Thursday, January 29, 2009

Eight Great Movie Discoveries of 2008

2008 - What a marvelous year for me as far as movies are concerned. I couldn't even begin to count how many films I watched but I have decided to let you folks see what movies/actors/directors really wowed me in '08.

1. Franco Nero - I can't believe I had never seen a Franco Nero film before. Even his popular ones (Die Hard 2 for instance) - never seen. I happened to stumble across him in the film Hitch-Hike (see my review) and was immediately impressed. I think the next film I watched him in was Street Law, which also blew me away. Other films I watched with Mr. Nero - Django, Keoma, Fifth Cord, Force 10 to Navarrone, High Crime, Companeros, Texas Adios, Querelle, Enter the Ninja, 21 Hours at Munich and Camelot. Nero is a great actor with a debonair quality and athleticism that is very rare.

2. The Deer Hunter - Go see this movie NOW!

3. The Great Silence - I wrote a review on this one too. What an incredible film. So dark and unconventional for a spaghetti western or for a film in general. Just a great experience watching this one.

4 & 5. Once Upon a Time in the West / Once Upon a Time in America - When Sergio Leone is mentioned, what comes to most people's minds would probably be The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, right? Well, not for me. I did watch the Clint Eastwood/Leone trilogy and I wasn't really that blown away. Of course I will be watching them again in the future, but Leone's films that really got me were Once Upon a Time in the West and Once Upon a Time in America. Similar titles but such polar opposites. OUATIA was 3 hours and 45 minutes long but it was well worth the time put into it. DeNiro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern...a great cast in about as epic as a film can be. OUATITW I was lucky enough to catch at a small theater and it was just incredible. Henry Fonda playing a cold blooded killer while Jason Robards and Charles Bronson are the (almost anti-) heroes. Leone's masterful use of widescreen cinematography is breath-taking. The landscapes seem to go on forever. The real magic of the film though would have to be Claudia Cardinale. She is one of the most beautiful actresses to grace the silver screen and she portrays her character perfectly.

6. Ray Winstone - I first saw Ray Winstone in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. He didn't really stand out, though when I saw him again in The Proposition, I liked him. I was flipping through an issue of Spin magazine and read an article about "The Greatest Rock Film You've Never Seen". It was Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (see my review). It showed a picture of a younger (and much skinnier) Ray Winstone. The film itself sounded interesting (which it was) and Ray was perfect as the cockney-accented singer of punk band The Looters (featuring two Sex Pistols and a Clash). I started seeking out his other films and ended up watching Nil By Mouth, The War Zone, The Departed, Sexy Beast and Scum.

7. Oliver Reed - Another actor I had seen before but didn't really know who he was. I know I saw him in The Brood and Oliver (the musical). What made me pay attention to him was his role as desperate prison warden Vito Cipriani in Revolver. I later saw him in the controversial Ken Russel film The Devils, which he was also great in. I started looking for more films with Mr. Reed and ended up watching Spasms, Women in Love, Sitting Target and Venom.

8. Scorsese/Keitel/DeNiro - What could be better than a film with Harvey Keitel and Robert DeNiro, directed by Martin Scorsese? Well, if you've seen Mean Streets or especially Taxi Driver, the answer is (in New Yorkian) "dair ain't". I won't list all the films I've seen with any of these three involved but I will say that I was impressed by the following films I watched in '08 - Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Saturn 3 (see my review), The Deer Hunter (see above), Once Upon a Time in America (see above), The Departed, Casino, Goodfellas, Who's That Knocking at my Door?, Heat and a Bronx Tale.

What's going on with this blog?

Well, for anyone who visited this blog regularly, probably doesn't anymore because I haven't been posting much. I apologize. In the near future the posts will be more frequent (I promise). Lots of stuff going on that prevent me from posting so much - life, work, family, American Idol (just kidding (sorta).

I can assure you though that while the reviews have slowed down, the movie watching has not. Thanks to my job as a Petroleum Sales Associate (aka Gas Station Worker) I am stilling watching a poopload of movies. I have actually watched 38 movies in the month of January alone. Everything from East of Eden to Paul Morrissey's Trash to Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable's last film The Misfits to John Water's A Dirty Shame to The Stewardesses 3D.

In closing, I hope you stick with me for this exciting year ahead.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Three The Hard Way (1974, Jim Brown)

If you read my last review for One Down, Two to Go, you may be wondering why I would waste my time with another film with the same three lead actors (Jim Brown, Jim Kelly and Fred Williamson). Though there were a few similarities between these two films, there was one major difference: quality.

After Jimmy's (Jim Brown) woman is kidnapped and his friend is killed, he finds hi'self being hunted down by assassins. He seeks out two of his friends, the smooth Jagger (Fred Williamson) and Kung Fu-fightin' Mister Keyes (Jim Kelly) and they soon uncover a plot to rid the U.S. of Black folk by putting a chemical into the water that is harmless to Whitey.

The main ingredient that makes this film far superior to One Down, Two to Go is a plot...and a great one at that. Tainting the United States' water supply with a toxin that is only harmless to black people. Brilliant! Brown and Williamson are cooler than ever and Kelly kicks tons of ass (literally) as Mister "my momma named me Mister so I'd get respect" Keyes. There is tons of action and all the main ingredients to make up a classic blaxploitation film.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

One Down, Two to Go (1982, Fred Williamson)

Holy Ensemble Casts, Batman! Richard "Shaft" Roundtree, Jim "Slaughter" Brown, Jim "Black Belt Jones" Kelly and Fred "The Hammer" Williamson all in one movie. The stars must have aligned to make this happen. Does the film itself equal the sum of its parts?

One Down, Two to Go is the story of a Kung Fu teacher (Kelly) and a promoter (Roundtree) who find out that their Karate tournament is rigged by the mob. After Kelly's character is caught spying on the mob, he is shot and two of his cop friends (Brown and Williamson) are called in for help and to collect their money, since they were backers for the tournament. When they appear, all hell breaks loose and the mob (who all look like a bunch of plumbers with stained clothes and mustaches) start regretting their involvement.

Unfortunately, One Down, Two to Go is nowhere near as good as its cast. The film is slow and the most likable character (Kelly) is wounded through most of the film. Brown and Williamson are effective but the whole movie just feels like it focused more on its cast instead of its story, probably because it was conceived, produced and directed by Fred Williamson himself. Which is a shame because this cast is a blaxploitation lover's dream. The movie wasn't a complete disappointment, there was plenty of action and the fight scenes were great, but overall it's not that great.


Death Dimension (1981, Jim Kelly)

You may have noticed that it's been a while with no posts. Well I'm back and in full effect (what ever that means). My movie watching has definitely not decreased and (assuming I don't get fired from my job) it doesn't look like it is going to let up anytime soon. I am so backlogged with movies it's not even funny (whatever that means). I'll start with a movie that I had never heard of until recently. Honestly I don't think anyone's heard of this movie.

Death Dimension follows Kung Fu Detective J. Ash (Jim Kelly) on the search of a woman kidnapped by an evil villain named "The Pig" (Harold "Oddjob" Sakata from Goldfinger). She is the only one who knows the secret location of the plans for a freeze bomb (they were surgically implanted as a microdot in her forehead), which apparently several different countries are willing to pay lots of money for. As far as I could tell the only thing it does is freeze people to death which seems kind of lame considering all the other types of bombs out there. But I digress. Also helping Ash kick butt and search for the woman is Police Capt. Gallagher (one time James Bond George Lazenby).

Death Dimension was fairly silly and very low budget. Other than that though it was a fun movie. Lots of Jim Kelly kicking ass in his white jumpsuit, some nudity and silly plot devices (freeze bomb, surgically implanted microdots, some crazy prehistoric looking snapping turtle creature), but it was actually just what I was expecting. I guess most importantly the movie was watchable and actually quite entertaining.