year: 1982
cast: Stacy Keach, Pia Zadora, Orson Welles
rating: *

Wow this is bad, and not even fun/bad. An all-dialog mess with Pia Zadora who isn't exactly a great actress (how on earth did she win a Golden Globe for this?) with Stacy Keach who IS a great actor but there's nothing interesting going on. Pia, a damn cute girl with really cool hair plays a.... damn cute girl with really cool hair who returns to her estranged father, Keach, in a small town where he lives on a broken down silver mine and they flirt incestually. This is Tennesse Williams in hell. Orson Welles has a cameo as a judge. Not much here of anything. This butterfly should have been squashed as a caterpilar.


title: THE BETSY
year: 1978
cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Lawrence Olivier, Kathleen Beller, Robert Duvall
rating: **1/2

Like something off TV from the late seventies/early eighties night soaps ala "Dallas" or "Dynasty" but centering on a car company and with curse words and full-frontal nudity (the Kathleen Beller pool scene is quite a nice surprise). Tommy Lee Jones is a race car driver/designer hired by a rich family to make a new affordable fuel efficiant car (named after Beller, his great-granddaughter, hence "The Betsy") and gets tangled in the web that always permeates the rich and powerful in literature and films. This is just fluff, but sometimes entertaining fluff. Robert Duvall is surprisingly dull as the somewhat villainous grandson of Lawrence Olivier, Olivier who plays wholeheartedly a Henry Ford meets Darth Vadar type matriarch of a powerful family that's falling apart at the seams. When Duvall's character says (pp) "The U.S. Senate cannot dictate the American People's tastes in cars", I got a chill in my bones... Harold Robbins must have some Nostrodomus in him (hint... GM).


year: 2007
cast: Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear
writer/director: David Koepp
rating: ***1/2

Written and directed by David Koepp, this gives the wry-guy Ricky Gervais a decent showcase. Plot centers on a grumpy dentist who goes in for surgery and then finds out later he died for six minutes, and as a result he can see ghosts... much like that kid in "The Sixth Sense", but this ghost-spotter is more annoyed than frightened of the pursuing spectors. Greg Kinnear, as the most charming and most persistant of the ghosts tailing our anti-charm hero, "hires" him to thwart his wife from marrying "the wrong guy". It then turns into a love story, and altogether it's an entertaining romantic comedy with a supernatural twist.


title: MAC AND ME
year: 1988
cast: Christine Ebersole
rating: **

If product placement was a crime, MAC AND ME would be behind bars. If not for promoting McDonalds and Coca Cola to no end then for ripping off the storyline of E.T. - a space alien getting lost in the suburbs thus befriending a little boy and being pursued by government agents. But somehow, this movie isn't terrible. There is some corny magic that works like only corny magic can. And some classic horribleness that's become camp legacy: like a scene where people are break dancing in McDonalds. Even the Alien's name is a commercial. Mac. Big Mac. Get it? And when they aren't talking about McDonalds, or when they aren't INSIDE McDonalds, one of the characters is an employee and wears her McDonalds shirt with the golden arches ALWAYS VISIBLE. If you like bad movies like me, this is worth a viewing. One thing WILL surprise you: the acting ISN'T THAT horrible. 1930's-era throwback-blonde Christine Ebersole in particular.


title: BIG STAN
year: 2007
cast: Rob Schneider, David Carradine, Scott Wilson
rating: **1/2

A wimpy Insurance scam artist is sentenced to jail where he is afraid of getting raped. During his six month purgatory before sentencing he hires sloppy homeless kung fu bum David Carradine to teach him to fight. Through a cruely comedic collage of training scenes Carradine trains Schneider, and when Rob goes to jail and becomes the kingpin of the prison which is illegally run by Scott Wilson. The fight scenes aren't bad, and either is the acting. As for comedy, there isn't much... but perhaps this was intentional, grasshopper.


year: 2008
cast: Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Cruise, Jack Black, Nick Nolte
rating: *

"The Three Amigos" centers on three dim-bulb actors who go to Mexico thinking they're filming a movie and end up in a real situation battling bad guys who want to kill them. "Tropic Thunder" centers on three dim-bulb actors who think they're filming a movie and end up... doing "Three Amigos" all over again, but very badly. This could have been an at least halfway decent bad movie if there wasn't the sidestory about Ben Stiller's character's fading career, which makes it horrificly horribly awful. Ben Stiller goes over the top and isn't funny, Jack Black is totally wasted, and Robert Downey Jr. as a pretentious Australian actor playing a black army officer is somewhat impressive but gets annoying, fast.


year: 2004
cast: Nina Vardalos, Toni Collette, David Duchuvny
rating: *1/2

Nina Vardalos follows up her independent hit "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" (which made her a star) with a film about two women who sing and dance in a Chicago airport theater (?) who witness a murder and hiding out in L.A. pose as transvestites who then sing and dance in L.A. They become part of the cross-dressing culture and feel guilty in tricking the community as they become big stars (in a little venue). The film isn't as bad as when I first saw it and has a pretty decent underdog story, but it's cliche-ridden and chugs along with little steam. A budding romantic sidestory with David Duchuvny doesn't help much. This is Nina's "Paradise Alley" if in fact "Greek Wedding" was her "Rocky". If so, I'm surprised she's still up for the count. It's basically "Victor/Victoria" mixed with "Tootsie" mixed with... something or rather - that of which I'm still not exactly sure.


year: 1977
cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Ed Flanders, Lee Purcell
rating: **1/2

Okay so this was edited from a longer version and comes off as a greatest hits of Howard Hughes. The story merely glosses through different aspects of his life without much detail. Tommy Lee Jones was good... but at the end you're not sure what made him driven, or crazy, in the first place.


year: 2002
cast: Matt Dillon, James Caan
writer/director: Matt Dillon
rating: **1/2

Matt Dillon, who has always been one of my favorite actors, as a director is obviously very influenced by film noir: a stranger in a strange land being used by someone he trusts while not exactly being sure about what's going on around him. This is the basic situation, and the setting is modern day Vietnam. The subtle villian, James Caan, a con-man who swindled people in an insurance scam, doesn't have enough to do. He's a mysterious character but his mystery just isn't that dynamic. Either is the story or the outcome. First-time director Dillon shows the landscape of Vietnam a whole lot, and plays actual music from that region throughout, yet you never feel you're in this place... you're merely watching it, rather than living it.


year: 1991
cast: Brad Johnson, Willem Defoe
director: John Milius
rating: *

This John Milius Vietnam flick has low-budget written all over it, especially when it counts. The talented actors are wasted, and a romantic subplot that borders on ludicrious helps waste them, and action scenes that leave the viewer wondering not only "What's going on?" but "When it gonna end?" Perhaps Milius, who wrote a good percentage of "Apocolypse Now", in trying for another Vietnam epic, ends up with a "G.I. Joe" meets "Top Gun" in the process. This isn't even corny in an endearing sense, it's just plain bad.


year: 1984
cast: Chuck Norris, James Hong, M. Emmett Walsh
rating: ***1/2

A more subtle "Rambo", Chuck Norris goes to Saigon on a diplomatic "peaceful" mission to talk to Vietnamese politicians about rescuing American MIAs, but he's not there to negotiate. He sneaks out of his guarded hotel room and wearing black sneaks around the city and then kills James Hong, a politician that Chuck alone knows is crooked. From here he teams up with former vet M. Emmett Walsh, who seems like the pilot character "Jock" from "Raiders of the lost Ark" if he had more to do. They buy a really neat bulletproof raft, sail into Vietnam, shoot a lot of bad guys and rescue a couple MIAs. That's in a nutshell, and there doesn't need to be anything more than that.


year: 1986
cast: Chuck Norris, Lee Marvin, Robert Forster, Martin Balsam, Bo Svenson, Robert Vaughan, George Kennedy
rating: ***1/2

This is an above-average hijack movie which, unlike others of its ilk, never gets to claustrophobic or tedious because the hostages are moved to several different locales, first an airplane and then the ground. One hour and twenty minutes into the film the operation to save the hostages begins. The stuff before nicely builds momentum and centers mostly on the hijackers, plane crew and hostages while Lee Marvin and Chuck Norris await on the sidelines to go into action. When the action finally happens it's well worth the wait. Norris on a motorcycle with torpedoes - now that's cool. And Robert Forster is so impressive as the head of the middle eastern terrorists I didn't even know it was him at first.


year: 1973
cast: John Savage, Ann Sothern, Luana Anders, Cindy Williams
director: Curtis Harrington
rating: **

A young man (John Savage) who enjoys killing woman, cats, etc.. but most of this boring film centers on the pitiful relationship with the central character and his clingy mother, Norman Bates style. Their relationship not only drags but seems pointless, contrived, and at this point, cliche. All in all this is a boring cult film that has no real beat to it. Should have been more "pointless" murders and less pointless dialog. After all, it's an exploitation.


year: 1983
cast: Steve Sandor
director: Ralph Bakshi
animator: Frank Frazetta
rating: ****

The plot isn't much: the daughter of an important warrior is kidnapped and a blonde warrior must rescue her and rid the land of the encroaching glaciers... and this scant setup works to an advantage. Since it's is a fantasy we don't get a big epic, instead a lot of little battle scenes pitting the blonde buff dude and the sexy brunette chick against really nasty creatures. The direction by Ralph Bakshi of the incredible animation by Frank Frazetta makes this a really entertaining, very bloody yet somehow laidback fantasy adventure that gets right down to the nitty gritty without a lot of rambling backstory.


cast: Arnold Schwartzeneggar, William Smith, James Earl Jones, Gerry Lopez, Sandahl Bergman, Max Von Sydow
director: John Milius
rating: **

This film has little to nothing to do with those incredibly involving Robert E. Howard tales. Instead of following Conan on various adventures, Milius and co-writer Oliver Stone chose one long drawn-out tale of revenge that has tar on its beefy heels. I realize there must be a central plot, which leads the rugged swordsman to his destination, but along the way there lacked the pulpy action needed to keep things flowing, which this doesn't do. Basically, it's not enough butter spread onto too much bread.


year: 1951
cast: James Arness
director: Christian Nyby
rating: *1/2

The John Carpenter version has a relatively small number of men trapped in an Arctic outpost, and you get to know them all by name, personality, share their claustrophobic frenzy and follow their fates accordingly. In this movie there's two main characters, a woman who is totally misplaced, and about a dozen nameless men who walk from room to room talking about a spaceship. John Carpenter told the story in a far better fashion... where you can at least follow each character through the nightmare as opposed to watching a dated stage play with too many characters parading before a stagnate camera. And the famous line, "Watch The Skies," is uttered by a lanky scientist. Which makes sense since there's nothing to see on the ground.


year: 2006
cast: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara, Harry Shearer, Parker Posey
writer/director: Christopher Guest
rating: *

During a commentary for one of his better films, Christopher Guest mentions that he enjoys showing his characters as completely pathetic, and enjoys punishing them for their banal narcissism. But his editors will sway him into submission, making the characters more enjoyable and/or endearing. But now, it's apparent, Guest gets his wish: not only doing away with the documentary style, but making these people totally unlikeable and deserving of the guillotine. Go back to the old style, Chris, this film is SHIT sandwich.


year: 1989
cast: Patrick Swayze, Sam Elliott, Kelly Lynch, Ben Gazzara, Kathleen Wilhoite
rating: ***1/2

This Patrick Swayze late-eighties bar-brawling vehicle has become sort of a punchline. I'm not sure why because as far as bloody-knuckle action goes, this is top-notch. A sought-after bouncer is brought to a small-town to "clean up" a bar and that he does, first by getting rid of the crooked employees and then beating up the particularly seedy customers who's turned the place into something worse than the Cantina in "Star Wars". But it's not gonna be as easy as it seems, for the town is owned by a Hugh Hefner gone bad millionaire Ben Gazzara, who not only owns the import of all booze but has the hots for Swayze's lost interest, a sexy doctor played by Kelly Lynch. Sam Elliott as Swayze's bouncer mentor adds vitality to an already kickass film.


title: TOP DOG
year: 1995
cast: Chuck Norris, Timothy Bottoms
rating: **1/2

Chuck Norris teams up with a capable shaggy police dog named Reno to stop a group of racists. The direction puts you right there with the dog's movements and this happens during some of the action scenes as well. Chuck and the dog don't get along at first and then learn how to depend on each other; this happens in EVERY cop-buddy film, so why should this be different just because one of the cops has a flea collar? Good for kids, but pretty violent... for the adults forced to watch it with them.


year: 1994
cast: Carla Gugino, Gerald McRaney, Jake Busey, Richard Edson, Julia Mueller
rating: **

This is a bad made-for-TV film that's not so bad, at least the first half centering on a family consisting of a father, a mother, and a teenager daughter who - during the 1950s - move from Texas to California. On the way they run into the element that ruins the flow of the movie, and ironically it's the Motorcycle Gang, led by Jake Busey who resembles a flaky nineties surfer more than a fifties gang member and is about an intimidating as a housefly. This is where the movie hits a wall, and explodes. Sadly, once-great John Milius directed this.


year: 1960
cast: Robert Blake, Timothy Carey
rating: ****

Gene Evans is a tough convict who plans a prison break. Robert Blake in an early role plays a Mexican getaway driver (with a heavy accent (a grown up version of his character in "Treasure of the Sierra Madrea") who REALLY wants a parole, and is deadset on being a good prisoner until he is "forced" into joining cellmate Evans and Timothy Carey - a bent gunman who's as dependable as a broken screw - on this seemingly impossible escape. Everything flows well and there's some intense scenes, including the climax where the cons take over the prison. Everything you want in a prison flick this film noir curio piece has it: in droves.


year: 1977
cast: Chuck Norris
rating: ***1/2

This is Chuck Norris's "White Lightning". He's a veteran trucker who's newbie trucker brother is hijacked by a small town cop and sentenced to jail. Chuck searches for him and has to take on this small town of "Texasland" ruled by a very strange judge who quotes Shakespeare and overacts to the hilt. Chuck single-handedly beats up everyone in town and that's about the jist of it: but it's one helluva jist. The direction is tight and there's even some psychedelic elements involved in the fight scenes, including the final bout with the biggest toughest minion where Chuck's movements is intercut with a horse running in circles. You have to see it to get it.


year: 1978
cast: Kris Kristofferson, Ali McGraw, Ernest Borgnine
rating: *

After directing the brilliant anti-war film Cross of Iron, Sam Peckinpah went into a dizzy retirement, and here's what he made at his dizziest. Truckers on CB radios versus a crooked cop. This should be called "BJ and the Billy the Kid", as Kris Kristofferson stars as the rebel trucker, and his usually dependable laidback personality is boring. Ali McGraw, who was pretty bad in the brilliant Peckinpah film The Getaway, is just as bad here, but without a good story to lift her above the fray. Burt Young and Ernest Borgnine are lackluster, as is Peckinpah's signature style... full of slow-motion action and snappy edits... which is hardly visible at all. And click here for above artwork origin.


year: 1986
cast: Gary Busey, William Smith, Yaphet Kotto, Bert Remsen
rating: **1/2

Gary Busey, a quiet, good-hearted and damn tough Vietnam vet gets out of jail, moves back to the small town where the crooked sheriff hates him and his wife and child are waiting. A gaggle of badass bikers led by William Smith ride into town and try raping a woman, and Busey saves her. This pisses off the bikers and now there's war. They kill Busey's wife and now war goes into overdrive. This movie isn't too bad for the revenge genre action flick, with nice directing from Richard C. Sarafian and plenty of blood and guts and before that a decent build up, but after a while there's just too many "fireworks" and not enough character-development.


year: 1988
cast: Chuck Norris, Ron O'Neal, Jeffery Kramer, Jack O'Halloran, Brynn Thayer, Tony DiBenedetto, Donna Gordon, Billy Drago
rating: ***1/2

Another action/horror where Chuck Norris plays a cop after a relentless seemingly unbeatable monster of a man, but unlike SILENT RAGE, this one works. Jack O'Halloran lurks somewhere within the newly restored Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles where he used to dwell when it was shut down, and is killing women by sneaking through a grate in the restroom. Known as the Terror, he had just escaped from a mental asylum where Norris's character, the Hero, had put him a year before. Norris is haunted by nightmares of the Terror and now he must find him somewhere within the mazy, complicated structure of the historic L.A. venue. Intense action and horror-like one-by-one killings mix perfectly; along with a little romance which never gets too corny. This is one of the better latter eighties Chuck Norris vehicles.


year: 1959
cast: Dick Miller, Bert Convy
producer/director: Roger Corman
rating: ****

This is a classic Roger Corman film about a busboy at a coffee shop... name of Walter Paisley... who quotes the pretentious, long-winded "house poet" and aspires to be an artist. He lives in a small apartment and lives a lonely life. This is icon Dick Miller at his best; especially since he's usually a side character or a tough guy as A BUCKET OF BLOOD is black comedy way ahead of its time, and it even says something about wannabe artists who live their lives quoting talented and/or pretentious artists without having a creative outlet of their own. Perhaps the covering of dead bodies in clay represents those who COVER other artists without trying to create for themselves. But it's more than representation of ideas or symbolism; Roger Corman's best directorial effort is liken to a body count horror flick that may not be scary, but it pays off in random kills, each strategic and important for the tight story that never meanders: leading the viewer's suspense into deliciously evil anticipation. Those who lose their lives for Walter Paisley's sculptures more than deserve it. The best scenes are in his own personal payback to those who thought of him as a failure. Corman regular Anthony Carbone is both effective and hilarious as he, halfway through, catches onto Walter's methods, and reacts against and alongside our anti-hero's newfound talents.


year: 1970
cast: Shelley Winters, Robert DeNiro, Don Stroud, Robert Walden, Bruce Dern, Diane Varsi
director: Roger Corman
rating: *1/2

How can a movie directed by Roger Corman and starring Shelley Winters as a bank robber with sons played by Don Stroud, Robert Walden and last but not least Robert DeNiro not be great? Judging Corman films can be difficult since they don't aspire for much, but this is a lazy exercise in a filmmaker pushing an envelope with nothing inside. For DeNiro fans there's not much here. His character just stands around with a dumb look and every once in a while says something in an over-the-top hillbilly accent. Don Stroud is really the focal point as "Herman", the psychotic eldest son, but his performance does nothing but grate on the nerves. And Shelley Winters collects a paycheck. Corman produced BOXCAR BERTHA and CRAZY MAMA are much better.


year: 1983
cast: Chuck Norris
rating: **

This movie looks good, does all the right things, but something just isn't there. Future "Fugitive" Oscar nominated Andrew Davis directs with an eighties Walter Hill precision but all that really happens is Chuck Norris going from location to location and not getting killed. Chuck plays a cop who's dealing with a mobster who's out for revenge and his fellow cops aren't much help. There's not enough Martial Arts to appease Chuck fans and not enough action to appease fans of the action genre. The script is clunky and downright confusing at times, leaving the viewer not to guess what's gonna happen next, but what just happened? I watched it an hour ago and I'm still not sure.


title: STUNTS
year: 1977
cast: Robert Forster, Fiona Lewis, Darrell Fetty, Joanna Cassidy, Ray Sharkey, Bruce Glover
director: Mark L. Lester
rating: ***1/2

Mark L. Lester rules. STUNTS involves stuntmen getting picked off by a mysterious killer. Robert Forster's little brother is one of them, and he investigates. Darrell Fetty, Joanna Cassidy, Fiona Lewis, Bruce Glover and the late Ray Sharky round out the cast. The acting is wonderful and the action is bar none. The stuntmen are killed off like campers in a slasher flick, and the tension mounts with precision. Lester is a miracle worker. He takes low budget movies and turns them into gold. Or at least, silver. And with Robert Forster at the helm: this one shines.


year: 1978
cast: Ryan O'Neal, Bruce Dern, Isabelle Adjani, Matt Clark
rating: ****

Less is more, and this film has more going for it than modern high-octane chase films. Ryan O'Neal plays a role written for Steve McQueen, and does it with dependable quiet slowburn. He's a getaway driver... the best around. The film really belongs to Bruce Dern as the detective on his trail. He follows O'Neal from witnesses to connections and pesters them into giving him information. But he cuts corners since no one gives him much to go on, and his frustration mounts. Three great car scenes (not all of them involving chases) envelope the movie perfectly. This is Walter Hill right before "The Warriors" doing noir/action with style and grace, but it's very subtle. For those looking for non-stop car crashes ala Hal Needham best go someplace else.


year: 1978
cast: Amy Irving, Kirk Douglas, Andrew Stevens, Daryl Hannah, Fiona Lewis, John Cassavetes
director: Brian DePalma
rating: **1/2

This is a bad movie, but oh how it delivers. Not quite sure what it wants to be, it aspires for action/adventure, a little horror, psychological drama, and of course tons of Hitchcockesque suspense. One story centers on Kirk Douglas who is supposedly killed by terrorists in front of his son, played by Andrew Stevens, a psychic boy-wonder under the care of evil John Cassavetes, wants to use his "powers" for the military, or something. And Douglas has to avoid the evil agents and try finding his son again. The initial action scenes involving Douglas are well-done. But the real star is Amy Irving as a young high school girl with even more psychic powers than Stevens, and she ends up at a home for "gifted children" (where she has visions of him). There are way too many cooks here, but not an entirely awful aftertaste. You will be entertained.


year: 1982
rating: **

A killer with a bloody axe and two corpses in his wake is first arrested by Texas Sheriff Chuck Norris (after a big fight) and then — after breaking free from his handcuffs — is shot numerous times by police after he tries to escape. The killer rejuvenates thanks to three doctors who pump him with drugs before his death. Killer-man awakens ala Frankenstein's monster and goes back to slaughtering and it's up to cop Chuck Norris to stop him. The best moments happen between Norris and his fat silly deputy sidekick played by Flounder from ANIMAL HOUSE, Stephen Furst. A scene involving Norris beating up a bevy of bikers is probably the peak of this standard action flick, which tries mixing "Friday The 13th" style horror but without much of a pulse... at least not a steady one.


year: 1979
cast: Chuck Norris, Jennifer O'Neal
rating: ****

This really doesn't live up to its title since there's a slew of characters played by dependable actors. Jennifer O'Neal, Clu Galagher, Ron O'Neal, Pepe Serna, James Whitemore Jr. and (the late) Ray Vitte play cops who are losing their fellow officers to a mysterious killer who uses martial arts. These killings are connected to kids riding skateboards who sell drugs for an unknown dealer. In order to survive, the cops are sent to learn karate from... guess who? As far as acting goes this is a good vehicle for Chuck Norris since he gets to not only play a martial arts instructor/kickboxer, but we get to see him giving lessons, and we get some great kickboxing bouts to boot.


year: 1982
cast: Chuck Norris, Mary Louise Weller
rating: ***

A good Chuck Norris flick where he plays something other than a cop or soldier, but more of a seedy character, at least one who works a seedy job: head of security at a Toyko Casino who beats up gambers and collects debts for the owner who's like a father to him. The first half as the plot's set up is better than the second half as the plot's carried out. The casino is taken over by mobsters who kill the owner and his luckless son. Before this happens we get to see Chuck travelling around gorgeous-looking Toyko, getting in various fights, and taking care of things at the casino. Then the death of the casino owner happens much too quickly and now we're "forced" the "vengeance" in the title and even though the fighting continues, things simmer down since nothing's left to build.


year: 1978
cast: Chuck Norris
rating: **1/2

After enjoying THE OCTAGON and really enjoying LONE WOLF McQUADE, I finally hit a Chuck Norris snag with this semi-clunker about a Vietnam commando abandoned with his troops on a top secret mission to rescue MIAs and then, five years later, is a car racer who teaches college. Sexy Ann Archer plays a reporter uncovering the secret mission while Norris's troops are being picked off by... someone. Perhaps it's the North Vietnamese or the CIA. Who knows, and who cares? Not even Chuck seems to. Meanwhile, the pacing and acting is too low-key (except veteran actor Dana Andrews providing an 11th hour monologue). The action has eclectic James Bond-like moments but plot isn't very strong to corral the overall motion. Hit or miss (a hit being "Magnum Force") director Ted Post keeps things rolling: but like a car with a deflating front tire.

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