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LawrenceA

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Posts posted by LawrenceA

  1. ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (7/10)

     

    Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel team for the fifth and final time in this taut, true-story prison pic. The plot's in the title, as Clint and a group of fellow prisoners plan and execute a daring escape from the supposedly inescapable island prison. Patrick McGoohan is the venal warden, and the film goes out of it's way to highlight the cruelty visited on the inmates, building viewer sympathy for the escapees, which is necessary since we're asked to root for a group of convicted felons over law enforcement.

     

    Also with the great character actor Roberts Blossom, Larry Hamlin, Paul Benjamin, Jack Thibeau and Fred Ward in his first major role after years of bit work. Look closely for the film debut of future star Danny Glover as a fellow inmate, and director Siegel as a prison doctor.

     

    Gritty and suspenseful, there are shades of previous prison escape pictures such as A MAN ESCAPED, LE TROU and even THE GREAT ESCAPE, and it all comes together rather well. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon.

    • Like 2
  2. I love that Carla Jean refused to go along with the coin toss thing.

     

    By the way, ever seen Kelly Macdonald in Gosford Park? I like this actress.

    I've liked Kelly Macdonald since TRAINSPOTTING. GOSFORD PARK was a divisive film, but I enjoyed it immensely. Macdonald was also terrific in the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire".

  3. THE RING is one of the only times I found the American remake better than the foreign language original. Maybe it was a case of heightened expectations, but I was sorely disappointed with RINGU. I had heard about it for quite some time, and as a fan of both the horror genre and Japanese cinema in general, I was anticipating a lot more. I found it silly when it was supposed to be scary. The American version worked much better, even if a lot of the visual style has been done to death since. And I liked the cast, with Naomi Watts and Brian Cox.

    • Like 3
  4. ELVIS (7/10)

     

    This 1979 tv biopic stars Kurt Russell as the King of Rock 'n' Roll, and marks the first collaboration between Russell and director John Carpenter. This was Kurt's attempt to break away from his Disney star image, and he's successful, earning himself an Emmy nod. His performance works without devolving into caricature. However, vocal duties were performed by Ronnie McDowell.

     

    The film follows his humble beginnings to his superstar rise, ending in 1969 with his Vegas comeback. Things move along nicely, though rarely beyond the depth of tv films of the era. Elvis's drug problems aren't really dealt with, and his sad decline in the 70's is not shown. It does show the difficulty of dealing with an unprecedented level of fame, the non-stop work schedule of the early years, the time spent in the army and the sometimes volatile relationships with both his girlfriends and his band/entourage.

     

    Russell's real-life wife Season Hubley plays wife Priscilla Presley, and Melody Anderson plays his high school sweetheart. Also with Russell's real-life father Bing as Presley's father Vernon, Pat Hingle as Col. Tom Parker, Robert Gray as Red West, Charles Cyphers as Sam Phillips, Ed Begley Jr, Mario Gallo, Ellen Travolta and Joe Mantegna.

     

    The one real drawback for me was a hammy, histrionic turn by Shelley Winters as Presley's mother Gladys.

  5. Happy Thanksgiving from Florida! Temp in the mid-to-upper 70's, sun shining for the most part. Had my sisters and their families over for turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, too many casseroles and lots of pie. Played some board games, and everyone left full and happy. I cleaned up already, so it's me and the dogs watching ELVIS: THE MOVIE.

     

    Hope everyone the very best in health, home and happiness!

    • Like 6
  6. THE SIGNAL (6/10)

     

    Arty indie 2014 SF film sees three MIT students on a road trip take a detour to confront a hacker nemesis, only to get much more than they bargained for. This is the kind of story that works better the less you know beforehand, so I'll keep plot details to a minimum. Suffice it to say that there are many twists and turns and keeping the viewer confused along with the main characters seems to be part of the point.

     

    Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke and Beau Knapp star, with Laurence Fishburne adding some menace and Lin Shaye popping up to act weird as usual. The acting is credible, the fx are outstanding and sparingly used, but the off-kilter nature of the narrative can be off putting, and when all is said and done, not much has truly occurred.

     

    Recommended for SF fans and those with the patience for unconventional storytelling.

    • Like 2
  7. Robert De Niro and Robin Williams were great friends.

     

    Laurence Olivier and Danny Kaye were very, VERY close friends.

     

    Who drummer Keith Moon and Larry Hagman.

     

    Andre the Giant was driven to school as a child by Samuel Beckett!

    • Like 2
  8. EAGLE'S WING (6/10)

     

    British-made western stars Martin Sheen as a fur trapper and Sam Waterston as a Kiowa warrior both of whom are after a beautiful white horse named Eagle's Wing. Nice scenery and cinematography enliven the routine proceedings. With Harvey Keitel, John Castle, Stephane Audran and Claudio Brook as Sanchez.

     

    Trivia sidenote: this was released the same year as APOCALYPSE NOW, the biggest starring role in Sheen's big screen career, and one which was originally cast with Keitel, who was fired shortly into production.

    • Like 1
  9. Spike Lee's films have a tendency to put off a lot of people, some because of politics, some because of his habit of combining esoteric arthouse conventions and techniques with the lowest forms of street culture, alienating fans of both. I have always found his films challenging and interesting, if not always successful. I'm looking forward to CHI-RAQ. The hip-hop vibe mixed with verse dialogue, and the politically charged subject matter will be polarizing, for sure.

    • Like 1
  10. .. are in a backhanded way political in the sense that say conservatives (of any age) want to see the pre 60s films ad infinitum because that is the fantasy land they want to live in, and seeing anything post. 60s they consider the point when their world, the country, and cinema went all to hell? :D

    This really is a terrific post, and it gets to what I have tried to say in a few threads recently. I think most criticism about films of certain eras is more about the viewer and their particular hangups and prejudices than about the actual films themselves. And it goes both ways. There are plenty of people who dismiss all old films as antiquated museum pieces, refusing to watch anything made before they were born, anything in black & white, anything subtitled or silent, etc. They won't watch the new/old movie, but they have no problem dismissing or denigrating it while having no real first hand knowledge. Of course, this isn't to say all movies from one period are good or all from another are bad. There's quality and garbage in every year, usually a lot more of the latter. But one shouldn't dismiss an era of films based on only one or two or even ten examples. You just have to search harder for the good stuff.

    • Like 4
  11. DRACULA (7/10)

     

    This 1979 version of the Bram Stoker tale takes it's cue from the then-recent hit Broadway revival of the old Hamilton Deane & John Balderston play than from the original source. The emphasis is more on gothic romance than bloody horror.

     

    The familiar tale has been reconfigured, with some characters changing drastically while others are dropped all together. Lucy is now the central female role, played ably by a fetching Kate Nelligan. Instead of being one of her suitors, Dr. Seward (Donald Pleasence) is now her father. The Mina character takes the secondary role held by Lucy in the book, and in this version, she's the daughter of Dr. Van Helsing. That iconic role is played by Laurence Olivier, looking very old and frail. Jonathan Harker, fiancee of Lucy and real estate agent to Dracula, is a bland Trevor Eve. The crazed Renfield acts as little more than an inept butler to Dracula, and is played by Tony Haygarth, who the previous year had played an especially detestable Nazi in the tv miniseries HOLOCAUST.

     

    But the center of the film is Frank Langella as the title count. His performance made him a true superstar of the stage, and it translates fairly well to the big screen. His full lips, big dark eyes and thick head of blown dry hair make him the most overtly sexual of all the screen Draculas.

     

    The production is nice to look at for the most part, but some scenes are a little too under lit. The sweeping John Williams score is suitably evocative. One romantic sequence using backprojected laserlight has the unfortunate effect of casting a disco vibe about the whole thing, suitable since directing duties went to SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER's John Badham. Olivier's performance is all over the place, at turns leaden then scenery-chewing, with a wandering accent to boot. His health was a serious issue at this time, so some understanding should be accorded. One shouldn't expect much in the way of scares or gore, with a few minor exceptions. The novel's unsavory subtexts regarding fear of immigrants and female sexuality are thankfully absent. All in all, suitable viewing on lonely nights for those with a darker taste in romance.

    • Like 2
  12. THE CONCORDE...AIRPORT '79 (4/10)

     

    Fourth and final entry in the series that began in 1970. That first film helped kickstart the all-star big budget disaster trend in 70's cinema, and this final outing helps just as much at putting the final nails in the genre's coffin.

     

    Alain Delon gets top billing as the captain of the title craft. With Susan Blakely and John Davidson as reporters, Robert Wagner as a crooked arms dealer, Sylvia Kristel as the head stewardess, Eddie Albert as the airline owner, Sybil Danning as his trophy wife, Avery Schreiber as a Soviet Olympic coach with a deaf daughter, Andrea Marcovicci as the oldest Russian Olympic gymnast ever, Mercedes McCambridge as her busybody chaperone, Cicely Tyson as a mother to a child desperately in need of a heart transplant, Nicolas Coster as the doctor to perform it, David Warner as the dieting flight engineer, Bibi Andersson as a prostitute, Jimmie Walker as a pot-smoking sax player, Charo as Margarita and Martha Raye as the woman who can't stay out of the bathroom (no, really).

     

    Of course, George Kennedy costars as Patroni, the only character to appear in all four films. This time he has a larger part as co-pilot of the title passenger jet, on route from the US to Paris, as Wagner's evil arms dealer hatches numerous inept plans to bring down the craft and destroy incriminating evidence. The dialogue is trite and banal as usual, and the various relationships and mini-dramas amongst the bloated cast never rise above the mundane.

     

    Keep your eyes open for an early appearance by Ed Begley Jr as Rescuer #1. Like many films of the era, the studio also cut together an extended version for tv broadcasts that added even more subplots and characters, played by the likes of Jose Ferrer, J.D. Cannon and Alan Fudge, but the version I watched was the original.

    • Like 2
  13. CAPTAIN AMERICA 2: DEATH TOO SOON (4/10)

     

    After the first attempt in January failed to click with audiences, this follow up was released in November of the same year (1979) to equal indifference.

     

    Reb Brown returns as the title hero, continuing on from the end of the last film. The government science group led by Len Birman still employs Cap to chase down threats to life and liberty. The specific threat this time is Miguel, played by Christopher Lee, a Carlos the Jackal type international terrorist who has kidnapped scientists to force them to make an immortality potion!

     

    Heather Menzies role has been recast with a charming Connie Selleca. Also with William Lucking, Stanley Kamel, Ken Swofford and Lana Wood as Yolanda.

     

    Cap still uses his super rocketcycle that launches out of the back of his custom 70's van. His costume is even more ridiculous, and his physics-defying shield is transparent plastic that he slams into his enemies with all the force of a Tupperware lid.

     

    Released theatrically in Europe, this turkey is only a fraction better than the first, mainly due to the presence of Lee. It failed to launch the hoped for tv series, and Cap wouldn't return to screens until the awful 1989 feature.

    • Like 1
  14. I was very saddened to read this yesterday. I was always a fan of his almost comically masculine vocal delivery.

     

    Also passing away recently was Mexican horror great German Robles, most famous for his many vampire film roles. Christopher Lee was once quoted stating that his take on Dracula was inspired by Robles'.

  15. CAPTAIN AMERICA (3/10)

     

    The late 1970's saw a superhero boom on both the big and small screen. "The Incredible Hulk", "Wonder Woman" "The Six Million Dollar Man" and "The Bionic Woman" were all hits on tv, while SUPERMAN was making box office gold. "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Dr. Strange" were less successful tv endeavors, as was 1979's CAPTAIN AMERICA.

     

    For some reason, the producers opted to jettison most of the backstory from the decades old comic book, instead having Steve Rogers be an ex-marine caught up in corporate and covert intrigue. He's approached by a group led by Len Birman and Heather Menzies who have a "super steroid" developed by Steve's father capable of making a man nearly superhumanly strong and fast. Rogers takes the formula and the moniker Captain America to do costumed battle against bad guys led by Steve Forrest and Lance Le Gault. Future soap opera queen Robin Mattson shows up as a damsel in distress.

     

    Terrible dialogue, wooden acting and some of the worst ADR ever mar this bland and misbegotten attempt. Much of the second half is taken up with ridiculous, Evel Knievel-style motorcycle stunts, since this Cap has a tricked out superbike.

     

    Finally, Reb Brown stars as the title hero, and while he fills out the physical requirements of the role quite nicely, he comes across as bored or lost most of the time, much like the viewer.

  16. BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (4/10)

     

    Belated, unwanted and unneeded sequel released 7 years after the hit original, the story is set immediately after. Michael Caine, Karl Malden and Sally Field star as a boat crew that comes across the capsized cruise ship Poseidon, and claims salvage rights. They are met by Telly Savalas and his team of sinister aid workers, and they join together to explore the wreck. They find various survivors, including a boorish Peter Boyle, ship's nurse Shirley Jones, femme fatale Veronica Hamel, drunken Slim Pickens, young couple Angela Cartwright & Mark Harmon, and Shirley Knight & Jack Warden as the older couple.

     

    Slow-moving, dumb & irritating, the actors try their best, especially Field, but the script is beyond redemption. Final directorial effort from schlock tv and film maestro Irwin Allen.

    • Like 1
  17. ...AND YOUR NAME IS JONAH (6/10)

     

    Fairly routine problem-of-the-week tv movie. Sally Struthers and James Woods star as parents of a deaf child who was incorrectly diagnosed as mentally handicapped as a toddler and institutionalized. When the correct diagnosis is made, the child returns home, but severely developmentally delayed. The parents and educators must struggle to breakthrough to the boy,Jonah.

     

    Future big and small screen heavy Robert Davi has an early role as a coworker of Woods.

  18. I mainly see genre films in the theater, so here's my limited and uninspiring theatrical report card :

     

    MAD MAX: FURY ROAD as I previously stated is far and away the best for me this year, and that was without the 3D gimmick.

     

    JURASSIC WORLD and SAN ANDREAS were inoffensive popcorn fare, but not exceptional in any way.

     

    SPY had it's moments of hilarity, including a surprising, scene-stealing performance by Jason Statham, but I wouldn't go out of my way to see it.

     

    THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON was disappointing, the first real misstep from Marvel films, imho.

     

    EX MACHINA got a lot of positive press, but I found it routine and very predictable. Maybe I've seen and read too much SF in my life. The performances were good, though.

     

    MAGGIE tried to give a new spin on the zombie genre, and Arnold Schwarzenegger gave what may be the most subtle, mature performance of his career, but the movie never quite clicked, so I can't really recommend it.

     

    TAKEN 3 was a passable but unmemorable entry in the action genre.

     

    POLTERGEIST, INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3, TERMINATOR: GENISYS and THE VISIT were all garbage.

  19. The Martian (2015) directed by Ridley Scott.  A corny disappointment.

    That's a shame. I was looking forward to it, although I was a little leery. The ads 1) seemed to show the whole story, and 2) reminded me a lot of GRAVITY, which was a major disappointment. I don't do 3D, and 90 percent of that movie's appeal was apparently the 3D immersion.

    • Like 1
  20. I've never seen it, but I have heard that Widmark is excellent in MADIGAN, a police drama made in 1968, co-starring Henry Fonda and directed by Don Siegel and co written by Abraham Polonsky, who of course had been blacklisted for years.

    . It sounds like an early FRENCH CONNECTION- with a very complicated plot that apparently has a lot to do with police corruption, Widmark and Fonda both play cops, I am Not sure if Widmark plays a good or a bad guy in this one.

    MADIGAN is good, not great. Worth at least one viewing for police film fans.

     

    As far as Widmark films, after KISS OF DEATH, I have to second the recommendations for NIGHT AND THE CITY, PANIC IN THE STREETS, DON'T BOTHER TO KNOCK and PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET

    • Like 1
  21. I wished you had dumped more. Sometimes these popular films create a sort of bandwagon effect. Like, not liking it will make all the admires hate you (the general you). I'm not saying it's happening here but it does happen. A reasonable contrary view would be refreshing.

     

    TMWWT is my favorite of all.

     

    The Coen's don't do for me what they do others, that's for sure.

     

    ==

    If you don't like something, you should say so. Obviously, not all movies are going to be liked by all people, even (maybe especially) the most praised. I personally have no love for Billy Wilder's comedies. SOME LIKE IT HOT leaves me completely cold, but it's generally regarded as one of the all-time great comedies. Where as, the Coen brothers have yet to make a bad film imho. They aren't all great (I'm looking at you INTOLERABLE CRUELTY), but I wouldn't call any bad.

     

    And as for the handcuff scene in NO COUNTRY, I don't look at it as the writers thinking the audience is dumb, but that the character is dumb. If everyone in a movie behaved as you would behave, how boring would that get? It could even be argued that the sloppy way the police handled Bardem's character feeds into the theme of the film, i.e. that once you become complacent, the unexpected monsters in the world will bite you in the rear.

    • Like 4
  22. No denying, there's violence in it. But as someone else said here earlier (sorry, offhand I forget who), the violence is not gratuitous. Also, I don't think there's actually as much violence as many think; it's more an impression of violence in some of the scenes. Kind of like the shower scene in Psycho, in which we think we've seen a lot more stabbing and blood and, well, violence, than we actually have.

    Around the same time that No Country for Old Men came out, another film was released, which many feel was better than NCFOM. This was There Will Be Blood. Now, to me, there was a lot more violence in that, or at least, I found the violence in it much harder to watch. Especially the final scene. Horrible.

    Of the two films, I love No Country for Old Men, and I hate There Will Be Blood, even though the latter was acclaimed at least as much as the former.

    But, despite all the strange, unnerving, frightening, and pessimistic (not to mention violent ! ) things we see in No Country for Old Men, I actually come away from it feeling kind of exhilerated. But the one and only time I saw There Will Be Blood, I came away feeling repelled by the film, and depressed.There was not one moment in TWBB that I enjoyed (Oh, except for Paul Dano, whom I like). It was a thoroughly nihilistic experience. Kind of like Wise Blood, come to think of it  (hey, maybe it has something to do with having the word "blood" in the title !)

     

    Sorry, I know you didn't even mention There Will Be Blood. But I'd been meaning to bring it up anyway, since both films came out the same time,  both were critically acclaimed, and both were known for their violence and pessimistic outlooks.

    At the time of their release, the two films were compared a lot. There was a lot of tribalism regarding which was better. It seemed if you liked one, you were supposed to dislike the other.

    I loved both. It reminded me of the FORREST GUMP/PULP FICTION rift of 1994, minus the generational component.

    • Like 1
  23. I didn't care for it. I believe I was on auto pilot and just didn't pay attention. I'll record it on TCM and try again. I may not have been in the mood, that happens. I remember being vaguely wary of all the violence and the ending was like falling off a cliff.

    Yes, I remember the film being very divisive when it was released. The way things were resolved (or not) was a real deal breaker for a lot of people.

  24. In a review of SHAMPOO, its author lamented that the strong powerful women portrayed by such as Crawford, Davis and Stanwyck had been replaced by the slutty nobodies portrayed in that film by Julie Christie, Carrie Fisher, Lee Grant and Goldie Hawn; certainly Christie and Hawn were so unattractive and unimpressive that it was impossible to understand why Warren Beatty was so entranced with them.

    What was the reason for that decadence of women's roles in the 1960s and most of the 1970s? 'tis certainly hard to believe that Meryl Streep started earning her legendary reputation in the cheap and shoddy 1970s.

    The attitude of all the characters in that film was the entire point of the film. They weren't being put forth as paragons of virtue from an age gone by.

     

    As for Julie Christie and Goldie Hawn being unattractive, that's news to me.

     

    There were plenty of strong women's roles in the 60s and 70s. Most anything with Glenda Jackson, Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda, Ellen Burstyn, Jill Clayburgh, Faye Dunaway, Gena Rowlands, Sissy Spacek, Anne Bancroft. And if they occasionally played an unsavory or "immoral" role, so be it. These ladies were ACTRESSES playing parts, not old school stars inserting themselves into different stories. I'm not knocking the golden age stars, they were just a different animal.

    • Like 4
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