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Sunday, May 3, 2015

"New Coke": Legendary Fail Coming to Big Screen



From MovieZoot.com

DISASTROUS "NEW COKE" LAUNCH TO BE UNCAPPED AS A FILM

New Coke Was Perhaps the Worst Product Introduction Since the Edsel.


Last week marked the 30th anniversary of when Coca-Cola veered from the secret formula that had been around since the 1890s to unveil what the company hoped would be a new and improved drink for a younger generation. It went so flat it imperiled its venerable market-leading soft drink.

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

GOODFELLAS (25TH ANNIVERSARY) -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle



25 years later, I'm still ambivalent about Martin Scorsese's celebrated mob classic GOODFELLAS (1990). It's a masterpiece of cinema that's almost fiercely watchable even after many viewings--I've seen it at least thirty or forty times--and yet it's populated by an assortment of sordid characters that I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole.

The true story of low-level mobster Henry Hill as told to author Nicholas Pileggi in his book "Wiseguy", this adaptation is the pinnacle of what seems to have been Scorsese's ongoing exorcism of his own ambivalent feelings toward such characters around whom he himself grew up. His fascination with the crime-ridden (but colorful) hellhole that is the underbelly of New York begins with MEAN STREETS and continues onward through TAXI DRIVER and RAGING BULL until finally reaching its ultimate expression in this study of the typical gangster's everyday life in all its mundane horror.

As played by Ray Liotta (HANNIBAL, COMEBACK SEASON), the young Henry works his way into the ranks of boss Big Paulie Cicero's (Paul Sorvino) gang after admiring their way of life from afar. The first half of the film is Henry's "come-up" as he enjoys the glamour and freedom from traditional authority, constantly awash in easy cash and given the V.I.P. treatment wherever he goes. A night out at the Copacabana with his new girlfriend Karen (Lorraine Bracco), who, for better or worse, will become his wife, is brilliantly staged by the director to emphasize the elevated state of luxury and privilege through which Henry moves due to his mob connections.


That we don't find Henry utterly repulsive is due mainly to the fact that his closest cohorts are much worse than he is. Robert De Niro (RIGHTEOUS KILL) is at his best as Irish hood Jimmy "The Gent" Conway, a cunning, ruthless criminal who will do anything or kill anyone to get ahead, and Joe Pesci has his most career-defining role as the crazy, loose-cannon killer Tommy DeVito. Henry, with his comparatively mild dealings in drugs, racketeering, and mere physical violence, seems almost like a nice guy as his partners in crime murder their way through the rest of the cast.

Pesci has a field day as Tommy and gives the film its most memorable moments. Henry makes the mistake of describing Tommy as "funny" after a particularly humorous anecdote, to which Tommy appears to take offense in a big way. "Funny how?" he spits, suddenly becoming deadly serious. "I amuse you? I'm a clown?" Tommy's history as a psycho makes the situation unbearably tense until he finally breaks character and starts giggling at Henry's distress. When he guns down a gangly kid named Spider (Michael Imperioli of "The Sopranos") for back-talking him during a poker game, and then later brutally assassinates a made man over a verbal insult, we're shocked into seeing just how ugly and horrific is this life into which Henry has so inextricably entrenched himself.

After that, GOODFELLAS becomes a harrowing "express elevator to Hell" (as Hudson so eloquently puts it in ALIENS) for our seedy protagonist and his increasingly disillusioned mob wife Karen as things begin to fall apart around them. Following the wildly successful robbery of an airport for millions of dollars in cash, Jimmy decides he can't bear to part with any of it and starts killing off everyone else involved rather than have to divvy up the loot.


Things really go to pot when Henry and the rest of the gang start getting pinched for their crimes and spending serious prison time, after which Big Paulie turns his back on Henry for dealing in drugs. Finally, even Henry begins to fear for his life under Jimmy's wary glare.

It all comes to a peak with Scorsese's most beautifully executed sequence in the film, Henry's day of coke-fueled paranoia as he juggles gun-running, coke-smuggling, and cooking a huge spaghetti dinner for his family under the watchful eye of a government helicopter. Rarely has this sort of raw, nerve-wracking anxiety ever been so accurately and so cinematically portrayed as it is here. Liotta really sells it as well, with Henry self-destructing before our eyes.

Scorsese's use of various camera and editing techniques is masterful, and much more smoothly integrated into the look and feel of the film than the more overtly experimental style used by Oliver Stone in NATURAL BORN KILLERS. Classical direction alternates with handheld camera, whip-pans, and abrupt editing as Scorsese sees fit, all skillfully integrated into the stylistic whole. If anything, this movie is a joy to watch simply for how exquisitely put together it is and how much pure craftsmanship Scorsese shows in its execution.


But most of all, GOODFELLAS somehow transcends its penny-dreadful setting and characters by being a fascinating freak show of extremes, one for which we can buy our ticket and observe from a safe vantage point while thinking, "There but for the grace of God go I." I wouldn't go near these vile monsters in real life, but like any other monster movie, watching them in action is the kind of perverse, voyeuristic thrill that only a showman like Scorsese can dish out.

--------------

The 2-disc Blu-ray from Warner Home Entertainment features a remastered version of the film in 1080p high definition 16 x 9 1:85:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 English audio and French and Spanish 2.0 audio. Subtitles are in English, French, and Spanish. Disc one includes two invaluable commentary tracks, one consisting of cast and crew interviews and the other provided by Henry Hill himself.

Hill's comments are especially interesting when he compares what we're seeing on the screen with how it happened in real life. Henry is joined by Ed McDonald, head of the organized crime strike force in New York who was intimately involved in the film's events and plays himself in one scene.


Disc two contains the half-hour documentary "Scorsese's Goodfellas", the feature-length documentary "Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film", and featurettes "Getting Made", "Made Men", "The Workaday Gangster", and "Paper is Cheaper Than Fiction." Also contained are four vintage Warner Brothers cartoons and the film's trailer. 


Finally, the set contains a 36-page hardbound photo book, a personal letter from Martin Scorsese, and instructions on how to download a digital HD ultraviolet copy of the film.

Buy it at WBShop.com

Street date: May 5, 2015

(Note: stills used are not taken from the Blu-ray discs.)




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GAMEBOX 1.0 -- Movie Review by Porfle




[This review originally appeared online at Bumscorner.com in 2007.]

 
"Once you begin, you won't be able to quit..."

When I first read the synopsis for GAMEBOX 1.0 (2004), about a videogame tester who receives a mysterious new game console in the mail and soon becomes trapped in a dangerous digital world from which there is no escape, it sounded very reminiscent of movies like David Cronenberg's eXistenZ. Well, in an early scene, directors David and Scott Hillenbrand acknowledge this similarity by having one character ask another if he wants to take in a double feature: VIDEODROME and eXistenZ.

They might as well have also mentioned TRON, SIN CITY, COOL WORLD, BRAINSCAN, and even ALICE IN WONDERLAND and THE WIZARD OF OZ while they were at it, because, thematically and/or visually, this movie has echoes of all of these, among others. Fortunately, though, GAMEBOX 1.0 gives these familiar elements enough of a new spin to make it a lot of fun to watch on its own.

Going in to work just to play videogames all day would be a dream job for a most guys, and certainly not what you'd think of as "toil", but for Charlie Nash (Nate Richert, "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch"), the recent shooting death of his girlfriend Kate (Danielle Fishel) by a trigger-happy cop has sucked the joy out of his life and turned him into a shell of his former self. When he finds an unmarked package containing the new game console in his mailbox, he's intrigued. He puts on the headset and pushes the "start" button, and finds himself in the middle of a digital dreamworld in which he gets to shoot bad guys, romance babes, and drive fast cars and motorscooters. With three different levels--"Crime Spree", "Zombie Land", and "Alien Planet"--to choose from, and a hyper-realism Charlie's never experienced before, the game promises to be a unique experience in virtual reality.


Unfortunately, it turns out to be a little too realistic. When he gets shot, it hurts. When he uses up his three "lives", he really dies. And when he wants out, the game voice informs him that once he starts, he can't quit. Taking off the headset and trying to go about his normal life again does no good, because the game has infested his brain to the point where he can no longer discern the difference between real life and fantasy. So Charlie's only alternative is to stay in the game and actually beat it. This won't be easy.

The Gamebox 1.0 comes with a special camera so you can take pictures of your friends, which are then downloaded into the console so that their likenesses can be used for various characters. For the bad guy, Ao Shun, the game voice suggests using someone Charlie really hates. Naturally, Charlie hates Officer Ronald Hobbes (Patrick Kilpatrick), the cop who shot Kate, more than anyone else, so he snaps a shot of Hobbes' newspaper picture. He also toys with the idea of using Kate's likeness as well, but thinks better of it. No use torturing himself.

But the game can scan his thoughts, and before long, Charlie meets a character named Princess who is the spitting image of his dead girlfriend. Princess has a briefcase chained to her wrist, which she must deliver to a place called the Blue Mountain Observatory. Charlie figures that if he helps her do this, he can beat the game and escape from its clutches. Meanwhile, the deadly Ao Shun is hot on their heels every step of the way, trying his best to get his hands on the briefcase and eliminate Charlie one life at a time.


The nocturnal cityscape of "Crime Spree", where Charlie begins his quest, has some of the look and feel of SIN CITY and COOL WORLD, only more pixilated. I've often criticized movies for having "videogame-level" CGI effects, but here, they're supposed to look like that, and for the most part it's pretty convincing even when it looks cheesy. The live actors interact well with the green-screen backgrounds, and the directors do a good job of utilizing familiar videogame elements such as "health" (symbolized here by a glowing heart that heals all wounds), first-person shooter scenarios, an assortment of weapons at your fingertips, and the sick feeling you get when one of your precious "life" icons disappears.

As Charlie and Princess search for the "Blue Mountain", they suddenly find themselves on the "Zombie Land" level. The zombies look like ninjas and move like skittery, fast-motion spider monkeys who have to pee really bad. Whether attacking in waves or surrounding an abandoned house in which Charlie and Princess are trapped, they're pretty creepy. At one point, Charlie encounters his real-life friend Pete (Patrick Cavanaugh), who claims to be stuck inside the game, too. But is it really him? Or just a ruse the game's using to screw with him? Either way, Pete turns out to be a huge liability as he starts grabbing all the "health" icons for himself and finally makes off with the briefcase after chopping Princess' hand off with a hatchet.

Eventually, they reach the "Alien Planet" level at last, where they find themselves in the middle of a war zone with human soldiers battling swarms of flying saucers. Somehow I don't think these games would be all that exciting to a real-life gamer, but the stakes are so high here that it doesn't matter. By this time, as you might have guessed, Charlie's in love with Princess, and willing to sacrifice his life (or one of them, at least) for her. And he's managed to convince her that nothing around them is real, including her, so there's really no point in going on.


Sensing this, the game gives Charlie an added incentive to continue playing by transporting the two of them into a more realistic environment--a simulation of the hospital where the real Charlie is lying in a coma, on the verge of death, his mind locked in the game. It is here, in the lower depths of the hospital building, that the final showdown between Charlie and Ao Shun will take place, and the secret of the briefcase will finally be revealed. It's not a huge surprise, but it worked for me.

The lead actors do a nice job in their roles--Nate Richert's Charlie is kind of like a dumpy, depressed Peter Parker, somebody I could identify with, and Danielle Fishel (NATIONAL LAMPOON PRESENTS DORM DAZE, "Boy Meets World") as Princess/Kate is cute as a button. My favorite part, though, was seeing one of my all-time favorite actors, Patrick Kilpatrick, get to play a co-starring role for a change instead of his usual bit parts. You may remember him best as the first gangster to die (spectacularly) in LAST MAN STANDING, or as THE STAND's vile Ray "Hey, Mutey" Booth. He seems to be having a blast here, whether using his samurai sword to deflect Charlie's bullets as he giggles and mugs wildly (as a videogame baddie should) or being really scary and menacing as the real-life bad cop Hobbes.

I'm not too up-to-date on gaming--the Atari 2600 was more my speed--so I don't know what kind of impression this film will have on modern gamers. I can imagine them possibly spending the whole time unfavorably judging "Crime Spree", "Zombie Land", and "Alien Planet" against their favorite games and finding them rather lame. Or, perhaps their own experiences will help them relate more to the characters and their predicament. Me, I was intrigued by the premise and found the story and the visuals interesting throughout. GAMEBOX 1.0 succeeds, in my opinion, not because of a big budget, but because the filmmakers had the imagination and enthusiasm to take a modest budget and play it for all it was worth.



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Thursday, April 30, 2015

MONDO RONDO! Rondo Award Winners Announced!



"Long live the Rondos!" - Ain't It Cool News
"I love Rondo!" - Guillermo del Toro

Well, it's all over but the screaming, and the winners of this year's annual Rondo Awards have been announced. Here is a complete list of the results:


http://monsterkidclassichorrorforum.yuku.com/topic/59121/winners-Gasp-13th-Annual-Rondo-Hatton-Classic-Horror

For even more information, visit the official website here:

http://rondoaward.com/



Congratulations to all the lucky (and deserving) winners! And to all the nominees as well. It's certainly been a great year!


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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

FRANK SINATRA: 5-FILM COLLECTION -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle (ANCHORS AWEIGH/ ON THE TOWN/ GUYS AND DOLLS/ OCEAN'S 11/ ROBIN AND THE 7 HOODS)




Frank Sinatra the singer. Frank Sinatra the actor. One gained undisputed acclaim as a master of his craft, while the other's talents seem to have always been in the eye of the beholder. But when given a good role--be it either comedic or dramatic--"Ol' Blue Eyes" came through, and often his acting skills were nothing less than superb.

In the 5-disc Blu-ray set FRANK SINATRA: 5-FILM COLLECTION from Warner Home Entertainment (which also contains a 32-page hardbound photo book), we see some of the best of his lighter screen moments. Whether showing off those rich vocal stylings, keeping up with Gene Kelly on the dance floor, or displaying a well-honed comedy timing, Frank Sinatra left behind a legacy of entertainment which continues to endure as we celebrate his 100th birthday.


Contained herein are five of his most popular films: ANCHORS AWEIGH, ON THE TOWN, GUYS AND DOLLS, OCEAN'S ELEVEN, and ROBIN AND THE SEVEN HOODS. Let's take a closer look at them...



ANCHORS AWEIGH (1945)



In 1945, the King of the Crooners joined forces with the King of the Hoofers (not counting Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, that is) to give us ANCHORS AWEIGH. This frothy Technicolor romp from director George Sidney (VIVA LAS VEGAS, BYE BYE BIRDIE, several MGM "Our Gang" shorts) tells the story of Clarence and Joe (Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly), two recently decorated sailors on a glorious 4-day leave in Hollywood.

Playing against type, Frank's character is a shy nerd who can't score with the ladies so he decides to tag along after notorious wolf Joe to see how he does it. This seriously cramps Joe's style and he's constantly thwarted in his attempts to get together with dream date "Lola", especially when the two swabbies get saddled with a young orphan named Donald (a cherubic Dean Stockwell) who wants to run away from his Aunt Susie and join the Navy.

Aunt Susie turns out to be the lovely Kathryn Grayson (KISS ME KATE), an aspiring singer with whom Clarence is immediately infatuated. The script then takes us down a twisted path when wolfish Joe ends up falling for prim Susie while Clarence falls for a waitress from Brooklyn but is afraid to hurt Susie's feelings by dumping her, which is just what Joe wants except he doesn't want to hurt Clarence and Susie because he thinks they're in love, unaware that Susie is actually in love with him.

With all this tedious "love" stuff going on, ANCHORS AWEIGH benefits from the sparkling personalities of its stars and really takes off when they stop to sing and dance. With Gene Kelly at the helm during the musical numbers, this film yields several of the beloved sequences we often see in retrospectives like THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT, including Gene's celebrated fantasy duet with Jerry the Mouse (MGM originally wanted Mickey but Disney said "no way") and another dream sequence in which he plays a Latin bandit serenading lovely senorita Kathryn in a dance filled with amazing acrobatic stunts.


Frank, of course, gets to croon a few numbers as well as show off his own dancing skills as he hustles to keep up with Kelly. Kathryn Grayson sings in her shrill operatic style (she sounds like Snow White) and the great José Iturbi, as "himself", displays his dazzling virtuosity on the piano keyboard in several instances. A charming interlude with Gene and a little beggar girl (Sharon McManus) seems a bit shoehorned in, but in a musical such as this it hardly matters.

A rich supporting cast includes Grady Sutton (IT'S A GIFT, THE BANK DICK) as a would-be suitor for Aunt Susie, familiar screen comics Billy Gilbert and Edgar Kennedy, Leon Ames, Rags Ragland, and Pamela Britton as the waitress from Brooklyn.

Not quite the constant delight from start to finish that SINGIN' IN THE RAIN would be (all musicals that came before seem to be leading up to it), ANCHORS AWEIGH is still the sort of colorful confection musical lovers crave. And it served as proof that Frank Sinatra wasn't just some skinny singing idol, but a bonafide multi-talented movie star.


Blu-ray Special Features:

· Hanna & Barbera on the Making of ‘The Worry Song’ from MGM "When the Lion Roars"
· 1945 MGM Short "Football Thrills of 1944" – New to Home Entertainment
· 1945 MGM Short "Jerky Turkey" – New to Home Entertainment

· Theatrical Trailer



ON THE TOWN (1949)



Sinatra and Kelly took their sailor act into their next collaboration with 1949's ON THE TOWN, an exhilarating screen adaptation of the Broadway hit. This time it's three gobs on leave--Jules Munchin adds his cartoonish comical talents to the mix--while Vera Ellen, Betty Garrett, and the incredible Ann Miller play their delightful love interests.

Frank is once again the reserved, bookish type who wants to see all the tourist sites in New York, while Gene and Jules are ready for action. Gene falls for Vera-Ellen when he sees her on a subway poster as "Miss Turnstiles", and his friends are forced to join him in his desperate search for her. Along the way they pick up aggressively amorous cab driver Betty Garrett, who has eyes for Frankie, while anthropologist Ann Miller spots Jules in a museum and is instantly attracted to his caveman cranium.

This time the story is not only fun, but it serves as a springboard for a breathless succession of breezy, eye-pleasing, and downright irresistible song-and-dance numbers, some of which are performed against a backdrop of real New York locations. Frankie doesn't get any solo numbers this time, but the ensemble stuff is riotous fun as are his two duets with Betty Garrett, "Come Up to My Place" and "You're Awful."

Gene Kelly, who co-directed with Stanley Donen as he would later on SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, saves a large chunk of the latter half for one of his extended dance fantasies containing a steamy, sultry interlude with Vera-Ellen, set to Leonard Bernstein's evocative score, that is surprisingly erotic.


But my favorite numbers are the museum piece "Prehistoric Man"--which manages to achieve Tex Avery-level silliness while showcasing what an utterly astounding performer Ann Miller was--and the joyous "On the Town." The latter sequence, which takes place on the roof of the Empire State Building before spilling out onto the street, builds to such a rapturous conclusion that it literally brought me to tears.

The supporting cast also features Alice Pearce (later to become famous as Mrs. Kravitz on "Bewitched") in an endearing performance as Betty Garrett's homely roommate, who at one point becomes a blind date for Gene in place of "Miss Turnstiles." Alice joins the others for the breezy number "You Can Count On Me" and is a delight as she blunders into a romantic apartment interlude between Frank and Betty, sneezing with a head cold. Keep a lookout also for Bea Benaderet and Dick Wessel.

I first saw ON THE TOWN back in the mid-70s when it was shown on the fondly-remembered "CBS Late Movie", and it immediately struck me as one of the most enjoyable musicals I had ever seen. Watching it again many years later, I'm happy to say that it has lost none of its happy-go-lucky appeal and has, in fact, become a strong contender with SINGIN' IN THE RAIN as my favorite musical of all time.



Blu-ray Special Features:


· 1949 MGM Short "Mr. Whitney Had a Notion" – New to Home Entertainment

· 1949 MGM Cartoon "Doggone Tired" – New to Home Entertainment

· Theatrical Trailer



GUYS AND DOLLS (1955)



That singing sensation, Marlon Brando, possessed the star power in 1955 to bump Frank Sinatra out of the lead role in GUYS AND DOLLS, director Joseph L. Mankiewicz' film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical based on the stories of Damon Runyon.

As slick gambler Sky Masterson, Brando's soft but earnest singing style benefits from a strong acting foundation while Frank, in the lesser role of illegal crap game promoter Nathan Detroit, skillfully invests his own Frank Loesser-penned songs with more heart and depth than that character has ever shown before.

Mankiewicz explores the colorfully stagey Times Square settings with a cinematic zest that is eye-filling and constantly appealing, while the cast bring all the denizens of the streets to vivid life. Small-time hustlers such as Stubby Kaye's "Nicely-Nicely", Sheldon Leonard's "Harry the Horse", and B.S. Pully's "Big Jule" all get their moments to shine (Kaye's "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat" is a joy as is the opening number, "Fugue For Tinhorns") as con men work the bustling crowds and sewers host shady criminal activities.

The story gives equal emphasis to its two love stories, one of which involves Nathan Detroit and the lead burlesque dancer at the Hot Box club, Miss Adelaide (a terrific Vivian Blaine). They've been engaged for fourteen years and heartsick Adelaide is pressing Nathan to quit his floating crap game business and settle down with her or else. He wants to host one final big game first, but can't find a location for it with local cop Lt. Brannigan (Robert Keith) breathing down his neck.

Meanwhile, Sky Masterson is starting to fall for rigidly straitlaced "Save-A-Soul" missionary Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons) after betting Nathan that he can persuade her to accompany him to Havana. This he does by promising to deliver at least twelve sinners to her next prayer meeting, but while they're away (during which he gets her sloppy drunk), a crap game is held in her mission. Sarah accuses Sky of setting the whole thing up on purpose, creating a rift between them.


With a meatier, more offbeat, and somewhat seamier story than many musicals, GUYS AND DOLLS is solid adult-oriented fun that keeps its pace up despite being somewhat overlong. There's a fascination to watching Brando broadening his acting horizons this way, giving it his all while not quite coming across as a bonafide singing star. His big song, the show-stopper "Luck Be a Lady Tonight", suffers from our knowledge of how much better Sinatra would've sung it (and indeed often did).

Be that as it may, Frank makes the most of his character and his charming scenes with Vivian Blaine, who gives the film's best performance as Adelaide. Lovely Jean Simmons also gives her all as Sarah Brown, with her own distinctive singing style.  (None of the leads were dubbed.) And as a splendid example of how to transform a popular stage musical into top-notch screen entertainment, GUYS AND DOLLS stands the test of time with flying colors.



Blu-ray Special Features:


· "A Broadway Fable: From Stage to Screen, Guys & Dolls: The Goldwyn Touch"

· "A Broadway Fable: From Stage to Screen, Guys & Dolls: From Stage to Screen"

· "More Guys & Dolls Stories"
o "Adelaide"
o "Brando Dance Lesson"
o "Goldwyn’s Career"
o "On the Set"
o "Rehearsing Adelaide"

· "Musical Performances"
o "Fugue for Tinhorns"
o "I’ll Know"
o "Guys & Dolls"
o "Adelaide"
o "Luck Be a Lady"
o "Sue Me"

· Theatrical Trailer



OCEAN'S 11 (1960)



The skinny, earnest kid of ANCHORS AWEIGH and ON THE TOWN had already grown into a more worldly and somewhat cynical character by the time of GUYS AND DOLLS, but by 1960's OCEAN'S 11 we find a Frank Sinatra who has matured into the icy cool, cosmopolitan, and slightly shady Las Vegas megastar persona that would define the rest of his life.

The quintessential "Rat Pack" movie, OCEAN'S 11 reunites Frank's former WWII paratrooper sergeant Danny Ocean with his old Airborne buddies played by Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Joey Bishop, in one of those scathingly brilliant heist schemes to relieve five major Vegas casinos of several million dollars at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve.

I didn't care much for this slow-moving, bland-looking heist tale with production values that sometimes resemble those of a Quinn Martin cop series from the 60s. At least, not the first time I watched it.

A second viewing, however--without the burden of my previous expectations blinding me to its modest charms, and with the advantage of Frank Sinatra, Jr.'s knowing commentary--revealed it to be a fun "hang-out" movie in which you get to spend some quality leisure time just palling around with Frankie, Dean, Sammy, and their cool friends. And before it's over, that simple robbery plot which seems so pedestrian at first delivers a couple of nifty, nasty twists that are pretty neat.

We watch as Danny (Sinatra) and Jimmy Foster (Lawford) get the old gang together one at a time for the caper, which takes up pretty much the whole first half of the movie. (One thing's for sure, this flick isn't in any hurry to get anywhere.) There are a few detours, as we see Danny dealing with his neglected but faithful wife Beatrice (Angie Dickinson) and a hostile spurned lover played by Patrice Wymore.


Jimmy, meanwhile, must endure the presence of his wealthy mother's new husband Duke (Caesar "Butch" Romero, who would soon play The Joker to Adam West's Batman) in order to hit her up for his usual "allowance." Sammy, as usual, brings his own boundless energy and cool-cat appeal to his role of a garbage truck driver whose job is to collect the stolen cash from each casino.

Not even counting some welcome cameos and bit parts by the likes of Red Skelton, Shirley McLaine, and George Raft, the cast is impressive. Filling out the "eleven" are Richard Conte (Don Barzini in THE GODFATHER), Jerry Lester (of Jerry Lewis' THE NUTTY PROFESSOR and THE LADIES' MAN), cult superstar Henry Silva (of Lewis' CINDERFELLA), Norman "Mr. Roper" Fell, Akim Tamiroff, and other worthy character actors.

The main stars, of course, are just fun to watch, especially Dean Martin in total "don't give a f***" mode and Frank effortlessly holding it all together without even singing a note. (Dean croons "Ain't That a Kick in the Head" two or three times, while Sammy performs the theme song "Ee-Oh-Eleven.")


Directed by Lewis Milestone (ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, OF MICE AND MEN), OCEAN'S 11 has a relaxed, informal air and never takes itself too seriously, but it isn't a slapdash affair. While some of the acting and direction may seem flat at times, this is one movie that just doesn't feel like breaking a sweat if it doesn't have to. And that awesome ending shot is just the kind of thing Quentin Tarantino makes a mental note to copy later.

It kinda struck me as A HARD DAY'S NIGHT for the pre-Beatles generation--a day in the lives of our favorite hipster bad boys in their natural habitat, just being their narrow-tie-wearing, scotch-swilling, chauvinistic selves.

It does get serious at times, though--as when Richard Conte's character Bergdorf, recently released from prison and estranged from wife Jean Willes, visits his little boy in military school for what may be the last time. Or when his doctor gives him the bad news about his heart, leading to this pricelessly arch bit of dialogue: "Listen Doc, give it to me straight...is it the big casino?"



Blu-ray Special Features:

· Commentary by Frank Sinatra Jr. and Angie Dickinson

· Las Vegas Then and Now Vignettes

· Theatrical trailers



ROBIN AND THE 7 HOODS (1964)



Since 1960's OCEAN'S 11 had been such a lark for the Rat Pack, some of them got together again four years later with director Gordon Douglas for the lighthearted crime spoof ROBIN AND THE 7 HOODS. But as we learn from Frank Sinatra, Jr.'s commentary--which, once again, serves as an absolutely invaluable first-hand account--this breezy musical about rival gangs in Prohibition-era Chicago was overshadowed not only by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who was Frank Sinatra's personal friend, but also by the five-day kidnapping of Frank, Jr. himself in Lake Tahoe, California.

While much of the movie is breezy fun, it's apparent in several scenes that Papa Frank's heart just isn't in it. Still, he musters what he can as "good guy" crime kingpin Robbo, the lone holdout when rival boss Guy Gisborne (Peter Falk) rubs out the current big cheese Big Jim (Edward G. Robinson in a brief cameo) and demands all the other bosses line up behind him. Robbo's refusal results in the opposing bosses hitting each other's speakeasies in a frenzy of mutual destruction.

Enter Big Jim's daughter Marian, played by a gorgeous Barbara Rush, who offers Robbo a hefty sum to eliminate the man who killed her father. Robbo instead donates the cash to an orphanage, thus gaining a citywide reputation as the new "Robin Hood." This new image suits him so he starts giving a cut of all his proceeds to charity, while Marian, whose intentions go beyond mere revenge, seeks the aid of any man who'll respond to her seductive advances to make a power grab. Meanwhile, Guy Gisborne continues in his efforts to bring down Robbo both violently and by trying to get him sent up the river on trumped-up counterfeiting charges.


As an old-style gangster comedy, ROBIN AND THE 7 HOODS is about on the same level as BUGSY MALONE or the "A Piece of the Action" episode of "Star Trek", only with better production values. Some of the transitions into the song-and-dance numbers are awkward, to say the least, with Falk's number coming off as particularly ear-bending despite his giving it the old college try (fortunately, the rest of his comic performance is a delight).

Dino, who plays Robbo's partner Little John, fares better with his jaunty pool-hustling tune "Any Man Who Loves His Mother", and Sammy's energetic shoot-em-up number "Bang! Bang!" is a real blast. Frank, in his best moment in the film, seems to forget his troubles for a bit when he gets to croon his classic ode to Chicago, "My Kind of Town."

Another plus for the production is the presence of the venerable Bing Crosby as Allen A. Dale, an overaged "orphan" who joins Robbo's crew in order to help coordinate his charitable activities. Bing does a wonderful soft-shoe number with the boys back at the orphanage entitled "Don't Be a Do Badder!" (the lyrics are cringeworthy but Bing manages to sell them), then joins in another fun song-and-dance sequence with Frank and Dean, "You've Either Got or You Haven't Got Style", which is unique for having all three of these major singing stars together at one time.


A gaggle of wonderfully rough-looking character actors fill the supporting roles as well as some familiar names such as Victor Buono, Hans Conried, Robert Foulk, Richard Bakalyan, Billy Curtis, and Sig Ruman. A chorus line of flappers performing the number "Charlotte Couldn't Charleston" is led by none other than legendary singer-dancer-choreographer Toni Basil of "Mickey" fame, who would co-star in VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS a year later and go on to appear in the counterculture classic EASY RIDER in '69.

While the story tends to drag a bit here and there, and the songs aren't always top-notch, ROBIN AND THE 7 HOODS is still an enjoyable enough gangster spoof and one of the last of the old wave of Hollywood musicals. It's a shame that the conditions under which it was made so dampened the spirits of those involved, especially its star, Frank Sinatra, resulting in a movie whose lightheartedness comes off as noticeably strained.



Blu-ray Special Features:

· Commentary by Frank Sinatra Jr.

· Vintage featurette "What They Did to Robin Hood"

· 1939 WB Cartoon "Robin Hood Makes Good" – New to Home Entertainment

· 1949 WB Cartoon "Rabbit Hood"

· 1958 WB Cartoon "Robin Hood Daffy"

· Theatrical trailer

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(Pictures shown are not stills from the actual discs.)

Buy it at the offical WB Shop

Street date: May 5, 2015



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Monday, April 27, 2015

Live from Tribeca 2015: Arnold Schwarzenegger Predicted the Future of the Film Industry (Interview Excerpts)



From Indiewire.com:

Arnold Schwarzenegger Explains How He Predicted the Film Industry's Future


In Maggie, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the downbeat parent of a teenager (Abigail Breslin) bitten by a zombie. Spending most of the movie caring for ailing girl and anticipating her death, Schwarzenegger's character in director Henry Hobson's debut is far different from others he's played in the past. That extends to the movie as well; opening day-and-date in the U.S. on May 9, Maggie marks a much smaller production than anything the actor has done before. But Schwarzenegger said that the movie gels with the way he's worked for years.

In New York for the film's premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, he spoke Indiewire Deputy Editor Eric Kohn about his history with independent productions, his thoughts on the state of special effects, how he predicted the globalization of the film industry decades ago, how OJ Simpson was originally slated to be the Terminator and how Oliver Stone's script for Conan was originally budgeted for $78 million - in 1980!


Below, please find select excerpts; for the entire interview, visit: http://www.indiewire.com/article/arnold-schwarzenegger-explains-how-he-predicted-the-film-industrys-future-20150423


How do you usually choose your projects?

Most of the jobs I've done, I've gotten them myself, and then agents make the deal. People come up to me in restaurants and say, "Arnold, I've got this great script." They send you stuff. They give you stuff in the gym. For Eraser, I was hanging out with Lorenzo di Bonaventura. I was sitting on a chairlift in Sun Valley. It is snowing. The snow is coming down. You can't even see three feet in front of you. And we're taking off in the chairlift to go skiing together. The chairlift takes off and he goes, "By the way, Arnold." He pulls the script out for Eraser and gives it to me. He says, "Put it in your jacket, read it, I'm here this whole weekend." That's normally the way it happens. There's no agent, no nothing. That's how the Terminator thing happened - Mike Medavoy coming up to me after a movie and going, "Arnold, you have to play Reese. We have OJ Simpson as the Terminator." Of course, it all changed later.

How do you think the film industry has changed since you first hit it big?

To me, the important thing is that my movies can play anywhere and people will understand the drama, the action, or whatever and get entertained....It has to play the same way in all the different continents. That's very important - from the beginning, when I was getting started, I always looked at everything in a global way, whether it was body-building or fitness promotion. Even though I passed environmental laws in California, I was thinking about how to make it effective all over the world. It's always about the world.

With movies, even though I had big fights in the beginning, I remember that with Universal Studios we were going to do promotion for Conan the Barbarian and I said, "Let's go to 10 countries." They said, "No, no, that's not how we do it. We visit three countries - England, France, and the Cannes Film Festival " I wanted to go to Italy, Germany, Japan. I kept at it and eventually they sent me to 10 countries, but they thought it was a little out there. They said, "This guy just likes to travel around." But it had nothing to do with traveling around. I thought that the world was the marketplace, not just America.

Now look what happened. I was totally on the money. I'm so happy today because I was so right and way ahead of the curve. Now, in China, The Fast and the Furious made like $400 million and will end up making more over there than in America. China's right behind America. So the world is very important for box office and making big movies. You need to go to China, Japan, African nations. You need to go to these places and make sure they're building theaters all over the world. It's a world economy.


Special effects have gone through incredible changes since you first started out. But sometimes they overwhelm the story. Does that ever bother you?

It seems to me that visual effects are very welcome. For instance, if the T-1000 and the T-800 have a fight scene, and you want to go beyond just pushing each other around like it's a UFC fight - which we see all the time on television - you can only do that with visual effects. I cannot tell the story without that ability to grab you, throw you by your head up against the ceiling so you land in this wooden floor, and since you weigh 1,000 pounds, each time you hit the wooden floor it goes down to the next room. That's the power you have. Otherwise it becomes a UFC fight where human beings are hitting the floor. People don't want to see that. They want to see a machine do it. What does that look like? For that you need visual effects.

For example, there's one scene [in Terminator: Genisys] where he grabs me and throws me up against the wall, 15 feet up, to show the power these machines have. So it's a different type of fight scene. The only way that's possible is with visual effects. So it shouldn't take anything away. If you use it wisely, I think it's great.

For instance, on Conan, Oliver Stone wrote a scene with the Tree of Woe. We had to take that scene out because that scene alone cost $20 million. His script was budgeted at $78 million - in 1980! Only because it was impossible to be done in those days as a visual effects. Today you can do it just like that. You can create a scene that is so spectacular, to show what this tree does, why everyone is so frightened of it that they couldn't get through. It was a really well-written scene but you couldn't shoot it in those days. That's why I think visual effects are great, but when it's not that kind of a scene, you have to get back down to acting and developing the characters. I've seen it myself firsthand on action movies how directors and producers don't pay as much attention to the development of the characters because they focus so much on the big stuff. James Cameron is the only one I've seen who's really so good in the details of the scene but also with the big things. He doesn't compromise one versus the other.




About Indiewire®

Indiewire® is the leading news, information, and networking site for independent-minded filmmakers, the industry and moviegoers alike, Indiewire launched on July 15, 1996 and re-launched with a bold new approach on January 12, 2009 from new parent company SnagFilms. Two-time winner of the Webby Award for best film website (most recently, in 2012), Indiewire was lauded as a "must read" by Variety, branded the "online heartbeat of the world's independent film community" by Forbes, and dubbed "best indie crossroads" by film critic Roger Ebert.
 


For more in-depth Indiewire coverage on the premieres and personalities at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, visit: http://www.indiewire.com/category/festivals/

 

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