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Posts posted by LawrenceA

  1. THE SHARK HUNTER (4/10)


    Lackluster Italian action flick stars Franco Nero as a beach bum in a bad blonde wig, living on the shore somewhere in Mexico. He has a mysterious past, but is accepted by the locals because of his proficiency in shark hunting. On one hunt, he discovers a sunken treasure worth 100 million dollars, and enlists the aid of a deep sea diver to bring it to the surface. Soon, however, the mafia horns in on the action, and things get dangerous!


    Jorge Luke co-stars as the diver, Mike Forrest plays an American mob operative, and the film's director, Enzo G. Castelari, does double duty as a killer.


    I can't really judge the film's look, as the copy I watched, although a dvd, looked like a fifth-generation videotape dupe, and there were embedded Dutch subtitles through the whole movie. Some scenes were so murky that the screen was totally black, and the dubbing ranged from adequate to poor. Storywise, it's all been done before, and better.

  2. I really hope TCM shows "Skatetown USA" sometime as part of their Underground series. It's another (!) roller disco film starring Scott Baio and Maureen McCormick. An ideal evening for me would be watching a trifecta of roller disco films: "Skatetown USA," "Roller Boogie," and the greatest of them all: "Xanadu."

    I haven't seen SKATETOWN USA yet. I need to so I can complete my roller disco trifecta!



    The film opens with a shot of space. A slow text crawl rolls across the screen, setting the stage for the movie's events. The next shot is a tracking shot along the detailed underbelly of a vast spacecraft, zooming toward a planet ahead. If you think you're watching STAR WARS, think again! The year 1979 saw a number of quickie STAR WARS rip-offs, but THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME comes in very near the top of the schlock-o-meter. This Canadian production has zero to do with H.G. Wells, despite the title.


    After the last "Robot Wars" left Earth uninhabitable, humankind has journeyed into the stars, colonizing the moon and other, distant planets. The one thing all humanity has in common is the need for a drug called Radi-Q-2, which is only found on the planet Delta-3. Jack Palance gets top billing and a purple cape as "Omus the Robot Master", who stages a coup on Delta-3, overthrowing the former ruler Niki (Carol Lynley). His next move is to attack the moon colony of New Washington, an assault that destroys their supply of the needed anti-radiation drug. The colony's elder scientist, along with two young heroes and a teleporting robot named Sparks, journey first to Earth, then to Delta-3, to try and stop Emperor Omus and his robot legions.


    The elder scientist, a stand-in for Obi-Wan Kenobi, is played by Barry Morse. Canadian film and tv star Nicholas Campbell plays the young hero Jason, while Eddie Benson is Kim Smedley, the brilliant young daughter of New Washington's leader Senator Smedley (John Ireland).


    Watch as Niki and her troops assault the Emperor's robot horde with pool-cleaning tools and plastic garbage can lids!


    Marvel at the wild side effects of "Time Dilation"!


    Gaze in wonder at the spacesuits made of tinfoil and a clear plastic bag for a helmet!


    Shrink in terror at the ferocity of the robot legion that looks like a cheaper combination of the old Daleks from "Dr. Who" and the Robot from "Lost in Space"!


    Listen as Jack Palance keeps pronouncing "robot" as "ro-but"!

    • Like 3


    Political comedy-drama written by and starring Alan Alda as a young liberal senator who embarks on an ill-advised affair with a political operative played by Meryl Streep. His fragile wife and rebellious daughter make his home life tough, while a doddering senior senator and a Supreme Court judge nomination worry him at work. Can he handle everything without it all collapsing around him?


    With Barbara Harris as the wife, Melvyn Douglas as the senior senator, Rip Torn as a Senate rascal, Charles Kimbrough, Carrie Nye, Dan Hedaya, and Merv Griffin as himself. Performances are satisfactory, and Meryl gets to do another accent (Deep South), but the story isn't much and the satire lacks any real bite. Easily forgotten, but their are worse ways to spend your time.

    • Like 1
  5. I never read the book, Home( EEP!  Sounds kind of '70's!).  Was it favorable to the Klan?  Did it frown on it, or just blandly accepting of it's existence?  WHAT was so hateful about it?


    I actually always thought the movie was a hoot.  Yeah, yeah, I know many of the images it forwards are disgusting, unabashed racist and bigoted trash, and falsehoods.  But that's much of what I find humorous about it.


    That after all this time, a lot of people try to "gloss over" and overlook the brazenly offensive nonsense in it and try to treat it as "an important piece of American movie history".


    When fact is, and IN MY OPINION, it really wasn't all that great of a movie anyway.  Even IF I didn't find all the offensive crap and poorly executed "blackface" make-up work offensive at all.



    Looked at from a technical angle, you would be hard pressed to name a film that has more influence than BIRTH OF A NATION. There have been whole books written about the breakthroughs made on this movie. Even techniques that weren't outright invented by Griffith were utilized in ways never seen before.


    It's story is reprehensible garbage, but it's craft, for the time, was unequalled.

    • Like 1
  6. Even though I've seen That's Entertainment before, I completely did not remember Clark Gable singing "Putting on the Ritz." I was so enthralled in Gable's rendition that I googled it to see what film it was in. I was so excited to find out that it was in one of the Norma Shearer movies I recorded--Idiot's Delight, which is not a musical, but features this delightful scene of Gable singing and dancing. I will need to make time this week to watch Idiot's Delight for sure.


    Sounds like a good weekend! I'm also glad I taped IDIOT'S DELIGHT if it has Gable singing.
    • Like 1
  7. FURY (7/10)


    Grimy WWII action drama from 2014 follows a fresh US Army recruit assigned to fill out a 5 man tank crew in the waning days of the European campaign. The veterans are a motley bunch, having served together in the same tank, named Fury, since the African campaign. They've perhaps seen one battle too many, and are more than a little frayed at the edges. The young addition has a steep learning curve, as he's forced to face the grim realities of combat and what it does to good men.


    Brad Pitt stars as the scarred (in many ways) commander, with Logan Lerman as the novice, Michael Pena as the driver, a repellent Jon Bernthal, and a bible-quoting Shia LeBeouf rounds out the crew. Brad Henke, Scott Eastwood and Jason Isaacs lend support.


    If you saw 2001's TRAINING DAY, also written by this film's writer-director David Ayer, you'll recognize a lot of the story beats. Both films follow a damaged mentor figure painfully educating a newcomer into a dangerous new world. Everything in the movie seems to be covered in mud and blood, and the language is just as filthy. The film alternates between sincere contemplation on the moral and spiritual cost of war, to a videogame-like gung-ho action piece. The performances are good for the most part, although Bernthal gives a bit too much, and some of the dialogue is lost in some garbled accents. One lengthy sequence inside an apartment with the crew and two female German civilians is nail-biting, as you wonder just how much of their humanity the soldiers have left.


    War buffs and action fans should find something to like here, and there's a little bit of Brad Pitt eye candy, but it's bloody and grueling at times, so be warned.



    Mammoth continuation of the landmark 1977 original television miniseries. Picking up right where the first left off, this series follows the ancestors of author Alex Haley, from Reconstruction Tennessee in the 1880's all the way through to the 1970's. It's 11+ hour running time is divided into seven 90+ minute chapters. A lot of topics are covered, including race mixing, education reform, Jim Crow laws, voter suppression, labor unions, the first World War, dust bowl farming, and how all of these things affect the Haley family. The last two chapters follow the life of Haley himself, with chapter six documenting his life in the Coast Guard before, during and after WWII, and chapter seven detailing his career as a writer, from his work with Malcolm X, to his infamous Playboy magazine interview with American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell, and his lengthy research and writing of "Roots".


    The gargantuan cast includes Georg Stanford Brown and Lynne Moody continuing over from the first series, Paul Koslo, Greg Morris, Marc Singer, Richard Thomas, Debbi Morgan, Ja'net DuBois, Roger E. Mosley, Stan Shaw, Gerald McRaney, Jerry Hardin, Irene Cara, Dorian Harewood, Philip Michael Thomas, George Voskovec, Cliff Arquette, Albert Popwell, Kene Holliday, J.A. Preston, Bernie Casey, Pam Grier, Rosey Grier, Gerald S. O'Loughlin, John Rubinstein, Charlie Robinson, Robert Cull, Dina Merrill, Brock Peters, Paul Winfield, Logan Ramsey, Debbie Allen, Diahann Carroll, Rafer Johnson, Albert Hall, Telma Hopkins, Kim Fields, Barbara Barrie, James Broderick, Michael Constantine, Norman Fell, Howard E. Rollins Jr, Ernie Hudson, Zakes Mokae, and James Earl Jones as Alex Haley. There are a lot of great old character actors and stars as well, such as Harry Morgan, James Daly, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Beah Richards, Olivia de Havilland, and a good turn by Henry Fonda. Al Freeman Jr received a lot of critical acclaim for his role as Malcolm X, but Marlon Brando won an Emmy for showing up as the Nazi bigot Rockwell. And these aren't even all the faces you'll recognize in this enormous endeavor.


    Nearly the pinnacle of what was possible in television at the time, this shouldn't be missed by anyone interested in American history, or the evolution of tv as art form. My only quibbles were some dodgy old-age make-up, a poorly executed WWI battle scene, and the last two chapters reducing the scope of the previous chapters. The last parts are worthwhile, and James Earl Jones is phenomenal as Alex Haley, but it may have been better served as a stand-alone biopic. And the natural limitations of tv at the time, while not prohibitive to the overall excellence, are present in an at-times over simplification of thorny issues.


    Little things I liked: a billboard advertising a Ruth Chatterton appearance; the theme music played in different styles at the start of each chapter to reflect the different eras; and real newsreel footage of WWI Buffalo soldiers returning home after the war.

    • Like 1
  9. The middle one is from an anti-climate change website. The other two are from right-wing news sites. Putting aside the obvious bias, what do they say? One senator is calling for RICO style prosecution against groups that are knowingly putting forth false info to discredit the climate change consensus. The same way tobacco companies put forth false info or withheld data about health risks. What's the problem here? If they can prove that false info is being put forth, potentially harming people, let them prove it in court.

    • Like 1
  10. Keep up the awards coverage, jakeem! It's greatly appreciated.


    First time I've seen Dano mentioned. He's been doing excellent work for years, glad to see his acknowledgement.


    Another award for Bogie-panned BRIDGE OF SPIES. Somebody must be finding something worthwhile in it. Or is this just a bad year for that category?

  11. My favorite old decorations are a little strange. One is a small, red and white Christmas stocking, about 4 inches long, with my childhood cat's name, Bunnyfoots, written on the top. The other is a ratty old reindeer handpuppet with red plastic antlers that belonged to my grandfather. He called it "Hoofies", and used to amuse my sisters and I with it when we were little.

    • Like 2
  12. I borrowed it from the film library of the University of South Florida, Tampa Campus; it left me extremely perplexed. Why, out of all the literature available to him, including the Bible, did Griffith choose to film this particular book, which is by no means an UNESCO World Heritage treasure?

    The immense success of the film at the time of it's release speaks to why the book was chosen. It tapped into something within the audience that resonated. It's sad to think of now, but 85% or more of white America at that time was racist, including the president. The technical innovations helped make the film successful, which is why we still talk about it, but don't dismiss the story, because if it offended sensibilities, it wouldn't have been the huge smash that it was.


    Spectacle, with a poor script or source, can be successful. Just look at AVATAR, ARMAGEDDON, or any of the TRANSFORMERS movies. But to reach the level of cultural, political and societal significance of BIRTH OF A NATION, there must be present some aspect of the basic story that connects with the wider audience. There was a huge upswing in the recruitment and formation of new klan chapters because of this film. That says it all.

    • Like 1
  13. ROLLER BOOGIE (3/10)


    Camp classic turkey made to cash in on the short lived roller-disco craze. Linda Blair stars as a rich, brilliant, young, concert-level classical flautist(!) with a scholarship to Julliard. However, she's not interested in leaving for school, and would rather spend her days at Venice Beach rollerskating and her nights at the roller rink. She meets a working-class boy, played by real-life rollerskating champion Jim Bray, and they begin to practice roller-disco moves and falling in love. Will Linda's snobby parents allow this romance? Will Linda have to leave for Julliard, or stay and pursue her disco dreams? Will the kids band together and save their favorite roller rink from shutting down? Will you care?


    Beverly Garland appears as Linda's pill-popping mother, Roger Perry as her father, Sean McClory as the kindly rink owner, Mark Goddard as the bad guy, Kimberly Beck, James Van Patten and Stoney Jackson as Phones, because he wears headphones. The disco soundtrack includes songs by Cher, Earth Wind & Fire, and lots of filler.


    The story is trite and dumb, the acting about the same. There's lots of pulchritudinous eye candy on display, but some truly awful fashions as well. The rollerskating moves are well-choreographed, I suppose. This is really not much different from the Sam Katzman rock n roll quickies made in the 50's, or that would be made in the 80's to cash in other fads and trends, like breakdancing in BREAKIN' or early rap music in BEAT STREET. If you're interested in the fad being exploited, you may find something here. Others should steer clear.

    • Like 3
  14. ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL (7/10)


    From executive producer Roger Corman comes this cult comedy. Miss Togar is the new principal at Vince Lombardi High, and she's determined to stamp out the scourge of rock n roll rebellion plaguing the halls. The students are determined to party, get high, find a date and rock out to the Ramones!


    P.J. Soles (from CARRIE and HALLOWEEN) stars as the Ramones-obsessed student Riff Randell, with Dey Young as her nerdy best friend Kate Rambeau, Vincent Van Patten as the sex-starved quarterback in love with Riff, Clint Howard as the entrepreneurial Eagelbauer, the wonderful Mary Woronov as Miss Togar, her frequent co-star Paul Bartel as the music teacher, Dick Miller as a cop, fx genius Rob Bottin as a giant rat, and Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Marky Ramone as themselves.


    This is campy, stupid, anarchic fun, at times crude and witless, but never slow or boring, with some inspired moments and a few clever camera tricks. The "teenagers" are all too old, and of course, not everyone will like the music. But with the right mood, or with the intoxicants of your choice, a good time may be had. Sadly, Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee are all deceased now, so it's nice to see them in their prime again. And watch for the great comedic character actor Grady Sutton in his last role.

    • Like 1
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