(Not-So) Random Film of the Week: Barry Lyndon

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Where it all begins for one Redmond Barry.

Barry Lyndon is a story which does not depend upon surprise. What is important is not what is going to happen, but how it will happen.

Stanley Kubrick

barry_lyndon_ver1_xlgMy first introduction to Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon was via the most likely means most 11-year olds with little to no interest in certain three-hour plus films made by somewhat visionary directors had at the time: MAD Magazine. I do recall that particular issue was confiscated from the classmate who owned it later in the day by a somewhat strict English (Literature) teacher who didn’t appreciate his not paying attention during her class. Fortunately, the magazine was returned the following day with a note that student had to take to his parents about his reading habits during class and oddly (or not so oddly) enough, a public library copy of The Luck of Barry Lyndon for him to read, write a book report on and return to the teacher. It turned out the teacher was a big fan of Kubrick’s film but had never read the MAD version, so she took it home, read it and liked the parody. Thus the somewhat unusual  temporary gift and form of “punishment”.

You gotta love good teachers, friends. Go and hug one today (er, with consent, of course).

I’ve had the feeling for some time that I may have wished for such a tremendous fate back then, as it took quite a few years more for me to actually read the book Kubrick adapted and altered somewhat using groundbreaking lighting techniques and some of the most gorgeous and true to life costume recreations ever put on film. It’s also a film where you can practically hear its director chuckling as he reworked the book into his own style that in my opinion, fits in well with Thackeray’s original writing. Droll, deadpan humor is laced throughout the dramatic scenes, all of which are masterfully composed shots that may have you pausing the film to admire a landscape or painterly composition (of which there are many). Excellent performances from the cast all around also help, as does realizing that Redmond Barry (Ryan O’Neal) isn’t supposed to “act” here in the sense of a person throwing himself into a part and chewing up the scenery. He’s perfectly cast as a man in a particular point in history where both good to terrible things happen and he reacts as he sees fit (which isn’t always accordingly).

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Random Film of the Week: Waterworld

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Uh, hey pal… you’re not gonna DRINK that, are you?

WATERWORLD ArrowMovie memory #1764 (or so): sitting in a packed theater back in 1995 watching the opening sequence to Waterworld as Kevin Costner’s Mariner character urinates into a plastic container, then pours that pee into a dicey-looking filtration system and drinks the results. You’d best believe the bulk of the audience let out a collective “EWWWWWW!” and yes, there was one guy sitting somewhere in the back of the darkened theater who yelled out something about how ice cubes would have made that recycled beverage go down better.

“EWWWWWW!”

Flash forward to me watching the three (!!!) versions of the film in Arrow Video’s packed to the gills (heh) with bonus features triple-disc set and I kind of want one of those funky filter devices just so I don’t need to take breaks when I’m going through my film backlog. For all its expensive sets, Costner’s dedicated performance, some amazing stunt work and a completely and perfectly bonkers performance by Dennis Hopper as its main villain, the film is still flawed in that, “Where’s the beef?” manner when it comes to a few key plot elements. Granted, its ecology past peril theme is a bit more relevant it today’s climate (and yes, that’s a double pun, kids). But there’s no real “science” here if you’re looking for it. Hell,  if the Earth does lose its major land masses underwater as shown here, an overblown big-budget sci-fi action flick isn’t exactly where we’re headed in that watery future, glub, glub.

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: Slipstream (1989)

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This one’s a real woozy-doozy, folks. But an innnnteresting woozy-doozy.

Welcome to this latest installment of VSAH, folks! Definitely check out this month’s other reviews from Todd at Cinema Monolith, Mike at Mike’s Take on the Movies, and Sir Wolf (you’ve been knighted, pal) over at Wolfman’s Cult Film Club.

slipstream 1989Ambition can be a weird and wild thing at times, particularly when it comes to film production whether it be a big deal studio film or tiny independent flick. Taking a pack of awesome ideas and turning them into reality (well, of the cinematic kind) while keeping an audience hooked into the world you’ve created it a risky business, specifically when it comes to fantasy and science fiction.

Granted, the actual “science” in most sci-fi is at best, suspect and at worst, more than enough to yank a viewer clean out of the experience and leave them scratching their heads raw (ow!) while they try and figure out what the hell is going on in some scenes as they miss an important plot point or three in the process.  On the other hand, a film like Steven Lisberger’s (TRON) absolutely ambitious 1989 film Slipstream isn’t going to be one where you question the science all that much (if at all) because you’ll likely be questioning a few other more important things from parts of its plot to some offbeat cameos that may add to the star power, but come off a bit too much like stunt casting or a few folks popping in for a fast paycheck.

 

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Bill Paxton, doing his best Bill Paxton doing Christian Slater look, circa 1989.

 

The film certainly kicks off ambitiously enough with a properly bombastic Elmer Bernstein main theme and a wonderfully shot flying sequence using one of a few of the custom made aircraft created specifically for the production. That plane is carrying the somewhat cantankerous “peacekeeper” Will Tasker (Mark Hamill) and his able-bodied assistant Belitski (Kitty Aldridge) and said plane is chasing a man in a nice suit (Bob Peck) running away from them to no avail. He’s caught up with and captured by the pair who plan to take him to some faraway location to be tried and executed for the murder he’s committed. Unfortunately for them, their nattily dressed prisoner is swiped by Matt Owens (Bill Paxton), a genial illegal arms dealer looking to make a big score when he discovers how valuable that prisoner is before he decides to try his hand at kidnapping.

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Oh, The Horror! Severin Films Remasters The Horror of Party Beach

(Thanks, SeverinFilmsOfficial!)

 

HoPB_MPYes indeed, it’s a hot summertime thing from 1964 and it’s BACK. Well, it’s back on August 28, 2018, but you can pre-order this slice of not too scary sea life NOW.  Now, don’t get me wrong, people. The Horror of Party Beach is kind of bad. How bad? Well, I did a review a few years back noting it wasn’t all that good, if that helps. That said, in retrospect, its heart is definitely in the right place, the film is actually terribly funny and campy as hell, and will indeed make you laugh if your funny bone is in good working order.

I’d prattle on some more, but YOU, dear reader? You have some pre-ordering to do if this spiffy new 2K restoration floats your particular boat. Get the bundle! Or get the Blu-Ray by itself! Or get the DVD if you don’t have a BR player yet! You can also get the enamel pin and/or Beach ball from the bundle separately and make believe you bought the bundle (er, if that’s your thing).

Uh, if you only have a VHS or (eek!) Betamax player, you’re kind of out of luck, sorry!

-GW

(Not So) Random Film of the Week: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

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Par for the 007 course, that action-packed poster art is a busy hoot of improbability on display, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying a pretty solid flick.

For some strange reason, I’d thought I’d already reviewed this most interesting entry in the long running James Bond film series, but nope, I hadn’t. It’s my favorite film in the franchise for a few reasons and had an ending that’s brilliant for its being completely unexpected for a series known for its figurative “happy endings.” Granted, the film received automatic hatred for decades thanks to it not being a Sean Connery Bond, and some overly harsh criticism of George Lazenby as 007 even though his performance is quite good. Having first seen it as a kid on network TV as a heavily edited version presented out of order and split into two parts over two weeks (WABC was the big and only Bond channel here in NYC for years, so we were stuck with their awful recut versions), I fell right into the story and Lazenby’s more sensitive take on the character despite the clumsy reworked hack job. Okay, okay, Diana Rigg also was a big draw, as I was a huge fan of The Avengers TV series (which REALLY needs a North American Blu-Ray set!) and her always thrilling Emma Peel character.

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I actually had an appropriately witty yet respectable caption for this, but seriously forgot what I was going to type.  A good thing, as pictures like this speak for themselves.

 

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(Not So) Random Film(s) of The Week: The Thing (1982)

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With his trusty bottle of J&B to keep warm, R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Vance Norris (Charles Hallahan) try quite unsuccessfully to make snow angels.

THE THING sfSo, what did YOU do during last week’s too damn hot weather? Me, I dragged my slightly sickly self out in that nasty, unbearable heat to go sit in a nice, well-chilled home with seven other people with the express purpose of making some of them scream. No, I didn’t do my *legendary* crowd-pleasing Chippendale’s act, people (wait, I have a Chippendale’s act?). I simply put a very old plan into action I’d successfully executed a few times in the distant past in introducing a fine horror film to some friends who had either never seen it previously, have only seen a heavily edited for TV version or yes, just disliked scary movies.

Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed that I’ve actually previously reviewed an older DVD version of the 1982 John Carpenter film and I’ve also deconstructed the 2011 prequel which I found okay, but lacking in some respects (I think the studio meddled a bit too much with the film, turning it into less than what director Matthijs van Heijningen intended to be a more solid horror experience). Now, I didn’t just show up unannounced, tie seven people to assorted furniture and force them to watch the movie, so there. Nope, as a matter of fact, I was actually asked to host a little screening party by a friend who borrows movies from me on a semi-regular basis.

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: The Big Sleep

the big sleep MPI’ve probably seen Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep about a dozen or so times over the years and I still can’t properly describe the plot of the film even after finally reading the Raymond Chandler novel it’s based on. That said, it’s always been a fun classic film to watch a few times because Humphrey Bogart plays his part so effortlessly and the other actors follow suit with some solid performances.

Yes, I know the film is all about private eye Philip Marlowe’s (Humphrey Bogart) somewhat interesting and somewhat laid back investigation process in a particularly confounding murder/extortion/sex/drugs case where a number of bodies drop before all is said and done.  That said, the plot spills all over the place like a tipsy barmaid wearing roller skates trying to carry a tray of drinks onboard a capsizing ship.  In the end, none of the plot bumps really hurt the movie because you’ll likely end up loving the end result for Howard Hawks’ directing and the cast doing their best with that loopy William Faulkner/Jules Furthman/Leigh Brackett script (which got a few other hands involved as well).

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The film is also a great look at the real-life blossoming Bogart and Bacall relationship with the snappy chemistry between the pair (working together for the second time) getting the sparks going full on despite the Hays Code restrictions. In other words, a little innuendo goes a long way, folks. That said, rather than do a rote retelling of the plot (which would take a longer post, trust me), this bit of pillow fluff will take a detour into Philip Marlowe’s amusingly laid back approach to dealing with most of the film’s other actors.

(Thanks, TheTrailerBlaze!)

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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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