Tuesday, November 25, 2014

2002 - THE SUM OF ALL FEARS - more spy vs spy stuff from Tom Clancy

An attempt to reboot the Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan thriller franchise with a new actor playing Ryan, Ben Affleck.  The role had previously been played by Alec Baldwin and then Harrison Ford.  Those films had been highly successful at the box office.  However the studio did not want to continue to payout the large sums of cash Ford was asking for with each successive film.

The Sum Of All Fears was like one of those Spiderman films.  The studio pretended the first series never existed and just started the whole thing over with a different and cheaper actor.  So in The Sum Of All Fears, Jack Ryan is no longer the deputy CIA director.  This film takes him all the way back to being a desk bound intelligence analyst.

This film is watchable but a little lazy.  The bad guys are the movies favorite villains the ex Nazis.  They are attempting to start a new world order by tricking the United  States and the Soviet Union into going to war with each other.  This old standby of a plot has been used in just about every other James Bond film.

This is a perfectly acceptable B-flat thriller nothing special but watchable.

124 minutes

Monday, November 24, 2014


Muscle man Steve Reeves, is a Roman soldier returning to his old hometown of Pompeii after duty in Palestine.  He runs into a lot of political intrigue with some evil Pompeiians who are framing the Christians for murder and looting sprees.  Reeves gets to the bottom of things and figures out who is framing the Christians.

However the Christians are rounded up and sent to the arena to get eaten by the lions.  Just when things couldn't get worse Mt. Vesuvius erupts which resolves the whole mess by destroying everything in sight.

What we have here is kind of a cut rate version of I Claudius with some destruction stuff thrown in for good measure.  The volcano stuff at the end of the film isn't too bad the rest of the film is only so so.  This film is basically for people who enjoy these cheesy Italian "sword and sandal" epics/

100 minutes.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

2010 - SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO - Space is the place

The live action version of the early Anime series known as Star Blazers in this country.  This film follows the story of the early anime film fairly closely and I have to give it credit it certainly is action packed.

The film run over 2 hours but it seemed like a quick 2 hours.  If the crew of the Yamato isn't blasting away at the "Gamilas" fighters in Star Wars type space dogfights the crew of the Yamato is mowing them down in hand to hand laser weapon fighting.  The special effects are actually pretty well done and the cast does manage to keep a straight face

This is one of those films that 12 year old boys will love.  It keeps that gross kissing and love stuff to a minimum and concentrates on the action.  Let's face is this film was never going to be confused with Kurosawa's Ran.

Given what this film is I was impressed by the semi downbeat ending the studio allowed the filmmakers to tack on to it.  Pretty well done considering the source material is from an old cartoon series.

138 minutes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

1985 - PHENOMENA - Another Argento gore film

A very attractive and very young Jennifer Connelly is the heroine of this Dario Argento film which features a lot of disgusting killings by a homicidal maniac, lots of gore and dead body parts.  That's entertainment I guess.  The twist in Phenomena is that Connelly has some sort of psychic powers that allow her to communicate with insects.  Connelly and the insects team up to track down the killer.

Argento keeps Connelly dressed mostly in virginal white outfits and manages at one point to have her wandering around in her underwear.  It sounds exploitative and it probably is but in this film Connelly is a fairly tough little cookie facing down the psycho killer.  The big problem with casting Connelly was that she just couldn't act.  Connelly struggles to look like she is actually worried about all these disgusting killings of students at the all girls school she attends but she comes off like she lost some of her Barbie dolls instead.

I have to give it to Argento, even with all the gore and nasty killings he does bring a lot of style of the film.  I think the question is at what point does the film cross the line?  At times Argento seems like a nasty little kid whose idea of fun is pulling the wings off of live flies. 

Well there's never a dull moment in this Argento film and the soundtrack choices are very effective.  This giallo film is probably mostly for fans of the director and I am guessing his fans are a rather strange bunch if they get off on this stuff.  Stylish gory horror films are only going to get you so far in your film career.

110 minutes.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

1946 - MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, another excellent Blu Ray from Criterion

A great disc from Criterion.  My Darling Clementine's photography really jumps out with it's stunning black and white images.

It's well documented that Darryl F. Zanuck ended up reworking the film much to Ford's displeasure but it appears that Zanuck got rid of a lot of Ford's cornball humor and indulgent character touches.  A pre-release version is featured on this new disc but it's no undiscovered Director's Cut of great scenes.

Henry Fonda had worked with Ford on Young Mr. Lincoln and his understated performance is very impressive.  Fonda was no John Wayne and the film really benefits from that.  The rest of the cast particularly Victor Mature as Doc Holliday was very good.

Ford directs, that's him on the floor staging the dance sequence he's between the flags.

This was the last picture on Ford's contract for Zanuck.  Zanuck made sure this was an "A" quality production.  The set for the town of Tombstone was actually constructed in Monument Valley to take advantage of the scenery.

Ford was a master of filming long shots.  His sophisticated visual scene is quite striking on My Darling Clementine.

97 minutes.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

2014 - THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, I think I've heard this same old song before

Doesn't anyone remember Star Wars Episode 4 anymore?  Guardians of the Galaxy borrows a lot from that film.  The green woman is a stand in for Princess Lea, Star Lord is Han Solo, the tree creature is Chewbacca and there's a couple of bad guys who are clearly modeled after Darth Vader and The Emperor.

A lot of drivel was written on the Internet about how this was Marvel Studio's phase 3 in their story arch series, but this film sure looks a lot like phases 1 and 2 to me.  There is an elaborate story arc connection with regard to some magic stones or something that has been in the works and referenced in the last several Marvel movies.  However I skipped the last Thor movie because I just didn't care so I don't know if the power stones were mentioned in that film or not.

This was the film that supposedly was to be loaded up with humor.  What passes for humor in the Marvel Universe is a talking racoon and listening to music mix cassette tapes from the 1970's.  Chris Pratt appears to have been hired to carry the comedic load and I guess he does about as well as can be expected with the script and story.  Speaking of the script the co-writer and director James Gunn plays it very safe in this film.  There is none of the subversive and sick humor that permeated his bizarre film Super.  I'm sure the studio wasn't about to go down any road that made fun of religious fanaticism. 

Come to think of it Guardians of the Galaxy also borrows from another classic film, The Dirty Dozen.  Assemble a team of people who barely get along with each other and have them work together to fight the evil Nazis Kree.  This is a very derivative film.

The audience I saw this film with loved it and this film apparently made a lot of money.

122 minutes.

2014 - THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2, is commercial filmmaking at its most cynical

The first reboot of the Spiderman series was no classic, the 2nd film unimaginatively called The Amazing Spiderman 2 manages to be even less successful as a commercial entertainment.  I lasted about 45 minutes to an hour on this turkey, skimming ahead to watch the final fight between Electric guy or whatever the villain's name is and the Green Goblin who shows up towards the end because you can't have enough action stuff going on unless you completely overwhelm the audience with noise and chaos.

The main leads in the film Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are supposedly to be playing teenagers graduating from school.  They are starting to look a little long in the tooth.  Garfield is 31 years old and Stone is 26 and the cuteness thing she had in the first film is looking a little rough around the edges.  The rest of the cast is clearly slumming in the great "where's my paycheck" school of acting tradition.  Particularly pathetic is Paul Giamatti who is supposed to play the villain "Rhino."  Giamatti shows up at the beginning of the film and the end of the film blathering in some ridiculous Russian accent.

The action scenes are the usual overdose of computer imaging Spiderman flying around New York looks like a cartoon character who would be at home in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  Spiderman is never in real danger because Sony Pictures had announced that there would be another film is this series with Spiderman taking on the Sinister Six, whoever they are.

Unfortunately for Sony, this picture was not the big blockbuster hit they had been hoping for.  The film made money but not the millions and millions of dollars they wanted.  Apparently the studio is spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to save this series from the ennui that seems to be settling in on these superhero films.

142 minutes.