Review: Juno and the Paycock (UK 1930)

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Social tragi-comedy based on a play about a poor Dublin family with a blustering father who come into a brief payday, set against the backdrop of the Irish Civil War. The material doesn’t really suit Hitchcock, and only really comes to life in the florid dialogue which was likely lifted from the play and in the central performances of ne’er-do-wells Jack Boyle and Joxer (the men in this film are uniformly awful human beings). For completists only.

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Review: Men from the Monastery (HK 1974)

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Oh my god, dude got stabbed in the TAINT!

Seriously though, this has a reputation for being one of Chang Cheh’s better films, but I did not find it terribly engaging, especially compared to an epic like Shaolin Temple or his later, more outre material. It’s an interestingly structured film about three famous heroes coming together to fight the Qing in the wake of the burning of Shaolin. Alexander Fu Sheng has the best segment as Fong Sai Yuk, in which he gets to fight on a “pile formation” – log tips surrounded by sharpened bamboo stakes.

I usually can’t stand Fu Sheng, but he’s playing straight here. Chen Kuan-Tai’s role as Hung Hei-Gun, a progenitor of Hung Ga kung fu is fine, but suffers, like all the segments, from Chang speeding through the story in favor of straight fight scenes.

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Review: Satan’s Brew (West Germany 1976)

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This arch “comedy“ of manners about a blocked, grasping, bilious poet and his lovers and hangers-on raises the existential question of whether a comedy can be a comedy if it does not actually appear to be intended to be funny. As a savage dissection of Fassbinder‘s personal life and foibles, it’s an interesting document, albeit deeply unpleasant in a scabrous Andy Milligan-esque kind of way. But funny? Barely for a second. I love many Fassbinder films, but as someone who’s not all that deeply invested in his psyche, I found this acid bomb a bit of a chore.

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Review: Gunan, King of the Barbarians (Italy 1982)

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One star for sexy Sabrina Siani, a mainstay of Italian Conan the Barbarian knockoffs. No stars for anything else. This story of two brothers seeking revenge with the aid of a magical Amazon tribe is otherwise an entirely dull affair, especially because the filmmakers make the bizarre choice to quickly kill off the only brother with any personality. Most of the film consists of painfully tedious slow motion shots of beefy men running, riding horses, and ineptly swinging toy swords.

I’m pretty sure this is a bowdlerized cut, because the Amazon Prime version I watched frequently seemed to be framed incorrectly, and while Siani gets naked constantly, the film awkwardly cuts away most of the time. But even if she were butt naked for the entire film (a la Fulci’s Conquest), this film would still suck donkeys.

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Review: That Man from Rio (France 1964)

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Jean-Paul Belmondo stars in a light-hearted action-comedy romp through Brazil, in what mostly amounts to a continuous pursuit of his abducted girlfriend (the tragic Francoise Dorleac) and some archaeological McGuffins. If you know Belmondo’s more populist films, you know that means tons of fun stunts from the man himself (Belmondo was Cruise before M:I Cruise, but likable). Fortunately, those charms more than compensate for the wacky tone, cultural tourism, and shocking lack of tan bikini girls from Ipanema.

More interesting from a cultural impact level, the influence of this film on Raiders of the Lost Ark is absolutely unmistakable (and apparently acknowledged by Spielberg), you can even see direct borrowing like the Map Room of Tanis sequence or Indy hanging off the submarine.

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Review: The Lodge (USA 2019)

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I didn’t much care for Goodnight Mommy, but I thought it had a certain undeniable level of quality and creepiness. This? This was straight up garbage, with plot points lifted from much better movies and noisy music cues substituting for actual scares. I think I’m done with Franz and Fiala.

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Review: Color Out of Space (USA 2019)

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I hate to say it, but I think Richard Stanley would have been better off not casting Nic Cage in this. I enjoy an unhinged Cage performance as much as the next guy, but every scene he was in was at war with every other scene. Kind of reminds of King’s complaints about Nicholson in The Shining (though I’m good with that one).

That said, this is one of my favorite Lovecraft stories and I thought this was a fun adaptation. It’s very much got that early Gordon/Yuzna From Beyond vibe that I love so much. I suspect I’ll be revisiting this one.

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Review: Magnet of Doom (France 1963)

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Moody crime film from Jean Pierre Melville? Sign me up. This is definitely one of his weaker efforts – the story about a unemployed boxer (Jean Paul Belmondo) bodyguarding a disgraced French baker on the run (Clouzot regular Charles Vanel – excellent as always) is fun, but often functions more as an American travelogue via car window.

I’m happy to see old footage of NYC, including a campaign procession for Morgenthau’s failed gubernatorial bid in ‘62 and marquees for West Side Story, Sinatra’s Hoboken birthplace, etc., but it’s not very visually distinguished. But lesser Melville is still Melville, and Belmondo is never less than charismatic.

By the way, Magnet of Doom is a bizarre title, when the actual French is closer to “The Older Ferchaux Brother” – the character played by Vanel.

 

 

 

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Review: 6 Underground (USA 2019)

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This is … a comedy? About a team of international goodie two shoes assassins led by Batman who are fucking terrible at their jobs? I can’t tell if this was meant to be a comedy. Ryan Reynolds definitely thinks it was.

Plus product placement for Red Bull AND Monster in the same movie? That’s got to violate some law.

Michael Bay Coke Scale: I think less coke than Maximum Overdrive but more coke than Goodfellas.

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Review: Tokyo Knights (Japan 1961)

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This early Seijun Suzuki youth flick is basically an Elvis movie starring Koji Wada as the young heir to a construction combine mixed up in illegal shenanigans. It’s a super breezy, super jazzy (literally) play on Hamlet, and as soon as you see the delightfully oleaginous Nobuo Kaneko as the mysteriously deceased dad’s number two, you know there’s been funny business. And a bravura night time sequence with colors and costumes points forward to the more theatrical Suzuki to come.

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