LawrenceA

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Everything posted by LawrenceA

  1. LawrenceA

    Your Favourite Foreign Language Films Up to 2015

    Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Pedro Almodovar, Spain (1989)* - 7/10 Ricky (Antonio Banderas) is released from a mental asylum where he's spent the last 7 years. He's been declared healthy by a judge, but Ricky immediately sets out to kidnap movie star Marina (Victoria Abril), with whom he's in love, in order to force her to love him. Also featuring Loles Leon, Maria Barranco, Rossy De Palma, and Francisco Rabal. Almodovar's controversial film, which contributed to the MPAA establishing the NC-17 rating, has been decried as misogynistic by some. I rather regarded it as the director's send-up of rom-com conventions, where the male half of the couple often acts in ways that would be considered unbalanced and creepy if done in real life. It can also be taken as Almodovar's exaggerated take on heterosexual romances and marriages, where the woman is "kept" and eventually falls for her captor, despite the craziness of that notion. The leads are very good, as is Leon as Abril's sister, and Rabal as an ailing director raging at the dying of the light. * Most sources cite this as a 1990 release, as does the sleeve on the Criterion DVD cover. However, IMDb lists it as a 1989 release, citing the premiere as taking place in December of '89.
  2. LawrenceA

    Recently Watched Cult/Exploitation/Grindhouse/Etc.

    Things (1989) - 1/10 Canadian no-budget horror-comedy (?). As far as I could tell, the plot concerns a pair of brothers who discover that the wife of one of them has died. She had undergone some experimental treatment for infertility which resulted in her giving birth to a bunch of mutant creatures which look like fat, chihuahua-sized ants with big sharp teeth. The house that the brothers are in is isolated, they have no vehicle, and there's also a power outage. After sitting around and telling pointless stories to each other, the "things" attack, and the movie just gets stupider. The opening of the movie, which features a woman stripping nude while wearing a cheap Halloween devil mask, sets the tone. The acting is feeble, the dialogue beyond moronic, the effects bad, and no cinematic aspect fails to disappoint. The majority of the audio is very badly done post-dubbing, and the score is a horrible hodgepodge of bad electronic keyboard doodling and even worse original songs. All of this is interspersed with pointless "newscasts" featuring porn star Amber Lynn as the anchorwoman (badly) reading her lines off of cue cards. The whole thing is an astonishing feat of ineptitude and idiocy the likes of which are rarely encountered.
  3. Someone in another thread (again I can't recall which) used the term "universally-acknowledged classics" or something similar a week or two ago. It led me to wonder if there really is such a thing. Is there a movie that everyone around here would agree was good? Before the internet I would have named several, based on my own opinion, that of those in my immediate circle (friends & family), and what I have read in film books. But now...I can't think of any movie that I haven't read someone voicing dislike for.
  4. LawrenceA

    I Just Watched...

    The Firm (1989) - 7/10 British TV production, originally produced as an episode of the series Screen Two. Gary Oldman stars as the leader of a group of upscale soccer hooligans. Unlike the typical ruffians and pub thugs one thinks of, Oldman and his gang hold good jobs, dress nicely, and even have families that they are responsible for. The story depicts rising hostilities between Oldman's crew and another gang led by "Yeti" (Phil Davis), with the violence reaching absurd levels. Also featuring Lesley Manville as Oldman's wife (they were married in real life at the time), Andrew Wilde, Charles Lawson, and Patrick Murray. Director Alan Clarke (Scum, Made in Britain) once again dwells on the effects of violence and the doomed souls that deal in it. Oldman is intense as usual, and Phil Davis, who I know mainly from Mike Leigh films, is effective as the preening blond antagonist. Elephant (1989) - 7/10 A short film (39 minutes) made for British TV, by producer Danny Boyle and director Alan Clarke. The film is a series of brief sequences depicting men approaching and shooting other men. No reason is given, there is virtually no dialogue (only one or two unintelligible lines are said in the background of one scene), and none of the men shown are identified. It's meant to be an indictment on the senselessness of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, where this was filmed. It can be taken that way, or as pure gun-violence porn. I wouldn't be surprised to find this among the viewing materials of spree shooters. However, there is an almost hypnotic quality about the film's aesthetic purity. Director Gus Van Sant would borrow the title and some of the film's visual style for his 2003 school-shooting film Elephant. Source: Both on a Blue Underground DVD.
  5. LawrenceA

    I Just Watched...

    I don't think there is a meaning. Setting aside that the title itself tells you it is a dream, Melies often was simply concerned with the visual aspect of film, and not with story or deeper meanings. I just think it looks amusing.
  6. No matter the movie, some one doesn't like it, and will be more than happy to tell everyone else as much. In fact, a few people voiced displeasure with Dr. Strangelove in the past few weeks in another thread (I don't recall which one - I lose track of all of the "most overrated/movies you hate" threads). I honestly can't think of a movie that someone on here hasn't said they hated or felt was "overrated" at least once or twice in my years reading the message board. And that's just here, let alone other movie sites, like back when IMDb had comment sections for each movie, and invariably there would be at least one thread declaring each and every movie "the worst movie ever made!!!".
  7. LawrenceA

    I Just Watched...

    That's a good guess. You're thinking of A Trip to the Moon (1902), directed by Georges Melies. My avatar is from Melies' earlier film The Astronomer's Dream (1898). Here's the whole film, running three and a half minutes:
  8. LawrenceA

    I Just Watched...

  9. LawrenceA

    Your Three Favorite Directors

    Stanley Kubrick Martin Scorsese Akira Kurosawa
  10. LawrenceA

    Recently Watched Horror

    Amok Train aka Beyond the Door III (1989) - 4/10 Strange Euro-horror flick, with a group of American teenagers on a school trip to Yugoslavia (?!?) to witness a once-a-century religious festival. Their weird chaperone, local Professor Andromolek (Bo Svenson), discusses the details of the festival, which involves sacrificing a virgin, which makes virgin student Beverly (Mary Kohnert) understandably nervous. Soon the teens find themselves on a train, where violent accidents keep killing off people. This Italian/Yugoslavian co-production was shot mostly in English, although there's some subtitled Serbo-Croatian dialogue as well. The film is cheap-looking and mostly amateurishly acted, but there's some memorable imagery and some laughably over-the-top gore scenes. Much like Beyond the Door II (actually 1977's Shock), this also has nothing to do with Beyond the Door (1974), an early Exorcist rip-off.
  11. LawrenceA

    Recently Watched Comedies

    Without a Clue (1988) - 7/10 Amiable comedy send-up of the Holmes/Watson stories, with Michael Caine as a bumbling, vainglorious actor hired by brilliant surgeon Dr. John Watson (Ben Kingsley) to act as front for Watson's crime solving, assuming the guise of Sherlock Holmes and taking all of the credit for Watson's real sleuthing. The two have a falling out resulting in a split, which opens up the opportunity for arch-villain Moriraty (Paul Freeman) to attempt a major caper. With Jeffrey Jones as Lestrade, Lysette Anthony, Nigel Davenport, Pat Keen, and Peter Cook. Caine and Kingsley are excellent in the leads, and the film has an easygoing charm. The production values are decent, and the film doesn't overstay its welcome. A cute, if mild, diversion.
  12. LawrenceA

    Recently Watched Action/Adventure

    Killing American Style (1988) - 3/10 Schlock action travesty with mutant-jawed Robert Z'Dar as a ruthless criminal who escapes from a prison bus along with a few of his gang. They hide out in a nearby house where they seek medical aid for an injured cohort. Unfortunately for them the house belongs to 80's-movie-hero-archetype John Morgan (Harold Diamond), who dresses like he just stepped out of a bad rock music video, and of course he also knows martial arts. Featuring Jim Brown (why, Jim?!?) as the police chief, John Lynch as a loathsome crook named Lynch, Veronica Paul, Jimmy Williams, Bret Johnston, and Buck Striker. This isn't as entertaining as Deadly Prey, but it's just as incompetent and silly. The fight choreography is awful, the special effects laughable, and the dialogue hilariously atrocious.
  13. LawrenceA

    Recently Watched Cult/Exploitation/Grindhouse/Etc.

    It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books (1988) - 6/10 Very-low-budget first feature effort from writer-director Richard Linklater. He also stars as an aimless college student who travels to see an old friend. The film is nearly plotless, a meandering sequence of loosely connected incidents involving the protagonist, with very little dialogue. It's like an even more primitive version of Linklater's next film, Slacker (1990), and in fact is included as a bonus feature on that later film's Criterion release. Those who like 80's/early 90's indie film aesthetics may get something out of it, but most will be left baffled and/or bored.
  14. LawrenceA

    Recently Watched War and Military

    The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (1988) - 7/10 TV-movie adaptation of the play, derived from Herman Wouk's novel. US Navy Lt. Stephen Maryk (Jeff Daniels) is on trial for taking over command on his ship, due to what he claims was the mental instability of the ship's captain, Lt.Com. Phillip Francis Queeg (Brad Davis). Maryk's defense attorney Lt. Greenwald (Eric Bogosian) mounts a sharp defense, battling naval prosecutor Lt.Com. Challee (Peter Gallagher). Also featuring Michael Murphy, Kevin J. O'Connor, Daniel Jenkins, Laurence Ballard, and Matt Malloy. Director Robert Altman presents the film rather straightforwardly. However, he elicits performances that keep the viewer interested despite the claustrophobic setting of an impromptu gymnasium-turned-courtroom. Bogosian is the standout among the talented cast, while Davis, given the unenviable task of playing one of Bogart's most famous roles, does an adequate job.
  15. LawrenceA

    Recently Watched War and Military

    Abraham Lincoln (1930) - Cliff-Notes biopic of the 16th President of the United States, "personally directed" by D.W. Griffith. Walter Huston stars as Lincoln, shown from his birth through his rough-and-tumble early years, his doomed romance with Ann Rutledge (Una Merkel), his marriage to the eccentric Mary Todd (Kay Hammond), and his election to the presidency, where he presided over the U.S. civil war, during which he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves, before being felled by an assassin's bullet. Also featuring Jason Robards Sr., E. Alyn Warren, Russell Simpson, Helen Ware, Oscar Apfel, Hobart Bosworth, Henry B. Walthall, and Ian Keith as John Wilkes Booth. Like most of Griffith's movies, this is a mixed bag of interesting choices, corny populism, and a rose-colored vision of the past. I was surprised by the opening of the film, set aboard a trans-Atlantic slave ship, featuring slavers coldly discussing their remaining "inventory" as they toss a dead African overboard. As this was one of a few scenes missing its audio, I have a feeling it was often cut out during exhibition. I was confused by Griffith's decision to cast Warren as both Stephen Douglas and Ulysses Grant: were there not enough qualified actors around? I liked seeing silent film stalwarts Bosworth and Walthall as General Robert E. Lee and his attendant colonel, respectively. I liked Huston as Honest Abe, and was surprised by how much he looked like the photographs of Lincoln in the last third of the film. The biopic elements themselves are simplistic and hagiographic, and things seemed rushed, trying to tell his entire life story in 90 minutes. I was not a fan of Hammond as Mary Todd, and felt she dragged the proceedings down quite a bit. 6/10 I decided to put this film in this genre category since, for some inexplicable reason, there are no Genre categories for Biography, History, or even standard Drama, so, since the last third of the film or more deals with the Civil War, I decided on this Genre forum. Source: TCM. In this early scene with Una Merkel, Huston's heavy make-up made him resemble Batman's villain The Joker.
  16. LawrenceA

    Recently Watched Action/Adventure

    The Spirit (1987) - 5/10 TV-movie version of the Will Eisner comic strip character, with Sam Jones as the square-jawed police man who is seemingly murdered by criminals, only to survive and fight crime as the Spirit, sporting a dark blue suit and fedora, as well as a domino mask. In this story, he faces off against a group of art antiquities thieves. Also featuring Nana Visitor as the hero's love interest, Garry Walberg as the police captain, Bumper Robinson as the Spirit's juvenile sidekick, Laura Robinson, Daniel Davis, Les Lannom, and Philip Baker Hall. This goes for the tongue-in-cheek camp vibe of the 60's Batman TV series, but with much less success. The hero is thinly drawn (no pun intended), and his look is silly in a modern context.
  17. LawrenceA

    I Just Watched...

    Perhaps it inspired this... Surf Nazis Must Die was criticized by reviewers as boring and hard to follow, and its acting, dialogue, and camerawork were widely panned. Janet Maslin wrote "Not even the actors' relatives will find this interesting." Roger Ebert stated that he walked out of the film after 30 minutes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surf_Nazis_Must_Die
  18. LawrenceA

    Your Favourite Foreign Language Films Up to 2015

    Grave of the Fireflies (1988), Isao Takahata, Japan - 7/10 Animated film that follows a boy and his younger sister who are left orphaned during the waning days of WWII. They struggle to survive among the increasing scarcity of resources and a seemingly uncaring and cruel world, while the boy also tries to keep his sister's spirits high and childish joy intact. This is a very highly regarded film in many circles, and while I thought it was reasonably well done, I also felt it wallowed a bit in sentimentality and was very manipulative in the final act. It comes in a close second behind The Plague Dogs as the most depressing animated film that I've ever seen.
  19. LawrenceA

    I Just Watched...

    OH MY GOD HOW DARE YOU!!!! Just kidding, I don't care about Jennifer Jason Leigh one way or the other. I've liked her in some things (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Miami Blues) but not in others. I never watched Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, although I recall renting it out regularly. Do we really have flame wars around here? The most I ever see is one grumpy comment here or there, and that's usually from me, and it's either deleted by a Mod or I delete it myself.
  20. LawrenceA

    Summer's Almost Gone

  21. LawrenceA

    Recent Buys

    I'm starting this thread to discuss any new DVD or Blu-ray purchases you may have made. I know we had a thread like this in the General section, but things move so quickly over there (even during this lull in posting) that the thread disappears and it becomes a project trying to track it down. I'm not sure who started that thread (speedracer?) but I hope they don't take offense at me starting another, similar thread in this section. I recently went Criterion crazy. I bought Red Beard (1965) and The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) in the last couple of weeks, and then Criterion had a website flash sale this week, and I ended up ordering 6 more! They were Days of Heaven (1978), Harakiri (1962), Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), and Hunger (2008) on Blu-ray, as well as Wise Blood (1979) and Weekend (1967) on DVD. I also got Woody Allen's newest, Cafe Society (2016) through Amazon.
  22. LawrenceA

    Recently Watched Horror

    I watched a trio of very low-budget offerings from 1987 today. None are what you would call good, but I found them all at least mildly entertaining. Blood Lake - 3/10 A group of teenagers travel to a lake house to spend some summer days water-skiing and nights drinking and smoking pot. Soon they are stalked by a mysterious, knife-wielding killer. Featuring no one you've ever heard of. This shot-on-video effort from Oklahoma pads out its running time with lengthy scenes of drinking and talking, smoking and talking, and most especially, water-skiing and talking. The acting is all very amateur, but the youngest cast member (Travis Kasser), playing "Lil' Tony", is amusing in his badness. The bonus features on the disc feature a Q&A after a recent screening of the film, and the star/writer/producer states that he couldn't track down the actor to have him participate in the event. However, I did a quick Google search of the actor and discovered that he has a lengthy criminal record stretching from the early 1990's, and was incarcerated as of recently, so that was kinda sad to see. Evil Spawn - 3/10 This bizarre stitch-job features a washed-up actress, played by Bobbie Bresee, who injects herself with an experimental anti-aging formula. Little does she know that the source is an alien creature that's been a lab subject at a nearby secret facility. The injections turn the actress into an insectoid monster. Bummer. With John Carradine, Dawn Wildsmith, Drew Godderis, Pamela Gilbert, and Forrest J. Ackerman as the pool boy. This is from producer Fred Olen Ray, who shot footage of his wife Wildsmith with Carradine a few years before, later commissioning this film to use the footage. It's pretty dumb, and very short (barely an hour long), but I liked watching Gilbert, as Bresee's assistant, take a lengthy nude swim in the pool. Ray would later add more footage and re-release this in 1991 as The Alien Within. The Soultangler - 4/10 Very strange science fiction/horror made in Long Island, NY. A young mad scientist (Pierre Devaux) perfects a method to possess other bodies through their eyes. There's some satanic imagery, silent film clips, avant-garde music, gory-but-cheap effects, uneven acting, and poor pacing. There's enough going on to hold the interest of fans of low-budget, regional genre fare, though.
  23. LawrenceA

    Recently Watched Action/Adventure

    Deadly Prey (1987) - 4/10 A group of para-military mercenaries kidnap unsuspecting people off the street in order to hunt them in the forest as part of their training regimen. The mercs make a fatal mistake when they unknowingly grab 'Nam vet and Special Forces-trained tough guy Mike Danton (Ted Prior), who proceeds to lay waste to their ranks. Also featuring Cameron Mitchell as the hero's father-in-law, David Campbell and Fritz Matthews as the chief villains, Suzanne Tara as the damsel-in-distress, and Troy Donahue (!!!) as a corrupt senator. This is firmly in the so-bad-it's-good category, with a low budget accenting the film's overly ambitious aims. Prior is a sight to behold, with his muscle physique on display for much of the film as he runs around in jean-shorts and that's it, except for the occasional small tree branch he drapes on himself as camouflage. With his blond mullet haircut and a laughable intensity, he's very entertaining, if not actually for the intended reasons. The film is very brutal, with lots of killings, a sexual assault, and some dismemberment. It's produced so ham-handedly though that it's unlikely to offend.

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