THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (1961)

In FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE the men-on-a-mission actually seem to be outside, behind enemy lines in exterior locales as opposed to the original, GUNS OF NAVARONE, with studio-shot close-ups of characters speaking more exposition to the audience than real conversations with each other... 

Which FORCE 10 has plenty of... an eclectic group, mostly at bickering odds, with genuine chemistry while GUNS moves along too sluggishly for an action flick, has very little intrigue for an adapted twist-filled espionage, and for what's a worthy ensemble on paper, the characters, from stalwart mountain-climber Gregory Peck, explosives-expert-second David Niven, vengeful widower Anthony Quinn, patient middleman Anthony Quayle (these four far too old), machine-gun blasting youth James Darren and strong-silent-type Stanley Baker, all seem... despite collectively sent to destroy the Nazi's strategically-placed gigantic title gun on the titular Greek isle... in entirely different movies. Rates: **

THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS (2018)

It's not just that son of Jim Henson Brian Henson crapped on his father's MUPPET SHOW legacy by making a crude comedy where crude puppets are actually part of the human world... It's the fact that making puppets into quasi-people deletes the magic of what puppets are in the first place, and what they aren't are cartoons, hence the WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT  theme with fictional beings existing with real ones and making no sense in THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS, where puppetry looks more CGI within a modern-time Noir Narrating-Gumshoe has a crass private eye puppet going from scene to scene swearing (from Jesus's name to...you name it) or beating people up, partnered reluctantly with former partner/human cop Melissa McCarthy, who also swears and fights and... While the stout actress has gotten the most blame for this train-wreck, and her casting does take away from what Henson obviously intended to be a different kind of puppet movie instead of a the same kind of different kind of McCarthy movie (it's basically THE HEAT), the script's to blame here: each scene is overlong and ponderous while the body count plot... puppets from a former popular TV series are being picked off one-by-one... runs out of steam, and long before murder one Rating: *

LIVE CREAM (ALBUM)

LIVE CREAM is the best live Cream album, covering songs from the first LP Fresh Cream and Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker (bass/lead vocals, guitar/vocals and drums) are able to not only expand upon those relatively unknown tunes but to turn them into extended blues/jazz jams...

When you listen to and get to know this album inside and out (which includes a studio ditty Lawdy Mama, which is Strange Brew with more blue-oriented/less psychedelic-oriented lyrics), and then crank up Fresh Cream, it's a lot like hearing some of the 1970's Grateful Dead albums wherein their studio work is simply a means to a live performance end... And Cream's second live album VOL 2. (both came out after the band broke up) is more catered to mainstream audiences or mega Eric Clapton fans, mostly covering the band's popular "hits" like Sunshine of your Love and White Room... but LIVE CREAM is the album-experience that proves who the original JAM BAND really was. And still IS... all you need to do is listen. And keep listening.

THE LAST ACTION HERO (1993)

The problem with THE LAST ACTION HERO is not the film itself, but the film-within-a-film it's poking fun at, named after the super-cop character JACK SLATER, which in itself is a lame title for a franchise that seems very made-up. So basically THE LAST ACTION HERO is bagging on an Action Movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger himself, which would be like Jerry Lewis looking down on lovable klutzes or Rod Serling sneering at a twist ending...

The main problem is, Arnold did this movie way too soon. After TERMINATOR 2 he was at the peak of his powers, and he winds up showing audiences how stupid those kind of movies are. The funny thing is, Arnold's most popular "Action" films are really Science-Fiction... Not just TERMINATOR 1 and 2 but TOTAL RECALL, THE RUNNING MAN and PREDATOR... plus the CONAN films which are sci-fi's sibling, Fantasy...

Many of the cliches through the JACK SLATER universe do NOT exist in actual action movies... In those they're part but here they are glaring stereotypes that serve no purpose at all. Especially unfitting is the CARTOON CAT that shows up as a working cop in the police station. No Arnold or Sly Stallone or Bruce Willis movie has EVER had a cartoon mix in with humans (and the central kid actor is a bore)...

The only two good things are the tall/lanky, totally scary-looking Tom Noonan as an ax-killer who should have been the ONLY MAIN villain instead of Charles Dance making fun of Charles Dance.. And F. Murray Abraham as Jack's fictional cop partner turned backstabber could have had more merit than two quick scenes, so the fact is, the film-within-the-film is treated with no respect, and it's simply not entertaining (like Arnold's following years' comeback, a real action movie, TRUE LIES): For instance, JACK SLATER IV opens with a five-minute scene between two very old men having a conversation (Tony Quinn and Art Carney), which would bore the daylights out of any kid watching on opening night. And, after all the nonsense, by the time the fictional characters do a TIME AFTER TIME meets THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO and enter real life, the audience is exhausted. A shame since THAT movie was far better than the other. SCORE: **


 

MIRACLE OF THE ORIGINAL 'GHOSTBUSTERS'

Dan Aykroyd wrote a totally farfetched film that would not have worked had Bill Murray not dissembled all the serious attributes along the way. His dry wit in not believing the things that happen right in front of his face made the original movie great, and made Dan Aykroyd funny despite playing the straightest of straight man roles. In that, any sequel (including THE HORRIBLE second movie) doesn't work because Murray's character is no longer a cynical and hilarious non-believer of the story itself. And Murray is the kind of presence that just cannot be replaced… not by female SNL stars (the infamous reboot) and not by children either (AFTERLIFE). Not even by Murray himself, who was completely lost in the second movie… and who never wanted to be in a third movie BECAUSE OF how bad the second movie was... 

Basically, the original GHOSTBUSTERS was a shocking success that no one saw coming (including all those who were THERE on opening night). Had John Belushi starred alongside Akyroyd as intended, it probably would have not worked since Belushi, as great as he was and always the craziest guy in the proverbial crazy train, didn't have the subtle skill of undoing all the work done by others. Murray was there all along to say, "This story is silly and I don't know why I'm here" which was needed given the insane premise and, without him OR Harold Ramis to make Dan's character that much more serious-minded about all the mind-boggling, fantastical science, there's simply no use of trying to trap the same lighting in the same bottle… which, as noted several times, wasn't even possible in 1989 for an unnecessary sequel attempting to tread the same ground that was miraculously successful to begin with.

SHADOWS AND FOG (WOODY ALLEN)


While SHADOWS AND FOG is a pretty good movie, and uses the titular elements that channel old British mystery novels, German Expressionism and American Film Noir, it's the second Woody Allen comedy after RADIO DAYS where the characters and dialogue, while fast-paced and clever as usual, are just a second... or perhaps a mere moment... off. And in that, since Woody only narrated DAYS, it's the first where the man himself seems a few years too old to play the same "nebbish" character... It's like he's doing an imitation of himself, and kind of peters out in the process (after all it takes a lot of youthful energy to be so doomed and neurotic)...

His films usually have no empty spaces wherein one forgots what they're watching. Even his best work, from ANNIE HALL to CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, leave the viewer exhausted, if only from laughing or smiling (or thinking) too much.... FOG however sporadically loses touch within its own story and at times the actors seem directionless. And as strong and infectious Woody is a writer, sometimes his "guest stars" here seem to be desperately improvising (especially Johns Cusack and Malkovich... although they're also doing Woody impressions); on the other hand, the fact it's not as downright hilarious as his 1970's films also means it's that much more laid-back and subtle. Not a bad thing. Despite being about a killer on the loose, it's one of his most relaxing features. And Mia Farrow steals the show by not seeming like she's acting at all.

THE GHOST OF PETER SELLERS

Year Film: 1974 Doc: 2018 Rating: **1/2 

Watching THE GHOST OF PETER SELLERS it feels like Spike Milligan, not Peter Sellers, is at fault for the Peter Medak's doomed pirate movie GHOST IN THE NOONDAY SUN being so bad since it was Spike who talked his former Goon, Sellers, into doing a movie that he hardly even had developed on the page.

In one reflection, Medak, who also directs this very documentary, says that both he AND Sellers cried on the phone together after having read what there was to read of the script. Then, when Sellers becomes a pain to the director on set, Spike shows up to write the last half of the script, and acts like the hero for bringing Sellers back to the set when in reality, it was a set that should have never been built because the script wasn't even finished from the very beginning. A screenplay is the most important "set" of a movie. It's everything. Seeing parts of the movie, that is, the ACTUAL movie of NOONDAY SUN, it doesn't seem all Sellers fault despite Sellers being absolutely horrible in it. The direction looks like test shots for rehearsals or casting auditions, so this supposedly brilliant young director wasn't really directing but rather just pointing his camera and filming. So perhaps the fault isn't just on Peter Sellers here. And at the very end of the doc, when Medak is sitting next to Spike Milligan's statue, praising him after defecating on Sellers for two hours, it makes very little sense.

I'LL NEVER FORGET WHAT'S'ISNAME (1967)

Beware fans of (latter) Orson Welles and (young) Oliver Reed, and even director Michael Winner in his pre-Bronson prime, but this one's no winner nor does it READ well on the screen...

The plot has Oliver as an ad man quitting before we the audience know how good he is, or about what exactly he's quitting. It feels like the movie starts 20 minutes in, even 40.

And being a 1960's counter-culture flick it's one of those Drop-Out themes, but Reed still has wealth and girls (including gorgeous, underrated Carol White) so there's not much of a void there to be filled, or that he's filling. And Reed is usually so amped into roles (especially he and Winner's first and best THE SYSTEM) but here he sleepwalks, and doesn't utter a complete sentence until about fifteen minutes in. At least not one that matters. And herein, not much does. Rating: **

BORN AGAIN (1978)

Part Watergate political-historical biopic but mostly Christian propaganda that includes veteran actor (and our personal favorite) Dana Andrews quoting C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity to a somewhat selfish, partially greedy and supposedly only-coincidentally guilty Richard Nixon lawyer Chuck Coulson thrown into jail; and that's where the good stuff occurs, especially thanks to the always-intense blaxploitation ace Raymond St. Jacques, the tough guy in the federal prison...

Who initially bullies and then protects Coulsin, played by Dean Jones, usually cast in Disney flicks as their then-modern-day Jimmy Stewart; thus that kind of man-next-door quality keeps this character-study down-home and intriguing albeit one-sided and self-promoting yet never boring but not altogether great either but, for what can be called a 2-hour cinematic Alter Call (resembling a Television Movie-of-the-Week), BORN AGAIN fits both the title and purpose, nicely enough to pass the time since these kind of preachy melodramas can often feel like eternity. Rates: ***/12

A KILLER IN THE FAMILY (TV MOVIE)

Year: 1983 Cast: Robert Mitchum, James Spader, Lance Kerwin, Eric Stoltz rates: **

Google a picture of the real life sons after they were arrested... Look at their hard, calloused faces, edgy, mean, deadly... Then watch as little-dipper eyed Lance Kerwin and docile Eric Stolz play the whining, kindhearted, manipulated, vulnerable, blue-eyed sons of the father they broke out of the jail... A father who kills an entire family including a small child...

Anyhow, if KILLER IN THE FAMILY were meaner and colder, like the real life Tison family, who were rampaging white trash serial killers throughout Arizona, unlike especially the law student son played by James Spader, supposedly wanting to kill his father while on the road, then it'd be more realistic and more an exploitation piece instead of a TV-movie that's not sure who exactly the bad guys are... 

Much of the blame is laid on the dad's convict friend. Sadly, this road movie could have been really good, but Robert Mitchum was far too old to play a man with sons that could be his grandchildren... With a melting face, he has one of those ballooned stomachs that looks hard as steel from drinking and he can hardly move his old bones... Miscast, to say the least... Again, Google the real Gary Tison and see the empty shell of a human being, around forty-years old and dead to life, dead to the world...

The lawyers of his sons/crime-spree partners must have made this TV-movie to keep them from spending too much time there, despite winding up on Death Row (before given life sentences instead, because of their age). They never seem to have anything to do with the murders or anything else, pretty much, short of the opening breakout, which seemed more daring than anything else. 

Either way, while not terrible and sometimes entertaining, this was a missed opportunity... Reminds one of the horrible Death of a Centerfold TV-movie, that was soon trumped by the incredible theatrical Star 80... Too bad nothing came out to straighten out this crooked mess... There's a Straight-to-Video job starring Robert Patrick from 2017, but... The best thing to come out of this was the Warner Archives DVD with the original blue outlined cover; a collector's edition but, sadly, what's inside there is merely a forgotten curio, for good reason.

DETOUR (1945)

Year: 1945 Rating: **

Ann Savage's famous femme fatale would be the kind of classic Noir character had she entered the picture earlier on... 

Instead, during Tom Neal's story as he, a low-rent piano player, hitchhikes from New York to L.A. to see his girl who's trying to make it big in Hollywood, Savage's Phoenix AZ con-artist babbler simply kills the self-narrated road movie buzz that'd belonged more comfortably to the far more subtle and intriguing Neal... 

Her incessant bickering is annoying while their collected con (that HE'S bickered into) is so far-fetched you'll wish poor Tom did what he initially promised: Instead of thumbing the ride that'd changed his life and given Savage the chance to blackmail him, to make the whole trip across country all alone, by himself, on a pogo-stick.

 

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