Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cat On Cam

The Sentinel

Shiftless, budget-minded direction and a thin scenario sabotage the eerie effect. The saving grace is its considerable camp value provided by the large cast of notables. A cast list that Irwin Allen could have made a great disaster movie with. In fact, if Irwin Allen had directed this, I think it would have been great in a very particular and awful way. The cast is almost equal parts former stars and future stars with no stars in between: Chris Sarandon, Martin Balsam, John Carradine, José Ferrer, Ava Gardner, Arthur Kennedy, Burgess Meredith, Eli Wallach, Christopher Walken, Jerry Orbach, Beverly D'Angelo, Nana Visitor, Tom Berenger, William Hickey, Jeff Goldblum.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Magic Sword

Harmless fun from Bert I. Gordon. Stars Basil Rathbone and Gary Lockwood, which lends the low budget proceedings a little gloss.

Charlton Heston in Wuthering Heights / A Bolt of Lightning / The Wings of the Dove

Dire Westinghouse kinescopes of Chuck bellowing through some truncated classics. For Heston enthusiasts only.

Mr. Moto's Last Warning

Peter Lorre as Mr. Moto requires sufficient suspension of disbelief that everything else seems plausible. As it turns out the tale is mostly mundane requiring as much color as possible. George Sanders sports a silly mustache and matching accent. High moral tone is belied by high body count.

If this is AI, we have nothing to fear.

From the Netflix lobe of Skynet:
Because you enjoyed:
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
My Neighbor Totoro,
We suggest
The Cats of Mirikitani

If this is typical of what the machines can do, I don't think there is much cause for alarm, although it doesn't bode well for robot auto navigation.
This sort of thing has cropped up before....and it has always been due to human error.

Kaena, the Prophecy

We'll set aside the 'Prophecy' as mere boilerplate. Kaena is an orphaned, rebelling, adventuress / underwear model. She lives on a continent-sized tree canker that is growing toward, into, and eventually through the Lagrange point between two mutually tidal-locked planets. The tree's growth is spurred by the arrival of the mystically endowed AI from an alien ship that crashes on the stickier of the planets. That ship's crew's bad luck does not stop when the ship crashes because the inhabitants of the planet are right on hand to slaughter the survivors. The AI, however, can hold its own against the natives and proceeds to devastate their ecology for its own entirely arbitrary purposes, one of which is to spawn Kaena's species which just happens to be human. Did I mention that the aliens are made out of maple syrup and that the entire movie is drawn in all the colors between tan and dark tan?
There is a lot of visual imagination on display but no narrative skill. A French and Canadian co-production (not a French-Canadian production!). Voice acting is mostly professional but Kirsten Dunst fatigued me early on and Greg Proops (Whose Line Is It Anway) was given far too much to do as the supercilious and grating counselor worm.
Better than Treasure Planet but not as entertaining as Titan:AE.


Bill Murray is better than I remember. The intermittent pop music interludes are really intrusive but I am not sure that is such a bad thing. The arch tone of the goings-on may be supported by the songs. The songs themselves are badly dated though, much more so than the clothes or makeup or even the cars. Giddy stuff. Not that there isn't plenty to quibble about: Ernie Hudson's role is utterly thankless and the villain sequence seems merely bolted on.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bang the Drum Slowly

It probably says something about us that a drama this effective is merely about one person being decent to another person. Baseball and death are just mcguffins and all the best stuff has nothing much to do with either.
Clumsy score.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Last Days of Pompeii

Rollicking spectacle of the first water. Basil Rathbone is the slickest and most dignified Pontius Pilate ever and in a crowded field, too.

Anne of the Thousand Days

Richard Burton is all self-doubt and rage which I think was not his intent. Excellent costumes but the whole thing is lit at a ridiculously high level. John Colicos gives a supremely wicked Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold suitably spirited as Anne Boleyn. Irene Papas cast as Catherine of Aragon which was sheer genius.
I think I must be done with the Tudors for a while.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Man, I Wish I'd Thought of That!

I Confess

I didn't like I Confess when I saw it years ago and I still find it a hard nut to crack. Its virtues are easy enough to see: elegant compositions, beautiful photography, interesting performances ... but it does not gel. The entirely weird flashback sequence is probably brilliant but is lost on me and I was thoroughly distracted. I do have a new appreciation for the performance of the part of the bad guy. His weakness, greed and general subhuman behaviors are so blatant that they are almost charming, Bush q.v. His cheerful, frightened bleating is almost worthy of pity. But even Bilbo would have stabbed him, unlike Clift Montgomery's character who beats Christ by a mile on the martyr scale.

I'll Be Seeing You

I'll Be Seeing You isn't very much like the Lord of the Rings except our hero (Joseph Cotten) is stabbed in the shoulder which manifests its effects as shaking sweats and fainting, his love interest (Ginger Rogers) cries a lot and their affair is almost ruined by a stunted and twisted monster (teen Shirley Temple).

Rising Dough

Three hours in 40 seconds.

If It's So Cool Why Is It In the Garage?

Because I have too much dang stuff, I forgot about this delightful but only marginally useful lamp from Ikea.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Amusing Word Cloud

Make Your Own Caption

His Dark Eminence, defeated on the plains of Infinite Evil, collapses back into his mortal form.

"You once called me a warped frustrated old man."

And so on.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Les Enfants du Paradis

The French Gone With the Wind is set in and around a pantomime theater.
True Love took a beating in Heaven Can Wait just in time to be gutted by Les Enfants du Paradis.
Fun but mildly spoilerish intro from Terry Gilliam.

Morning Frost Just Before Melting


Sunday, January 18, 2009


This is a mixed bag. There is the touching movie about the relations between people which works well, there is the clunky perfunctory science drama which does not and then there is the cynical and dreary polemic which is just awful.
Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom give restrained thoughtful performances where possible but do not (or can not) retrieve the bad material. I find it unlikely that Stirling Silliphant is responsible for the worst of these offenses. There re several directorial indulgences which miss the mark but at least liven up the pace a little. A trippy montage however is just laughable, though.
Based on TV play The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon which is based on the novel Flowers for Algernon. Charming but amateurishly spotted score by Ravi Shankar.

Heaven Can Wait

Charming philanderer (Don Ameche) dies and goes to Hell. Brightly polished comedy has dark, burnished interior wherein the consequences of Love Conquers All and Love Is Blind are presented. His lack of accomplishments are signal, his relationships are strained but ultimately satisfactory but not even Satan (the great and tragic Laird Cregar) can hold him because people loved him. Happily for him, those people are not in Hell. The same phenomenon was on display in COPS when the clearly abused party would cries out for her lover/assailant, "Don't arrest him! I love you, baby!" The difference being that in Heaven Can Wait, the crimes are those of ommission, mostly.
The growing up sequence is a highlight. Gene Tierney's hair in later sequences is distracting.
Not to be confused with Warren Beatty's 1978 movie, Heaven Can Wait, which is a remake of Here Comes Mr Jordan.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Golden Voyage of Sinbad

One goes to see Harryhausen but stays for Caroline Munro. Tom Baker's villain is sympathetic and only a little evil.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Documentary about Canadian health care.

Mary, Queen of Scots.

I don't know the story behind Glenda Jackson playing Elizabeth again. Not as good as Elizabeth R, although the depiction of Mary's personality is skillfully shaded and the production values are magnitudes plushier. Several risible bits that presage Holy Grail. I now think that John Cleese was in fact parodying the portrtayal of John Knox from this movie. There are also ground-to-parapet conversations that may have been shot at the same castle. Patrick McGoohan has a slithery role.


Middle aged middle manager faces death. Then he finds out he has cancer. Then he dies. Then the story kicks in. Devastating and probably inspiring. It's a lot of movie, weak souls may be evaporated during screening.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hey! Who opened the seventh seal?!

Via Penny Arcade:
Andrew Lloyd Weber video games.


One of the spiritual godfathers of Star Wars. Stewart Granger looks the part but he has absolutely no depth, not even enough for light-weight stuff like this. Mel Ferrer, no relation to Jose Ferrer, makes quite a bit more of his villain than Granger does of his swashbuckler. Great fencing duels and gorgeous, if too glamorous (Stewart's tights, q.v.), studio, Technicolor presentation. A sort of a counterbalance to Cyrano de Bergerac.

RIP Beloved Actors

Ricardo Montalban and Partick McGoohan have died.

There Was a Crooked Man

Thematically consistent but brutally unsubtle message movie. Production is much too good for sophomoric material. Comedy score may have actually undercut the effect completely; straight score might have allowed the blackness of the comedy to be discovered instead of shoving it in our face. Uneven tone also contributes: a Benny Hill-style chase is right next door to a brutal stabbing by Warren Oates. Who, by the way, does a fine job. All the performances were solid, which just makes the end result that much more puzzling.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ten Wanted men

Randolph Scott featured in amazingly wooden production. Notable use of dynamite instead of bullets.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Heavy Metal

I have never had much use for pop music of any sort and the music in Heavy Metal, Elmer Bernstein's score excluded, makes me grind my teeth. I would have sneered at this even as a teenager and now I am just rolling my eyes. There are several bits that are funny but the overall effect is just taxing. The main benefit is that 1,000 animators had work in 1980.

One Night with the King

I was suckered by the all-star cast but they are, of course, cameos. The thing looked OK production-wise and even had a genocide in the first five minutes but then the lead opened her mouth and these ridiculous valley-girl noises came out and I had to turn it off.

Black Robe

May as well be called Bleak Robe because it is from start to finish a huge downer. I appreciate the authenticity and the gravitas, but, man oh man! Nothing actually happy or good happens, even by Jesuit, 17th c. Jesuits, mind you, standards. Near the end, a character says, "They will very likely torture and kill us." After the preceding act, the only possible answer is, "Thank God!"

Broken Light Bulb

The bulb separated completely from the base, revealing the secret business end of a light bulb.

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Cyrano de Bergerac

Mildly stylized design (or cost-conscious) serves Jose Ferrer's thesping well. His famous nose is far more convincing than Fagin's in Oliver Twist. The rest of the production was probably OK but I have already forgotten it.

The Naked Jungle

Charlton Heston is a South American plantation owner in this penny-ante parallel to the King and I. Heston's character is seriously damaged goods (he hangs a pair of his employees to make a point) but apparently has a heart of gold. No, he's a monster even though the script doesn't seem to notice. Interesting battle sequence at end.


Stellar Skarsgard is a detective with many, many flaws. Main attraction is Skarsgard's performance which, in a lesser actor, would have been a series of tics and snarls but his is simultaneously transparent and inscrutable. The photography is good, effectively unsettling without being obvious. The plot is full of holes but it does not matter because the main problem is what happens to Skarsgard's soul.

Wild Strawberries

An old man takes a road trip through his memories with a few side-trips to crazy, filmic dream world. He makes it back in time to accept honors from a university. My new favorite Bergman movie.

Spider-Man 3

Spider-Man 3: The Kitchen Sinkening, is more like it. Way too many characters and plots for a comic-book movie. Thomas Haden Church exists way below my radar so I was unprepared for the ripped version. He looked exactly like the comic.

The Hindenburg

Robert Wise makes a virtue of the fact that the end of the movie is common knowledge. George C. Scott's character is far too self-assured, even in his internal conflicts, to be compelling. The script relieves him of all responsibility for his actions because he's so darn stolid. The special effects make the whole thing worthwhile.

Hellboy: Animated: Blood & Iron

Not inconsistent with live-action movie and even anticipates some gags with the second movie, including having too many finales. Some of the character designs are uninspired.

Nothing But the Night

Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing pursue leads surrounding the murders of wealthy philanthropists. Events do not proceed in a very linear fashion and there are several unexpected and unpredictable happenings. Uneven tone threatens to derail the movie and there are clunky, but not amateurish, scenes on a regular basis. Some casting is a bit dubious but it all works out by the end. With a bigger budget and a more thoughtful script, this could have been truly great but only at the risk of losing its camp charm.

The Bad and the Beautiful

The only part that is really good is the section where Kirk Douglas is manipulating Lana Turner. The rest is either overly involved set up to that sequence or mostly irrelevant. Script really needs to be tightened up. Suffice to say, it's no Hollywood Boulevard.

Oliver Twist

The gold standard Dickens movie. High point center around Alec Guinness and his nose of extreme improbability. All of his scenes contain some intriguing business. There are no weaknesses in the rest of the cast, which is something of a miracle, because they are all either children or veteran scene-stealing character actors. Much of the photography is stunning.

Love and Death

Even Diane Keaton is funny. The litero-psycho-jargon joke was hilarious the first time and sagely deployed later but to far less effect. Probably too long. The lack of polish throughout is all to the good.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Resident Evil: Extinction

Expectations were met. Boss fight was weak. Many, many script shortcuts. The psionics-detecting satellites in particular were especially handy for keeping the agonists in proximity to each other.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Monkey Business

Rapid-fire non-sequiturs and puns are interrupted every few scenes by the broadest of slapstick. Musical numbers in second half are a hoot.

Duck Soup

Meh, better as a source of political irony than entertainment. Compare Monkey Business, q.v.

Fallen Angel

Noir with training wheels from Otto Preminger. Some unexpected scenes, but none germane. Some racy smooching, though.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Leave Her to Heaven

Ridiculous and fascinating melodrama goes completely off the rails by the middle of the second act and then plunges off a cliff into a sea full of psychopathic pleiosaurs. Score by Alfred Newman is equally crazy. Yet it all pulls together.

Last Train from Gun Hill

Deep-hued photography is main asset. Strong but odd performances from entire cast: Douglas never lets rage out except maybe a teensy bit when he hurts Holliman. Holliman for his part lets out some tortured squeaks that are equal parts authentic, pathetic and funny. Quinn's accent, as usual, is all over the place but he, as also usual, seems to be having a great time. Carolyn Jones excels but her makeup in the final shot makes her look ten years older than she is. Terrible lighting? It was odd.

Gray Lady Down

Perfunctory stuff with decent sub models. The review from Variety sums up my reaction.

Friday, January 02, 2009


Interesting but ludicrous production design is realized in full-on 'uncanny valley' mode. The actors all look every bit the Maya mannequins that they are. The extras include some making-of from the motion-capture set, referred to in apparent lack of irony, the Volume. The pedantry is bottomless: filming is 'motion capture,' or 'mo-cap', or just 'capping'. Granted, there is no actual film involved and the term is descriptive but it still sounds ludicrous. The resulting performances are just hopeless. Brendan Gleason's real-life neck does more acting than his entire virtual render. Sorry, cappers, you are not ready for prime time.
There are high points: Crispin Glover's take on Grendel is good although the final result comes across as the zombie version of the love child between an Ent and the Elephant Man. From now on, I shall refer to Grendel as Zombie Entephant Man, or ZEM for short. Not really. There are scenes in mostly Old English which are nice but a bit spoiled by the inclusion of Modern English. The violence in the harrowing of Herot is horrific and beyond disgusting, which means that it is faithful to the tale. It is really gross, though. The production design is ambitious and imaginative and mostly misses the mark. This is EXTREME Beowulf! (Although not half as amusing as the heavy-metal Geats from Grendel and Beowulf.) Points should be awarded for including the dragon portion of the story. However, that was done better in Dragonslayer, subtexts and all. The dragon battle itself was more interesting when the dragon was a Hungarian Ridgeback and the enormous castle was Hogwart's. (Note to Peter Jackson: Zemeckis owes you a Coke for bogarting the finale to The Hobbit.)
The plot almost makes hay out of a bit of cleverness in regard to Grendel's genetics. But not quite. Everyone seems desperate to impose psychology on this story which it can't support.
Music by Alan Silvestri is thematically consistent with EXTREME Beowulf!which means that it is not merely loud and bombastic, it's so in your face that you want to run with wild wind from fen and moor to rock, stone and river to the hall so would broad doors break wide, there within make murder.

Elizabeth R

I think Glenda Jackson wins the prize for best overall Elizabeth I. The production succeeds in spite of the cheap sets (Star Trek's castles were more convincing) due mostly to the overall excellence of the cast. Too many names to list, look it up on IMdB.

Zune 30 Bricked by Leap Year Bug

Although "Just wait a day" is probably the most reasonable resposne to this leap year bug (I took one course in programming and one of the problems was how to account for leap years. Can it be that there is some kind of educational deficit at Redmond?), I can't begin to imagine the breadth of frustration Zune users must feel. Poor Zune users.

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