Review: Promise Her Anything (1966)

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“Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it…”

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My brain wants its time back. My eyes… well they were pleased for a hot minute or two.

The very last thing you see before the end credits to Arthur Hiller‘s bizarre 1966 sex comedy Promise Her Anything is a red neon sign that says one word: STOP, which if it had appeared at the start of the film, would have probably saved me the trouble of watching this earlier this morning. To paraphrase Fight Club, “I am Jack’s flabbergasting 98 minutes.”

Let me hip you to the ’60’s era plot so I can get away with torturing, murdering and burying this one as fast as possible, although I may take my time with the torture part, as the movie is very much like scheduling a 98-minute session with a nearsighted dominatrix who happens to be stone deaf, owns a too short set of whips, keeps missing her target, her safe word is “Mister Mxyzptlk” and if you don’t sign it properly with the quotes, she keeps on madly whipping the air. I’ll first apologize to anyone who’s exactly like that in real life or has that particular fetish, by the way.

Anyway, here we we go: A lovely widow with a baby moves into a Greenwich Village apartment on the same floor as a free-spirited guy who makes mail order adult movies but has intentions of making it big in art films one day. They sort of hit it off (although she has no idea of the work he does), but she gets a job as an assistant to a baby-hating child psychologist and plans to woo him because she sees a good provider in that wealth he’s got. Meanwhile, her neighbor becomes quite a helpful babysitter… who keeps trying to bed his emotionally susceptible newly widowed neighbor while secretly putting her child in the films he’s selling.

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You’re watching this film for the girls, right? Bless your soul.

Well now, that’s kind of unforgettable for a few reasons, isn’t it?

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Review: Love Laughs at Andy Hardy (1946)

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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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Review: CATS (2019)

CATS_MPSo I did something out of the ordinary (for me, as least). I went and saw a film I didn’t like the first time with hopes that the second time would me somewhat more enjoyable. It wasn’t, but at least what I saw was a bit more polished and I kind of got it a tad more. Yeah, I saw CATS again. Granted, the first time was a freebie, as a friend had planned to take his wife when the film opened. They went to see the last Star Wars film together and CATS was her pick for the next film they were to see, but she got sick, so I got called up as a last minute substitute player. I still haven’t seen that Star Wars movie yet, by the way.

Anyway, I was astounded by how very well-made but very off-putting this expensive film was and started writing a review in response, the opening paragraph which is below:

I was planning to save this one for when my writer’s block was slamming a book down on my fingers, but this review is practically writing itself for me as we speak. CATS is so very memorably atrocious that if we ever get visited by alien life in the future, I think those aliens will somehow unearth a print that’s been buried somewhere and may think we were ruled by a feline race that we made extinct because we got to see them as they really were.

There was more, but after looking at the finished review, I ended up trashing it it because it wasn’t constructive at all and even though I managed to make it a tidy 501 words, not too many of them were positive. So, I decided to chalk it up to the unfinished quality of the first run print’s unacceptable CG and yesterday afternoon, I flipped a coin and went to see it again, as the fixed version was out making the rounds. Mistake, meet blessing in disguise, as there was a blind person in front of me using a folding cane buying a pair of tickets to the showing.

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Random Film of the Week Quickie: DEAD END

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“I hear the marinara sauce is good in this joint…”

Dead End 1937 MPI love Dead End for a few reasons. It’s a great film based off a stage play that yep, both looks and feels stagey, but that works highly in its favor. It’s a classic Old New York City film just for the location it presents and the feeling that, staging aside, that place actually existed. It also marked the debut of The Dead End Kids who’d later morph into The Little Tough Guys, then The East Side Kids and then into The Bowery Boys with a total of close to 50 audience-pleasing fluff comedies made between 1937 and 1958. To some non-fans of the Boys, this only proves the law of diminishing returns should have been more strictly obeyed and enforced (ha and ha). But, I digress.

It also has Humphrey Bogart in an early knockout role as a slickly dressed but menacing thug who returns to his old stomping grounds with a brand new facelift for mixed results. Finally, it’s a nicely directed “message” film by the great William Wyler that works on many levels, some of which soak in only after a second or third viewing. Go grab your popcorn, pal. I’ll wait. Oh, you’re making it on the stove the old-fashioned way? Good. I’ll go get a bowl and meet you back here in five.

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Bogie lets McCrea know he can’t wear a hat AND a bucket at the same time.

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Random Film of the Week: Dracula/Horror of Dracula (1958)

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Now, that’s a title screen, Isn’t it?

draculaAmusingly enough, I was wearing a Famous Monsters of Filmland T-shirt I got as a gift when I ran into an older neighbor in the supermarket last week who mentioned that as a kid, her parents took her to see Horror of Dracula back in 1958. She was only 8 years old, but was a big fan of sci-fi and horror movies, noting her parents were as well, and they’d make trips to the movies regularly. She noted she couldn’t sleep for about a month or so, but not because of Dracula, mind you, as (spoiler!) he’s as dead as a door nail at the end of the film (well, until his revival in the next films), but because of his brides.

She was convinced they were going to come after her for some reason and I noted that I’m sure many people who’ve seen this film sure as heck wanted a nibble on the neck from any of the lovely ladies in that film, vampires or not. Maybe even a few too many nibbles.

She laughed, and said “I know, but there was one in particular… what’s her name? The one that looked like a cat?” I thought for a few seconds and guessed correctly it was Andrée Melly, who indeed did look like a cat, and yes, briefly played that favorite bide of too many others as well. The neighbor let out a loud laugh. “Well that was fast! I guess she made an impression on you, too!”, which made me laugh as well, as there’s a pun in there she didn’t realize she was making. Anyway, we chatted a bit more and I helped her get a big aluminum baking pan off a high shelf for the ham she was making, as family was visiting that weekend. She paid for her groceries and left with a wave, thanking me for jogging her memory.

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Meow! Careful. I hear she bites…

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Random Film of The Week: Starship Troopers

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“This soldier threw a knife that from twenty feet away that somehow landed in his own hand. That’s a damn PASSING GRADE for sheer ingenuity!”

starship_troopers_ver2Someone call up Guinness, please, because I can very likely tell you of the world’s shortest class trip that doesn’t involve anything dangerous happening. Back in 1997, I went to see Starship Troopers on its release day, opting not to take the subway to what I thought would be a crowded city theater, but supporting a local theater here in the Bronx. I got my ticket early for the first showing at the formerly wonderful Loews American, sadly, now a Marshall’s (Boooo, but at least they kept the beautiful ’40’s era statues on the rear of the theater intact), and waited for the film to begin.

I noticed as the lights dimmed that there were two rows of seats on the right side that were empty, but there was one guy who looked like he was from the theater waiting for someone, as he kept looking back as the exit from a seat behind the empty rows. I recall shrugging, then getting glued to the screen as the film began. The theater wasn’t quite full, but those rows stood out. The movie started and during the boot camp scenes, a group of kids guided by two teachers and and an aide marched into the theater, and took their seats. Those kids were I’m guessing, based on height and dress, were about nine or ten years old.

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Some kids are scarred for life and they never even saw a an alien bug rip someone in half.

As soon as the co-ed shower scene kicked in about two minutes later, yep, those kids were rather rapidly lined up and shuffled out so fast that it was like a Benny Hill sketch, Yakety Sax and all. Some in the audience let smattering applause and few quick and mean comments were tossed at the exiting teachers who thought this was a good idea before we all went back to concentrating on the screen. I shook my head because I guessed that somewhere a few weeks or months earlier, some adult in that school likely saw an ad or trailer this was coming out, decided they wanted to take those kids along because “Pew-Pew, it’s gonna be like Star Wars!”, never read any Robert Heinlein, went and got the trip approved, getting clueless parents to sign permission slips that allowed their kids entry to an R-rated film.

This trailer, by the way, is excellent… but misses a few important points (and how!):

WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?

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Review: Pokémon Detective Pikachu

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One of these folks has not has his coffee yet. One has had too much.

pokemon_detective_pikachu_ver2_xlgWhile I’ll confess I’m more of a Monster Rancher person (ah, memories of popping in random or specific CD’s to generate monsters!), I did dabble in a tiny bit of Pokémon starting back in the ’90’s, playing bit of the Red version and a few other titles, eventually tapping out because it wasn’t for me. In he 2000’s. I did eventually play a few of the free games from the franchise though. Both Pokémon Rumble and Pokémon Shuffle were decent, simple time killers on the 3DS for a while. But I wouldn’t say I was devoted to catching them all and nope, I couldn’t tell some evolved types apart even if you handed me a cheat sheet.

That said, I do know Pikachu is a species of Pokémon, so only seeing ONE of them in Pokémon Detective Pikachu was having my well-aged eyebrow creak up a little. Granted, it’s very likely that some younger kids would be a bit confused seeing more than one, so there’s that to consider. That said, I’ve had random conversations with super diehard fans over the years where from kid to adult, they can go on about Pokémon for a while as if they’re real creatures and you can learn everything about them, even if you’re afraid to ask. Try getting stuck in an elevator with a few restless Pokémon fans for about an hour, and someone’s practically guaranteed to whip out their Pokédex notes (NOTE: this has happened three times over a few years, so I must be either lucky… or I need to take the stairs more).

Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. Detective Pikachu is quite a decent enough film, hitting all the right technical notes (the assorted Pokémon are all perfectly brought to life courtesy of some spectacular CG) and falling back on the usual formulaic three-act structure you’d expect from a movie like this. It’s also likely the best live action videogame to film translation to date, I’d say, Especially after sitting through a few cash-in films over the years that were lacking in a few areas. For anyone new to this sort of thing, it might be a bit overwhelming what with all the visual information presented onscreen (or: this is one very busy film). But for the most part, director Rob Letterman keeps things interesting and for a film partially based on a game of the same name, it’s pretty solid.

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Random Film of the Week Quickie: Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight)

Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight) MPA few years ago, I was sitting in a diner waiting for a few friends to arrive and overheard two guys in the booth behind me debating whether or not Orson Welles was a good filmmaker. Wait, what?  My ears perked up as one of the guys noted that he thought the only film he ever saw from the director was one he felt was overrated (and nope, it wasn’t Citizen Kane). He was talking about Chimes After Midnight.

It turned out both were film students who had a teacher who wasn’t a fan of the director, had shown the film in his class, and yep, both were new to Welles’ work while also in that uncomfortable place in one’s youth where one questions too much without searching for the proper answers. Eh, I think they were entitled to their opinions, but I’d loved to have sat down with them and made a few points on some of the man’s work they were clearly missing thanks to their biased instructor’s babbling and their lack of seeing more of his output.

The discovery a few years back of a fantastic quality print plus a few other things falling into place means we now have a superb high quality home video version of Orson Welles’ 1965 masterpiece Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight) which just so happens to be one of the better (and looser) adaptations of Shakespeare put on film. Even if you’re not into The Bard’s work, seeing a cinematic genius like Welles pull this off on a low budget while also creating one of the most effective and chaotic battle sequences set to film makes this a must-see movie. Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Margaret Rutherford, John Gielgud, Kieth Baxter and the rest of the cast all give perfect performances, the editing manages to make the year plus it took to put this together even more brilliant and overall, it’s a great film that’s influenced quite a few others that ended up becoming modern (and better remembered) classics.

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Review: O. Henry’s Full House (1952)

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“You got any wheelchairs, pal? I wanna take a friend for a little trip.”

o' henry mpNo, it has nothing to do with a misspelling of decades old candy bars still being made today or the old TV series which got a sequel show in 2016 that’s still a thing, but this one does make a fine holiday-themed movie even if it’s not really one save for the the final tale. Even though it was released in 1952, O. Henry’s Full House looks like it was made ten or so years earlier, but that’s a good thing. There’s a distinctly quaint feeling here in this anthology of five classic stories by five different directors and the film is a pretty one to cook up a bit of popcorn for, even if in some areas, its almost too wholesome. Well, save for the Howard Hawks-lensed chapter, which is just pure hilarity in that it seems no one got the humor it its tale and his chapter was excised until it was restored in TV prints years later (and remade as a few films of note).

So, five short films, five directors and about as wholesome as possible save for one chapter that goes for the jugular (in a very funny manner)? I’m in. Although I was in already, as this one’s been a favorite for decades. Toss in John Steinbeck (!) as a narrator (which is kind of like having Stephen King or even better, Neil Gaiman host an Edgar Allan Poe anthology film, I guess), and you get a pretty interesting film that’s an easy view unless you’re overly critical about a few performances.

Anyway,  here’s what’s on the plate – eat hearty!

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Review: Hellboy (2019)

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London’s burning with boredom, now: Well, not yet on the burning part, but plot-wise, that’s all she rote. This is a busy flick that can be hell to watch.

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Somewhere around the 10th level of Hell, it’s good.

So, I finally saw Hellboy a few days ago and waited to write this review to see if I still remembered what happened a few days later as it’s quite a busy flick (there’s a LOT going on, let me tell you).  I did remember (mostly), but I also realized for the second time after a second viewing that it would have been better as a short mini-series on cable spread over a few days that the two-hour film that’s here. I mean, go big or go home, right? This film just goes big all the time, but all that effort manages to feel flat and canned.

The main issue here is despite the copious amounts of swearing, R-rated mostly CGI gore and a few decent performances, the film crams so much in its 120 minutes that it feels like three films worth of material. Between the flashbacks, references to the comic (of which there are plenty) and the fact that it’s quite loud most of the time and has a pretty annoying selection of “headbanging” hard rock tunes (if headbanging means bashing one’s own skull in with a Sisyphus-sized boulder), the end result manages to feel too much like a film made by committee. This one’s a push-button film designed to be some sort of forced “cult classic” and both looks and feels like it. At least some of the practical costume monsters look as if they’re perfect for prime time.

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