Thursday, June 24, 2010

Runaway Train (1985)

Well-made, unconventionally tough thriller about two convicts and their attempt to escape from prison. The first act is very leisurely in a '70s kind of way, taking its time to establish the prison life that our two leads are accustomed to, which includes regular riots and beatings from the guards (as one would expect in a Golan-Globus prison). Jon Voight does a phenomenal job as one half of the duo, the feral prison legend Manny, who opens the film leaving a 3-year stint in the hole, cracking wise. He's scarred up and experienced, and is willing to throw down at any moment to defend himself. This may be the strongest and most emotional performance of Voight's that I have ever seen. Eric Roberts is his partner, the laundry boy who Manny only lets accompany him because his laundry route is part of his plan. Roberts was a very capable, very unpredictable actor at this point in the '80s, and he, like Voight, turns in a nuanced, carefully balanced performance, and is not afraid to test the audience's resilience in terms of their sympathies towards his character. Rebecca DeMornay enters the picture about an hour in, and she's surprisingly effective, but still inevitably ends up on the sidelines watching the two leads go at it. Special mention must also go to the villain of the piece, a prison warden that is just as much an animal as Manny, and knows it; watching the lengths of their intense, almost childish rivalry is one of the several hidden pleasures of this film. The movie is a winter-set thriller, and it is never relaxed as a result; even if the characters are completely at peace and out of danger, they still have the very real danger of freezing to death. The tension in this film is palpable, mostly due to the legitimacy of both the prison life and the nature of the prisoners themselves; ex-con Eddie Bunker's presence as co-writer and co-star almost certainly is responsible for that.

Highly Recommended for fans of high-speed thrillers, well-made prison films, or either of the two leads. I was pleasantly surprised by this one; a big budget '80s thriller made with the intensity, originality, and character work of a taut '70s film.

The Wrong Man (1956)

Surprising, serious drama from Alfred Hitchcock about a well-to-do cellist who gets mistaken for an armed robber and arrested. This is a rather humorless affair for Hitchock, and with good reason; it's based on a true story, and tells its story fairly straightforward. Henry Fonda is the poor patsy, an everyman with a loving family whose strong hold on reality is hampered by his wrongful imprisonment, and its effect on his family. His wife is played by Vera Miles, and she manages to outact Mr. Fonda by displaying her character's increasing guilt and paranoia with shocking subtlety, especially for the era. The thing that really shocked me about this film is that it completely lacks Hitchock's trademark cheekiness (save for a gratifying scene where a robbery goes wrong). It completely empathizes with Fonda's character, and Hitchcock goes to great lengths to put yourself in his shoes. He frames the world around Fonda, not just the jail cell, as a prison, as the impending sentencing for a crime he didn't commit looms around his shoulders; some of the tilted angles and intense camera movements recall Fritz Lang more than Hitch. He films New York City as a giant prison, with constant enclosures and corners being focused on to heighten the tension, with great success.

Highly Recommended for fans of the more serious side of Hitchcock's work, or of Henry Fonda or Vera Miles. This is a wonderful '50s drama, albeit with a more stark, European edge than much of the American work of the time, including Hitchcocks.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cypher (2002)

Thrilling, terse cyber-thriller about a man who trains to be a corporate spy, but, in the process, begins losing his identity and sense of reality. Vincenzo Natali, the wonderful filmmaker behind Cube, Nothing, and, most recently, Splice, directs, but doesn't write, this thriller that creates great tension out of the idea of two tech conglomerates using their massive means to spy on each other, by any means necessary; one thinks it is not unrealistic to think that Microsoft and Mac relations operate at least somewhat like Digicorp and Sunways, the two corporations at odds here. Jeremy Northam is the lead, a mild-mannered man named Morgan Sullivan who is convinced by Digicorp to act as a spy for them at Sunways keynotes and conventions, under an alias with specific character traits. Immediately, Northam begins having headaches and memory lapses, and begins to become far more like his alias than his normal self, and begins to lose focus over who his employers are, what their agenda is, and who HE is. Lucy Liu enters into the equation as a woman who meets Sullivan in a bar, and seems to lead a parallel life to his. Both leads' performances are impeccable; Liu is wonderfully mysterious and sexy, while Northam succeeds in the more challenging task of being a protaganist that's an enigma to both the audience and the other characters. The production (I'm guessing Canadian like Natali's other projects) has Natali's highest production values (other than Splice), and portrays its lofty sci-fi concepts in full fidelity. But for all the sci-fi techno-babble, the emotion and humanity in this movie is quite strong; we accept the fantastical things Sullivan encounters as real because he seems to be just as perplexed by them as we are. Even though Natali didn't script this one, the script contains his trademark lofty ideas, and he executes them just as proficiently as if he had written it himself.

Highly recommended for sci-fi nerds and appreciators of the phenomenal work of Vincenzo Natali. In an age of regurgitation and repackaging, Natali has made four movies (Cube, Nothing, this, and Splice) that not only completely defy conventions, but contain enough originality to seem ignorant and FREE of them. He has my undying attention.

The Hot Spot (1990)

Steamy, if thin neo-noir about a drifting used-car salesman, a teenaged sexpot, and a sexually aggressive southern belle. Don Johnson is the lead, who gets bounced around between his flirty, virginal relationship with Jennifer Connelly's sweet 19-year old and Virginia Madsen's blonde bombshell trophy wife (of his boss, no less). Connelly is gorgeous, but is, expectedly, too subdued, leaving the true sparks flying between Johnson and Madsen. Aside from being ideally sweaty-handsome, Johnson is a fucking trooper in trying to play his inexplicable, plot-dependent character straight, and not over the top, and keeping him a somewhat grounded and identifiable protagonist, despite his unjustified behavior throughout; Johnson deserved more roles like this when he looked like that (I'm counting down the seconds till Machete brings Crockett and Seagal back to me). But the true star of the show is Madsen. For the first time, I see the evidence of her bloodline with brother Michael, 'cause she's all sorts of crazy-sexy-cool in this one. Her backstory is thin, so she makes her character a large, smothering sexual figure, one that would have been considered a Catherine Tramell spoof had this been released after Basic Instinct. Her performance takes her character very far over the edge, but her dynamite looks at this time completely back it up, and it is not a stretch at all to see someone like Johnson's character losing his marbles over that appealing of a sexual aggressor. The supporting cast, featuring strong character actors William Sadler and Charlie Martin Smith, gets short-changed, with all the focus being on the nonsensical love triangle. However, the style in Johnson and Madsen's scenes are so strong, the rest of the film kind of falls into place around their relationship, instead of distracting us from it.

Recommended for fans of neo-noirs, Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen, or Jennifer Connelly's (gratuitously shown) breasts. This one falls in the realm of Palmetto or Wild Things, in terms of hot, southern, sexually-charged noirs, but definitely more the former than the latter in terms of quality (no 3-ways here, gents).

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Trekkies (1999)

Well, I guess I am a Trekkie. Because, according to some of the people in this fantastic doc, a Trekkie is "a casual fan, who has seen the movies and/or television show(s)," while a Trekker, the true fans, are the ones who, as Kate Mulgrew affectionately puts it in the film, "on the journey with them." They are the ones who incorporate aspects of Star Trek cannon into their everyday lives, whether it is by adorning their homes with overpriced memorabilia or going to court in their Starfleet-mandated uniforms, and they are the beloved subject of this film. Intercut with investigations by former Next Generation cast member Denise Crosby are interviews with cast and crew members of all the Trek incarnations, where they explain how deeply their fans have been affected by the saga, and how they, in turn, have been touched by the fans' response. Leonard Nimoy and James Doohan have particularly moving stories of how Trek fandom surprised them, but all the interviewees wear their reverence for Trek's power on their sleeve. The fans are, expectedly, a hoot in their devotion. Pretty much every bit is humorous and interesting, but several memorable ones include a Klingon club devouring burgers at a burger shack, a 15 year old editing his 175 page fan-fic Trek screenplay, and a handy fan who devised his own working Captain Pike wheelchair device (with beeping light for "yes" and "no"). The film is paced delightfully for a doc, and not only justifies its running time, but leaves room for a sequel, which does, indeed, exist (as to its quality, I have no idea).

Highly Recommended for fans of humorous subculture documentaries, and Trekkies and Trekkers alike. As someone who has seen all the films and much of the original series, I was moved to tears by some of the moments where the fans and the cast and crew alike reflect on how innocent and optimistic Trek's image of the future is, and how that is just as legitimate as anything else as something to believe in and revolve one's life around.

From Paris With Love (2010)

Stupid, but mildly entertaining buddy flick about an ambassador's assistant and an unhinged psycho American spy tearing up Paris in search of terrorists. Johnathan Rhys-Myers is the assistant, a dork of the McAvoy-Wanted caliber (similarly worthless and boring as well) who has his domesticated, girlfriend-loving world rocked by Travolta's bald badass. It surprises me to say this, but Travolta is really the only reason to see this movie. Luc Besson's script sucks and Pierre Morel stages action boringly for the first time in his career, but seeing Travolta shoot, cuss, and overact his way through this film is a reminder that the Pulp Fiction-Face/Off Travolta's still in there somewhere; honestly, I forgot he was capable of the kind of energy and responsiveness on display here. His look is too much; someone should have told him that he could have the bald head or the garish Chrome Hearts getup, but he couldn't have both. But he still steals the film effortlessly, and if he had the film to back him up the way Liam Neeson had Taken, he'd be back on top of the A-list before you could say "Old Dogs."

Slightly Recommended for Travolta fans or junkies of Besson's Paris-set action flicks. I wouldn't dare compare this to the best of those, especially the other Morel pictures, but it falls roughly into that mold.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fat Man and Little Boy (1989)

Boring, pointless docudrama about the Manhattan Project, where the U.S. raced the Nazis to build the atom bomb, focusing on General Leslie Groves and Robert Oppenheimer. Paul Newman is Groves, Dutch Shultz from the A-Team is Oppenheimer, and John Cusack, Laura Dern, Bonnie Bedelia, and John C. McGinley are also on hand. The film is well-produced; it is well-staged (save for the actual climactic atom bomb blast) and the cast valiantly tries to inject some life into the proceedings, but only Cusack leaves an impression. The '80s mentality of not giving the audience ANY credit whatsoever is definitely at fault here, for the philosphical and scientific questions on hand (such as SHOULD THIS BOMB EVEN EXIST TO BEGIN WITH) are glazed over like a half-assed Krispy Kreme, and the focus is on domestic horseshit like Cusack trying to get with a nurse and Oppenheimer having an affair with a Commie. Cusack serves as a sort of protagonist for the film, and actually does manage to evoke sympathy for his young, overwhelmed ingenue, but the fact that his character was specifically created for the film decreases much of his arc's overall impact. Despite the talents of Bruce Robinson and Roland Joffe (who also directed) on screenplay duties, the plot is clunky and doesn't go anywhere, the characters are thin and poorly presented, and the emotion is, simply, not there. If you cut out Cusack, this movie's less moving than the goddam Wikipedia entry of the Manhattan Project.

Skip it. I assumed that, given the subject matter, this film would have no choice but to be at least somewhat provocative, intellectual, or moving. Whoops.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Big Fan (2009)

Intimate, poignant character study of a diehard New York Giants fan who faces his own obsessive habits when he has an unfortunate run-in with the star QB. Patton Oswalt is the fan, Paul, who lives with his mom and works out of a parking garage toll-booth, where he typically spends his evenings coming up with stuff to say on his favorite late-night call-in sports show. He goes to the Giants games, but watches them from the parking lot. His devotion clearly connected with Oswalt's own geekdom, for he plays the role magnificantly, giving Paul a sort of dignity; while others laugh at him, his team is the equivalent of his career, or his family, providing him all the validation he needs as a person. Kevin Corrigan, as his partner-in-crime and loyal friend, is more straightforwardly comical in his dim-bulb idolatry of not only the Giants, but Paul's devotion to them as well. This is a film in the vein of (but not equal to) Observe and Report (which also features Patton), in its focus on character over plot, and the melancholy miseries that plague our everyday lives instead of the joys that interrupt them.

Highly Recommended for fans of smaller, more offbeat comedies and Patton Oswalt. I expect great things of Remy the rat now.

Zombie (1979)

Boring zombie outbreak movie with a voodoo twist that cannot find a story to justify the great zombie death scenes. The plot starts in New York, as a few zombies attack offshore boats, leading several people to an island where the zombie epidemic is beginning. The decision to leave New York, which is actually used decently well for a foreign production, and take these main characters, who are dull, poorly written and acted, and have no emotional investment from the audience, to an island where they are the only potential victims is a mistake that kills any momentum the film achieves on sheer ingenuity, such as the scene where a zombie eats a shark underwater. The deaths are well designed, as in Fulci's The Beyond, but, like that film, they are the momentary breathers squeezed in between a lifeless, tedious narrative. The shoddy special effects in these scenes (most evident in a dummy head that gets impaled) would be okay if the rest of the film did not take itself so seriously and melancholy and embraced, like the best Argento films do, the pulpy, larger-than-life aspects of the story.

Skip it, save for zombie film nuts that just HAVE to see that movie where that zombie eats that shark...that was me, hee hee.

P.S. The best scenes (zombies crossing the brooklyn bridge, zombie vs. shark, eye piercing) can all be found on youtube to save the hour and a half. THAT is highly recommended.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The A-Team (2010)

Well fuck me; I didn't see that one coming. I should've, though. I adore the last 2 films of the director, Narc and Smokin' Aces, and the cast, when it finally came together, was pretty dynamite. I wasn't sold on Mr. UFC (or "Rampage" as he prefers to be called), but the other 3, plus Patrick Wilson on villain duty, certainly had my attention. But no trailers, no posters, no bullshit forced nostalgia prepared me for the leanest, most thoroughly straightforward and badass '80s style action flicks in a looooooooong time. Make no mistake, from the first scene (which, as Slashfilm pointed out, just basks in the glory of the legend of Liam Neeson), this film is a balls-to-the-wall macho action flick, the kind that's been in remission for far too long. The interplay between the team (including "Rampage" for at least the first half) is bleeding dynamite; whoever thought of casting Sharlto Copley as the resident comic relief/madman deserves a fat raise (that they won't get because of this one's dismal opening weekend). Patrick Wilson is also hilarious and mannered; some of the later scenes with him and other devious characters are sold primarily on Wilson's quirky touches and lively delivery. The action scenes are way above and beyond what we've been shown in the trailers; watching Bradley Cooper shoot down drones from a tank in MID-AIR is one thing, but doing it while laughing knowingly and yelling "Come on, bring it on, bitches!!!!!" is a horse of a different, more self-aware color. When a character uses a high powered magnet to latch on to the bottom of a moving car, you know that this is definitely a style over substance type deal, and the style is pouring out at the seams. Two key detriments; one, Jessica Biel is pointless and just there for a forced romance with Cooper (which, thankfully, is fairly modest) and two, the decision to give Rampage a soulful arc over the second half of the film. If you've been paying attention to this review, you can already tell this is a very silly, over the top film, and making Rampage's B.A. really lament his violent life and attempt to redeem himself through non-violence is just stupid, and the inevitable payoff (him *gasp* having to use violence) is not executed well-enough to justify it. But these are minor gripes in what I am calling the Hellboy II, or Land of the Lost, of this Summer (other movies that came out with a resounding "who gives a shit" that I ended up having to respond to, loudly, "I do!!")

Highly Recommended for fans of '80s style action flicks such as Bad Boys II or Commando. This is no class-act, by any means, but it is certainly a step in the right direction for modern-day action films, or even modern reimaginings of old, tired, and, in this case, corny and bloodless franchises.

That Championship Season (1982)

Subtle, but powerful film about a state champion high school basketball team reunites as middle aged men to support one of them running for mayor. The four present teammates are played by Paul Sorvino, Stacey Keach, Martin Sheen, and Bruce Dern, and their coach is Robert freaking Mitchum. Most of the action takes place in and around Mitchum's house as the men drink, argue, and bond over memories of the champions they once were while facing themselves, for once, as the men they have become. The mayor (Bruce Dern) is an empty hand-shaker, Sorvino's businessman is a greedy lech, Keach's campaign manager is an obediant lackey, and Sheen is a wandering drunk. Mitchum coaches them on their personal lives well into their middle age, maintaining that as proud as he is of the championship cup that adorns his living room, "You guys are my real trophies." The film was written and directed by Jason Miller, Father Karras from The Exorcist, and the film feels very real and unrehearsed; the acting has a spontaneous, natural feeling to it, and the dialogue is both subtextual and immediate, always giving us, the viewer, more information than the stubborn, middle-aged former champions in the film. The house does not imprison the action, although it is there that the most interesting dynamics are allowed to take precedent once the backstories have been established. The old basketball game itself, which is the focus of the 1998 TV movie remake (with Sorvino as the coach), is less relevant here than the current mayoral election, which is driving the men to sacrificing their integrity for their ideas of success that have tortured them since their teens. The notion of looking back on the faded glory of youth and holding yourself up to the standard you sets for yourself as a child is the main idea here, and it is pretty extraordinarily conceived and executed.

Highly Recommended for fans of chamber dramas and once-location dramas. However, equal to this is the remake, which was made for Showtime, but still rivals this in terms of performance and production value. It is hard to single out a performance to recommend, but if Mitchum had the screen time of the others, his paternal, yet endlessly demanding nurturing of his boys' competitive urges would certainly take the cake.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mystery Team (2009)

Funny, but overeager debut film from comedy troupe Derrick Comedy involving three 18 year old amateur sleuths who are given their first big case; a double murder. The sketch comedy aesthetic Derrick is known for has been thrown out the window in lieu of a straightforward narrative in the mold of the Hardy Boys or similar boy detective styles, albeit with a relatively real-world backdrop. The bulk of the humor comes from the juxtaposition of the crew's juvenile, pre-pubescent behavior with the cynicism and deadpan indifference of the world around them (most memorably with a pre-teen boy who talks, and acts, str8 gangsta compared to them). This tends to be the more dominant, and obvious, form of humor throughout, but the true joy for me was watching these obviously real-life friends interact within this comic setting. The weak link of the crew is, ironically, rising star Donald Glover; as an actor, his desperation and desire to stand out from the troupe is tangible, and he only dials in at 9+ where his costars are satisfied with playing scenes at 8 or even 7 when necessary. On his own, which he is towards the third act of the film, his interactions with those outside of Derrick are awkward, and laughably abrasive and obnoxious. But when the crew is together, they have a very strong interplay that carries the flimsy narrative across the finish line, where there is actually a relatively poignant surprise revelation that closes the film well. Also, for a low-budget comedy, there is a distinct visual aesthetic, most obvious in the comedic framing of the three actors at once in awkward, apparantly-staged poses. The director, officially a part of Derrick Comedy, establishes himself as an unseen comedic member of the crew, and I hope his talents remain for their next projects, for he is inseparable from this material, unlike, say, Edgar Wright with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

Recommended for fans of Derrick Comedy and/or offbeat, original comedies (albeit with a juvenile tinge throughout).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dogs of War (1981)

Bleak, taut war thriller about a mercenary who gets involved with a platinum rich African nation headed by, you guessed it, a corrupt, murderous psychopath. Christopher Walken plays the mercenary, a paranoid spook who basically lives only to serve whatever master is paying him, in this case, a business conglomerate looking to overthrow the government to put in a dummy one to rape the country for all its resources. The film is split into two parts, and the first part is more drawn out; showing Walken's interactions with the nation, there is little English dialogue, and the story is told through lush, intricate visuals. The film settles into a more derivative vibe during its second half, but it feels earned and legitimate. Tom Berenger is on hand fleetingly as Walken's right hand man, and Ed O'Neill cameos as a hesitant member of their crew. Walken holds the film together with his trademark intensity, with a badass, lean sense of purpose that he could portray in his younger days. The action is well choreographed and surprisingly restrained, but it does not manage to top the films more elaborate and clever non-violent editing and camerawork.

Recommended for fans of intense '80s war films more along the lines of Casualties of War and The Killing Fields rather than Red Dawn or The Delta Force.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Undisputed II (2005)

Surprisingly effective DTV action sequel about "Iceman" Chambers (Ving Rhames in the first one) having to fight a MMA fighter to earn his freedom from a Russian gulag. Michael Jai White replaces Rhames as Chambers, and, while definitely seeming more like Wesley Snipes' character than Rhames', is a thoroughly watchable protagonist. We know White can fight, but he really surprises in the more heartfelt scenes which, in the hands of a lesser actor, would have been readily apparent as melodramatic filler between fight scenes. Ben Cross from Chariots of Fire is also on hand as Chambers' trainer/cellmate, who has some great scenes involving his heroin addiction that, again, a lesser actor could've easily fumbled. Scott Adkins is terrifying here as the villain, and I look forward to seeing the Adkins-centric Undisputed III (especially because the choreographer of that one did that killer Mortal Kombat trailer making the rounds online right now). The production values, especially the fight choreography, are very strong for a film of this scale, and there is very little here that is glaringly cheesy or cheap. Adkins moves, in particular, are better executed and shot than those in most studio actioners.

Recommended for fans of the original, Michael Jai White or MMA/boxing flicks. I'd heard this was a strong sequel, and I was still impressed.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Here's a quick rundown of films I've slacked on reviewing as of late:

Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang (1981) - Badass Shaw Bros flick about competing martial arts styles. Highly Recommended for Wuxia kung-fu fans.

Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance (1983) - Spellbinding video art project about the faceless nature of technology and society; extremely provocative and moody. Highly Recommended.

Electra Glide in Blue (1974) - Really daring, really '70s (in the best possible way) cop movie about Robert Blake fighting for police procedure in Texas; Hot Fuzz influence is tangible. Highly Recommended.

Amos and Andrew (1993) - Tepid, shallow comedy that pretends to involve Nicolas Cage and Samuel L. Jackson in racially charged, and not retardedly contrived, comedic antics. Skip it, save for those who really NEED to see Jackson approximate Spike Lee/Cornell West.

Free Money (1998) - Odd, but diverting DTV comedy effort that rests on its star power (not hard; it includes Charlie AND Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Thomas Haden Church, Mira Sorvino, David Arquette, and Donald Sutherland). Slightly Recommended for fans of quirky, southern crime flicks and that cast.

District B13: Ultimatum (2009) - Very strong, fast-paced, well-directed action sequel; taking time to reunite two leads is inspired choice that makes this only ever-so-slightly inferior. Highly Recommended for fans of the original and/or fast moving, kinetic action flicks.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) - Boring sequel that rests, like other boring sequels, on the strengths of their kills; thankfully, here, Renny Harlin makes them pretty spectacular and worthwhile. Skip It, save for Freddy (and by that I mean goofy, wisecracking Freddy) aficionados.

Cheech & Chong's Hey Watch This! (2010) - Concert film chronicling the reunion of legendary stoner duo, with both great new material and hilarious renditions of classic bits. Recommended for fans of stoner humor.

The V.I.P.'s (1963) - Strong, airport-set chamber drama with excellent turns by Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Maggie Smith, and Orson Welles. Recommended for fans of Taylor-Burton, or similarly relationship-themed films of the era.

Ice Station Zebra (1968) - Apparently Howard Hughes' favorite film late in life, Rock Hudson and Patrick McGoohan are capable action leads opposite hammy Ernest Borgnine and Jim Brown in this large-scaled, well-devised Arctic set action flick. Recommended for fans of somewhat cheesy '60s action/sci-fi, or the thoroughly badass McGoohan.

Detour (1945) - Badass little noir that gets squirelly protaganist to try and convince the audience that he is not guilty of the crimes that he is wanted for; brilliant spin is that we don't necessarily believe the story he is telling, while he insists that, despite it's unbelievability, it really is the truth. Highly recommended for fans of classic noir.

High Risk (1995) - Cool, if somewhat campy, Jet Li flick about a bodyguard/stunt man who covers for a huge, but goofy kung-fu star, obviously a rip on Jackie Chan; Die Hard-esque plot is a fail, but is a good excuse for the duo's comic chemistry. Recommended for Jet fans.

Inferno (1980) - Moody, supernatural horror from Dario Argento, similar, but superior to, his classic Suspiria, involving a different witch-like creature who terrorizes a New York apartment building. Recommended for fans of Argento or Giallo pictures.

Past Midnight (1992) - Lame sauce "sexually-charged" thriller, where chemistry-less Natasha Richardson and Rutger Hauer find love, despite Hauer's murderous criminal record; Quentin Tarantino's alleged rewrite of this one is not readily apparant AT ALL. Skip it.

Wild Bill (1995) - Well-staged, if unremarkable western about the last days of Wild Bill Hickock, as played by Jeff Bridges; cast is spectacular, script (save for a subplot involving Diane Lane as a broken-hearted sophisticate) is not. Slightly Recommended for Jeff Bridges and/or true-life western fans.

The Dark Half (1993) - Well-conceived, but imperfect George Romero suspense flick about a horror writer (Timothy Hutton) whose dark side externalizes into a living, breathing serial killer. Slightly recommended for fans of Romero or Hutton.

The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming!! (1966) - Funny, but slight Cold War-era comedy about Alan Arkin as a Russian nuclear sub commander who crashes on Nantucket, and must escape before the U.S. believes war has been declared. Slightly Recommended for fans of farces of the era such as It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Homeboy (1988) - Similar to The Wrestler, with Mickey Rourke (who also wrote) as a fallen fighter who must choose between risking death in the ring or risking everything to help pal Christopher Walken on a heist. Highly Recommended for fans of the two actors, taking shit dead seriously here at the top of their game.

Legendary Weapons of China (1982) - Exciting, but sprawling Shaw Bros. flick about a renegade monk and three assassins (including Gordon Liu) of different martial arts backgrounds who pursue him; scenes with titular weapons are obvious highlights. Recommended for Shaw Bros. fans.

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1965) - Intense, anti-Bond spy thriller with Richard Burton as a confused, aimless retired spy who is forced to take "one last job" to protect the girl he loves. Recommended for fans of tougher, more grounded spy movies (a la the Ipcress File or The Conversation).

Armed and Dangerous (1986) - Funny, but lighter-than-air action-comedy about John Candy and Eugene Levy as newly minted security guards who end up getting involved with the mob. Slightly Recommended for fans of the SCTV duo.

Precilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) - Brave, surprisingly subtle comedy about Terence Stamp, Guy Pearce, and Hugo Weaving as drag queens traversing the Australian outback. Recommended for those tolerant of seeing macho actors prance around in drag for 2 hours (well-worth it, particularly for witnessing Pearce's untapped comedy potential).

Cash On Demand (1961) - Extremely well-written chamber suspense film about Peter Cushing as a bank manager who is forced to assist a dapper elderly bank robber without cluing in any of his staff. Highly Recommended for fans of intense, claustrophobic, plot-driven heist movies.

Bird (1988) - Boring, shallow biopic of Charlie Parker, notable only for Forest Whitaker's capable lead performance and the dynamite, if overly-prevalent soundtrack. Skip it, save for those who live and die at the hand of Mr. Whitaker.

The January Man (1989) - Stupid serial killer movie about Kevin Kline as a crack sleuth that is an excuse for strong, self contained, un-plot related scenes, including its best, a shouting match between Danny Aiello, Harvey Keitel, and Rod Steiger; love triangle with Kline, Susan Sarandon and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is not as enticing. Slightly Recommended for fans of that cast (which also includes Alan Rickman).


Iron Man 2 (2010) - Slightly inferior sequel, with a dozen or so concurrent plot-lines sucking tension out of the film, while allowing Downey, Gwenyth, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, Sam Jackson, and Clark fucking Gregg room to play, with entertaining results. Recommended for fans of the original or the cast, especially the scene-stealing Rockwell and the silently charismatic Rourke.

Magruber (2010) - Surprisingly hilarious, if ramshackle comedy spoof of 80's action cliches with Will Forte becoming the funniest new comedy star in the titular role; he has a wonderful, eclectic career ahead of him if he plays his cards right (unlike similarly looking Will Arnett). Recommended for fans of 80's action flicks and really random, scatological humor.

Get Him To The Greek (2010) - Overly ambitious, but entertaining Hangover wannabe about Jonah Hill following around Russell Brand, trying to keep him in line for his next concert. Recommended for fans of Forgetting Sarah Marshall or the two leads.

Splice (2010) - Incredibly rich, provocative original horror film, the best of its kind since Chan Wook Park's Thirst; Vincenzo Natali has yet to fail producing movies centered around strong, powerful ideas. Highly Recommended for horror fans.

City Of Industry (1997)

Taut, badass thriller involving Harvey Keitel as a thief looking to avenge his betrayed crew (including his brother). Admittedly, the early scenes, with the crew planning and executing a diamond heist, are the most exciting, not only because they distinctly recall Reservoir Dogs, but mostly because of the tangible, charmingly scummy chemistry of Keitel and Timothy Hutton as the two brothers. Once Keitel goes apeshit and starts Charles Bronsoning motherfuckers, the plot settles into more familiar territory, but the terse script, intense direction, and cool cast keep the movie flowing. Aside from Keitel and Hutton, Stephen Dorff, Michael Jai White, and Elliot freaking Gould have fun, lively roles, with only Famke Jannsen (as the requisite damsel in distress) trying, in vain, to ground her character in reality.

Recommended for fans of this sort of mid-'90s thriller, a graciously reference free post-Tarantino crime flick. Plus, Keitel is all sorts of badass, but for those in the know, that's a huge DUHHHHHHHHHHHHH.