Monday, June 30, 2014

The World is Not Enough (1999)


The 19th Bond film is okay but has some major flaws both in casting and storytelling.  The film starts off well enough with Bond looking for the killer of a fellow agent in Bilbao, interrogating a Swiss banker who is killed before he can talk by his secretary.  Said secretary then kills Sir Robert King, an old friend of M's which kicks off a quite excellent boat chase between her and Bond.  Really, if you just take the first fifteen minutes if the film on their own, they make for a pretty damn good movie alone.  Sadly, the film can't really follow it.

Bone ends up on the trail of Renard (Robert Carlyle), a notorious terrorist who has a bullet lodged in his skull that somehow makes him impervious to pain.  This isn't really played up much outside of a few scenes and along with this, Bond falls for Sir Robert's daughter Elektra (Sophie Marceau) who turns out to be in league with Renard.  Aided by an atomic scientist named Christmas Jones (Denise Richards), Bond races to stop the villains from causing a nuclear disaster in Turkey.

The big problem with the movie is how uneven it is.  On the one hand, you have a fairly serious tale about Bond avenging the death of M's friend which was also an attack on MI6 itself.  The Elektra subplot fits in here as well and it is all played fairly straight.  Not exactly well, but straight.

The big problem here is that while Pierce Brosnan is a capable actor and a fine 007, he overplays the stuff with Elektra.  He's supposed to fall for her based on a photo of her in a news article about her being rescued from Renard who kidnapped her.  Brosnan isn't the most subtle actor when the script is good, let alone when it's a bad one as we have here.  Bond can work when given a streak of humanity, in fact it's sort of essential if we are to root for him, but it really works better when done in a low key manner.

On the decidedly not low key side of things, we have the stuff with Renard which is okay (Renard is sort of a boring character and Carlyle doesn't really do much with the part) but what really shoots the film to hell is the casting of Denise Richards.

The character as a concept is not bad but the casting of Richards is just wrongheaded in the extreme.  In a film where you are putting out a fairly serious story, it doesn't really work to have a Bond Girl with a cheesy name played by an actress best described as "eye candy".  Richards doesn't do anything really awful save for a horrid line reading during the finale but to be honest, the dialogue is so haphazardly handles that even Meryl Streep would have trouble making it sound good.

Another issue the film has is some rather bad action scenes.  Apart from the opening stuff and a rather neat bit with helicopters with huge saw blades hanging from them at a caviar factory owned by Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane who was earlier in Goldeneye), the action sequences are blandly shot, as is the rest of the film.  There is a ski chase that falls flat and the finale on a submarine tries like hell to make suspense but with a bland villain like Renard it's really hard to give a crap.

There are things in the film after the first fifteen minutes that do work.  Sophie Marceau makes for a pretty solid villain, giving Elektra sort of a petulant demeanor that is interesting but her scenes with Bond don't quite fly like they should.  It's probably not a good thing that the best scene they have together is the one where Bond shoots her in the chest. The regulars to the series are good of course, Judi Dench is solid as M.  The problem is that the script does them no favors at all.  I'm not even going to mention the John Cleese cameo because anytime the man doesn't make me laugh... Well, let's just say that if he had a larger role, based on how not funny he is here, this film would be getting an even lower rating.

The World is Not Enough is a pretty disappointing outing for 007 with a weak, uneven script and one really poor casting choice.  The action is only good occasionally and the villains aren't quite up to snuff.  The film is let down by its script, from which elements would later be used to much better effect in Skyfall.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

1977: The Best

Finishing the year off with another ten greats.

10. Smokey and the Bandit

By sheer force of will and thanks to a certain freshness in the material, this ended up being one of the better films of the year.  Burt Reynolds' first film with Hal Needham as director is a good-natured, admittedly stupid movie that benefits from an easygoing Reynolds performance and, a relatively charming one from Sally Field and an absolute work of comic brilliance from Jackie Gleason as a Texas lawman out to get Bandit (Reynolds) because his son's would be fiance (Field) as run out on the wedding and coincidentally hopped into Burt's Trans-Am.  There's nothing deep to be found here, just an honest good time.

9. Dot and the Kangaroo

This is one I loved as a kid and even today, it's still pretty damn great.  A wonderful mix of animation with live action, this is a terrific (though understandably dated) family film about a little Australian girl lost in the Outback who is protected by a red kangaroo.  Intended as a way to introduce kids to the eclectic wildlife Australia has to offer (since it is for kids, no mention of how just about everything there can be utterly lethal), this has some beautiful cinematography and some good songs (the song about the mythical Bunyip always creeped me out as a kid).  Dot and the Kangaroo is just one of those films that tells a simple story and works beautifully.

8. Suspiria

And from a lovingly rendered kids movie, we now examine one of the best horror movies Dario Argento ever made. I am nothing if not a man of eclectic tastes.  Just as well made as the previous film on the list, Suspiria is a wonderfully creepy supernatural slasher film about murders at a dance academy that tie in with an ancient coven of witches.  Argento directs with his usual style, the score by Goblin is quite good and there are some very good sequences of horror throughout.

7. The Duellists

Ridley Scott's feature debut is an intriguing period drama about two French military officers who get into a long feud over a perceived insult that takes place over several years and involves many duels.  Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine are solid as the soldiers with Keitel really coming off well as a bitter, determined man who is probably a little too obsessed with the idea of personal honor for his own good.  Ridley Scott shows a keen eye for detail even at this early stage and the overall effect is a wonderfully staged, interesting drama.

6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind

While it will never be my favorite Spielberg film (Teri Garr has always just annoyed me), Close Encounters of the Third Kind is still one of the best films about U.F.O.s ever made.  Richard Dreyfuss is good as the obsessive lead, the rest of the cast is solid (I'll even give Teri Garr credit as her character was supposed to be an unlikable shrew) and the f/x are quite good.  Just a damn good movie.

5. The Gauntlet

One of the few times Clint Eastwood has gone for the "big, dumb action movie" route, The Gauntlet is basically a cheerfully violent late 70's action flick with Clint as a down and out Phoenix cop charged with escorting a hooker played by the inevitable Sondra Lock (from 1976 to 1983 at least) to a trial where she will testify against some unknown but very powerful villains.  Things go less than smoothly and it turns into sort of a buddy picture a the two go on the run from cops who are hell-bent on rubbing them out.  It's not that smart but it's a hell of a lot of fun as Clint has fun with his tough guy persona and we get some nice action set pieces, especially the huge climax where Clint steers a city bus through a gauntlet of fellow officers.

4. Master of the Flying Guillotine

Really terrific martial arts film about a one-armed martial arts master who enters a tournament full of the usual eccentric fighters one tends to find in this sort of film while also staving off the blind assassin whose students he killed some time previous.  The assassin wields the titular flying guillotine, a remarkably nasty weapon that is utterly cool.  Great fight scenes make this one one hell of a ride.

3. Slap Shot

The best comedy, not to mention the best sports film of 1977 is Slap Shot.  It's a rowdy, wonderfully profane comedy about a struggling minor league hockey team led by Paul Newman in one of his best roles as he resorts to some hilariously brutal rough house tactics to win games.  It's a winning mixture of humor, violence and a little drama with a great Newman performance and a fun supporting cast.

2. Star Wars

The one that started it all.  Star Wars is, at its heart, a fun tribute to all those serials from the 40's and 50's with some awesome for the time special effects and a winning cast.  Not a hell of a lot more to say here except that the only reason this is in second place is because number one is just that damn good.

1. The Spy who Loved Me

The tenth James Bond film is simply the best of the year.  A huge, sprawling action epic, it takes our hero from one end of the world to the other as he fights to stop an insane billionaire from starting World War 3 and destroying the surface world.  Roger Moore turns in his best performance as Bond, Richard Kiel is a terrific henchman and the action is simply breathtaking.  It's just a fantastic movie.

And that's it for 1977.  Great year for film with a ton of variety.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

1977: Guilty Pleasures

Three quickies and an epic here.  Quite frankly, this entire post is merely an excuse for me to finally watch the last movie I'll be talking about here.

Charles Band and Christopher Lee make for an interesting combo in this somewhat offbeat flick about strange radio signals being linked to disasters, a convent run and populated by aliens and of course, the potential end of the planet.  It's a weird one and the f/x are endearingly cheap.  Lee is the best reason to watch this and I gotta say, it moves quite well considering other Band fare of the period.
Chuck Norris's first starring role is an agreeably cheesy b-grade martial arts/trucker film with Big Bad Chuck as a trucker who goes to a small town run by the obligatory corrupt official to rescue his younger brother.  It gets a little pretentious towards the end (the final fight is in slow motion for no real reason other than the director wanting to seem 'arty') but for the most part, this one is quite easy to sit through.

I've written so much about this, it almost seems redundant to do so again.  Let';s just say it's one of the most amazingly fun bad movies you will ever see as Richard Harris goes up against a huge killer whale in a re-working of Death Wish with the whale in the Charles Bronson role..

And here is the main event, folks.  The ultimate guilty pleasure of 1977 and maybe of all time.  In 1973, The Exorcist grabbed audiences by the throat and scared the piss out of them, rocking them to their very core (Dramatic, ain't I?).  In 1977, a sequel came out and... Well, the folks who saw it certainly were affected by it.  Laughing in the aisles certainly counts.

Exorcist II: The Heretic is one of the great Bad Movies.  Directed by John Boorman (who apparently didn't think much of the first one or horror in general), it is an amazingly ludicrous movie that posits that even after all the crap that went on in the last twenty minutes or so of the first movie, whatever was inside of Regan (Linda Blair) is still there.  The overall effect is not unlike paying a couple hundred to get your car working only for it to break down a few days later.

Just about everything in this movie is insufferably silly from the overdone hammy over and underacting by Richard Burton and Louise Fletcher (Burton plays a priest investigating the events of the film and Fletcher is Regan's shrink), to the notion that the Mesopotamian demon inside Regan was drafted by Satan to possess and off some legit decent near-saintly folks to the hilarious conclusion that sees both Burton and Linda Blair hamming it up so bad it defies comprehension.

Honestly, this one should really be on the worst of the year list but it's so hypnotically, wonderfully bad that it just entertains the hell out of me.  I'm not sure you will get more laughs out of the best horror/comedy than this supposed "serious" horror movie. Dear lord, what an experience!

It's a real treasure trove of hilarious delights from the revelation that the first exorcism Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) performed that nearly killed him (mentioned in the first film) probably did so in part because the site of the ritual was at the top of a huge mountain to the utterly bizarre James Earl Jones supporting part as the now grown scientist who was the aforementioned exorcism subject.  There is far too much to laugh at for me to adequately describe, it really has to seen for itself.

Coming soon: The Best of 1977

Friday, June 27, 2014

You Only Live Twice (1967)

The fifth Bond movie is a solid, wild yet somewhat uneven extravaganza.  By the fifth entry in the series, Sean Connery was getting more than a little tired of things, the emphasis on gadgets in the previous film being part of the issue.  You Only Live Twice is one I enjoy quite a bit, though it does have some issues.  Let's take a closer look.
  • First off, the film tends to lapse into a problem many follow-ups to huge hits have in that it has a pressing need to top what came before.  To be fair, there are some areas where this happens but not enough.
  • Another issue the movie has is one of pacing.  The film runs just under 117 minutes and while there is a heavy amount of action, there are times when you feel every minute of the running time.  The whole spectacle of it all tends to overshadow the plot in a few spots.
  • The setup is good with an American space capsule being swallowed up by a huge rocket that turns out to be deployed by SPECTRE as part of their plan to start Word War 3.  The Russians lose a capsule the same way later and if this sounds familiar, it's because it not only was re-done in The Spy who Loved Me but it was also reworked for Moonraker and Tomorrow Never Dies.
  • Having Bond fake his death is a fun twist before the main titles.  The title tune by Nancy Sinatra is also good.  The faked death ploy is just enjoyably ridiculous for something that is merely supposed to get Bond a little breathing room while he's on assignment.
  • Charles Gray is amusing in his brief role as Bond's contact, Henderson.  We'll see more of him in the seventh movie but for here, he's charming as usual.  His death also leads to a nice foot pursuit and my favorite fight in the film as Bond tails the killer to the office of Mr. Osato (Teru Shimada), a businessman SPECTRE is using where he has a spirited fight with a gigantic man played by Peter Maivia, grandfather of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
  • Tetsuro Tamba is quite good as Tanaka, Bond's main contact.  He plays the role with considerable charm and ends up turning in the best performance as far the good guys go.  Connery is sort of on auto-pilot.
  • Fairly decent trio of Bond Girls this outing.  Mie Hama doesn't make much of an impression as main Bond Girl (really just by default since we don't even learn her name before the end credits) Kissy Suzuki.  She's a member of the Japanese Secret Service and... Well that's it, really.  Akiko Wakabayashi makes more of an impression as Bond's first contact in Japan, giving a fun performance but sadly she ends up getting killed two thirds of the way through.  Karin Dor is okay as Helga, a SPECTRE agent who, after failing to kill Bond, gets fed to the piranhas Blofeld keeps as pets.
  • Osato must have the loudest security cameras I have ever heard.  His meeting with Bond is pretty good and the ensuing car chase followed by a nice running fist fight across the Kobe docks a little later provide some nice moments.  John Barry's great score helps the overall effect.
  • Bond searching for the place the bad guy's rocket landed in the Little Nellie gyrocopter and the ensuing fight with SPECTRE helicopters is a fun sequence.
  • Up to this point, the film has been more or less a run of the mill Bond film with some good action.  The second half of the film is both a fun ride but also sort of drags the film down.
  • First off, the base Blofeld uses is quite simply awesome and one of the most over the top ideas in the entire franchise.  Seriously, a hollowed out volcano from which he can covertly launch rockets to abduct spacecraft?  That's just wonderfully bonkers and production designer Ken Adam makes it appropriately so.
  • The problem comes with how much time we spend on the minutiae of Blofeld's plan.  Like the first Star Trek film, there is a little too much footage of the rocket abducting a Russian craft and landing.
  • Donald Pleasence is quite hammy as Blofeld.  He's nowhere near the genius we see in the books but I gotta say, his performance here is just so brilliantly over the top it's awesome.  He gives the second half of the film a much needed shot of energy.
  • The plan to get Bond into the volcano through a secret entrance is rather contrived and unconvincing.  Disguising him as a Japanese fisherman?  Really, guys?  And I say this in full acknowledgment of some of the oddball crap I've been willing to accept in my time as a movie buff.
  • I like teaming him up with a bunch of ninjas, though.  That's pretty cool.
  • The third act is drawn out a bit little too much for my liking, though it could be the pacing issues the entire second half has that make me feel this way.  It's nicely tense and exciting but it comes off as somewhat arbitrary.
The fifth Bond film has a solid first half but the second half sadly gets bogged down in too much f/x wizardry and scenery ogling.  It's not a bad movie, just a bit of a letdown.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

1977: Honorable Mentions

1977 was a pretty damn good year for film.  So much so, that we're only getting three segments for this series.  No worst or leftovers, just sheer quality all the way.  Let's start with the honorable mentions...

Enjoyable spoof of Alfred Hitchcock films from Mel Brooks.  All the reference you would expect to be there are there and while a little of Brooks' tendency to go overboard does shine through (the man gives himself a frigging musical number), the film is still a solid comedy with good performances from Brooks, Harvey Korman and Cloris Leachman.

The story isn't much (in fact, it's pretty dumb in parts) but the effects work by Ray Harryhausen is top notch.  I always liked these sorts of films when I was a kid (still do, in fact) and they go a long way in covering up the faults in the story.

I wouldn't have given this Best Picture this year but it's still probably Woody Allen's best film overall.  A funny romantic comedy, this has a likable couple in Allen and Diane Keaton; a clever script and a very funny bit part for Christopher Walken.

Solid Don Siegel directed thriller with Charles Bronson as a spy looking to stop mad Russian Donald Pleasence from activating several sleeper agents and causing trouble.  Bronson is cool as usual, the direction is taut and tense and while the film isn't a complete success, it's still pretty damn good.

Pretty damn good aquatic zombie movie about a bunch of folks stranded at sea who run across an island teaming with horrific Nazi zombies.  Peter Cushing is fun as the zombies' former commander and the rest of the cast is adequate.  What really makes this one work is the zombies.  They look creepy and are actually pretty effective.  It's no classic but it's easily the best Nazi zombie movie you are likely to find, though given how bad the others in this sub genre are, that might be damning with faint praise.

I quite like this Charles Bronson western about Wild Bill Hickok (Bronson) going after a mysterious, possibly supernatural gigantic white buffalo that haunts his dreams.  This Dino DeLaurentiis production is an interesting one with some nice surreal imagery, good work from Bronson and Will Sampson as Crazy Horse who teams up with Chuck to off the beast and some reasonably entertaining action set pieces.  The buffalo isn't exactly convincing but it's good enough for me.

I get a real kick out of this fun Roger Corman production starring David Carradine as a moonshine runner trying to remain independent when a big time gangster (who also happens to be his girlfriend's father) tries to move in on his action.  A  god natured action comedy, it has lively performances all around, some funny bits and a ton of awesome action scenes.  Air boats, cars, you name it and it's here.  Thunder and Lightning isn't deep or even that smart but it sure as hell is fun.

Coming soon: The Guilty Pleasures of 1977

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

1986: The Best

1986 finally wraps up with an eclectic top ten.

 10. From Beyond

The many, many f/x wonders and a solid Jeffrey Combs performance are what make this Stuart Gordon horror flick a great flick for me.  Well paced, well acted (Barbara Cranpton is really good) and fairly creepy (with some great f/x too), From Beyond might not be the best horror movies out there but it's still very, very good.

9. Little Shop of Horrors

An all-star comedy cast heads up this fantastic musical comedy based on the off-Broadway production which was based on the 60's Roger Corman flick about a nerdy florist who comes across a man-eating plant.  Rick Moranis is great in the lead, Steve Martin is quite funny as a sadistic dentist and Bill Murray is great in a cameo that was originally played by Jack Nicholson in the Corman version.  The f/x work on the plant is also incredible.

8. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

The fourth Star Trek movies is a light, fluffy change of pace from the two previous entries which were more dark and serious.  A fun time travel tale, this sees the crew of the Enterprise trying to find some humpback whales in order to save the world from a destructive probe.  Leonard Nimoy directs things with a deft comedic touch and the entire cast has some great funny moments.  I especially love Kirk just dryly observing things.  Not often you get "dryly humorous" Shatner but he's actually pretty damn funny in this one.  Along with the second and third movies, I think this is the best stretch in the entire franchise.  The second film was a stirring action adventure, the third one is more of a character driven piece and the fourth one finally lets the audience relax and have a laugh or twenty.  It's just plain fun.

7. Avenging Force

As with Revenge of the Ninja in 1983, this makes the top ten simply by being 100% completely insane.  Michael Dudikoff stars in this semi-sequel to Invasion U.S.A. (taking over for Chuck Norris) as Matt Hunter who is brought in to help protect his friend, prospective politician Larry (Steve James) from a bunch of racist scumbags led by John P. Ryan in one of his hammiest roles.  The action is great, the performances are... Well, you can guess and the fact that the film pulls no punches (James' entire family is wiped out right before he gets killed) gets it bonus points in my eyes.  This is one of the best things Cannon ever put out.  It's brimming with action and is damn near perfect.

6. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2

The second Texas Chainsaw Massacre film is a surprisingly good, quite funny dark comedy/slasher movie that sees the family of cannibals matched up against a determined DJ played by Caroline Williams and Dennis Hopper as an obsessive lawman out for blood.  Tom Savini's f/x are top notch, Bill Moseley is good for the most part and Hopper is terrific as usual.  I've really come to love this one as it is more or less the same basic premise as the first only played more for laughs than anything else.  It's quite good.

5. Ruthless People

From the guys behind Airplane! comes this wonderfully mean-spirited dark comedy starring Danny DeVito as a rich guy who dearly wants to kill his wife, played by Bette Midler.  One day, she is kidnapped a by a couple (Judge Reinhold and Helen Slater) DeVito screwed over and the rest of the film revolves around him gleefully trying to get her killed while also not alerting the cops to what he's doing.  The four main players are fantastic as is Bill Pullman as the lover of DeVito's mistress who is trying to blackmail him.  It's wonderfully complex plot with a pleasant streak of nastiness that really makes the laughs ht hard.  DeVito and Midler really stand out, however, with screamingly funny performances.  It's a real winner.

4. Heartbreak Ridge

This is one of my favorite Eastwood films as he goes for a rather subtle blend of drama with comedy.  Clint plays Tom Highway, a tough as nails Marine who is tasked with training a bunch of screw-ups.  While this is going on, he;s also trying to rekindle his relationship with ex-wife Marsha Mason while also butting heads with the higher-ups in the Marines who don;t especially like him.  It's a fairly standard plot hut it is executed quite well with funny performances from Clint and others, some nice dramatuic moments and a deft and subtle touch when the inevitable action climax comes up,  In the case if this film, Highway leads his team into Grenada and like the old pro he is, Clint directs the sequence so it doesn't feel too out of place.  It's one of his lesser known films but it's a damn good one.

3. Aliens

Aliens, as I said in my longer review last year, is just as good as the first film in that it works perfectly in an entirely different way.  While the first film was a masterfully crafted slow build of a horror flick, Aliens is a breathtaking thrill ride of an action/horror movie with great performances all around and some great f/x courtesy of Stan Winston.  James Cameron directed things perfectly and this is still probably his best movie.

2. The Fly

If Aliens is my favorite Cameron film, The Fly is my favorite David Cronenberg movie.  A fantastic remake of the 1958 movie, this has great acting from Jeff Goldblum in a rather tricky role and some awesome makeup f/x work from Chris Walas.  Great pacing, an intelligently put together and executed screenplay and a solid, focused trio of performances from Goldblum, Geena Davis and John Getz.  This is the best horror remake around, apart from John Carpenter's The Thing.

1. Big Trouble in Little China

Speaking of Carpenter, Big Trouble in Little China is my pick for the best of the year.  Wild, funny and exciting, this is an astonishing thrill ride with great work from Kurt Russell.  The film is endlessly quotable, the music is great and pretty much everything and everybody involved in it does their job magnificently.  This is one terrific movie.

And that's it for 1986.  A great year for movies.

1986: Guilty Pleasures

Lots of stuff that ended up being good in spite of itself this year.

I generally try not to just give a film a pass because the special effects are good but Stan Winston really outdid himself in this one.  Put pout by Cannon, Tobe Hooper's remake of the 50's original is actually pretty damn entertaining in its own right with the aforementioned great f/x and a creepy performance from Louise Fletcher as a mean teacher who gets even nastier once she's taken over by the aliens.  The film is sort of predictable even if you've never seen the original and to be honest, it does sort of overstay its welcome and degenerate into just noise but it's certainly watchable enough.

I think this is one you have to have seen as a kid in order to really appreciate.  A gloriously silly, stupid comedy from John Landis, this has the awesome pairing of Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short as silent film stares who end up having to do some heroics in a small Mexican town.  The jokes are corny and stupid, I can sort of see why Short wasn't thrilled with his part and like most Landis films, it's a little too long but this one just flat out makes me laugh. 

Stephen King set out to make a really stupid movie and by god, he sure as hell did.  Produced by Dino DeLaurentiis, this one is... Well, it's actually quite bad in a really entertaining way as Emilio Estevez and a bunch of over the top Southern caricatures try to stave off a bunch of berserk vehicles led by a huge truck with a Green Goblin head on the front grille.  It's actually quite bad in some parts but if you can stick with it, it's pretty damn funny.

Stallone and Cannon is a match made in 80's cheese heaven.  I love this amazingly silly Dirty Harry riff with Stallone as the ultimate renegade cop.  The politics are silly, the acting is over the top and the action is pure cheesy goodness, as are the jokes.  This might be the ultimate Stallone flick, save for anything with Rocky or Rambo.

This is one of those movies that by all rights should stink like a wet dog.  Thanks to Eddie Murphy being in the zone during this period, Mel Gibson was initially supposed to star and the film was going to be more serious, the film manages to be funny as hell.  Murphy plays a finder of lost children who ends up going on an Indiana Jones-lite adventure in Tibet.  The plot is silly as hell but thanks to sheer force of will, Eddie Murphy makes it hilarious.

This may very well be the finest film Jim Wynorski has ever made.  Now granted, that's not exactly a big challenge but still!  The film centers around a bunch of teenagers who work at a shopping mall and end up having to fend off the psychotic security robots on duty when they decide to have a party after hours.  The film is just as dumb as it sounds but I have a soft spot for cheesy slasher movies (wait till we get to 1981) and this one has an agreeably campy sensibility to it that makes it a blast to watch.  Good stuff.

As much as I enjoy Cobra, I think I may dig this one even more.  Arnold's follow-up to Commando is something that actually might have worked better with Sly in the lead.  Our muscular hero is brought in to take down a mob boss' organization from the inside and the end result of this is some good action and hilarious bits of Arnold trying to act.  The rest of the cast is good and all in all, Raw Deal is a cheesy good time.

I knocked the film a few months ago, but to be fair, it is one of the funnier ideas for an action movie for all the wrong reasons.  An action drama about an airplane hijacking?  Fairly straightforward.  Throw in a bunch of 70's disaster movie cliches; Chuck Norris on a rocket firing bike, Lee Marvin and Steve James and you have yourself a masterpiece of unintentional hilarity.  The Delta Force is not a great movie and like I said, it would have been better off as a 90 minute film about the three leads shooting everything in sight but what we get is pure Cannon cheese.

This one would have made it elsewhere in the series but there just wasn't space.  Terrorvision is fantastic, though.  An enjoyable Charles Band production, it centers around a suburban family being menaced by a hungry alien that gets pulled into their lives through their new satellite TV dish.  Gerritt Graham is pretty funny as the father, the John Carl Buechler f/x are good and as with most Band films from this period, the humor and pacing works quite nicely.

Make no mistake, this is a bad movie.  I mean a really, really bad movie.  Unintentionally creepy duck f/x, an insipidly repulsive Tim Robbins performance (seriously, it's a wonder he had a career after this), Lea Thompson once again in a really creepy romantic subplot, but despite all that I sort of dig this one.  I've always had a soft spot for the second and third tier superheroes and this film is just amazingly misguided that it ends up being quite watchable for all the wrong reasons.  Good things?  Well, the f/x are good towards the end and Lea Thompson is cute... Even with that hairstyle.

Black Moon Rising is a fine example of the "cool vehicle that doesn't feature as much as it should" sub-genre that I love.  Tommy Lee Jones plays a thief hired to steal an important cassette that has been hidden in an ultra-fast car prototype, stolen by a rival thief played by Linda Hamilton.  Jones is good, as is Robert Vaughn as the bad guy and when the car is actually being used, it's pretty damn cool.  When its not on screen, the film can be a little trying as you just want to see the damn thing again but thanks to Tommy Lee Jones, the film is quite enjoyable all the way through.

Coming soon: The Best of 1986

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

1986: The Worst

The end result of having a ton of films released?  Eventually, you gotta sift through some crap.

This might be the worst thing I've ever seen from Wes Craven.  Ostensibly a sport of re-working of Frankenstein mixed with a little Romeo and Juliet, this is a rather crummy tale about a nerd who brings his dead girlfriend back to life, only for her to come back not exactly "right".  Dumb script, less than great acting, really the only thing in this film worth mentioning is the scene where the girlfriend (played rather nicely by Kristy Swanson) tosses a basketball as mean old lady Anne Ramsey's head so hard it shatters into a million bloody pieces.  Outside of that, this is one is easy to skip.

With a little more energy and imagination, this Indiana Jones cash-in could have made my guilty pleasures list.  As it stands, Firewalker is a fitfully amusing piece of schlock starring Chuck Norris and Louis Gossett as would-be adventurers on the search for gold in Mexico.  The film is intended to be a comedy (though most of the laughs come from stuff that wasn't intended that way) but the problem is that Chuck Norris is about as adept at comedy as he is at acting in general.  This would be fine is the humor worked but it's just one thud after another and we only get one good martial arts scene from Chuck to boot.  I applaud him trying something sort of different but this just stinks.

The second Cannon feature on this list is this quite dull Charles Bronson movie that sees him playing a tough cop on the trail of a vengeful killer played by Carrie Snodgress.  He ends up teaming (unwillingly, naturally), with a young woman played by Kathleen Wilhoite in a truly annoying role and there is absolutely nothing surprising about anything in the film.  Just a complete waste of time.

While I tend to enjoy Dino DeLaurentiis productions in general, this one just stinks like death.  An incredibly stupid premise (it's a sequel to the 1976 King Kong that sees Kong surviving his death via an artificial heart, falling in love with another giant ape and then having to protect her as well as his new child), bad acting from everyone involved and some really bad f/x make this one a real chore.  Even the sheer hilarity of some of the plot elements can't save this one from being a bore.

The big reason this lands on the list is that honestly, it could have been real good.  The materials are there for a really good sequel to the 1982 classic: most of the cast is back, some great f/x, an interesting premise and a creepy as hell villain.  The problem is that the film is compressed into a scant 90 minute running time and feels really, really rushed.  The Freelings, having survived the horrors of the first Poltergeist, find themselves once beset by evil spirits as their new life is torn apart by an insane ghostly preacher named Kane who wants youngest daughter Carol-Ann.  There's some stuff about the youngest daughter and her mother being clairvoyant and some mystical crap here and there but nothing is really developed enough and the film seems more interested in getting to the f/x sequences than giving you interesting characters.  To be fair, they're quite impressive but when you sell your movie as being a look at what's in the other side of our reality, you had better deliver and this one bobbles the ball quite badly.  You can have all the f/x in the world, but if the viewer can't give a damn about what's going on, you're screwed.  It's a damn shame as there is an interesting movie somewhere in this mess.  Wasted potential is, to me at least, far worse than just being bad.

Coming Soon: The Guilty Pleasures of 1986

About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.