INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

year: 2009
rating: **

There are so many problems with this latest Quentin Tarantino flick I'll just ask one question to begin: Why were the "Basterds" - the scalp-hacking Nazi Hunting American Jews the film is named after - merely extras? We don't see them train, see them hunt, see their missions, learn their quirks, mannerisms, fears, strengths... they're merely in the background of an overall muddled picture. The title should have been HANS LANDA, since he - the flitting Nazi villain played nicely by Christopher Waltz - is not only the best character, but seems to be the ONLY character in the movie. A subplot involving a french girl who survived her family being killed by Landa, running a movie theater in disquise as a Frenchwoman, goes nowhere, for one because I couldn't connect her as the little girl who survived the original massacre - we see her hiding under the floorboards only a few times in the opening which didn't carry on to her other scenes. I just didn't feel enough for her to really WANT the revenge she garners: involving her theater full of the top dog Nazis, including Adolf himself, once again played by an actor going way over-the-top. At this point in history we all know Nazis were evil, but... perhaps when making a film about Nazis being tortured a filmmaker should REMIND US SEVERAL TIMES of their evil more than just a swastika on their uniforms. Brad Pitt's character, the redneck leader of the Basterds, has no overall bearing (he just talks a lot), and other side-characters (a British officer; a German actress double-agent; and a knife-wielding German serial killer) are thrown in that we're supposed to care about but end up meaning close to nothing. Tarantino builds tension like a sleeping dog getting a fire up its ass: with either endless bouts of boring dialog (subtitled no less) that WAY TOO SUDDENLY become loud jarring massacres, with no in-between. And Tarantino ends up knocking himself off at times, for instance: a drawn-out scene in a tavern/pub involving a British officer imitating a German POSSIBLY being caught by a Nazi soldier for having a suspicous accent; then, towards the end of the film, before the climax when things REALLY MATTER, Brad Pitt, meeting the MAIN VILLIAN, pretends to be Italian (purposely not trying very hard) and it's played-out like something from a John Hughes film... which makes you wonder why the Tavern scene mattered in the first place. I'm afraid the great QT has lost his touch... see DEATHPROOF for more PROOF of this theory. Gone are the days of RESERVOIR DOGS and JACKIE BROWN (and, yes, PULP FICTION). Gads, even the beginning title sequence (something that Tarantino usually does so well) is plain boring: black screen with titles and a hollow slow-paced Spagetthi Western score. And the casting of Eli Roth as the bat-weilding "crazy" basterd is a complete joke. (Quentin, hire REAL actors, not your director-buddies, buddy.) And to note, there is a 1978 Italian film called INGLORIOUS BASTARDS which has only the title in common. That movie, starring Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson, unlike this mess ACTUALLY CENTERS on the characters the film's named after.

VICTOR/VICTORIA

year: 1982
rating: **

What a drag, pun intended... but the first hour is okay. Robert Preston is annoying as every single line seems like something from a stage play (his style), but Julie Andrews is interesting as an out-of-work American singer in Paris who, with Preston (her gay friend), ends up posing as a man dressed up as a woman - thus becoming a huge nightclub attraction. James Garner is a bigwig who falls in love with her: first thinking she's a she then finding out she's a him and his manliness is questioned. Once the "relationship" begins with Garner and Andrews, the film goes downhill... Once past the entertaining first half with Andrews and Preston struggling together, everything gets way too muddled. Blake Edwards has so many wheels turning in different directions the vehicle gets stuck in the mud.

SKIN DEEP

year: 1988
rating: **1/2

A scene involving two men running around in a dark room wearing glow-in-the-dark condoms fighting over a girl is quite hilarious and brings back THE PINK PANTHER style of slapstick that made Blake Edwards famous, but the rest of the movie, dealing with a bearded piano-playing playwright who's addicted to sex (John Ritter), is hit-or-miss and often gets weighed down by its own navel-gazing. John Ritter is able to display his subtle pratfalls and dry witty charm and is thoroughly convincing since he's had so much practice playing sex-starved men... although his character is much luckier than his "Jack Tripper" character. Overall it's not too shabby. Ritter fans won't be disappointed.

A FINE MESS

year: 1986
cast: Ted Danson, Howie Mandel, Paul Sorvino
director: Blake Edwards
rating: **

For a bad movie this wasn't THAT awful. A lot of running around and hijinks and pratfalls and all things Blake Edwards. Ted Danson and Howie Mandel make an odd team - sometimes it's not apparent which one is the straight man in the pair. It would seem Mandel would play the goofy sidekick but he's about as smooth with the ladies as Danson, only Danson gets more of them. Ted's basically playing "Sam Malone" on speed. The plot involves... oh who cares about the plot - it's just a screwball comedy sendup of the Laurel and Hardy films and overall is a fairly decent time waster.

SON OF THE PINK PANTHER

title: SON OF THE PINK PANTHER
year: 1993
cast: Robert Benigni, Herbert Lom, Robert Davi
director: Blake Edwards
rating: *

Dud Dud Dud Dumb, Dud Dumb, Dud Dumb Dud Dumb Dud Dumb Dud Dumb Dud Duuuuuumb....

ROMANTIC COMEDY

title: ROMANTIC COMEDY
year: 1984
cast: Dudley Moore, Mary Steamburgen
rating: *1/2

I like Dudley Moore but how did he become a sex symbol? It seems in most of his movies in the early eighties he's playing a character who every woman on earth is dying for. I see a short funny guy with a penguin nose. And not only does he play characters who woman love, but the woman mention how "cute" he is. But when Burt Reynolds or Cary Grant are in their romantic comedies, no one really HAS TO say they're good looking. Anyway, this movie again centers on Moore as a forty-something guy going through a mid-life crisis who woman all adore. He's a playwright who's lost his touch and his partner, and gets a new partner in young budding Mary Steamburgen. They write a few plays, some hit, some miss. Mary ends up in love with Dudley, things get weird, and... oh it's just a lot of dialog and really no point at all.

S.O.B.

cast: Richard Mulligan, William Holden, Julie Andrews, Rosanna Arquette
writer/director: Blake Edwards
year: 1980 rating: **

Before "The Player", a film which poked fun at Hollywood films, writers, producers, directors, and how films are made from behind-the-scenes, there was "S.O.B.", a wacky mesh of everything thrown into the pot. There are some good moments, like anything involving Richard Mulligan (as buried lead William Holden futilely attempts to protect him from his own bad choices) as a hit-making director who made a big budget disaster, losing his mind and becoming a suicidal maniac. Writer/director Blake Edwards is making a statement here and I'm still not sure what it is. He has his own wife, Julie Andrews, the queen of G rated musicals, playing an actress who is the queen of G-rated musicals... and she takes off her top in the movie-within-a-movie (being recut by Mulligan's character to redeem itself). Herein lies the parody of a parody, but things get too physical and eventually, though sporadically entertaining, it gets downright tiresome.

10

year: 1979
cast: Dudley Moore, Julie Andrews, Bo Derek, Dee Wallace, Brian Dennehy, Sam Jones
writer/director: Blake Edwards
rating: ***

Bo Derek is to this movie what the shark was to JAWS. You see her a few times in the build up and then a lot at the end. A few differences: when Bo's part of the story, the beautiful woman who "completes" the fantasies of songwriting middle aged "George" played by a somewhat buried lead Dudley Moore, things go downhill. Most of this Blake Edwards iconic film belongs to Moore and his subtle physical humor, and is a laidback mesh of clever lines and mellow wit, and the usual apt direction by Blake Edwards, the Hal Ashby of humor: who seems to let things happen on their own accord. If expectations are for Bo running on the beach (like the famous poster): you don't see her much: but there's a lot more to this movie than a perfect "10", it's more about the number "42", the age of the protagonist, and what he goes through to survive it.

UNFAITHFULLY YOURS

title: UNFAITHFULLY YOURS
year: 1984
cast: Dudley Moore, Natassja Kinski, Armand Assante, Albert Brooks
rating: *1/2

The three lead love-triangle driven characters (Dudley Moore, Natassja Kinski and Armand Assante) are running around like chickens with heads cut off, trying to update Preston Sturges (who wrote films in an era when actors always ran around like headless chickens, yet it worked) but to no avail. Hemingway wrote "Never mistake motion for action". I didn't. There was so much going on, I was bored silly. Even Albert Brooks, as Moore's "voice of reason", was completely wasted.

LOVE STORY

title: LOVE STORY
year: 1970
cast: Ryan O'Neal, Ali McGraw, Tommy Lee Jones, Ray Milland
rating: *

As I watched this film about a woman who dies young, I wanted to also die young (middle aged, that is). It was bad. Ali McGraw... I do NOT know how she ever got famous: other than her beauty. In this, her first big role, she is horrible, robotic, wooden, annoying. Ryan O'Neal is okay but the story is as sappy as stupid as I've ever witnessed. And in keeping with the theme, of a young person dying before their time... I ejected the film far before it's time. But then again, for me, it was time for EJECT.

DRAGONSLAYER

title: DRAGONSLAYER
year: 1981
rating: **

Overall this is an okay fantasy, in looks, but lacked overall movie magic and yet, used way too much of it in the literal sense, being that the main character was a sorcerer's apprentice, providing an "out" in many instances, leaving the story without much difficulty or hardship for the good guys or suspense for the audience. It was all a little too easy, and the climax is a big letdown except that the dragon looks incredible, and isn't dated to this day. The real problem is the hero, played by who'd usually be cast as a weenie-wimp later on: Peter MacNicol. On the other hand, Caitlin Clarke, who dressed as a boy to avoid the town's virgin sacrifice to the dragon, tricks everyone, which would've never happened since she's far too cute. One sequence where a princess is killed by baby dragons... the evil puppets eating/crunching her feet... is downright disturbing, feeling more like the filmmakers wanted to rich girl to pay for her wealth rather than her death making any sense within the already convoluted storyline. 

LOVESICK

title: LOVESICK
year: 1983
cast: Dudley Moore, Elizebeth McGovern, Ron Silver
writer/director: Marshall Brickman
rating: **

After "10" Dudley Moore appeared in a string of romantic comedies, and this outing is one of them. Written by "Annie Hall" collaborater Marshall Brickman, this is another "nervous romance" but has little to no charm or purpose. It's hard to believe gorgeous Elizebeth McGovern would be smitten with the dwarfish Moore, as a New York shrink, or Ron Silver, who plays her actor boyfriend. The acting is decent but you'll find yourself sleeping on the couch halfway through. Camoes by Alec Guinness (as the ghost of Freud), John Huston and Wallace Shawn add little to nothing overall.

LILITH

title: LILITH
year: 1964
cast: Warren Beatty, Jean Seberg, Peter Fonda, Kim Hunter, Gene Hackman, Jessica Walter
rating: **

I always have problems with movies made in the EARLY sixties because it was a time when films were getting more "realistic" and yet they still held back (they still HAD TO) and what's with all the dissolves from one scene to next? In this era there were SO MANY scenes that never really play out and simply dissolve right as they get interesting. This movie is no different than most of the others. It pushes an envelope that's been delivered so many times, that although it is ahead of its time as far as being controversial goes (implied lesbianism and some swearing), it all seems very tame and a bit boring now. Warren Beatty isn't bad as a really good looking war vet (but he doesn't seem like he's been through ANY war to me) who works at a mental ward and meets the most beautiful woman in the world, named LILITH, a patient who draws men (and women) in with her alluring beauty, and eventually drives them to insanity, suicide, or both. A very young Peter Fonda is nice to see as an uptight yet friendly mental patient smitten by the title character, and his acting is just-okay-but-cool as usual. Gene Hackman appears in a cameo but adds little to the film's overall somewhat boring tone (same with Kim Hunter and Jessica Walter)... all that leads to a conclusion that leaves you feeling somewhat in-complete.

THE BUCKET LIST

title: THE BUCKET LIST
year: 2007
cast: Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, Sean Hayes
director: Rob Reiner
rating: ***

Two old dudes who meet in a terminal ward, one rich and one poor, go around the world and visit various places before they die. The way this is filmed, each location seems as pretty yet uninteresting as something from a traveloque informmerical. The movie itself isn't THAT bad. Jack Nicholson, the rich guy, is basically doing an imitation of his character in "As Good As It Gets" but more subdued, and of course Morgan Freeman plays a really soft-spoken wise man, as usual, and as usual he narrates. It seems though Rob Reiner, who's made some great films, is asleep behind the wheel. The actors seem very alone, but since they are dying, maybe this was deliberate. And all the other actors seem in sleep-mode; straight outta central casting. But the two leads do a good enough job to make this moderate Movie-of-the-Weekesque fare. But the next day you'll have forgotten all about it.

BE COOL

title: BE COOL
year: 2005
cast: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, The Rock, Harvey Keitel, Vince Vaughan
rating: *1/2

For a movie that pokes fun at bad sequels and corporations, this is a bad sequel which is as corporate as can be. John Travolta returns as the ever-cool "Chili Palmer" and, unlike his turn in "Get Shorty" (perhaps his best performance ever), he's simply going through the motions. We get a budding love story with Uma Thurman for all those "Pulp Fiction" fans who wanted to see them hook up, and even a VERY FAMILIAR dance sequence to boot. The plot centers on the music industry as opposed to the movie industry, and there are no decent bad guys (Vince Vaughan as a "wigger" and Harvey Keitel are weak), no decent almost-bad-guys-who-turn-good (Cedric the Entertainer is even weaker), and the someone-is-in-the-house-because-they-purposely-left-the-TV-on, which was great in the original, is overused to the hilt. Attempts of mazy-double-crossings that Elmore Leonard (and Quentin Tarantino for that matter) do so well are all but col de sacs leading to dead ends. But I gotta give credit to The Rock. Although I am not a fan his turn as a gay bodyguard who wants to be an actor is the only decent character.

THE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE

year: 1977
cast: Jodie Foster, Martin Sheen
rating: **

This works as a take on Hitchcock's ROPE with a young teenage girl living ALONE in a house left by her dead poet father and being intruded upon by the perverted son of an uptight real estate lady and then gets badgered by the agent herself, who ends up accidently being killed in the wine cellar, and thus we have our ROPE as Foster has to guide people around the house WITHOUT them realizing there's a dead body in the basement as she keeps telling them (before and after the woman's death) that her father is in fact alive and working in "the study". The downfall is Scott Jacoby as a teenage Magician who aids Foster in BOTH coverups. His character is too helpful and doesn't allow the main character enough complications to make it more suspenseful. If the overall theme is a young girl making it on her own, she should have been alone for longer without the help of Jacoby's character who fills too many holes much too easily. Martin Sheen is great and shifty and steals the show as he tries to figure out where his mother is and flirts with young Foster, but isn't in it enough. And Jodie Foster does a good job, as usual... But there's too much there and not enough missing to give it that Hitchcock touch that it obviously tries hard to achieve.

TOWN & COUNTRY

title: TOWN & COUNTRY
year: 2001
cast: Warren Beatty, Goldie Hawn, Garry Shandling, Diane Keaton
rating: *

This might very well be the worst film of all time... at least while you're watching it. Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Garry Shandling juggle romance and cheating spouses and arguments, attempting a Woody Allen style ensemble piece but ending up something that should have completely abandoned, as in fact this film went through years of editing and complications. It starts out dull and then gets bad and then that bad gets even worse, especially a subplot involving Andie McDowell as a very weird woman with an even weirder gun-weilding father, played by Charlton Heston. Beatty dresses like a polar bear in one scene and tries screwing a woman in the snow; and even Garry Shandling cannot land ONE SINGLE funny line. Oh this is bad, really, truly horrible. But you might just want to witness it - after all, it's even WORSE than ISHTAR and that doesn't happen much.

MAN OF THE HOUSE

title: MAN OF THE HOUSE
year: 2005
cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Ann Archer, Curtis Armstrong
rating: **1/2

Tommy Lee Jones as a Texas Ranger taking care of a bunch of dingy cheerleaders who witnessed a mob hit. This sounds bad? Well it isn't THAT horrible. The action is fast paced and the characters are decent and memorable. Tommy Lee does his usual Tommy Lee Jones imitation while Anne Archer adds some class as his POSSIBLE love interest. Don't question why the cheerleaderes have to remain cheering in crowded games or as students in a crowded university campus while they're targets for the mob (or is it the CIA?)... questions like this will only make you think logically, and for a film like this, logic doesn't matter.

SHAMPOO

year: 1975
cast: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, Jack Warden
rating: ***1/2

Warren Beatty plays a womanizing hairdresser who goes from woman to woman, to woman to woman to woman, to woman. Basically, Warren is playing himself but as a hairdresser. Hal Ashby lets things happen on their own accord in his usual Altmanesque manner, and great classic rock tunes play without reason or purpose, in the usual Ashbyesque manner. Beatty has some nice scenes with scene-stealer (and the most interesting character) Jack Warden as a millionaire Beatty needs for a loan, only he's screwing his girlfriend... And to really feel the complete overall effect you MUST wait for the very, very end. The FINAL shot sums up a life of the gigalo, a character standing ALL ALONE. It's a remarkable closing image and makes you look back on the rest of the film with more depth and clarity.

RED SONJA (ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER)

year: 1985
cast: Brigitte Neilson
director: Richard Fleischer
rating: ***

If you hear a movie is bad enough times you will avoid watching it. Thus is RED SONYA, a film centering on a female sword-weilding hottie who sets out to kill a queen for burning her home as a child, or something. Oh but it doesn't matter. With Arnold Schwarzenegger as her Conan-like sidekick (that's right, Arnold is a sidekick and not the main character), and some pretty neat fights this is pretty decent fare. It's a nice companion piece to "Conan the Destroyer", and doesn't try to be anything but what it is: corny pulpy sword-and-sorcery with hard bodies and wall-to-wall bloody action. Works for me.

CONAN THE DESTROYER

year: 1984
cast: Arnold Swarzenegger
director: Richard Fleischer
rating: ***

More of an esamble piece with characters played by Wilt Chamberlain and Grace Jones, but their characters served the plot decently enough, the plot involving a virgin princess (Olivia D'Abo) who must be "delivered" with her virginity intact, and Conan and his "posse" are hired for the delivery and they fight some nasty creatures along the way. Tracey Walter is doing the same kind of role that great-surfer-turned-bad-actor Gerry Lopez did in the original but as comic relief, he's not very funny. Although it doesn't matter. Battles ensue and we're not thrust into a long epic like the first film, and unlike the first there's not just one villain but a lot of them, including Sarah Douglas as an evil queen, a couple of monsters and a metallic snake!

WE WERE SOLDIERS

title: WE WERE SOLDIERS
year: 2002
cast: Mel Gibson, Sam Elliott, Greg Kinnear, Chris Klein, Madaline Stowe
rating: ***

This is a good war film, very moving and intense, but I guess I've been ruined by body count war films in which you get to know each character and then as the movie progresses you watch them either die or survive accordingly. In this aspect, a film like this one, purposely made to be more realistic, gets a bit tiresome since I can't "keep score". I felt I was within the bloody battle, and this is good filmmaking to put someone THERE, but I was there way too long, and after a while I got shell-shocked, I never knew which character was dying or where I'd seen them before. This film covers the recuruiting and training of the Marine Air Calvery in the beginning of the Vietnam war and then that group of soldiers marching onto war. We go through training with the soldiers, and again, while we get to know Mel Gibson's character and his wife, with an exception of one young guy who's wife has a baby (we know this guy's gonna die), the other characters don't stand out... enough so that we care when they're torn to bits in the second half war (very long) segment. I realize, this shouldn't matter. War films should be more realistic and less slasher/body count, but this is what I grew up on and I guess I just like it better knowing EXACTLY who GETS IT. In other words, I want to not only care about the battle and the strategy, but the characters. Although it was nice to see a Vietnam War movie without a political agenda: showing war is hell simply by showing war as it happens, not getting into the reasons it "shouldn't have happened in the first place", which is what we usually get served on the Hollywood platter.

Featured Post

RIP DENNIS WATERMAN OF 'THE SWEENEY'

Dennis Waterman joins his SWEENEY partner John Thaw in that great gig in the sky; both have something in common other than their SWEENEY sho...