Random Film of the Week: Alien Resurrection

(Thanks, Forever Horror!)

 

alien_resurrection_V2So, I think it was around spring 1997 and I’m sitting in a movie theater when “surprise!”,  that teaser trailer above for Alien Resurrection pops up like a chestburster squeezed into a jack-in-the box. I recall some people in the theater being either not too thrilled or just plain shocked that there was another film on the way. I also recall my eyeballs didn’t pop out like they did when I saw the ALIEN³ teaser trailer six years previously, but I think my new-ish eyeglasses kept them from ending up on the floor. Actually, I was more amused than shocked by what I saw (so there!).

I saw the first ALIEN back in 1979 at age 15 (in dangerous Times Square, baby!), ALIENS was a day one view when it premiered in 1986 (there’s a funny story about screening that I’ll tell one day). The third film was, I thought, going to be the last one when it landed in 1992 and yes, I bade the franchise a fond farewell thinking it had run its course. Welly-well-well, imagine my surprise when 20th Century Fox trundled out the ALIEN name for one more installment that turned out to be less scary than the others and actually somewhat more amusing while unsettling on a few fronts in terms of the visual vibe it delivered. How the heck does that work and how the heck did I find myself bopping into a theater in November 1997 with a wry grin not expecting anything other than to be somewhat giddy partly because I knew some in the audience wouldn’t appreciate this Resurrection at all?

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Random Film(s) of the Week: Alec Guinness 5-Film Collection

AG5FCOkay, I made the huge mistake of watching the news. A few times within the last week, at that. Something-something about watching a train wreck in slow motion or a time-lapse nuclear explosion at one frame per second somehow caught me up and got me even more annoyed than usual. Needing something a lot more amusing and a lot more entertaining (as trust me, the news is surely not at all entertaining these days), I grabbed the first thing from a stack of movies in the half-backlog stash, and here you go.

Yes, I have a half-backlog. Those are films I’ve seen part of and want to complete or sets I’ve seen a few films from but mean to get to them once completed. Well, those plans usually fail royally what with the up and down health status, but I still use the half-backlog system because it sort of works. Hey, you’re reading this review, right? IT WORKS.

Anyway, I actually bought this DVD set a while back and have already reviewed two of these classics here and here (click and enjoy, please). It got lent out to a few people and made the rounds for a bit (hey, I’ll loan films to anyone I know within mailing distance who’ll return them at some point) before I got back to retrieving this from that aforementioned stack. So, how do the rest of these films hold up? Very well, indeed.

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Random Films of the Week: Some Fine Die-ning

Another somewhat random grab from the backlog? Sure, why not? I’m cheating a little thanks to just going with all Arrow Video/Arrow Academy releases, but I heartily recommend everything here for one reason or another.

The Assassin_AA006The Assassin (L’Assassino) – Elio Petri’s (The Tenth Victim, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion) first film is a total knockout all the way as well a great classic that can now be rediscovered in its restored form. Marcello Mastroianni plays Alfredo Martelli, a man arrested as the prime suspect after his older lover (Micheline Presle) is found murdered. During the investigation, the film dips into his past as bits of Alfredo’s life play out and his mental state begins to crumble from the relentless pressure laid on him by the police. Did he do it? Well, that would be telling and you won’t get a peep out of me, pal.

The black and white cinematography is beautiful, there’s a jazzy score that features a main title theme that will stick in you head for days, and every actor here is spot on. The Arrow Academy BD/DVD only has a few bonus features, but the real treasure is Petri’s film itself. The odd thing here is most of it takes place over the course of a day or two, but Alfredo’s memories (and Petri’s camera) capture what seems like a week’s worth of external events before all is said and done. But this is most definitely intentional, as is that ending that seems to be open to interpretation if you take it too seriously.

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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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Random Films of the Week: Disk-y Business

Yeah, yeah. I’m still alive. I’ve been in a bit of a personal and creative funk for a few key reasons, some of which are health related with the rest fall squarely into the Nunya Bizness section of the classifieds. In any event, watching the news has been detrimental to my mental, but it’s a case of not knowing what’s going on is far worse than shoving one’s head into the sand. The problem here is the too smart for their own good “political junkies” posing as journalists tend to treat this all as a big, fun horse race crossed with story time and it’s a failure of  insane proportions because no one seems to want to interrupt that yakky daily narrative and let all the shoes that need to drop do so when the appropriate truths are revealed.

In the meantime, I’ve been dipping into my Blu-Ray and DVD backlog when I’m not gaming or too depressed after watching the latest soliloquy from some news show hosts who’d make perfect babysitters because after 20 minutes of them blathering away on some otherwise well-written preamble, I’m ready for a nap. Anyway, enough perambulating around myself – let’s go to the movies!

Ruby 1Ruby – Not to be confused with Abby (which NEEDS a full on restoration one of these days!), this interesting but flawed Piper Laurie vehicle is an odd bird that combines supernatural revenge horror elements. mild gore and a bit of demonic possession lifted from The Exorcist, albeit not all that well. Curtis Harrington’s 1977 flick does have its moments, but you’ll need to tap yourself on the skull with a small hammer when the film starts going off the rails with the plot contrivances.

VCI’s restoration job is decent but not flawless (kind of like the film) and the Blu-Ray/DVD combo means you can keep one disc in that old player you’ve kept around just in case you need it. What, you don’t own a second disc player? Eh, whatever. Just pretend you do for my sake. Or hell, you can give a friend one and keep the other unless you just buy the plain DVD release if you’re that stingy.  Either way, VCI will be happy.

 

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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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Random Film of the Week: Corruption


 

As mad scientist flicks go, Corruption is something of a forgotten classic in its own crazy manner. You get the great Peter Cushing out of his usual period piece horrors playing a successful plastic surgeon in a more modern 60’s setting, some surprisingly shocking (by mid 60’s standards) content and a laser gone haywire in a finale that may elicit some chuckles from forward thinking Star Wars fans. If you’ve ever wanted to see Cushing go full-tilt, over the top into scenery chomping territory, this one won’t disappoint one bit. While there are some slow expository moments here, the overall film is an interesting slice of horror that while not wholly original, ends up being pretty memorable on a few fronts.

(Thanks, groovemaster!)
 

After the swingin’ credit sequence, we meet Cushing’s Sir John Rowan and his pretty younger fiancée Lynn (Sue Lloyd) at a pretty raucous party. While the good doctor struggles with the mingling, Lynn, who just so happens to be a model, is in the middle of an impromptu photo shoot when Rowan rushes up to stop the snapping away before his squeeze loses all her clothes. Before you can say “Watch out for that hot studio lamp!”, Rowan accidentally knocks said lamp over and it lands on poor Lynn, burning half her face. Ouch! Fortunately, she’s engaged to a very capable plastic surgeon, right? Unfortunately, conventional surgery won’t work this time, so Rowan decides to use Lynn as a guinea pig to try out a little something he’s been working on in secret.

If you’ve seen Georges Franju’s Les yeux sans visage (Eyes Without A Face), you can probably guess things up to a point, For everyone who hasn’t, Répétez après moi, s’il vous plaît:

“What could POSSIBLY go wrong?”(dot dot dot) Continue reading

Worst Assassins Ever (The Non-Blogathon!) #1: The French Connection

the_french_connection

A good cop? Oh, the irony of that caption. Or, a picture is worth a thousand words (or less)…

IF yours truly was ever going to host a blogathon, it would either be something like the ‘That’s NOT My City!’ or ‘Worst Assassins EVER!’ blogathon because both are topics that make me chuckle in films more than they’re supposed to. As a native New Yorker who’s heard from a bunch of friends over the decades about how certain films shot here (or places pretending to be here) range from inspiring (great!) to “It’s so unsafe there! Do you actually go out at night?” (lousy!), I can think of far too many made in (or outside) in NYC films to scribble about. As for terrible assassins in films, with assistance I could probably write a book on how the best of the best go from first in their class to dirt-napping klutzes thanks to inconvenient plot monkey wrenches needing them to forget how good they are in favor of making a series of increasingly terrible decisions that put them into the hall of shamefully comedic demises.

However, between being a bit more scattered than usual (“I want the hangings public” is my mantra of late) and not motivated enough to create all those GIFs, promo posters and banner art to pass out to potential contributors, I’ve decided to flip a coin for the name and non-host a stealth blogathon anyone can contribute to. Or not. Actually, this particular film popped into my head first because it fits both categories perfectly AND happens to be a great essential flick that’s still well worth a look. For those about to complain… don’t. I love this film to death, but repeated viewings over a few decades show it’s got a hidden comic gold vein running through it in the form of one the the most inept professional killers you’ll ever see. Continue reading

Random Film Of The Week: Predator 2

predator_2_ver1As sequels go, Predator 2 shouldn’t even work as well as it does. But here it is in all its Hollywood circa 1990 R-rated violent glory, still making me laugh both with and at it. Granted, you need a particular sense of humor to appreciate the film as a whole, as trying to pick it apart into chunks of good and bad ends up wrecking the work put into making it completely bonkers yet a total blast to sit down with for a spell.

As Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t available for this sequel thanks to disagreements over his fee (something a little film called Terminator 2: Judgment Day would take care of forever), the film dropped his Dutch character and moves the setting ten years ahead to a sweaty 1997 Los Angeles where a heat wave and gang warfare lure in a new Predator for some urban hunting action. Inspired casting abounds here, with Danny Glover leading the way as Lieutenant Michael Harrigan, a not quite by the book cop who, like others in these sorts of action flicks, has unconventionally heroic means of getting the job done. Reuben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso and Bill Paxton also play cops working with Harrigan as Jamaican and Colombian drug gangs blast each other as well as anyone that happens to get between them.

(Thanks, Forever Horror!) 

When the bulk of the Colombian gang is wiped out in what looks like a ritualistic sacrifice, Harrigan and his team immediately suspect the Jamaicans. But the loss of one of his team reveals there’s a third party at work here and Harrigan sets out to get to the bottom of things and possibly get some revenge in the process. Little does he realize that the bottom of things is very literally under the steaming streets in the form of a trophy packed alien ship. Continue reading

(Not So) Random Film of the Week: GOG

gogWhile the three films in Ivan Tors Productions’ “Office of Scientific Investigation” (OSI) trilogy haven’t gotten the name recognition or massive fan bases of certain other more well-known franchises, each stands out as a fine example of Tors’ commitment to bringing a more scientific and human touch to the genre. While not going for camp or cheap thrills, the films make for a look into Tors’ heavy interest in pure science fiction with independent films he got made on his own terms.

Beginning with 1953’s The Magnetic Monster, 1954’s Riders to the Stars, and GOG, also released in 1954, the three films trade in the era’s familiar “B” movie antics for drier, more “realistic” hard science mixed with speculative elements. While some action scenes take place in all three films, outside these sequences things are done with a more sedate, almost documentary-like presentation of their assorted plots.

Additionally, all three films can be watched and enjoyed fully in any order, as they tell stories that are connected by a few threads, but don’t contain the same characters. Chief among these threads is men (and women) of science trying to make advances in the field for the future with dramatic (and sometimes unfortunate) results. Or: you can’t make a science-flavored omelette without breaking a few scientist-shaped eggs…
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