Monday, February 28, 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Waldo Pepper & 2 Other Films, Inc.

Special Announcement!!!

Before we start this review(s), check this out:
We—that is, me—
got a shout-out at the awesome screenwriting website Go Into The Story
regarding a comment we made about one of our fave film characters: Captain Renault from Casablanca. Woo-hoo!
(I now know that I misspelled two-thirds’ of the cast’s names in my comment. Oy…)

The Great Waldo Pepper (1975)

A labor of love from director (and former Marine Corps pilot) George Roy Hill to the barnstorming aviators of old, with a fantastic script from William Goldman and some incredible flying scenes,
The Great Waldo Pepper is an excellent and almost forgotten film, only recently re-released to DVD and other home viewing formats.

Originally released at the tail-end of the early-1970s "nostalgia" boom, Waldo got clobbered at the box office trying compete against Jaws, which is really too bad:
this movie is a great piece of Hemingway-esque Americana, with Robert Redford better than usual as a liar pretending to be a hero.

But it is B-movie star Bo Svenson, playing Redford's rival, then partner, who is a revelation: who knew the star of Walking Tall Part Two was such a good actor?

Because Waldo didn’t do boffo B.O., director Hill needed a more commercial project next. He reunited with his other big star, Paul Newman, and Slap Shot,
One of the Best Sports Movies Ever Made
was created.
(the others being The Bad News Bears and, hmmmm, Death Race 2000, yeah, that’s the ticket)

Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1979)

This is DVD MIA, but back in July 2010, it was available on Neflix Streaminng—but not anymore.

As sleazy, mean-spirited and brutal as Wes Craven's original Last House on the Left (which is a compliment),
Looking for Mr. Goodbar is infinitely more hypocritical and misogynistic than that flick (or the other horror movies Goodbar rips off).

But worst of all, Looking for Mr. Goodbar is dull:
the movie is incredibly self-important, thinking it is profound, when it is obvious and repetitive, with the cast routinely overacting obnoxiously, especially Richards Kiley and Gere.

Director Richard Brooks (never one of my favorites and highly overrated) makes exploitation films for smug intellectuals, so-called "important" movies that spoon-feed their pretensions to an audience of acolytes.
Brooks is hardly a subtle director, routinely leaning towards polemics, and his reactionary disgust with the sexual revolution is evident in practically every frame of Looking for Mr. Goodbar.

This is a movie made by a cranky old man who hates independent women.
(In fact, Brooks was referred to by satirist Clive James as a “superannuated lecher”—read more HERE)

Yes, Diane Keaton acts her ass off in this film, but to what final purpose
(other than the inevitable nominations and acting awards-because it IS one of those showy performances that does scream ACTING! Thankfully Keaton, unlike, say, Sean Penn, knows how to modulate her ACTING enough to retain a shred of honesty)
I don’t know—except to make her final, brutal, pointless murder all the more painful?
Which means the whole movie’s purpose is to lead up to slaughtering its lead actress?

Dude, that’s really fucked in the head.

The Swimmer (1968)

Directed by the underrated Frank Perry (Rancho Deluxe is a classic!) in a deliberately unrealistic style, The Swimmer offers a tour-de-force performance by Burt Lancaster as a pathetic and over-the-hill "suburban stud" who's delusional due to some unseen—but darkly hinted at—

At first maniacally upbeat, the almost naked Lancaster is "swimming" home in a last-ditch attempt to salvage something of his former life, but it's already far too late.

The film is episodic and scattershot, but in terms of raw and uncomfortable emotions, The Swimmer would be a good double-feature with either The King of Comedy or Frankenheimer's Seconds, as delusional persons teetering towards personal apocalypse—

Absolutely worth a watch! NOW!

Well, that’ll be tough. Although The Swimmer had been available in June 2010 on N-flix Stringbean, it’s not now, and the DVD is out of print. Sigh

COMING SOON: The “BEST” of 2010—late!

Monday, February 21, 2011

No kids, don’t listen to advice from the lift operator

This entry is part of the Final Girl’s Film Club—check it out HERE to find out what others have written about Frozen.

Initially, before I'd even seen frame-one of this flick, I had so little faith in Frozen (2010), that I also started to watch Ski Party (1965), thinking to compare and contrast and mock.
But as it turned out, Frozen is a top-notch little B-movie, and Ski Party is, gosh, a waste of time.

Frozen is also an awesome feel-bad movie, and a decent variation in the “trapped in one location” sub-genre of thriller.

A trio of kids bribe the lift operator for one last ski run on Sunday night before the lodge closes, but when he’s called away, the three college students are stuck in a lift chair,
high above the ground,
and miles from anywhere.
In the cold.
And the resort is closed for the week.

Oh yeah, there are wolves, too.
This is a flick, like I Saw The Devil, that has a grim 1970s vibe—not necessarily a 1970s look or style (in fact, both Frozen and I Saw The Devil have very contemporary styles),
but more like a similar philosophy: No one gets out of here alive
(like those 1970s Cinemadnesses like Last House on the Left or Bava’s Rabid Dogs, or the excellent, similarly-themed and why-isn’t-it-available-on-DVD-yet TV movie A Cold Night’s Death).
Yeah, Frozen could easily be an Italian-German co-production from the late-1960s…Too bad they didn’t think of it then. But that’s to our benefit!

Frozen also reminded me of a modern Jack London story: a man against nature fight for survival—and often man is not up to the task, with survival becoming a roll of the dice.

Frozen is helped immensely by making its three leads as well-developed as possible, so the horror is magnified. Some of the kids may be annoying sometimes, but even they are given humanity.

It’s something too few horror films do today: give us characters with depth, people we are willing to invest our time with—something very important in a “one-set” film.
Director Adam Green keeps the camera mobile—
and the flick never lacks decent cinematography—
but if we didn’t want to stick with the three kids, the flick could have been easily derailed.

I don’t want to give away much of the horrors that await our luckless skiers,
but the ante is routinely upped, helped by some decent gore, great use of sound and lots of tension.
The flick is often nervewracking, pushing into intensity frequently.
Highly recommended. (Full Disclosure: Frozen was viewed via my Nflux Streamzining—which means my cash outlay was minimal. But, yeah, rent it.)

Ski Party is snooze city, hep cats and cool kitties!
Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman are really boring and do stupid things
(with a major plot contrivance ripped off from Some Like It Hot).

Yvonne Craig is superfoxy, sure, but never on-screen enough, nor is she in a bikini (or spandex superhero costume or green paint) enough either.

The movie is only of interest to the most rabid of Lesley Gore or James Brown fans, both of whom make cameos in the flick.

So our overaged “teens” chase Yvonne (and who could blame them?) and her roommate up to Sun Valley, Idaho (No, YOU da ’ho!) (Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk!)

Yes, the level of humor in Ski Party was like that.
Thankfully, ski bunnies would turn up and do The Frug and The Twist, and honestly, it was awesome seeing all these healthy, natural hotties! Sure, they took care of their bodies and exercised, but it wasn;t to the robotic perfection of today. Just some nice, natural girls. Healthy chicks. All-American gals. Sigh….

Ms. Gore turns up on the Greyhound bus that the knuckleheads are taking to stalk two innocent college girls,
wearing some unflattering gold lame` hiphuggers and
enthusiastically but obviously lip-syncing to her pop ditty "Sunshine & Lollipops”—more on that in a second—

Later, JB and the Flames turn up as the ski patrol, partnered with booze-equipped sheepdogs.
When Yvonne Craig recognizes James Brown, and chirps perky, “I have all your records!” I believe her.

Both musical superstars are obviously lip-syncing, but neither appeared in that many films, so I guess Ski Party is of historical value.
But the movie cannot escape criticism then: It even wastes the talents of The Famous Flames, James Brown’s incredible syncopated back-up dancers, during Brown’s performance of the song “I Feel Good.”
They are shunted to the side and ignored.
This was a gig done only for money and possible exposure. Sigh… Your money/time is better spent digging up the original songs.

I’m a big fan of Lesley Gore’s song "Sunshine & Lollipops"—
especially how it’s used in the fantastic animated film Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs—really one of the best films I saw in 2010, and an excellent variation on the Faust legend).

Here are the lyrics to "Sunshine & Lollipops" (written by Marvin Hamlisch), but it’s not the lyrics that make the song. It’s best to hunt it down and listen to it.

[It’s got this psychotic beat! I love it!]

rainbows, Everything that's wonderful is what I feel when
we're together,
Brighter than a lucky
When you're near
rain cloud disappears, dear,
And I feel so fine
just to know that you are mine.

My life is
rainbows, That's how this
refrain goes,
so come on, join in

Sunshine, lollipops and
rainbows, Everything that's wonderful is sure to come your way
When you're in love to stay.

lollipops and
rainbows, Everything that's wonderful is what I feel
we're together,
Brighter than a lucky
When you're near the
rain cloud disappears, dear,
And I feel so fine
just to know that you are mine.
My life is
sunshine, lollipops
That's how this refrain goes,
so come on, join in

Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows,
Everything that's wonderful is sure to come your way
'Cause you're in love,
you're in love,
And love is here to stay!