The Final

Ok, as most of you know I am easily entertained with horror movie, and my better half, even more so. The Final is in the After Dark series which in the past has put out some low-budget creep movies, but after the last two I have seen out of the series, The Final being one of them, I am about to give up on them.

The Final is basically Revenge of the Nerds meets Saw. The nerds and outcasts are picked on by the class jocks and prom queens. They decide to throw a masquerade party and get even by torturing them. That is pretty sad when you can sum the movie up in three sentences, and I highly recommend you just read my three sentences and skip this movie all together.

This movie had not one redeeming quality about it. I can usually find something good to say about a flick, music, photography, an obscure performance no matter how small, but I couldn’t find one. This film is so mean-spirited and racist in the beginning it is not even fun to watch. The revenge party then goes to such extremes of torture, there is absolutely no one left to root for in this film. You end up hating every character and just wishing it would end. Ah, there is the redeeming quality, the end. Avoid this movie at all cost!

No Time For Sergeants

I can’t tell you how long I have been waiting for this DVD. No Time For Sergeants is a movie that I grew up on, and to finally be able to get in on DVD, what a treat. If you have never seen this film, it’s classic Andy Griffith . Granted he is playing a character he is known for, a bumbling backwoods “plowboy,” as they say in the film. It is a classic fish “out of water” tale, but sets up very nicely for a very funny family friendly movie. If you like the humor of the Marx Brothers or even the Andy Griffith show, I would highly recommend you catch this film.

No Time For Sergeants also stars a very young Murray Hamilton as Irving S. Blanchard. The young upstart who thinks he’s in charge, but don’t hold that against him, he’s had ROTC . You might remember him as the mayor in Jaws. Myron McCormick is perfect as Sergeant King, who is just wants to be left alone and not make waves.  Also look for Don Knotts (The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Apple Dumpling Gang), Raymond Baily (The Beverly Hillbillies) and Jamie Farr (MASH).

So, for my recommendation, for sure, see it. If the film kind of  reminds you of the TV series Gomer Pyle, this is the film that inspired that series. Kind of funny that the film inspired the series, yet was a spinoff from the  Andy Griffith Show. This is just all around good fun, worth seeing for sure!

In Old Chicago (1937)

Still no big screen TV, still plenty of full frame movies to watch. The choice of the night, In Old Chicago. This film is basically a dramatization of the characters involved in starting the Chicago fire. Although not much of the story really ties to the great fire other than a family member has a bar in area that burned. The story starts with a family headed to Chicago to make a new life. The father passes away on the trip leaving a mother and her two sons. Upon arriving in Chicago, Mrs. O’Leary opens a laundry mat, while there is a sibling rivalry brewing, with one brother opening a saloon and the other running for mayor, and trying to  clean out the saloons and dance halls. Of course everything culminates with the big fire….didn’t think I was giving away anything surprising there, yep Chicago burns.

Of course the best performance comes from Alice Faye (Alexander’s Ragtime Band), who won the supporting actress Oscar for role as Belle. (The side note on her Oscar is she was unable to attend the Oscar presentation, and when her name was called, an imposter went up, accepted the award and was never seen again. Unfortunately she passed away before the Academy could get her another one.) She was wonderful, full of attitude, and being able to show off as a great singer didn’t hurt a bit either. The Brothers are played by Tyrone Power (The Mark of Zorro, Alexander’s Ragtime Band) and the great Don Ameche (Cocoon, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Coming to America). Their performances are decent, but not anything to write home about . Ameche seemed to be saddled with playing the “good” brother which didn’t lend to much drama in his character. Power of course was the debonair gentleman who gets the girl. His character is at least a little more interesting since he is in what was then a shady business, a saloon owner.

Overall, I was entertained by this movie. It wasn’t one that I would watch over and over, but worth a look once in a while. The one thing it did make me want, was a modern movie about the Chicago fire. With today’s special effects, I would love to see a detailed story of what happened and all the steps that everyone went through and the strategy for trying to put the fire out.

Boy, am I ready to watch a widescreen movie with lots of explosions!

The Orchestra Wives

Again, back to the full screen black and whites, with the DLP still out of commission. The selection of the night, Orchestra Wives. This is a 1942 black and white, that is what the title says, about orchestra wives. The entire plot of this movie can be summed up pretty easy, cheating, gossip, and marriages. I think the highlight of the film itself, which I am sure was intended, is the big band music itself which features the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Aside from that, I did not really care for the story line or how the characters were set up and built upon.

The male lead in the movie Bill Abbot, played by George Montgomery (China Girl, Roxie Hart) behaves in such a way so early on I found myself disliking his character throughout the film. Ann Rutherford (Gone With The Wind) plays the female lead, and you find yourself pulling for her as a character until she begins falling into the trap of all the other women. There is a lot of deceit and overall meanness to the movie tat I didn’t care for. I don’t mind films that deal with this subject matter at all, they can be very powerful stories, but I don’t think it was intended to come across as dark as it does. I would have prefered them take a darker serious tone to the movie, and maybe even make a tragedy out of it rather than remain light about all that goes on behind the scenes of band members wives. Either that or have some characters that can bring something light or funny to the film just to give you a break. I thought they might do that with the Cesar Romero (Joker in the Batman TV series and film) character as he had some funny lines and seemed to be a likable character, but he just wasn’t in it enough to save this one for me.

For me this was a very average movie, and had it not been for the Big Band angle, it would have failed for me.  There are a few musical numbers that are worth seeing just for historic purposes. And there is a glimpse of a very young, pre Ralph Kramden days, Jackie Gleason (Smokey and The Bandit) and a young Harry Morgan (MASH, Dragnet TV series). To me it really isn’t worth watching for the drama, just not done that well for me. If you want good drama with all the elements of cheating, lying, and rocky marriages, I recommend you see Little Children and Revolutionary Road, two very good films.

Leave Her to Heaven

Ok, having the 65″ DLP in the shop for repairs leaves my better half and I in the “man cave”  huddled around a 27″ TV with only TV speakers. My stipulation for watching movies for a while, any film we pick to watch has to be only available in full screen and mono or basic stereo. So what a great time to catch up on old movies and discover some films I have been missing out on.

Leave Her To Heaven was the choice of the night. I have to say, I was quite surprised by this film. Although shot in Technicolor, the movie plays out like classic Film Noir. In fact I think the movie could have benefitted from being shot in black and white. Saying that, it did take home an Oscar for color cinematography.

This film is about Ellen, played wonderfully by Gene Tierney (The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Razor’s Edge) who has a very quick change of heart and calls off her engagement just to announce that she is getting married to a man she just met. Her performance did earn her a Best Actress nomination that year and deservedly so. The man she is marrying, author Richard Harland played by Cornel Wilde (A Song to Remember). They make a great couple until jealously sets in and Ellen starts coming up with different ways to assure they have time alone together…including murder. Another notable in this film is Vincent Price (Pit and the Pendulum, The Fall of the House of Usher), who was great to watch in a normal role and not in one of the horror roles he made a name for.

As always, I don’t want to give away too many fun details, because discovery is half the fun. In all, this movie is worth watching. It may not be one that i watch again and again, but still noteworthy.

The Birdcage

“We are family….”

The Birdcage is a remake of the French classic, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, and hopefully will be become a comedy classic all its own. Armand and Albert are a gay couple running a night club in Miami, and Armand finds out his son is getting married. It just so happens he is getting married to an ultra-conservative Senator’s daughter. The Senator is in search of some good PR as his political companion was found dead with a minor prostitute. A wholesome family wedding seems to be the Senators answer for the media, and Val, the straight son, is worried about the Senator meeting his gay parents. Hence the attempt at a transformation to be a straight couple, complete with redecorating their home and changing the way they act…and finally the dinner with the parents.

I have heard a few complaints that all the characters are stereotypical and over the top. Yes, they are. But this film works for that very reason. It is not a film that is begging to be taken to seriously. Even though over the top, the characters are well-developed and likable. Robin Williams (Best supporting Actor Good Will Hunting, The Night Listener, One Hour Photo) give s a spot on performance as Armand and Nathan Lane (The Lion King, Nicholas Nickleby) is perfect as Armand’s mate and star of the Birdcage nightly drag queen show, Starina! Gene Hackman (Best Actor The French Connection, Unforgiven) is a nice casting choice for the conservative senator. The final scene with Gene Hackman dressed in drag and attempting to sing We Are Family, is worth the price of a ticket, or a rental in this case. Ok, since we are talking about performances, by the show stealer is Hank Azaria (Run Fatboy Run, Along Came Polly) who plays the very feminine butler Agador. He nails his performance right on the head. If he is in the scene, he is stealing it! Just a wonderfully funny performance!

Overall, I would highly recommend this film. It has many laugh out loud moments and truly priceless scenes. Mike Nichols (Charlie Wilson’s War, Closer) does a wonderful job of directing this talented cast and keeps this a very colorful and bright film. Visually and emotionally. If you haven’t seen it, do so! As for me, I’ll watch it again, probably for the 15th time.

The Exorcist (1973)

“Something beyond comprehension is happening to a little girl on this street, in this house. A man has been called for as a last resort to try and save her. That man is The Exorcist

Ok, you can tell I am still catching up on reviews from the Halloween season. So, it’s not like I am getting in the holiday season mood with a viewing of The Exorcist. In my opinion the scariest movie ever made. This is also one of the few horror movies that received critical acclaim, nominated for a total of 10 Oscars including Best Picture. If you don’t know the story, it is about a young girl possessed by a demon. Her mother turns to a local priest, who has just lost his mother and is starting to have questions about his own faith. It is this priest, Father Karras, who realizes the little Girl Regan needs a lot of help, in fact she needs an Exorcist.

This film has a great cast of characters. Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream, The Yards, and Best Actress nominee for The Exorcist) plays Regan’s mother and local actress, Chris MacNeil. She plays a very caring mother who really doesn’t have a strong religious background of any kind, yet finds herself to the point of breaking down and helpless when it comes to helping her sick daughter. Jason Miller plays Father Karras, who was also nominated for a Best Actor Oscar in this film. A wonderful surprise performance from Linda Blair (Airport 1975, The Exorcist 2: The Heretic) who plays Regan. She was nominated for Supporting Actress. Unfortunately she did such a great job, she fell into a Hollywood stereo type of playing in a lot of B Horror movies like Hell Night. Long time great Lee J. Cobb (12 Angry Men, The Three Faces of Eve) also has a significant role as the detective investigating the murder.

I know some that have laughed this movie off, and I guess that can be expected some as much as this film has been lampooned and joked about. Just mentioning the words “Pea Soup” is iconic for the film, and even people who haven’t seen the film get this reference. Is it a horror film. Yes. Is it a religious film. Yes. The one thing this film will always remain is a true classic and the scariest film of all time.

The Counterfeiters

If you have never heard of this film or maybe you have heard of it and just haven’t gotten around to seeing it, it is worth discovering. This small Austrian film took home the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2008 Academy Awards. This is a film about Salomon “Sally” Sorowitsch. Operating as one of the top counterfeiters in the world, his luck finally runs out and he is captured by the Germans, and of course being Jewish, sent to the concentration camps. The Germans spot him as a counterfeiter and he is shipped to a different camp, where the largest counterfeit operation in history is being run. The Germans goal, to successfully counterfeit the english pound and the american dollar in hopes of flooding the market and destroying the economies of England and the United States.

One thing fresh about this film is that it does not deal with concentration camps in cliché ways, as well as the Germans, many are not presented in cliché ways either. For the most part the audience is not subjected to the horrors of everyday life in a concentration camp, but everyone knows it existed outside of the counterfeiting group. The talented counterfeiters were afforded clean sheets, food, showers and even classical music. This is where most of the character conflict comes from, how someone’s criminal ways are now saving his life.

In all, this is one of those films everyone should see once, even if it is just from a historic purpose as it is based on a true story. Until I saw the film, I had no idea this kind of operation was taking place. The film is very well written, and very well acted I might ad. I highly recommend his movie. You will know more about counterfeiting by the end of this movie that you ever thought you would know. It is interesting on so many levels throughout, political and human. If you can make it through subtitles (I know some don’t like them), I suggest you give this one a chance, you will be glad you did.

Escape From New York

“Call me Snake.”

When the President of the United States is stranded in what is now a prisoned New York City, there is no one better to turn to than Snake Plissken. Snake, being sent to prison for life, has a chance for freedom if he agrees to rescue the President. Air Force One has gone down over Manhattan Island, which is now one big prison. The rest of the film are Snake Plissken’s adventures tracking down and rescuing the President.

Kurt Russell (Tombstone, Death Proof, Miracle) does a wonderful job playing Snake. An anti-hero much in the same realm as the Clint Eastwood’s “man with no name” character in the spaghetti westerns. In fact the director turns to spaghetti western film star, Lee Van Cleef (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, High Noon) as Snake’s nemesis who acts as a “warden” for the prison. The film also stars Earnest Borgnine (Best actor Marty), Harry Dean Stanton (Alien), Donald Pleasence (Halloween), and the Chef from South Park…Isaac Hayes.

I can see where Escape from New York may not be for everyone, as it is fairly low-budget, but for me John Carpenter (Halloween, The Fog, The Thing) makes it all work. It is a very entertaining film and has some comedic moments for relief. I would say give this one a chance if you haven’t, it is not that long and is a lot of fun.

Dying Breed

adhf3dbbYou can tell it is around Halloween by the amount of horror movies I am put through by my better half.  Unfortunately Dying breed does not offer anything you haven’t seen already, and is horror movie cliché number #14. Group of teens go into woods, find backwoods locals who seem to be inbred, stalked while out camping. Sound familiar? Reminded me of Wolf Creek which was mediocre at very best or The Hills Have Eyes. Not anything new to offer.

Dying Breed was directed by Jody Dwyer, who really hasn’t done much else…thank goodness. This is an Australian made film and takes place in the forests of Tasmania. A group of young adults go to the backwoods to seek out proof of the Tasmanian Tiger. I would like to tell you more of a story here about what this film was about, and I realize  I would be repeating myself from the first paragraph, that is how shallow this movie is. A lot of the horror is gratuitous violence that is not even done well. The acting isn’t much better with often times silly dialog between characters that are they basic group, hot girl who is the leader, obnoxious guy who dies the most violent death (so you don’t really care), smart brainy guy, and attractive girlfriend. Ok, you can fill in from here…you know this story and have seen it many times.

Needless to say, I wouldn’t recommend this at all. Nothing fresh comes from this film in any category, acting, directing, story or special effects…it has all been done before and done much better. My advice, pick another movie.