(Not So) Random Film of the Week: No Blade of Grass

no blade of grassSo, I lost a coin toss with myself a few days ago and ended up watching a pretty dark film from the lower end of the bucket list. Reasons, I guess. I also guess I should put a trigger warning here, as this one’s something else.

Grim meets garish (plus tax where applicable) in Cornel Wilde’s 1970 apocalyptic survival shocker No Blade of Grass, which is very likely not a film you want to see if you’re holed up in quarantine for a spell. Then again, it’s a film that’s brutal to watch under any circumstances, with its kind of timely by today’s calendar plot and Wilde’s decision to linger on some scenes that are a bit too exploitative and counteract whatever strong ecological message he was trying to send.

Then again, the source material wasn’t exactly a pleasant story either. Still, Wilde (who co-wrote, directed, and produced the film) gets his powerful message across from the opening moments, using a sledgehammer of assorted mostly stock imagery of polluted water, air and land, plus what seems to be clips of a dying emaciated child to let you know business is meant in all that intensity of the opening moments. I think there was a nuclear explosion in there somewhere as well, but I might have been busy trying to find my jaw, which was under the sofa when it fell off and rolled under it. I need to vacuum more, it seems, as my chin was a bit dusty when I located it. Uh, so mind-blowing and downbeat opening, plus a reach for a finger pistol depressing tune (sung by Roger Whittaker!) as a main title? Check.

(Thanks, The Film Archives!)

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Review: Love Laughs at Andy Hardy (1946)

Love Laughs at Andy Hardy_MP

This French poster looks as it was started in 1909 and completed a few dozen years later.

“Well, I certainly wasn’t going to laugh…”  is what I immediately thought after viewing this tepid 1946 film on TCM a few evenings ago. To be fair, I’d seen a few Andy Hardy films in the past and found them to be drolly amusing light comedies and as fluffy as could ever be possible, especially the three with a young Judy Garland as Mickey Rooney‘s co-star. This effort, however just left me cold and in a few parts, rubbed me the wrong way save for one performance that steals the show.

The absolutely drop-dead gorgeous Dorothy Ford was actually 5′ 11″, but played her too brief part as Coffy Smith at well over six feet in heels and yes, steals the film from Mickey Rooney’s tired but competent shenanigans. She also turns out to be the “wisest” character in this film, offering up some sage relationship advice and dealing with having to dance with Rooney in a lively, but paradoxically strangely dull sequence where her height is the butt of a few jokes. Andy being about breast high being one none too subtle bit, but that’s actually funny for a few seconds.

 

 

Then again, the film very likely will be loved by the comfort flick crowd for a lot of the usual things the franchise was known for. You get that long Andy and Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone) talk with morality and choices as the center, and yes, the family Hardy is as wholesome as Instant Ralston with Jam, and cream mixed in (ewww). There are some amusing moments like the homecoming sequence when Andy comes back from his service in WWII, and a few of the college scenes are cute and chuckle-worthy. Still, for me, the film was a chore to sit through because of the “Poor Andy Hardy” scent emanating from the plot.

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Random Film of the Week: Brainstorm (1983)

brainstorm_03

What you really want to see when the nurses come for you…

brainstorm_MP1A few years back, The second thing I thought of when Facebook snapped up “virtual reality” headset maker Oculus was this flawed but still incredible 1983 sci-fi film directed by Douglas Trumbull. Unfortunately, Brainstorm slipped into theaters under the dark cloud of Natalie Wood’s mysterious off-set death as a work that some at the time debated should have been scrapped entirely. At the time, I liked Trumbull’s technical mastery more than the cast’s straightforward performances. Upon seeing the film again recently, I liked it more, but I also think it’s one of the few films where a modern remake would fix a few things such as sofa-sized and room-sized computers and those super-bulky tapes and that huge headset helmet prototype. Then again, that old tech is kind of what makes the film so effective, as it sure looks like all that wiring and doodads do something.

Despite some workman-like performances from its cast, Trumbull’s direction and his blending standard 35mm camerawork and outstanding widescreen shots of real life vistas and indoor locales plus assorted visual effects that predated IMAX in its use of dynamic screen ratio changes. The often stunning widescreen sequences were shot in Super Panavision 70 with an aspect ratio of 2.2:1 are the real stars here. Still, there’s an air of gloom that hangs over the entire film thanks to one character’s on-screen fate that makes you wish the thought-capturing device in the film actually existed, but had a ‘rewind life’ function added. As dry as the pedestrian plot is, the imagery is at times, some breathtaking stuff that mixes in mundane to high flying activities as the assorted fantasy to nightmare sequences play out.

(thanks, BreadCrustCouncil!)

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Random Film of the Week: Topkapi

Topkapi_DVDHaving had items stolen from me in the past, I’m not at all a fan of thievery as a *proper* lifestyle choice (grrr!). That said, it’s hard to pass up a good (fake) crime caper and Jules Dassin’s  wonderful, amusing 1964 film Topkapi has been a favorite of mine for decades ever since I saw it as a kid. There’s just something magical about Dassin’s work here. It was his first color film and boy, does he blow the doors out right from the near seizure-inducing start (you’ll probably wince/squint a few times with all those color filters and such coming at you full tilt), and it’s also a film that gets you grinning from start to finish.

It’s more or less the flip the switch to comic tone version of Dassin’s bleak but brilliant 1955 film Rififi with a more varied cast and an even better lengthy heist scene. It’s also a film that’s since inspired a few directors to steal liberally from it (to varied effects), but that’s another discussion for another day. Here, you get Melina Mercouri, smoky voice and all as the lovely Elizabeth Lipp, who has the grand idea to steal a jeweled dagger from Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. She seeks out an ex-lover (Maximilian Schell) who just so happens to be a thief of some renown and the pair plan out their caper with the intent to use nothing but amateurs unknown to any authorities who come sniffing around after the crime has been committed.

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Debbie Reynolds: Dancing On That Smile Stage One Final Time

(thanks ozabbazo77!)
 

Ugh. No mas, 2016. This one’s both barrels, folks. If you’ve never seen Singin’ In The Rain, please do so ASAP as it’s not only a great introduction the classic movie musical, it’s probably going to lighten even the grimmest mood when all is said and done.

Back in a bit.

-GW

HUMOR: Dr. “No” To ‘Jane Bond’, Yes to 007

007_maybeNot that I’m against a female MI6 agent at all, ladies and germs, but simply sex-changing James Bond isn’t the way to do it right at all. As much as some might want it to be, this isn’t a Mass Effect game or some over-smoked pot-boiled fan fiction with a much bigger budget. I took that fan-made concept poster and distilled it a bit so the “Aha!” people get where this is going. For the rest of you, here’s the idea that popped into my skull as soon as I saw that image:

Let’s say after a few agents gone rogue/missing/KIA, Her Majesty’s Secret Service institutes an order for all current and future agents to have special tamper-proof chips installed on their persons (under the skin somewhere) so every movement they make can be tracked for “their safety and efficiency” by the bureau. Of course, a certain mister Bond doesn’t want to be mod-chipped at all, and as he’s out in the field, can’t pop back to swingin’ Londinium to get that tracker installed.

Let’s just say MI6 has ways of getting their directives passed… Continue reading

Sure, Computer! How About You Work Properly For The Next Week?

(Thanks, Technomage116!)
 

Whee. I finally figured out what was wrong with the laptop, and it was nothing I did but a driver going rogue and mucking up my work life. Boo. Ah, technology… you stink for us less brainy types. Anyway, it’s now a matter of getting somewhere with a speedier connection to fix the issue (albeit temporarily). Blue Screen o’ Death, you can’t stop me! But I’m still buying a new laptop in a few days just because I need to upgrade and this old thing is on its last legs and flaunting that fact HARD. Okay, let me post this before the stupid thing locks up or crashes again. I just did a registry cleaning after uninstalling a bunch of not-needed stuff in order to free up a bit of extra space on the HDD and that seems to be helping a tiny bit. Oh, the backing up of data and reinstalling stuff on the soon to be new computer will be “fun” for sure. Does anyone remember ALL their passwords these days? I thought not.

Random Film of the Week: The Pirate

The Pirate MPEvery movie fan (this writer included) has a case of “Hollywood Blinders” they slap on for certain films they love because without them, thinking of anything abnormal taking place behind the scenes ruins much or all of a particular movie’s strengths. This little review just so happens to be about one of those films some outright adore while others don’t take to it all that well.

While its comic book colors and highly exuberant performances make Vincente Minnelli’s 1948 musical The Pirate a mostly to extremely fun to watch slice of Hollywood entertainment, it’s the behind the scenes stuff that makes the film somewhat problematic as a classic one can fully enjoy unless you ignore certain elements. For this particular film, those Hollywood Blinders take the form of an eye patch (or bandanna or even a big felt pirate hat if you like watching your colorful, imperfect musicals with two working eyeballs).

The pairing of Gene Kelly and Judy Garland should have been a wonderful one and in fact is when the film hits most of its high marks. But thanks to the studio system’s lousy treatment of her from the beginning of her career, Garland’s star was far from shining bright during the troubled production. The results are amusing and impressive at times, but it’s also a somewhat flawed film with a too quick finale that pops in as if the cameras were running out of film and something needed to get shot or someone had to walk the plank.

(thanks, SuperVintageCinema!) 

Garland’s assorted troubles (including a nervous breakdown that kept her off set for an extended period) thankfully don’t show up in the finished product. But it’s clear that the wide-eyed gal next door who played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz less than ten years previously was a wider-eyed and far more troubled soul on a downward spiral to a much shorter life than she deserved. Toss in a fantastic Gene Kelly dance sequence with The Nicholas Brothers that seemingly got them pushed out of the movies (and Hollywood) for a few years too long and you end up with a film best seen with those Hollywood Blinders on. Nice and tight, now.  So, buckle your swash and slap on that eye patch, folks. There’s a storm a-brewin’ on the shooting stage and you’re getting shanghaied and strapped into your seats for a wild ride… Continue reading

Back to the Future: What’s Old Is New Game News @E3 2015

(thanks, magicalmotionmuseum!)
 

It’s a good news/bad news thing today. The good news: time travel DOES exist, ladies and gents. Final Fantasy VII is finally getting a remake for the PS4 and possibly PC. The Last Guardian is now a PS4 exclusive (as I predicted a while back) Shenmue 3 was announced yesterday evening at Sony’s E3 event as a surprising show-announced Kickstarter project for PS4 and was COMPLETELY funded in about twelve hours (breaking a Kickstarter record). Even King’s Quest and HITMAN are making comebacks (and sooner than you’d think).

Microsoft’s formerly forward-looking only Xbox One gets Xbox 360 backward compatibility and legendary developer Rare is releasing 30 of its classic arcade and console games for $30 in a crazy must-have bundle this August (exclusively for the console, of course). Between this and the return of DOOM, the acceptance of indie retro games as necessary for part of a console’s success and other interesting developments, it’s a huge win-win situation for gamers with a good deal of disposable income. And no, I didn’t forget Nintendo in all this. I’m just holding out for a separate post on their always nostalgic ways and means of getting loyal fans continually hooked in. Give me a bit of time on that as it’s still construction central here with more to come.

Now, the bad news: In reality time travel DOESN’T exist at all. With all those new games coming (and this post doesn’t count the VR games invasion happening soon), no one will actually any free time to play them all unless their Doctor has a certain “timey-wimey” prescription that allows them to have their fun and return to reality not having missed much sleep or even a day of work. Oh well…

SPECTRE Teaser: Gold Bond Works Hard For You


 

Well, that was kind of anti-climactic, but quite intriguing. No explosions, sexy ladies or snappy quips to be found here at all. just a looming sense of a dead-serious Bond film looking to be the most memorable on of the Daniel Craig era. The continuity in the last few Bond films has been at least more or less coherent and consistent, so SPECTRE has that going for it. Of course,the gadget-loving Bondies who want the less serious JB on screen will probably wait a bit, see what the reviews say this November and still complain if they’re mostly positive. You can’t please everyone, I suppose. Anyway, let me shut up before someone SMERSHes me in the face with a Thunderball.