I've always thought of this a Clarke movie, where the original was more Kubrick. Clarke has a cameo as the old guy feeding pigeons in front of the White House.

It is great that Keir Dullea and Douglas Rain (voice of HAL) return from the earlier film.

Roy Scheider is a favorite actor of those years. His Heywood Floyd is a different character than in the first film, where he was much more sinister, a political operator.

I like Helen Mirren as the Russian spaceship captain. I'm pretty sure Chandra was supposed to be from India in the book, but here we get geeky lemur-like Bob Balaban.

With a recent rewatch the production seems creakier. The technical features are still pretty good, much aided by recent space probe photos of the time. The script and even the line readings just seem "off". The acting is very old-school "let's talk out the plot". Maybe the director was wearing too many hats.

The long spacewalk sequence and buddy-bonding experience of John Lithgow and Elya Baskin: awww, that's sweet.

Notes:

  • You know you are on a Russian spacecraft when you see those huge serious buttons.
  • This is not a horror film but the design influence of Alien (1979) is obvious. The silhouetted characters sitting around the crew table have always seemed to suggest the unknown alien presence.
  • When Max puts on a helmet and we have those vivid color reflections: that brings back the first film.
  • As is inevitable: the computers are both antiquated and futuristic.
  • In the theater people were sniggering about Chandra's affection for and loyalty to HAL, but I understood completely. Back then we had emotional bonds with computers just as some people do with cars and boats. That's faded out now as the machines have become disposable appliances.
  • In a contest of science vs politics, SF stories are generally going to side with the scientists, as here. Not always: in The Thing from Another World (1951) some of the scientists are dangerously delusional.
  • We're still talking about possible life on Europa, still making movies about it, as in Europa Report (2013).
  • It is supposed to be understood that not all areas of the two spacecraft are spun for simulated gravity, but they don't always do enough to present this. A bit where Scheider suspends a weightless pen comes out of nowhere.
  • Going "full thrust" with Chandra still outside on a rope: it's exciting, but was that really necessary?

According the wikipedia article, critical reception was "mixed to positive" at the time. I remember it being not so well liked by critics. That was the first time I heard "I will never trust a movie reviewer again" from someone I went with.

Available on Blu-ray. The grain is often prominent, the blacks could be better and the color is desaturated in spots. Maybe some of this is in the source; I don't remember the theater experience clearly enough to say, other than it seemed spectacular at the time.



-Bill

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post #418 of 456 Old 02-28-2018, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
Available on Blu-ray. The grain is often prominent, the blacks could be better and the color is desaturated in spots. Maybe some of this is in the source; I don't remember the theater experience clearly enough to say, other than it seemed spectacular at the time.
Pretty much everything Hyams ever photographed was underlit and grainy. That's just the way he liked it, I guess.

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post #419 of 456 Old 03-06-2018, 07:12 PM
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I coincidentally watched an earlier film by Peter Hyams on Amazon Prime Video: CAPRICORN ONE, the film that I enjoyed a huge theater (San Francisco's Northpoint Theater, one of Coppola's and Lucas' two favorites) -- twice! -- despite it being clunky, plot holes you could glide a Space Shuttle through, and having a pretty intense performance from James Brolin. When I heard he was doing 2010, I groaned, gave up hope for another interesting, thoughtful film (not like Kubrick's, but intelligent like the book, which I had read). It was exciting, very very well done, unhurried, visually stunning. I thought it ironic that Kubrick had ordered the 2001 models destroyed so that a sequel couldn't be quickly churned out (though the orbiting space station and Aries 1-B have since turned up), but then here we are, a red-dust covered Discovery spinning in Jupiter orbit (explained that the centrifuge had seized up, causing it to start spinning).

My recollection from the book and the movie was that Discovery's orbit was decaying, so they were running out of time to get to it and retrieve data before it splashed down into the planet, beyond hope of recovery. The Russians were already prepping a mission, and the Americans wouldnt' make it in time. That's why Heywood Floyd, Dr. Chandra, and Roberta Muldoon went along as guests.

In all I came to appreciate and enjoy the film as a standalone story that continues the plot of the first film in a style that doesnt' have to ape the first film. Enormously intimidating, following up 2001, and Hyams made it work.
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When Harry Met Sally... (1989), directed by Rob Reiner.

I've often confused three films I saw only once when they were new: this one, Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and You've Got Mail (1998).

  • All three star Meg Ryan.
  • Two star Tom Hanks (who would team with Ryan again in Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), although that is not likely to be confused with the others).
  • All three were written by Nora Ephron, who also directed two and produced two.
  • Rob Reiner directs one and appears in one.

I've rewatched them all recently and the first is still the best. Like most people I remember the cross country drive and the later "how to fake an orgasm" demo (they say a sign marks the spot in the restaurant now) but it has much more good stuff. Two people changing over the years, particularly Billy Crystal going from "a man can't be friends with a woman, he's always thinking about having sex with her", to actually having a woman as his best friend and then (O! the vicious irony) falling into bed with her and regretting it.

"Why can't people have sex with their friends?" asks the innocent free-thinker, to which anyone has been around for five minutes will respond with "DANGER! DANGER! It's trap! Don't go down there, fool!"

Great chemistry between Ryan and Crystal. Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby are the other couple.

I think Crystal gives a particularly fine performance here. Normally he has a smart-ass persona, but we see him grow out of that and become a better person. Watch him in the restaurant orgasm scene, his loving "ok, you got me" expression.

Appealing photography by Barry Sonnenfeld.

Available on Blu-ray with a lovely image.



-Bill
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Last edited by wmcclain; 04-02-2018 at 11:43 AM.
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