Blu-Ray/DVD Review: Satan’s Cheeerleaders

SC_VCI9032If you’re of a certain age (mine or slightly younger), you’re probably not watching Satan’s Cheeleaders for the acting (which is hammy bologna on white bread) or the old movie stars slumming for their paychecks. You’re very likely watching this slice of American cheese for the titular cheer squad and maybe to see where this Satan stuff goes with a cast partly made up of well-known actors close to the ends of their careers and partly made up of new to the business nubile tart types and a few unsexy dudes who pop up that are supposed to be on a college football team.

Well, friends – you get a proper dosage of tame 70’s nudity, but nothing at all indecently overexposed, a paper-thin plot that doesn’t hold up to a soft breeze and some muddling around with mysticism before a somewhat crummy finale that leaves a few things hanging. The sole notable things here are those slumming for paychecks stars (John Ireland, Yvonne DeCarlo, John Carradine) who have not much else to do except hit their marks and react to whatever they need to react to. That said, the film seems to aim for more of a campy feel that keeps things light and airy (or air-heady), and that’s fine with me.

Well, to a point.

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Blu-Ray Review: Whisky Galore!

Whisky Galore_AF004If the great Ealing Studios’ 1949 version of Whisky Galore! didn’t exist, director Gillies MacKinnon’s excellent 2016 version would be an even better film than it is. That’s an odd compliment, I know. But the original film’s boozy aroma lingers heavily in the corners of this newer version, smiling down on MacKinnon’s capable cast as it plops down on a bar stool with a sigh of contentment. This newer film has a fine cast and some absolutely gorgeous cinematography (it’s enough to make you want to consider a move to wherever in Scotland it was shot just for the rocks alone), as well as humor that goes down smooth with a bit of water added.

While not exactly laugh out loud funny through and through, there’s one early scene that had me doubling over with a good belly laugh. As soon as it’s announced that the small village is completely out of whisky, one old chap gets up, walks out of the pub he and his friends inhabit daily, walks over to a his home and promptly drops dead outside as it begins to rain. For some reason, I found this hilarious as well as the following scene where his friends gather around his coffin to send him off. I’m guessing it’s because I’ve heard people say they’d “literally die” if they didn’t have a particular guilty pleasure handy, but seeing it happen was actually amusing and made me think how many real-life friends would drop like that over booze, chocolate, or bacon if they were suddenly taken away.

Hey, I’m a practical man. Less friends means less gifts to buy this holiday season, folks.

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Mail Call 2: Movie Nights, Endless Version

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Eep. The backlog gets bigger with some nice entries to the library. Yeah, I’m old and have very varied tastes in my viewing preferences, so what? Anyway, reviews will go up as I get to these and a stack more discs I’ve gotten that need to be watched. Keep, ’em, coming, folks. I do need a decent movie watching pal, I’d say. Not that it’s boring watching movies at all, but it’s just nice to have someone to bounce commentary off between films. Eh, whatever. Off to do some eyeball exercises and catch up on classics and non-classics alike. Back in a bit.

-GW

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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Blu-Ray Review: The Legend of the Holy Drinker

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Based on Joseph Roth’s 1939 novella, Ermanno Olmi’s 1988 film, The Legend of the Holy Drinker is about as good as it gets if you’re looking for a bottle of melancholy to sip and sit with that’s also a fine whine of meditative work featuring a flawless performance by Rutger Hauer as the titular homeless drunkard, Andreas Kartack. The film’s somewhat romanticized but still realistically grimy Paris (which looks lovely that way) works well as a character of its own with a solid cast that helps create some of the drama and dilemmas Kartack faces after a stranger gives him 200 francs with the simple request that he repay it by donating the money to a local shrine.

Kartack ends up running into what could be called a run of really good luck for a homeless guy who sleeps under a bridge as in no short order he finds a temporary job, affords himself a few necessities such as a shave, decent food, and the company of women. But his drinking gets in the way of his quickly repaying the loan as does part of his past when he meets up with the lovely Gabby (Sandrine Dumas), a woman he’s got a particularly messy past with. Saying more would ruin the film’s quiet surprises, but Olmi’s assured direction flows along with the wine and supporting actors as Kartack’s luck swings in a few directions.

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Blu-Ray Review: George A. Romero: Between Night And Dawn

GARBNADWhat do you do after making one of the most influential horror films ever? Given that George Romero really didn’t have much of a clue that his first film, Night of the Living Dead would become such an essential genre masterpiece, the director went on to make a few different films between 1971 and 1975 that were either interesting failed experiments or more polished but flawed films all worth a look. Arrow Video has restored and collected three of Romero’s post-NOTLD works in George A. Romero: Between Night And Dawn and yes, it’s a set worth adding to your library.

The three films include the somewhat disappointing romantic comedy There’s Always Vanilla, the surprising, mature drama Season of the Witch and a return to horror of a different yet similar kind in The Crazies. While the grim, brilliantly disturbing horror flick Martin is missing in action here (the set’s sole flaw), with these three films you can see a director learning and growing into an even more confident artist. Interestingly enough, in interviews included on the special features, Romero states his total dislike for There’s Always Vanilla on a few fronts and yes indeed, the film is his weakest effort.

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The New Mutants Trailer: Freaks & Geeks, The Remix

As I’m ancient enough have been around during the Chris Claremont/Bill Sienkiewicz run on The New Mutants (issues 18-31, 35-38), the upcoming film having a horror vibe (well, as seen in this trailer and you know how trailers are [if you know what’s good for you]) doesn’t surprise me at all. Bill’s groundbreaking artwork was at its best when things got seriously twisty and psychological and I do recall there was a definite like/hate thing going on among some comics fans of the period who wanted a more traditional art style. Me, I was all in from the first collaboration and stayed until a few issues after he left just to wrap up a few story points.

As usual, no big fat over-speculation here about the trailer other than to say (despite the rubbery membrane wall effect) it’s eye-catching (ow!) and has me intrigued enough to run it and yes, the casting looks quite like the characters I recall from way back when. Also as usual, the wait begins to see if the actual film is actually decent enough to drop ticket money on when it’s finally released or snapping up the inevitable Blu-Ray when that drops a few months later. We shall see, but signs are somewhat hopeful I’d say.

-GW

Blu-Ray Review: Children of the Corn

COTC_AV106Back in 1984, I didn’t see Children of the Corn because if I’m not mistaken, I believe I was “Stephen Kinged Out” by so many adaptations of his work popping up in theaters and not being all they could be. Amusingly enough, when this screener of the nicely restored 2K version popped up from Arrow Video in my mailbox, I’d actually been thinking about films made from King’s novels and short stories thanks to the recent arrival of IT into theaters.

I’d read a long time back that King wasn’t too fond of director Fritz Kiersch’s film partially thanks to the rewritten script by George Goldsmith altering and adding elements to King’s original short story. Let’s just say that the end result is a mixture of good intentions and lousy cost-cutting and leave it at that. Well, okay – that would mean this review would end at that last sentence, so I’ll elaborate if you care to read any further.

The best things about the film are the principal actors giving it their all, a few very effective shots and a nice reliance on “less is more” when it comes to onscreen violence. The worst things are some truly crummy visual effects that weren’t good back in 1984 (and really stink now), the abrupt ending that feels as if was added in post-production and the addition of two annoying kid characters (and a voice over narration) that give the film a sappy gloss that lessens the horror factor geometrically.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Trailer – Rey of Hope? Maybe Nope?

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Yep, as Yoda would say, pretty good, it looks… but I won’t do any big speculation at all on this nifty trailer because it’s useless (at least as far as I see it). Trailers are made to missile guide viewers into overthinking stuff and too many fall into that trap and end up theorizing themselves into corners up until a movie lands in theaters. PROTIP: for a big, honkin’ tent pole film such as this, the less you flop around on the floor like Shemp about stuff you see (that very likely won’t be in the same order in the final cut or hell, not in the film at all) the more you’ll actually enjoy it.

Well, that’s MY personal train of thought about these trailers and it’s yet to fail me.

I guess I’ll confess (once again) that I’m not a “superfan” to the point that I’ll gargle out copious pages of notes based upon watching every second of a trailer every day for a week and end up being disappointed that my 1600 theories have all been proven wrong. On the other hand, I’m a “superfan” who wants to go in totally cold and get my fill based on NOT knowing or wanting to know any more than what I was teased with in that possibly not quite all true trailer. That poster is nice as well, but it’s kind of hard to mess up a Star Wars poster (much).

-GW

Blu-Ray Review: Don’t Torture A Duckling

DTAD_AV099Toss the name Lucio Fulci into a decent horror film conversation and it’s quite possible it may turn into some sort of cranky debate about a few of his more outrageous films that feature copious amounts of gore and violence (often against female characters). There’s an excellent video essay by Kat Ellinger called Hell Is Already In Us included on the fantastic Arrow Video restoration of Fulci’s Don’t Torture A Duckling that drives home the point that the director was merely holding up a mirror to some of society’s madness and letting his camera do the dirty work. While not as relentless as his later work, what’s here is a pretty effective blend of thriller and pointed social commentary that’s still got a mean bite all these years later.

Considered by the director to be one of his personal favorites, Duckling’s blend of Italian countryside setting, shocking (off-screen) child murders and handful of suspects where everyone has either a direct motive or abnormal/amoral proclivities that can be seen as motives makes for a pretty unsettling experience. Adding to the film’s grim tone, Fulci also skewers his faith but good here with some knife-twisting fierceness and a killer finale that’s either going to make you cringe or crack up laughing (or preferably, both). This is a film that’s tough to watch, but extremely well made and even thought provoking in its own manner.

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