Sunday, January 27, 2013

Taking a break from blog

Lack of motivation.
Lots of books to read.
Taking a break from posting reviews
for about a week or so.
Will be back in February.

Thanks to all who read my reviews, and will hopefully continue to do so.

UPDATE 2/4/13: Be back in a few days; currently trying to write some reviews. Upon return however, reviews will be posted much less frequently. Whereas I used to post a review every other day or sometimes even everyday, the review output will be slowed down to maybe about one or two (maybe three on a good week) reviews per week. Haven't decided if I'll have a designated day to post reviews (perhaps Monday and Friday?) or if it'll be just random. I'll probably do the Monday/Friday thing.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Killer's Kiss (1955) Review

Killer's Kiss poster
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Stars: Frank Silvera, Jamie Smith, Irene Kane
Genre: Thriller, Film Noir

Killer's Kiss is a very early film by Stanley Kubrick, and probably the first in his filmography that I'd consider to be a good film (his previous efforts had to this point only been some short documentaries and a very mediocre Fear and Desire, of which Killer's Kiss is much of an improvement over).

The story concerns a boy, a girl, and love. But standing in-between boy and girl is a jealous and dangerous man of whom the girl used to work for. Boy and girl want nothing more than to be happily together, but can they overcome the necessary obstacles?

It's a very standard plot and a very standard love story with, as you may expect, a very standard ending (against Kubrick's original wishes). It is, all in all, an extremely conventional film. Kubrick's directing hints at the genius he would become, but at this point it was still very amateurish and crude.

Kubrick captures some very nice city visuals and the popular noir style of the time is implemented here which makes the film look very nice. As Kubrick himself had said: "While Fear and Desire had been a serious effort ineptly done, Killer's Kiss proved, I think, to be a frivolous effort done with conceivably more expertise, though still down in the student level of film-making."

The acting is, as with most facets if the film, very amateur. It's not terrible by any means, but it's only decent at its best. Should also be noted that the film was recorded with no audio and all the sounds and dialogue were later recorded in a studio and dubbed in (a very torturous process according to the actors). The dubbing isn't done bad, it's done well enough, though it is occasionally noticeable and it definitely doesn't help the already amateurish acting.

Killer's Kiss alley

There's not much to say about Killer's Kiss. It runs for just over an hour and it's a solid noir film that would have been forgotten had it not been for its director. Can only really recommend this to Kubrick fans; it's definitely not a bad film but it's only barely a good one and nothing as amazing as Kubrick's later films.

3/5 stars

Purchase Killer's Kiss on Amazon: DVD - Stream

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Directors Ranked: Quentin Tarantino

[A series in which I rank the films I've seen of a particular director in order of my preference from least to greatest.]

Quentin TarantinoQuentin Tarantino (born 1963) is a filmmaker with influences ranging from Sergio Leone and Corbucci to Jean-Luc Godard all the way to Jack Hill. His films maintain a grindhouse aesthetic and nearly all his films find major influences from 70s exploitation films. Known for his long takes and great dialogue and violence, he is no stranger to controversy. He's never gave in though and he continues to make the pictures that he wants to make. 

Quentin Tarantino is as frequently loved as he is hated. Considered by many film buffs to be an unoriginal filmmaker and is often looked at as a favorite director only to those who know little about cinema. Is Tarantino the most original filmmaker? Not by any means. Is he often praised by those who know little about film, just because he's the "cool thing" to like? Yes. Is Tarantino my favorite director? Far from it. I think Tarantino deserves just as much hate as he does love. However, all that being said, I'm still very fond of him and love many of his works. Here are his films in order of my preference from least favorite to favorite; the films I think are Tarantino's best.  

Note: I did not include My Best Friend's Birthday (his partially lost amateur film), Four Rooms (an anthology film of which he directed one fourth of and which even he himself doesn't recognize as part of his filmography), nor did I include any films which he has written but not directed. 

#7 - Death Proof
Death Proof poster

Meh. It can be pretty enjoyable. Kurt Russell definitely steals the show (just too bad he doesn't get much screen time). It has it's good parts but it also has some of the most insufferable scenes I've ever seen. Tarantino himself even calls this his worst film. 

Click here to see my full review >>
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#6 - Jackie Brown
Jackie Brown poster

Splendid film. The only adaptation Tarantino has ever done, but he did it well. It does kind of feel as if it's only half a Tarantino movie though. Which is good, I suppose, since the other half feels like Elmore Leonard; so I guess he struck a pretty nice balance between source material feel and new feel. This film at the time, though still of the crime genre, was a pretty big change of pace for QT. His directing is obviously different here compared to Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction

Click here to see my full review >>
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#5 - Django Unchained
Django Unchained poster

QT's latest film. Not quite as great as Inglorious Basterds, much better than Death Proof, and only barely better than Jackie Brown. Incredibly enjoyable movie, though lacking some of the substance Inglorious Basterds had.

Click here to see my full review >>
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#4 - Reservoir Dogs
Reservoir Dogs poster

Great addition to the Crime genre. One of the best heist-gone-wrong or gangster tragedy films ever. Most of the film's greatness comes from the superb performances by Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, and Michael Madsen. Good plot (though pretty much completely stolen from 龍虎風雲 [City on Fire]). 

Click here to see my full review >>
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#3 - Inglorious Basterds
Inglorious Basterds poster

Damn good film, got even better upon numerous viewings. Fabulous cast and performances. Just short of achieving equal magic as Pulp Fiction, but, in many ways, it's even better. 

Click here to see my full review >>
Purchase Inglorious Basterds on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Stream - Combo

#2 - Kill Bill (Vol. 1 & 2)
Kill Bill poster

Should be noted that I consider Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 as one film. Is is the best Tarantino film? Not quite. Is it my favorite Tarantino film? Most definitely. A truly amazing revenge epic. My reasoning behind loving this film is extremely subjective so take it as it is. 

Click here to see my full review >>
Purchase Kill Bill Vol. 1 on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Stream - Vol. 1 & 2 Double Feature

#1 - Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction poster

I guess it's pretty cliche to rank Pulp Fiction as the best, but damn is it just an incredibly enjoyable, memorable and quotable film. Arrogant and overrated? Yeah, pretty much. But still one of my all-time biggest guilty pleasures. 

Click here to see my full review >>
Purchase Pulp Fiction on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Stream - Tarantino Collection - VHS - Soundtrack

How would you rank Tarantino's films? Let me know in the comments. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005) Review

Tyler Perry's Diary of a Mad Black Woman poster
Director: Darren Grant
Stars: Steve HarrisTamara TaylorTyler PerryKimberly Elise
Genre: Melodrama, Comedy

I knew I'd hate this movie before I watched it, so why did I still watch it? I don't know, I guess I just felt like hating something.

Technically this isn't directed by Tyler Perry but it's still the first Tyler Perry movie. He wrote and produced it, he starred in it, and it is the first screen appearance of Perry's most well-known character, Madea.

Okay, plot, here we go: Woman lives with rich husband in the biggest mansion I've ever seen. Husband is asshole. Husband kicks here out of her house despite 18 year marriage. Wife, with nowhere to go, finds herself at her grandmother's house (whom is just Tyler Perry dressed up as an old woman). Then she meets generic great guy who is near poverty but still looks like a sexy model. They fall in love. But then her husband (who kicked her out) comes back into the picture when he gets shot and she takes care of him. Some drama for awhile and then happy ending where wife and generic good guy get married. Oh, did I just spoil it for you? You can thank me later.

First off, what is this film trying to be? Is it a comedy or a melodrama? I'm aware of dramedies (comedy-dramas) but this isn't a dramedy. Dramedies adds comedy to drama and drama to comedy, combining them to work off of each other. Diary of a Mad Black Woman doesn't do that. It has 25 minutes of painful melodrama followed by 10 minutes of some weird black comedy, slapstick hybrid, and then it repeats the cycle. It never blends the comedy with the drama of vice versa, it just keeps them separate and makes you feel like you're watching two different films. 

I guess first I'll comment on the drama. Or melodrama rather. The melodrama in here is some of the most cliched writing I've ever seen in my life. The characters are the most stereotypical creatures you'll ever see. Someone please inform Tyler Perry that overused, cheesy sayings does not qualify as clever writing or dialogue. This movie is like having a conversation with your grandmother, or even more accurately: reading a pre-written Hallmark card given to you by your grandmother. That's what Diary of a Mad Black Woman is: one giant Hallmark card. 

Tyler Perry's Diary of a Mad Black Woman

Second comes the comedy parts...which I guess was a bit better than the melodrama parts. The film got more unintentional laughs out of me than intentional just because of how dumb it is. Madea just takes a gun out of her purse in literally every scene she's in, then there's perverted old man jokes, oh and look they managed to fit a fart joke in there too.

The funniest part about this film is that Tyler Perry plays an old grandmother, an old perverted grandfather, and a grandson all in the same film. What the hell are you doing Tyler Perry? I'm fairly certain these are the exact words Tyler Perry used when he created the Madea character: "So, uh, how about like, how about I dress up as a fat old black woman, right? And, you know, like just because it's funny not because I want to dress up as a woman or'd just be funny. And I'll do this really weird voice too...and I'll have a gun!"

Tyler Perry's Diary of a Mad Black Woman madea

Then, perhaps the worst part, is the film's ever-present religious overtone. I have no problem with religious themes, but this film feels like religious propaganda. It's so forceful and unsubtle that it nearly made me sick. Is this film trying to convert me to Christianity? Because they better make a better film than this if they want me to consider converting. And that end scene in the church where everyone is singing is one of the most painful things I've ever watched. A paraplegic literally gets up and walks and a crackhead just suddenly stops being addicted and becomes a good mother...and the crackhead sings. It's horrible.

 The soundtrack is composed of gospel music, and some of it is alright like the cover of Joan Osborne's "One of Us."

Tyler Perry's Diary of a Mad Black Woman

Don't watch this movie if you've ever watched any other movie in your life, because this is worse than it. 

1/5 stars

Purchase Diary of a Mad Black Woman on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Stream

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Primer (2004) Review

Primer 2004 film poster
Director: Shane Carruth
Stars: Shane Carruth, David Sullivan
Genre: Science Fiction, Drama

Primer is a time-travel film made on a budget of about $7,000. Often noted for its complex technical dialogue and believable approach to time-travel.

The plot follows two guys who look like they're fresh out of college with their white button-ups and striped ties. They build things in their garage and invent things! But, one day, they accidentally discover time travel. Things get complicated when they begin messing with the nature of time, with doubles of themselves walking around and things go awry.

For a film with a skeleton crew and such a small budget it must be applauded for its execution of a concept that usually takes millions to make. Shane Carruth serves as director, producer, writer, composer, editor, and even has a leading role in the film. He gives Robert Rodriquez a run for his money. The film does look amateurish at some points, with inconsistent art direction and such, but overall they did a solid job of masking the film's low budget and made it look more expensive than it was.

The acting can I describe it? It wasn't anything amazing, in fact at points I'd call it mediocre, but it still felt very real to me. The characters felt believable, the friendship between the two main characters even reminded me of a relationship with one of my own friends. And perhaps that what Primer is most praised for: its realism, not only in characters but in essentially all facets.

Primer shouldn't be praised for its realistic portrayal of time-travel. How can it be? Time-travel hasn't been discovered yet. But it does do a good job of making it believable, plausible, and, shall we say, pseudo-realistic. Like many great inventions in history, time-travel was accidentally discovered in Primer. It took time to learn it and it wasn't just some magical time machine; it showed the inventors' progress. It also presented believable consequences, actions, reactions, etc.

Primer 2004

The pseudo-realism is all enforced by a few things. First is the complex, technical, and sometimes cryptic jargon. Anyone short of science expert won't understand everything they're saying in the film. It's one of those things where a film makes things incomprehensible in order to provide the guise that it makes sense but you just don't understand it. I can't comment on whether or not it's more rewarding to watch if you can actually understand all the vocabulary. Maybe if you understand it all you will sooner realize how much of it is bullshit. I don't know. All I know is they make it believable to the average watcher.

The plot is also very complex. Well, no, complex isn't the right word. Maybe it is. I just feel that it's a fairly simple story but made very convoluted and cryptic so it's harder to understand. Another instance of "it makes sense, you just don't understand it." The plot is confusing, especially at first viewing. I've watched it three times and I still don't fully understand it, but I comprehend most of, because, like I said, it's not really too complex it's just confusing. It seems like there's a lot of arbitrary stuff added to the film that really serves no purpose at all. Maybe I'm mistaken and parts that seem pointless to me actually are important, but I don't know, it doesn't seem like it. Maybe the arbitrary scenes and discussions were added to improve on realism? In order to show that these are just average guys we're watching who live lives similar to ours? Some of it just seemed unnecessary, and makes me suspect it's just filler included to lengthen the still short film to a respectable running time.

Primer 2004

Maybe the plot is made so convoluted in order for the viewer to feel just as confused as the characters? The characters seem to know what was going on better than I did though. Even just reading the Primer Wikipedia page made my head spin. There's even this chart to help explain it. Many of twist's and turns in the plot just didn't feel satisfying. 

Even the film's amateur filmmaking style makes it feel more realistic. Similar to the way found-footage films make things more realistic. There were some really good scenes and a few parts even really genuinely creeped me out. [Spoiler:] The binocular scene where Aaron is standing next to Abe and through the binoculars he sees another Abe was not only a great concept but was flawlessly executed.

Primer 2004

Primer is not a bad film. It's impressive, especially on the budget, and is probably the most plausible time-travel films we have seen hitherto. And though I actually liked it a bit less on repeated viewings, it's a film you'll definitely want, and almost need, to watch more than once. Definitely recommended for time-travel fanatics and people into the very technical side of science-fiction.

3/5 stars

Purchase Primer on Amazon: DVD - Stream

Saturday, January 19, 2013

1984 (1953) Review

1984 1953 Studio One
Director: Paul Nickell
Stars: Eddie Albert, Norma Crane, Lorne Greene
Genre: Science Fiction

This adaptation of George Orwell's classic dystopian novel, 1984, is the first screen adaptation. It aired in 1953 on the CBS anthology series Studio One in Hollywood.

The film follows the same story as the novel, though it makes some changes. Winston Smith, living in a dystopian 1984, rebels against Big Brother and ends up falling in love, a rebellion in itself. But Big Brother is a hard thing to beat.

There's really not much I can say about this one at all. It's only really noteworthy for being the first screen adaptation of Orwell's 1984

The acting is all solid, as far as television movie standards go. It follows the same basic plot as the novel but it changes many small things. For instance the ending lacked the novel's famous last lines. In fact, the entire film missed a lot of the novel's most classic lines. The torture/interrogation scene was disappointing too.

It's less than an hour long so I understand that some butchering had to be done, but what is there is only decent at best. Also, and this is only a meaningless nitpick, the poster of Big Brother looks pretty damn hilarious.

If there is one thing I can compliment it would be the "Under the spreading chestnut tree, I sold you and you sold me" song sounds very good in here. It's very creepy and eerie. So there's that.

Oh, Martin Landau also apparently appears in here as an extra, but I must of missed him.

1984 1953 Studio One

Overall it's not a terrible adaptation, but there's many better ones and it fails to really capture the novel. Even the BBC teleplay starring Peter Cushing that was released the year after is far superior. Watch that one instead.

Purchase 1984 on Amazon: DVD - Watch on YouTube

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954) Review

Nineteen Eighty-Four 1954 poster
Director: Rudolph Cartier
Stars: Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence, Yvonne Mitchell, Andre Morell
Genre: Science Fiction

An adaptation of George Orwell's classic novel, 1984, this made-for-television feature starring Peter Cushing was broadcast on the BBC in 1954. It is the second film adaptation of the novel, the first one airing on CBS the year before.

The film stays very truthful to the novel, following Winston Smith (Cushing) in a dystopian state and his rebellions against Big Brother.

I was surprised just how truthful this stayed to the source material. It runs at nearly two hours long and it manages to capture just about everything. Even the characters are pretty spot on. Obviously it isn't as thawed out or well paced as the novel is, or even as good as the novel is for that matter, but it was a very impressive effort and what it did it did well. 

I will say that for those watching this without having read the novel it might be a tad confusing, being that not everything is explained as well visually as the novel does with words, but for the most part it's pretty straight forward. It does some scenes very well; I particularly liked [Spoiler:] the scene when Winston and Julia are captured, I thought that was very well done. Other scenes were a bit lacking; the torture scene sufficed but I felt it could have been much better; it definitely lacked the intensity of the novel.

Noteworthy actors here include Peter Cushing, of Hammer fame. This predates his work with Hammer and horror and science fiction films, and not only was this film his first leading role, it's also the first film of the genre he's become so well known for, including of course horror. He does a wonderful job here as Winston Smith.

Donald Pleasence also has a role here as Syme. This was one of his first acting jobs before he went on to have a very successful career in film, and he does very well here. Yvonne Mitchell plays Julia and, for the most part, does a good job though at times it seemed as if she was stumbling over her lines. Andre Morell plays O'Brien and I though his performance was a bit lackluster. At times he did a great job but overall I just felt that his acting wasn't very good; he also didn't fit the image of O'Brien I had in my head.

Donald Pleasence and Peter Cushing in Nineteen Eighty-Four 1954

It was directed by Rudolph Cartier, one of the finest television directors of the time, whom was known for his many collaborations with Nigel Kneale. The two are perhaps best known for their creation of the classic science fiction serial The Quatermass Experiment, and they do a fine job here as well.

Composer John Hotchkis delivers an excellent score. The incidental soundtrack fits the film very well. 

The film was performed live on television (as many were during those days, known as teleplays) and the first play which aired on December 12, 1954 is not the one I am reviewing, but rather the second live performance (and nearly identical) of it from December 16, as it is the version which is more common.

The film caused quite a bit of controversy when it originally aired, with many viewers calling in and complaining about the "subversive nature and horrific content" (I guess no one read the book). Of course by today's standards the film is a bit more tame, though, just as with the novel, its message and warning are chilling as ever.

Big Brother Nineteen Eighty-Four 1954

It's a very solid 1984 adaptation and I can easily recommend it to 1984 fans, Peter Cushing fans, 50s sci-fi fans, and fans of early television broadcasts. Definitely a very under-appreciated piece of work.

3.5/5 stars

Purchase 1984 on Amazon: DVD (or this) - YouTube

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Piranha (1978) Review

Piranha 1978 poster
Director: Joe Dante
Stars: Bradford Dillman, Kevin McCarthy, Barbara Steele, Dick Miller
Genre: Horror, B-Movie

When it comes to Jaws rip-offs the general consensus seems to be that 1978's Piranha, directed by Joe Dante and produced by Roger Corman, is the best. Even Steven Spielberg himself has been quoted as calling it "the best of the Jaws ripoffs."

You can probably guess the entire plot and be entirely accurate but I'll give you a brief synopsis anyway. The  U.S. military designed and bred killer piranhas that are more deadly and can withstand more conditions than regular piranha can. Due to the stupidity of one person or another the piranhas are set loose into the river systems where people swim, children play, fisherman fish, etc. If not countered quickly the piranhas will make their way into the ocean where they will breed and, to say the least, cause even more trouble.

Standard plot, nothing special. It's a Jaws rip-off so the plot really just serves as an excuse for people in the water to get killed. It's very self-aware of its being a Jaws rip-off, too. The film starts out with a woman playing the Jaws arcade game. I guess in a way it's also a bit of a Jaws parody, especially being that it's obvious the film doesn't take itself completely serious.

There's humor present both in the form of jokes and cheesiness. Neither is greatly hilarious but it may get a few chuckles out of a lot of people. 

Joe Dante served as director. Dante later went on to direct films such as The Howling, Gremlins, and Small Soldiers. B-movie king Roger Corman produced. John Sayles was screenwriter, whom later went on to direct one of my underrated favorites The Brother from Another Planet.

One of the coolest parts of Jaws was the shark. So how cool are the piranhas in Piranha? Well, I dunno, I couldn't really get a good look at them. The piranhas looked just like basic piranhas, they weren't too convincing though. I will say that seeing them nip away at people's legs in such a quick and unnatural way was a bit unsettling. The deaths are standard, some of the gore looked pretty nice. 

Piranha 1978 hand

As one may suspect, the acting is very bad, as are the characters and writing. I honestly feel that this B-movie is overrated. It has a 72% on Rotten Tomatoes last I checked! I just found it to be a bit boring. It's just people splashing around in the water. The praised slaughter at the children's camp was decent enough but aside from that not much happened and what did happen was stuff that I've already seen elsewhere. 

Piranha 1978

It's not a terrible film as far as B-movies go, and it can be enjoyable, but there's much better, funnier, well-crafted B-movies out there. There was a sequel directed by James Cameron in 1981, a remake in 1995, another remake in 2010 and a 2012 sequel.

2/5 stars

Purchase Piranha on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - VHS

Monday, January 14, 2013

Not of This Earth (1988) Review

Not of This Earth 1988 posterDirector: Jim Wynorski
Stars: Traci Lords
Genre: Science Fiction, B-Movie

The 1988 remake to Roger Corman's 1957 classic Not of This Earth. Starring Traci Lords.

On the planet of Davanna, in the aftermath of a nuclear war, all the planet's people suffer from an incurable blood disease. One of Davanna's citizens is sent to Earth under the guise of Mr. Johnson to test the blood of humans and see if it is useful in helping cure his planet's people. But when some humans find out that he is not of this world they make things a bit hard for Mr. Johnson.

This film was actually the result of a bet that the director, Jim Wynorski, made. The bet was that he could remake Roger Corman's 1957 film of the same name in the same amount of time and with the same (inflation-adjusted) budget. Yes, that is why this movie exists. That's pretty fucking awesome if you ask me. I think it's safe to assume he won that bet. Also Roger Corman serves as the film's producer.

Anyway, if the above paragraph didn't clue you in, this remake has B-movie written all over it and it knows it, shows it, and it doesn't take itself serious in the slightest. Which is a good thing if you ask me because if you were to try and remake Not of This Earth as a serious movie you'd get...well, you'd get the 1995 remake. But thankfully this 1988 remake knows its place.

It's a pretty exact remake; many of the same scenes and dialogue are used straight from the original.

The film stars Traci Lords who replaces Beverly Garland as Nurse Nadine. Lords may be just as beautiful as Garland, but her acting capabilities fall short. This was Traci Lord's first acting role outside of her short (yet disastrous) career in pornography. For those who don't know, Lords lied about her age when she was 15 and got roles in a lot of porn films, illegally. She starred in dozen of pornos and only one of them was filmed legally after she was 18. She caused a lot of trouble in her time. Not of This Earth marks the last time she'd appear nude on camera ever again.

Not of This Earth 1988 Traci Lords nude
Not of This Earth 1988 Traci Lords nude

And, boy, is there plenty of nudity. Plenty of tits and ass in here. Even when there is no actual nudity on screen, Traci Lords always looks sexy whether in lingerie or bikini. Heterosexual males (or homosexual females) will surely be pleased.

As I mentioned before none of the acting is very good. Even the acting in the original was much better. The only recognizable name in here is Traci Lords. But it's a B-movie; I'm sure you weren't expecting good acting anyway.

Not of This Earth 1988 Traci Lords bikini
Not of This Earth 1988 Traci Lords bikini ass

The film is pretty funny. Mostly because it's so self-aware of itself. Like there's an opening credits sequence that has a bunch of awesome monsters fighting and shit blowing up, and it almost looks like you're watching a trailer for a movie. Too bad it's not this movie. All the monsters and explosions and deaths in the opening credits have nothing whatsoever to do with the movie. It's damn genius if you ask me.

The effects (despite a 30 year advantage) are only slightly better than the 1957 version. And I hesitate to even say that much. They're bad; cheesy bad.

Not of This Earth 1988 vacuum salesman

One disappointment I had was that the character of Mr. Johnson is nowhere as cool or awesome as he was in the original. He's even missing his creepy eyes. Overall the film just misses what made the original so good. 

Not of This Earth 1988 Mr. Johnson

It's an enjoyable movie. And all the T&A make it easy to get through. It's a pretty pointless remake, but it's a must see for any Traci Lords fans or anyone looking for some great B-movie camp. For what it is it's a fun time, though you'll probably be better off watching the original

2.5/5 stars

Purchase Not of This Earth on Amazon: DVD

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Not of This Earth (1957) Review

Not of This Earth 1957 poster
Director: Roger Corman
Stars: Paul Birch, Beverly Garland, Dick Miller
Genre: Science Fiction, Horror

Not of This Earth is an early Roger Corman classic, released on the same day as his also classic Attack of the Crab Monsters as a double-bill.

On the planet of Davanna, in the aftermath of a nuclear war, all the planet's people suffer from an incurable blood disease. One of Davanna's citizens is sent to Earth under the guise of Mr. Johnson to test the blood of humans and see if it is useful in helping cure his planet's people. But when some humans find out that he is not of this world they make things a bit hard for Mr. Johnson.

This is one of my favorites from Corman and one of my favorite 50s science fiction films.

I actually like the plot of this one a lot. Sure, it's about an alien coming to Earth and killing people, but instead of the usual mindless slaughter or evilness, this alien isn't just killing humans for the sake of killing them or taking over their planet, he's trying to safe his own planet. I just feel like it was a cut above the rest of sci-fi films of the time when it came to antagonist motives.

[Spoilers in this paragraph:] I absolutely love the ending to this film. It's so perfect. I love the last lines of the film, while talking over the grave of the dead alien: "I can't feel sorry for him; he had no emotions as we know them." Don't you just love ironic dialogue? It's actually quite a thought-provoking end to the film. Just because a creature can't show sympathy does that automatically void them the right of our sympathy? If so, doesn't that make us a bit selfish? Only caring for things that can care back. Especially since the alien was only trying to help his planet and wasn't necessarily evil? Maybe I'm over analyzing it? I dunno, it provoked a bit of thought in me. Also, the entire time they're having that final conversation that man in the background walks up behind them and then right to the camera; that was perfectly chilling and some really great imagery. [/end spoilers]

Not of This Earth 1957 grave

The whole film has a sort of dark atmosphere. At times it feels more like noir than science-fiction. It works though. The film doesn't always take itself seriously, however. Take for example the famous vacuum salesman (played by Dick Miller) scene, anyone who has watched this would probably agree that that was genuinely funny.

Not of This Earth 1957

It's not terribly scary (50s B-movies seldom are) but the one scene where Mr. Johnson picks up the phone while Nadine was on the other phone in the house and eavesdrops on her conversation was actually pretty intense. There was definitely a sense of entrapment.

I also think Mr. Johnson (the alien) looks pretty cool in design. He dresses in a black suit which kind of makes him look like a men in black, he has dark round glasses that hide his creepy all-white eyes. He's just a terrifying character and Paul Birch did a fantastic job portraying him. All of the acting is pretty solid, with some of it being below average and some of it above. The beautiful Beverly Garland does a great job. 

Not of This Earth 1957 Mr. Johnson
Not of This Earth 1957 Mr. Johnson eyes

It's a Roger Corman movie from more than fifty years ago, and being known for making very low-budget B-movies the film does have the expected overlaying cheese and camp. It's not too bad though and some of the cheesiness even works towards the film's advantage. The umbrella monster scene is really the only hilarious unintentionally funny moment. You can even see the string on the umbrella monster! But think about it, the silly looking umbrella monster of Not of This Earth predates both the facehugger from Aliens and the headcrab from Half-Life. So, arguably, Not of This Earth's monster design was far ahead of its time.

Not of This Earth 1957 umbrella monster

Not of This Earth is a must see for any Roger Corman or 50s sci-fi fans. It's great, and it's only 67 minutes long so it won't take up too much of your time. Plus the always excellent Shout Factory recently released a Corman Triple Pack which features Not of This Earth in fantastic quality. There were two remakes: one in 1988 and one in 1995.

4/5 stars

Purchase Not of This Earth on Amazon: DVD

Friday, January 11, 2013

Super Fly (1972) Review

Super Fly 1972 posterDirector: Gordon Parks, Jr.
Stars: Ron O'Neal, Julius Harris
Genre: Crime, Blaxploitation

Super Fly is pure blaxploitation. It doesn't get any more black than this.

The film is about a drug dealer, Priest, who wants to get out of the drug business. But with his partner and some new business associates and the police breathing down his neck getting out proves to be harder than it seems.

I was pretty disappointed with Super Fly. It's a pretty dull, boring film. It's really only notable for being an early blaxploitation film (though not the first). I suppose it did form many of the genre's stereotypes, like the pimp image and the pimpmobile.

It's, simply put, a bad movie. The acting is fairly mediocre; Ron O'Neal wasn't terrible though. The cliches are abundant, the 70s camp is ever present. The plot is boringly simple, the characters are forgettable. 

There was a pretty cool chase scene in the beginning of the movie, unfortunately not much happened after that. There was a really odd sex scene thrown in there too...which I'll admit was pretty nice.

The film is kind of stylish in its own right. Mostly do to the 70s atmosphere and the extravagant costumes. I feel like the film's poster is the coolest part though.

The one good thing about Super Fly, no, the one great thing about Super Fly, is its soundtrack which was created by Curtis Mayfield. One of the greatest film soundtracks of all-time and I mean that quite literally. Super Fly is one of the few films to be outgrossed by its soundtrack. Rightfully so, Curtis Mayfield is a damn talented man and is music is awesome.

Super Fly bathtub sex scene

Buy the soundtrack and maybe give the film a watch but its passable. There were also two sequels, Super Fly T.N.T. in 1973 and The Return of Superfly in 1990.

Recommended for: fans of blaxploitation, Curtis Mayfield fans

2.5/5 stars

Purchase Super Fly on Amazon: DVD - Stream - Soundtrack CD / MP3
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