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.

1968 - TARGETS, still holds up very well

Targets is sort of a transitional film between old and modern horror films as well as old and modern Hollywood films in general.  Boris Karloff plays an old horror film actor (although he is really playing himself) who confronts a new kind of terror, everyday life.  Karloff is very good in this film considering he only worked for about two days, what a pro.   The disturbed Vietnam vet was played by a young actor named Tim O'Kelly who kind of disappeared after this film.  O'Kelly was in the original pilot for Hawaii Five, O but was recast at Jack Lord's insistence.

This was Peter Bogdanovich's first film and he never really directed another type of film like this.  Bogdanovich was a critic turned would be director and given the chance to make a film he used a lot of imagination and cleverness to stretch a small budget about as far as it could go.  Bogdanovich used a lot of montage techniques in this film something the European directors had embraced.  He was also a fan of old Hollywood directors and you can see the influence of Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train towards the end of the film.  It all came together very well.

Bogdanovich cast himself as a low budget horror film director sort of like his mentor Roger Corman and he's the worst part of the picture.  Up against a veteran actor like Karloff he looks like a real amateur.  Unfortunately Bogdanovich is in a lot of the movie so you have to endure his ramblings about old Hollywood.

Targets was Boris Karloff's last decent picture.  He did a few more crappy Mexican films but this was in many ways a summation of his interesting career.  Targets also has some pointed commentary on the gun happy culture that still engulfs this country.  An impressive achievement on a very low budget.

90 minutes

Sunday, August 3, 2014

2014 - BOYHOOD, long but an impressive achievement.

The new film Boyhood is very long and at times it tends to meander.  The subplots with the mother's two additional bad marriages are a little more melodrama than the film needs but this is still a very good film. 

The film has received a lot of publicity for it's actual production situation.  Using the same actors in the same roles for 12 years, shooting on 35mm for continuity etc.  The marketing campaign has been playing up a lot of this stuff.  Still, it is interesting to watch the cast age throughout the picture.  Characters that show up early in the lives of this family return later.  It's kind of amazing that the director Richard Linklater was able to pull that off.  The transitions through the years are handled very cleverly with none of that "3 years later" title card stuff.

The film is called Boyhood but it is really about a family.  The mother, father and sister have equally important roles although the focus is on viewing the family's life through the boy.  Ultimately the film ends on a hopeful note and I have a feeling that Richard Linklater will probably follow up on the lives of these characters in the future.

165 minutes.