Bad Boys for Life
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Did you believe that the 1960s Batman teevee series was the first to satirise the hero/adventure format? From the days when people believed that one could learn potent magic in the Far East comes Chandu, with the power to cloud mens' minds (just like The Shadow!). Mostly hokey (like the Batman teevee series!) this effort gains steam when Bela Lugosi is onscreen. The ending's okay too, though much of this is groan worthy.
From one of the best years for movies ever comes this dull and slight biography about the journey to find a "lost" white missionary working in the then uncharted regions of darkest Africa in the 1870s, and then to get the work substantiated. Spencer Tracy helms the piece stoically although the plotting is spotty, and the rationale inconsistent. Charles Coburn and Cedric Hardwick do well as motivating factors. Meh.
James Whale directs this character-driven piece about travelers stranded off the beaten path in a weird old house with some serious history. It's not uninteresting, and the characters only seem outdated. Charles Laughton for instance, plays a regular businessman, and not the grotesque these works usually have him play. And the great Karloff? A grunting red herring from the moment we first see him.
Well here's an unusual piece of film melodrama and Charles Laughton's introduction to U.S. audiences. He plays a popular (if insanely jealous) submarine captain certain that his wife, the ever sultry Tallulah Bankhead, is fiddling about. Is it with Cary Grant? Gary Cooper? Somehow it all leads to a daring escape from a sunken submarine! You haven't seen the like of this before, interesting for it's illogical turns. And Ms. Bankhead's usual and ever-so-casual "I know, you want me, so what else is new?" performance, of course.
Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham gather together their celeb friends from whatever party they happened to be at, steal the concept of "The Gumball Rally", and then sort of jest about how easy being a celeb actually is: one simply half-assedly goofs off out loud. Don't do it. Just don't.
Usually 1930s Hollywood would flirt with interracial jungle love with some strapping Midwestern and shirtless sailor type seduced by some steamy unclothed island princess, but here for a change the formula is flipped. In war torn China a good girl (Barbara Stanwyck? Yep.) has her virginity (Barbara Stanwyck?! Yep.) tempted by a "despicable yellow swine" (hey! It's in the script!), who's revealed to be an actual good guy. Of course. It's better than it sounds, and there's a pretty cool dream sequence in the middle of it that's better than the whole rest of the movie. Look for it.
Innocent live action cartoon whose gist is a light-hearted and adolescent upward turned middle finger against the 55 mph speed limit. Starring a Cobra, a Ferrari, a Camaro, a Kawasaki, and some erstwhile half-drawn characters behind the wheels of said vehicles, this protest shakes it's fist at "for-your-own-good" societal norms, a meaningless act of rebellion with a half smile. Only lacking the Delta House fraternity.
"There are eight million stories in the naked city, and this is just one of them." Or, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again, in this personality-fueled riff on the old opposites attracting motif. It manages to rise above "cute" every now and again, but not enough to really recommend it. It's nice to recall The Big Apple of the early 70s though, the world before cellphones. Not bad.
There's a monster on the loose in the sub-basement of the Field Museum in Chicago. Is there going to be people wandering around alone in dark hallways in what should be a well lit museum whispering "is anybody there?" Yep. Going to be shots so dark that you can't see what happens? You bet. What about gore, will there be any gore? C'mon, you know it. Quick editing to move things along? Yes. What about victims you want to see gored? Naturally. All in all, not a bad monster film.
A magical valley hidden away from the rest of the world offers a dreamlike and carefree existence, an answer to a prayer seemingly, but do we really want that answer? It's a rare film by Frank Capra that engages in the subtlety required to not answer any questions that it asks, and so we must answer for ourselves: do we really want our dreams? What about the dreams that threaten to envelope us, the dangerous dreams? This filmic consideration is worth the thought, with a couple of action set pieces to flavor the whole. And Ronald Colman's mesmerizing vocal intonations!
Here is an interesting heist film, interesting because its underlining theme is technological government intrusion. Even though its from the 1970s, the idea that Big Brother is watching, for good or for evil, runs throughout. Sean Connery charismatically leads a big cast that's working to rob a fancy apartment building in midtown New York. Also interesting is that much of what we take for granted nowadays as generic cinematic language wasn't quite developed yet. So, when someone gets punched, there isn't any of the expected exaggerated sound effect to go with it. It actually sounds like a punch. It's a very human film for that lack of sophistication. "Opening a safe is like raping a woman, exciting..." says our lead, with none of the prerequisite political correctness of today. "One of the guys is a gay," says another in another spot. A curio from an earlier time, fascinating.
While the effort is delivered efficiently, nonetheless it is awfully contrived, strained, and artificial. Lionel Barrymore helms this Capra(corn) vehicle, heading a cast of notables that inhabit a world that strains credulity. In an amazing circumstance (for Hollywood at least) only the black players are grounded in reality, servants for the rest of the cast---and that don't happen much. For a Hollywood vehicle that told people what they wanted to hear, okay, but this fantasy lacks the grounding in reality that most fantasies begin with as a set-up. For myself it was a strain to last it out to the ending.
Re-tooled for the times, sanitized, homogenized, Disney-fied, Invasion of the Body Snatched, this version of Charles Addams' dark family on the edge of town is ready for its wax museum photo op, all of the blood removed. The fault is not with the art talent, because that is spot on. Nor does the blame lie with the voice talent. No, this is a management decision to dig up poor Mr. Addams and wrest his nuts from him, whitewashing his creation beyond recognition, and more so than the Munsters attempted to do. Succeeding generations will sadly not be aware that the spice as well as the meat has been removed from this vegan sandwich. Sad.
A plane goes down in the Amazonian jungles, headhunter country. Can the assortment of survivors learn to work as a team to get out? And do their experiences together change them at all? John Farrow directs this beaut of a B-film (and its remake in 1956!), and template for later disaster films, with an eye to getting to the gist in a hurry. Good stuff.
Performances and nice direction (John Farrow) put this little gem over as a plane goes down in the jungle and our cast must try to figure a way out. The secret of this work's working? Most of the players go against type, making for some surprising dynamics. Look for this one.
An interesting curio, sort of a British Twilight Zone, about how a once dutiful small craft British warship (like an American PT boat) is used to smuggle (gasp! oh no!) in the financial doldrums after WW2. Can the creeping sense of vengeful karma be far behind her? It's all done very workmanlike, with only hints of naval superstitions lurking in shadows beneath the decks. Veddy British feel all about the work as well.
Avoids sequel fatigue with the inclusion of many fresh elements, particularly character spins, but could've used a better defined villain to up the stakes some. You won't feel cheated though, and the ending's light touch forgives much of what lead up to it.
Writer/director Jake Kazdan (Hollywood royalty, eh?) creatively reimagines a bickering Holmes (Bill Pullman) and Watson (Ben Stiller) in the modern-day, hired to solve a blackmail plot. Ryan O'Neal is okay as the aggrieved complainant. The twist in this take is Professor Moriarty, an intrigue that's interesting, if not fully realised. Decent, but don't think too hard.
While there are a couple of portions that're worth your time, mostly this is a test of endurance to see just how much moronic behavior you're willing to tolerate as your IQ slowly drips from your ears. Michael Richards' spastic routine takes up an unbearable amount of screen time. Fran Drescher and Victoria Jackson are criminally under-utilized, and only Kevin McCarthy earns his keep. Pass, unless you desire a cursory look at the zeitgeist of the times, or some sembleance of that.
Poor country boy has to negotiate plenty of soap bubbles in this petit-opera from Tobacco Road. Compromise your values and get rich, or keep your values and see if they'll help you buy a new convertible. The lead has his looks going for him, I imagine, but please don't ask him to act, teenage heart-throb and all. Karl Malden waits for only a moment, and then he overacts all over the place. Claudette Colbert is simply happy to wear different dresses through the whole thing. Pass, unless you're a fan of
Technicolor, about the only thing this has going for it.