Sunday, November 27, 2011

60s Cinema Reviews-Point Blank(1967)

Starring Lee Marvin, Angie Dickerson, Keenan Wynn,Carroll O'Conner, Sharon Acker, and John Vernon

"Double Crossing Friends, Cheating Wife, Crime Organizations, and All he wants is the money they owe him"

Point Blank has become a forgotten film in recent years and has a been remade in a way, but this 60s classic starring one of cinema's ultimate bad ass leading men Lee Marvin is worth more respect then what it gets.

The Plot is some what simple but not completely as in the films opening moments a man known only as Walker(Lee Marvin) is shot and left for dead on Alcatraz Island by his best friend Mal(John Vernon) and Walker's Wife Lynne(Sharon Acker) right after they have stolen $93,000, i guess it was two much money to split two ways in Mal's eyes so he had to take out Walker and take his woman as well.

Some how Walker survives(we think) as sometime  has gone by(its never explained in the film) Walker is well and hell bent on finding his old friend and his wife. Walker meets a man name Yost(Keenan Wynn) who also is looking for Mal, who at this time has gotten in good with a well known crime syndicate that he owed exactly $93,000 too.

Point Blank which at the surface seems like its just a typical revenge movie, but its not with Walker's almost ghost like presence through out the movie makes this movie appear to be a lot deeper then what you actually are seeing.

In some scenes the movies has a surreal feel to it, most notable are the flashbacks to Walker's body on Alcatraz and in a fight between him and two goons in a night club. the finale leaves you with more questions then answers...

but thanks to great performances by Lee Marvin who is just a cool guy on screen in this movie never losing control of his emotions and ruffling his hair except in the fight scene i mention makes people realize there was a time when the strongest man didn't have to win, the largest man didn't have to win, but the smartest one is who came out on top.

Marvin defiantly is the lead of this movie, no question. but its supporting players help shape this movie into what it is. Angie Dickerson is somewhat underused as Lynne's sister but serves a purpose, Keenan Wynn as Yost is very mysterious and almost other worldly even more so then Walker. Carroll O'Conner(pre All In The Family) is great in his role as the Crime Underboss, John Vernon as Mal Walker's best friend in one of his very first roles shows flashes into the actor that he will become and why he is well respected and also if anybody could make him cry and beg for his life only a tough guy like Lee Marvin could.

The fact that this movie has become forgotten over the years kind of makes it even more that much of a hidden treasure when it is discovered by newer viewers because anybody who has seen 1998's Payback starring Mel Gibson will think that they have been there seen that if they've seen Payback before Point Blank.

Both movies are the same from plot and even some scenes are the same but where Point Blank outshines Payback(which is a good movie in its own right) is the whole surrealism that surround Point Blank as i stated earlier, there are hints of weather or not Walker is actually dead and his ghost has come back to right the wrongs of his past life and he couldn't cross over to the other side until that issue was resolve.

All in all if you enjoy films from the 60s and anything with Lee Marvin like i do, i highly recommend this film.

Western Movie Reviews-Once Upon A Time In The West(1968)

Some consider The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly to be Sergio Leone masterpiece and it is a great movie in its one right and completes his Dollars Trilogy very well, but for me that was the warm up to what i consider to be his masterpiece which is his Western Epic Once Upon A Time In The West.

This movie is the product of two film geniuses Sergio Leone known for his western films of course and by Dario Argento that Dario Argento(many people do not know this) he helped Leone get this movie made.

This film has everything that The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly has and enhances it 10x. we have a very well thought out and paced film that feels almost like every scene is its on movie.

The opening sequence where three gunmen(Jack Elam, Woody Strode, Al Mulock) waiting for a train is probably one of the best openings in movie history, this sequence last almost ten minutes without any words being spoken, as we seat with these men waiting we get to see their different personalities most notable Jack Elam dealing with a fly that buzzes around him.

when the train finally does show up we still don't know who they are waiting for is it friend or foe, until the train pulls out of the station and the three men is revealed(along with the audience) standing on the other platform is a man with a Harmonica(Gone is Clint Eastwood but this time its Charles Bronson) the three gunmen and Bronson(simply known as Harmonica through out) have a few words before a blink and you miss it shootout occurs where Bronson is the last man alive.

The film as two conflicting stories going on. one being that of a revenge tale as Harmonica searches for a cold blooded killer who he has a legitmate problem with but we don't find out what it exactly is until the finale. and a land battle between a money hungry land baron and the widow of the massacred family Jill(Claudia Cardinale)

Both stories are connected by Frank(Henry Fonda) who leads the gang that kills Jill's family and is the same cold blooded killer that Harmonica is looking for, the relationship between these three is a interesting one as it almost seems like a love triangle as Jill becomes the woman caught in between this two men.

Of course a Sergio Leone film wouldn't be complete with having a Bandit and seemingly where Tuco from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly was vicious here we have somewhat a flip side of that character in the form of Cheyenne (Jason Robards) who stumbles his way into everything that's going on(his entrance proves this) he is the man that Frank decides to frame for the massacre of the family since his gang is known for being the only ones who where those dusty coats.

Sergio Leone does an amazing directing job here with how he connects everything together and each sequence seemingly like its on little movie, Charles Bronson does a great job taking on the man with no name character here as Harmonica without saying to much his face speaks volumes in most of the scenes.

Claudia Cardinale as the sole female in this film does a great job as different sides of her character are displayed whenever she has a scene with the 3 male leads in particular her scenes with Jason Robards seems to bring out the truthfully sides to them both.

the biggest stand out in this movie for me and everyone who's seen it has to be without question Henry Fonda who plays a great villian after so many years always playing to ultimate good guy, here he is down right evil  if you don't think he is just watch how he kills a little kid not because the kid might tell who did it but because one of his men called him by name.

Even though this is a Sergio Leone film it has a different feel to his previous Dollar trilogy and even to the films that he would make after this. one thing i enjoy about most movies are the stories and this movie has a great that is so enriched with detail that if Leone wanted to he could've made this a tv series that could've lasted for years.

at the time in the United States this movie was butchered thanks to the MPAA that had just been form at the time of its US release(1969) but as the years went by and more fans of the western genre and films in general were able to see the cut of the film that Leone intended for everybody to see, this movie is considered one of the greatest westerns or in my opinion one of the greatest movies every made.

This movie was also the end of the old west for Leone and the beginning of his Once upon a time trilogy which i'll post about those at a later date.

if you haven't seen this movie weather your a western fan or not this is just a great movie to the point that you won't even realize that this movie clocks in at a little under 3 hours long.

Horror Movie Reviews-Stephen King's The Graveyard shift(1990)

Based off of one of Stephen King's short stories, The Graveyard Shift is about a group of workers who work in this cotton mill in Maine(Of course) where it is infested with rats and also where workers have died under mysterious circumstances thanks to a big surprise(which i'll talk about later)

The factory is ran with a Iron fist by Warwick or Mr. Warwick played by Stephen Macht who is one of the highlights of this movie from his not so quite on point Maine accent to his sleazy demeanor, now when watching you may think he has a hand in whats been going on with how he appears out of no where and villainous lines like "I'll see you down in the basement".

most of the cast are not very good but they all bring their on blend of off beat humor and quirkiness to this movie most notably is Brad Dourif(Child's Play) as Tucker Cleveland the Exterminator, he isn't giving a lot to do here which is a shame since this movie really could have used him a lot(a whole lot more) of him.

He does steal the movie with one scene when he give his speech about why he hates rats so much, that scene alone is watch the watch of this movie, which is not great by any means but still very entertaining and a guilty pleasure of mine.

remember that big surprise i spoke of well here it is, the mysterious death of the workers are caused by the devil almost incarnated in the form of a giant rat or is it a bat or did a rat have sex with a rat and give us a giant rat/bat i don't know but the special effect department did drop the ball on what this creature was supposed to be but with that said this thing is nasty and kills at will.

Unfortunately Dourif's Tucker Cleveland doesn't get a chance to have a showdown with the creature like i always hoped he would, because he exits stage left fairly early on in this movie in a stupid fashion i think he only did this movie because he was a name but remembered he had to film Child's Play 2 at the same time.

Warwick and the other workers are cleaning up the basement and suddenly comes across the giant beast where they slowly becomes this thing dinner, Warwick is the one who does have a showdown with the beast but it last all about five seconds, the hero of this movie(by default) is Loner/Drifter John Hall(David Andrews) who manages to kill the thing in the end.

Overall this is not the greatest movie in the world, but its not the worst neither i'll save that for another day, but The Graveyard Shift is one of those movies that you should watch maybe with a group of friends just to see how "so bad its good" it is and Brad Dourif in one unappreciated role of his  and to see a giant rat bat thing.

Action Movie Reviews-Escape From New York(1981)

Escape from New York has to be one of my favorite movies first and  for most. reason being do to the fact that it was Directed by one of my favorite Directors John Carpenter and Stars one of the best movie/action stars over the past 30+ years Kurt Russell(Ok enough of that on to the review)

Escape from New York is a Action film/Sci Fi film/Horror film/Political Film all wrapped up into one. its the story of Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) in the first of 3 iconic roles that he would play for John Carpenter. 

The story is set in the future 1997(at the time the film was made it was the future) where New York has been turned into a prison and a huge wall keeps the prisoners inside, even though a few try to escape in the opening of the film but don't succeed.

The President(Donald Pleasance) is aboard Air Force One when it is hijacked by terrorist, The President narrowly escapes the plane in his escape pod with a briefcase  handcuffed to his wrist (which plays important part later on) he is captured by the inmates not for ransom or for leverage to get a release, but just so they can say that they have The President  and there is nothing that anybody can do about it.

Hauk(Lee Van Cleef) runs the prison from the outside and decides to bring in his last resort in the form of anti hero Snake Plissken, who was going into New York (at the time of it's release an unknown crime) Snake is taking to see Hauk who gives him this mission to bring The President out alive and with whatever is inside the briefcase he has.

Snake reluctantly accepts to go in to rescue him, but Hauk doesn't trust Snake as far as he can toss him  by giving him a 24 hour window or he himself will die. Snake in a no win situation goes in to the hellish world that New York has become on his journey to find The President he comes across a cast of characters that help make this movie great Cabbie(Ernest Borgnine), Brain(Harry Dean Stanton, Maggie(Adrienne Barbeau),The Duke(Isaac Hayes)

John Carpenter does a great job with how he creates this prison world where people will do anything to survive and will double and trouble cross people in order to stay alive, and to have the only person that's in this world (Snake Plissken) be the only one who is has a moral code even though he's a anti hero which is showed early on in the film by how he just walks by as he sees a group of guys raping a woman, he just moves on because its not his fight.

One sequence that kinda shows that Carpenter hasn't gone to far away from his horror roots is where a cannibal group known only as The Crazies comes out and has a run in with Snake. I would've liked to have seen more interaction with them in this movie but this isn't fully a horror film.but little scenes like that and another fight to the death scene which occurs later in the film makes this movie that just more enjoyable.

the writing once again by Carpenter (who doesn't get the respect he deserves as a writer who i believe is a better)Writer then Director and he's a damn good Director as well.which is Co written by long time friend and original Shape in Halloween Nick Castle,the script is very well written, but brought to life by the wonderful cast that surrounds Kurt Russell(who i'll talk about later) Lee Van Cleef is very good in his turn as the man who runs the Prison and somewhat foe of Snake and has a future Snake if his life had went another way then it turned out.

Harry Dean Stanton(Brain),Adrienne Barbeau(Maggie),Ernest Borgnine(Cabbie),Tom Atkins(Rehme),Charles Cyphers(Secretary of State) and Isaac Hayes(The Duke) all turn in great supporting performances and all shine in the screen time that they are given, but it would've been nice to have seen more of Tom Atkins and Charles (if you blink you'd miss) Cyphers.

Kurt Russell turns in one of his best performances he doesn't say a whole lot, but in this movie he doesn't have too...from the first moment you see him, you know that this guy is a badass. one thing i enjoyed is what Carpenter/Russell decided to do with the Snake Plissken character by making him a futuristic old west gunslinger type IE Clint Eastwood. not to mention the fact that Lee Van Cleef is in this movie makes it all the better when those two share the screen.

The ending to the movie is somewhat a typical Carpenter ending meaning what exactly was the point of going in to get The President with everything that's explained and found out, and why did some people have to die in order to save this guy who isn't really that great of a guy, i know it was probably Carpenters way of throwing jabs at the government which at that time was just the beginning of the Reagan Era, he would really get a good shot at that Era with a later film(They Live)

If your a fan of John Carpenter, Kurt Russell, Escape/survival films then i highly recommend watching Escape from New York

Action Movie Reviews-Blind Fury(1989)

Starring Rutger Hauer,Terry O'Quinn,Brandon Call,Nick Cassavetes,Meg Foster and Randall"Tex"Cobb

Tagline "Not Bad For A Blind Man"

Ok let me start by saying i'm a big fan of this film every since seeing it when i was a kid...It's one of those movies your either love or hate you can't really be in the middle about this movie.

The story begins with Nick Parker(Rutger Hauer) blindly stumbling around a aftermath of an ambush in Vietnam, he's taken in at a nearby village where he learns how to us a sword.

Fast forward twenty years to Miami where Nick has made his way, he's looking for his old war buddy Devereaux (Terry O'Quinn Pre Lost) he goes to his home where he meets Devereaux's wife(Meg Foster in a cameo) and her son Billy(Brandon Call Pre Step by Step). 

He we get a little bit of a backstory on Devereaux, who at this point has moved to Reno, Nevada and has gotten himself mixed up with some drug dealing Casino Owner, sometime has gone by at the Devereaux house, two cops along with Slag(Badass Randall "Tex"Cobb) show up and all hell breaks loose.

Parker shows off some of his sword play by killing both cops and nearly killing Cobb(of course that would be too soon to do that), who manages to get away and live to fight another day, because this would be the first of 3  face offs that these two would have throughout the movie.

In the mist of everything Mrs. Devereaux is killed, which forces Nick to take Billy(who doesn't know that his mother is dead at this point) across country trip to Reno to meet up with Devereaux, but along the way they are tracked by Cobb and his goons, most notable are Lyle(Nick Cassavetes) and Tector(Rick Overton)  their names are a reference to the Wild Bunch no doubt here, and they add some of the comic relief through the movie whenever they show up.

As things get tougher for Nick and Billy as they narrowly escape harms way a few times, they form an almost father/son relationship, this is where Hauer shows that he's a great actor if he hasn't already shown it many times before, but also these somewhat tender moments hurt the film(which it's speak more on later).

Blind Fury is one of those very entertaining movies that kinda slipped through the cracks back in the late 80s/early 90s. because even though this movie is supposed to be this action/martial arts/samurai type of movie it lacks a few things that sometimes worked and sometimes didn't. its to funny in some spots and not as serious as it should've been in others.

Rutger Hauer gives a great performance(like i said earlier) as the blind swordsman, my only problem with him is that the Nick Parker character should've been alot more serious than what he was.

He had almost a Charlie Chaplin/Jackie Chan approach to one of his earlier fight scenes and his sometimes goofiness takes away from the movie.

The relationship between Nick and Billy was bit of a letdown as well, It came off as if Billy was really Nick's son with how he looked and sometimes acted told Nick as if he really was his father, I don't know if the Filmmakers realized this or not, or if they didn't know exactly where to here or if they really didn't care, which for me made some screen head scratches.

I believe if the Nick and Billy relationship was done a better more believable then it would've made the overall movie better.

Now most people i know have barely if ever heard of this little gem of a film, its very entertaining, as a few pretty good sword fight scenes and it has Rutger Hauer, but what more can you ask for.