Tuesday, September 2, 2014

2014 - THE TRIP TO ITALY is more of the Trip except it's in Italy

This is a sequel/remake of The Trip with the exact same setup as the first film.  A couple of comedians played by Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play a couple of comedians named Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.  Like the first film they are on a tour of Italy dining in some very scenic and good restaurants in order to write reviews for a British newspaper. 

This film looks to be basically improvised by the two comedians with some story structure about their grappling with middle age and their relationships with their families.  But really the film is about these two pretty funny guys doing imitations of famous British and American actors and basically trying to top each other in the shtick department.

The Trip to Italy is probably what passed for a fairly sophisticated comedy these days although it's mighty silly at times.  Coogan and Brydon know what their audience wants to see, pretty pictures and silly voices.  The result is an entertaining film which at times has some genuine wit when you cut through all the Al Pacino and Michael Caine impressions.

This is a film you have to actually listen to.  It's an end of summer film that doesn't contain Godzilla smashing strange monsters or Captain America fighting evil comic book villains.  An enjoyable film however I sure wouldn't want to be sitting next to these two guys in a restaurant listening to their shenanigans while I am trying to eat.

108 minutes

Sunday, August 31, 2014

2014 - THE EXPENDABLES 3, probably the last film in the series.

Apparently a DVD quality copy of this film leaked out to the Internet allowing for lots of illegal downloads.  The studio is blaming this for the poor box office performance of this film.  But the fact is,  this movie sucks.

Let's get the plot out of the way.  After a botched mission,  Stallone thinks that his team of oldsters is getting long in the tooth.  He unceremoniously dumps them and recruits some young pups who know all about the Internet and that digital stuff.  Sent on a mission by CIA guy Harrison Ford who is filling in for Bruce Willis after a salary dispute the new team goes after evil Mel Gibson (who can only get roles in movies if he plays bad guys).  The new team is captured by Mel so it's up to the old timers to come out of mothballs and save the day.  This is essentially the plot of the ABC TV movie The Over the Hill Gang from 1969.  Which compared to this was a lot shorter and lot more entertaining.

The very scary looking cast of The Expendables 3

There was much criticism of the PG-13 rating which allowed Stallone and his team to shoot and kill hundreds of guys as long as they didn't show any blood.  I would have to say that I would agree with this.  There is something almost offensively pornographic showing violence without ever showing one drop of blood being spilled. 

Since the box office returns were so poor, this film is considered to be a bomb which will probably be the end of this franchise. Frankly this film series was never very good to begin with.  The first film had the novelty of seeing all of these past their prime 80's action stars go through the fighting motions one more time.  But now by the 3rd film even that novelty has worn off. 

126 minutes

Saturday, August 30, 2014

1956 - IT CONQUERED WITH WORLD another Roger Corman sci-fi quicky

Roger Corman must have knocked this one out in about a day and 1/2.  Corman clearly borrowed from The Day The Earth Stood Still and Invaders from Mars.  Stealing from other movies never bother Roger Corman very much if he could make a couple of bucks. 

Watching this epic one can't help thinking that they sure didn't put much thought into the monster from the planet Venus.  This think looks like an out of control zucchini with lobster claws.  The flying rubber bat creatures aren't that bad but Corman should have learned a lesson from Val Lewton, "don't show the monster."

The cast isn't that bad.  Peter Graves, Lee Van Cleef and Beverly Garland are actually fairly sincere delivering some of the dialog that includes lines like, "I made it possible for you to come here... I made you welcome to this Earth... You made it a charnel house."

Definition:  charnel house -  "A charnel house is a vault or building where human skeletal remains are stored. They are often built near churches for depositing bones that are unearthed while digging graves. The term can also be used more generally as a description of a place filled with death and destruction."

71 minutes.

2014 - NEIGHBORS, a very frantic comedy

Another Seth Rogen comedy that has something to do with the inability of the American male to grow up, homophobia and Seth Rogen doing his pothead thing again.

Rogen and Rose Byrne play the barely mature parents of a baby girl who live in a neighborhood that has the unfortunate luck to have a home sold to a bunch of frat boys.  When Rogen and Byrne aren't partying with the frat rats they are attempting to drive them out of the neighborhood with a series of schemes that will get them placed on probation and ultimately kicked out of school. 

There is some funny stuff in this film but this is the usual Seth Rogen show where he plays the man-child struggling to grow up.  Rogen has been playing variations on this character since Knocked Up I think.  His act is starting to get a little old.  I guess you could debate whether an attractive woman like Rose Byrne would end up with a goof like Rogen but she is kind of funny as a somewhat deranged mother.

The movie really assaults you with lots of frantic editing, loud music and overblown photography.  At times it's hard to hear the jokes over all the racket. 

97 minutes.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

1942 - TORPEDO SQUADRON 8, 1958 - THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH, two short films from famous directors

The stuff that shows up on YouTube never ceases to amaze.  Here are a couple of short films from John Ford and Orson Welles that finally saw the light of day for a general public.  

Torpedo Squadron 8 was filmed before The Battle of Midway.  The squadron was completely wiped out with the exception of one survivor.  Ford had the footage edited and personally presented to the families of the dead men by members of his photographic outfit.  The eight minute film is very John Ford mourning the loss of the men while celebrating the success of the Midway battle.  The film was shot on color 16mm film.

Probably one of the more fascinating finds is this television film The Fountain of Youth written and directed by Orson Welles.  As usual with Welles he takes a small budget and pulls off some interesting visual effects with it.  Welles narrates and appears throughout the film.  In many ways this short film is as interesting and innovative as any film he directed.  This was the pilot for a proposed television series that unfortunately never came together.

Torpedo Squadron 8, 7:46 minutes.

The Fountain of Youth, 28:38 minutes.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

1958 - CINERAMA SOUTH SEAS ADVENTURE, in Cinerama (what else?) and Blu Ray.

Lots and lots of scenery shots with the large 3 camera setup that was called Cinerama.  This film is set in the Pacific and when the camera isn't flying over admittedly very scenic islands it is locked in place as the "simple" natives of the South Pacific sing or dance or sing yet again.

Orson Welles is the narrator and there is a very slight attempt to stick a couple of stories into all of the pretty pictures. 

This Blu Ray version of this travelogue is presented in something called "Smilebox"  which attempts to approximate the image found in Cinerama theaters.  Even on my TV the smilebox format is actually very easy to view.  The film was remastered with it's original negatives and it looks great.

There is kind of a meandering quality to this film. It was filmed in the 1950's but I will have to admit I could have done with 1 or 2 less airborne scenic vista shots. An interesting film.

120 minutes.

2014 - THE BATTERED BASTARDS OF BASEBALL, an interesting little story about a minor league team.

Nice and short.  The true story of actor Kurt Russell's father Bing Russell a veteran character actor who ends up buying a minor league baseball team.

As several critics have pointed out this is a real Frank Capra story.  Bing Russell takes on the major league baseball owners while simultaneously putting together a motley crew of players who actually enjoy playing the game.

This film is short and sweet and is available for viewing on Netflix.  Highly entertaining with lots of old archival footage.

73 minutes.