Thursday, April 5, 2018

Rogue Male - 1976

Two continuations here.  We got Swingin Seventies boxset as well as 1976 movie marathon.  Double hitter, and if I watched baseball instead of movies, I'd know what that actually means.

I was in a weird mood after I watched Darren Aronofsky's latest film mother!  That movie, hehe, will put you in a fucking strange mood, that's no spoiler warning.  After it ended, I was left in an emotional void of not knowing what "to do".  Also, a little insider news for you guys at home.  I like to challenge myself in new and different ways.  I'm going to go 2 weeks without watching any movies, TV, internet, everything the whole deal.  So I decided to kick in one last Swingin Seventies.

Rogue Male begins and tosses you right into some rifle cross-hairs aimed at the Fuhrer himself Adolf Hitler.  The shot misses.  Behind the gun is Peter O'Toole as Sir Robert Hunter.  He's a British dude, far out of his league and out of his rights to be taking shots at Hitler.  This is before England and Germany were officially at war during WWII, so he's likely to be held responsible for a murder attempt.  His only choice is to flee.

What we have after the setup is an intriguing, well done thriller suspense film.  No, really it is.  I liked this movie.  It does have a tendency towards the typical British stuffiness feel, very Hu-haa and Hrum Hrum.  There's even jokes about wardrobe like 20 times.  But it keeps it interesting enough with constant police evasions, tactical escape, and great acting.

Peter O'Toole is fantastic as Sir Robert Hunter.  We don't know much about him, except that he's got a few close friends, and he used to be high up in British society.  He took this shot at Hitler pretty much only because he "didn't like him" and that suits the film.  Robert is on the run for literally the entire film, holed up in ship cargo containers, and buried under the roots of a tree.  He's a dedicated hero, someone with uncompromising values, even though we as an audience don't know what he's doing and why.  It's an interesting choice, but it works.

The movie is shot well, looks good, and the acting is solid.  I bet with a cleaned up job and if you brought back the original aspect ratio, this would be a movie worth a nice solid DVD release.  And it was made for TV!  The fuck!  These things just don't happen anymore, actual good movies with actual actors made for TV.

Ummm, yeah I dunno.  I feel like I should keep talking, but suffice to say I did like this movie.  It kept me entertained, it never felt like it didn't make sense, and the 100 minutes went by pretty quick.  I give it a full four stars.

The Swimmer - 1968

I was briefly explaining to my friend from Nepal about my taste for movies the other day.  I said, "Saurav, I have lists, literally pages worth of lists of movies to watch.  And books to read.  But my mind is far too frenetic to just go through, watching one, crossing it off, etc etc.  So I'm constantly running across other things that I find that I want to see, and renting them instead."  Case in point is here with The Swimmer.

1968, the same year 2001 A Space Odyssey came out, this little indie feeling drama and character study made it's waves.  Get it?  Waves?  The Swimmer?  Aw fuck you.  C'mon yo, get with the puns.

The Swimmer, as I explained to my movie friend, is a story of modern urban decay, disenfranchisement, and swimming.  What I liked about this movie is obviously going to be many many things, and I'm almost unsure of where to start.  So, the plot...  Burt Lancaster is Ned, a toned and tan socialite in Los Angeles.  In the beginning of the film, he's at a little garden/swimming party, and off in his own world.  He stares across the abyss of Los Angeles, and suddenly declares he can, via pool-hopping, essentially swim all the way home...

And yeah, that's as much development as we get.  He jumps in the pool, swims across, goes out the other side, and begins his walk to the next pool.  There is not a lot of time shown of his foot journeys from pool to pool.  We gather that essentially, this is the rich area of LA in the 60's, and most people would have a pool.  It's also summer, or at least warm-ish, and people are doing things outside.

From there, one can see the film go in many ways.  It seems that Ned knows about everyone.  As he interacts with those he knows and those he doesn't, we learn about him.  Playboy, Don Juan, unhappy, lost in the past, destroyed, haunted, but mostly disconnected is the feelings we begin to gather about Ned.  There is a casual lost and hypnotic way Ned acts, as if he's gripped by a surreal half awake state permanently.  And as you may know about me, those are all things I love.

All dialogue, super linear, and basically real time, this is an absolute rule-layer about how to do a amazing character study.  The mystery is never quite revealed all the way, and the pieces fit with just the right amount of them still missing to make the film intriguing.  The encounters he has with people paint the portrait of a man who never lived a great life.  But through delusion and lying to himself, perhaps he led himself to believe his life was admirable.  Perhaps he has no idea who he really is, what his life has been, and where he is now- at all.

The payoff is a little bit predictable, but it couldn't have gone any other way.  But it's not about the payoff.  It's about the amazing script, fantastic acting, and the dream-esque, fantasy world we see that slowly unravels.  Physically, Ned destructs, just like how his fantasy gets torn apart piece by piece.  His feet, bloody from walking.  His muscles, sore and cramped.  His body, wracked with cold.  It's absolutely amazing.

This film feels like it was made for me.  The destruction of fantasy, the power of a mind to lie to itself, the very construct of everything about this fits what I love perfectly.  So no surprise about 5 stars.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Crypt of the Living Dead - 1973

Also known as Hannah, Queen of the Vampires.

The black and white era of movies was over in the 60's pretty much.  There was a line in the mid 60's where just about everything was being shot in color, and whether that's cause the audience expected it, or color got cheaper, or black and white wasn't "cool" anymore, I'm not really sure.  I expect it would've been a combination of all of these.

However, some outlying films were still being made in black and white, and Crypt aka Hannah was one of these.  But I tell you, this movie looks and sounds and plays out like it was made LONG before 1973.  IMDb and Wikipedia don't claim that this is one to have been made earlier and just released now, so I'm left to assume that this movie is incredibly dated, no doubt extremely low budget, and quite scraping.  Scraping as in, scraping the bottom of the barrel.  It's a term, and I'm going to start saying it.

This is a heavily atmospheric movie, which I will admit I liked.  It had a creepy eeriness to the movie, and it was well made.  I liked the music a lot and even incorrectly guessed it was done by a well known person - spoiler alert it was not.  Good music though, good cinematography, and a strangeness that suited my mood quite well.

I'll admit that after Last of the Belles I was feeling really uninteresting in this boxset.  I didn't want to delve into another bad 70's movie, and I was really against the prospect which I do have to face here:  this boxset is not sci fi, horror, or any cool genre like that.  This is a set of themed movies and...  Ugh, okay fine.  I will reveal the boxset:
As you can see, this sounds promising, until you realize that by "cheesy" they are basically going to throw any sort of random-ass unknown public domain 70's movie onto it and justify it cause "it's from the 70's".  Of course this is actually two sets back to back, the Excellent 80's and the Swingin' 70's which is where I started.

It was a decent enough return to the horror or thriller genre, and I was glad to have picked this one.  Some dumb western or "comedy" movie might've pushed me over the edge of sanity.  3.5 stars.

Friday, March 9, 2018

F. Scott Fitzgerald and 'The Last of the Belles' - 1974

Also just known as The Last of the Belles.

Tell me what's wrong in this picture.  The genre definition for this movie is: Biography, Drama and Romance.  You can well imagine, you should be able to guess what's wrong there.  I don't really review dramatic romantic biographies.  Thanks, boxset.

F. Scott Fitzgerald is suffering from writers block while hanging out with his wife on a trip.  He is also a pompous asshole and a self absorbed douchebag in the film.  He suddenly gets inspired by his wife, who is apparently a total bitch.  He thus begins to write the story "The Last of the Belles".  And we transition to follow his short story he's writing.

In The Last of the Belles, Susan Sarandon plays Ailie Calhoun, a simple small town girl with dreams of something bigger.  She is the object of intense attraction by about everyone in town, and suitor after suitor seems to become infatuated with her.  Sarandon does a good job, and desperately tries to sell the role and carry the film, but goddamn this film was just so BORING.

I got through a lot of this in one night, and at some point realized I was an hour into it and still had a soul-crushing 38 minutes left of the thing.  I turned it the fuck off and finished it last night while I sipped rum and drew my comic book I'm drawing.  I left the room a few times without pausing this movie.  I'm 1000% certain I didn't miss a thing.

It's just not what I'm looking for.  Sorry, bro.  It's romantic, it's well acted, it probably makes sense, but it was dull, it was long, and I didn't care at all.  The little intro and outro with F. Scott aren't even good, they barely are different at all in fact.  So...  That said, I was considering giving it zero stars, and you know what fuck it, why change that?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Hanged Man - 1974

TV movie, a pilot for a possible series with Steve Forrest, and a western movie.  What am I doing reviewing this you may ask, but then you'd obviously be new to the blog if you asked that. This ones going to be short.

Steve Forrest plays a convicted criminal in the old west, and he is about to be hanged for his crimes.  He consorts with the priest, he is regretting his crimes, but it's whatev, he'll be hung anyways.  Then the day comes, and he is roped up and hung.  But twist is he somehow survives the hanging.  Laws state that someone could only be sentenced to death once, so he is then free to live, and he turns over a new leaf and begins to protect a widow and her farm from some baddies.

First of all, this movie felt way longer than the IMDb length listed of 73 minutes.  I almost clearly remember it being an hour 45 minutes or so, but I wasn't paying 100% attention.  I had watched the 80's classic Firestarter and pretty much chugged a 40 of Country Club Malt Liquor.
Trust me, this picture of Country Club is much more interesting 
than any photo from the film would have been.

Firestarter is a great underrated Steve King flick.  It's got to be up there with the best, and I firmly believe all the best King movies were the ones made in the 80's. So I followed it up with 74's The Hanged Man, I was feeling buzzed from the booze, and I switched to rum during Hanged.  Thus, I didn't really pay attention like I was saying.  

I have one more 40 of Country Club in my fridge, I'm saving it for yet another 70's movie.  

Although I had a slight desire when I was watching this to watch it again, and pay attention this time, I know already that I'm not going to do that.  I haven't made my "announcement" yet, but I have something like 98 more movies to watch for this blog, and that's a giant hint if there ever was one.  

This movie gets a slightly below average 2 stars.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes - 1963

There are good Roger Corman movies.  I started his flick from 1970 Gas (actual spelling: Gassssssss) Self aware, yes and perhaps even before it was "cool," but what a bad intro to a movie.  I literally turned it off, being in the mood for an older black and white horror movie instead.  I clicked on X here, unaware until beginning credits that it was another Corman movie.  No wonder Amazon recommended it.

As the movie begins, we follow a character type I miss in movies, the older scientist who is calm and cool, mature and sophisticated.  Ray Milland as the main doctor James Xavier brings a distinct no-nonsense calculating scientist to the table,but a man who is still human, with a sense of scientific interest which only takes one line of dialogue to explain it.  I'd write it here,but IMDb doesn't have it. Something about how he lives to discover and to do more.

Anyways, he's a character type we don't get anymore, and pretty soon his ambition leads him to test a eye enhancer on himself.  The enhancer supposedly will led him see more of the light spectrum.  It works, and lets him see through things soon enough. He begins to try and use the vision in his work as a doctor, and soon enough runs into trouble as he keeps upping his dosage and as people catch on there's something different about him.

I really liked this movie, and I have to say it may take the crown of best Corman movie I've seen, aside from the great Attack of the Crab Monsters. Although that's a classically bad monster flick, and this movie is the great mix of thriller and drama which was prolific in the 50's and 60's.  It's a classic in every way, and I deeply liked it.  The situations are relate-able, the characters make sense, and the movie makes sense.  There's only a few plot points which are "dumb" or don't make sense.  They had to eventually give Dr. Xavier a reason to be on the run, so they randomly and without explanation have him accidentally kill his friend and co-doctor.  Weak, yes, but just go with it.

I wasn't sure how it'd end, and the last 10 minutes are solid.  We know he can't go back, and we know everything has to come to a conclusion, and I liked what they did with it.  I will give this one...man I'm considering 5 stars.  Huh.  I may just do that.  I drank pilsner as I watched it.  Which was nice.  Yes.  5 stars.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Proud and Damned - 1972

Movie number two of new boxset and already we're wondering what the hell happened in this movie.  It's a western, it is perhaps one of the few westerns I have reviewed on here, and it's extremely small-scale and bland.  I'm not gonna have a lot to say here.

Will Hansen and his friends are a bunch of gun-trained, experienced, and imposing cowboys hanging out in a town when a local conflict gets brought to a boil.  They become the targets for both sides of the conflict, as a quick way either side could win by recruiting the cowboys to their side.  Same plot as Yojimbo?  Check.

It's not terrible but it is pretty bland.  Not a lot of action, tension, or interest.  Sure the actors were okay and the whole thing was done competently enough, but it's got that banal mix of average-ness and nonaction which really makes one wonder what the fuck they're watching and why.  I didn't remember a thing about it right after I finished it, let alone a few days later.

A better title than movie, and a gleaming example of a "Meh" movie.  1 star.