Random Films of the Week: A Little New Year’s Cleaning

Yeah, Happy New Year and all that stuff. I figure I’ll post more than I did last year even though I got sick and was out of action for a month or so which led to a bigger backlog that I’m still wading through. My plans to write up and pre-load posts went south thanks to that, but I think with my health getting better (albeit temporarily) I’ll try and tackle stuff slightly differently on occasion. Or: Eh, I’ve been watching a ton of movies in no particular order, so you get to pore over a few quickie capsule recommends.

Stormy Monday_AV093Stormy Monday – Mike Figgis’ first film was this stylized bit of 1988 brilliance that featured Sean Bean, Melanie Griffith, Tommy Lee Jones and Sting, plus a pretty darn neat jazz score by the director. The neon-soaked Newcastle setting features some of Roger Deakins’ lovely cinematography that makes this a total treat to watch. It’s more or less a noir gangster flick with some solid performances and an overall sense that something bad is going to happen what with all the tense glowering and some romantic notions that make for a bit of conflict as things progress.

I actually hadn’t heard of this film other than seeing a trailer way back before it was initially released in theaters. I didn’t think it was for me back then, but thanks to Arrow Video, I’ve been proven quite incorrect. Expect a fine director’s commentary from Figgis along with a few cool bonus features on this BD/DVD combo that make this a nice surprise to discover if you’ve never seen or heard of it until now. Amusingly enough, this pairs well with Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire thanks to both films mixing reality and fantasy elements (although Figgis gets the edge and the edgier performances overall).

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BEN-HUR Trailer: Judah’s Priest, Hold Your Horses!


 

It would seemeth as the “biblical” epic hath made a comeback over the last few years and while that’s a good thing for the true believers, the addition of modern CG effects actually take somethings away from those old familiar tales. Like realistic physics and properly working gravity for example. That and why the hell would Paramount remake Ben-Hur when both the silent 1925 version and 1959 remake (which some think is the “original” version!) are still holding up all these years since their initial releases? I just found out that there’s a 1907 film called Ben-Hur that’s only 15 minutes long and focuses on the chariot race, but I know some of you think I’m already nuts, so here’s proof that I am in fact, NOT.

Anyway, Take a gander at this scratchy old trailer for the 1925 version:

(Thanks, warnervod!)
 

And yes, take a look at the remake’s famous chariot race sequence (which was almost a shot for shot reworking of the second film’s):

(thanks Movieclips!)
 

Yeah, yeah, I know some of you out there LIKE the fancy and expensive CG effects in that new trailer above. But the distinct lack of realism in the action there as opposed to the older films where it’s all practical effects, daring stuntmen and PAINFUL looking wrecks is a great deal more impressive than this new hybrid of Gladiator, Troy, 300, and any other hysterical “historical” or mythological big-dollar flick this century that got many butts in the seats. Being a former church-goer of a few denominations, I can also see some folks who follow noting the bigger story of a certain carpenter wrapping around Judah Ben-Hur’s seems to be pushed aside a bit much in that loud trailer. On the other hand, this is ONLY the first trailer and Paramount wants to get the action fiends in first and foremost for this fast and furious new version of an old classic.

As for Morgan Freeman in a dreadlock wig? My head hurts thinking about it, but I did laugh when I first saw him and thought of two jokes: God has been demoted and where the heck is that Predator 2 remake just so Freeman could play that voodoo priest who gets his head lopped off when he encounters that alien hunter. Hey, better to redo a film like that than one revered by many who see no need for a modern update that costs more but may be the lesser of three non-evils. Eh, we shall see… but I’m not expecting this to be nominated for 11 Oscars like the 1959 film was. FYI, the Academy Awards didn’t official exist until 1929 or else that 1925 flick wold have taken home a few key trophies, I bet.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed that Paramount makes its profit back on this new version, but I guess that’s up to the mob in question buying the tickets and whether the story goes where it needs to outside the action scenes and usual suspect paint-by-numbers plot points. We shall see, ladies and gents… we shall seeeeeeee.

Random Film of the Week: Invisible Invaders

Invisible Invaders MPSometimes revisiting an old film can reveal a load of new surprises, particularly if it ends up being a possible inspiration for later and better works. While not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, 1959’s Invisible Invaders managed to actually be a lot more thrilling than I recall from seeing it as a kid.

For one thing, it’s both an alien invasion and a zombie flick, melding sci-fi and horror pretty well despite some rather incredulous plot shenanigans. It’s also an unintentional response to Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space (also released in 1959) because it features more or less the same story executed far more effectively. Well, for a low budget flick, that is.

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The Twilight Zone: The 5th Dimension Box Set: Throwback Thursday Gets The Ultimate Gift!

Twilight Zone Box Set 

55 years ago to-day, The Twilight Zone premiered on CBS and while it only ran for five years (1959-1964), it’s still one of the most memorable anthology series to this day. There was a revival in the 80’s that ran from 1985-1989, and while it wasn’t as great as the original series, there were a number of excellent episodes in that reboot that come to mind as worth tracking down. According to USA Today, the fine folks at Image Entertainment have decided to collect every episode from both series along with a wealth of special features and is going to release a very limited edition 41 DVD set called The Twilight Zone: The 5th Dimension on November 11, 2014.

Only 7500 of these must-have sets will be made and while that $349.98 price tag may seem steep to some of you who think anything old and in black and white isn’t worth that kind of money, old fogeys like me who grew up in the Zone are breaking out our knives and are getting ready to fight it out with other fans and collectors just to get our grubby mitts on this collection. I’d imagine the chances of Image shooting one of these over for review are absolute zero, I’d trade one of Alicia’s robot arms (from The Lonely), a bar of gold (from The Rip Van Winkle Caper), a family-sized can of chicken (from Two) or a Kanamit cookbook (from To Serve Man) for one of those babies. Okay, all I REA::Y have is an old tin can here, but I hear it’s quite magical once kicked around a few times…

Part Of My Weekend Plans Are Set…

Black Saturday of the Lost ArkYeah, yeah, yeah… TCM shows this a few times a year, but sometimes it’s just nice to own a movie if you happen to not want to rely on a channel (or worse, a streaming video service) to deliver the goods. There’s just something lovely and delicious about popping a disc into a player, sitting back and letting the film in question do its stuff and Bava’s horror classic certainly has PLENTY of stuff. I just find it amusing that as absolutely gorgeous as Barbara Steele was (and is, as she’s still with us, last I checked), in a number of her films, she’s buried under makeup that makes her look pretty horrific. But hey, that’s one reason she’s loved by many fans of classic horror flicks I guess.

As for Raiders, it was $2.50 new, I needed another copy and didn’t care if it was on Blu-Ray or not. I actually hadn’t seen it in a while and HATE watching it on AMC because of all those dumb interruptions and the picture quality is terrible to my eyes. One actually needs NO excuse to own this film, as it’s something you can pop on and loop all day as background noise while you’re doing stuff around the house. “I dunno, I’m making this up as I go!” may become your mantra after a day of this film, that’s for sure…

La Petite Parade: Because You Need A Decent Laugh Once In A While…

I haven’t seen this vintage cartoon in ages, so thanks to a friend I ran into a few weeks back and a conversation we had about Harveytoons, here you go. I bet that version of the parade music the matchmaker sings in his hilarious complaint to the Minister of Parades gets stuck in your head after watching this. You’re welcome.

Oh, by the way (or: memo to the crazy people who watch too much cable news and believe what’s said about foreign countries), French people aren’t really like this at all. So don’t go looking at this as a “historical” document or anything like that.

-GW

Random Film Of The Week: (The) Hideous Sun Demon

 

hideous sun demonOK, this week’s selection was relegated to a simpler internet search after my usual “secret” selection method (flipping through a big movie encyclopedia or DVD catalog and randomly pointing at a title on whatever page I stopped on) left me with a few too many controversial choices (Targets, Joe and Badlands came up on the first three pages I dropped a finger on) that, while great movies worth seeing, aren’t exactly films I want to go over at this point. So, I’m substituting a favorite “B” movie that’s awful and hilarious with a nice left hook for you sun worshipers out there who can’t seem to catch enough rays.

Hell, it’s been hot enough these past few weeks that I should have added this flick about a month or so ago. Anyway, the plot about a scientist who ends up turning into quite a crispy-faced creature doing no good things to the general populace after radiation exposure is pretty far out there, but you can say that about most 50’s sci-fi and horror flicks. This one works for me because it tries to play as serious and even gets away with it for a bit, but you’ll be smirking along soon enough…

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