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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

LA NAVAJA DE DON JUAN -- Movie Review by Porfle



Often the phrase "coming-of-age story" conjures up images of guys like Jonah Hill running around drunk in their underwear, trying to get laid but ending up having sex with a large fruit-filled pastry.  Or something like that. 

Which is just fine, of course, but thank goodness it doesn't always mean that.  Sometimes it means something much more realistic, thoughtful, and heartfelt like first-time writer/director Tom Sanchez' LA NAVAJA DE DON JUAN (Indican Pictures, 2015).

La navaja, or "folding blade knife", is passed down to eldest son Mario Alfaro (Rodrigo Viaggio) from his father, a policeman killed in the line of duty.  Mario's younger brother Walter (Juan Carlos Montoya) wants the knife for himself and finally wins it in an armwrestling match.  This helps to make up for the fact that Walter deeply envies horndogger Mario's ease with the female sex, since he himself is hampered by shyness and a general sense of insecurity.


When a girl named Pamela invites Walter to a party on the other side of town, his grandmother will allow him to go only if Mario accompanies him.  Mario will go only if he can either have the first dance with Pamela or get his knife back.  Their journey to the party is perilous and fraught with misfortune, as the entire first half of the film consists of them eluding gangs of young punks, dealing with aggressive hookers, and having ill luck with various modes of transportation. 

When they finally arrive, Walter attempts to overcome his shyness with Pamela while Mario's penchant for having several concurrent girlfriends catches up with him.  Also catching up with the two brothers are some violent thugs who have unfinished business with them, resulting in some intense and potentially deadly confrontations that threaten to spin out of control.

While covering some of the same ground as other coming-of-age stories, LA NAVAJA DE DON JUAN is gripping and consistently engaging in its naturalistic style and non-contrived situations, much of which Tom Sanchez gleaned from his boyhood recollections of stories told to him by his father and uncle in Peru.  The humor is similarly true to life and emerges naturally from the characters and situations without ever going over the top.


Best of all is the genuine warmth generated by Sanchez' screenplay which colorfully describes the rocky, warts-and-all relationships between the brothers and their family, a grandmother (Irma Maury) and uncle (Antonio Arrué) who have raised them, and their equally turbulent dealings with various guy and girl friends which should be easily relatable for most viewers.

Sanchez also succeeds in giving us a nostalgia-hued view of his native city of Lima, Peru and its people, making them an essential element in the story.  (Dialogue is in Spanish with English subtitles.)  Technically, the film displays the skill and confidence he's gained from his years as a journeyman in TV and short film production as well as a generally keen instinct for filmmaking.

Performances are fine, especially from the two leads. The rest of the characters are well-cast with a particularly good performance by Claudia Solís as a young hooker named Candy with whom Mario becomes deeply involved for better or worse.


The brothers come through their life-changing experience with no grand finale or shattering epiphany, but with new insights into their own lives and heritage.  The knife itself is, of course, symbolic of a number of things including the double-edged nature of life and love. The rest of it you'll want to interpret for yourself if you decide to watch LA NAVAJA DE DON JUAN, which I recommend as one "coming-of-age" story that really does justice to the term.




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KISS ME KATE -- Movie Review by Porfle



KISS ME KATE (1953) is a fairly staid, traditional musical that's occasionally buoyed by a new wave of imaginative up-and-coming performers--such as the young Bob Fosse (soon to be a major choreographer himself) and Bobby Van--who were eager to infuse the art form with fresh, unconventional ideas and youthful enthusiasm. 

The sometimes bland story and execution are also carried along, at times almost singlehandedly, by that irrepressible force of nature known as Ann Miller.

The movie begins in the penthouse of Broadway actor and director Fred Graham (Howard Keel) who invites Cole Porter (Ron Randall) and his volatile ex-wife Lilli (Kathryn Grayson) over to look at a new script he wants to produce which is a musical version of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew."  What we're in for, as you might guess, will be a stage production which will parallel in many ways the temptestuous relationship and eventual reconciliation of Fred and Lilli, with plenty of song and dance numbers squeezed in along the way.


Just as this first section begins to drag a bit, Ann Miller (playing a dancer with the unlikely name of Lois Lane) comes in and blows the doors off the place with an incredible solo performance of "Too Darn Hot" that sets the bar high for the rest of the film.  There was just never anything like her that I've ever seen in any musical--unlimited charm, energy, and blazing talent coupled with a seemingly insatiable desire to show it off.  Not to mention an utterly uninhibited, sexy charm that you simply don't see every day. 

Her appearances throughout the film are like B-12 shots that enliven and invigorate things whenever Howard and Kathryn's mildly amusing romantic conflicts grow a tad tiresome.  Joining her in this is athletic hoofer Tommy Rall as her unreliable boyfriend Bill, another dynamo whose powerful dancing is augmented by gymnastic moves. 

Bill, we find, is a gambling addict who tends to sign Fred's name to his I.O.U.'s, resulting in Fred being visited by a couple of thugs named Lippy and Slug who are  played by the unlikely song-and-dance team of Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore.  When they refuse to leave until they're paid, Fred gets them into costume and puts them into the show, which gives KISS ME KATE some of its more endearing comedy relief. 


The stage production itself tends to slow things down when too much attention is paid to actually doing bad Shakespeare.  However, things pick up when Fred and Lilli's personal problems start to get played out during the performance. 

Most of Cole Porter's songs are top-notch as usual, as is the choreography by Hermes Pan.  The sets are attractive and photographed in vivid Technicolor.  Filmed in 3D (but released as the fad began to wane and thus distributed mostly in 2D), the action is filled with people throwing things at the camera throughout the entire running time.  The cast is terrific, including small parts by "Pete Smith" regular Dave O'Brien, Kurt Kasznar, and Ann Codee, who was "Tante Berthe" in THE MUMMY'S CURSE.

Highlights include Keel and Grayson's duets on songs such as "So in Love" and "Wunderbar", Keel's solos on "Were Thine That Special Face", "I've Come to Wive it Wealthily in Padua", and "Where Is the Life That Late I Led", and a couple of delightful numbers by Ann Miller and Tommy Rall, "Why Can't You Behave" and "Always True to You in My Fashion." 


Wynn and Whitmore even get into the act with their two-left-feet schlubfest "Brush Up Your Shakespeare."  Grayson's main moment in the show, which the shrewish Lilli performs with conviction, is the song "I Hate Men."

For the lengthy showstopper number "From This Moment On", which comes before the story's inevitable happy ending, director George Sidney treats us to Ann Miller, Tommy Rall, Bob Fosse, Bobby Van, and Carol Haney in a dazzling exhibition of dance in which they were allowed to incorporate much of their own personal style into the choreography. 

This is one of the most thrilling sequences in the film and, among other things, reaffirmed my newfound admiration for Ann Miller.  (I can't wait to see my old favorite ON THE TOWN again in which she co-stars with the likes of Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Vera-Ellen, and Jules Munchin.)

While not as fresh and fun as SINGIN' IN THE RAIN or as sophisticated and insouciant as THE BAND WAGON, KISS ME KATE still remains one of old Hollywood's most solid, lavish, enjoyable musicals from the glory days of MGM.




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Monday, December 28, 2015

THE ABANDONED (2015) -- Movie Review by Porfle



A young, down-on-her-luck woman named "Streak" (Louisa Krause, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE) gets a job as a security guard in a massive, creepy, shadowy old Gothic-looking building in the heart of the city in THE ABANDONED (2015).

It's the graveyard shift, of course, and the building's creepiness factor is through it's own roof.  So naturally, when Streak discovers a mysterious labyrinth of ominous, dimly-lit passageways hidden behind a locked iron door in the basement, a door she's told she isn't supposed to enter, the first thing she does is break the lock and start wandering around down there. 

As she makes her way deeper and deeper into this moldering maze of dark hallways, I'm thinking "What the hell is she doing there?"  Streak just seems a little too willing to instantly start blundering into the scariest parts of the building right off the bat. 



Personally, I wouldn't begin a thorough, curiosity-satisfying exploration of such areas until at least, oh, never.  But we're supposed to believe that this sensitive, wounded woman--whom we know is seriously troubled and on some kind of mental medication while struggling to maintain custody of her daughter--has the steel nerves of a Van Helsing, or at least a Karl Kolchak.

True, people in scary movies are supposed to do dumb things, but it would've helped if she'd had a more compelling reason to be wandering around in the middle of perhaps the creepiest spot in the entire state besides a sudden curiosity.

And when REALLY scary things started happening, things that would have me climbing the walls in sheer, gibbering terror, I kept thinking "Why isn't she freaking out?"



Anyway, these scenes can't help but generate some chills, especially when there's a loud jump scare every few minutes or so.  And thanks to Streak's current mental state, we're never quite sure if those fleeting, misshapen figures in the shadows beyond her flashlight are real or imagined.  What she eventually discovers (which I won't go into because, well, spoilers) is meant to be terrifying although it never really quite did it for me.

Streak's co-worker, Cooper (Jason Patric, THE LOST BOYS, WALKER PAYNE), is a jaded old-timer in the job who prefers to sit behind the monitor screens and watch rather than rush into danger (which he'll end up having to do, of course).  Patric has matured into a really solid character actor since I first saw him in the 80s, and much of the film's success is thanks to his performance. 

Louisa Krause does what she can with her sketchy character, which involves a lot of screaming and crying before it's over.  As a homeless guy who begs to be let into the building to pass the cold night, iconic actor Mark Margolis (SCARFACE, BLACK SWAN) is on hand to make us wonder whether or not he's behind any of the weird stuff that's going on.


Before it's over, THE ABANDONED piles on the weird stuff with a vengeance, and some of it can't help but be rather spooky.  But it takes a certain finesse for a movie like this to really scare me, and it's lacking here.  The story does take a surprising turn at the end, however, and it's almost enough to make some sense of what just happened even as it leaves us scratching our heads after the fadeout.



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Saturday, December 26, 2015

THE BAND WAGON -- Movie Review by Porfle



With THE BAND WAGON (1953) we get a taste of casual elegance and class a la Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, but with plenty of lowbrow comedy to even things out. This seemed to be Astaire's specialty--impossibly suave and debonair one moment, comically self-effacing the next, but always just plain cool without even trying. 

Cyd Charisse, although often seen as a slinky seductress (as in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN and THE BAND WAGON'S own elaborate finale), was also a graceful ballet dancer at heart and could put those long, willowy limbs of hers to use in the most elegant fashion.  She was, to me, rivaled only by Esther Williams as the most beautiful of musical stars.

Here, the emphasis is on pure song-and-dance numbers and big-production indulgence splashed in vivid Technicolor--"musical porn", one might say--with a slender plot to hang it all on.  Astaire plays washed-up Hollywood actor Tony Hunter, who has returned to New York in hopes of getting work on Broadway. 


His writer friends, married couple Lily and Lester Marton (an ebullient Nanette Fabray and endearingly grumpy Oscar Levant acting as surrogates for writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green), introduce him to eccentric producer Jeffrey Cordova (Jack Buchanan), who plunges Tony into the lead role of his grievously ill-conceived musical version of "Faust." 

The play is a disaster, but while still on the road all the participants decide to totally overhaul it into a splashy, fun romp with all-new songs and dance numbers which they'll try out on the road before taking it back to New York.  And aside from the requisite love story, with Astaire falling for the initially aloof primadonna Charisse while she still carries a fading torch for someone else, that's the extent of the plot--just a dazzling succession of unrestrained musical exuberance that lives up to the film's signature theme song, "That's Entertainment."

With Vincente Minelli (MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS) at the helm and a gaggle of delightful songs by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, watching THE BAND WAGON is like savoring a slice of seven-layer cake washed down with bubbling champagne.  It's the classic backstage musical, with even the "real-life" settings coming off like stylized stage backdrops and a story that never takes itself too seriously--at least after Cyd's glum would-be boyfriend Paul (James Mitchell) makes an early exit.


Astaire's melancholy opening number "By Myself" (look for actor Steve Forrest as an extra) gives way to a colorfully idealized Times Square setting for the breezy "Shine On Your Shoes", a delightful romp in which the downcast Tony Hunter lifts his own spirits with the help of his fellow New Yorkers.  Tony and Gaby (Cyd Charisse) overcome their initial stylistic and personality conflicts with a sleek, romantic dance interlude in Central Park to "Dancing in the Dark." 

Cordova's "Faust" debacle yields some fun moments, but it's when the troup decide to bounce back with a newer, better show under Tony's direction that the fun really starts.  The always dynamic Charisse performs "New Sun in the Sky", Fabray's talents are showcased in "Louisiana Hayride", and Astaire and Buchanan duet on the simple but sweet soft-shoe ditty "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan."  For pure hilarity, nothing beats the sight of Astaire, Fabray, and Buchanan as babies with adult heads and infant bodies (a wonderful illusion), bounding out of their high chairs to pound out the supremely silly "Triplets." 

The extended stage-show-within-the-movie ends with a lengthy Mickey Spillane-style segment entitled "Girl Hunt", with Astaire as a private detective named Rod Riley dancing his way through the shadowy criminal underworld in search of mystery woman Charisse.  (Look for a young Julie Newmar in a bit part.)  The whole thing's way too complicated and cinematic to be a stage number, but we don't really care since, aside from being just plain nutty, it's a thrilling performance by the leads with some of their most jazzy and sophisticatedly sexy dancing yet. 


Naturally, everything turns out okay in the end, with all romantic and showbiz-related complications settled just in time for the cast to reprise "That's Entertainment!" with renewed vigor.  As a story, the whole thing's paper thin and loaded with all the old "let's put on a show!" cliche's that could be stuffed into it.  But neither Vincent Minelli, Fred Astaire, nor anyone else involved let any of that stop them from turning THE BAND WAGON into a non-stop celebration of music and dance that has become one of the most beloved musicals of all time. 




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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

POPOVICH AND THE VOICE OF THE FABLED AMERICAN WEST -- Movie Review by Porfle



Gregory Popovich is (a) an animal lover, and (b) one of the best juggler/acrobat/street performers I've ever seen. And his movie, POPOVICH AND THE VOICE OF THE FABLED AMERICAN WEST (2014) is such a kindhearted, well-meaning little doo-dad that I don't have the heart to say anything negative about it, so I'm only going to say nice things.  (Pretty much.)

Popovich plays a lovable panhandler on the dusty backstreets of Las Vegas, eking out a living by performing with his beloved kitty cat and doggy co-stars while competing for the dollars of passersby with some meanies such as Space Mime (co-writer/director Mike Thompson)--the only mime bully I've ever seen anywhere--and his dorky samurai sword-wielding cohorts, who steal his hard-earned cash at the point of a switchblade. 

Back home in the junkyard where he lives in a derelict trailer with several more strays that he cares for, Popovich is served notice by a sympathetic city employee, Candace (Melody Melendez), that he's in violation of one of those busybody city ordinances about having too many pets and is going to have to either get rid of most of them or come up with some serious cash.


(I can identify with that because the same thing happened to me once and it was no fun at all, let me tell you.)

Already we can see that Popovich and the film's writer-directors, Jerry and Mike Thompson, are going for some Chaplinesque pathos here.  Their goal to replicate the old silent film comedies with their star clown acting as a Chaplin or Keaton equivalent is clear from the start as well.  When Popovich stumbles his way into a menial job at a theater later on, his bumbling interactions with the various performers and business types have a kind of THE CIRCUS quality to them.  Unfortunately, they also get him thrown out on his ear.

(I won't mention the fact that the documentary-style handheld camerawork and editing don't lend themselves to this kind of comedy very well, or that the music tends to clash with the action.)

A competition amongst fellow street performers for a grand prize is a highlight which gives Popovich his first chance to really show us his stuff, which is considerable--in fact, whenever this incredibly talented individual and his lovable (and amazing) performing pets are given free rein the movie becomes quite wonderful for awhile.


I even have to hand it to Space Mime, his main competitor, who has an act which involves standing in front of a screen with moving images projected around him with which he interacts in thoroughly impressive fashion.  As Steve Martin used to say, "Hey...this guy's good."  (But his samurai sword-wielding cohorts, not so much.  Chopping fruit in half in mid-air gets old real quick.) 

In other scenes, Popovich must contend with his crabby neighbor whose morning newspaper tends to get chewed up by the clown's various canine associates.  In fact, he's the one who sics the law on our lovable hero.  But wouldn't you know it--both that guy and our old nemesis Space Mime turn out to be not so bad by the end.  This movie just doesn't have the heart to give the bad guys their comeuppance, turning them into good guys instead.  That's kind of nice, as it turns out.

And back at that theater, Antonio Fargas, who used to play "Huggy Bear" on "Starsky and Hutch" way back in the 70s, discovers that Popovich's comic bumbling during his latest theatrical production was actually the hit of the show and tries to get him back.  How this all turns out, with the added excitement of a big fire in which Popovich and his pets must come to the rescue of Huggy Bear--I mean, Antonio--and a gaggle of caged animals, leads to the heartwarming finale.


And heartwarming it is.  Enough, in fact, to make up for any deficiencies this film may have had up until then.  Good spirits prevail as Popovich and his performing animals put on their most impressive show yet, and I even found myself getting a little misty-eyed there for a minute.  So put aside your reservations and watch POPOVICH AND THE VOICE OF THE FABLED AMERICAN WEST the way a kid would watch it, and you might find yourself enjoying it the way a kid would.

(P.S. A closing credits footnote informs us that all the animals in the film were rescued from shelters and that only positive training is used by Popovich, who owns them all himself, which gave me even more nice feels toward the movie.  Now excuse me while I wipe this speck of dust out of my eye.) 

Buy it at Amazon.com

Tech Specs
Runtime: 90 minutes
Format: 1:85:1 HD
Genre: Comedy
Sound: Surround
Country: USA
Language: English
Website: www.popovichmovie.com



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AXE / KIDNAPPED COED -- Blu-ray + CD Review by Porfle



Sometimes a disc falls into my hot little hands which is an all-round cinematic experience in itself, and goes beyond simply watching a movie or two and some extras. Severin Films' new 2-disc set, AXE/KIDNAPPED COED (one Blu-ray disc, one soundtrack CD) is just such a heady film-fan experience. 

Representing the entire filmic output of 70s independent writer/producer/actor/director Frederick R. Friedel (save for an obscure 2000 comedy called MY NEXT FUNERAL), it's a saga of how someone with a little money and a lot of talent made his mark in the regional movie industry, had his films robbed from him by a crooked distributor, and finally found a "rainbow at the end of the storm" decades later when his work was rediscovered by a whole new audience of fervidly appreciative fans.

Watching the first film, AXE, aka "Lisa, Lisa" (1974), my initial impression was that this guy Friedel is one of those creative talents who can take the kind of budget and resources usually reserved for the lowest drive-in dregs and work a kind of rough-hewn magic with them.  Even as the film's look and feel still have that unavoidable bottom-drawer ambience, there's something sharply intelligent about the camerawork and editing, as well as performances by a uniformly fine cast, which elevates it all into a much higher realm of watchability.


Two plotlines are introduced which will eventually intertwine--in one, three gangsters are on the lam after having dispatched some unlucky mug in his cheap hotel room, in luridly violent fashion.  Jack Canon plays Steele, the icily psychotic leader, Ray Green the equally sadistic thug Lomax, and Friedel himself is Billy, a novice criminal still hampered by a nagging conscience.  After the murder, they disappear into the North Carolina backwoods to find a place to lay low for awhile.

This brings them into a collision with plotline number two, in which a curiously disaffected young girl named Lisa (Leslie Lee) is the sole caretaker for her catatonic grandfather (Douglas Powers) in a remote two-storey farmhouse.  Scarcely into her teens, Lisa already seems shell-shocked by life, and barely reacts when Steele, Lomax, and Billy forcibly invite themselves to stay. 

While Lisa's deceptively placid countenance hides a fierce inner turmoil, the evil men now invading her life force her to take overt actions to defend herself.  This comes to a head when Lomax enters her bedroom at night with bad intent, and Lisa displays an aptitude for slicing and dicing heretofore reserved for chickens.

 
This is where AXE starts to live up to its lurid trailers and print ads (which scream the tagline "At last...total terror!"), with winsome nutcase Lisa wielding a straight razor and an axe in bloody fashion without ever breaking that strangely calm but troubled fascade.  Still, the film is never in the same league as THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (alternate titles include CALIFORNIA AXE MASSACRE and THE VIRGIN SLAUGHTER) nor does it try to be.  It's mainly a compelling and pleasingly morbid character study with splashes of gore but little that could be called "graphic", although that didn't stop it from being condemned as one of England's infamous "video nasties" of the 80s.

As for the cast, the leads couldn't be better.  Leslie Lee is an ideal Lisa, pretty but strange, her sad face always interesting to look at as you wonder what the heck's going on behind it.  As Steele, Jack Canon is a classic big-screen tough guy that you just can't look away from.  He'd have been perfect as the lead in one of those tacky 70s or 80s TV cop shows like "Hunter"--as it is, one can only wonder why he never went farther as an actor.  Ray Green's bloated Lomax is sleaze personified, and Friedel himself, bearded and Brillo-haired, is a convincingly conflicted Billy who ends up trying to help Lisa. 

As a director, Friedel takes his time and lingers artistically over every sequence as much as the brisk shooting schedule allowed, drawing out every nuance of visual interest possible while admittedly playing fast and loose with the script.  An early scene of Steele and Lomax terrorizing a poor convenience store clerk (Carole Miller) is like a foretaste of Oliver Stone's NATURAL BORN KILLERS.  Never one to rely on sheer exploitation, Friedel shoots this and Lisa's rape scene later in the film--as well as the subsequent killings--not just as visceral exploitation but as an opportunity to indulge in a form of raw cinematic poetry.


Wanting to fully explore the potential he saw in Jack Canon during the making of AXE, Friedel then concocted the entire screeplay for his follow-up film KIDNAPPED COED, aka "Kidnapped Lover" (1976) around the actor's charismatic appeal.  Thus, Canon appears in almost every single scene and makes the most of his screen time with a performance that should've been a ticket to broader fame.

Equally compelling is young Leslie Ann Rivers as ginger-haired, bespectacled Sandra, a well-to-do teenage "coed" whom small-time crook Eddie Matlock (Canon) abducts in hopes of a big ransom.  Both actors have faces that are fascinating to look at and naturalistic acting styles that bring their characters to life. 

Friedel has a bigger budget here (around $40,000) which allows for more elaborate camera moves and other relative indulgences that really pay off in the movie's look and style.  Again, he takes plenty of time for character development as the two leads get to know each other and gradually even form a tentative romantic relationship, all done in a series of quirky exchanges taking place during some wildly unexpected situations.


These include a brutal, Scorsese-esque sequence in which both are attacked in their seedy hotel room by a couple of violent thugs who force their way in at gunpoint so that they can beat up Eddie and rape the horrified Sandra in another scene that's stunningly executed.  Continuing the theme that this just isn't his day, Eddie later encounters unfriendly shotgun-wielding farmers while simply trying to get water for his car radiator, and finally ends up in a life-or-death struggle against another bearish farmer who has just welcomed him and Sandra into his home before suddenly going pitchfork-wielding berserk. 

As all this happens to them, Eddie and Sandra's relationship wanders through different stages as the film itself passes, with varying degrees of finesse, through such disparate genres as thriller, horror, action, character drama, quirky romance, and even comedy.  Friedel admits in the commentary that he doesn't even remember whether or not there was a written screenplay for the film, but this only contributes to its off-kilter charm.  Mainly, though, it's Canon and Rivers that keep our eyes glued to this wildly uneven but compelling little film right up to its abrupt and somewhat anti-climactic ending.

The full story surrounding these two films from conception to oblivion (and, lucky for us, joyous rediscovery) is recounted in the hour-long bonus documentary "At Last… Total Terror! – The Incredible True Story of AXE & KIDNAPPED COED", which sees the warm reunion of Friedel and several key members of his production team who also gather to provide excellent commentary tracks for both films.


"Moose Magic – The George Newman Shaw & John Willhelm Story" (38 mins) tells of the two young musical geniuses who scored the films shortly before their tragic demise in a car accident.  Shining lights in the Charlotte, North Carolina music scene, these wonderfully creative and eclectic musicians contributed some offbeat, often minimalistic tracks to AXE and KIDNAPPED COED that are preserved in this set's second disc, a music CD which also includes several bonus tracks of the duo's non-movie-related jazz compositions that provide scintillating listening. 

A ten-minute interview with author Stephen Thrower ("Nightmare USA"), who helped bring Friedel and his films to the attention of new audiences, is followed by several trailers and TV spots for them. 

No doubt the oddest of all the bonus features is the full-length feature film BLOODY BROTHERS, which is actually a later re-edit by Friedel of both AXE and KIDNAPPED COED into one strange, disjointed narrative in which Jack Canon's "Steele" and "Eddie Matlock" characters are presented as identical twins unaware of each other's existence.  Their unrelated stories are intercut with little rhyme or reason, while recurring intertitles tell us that the two are gradually drawing closer to one another ("Five miles away", "One mile away", "1/2 mile away", etc.)


Since we know they'll never meet, we wonder what this is all leading up to, if anything. The main interest is seeing which scenes Friedel decides to include and how he cross-edits them, as well as what he leaves out, including the entire subplot of Eddie and his mom.  There's one scene that's entirely new, which shows Eddie on the beach performing a Jewish prayer ceremony even though he isn't Jewish.

This interesting oddity comes with another winning commentary track by Stephen Thrower. I really can't say how it would play for someone who hasn't already seen the two films on their own. 

Severin Films has restored AXE and KIDNAPPED COED from the original negatives (rescuing these from movie purgatory is part of the main documentary's gripping story) for this HD Blu-ray release, which is in 1.85:1 widescreen and mono sound.  No subtitles. 

AXE, KIDNAPPED COED, and their bastard sibling BLOODY BROTHERS, along with the abundance of extras that go along with them, add up to several hours of movie watching that are engrossing, enriching, and just plain fun.  It's all very satisfying in an exploitation vein, but not only that, Friedel's low-budget films are small-scale artistic wonders which yield all sorts of aesthetic rewards and make one wish he'd done more before being soured on the business. Rather than "so bad, they're good", his films are actually so good, they're great.

Buy it at Amazon.com:
Blu-ray
DVD

Stills used are not taken from the Blu-ray.



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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

100+ Santa Sightings all over the World with Tim Conway



Santa Claus is being tracked and caught on film with the family friendly website iSpotSanta.com starting December 1st and going all the way to Christmas Day. You can only find these Santa videos, pictures and more with the “25 Days of Santa” from the entertainment site iSpotSanta.com from Pasquale Murena, creator of the site.

THIS YEAR’S SPECIAL ATTRACTION: Six time Emmy winner, comedian/actor Tim Conway appears in comedy sketches as “Dorf” the elf, helping Santa Claus in his workshop and causing havok. Tim's hilarous work on "The Carol Burnett Show" and "Dorf on Golf" videos are rekindled this Christmas seaon.


PLUS, You’ll enjoy new comedy sketches featuring Internet sensations Chip & Bernie and Puppets from the North Pole Newsroom they spot Santa Claus in comedy sketches that children of all ages enjoy.

OVER 100 SANTA VIDEOS: Site visitors will see Santa at the North Pole, France, Germany, Rome, New York, England, Australia, Japan, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, the Pyramids in Egypt and many more. “You are never too old to believe in Santa and the Spirit of Christmas,” Pasquale Murena said with a trinkle in his eye.

http://ispotsanta.com/


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Monday, December 21, 2015

"DA VINCI'S DEMONS: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON" Arriving Jan 4th on Digital HD and Jan 26 on Blu-ray and DVD



DESTRUCTION WAS NOT HIS DESIGN

ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT RELEASES
“DA VINCI’S DEMONS:
THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON”

ON BLU-RAY™ AND DVD JANUARY 26, 2016
DIGITAL HD AVAILABLE JANUARY 4, 2016


Beverly Hills, CA – Get ready for the explosive final chapter of one of the most ambitious and thrilling series of all time. Anchor Bay Entertainment releases the third season of the critically acclaimed Starz Original series, “DA VINCI’S DEMONS: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON,” on Blu-ray™ and DVD on January 26th. The complete third season plus bonus releases on Digital HD on January 4, 2016, one week after the finale, via Starz Digital.  From Creator and Executive Producer David S. Goyer (Blade, The Dark Knight, Man of Steel), comes the conclusion of the historical fantasy series that focuses on a young Leonardo da Vinci as he struggles with his inner demons and outside forces in a battle to shape the future. This is a story of the first true “Renaissance man” in a provocative series that the Hollywood Reporter calls “endlessly fascinating.” SRP is $54.99 for the Blu-ray™ and $44.98 for the DVD. Pre-book is December 16th.

“DA VINCI’S DEMONS: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON” shows Leonardo da Vinci's world as it comes crashing down when the city of Otranto is torn apart by an Ottoman invasion. On the battlefield, the Turks use da Vinci’s own weapons against him…the designs for which were stolen by someone he trusted. This betrayal will haunt Leo long after the battle is decided, as will the deaths of loved ones lost in the fighting. When Rome instigates a Crusade against the Turks, he seizes the opportunity to join, but his mission is complicated by a series of grisly murders that terrorize Italy and threaten the Crusade itself.                                                  

“DA VINCI’S DEMONS: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON” features BAFTA award-winner Tom Riley as tortured genius Leonardo da Vinci and co-stars Laura Haddock, Blake Ritson, Elliot Cowan, Lara Pulver and James Faulkner as both Pope Sixtus IV and The Prisoner.

Here is the epic conclusion to the historical thrill ride that fans and critics have been waiting for.

About Anchor Bay Entertainment
Anchor Bay Entertainment is a leading independent home entertainment company celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2015. Anchor Bay acquires and releases a wide array of filmed entertainment in the theatrical and home entertainment markets, including STARZ Original series, children's entertainment, fitness (Anchor Bay Fitness), sports and specialty films on Blu-ray™ and DVD formats. The company has long-term distribution agreements in place for select programming with The Weinstein Company, AMC Networks and RADiUS, among others. Headquartered in Beverly Hills, CA, Anchor Bay Entertainment (www.anchorbayentertainment.com) is a full service distributor in the North American market. Anchor Bay Entertainment is a Starz (NASDAQ: STRZA, STRZB) business, www.starz.com. Anchor Bay Entertainment (www.anchorbayentertainment.com) is a Starz (NASDAQ: STRZA, STRZB) business, www.starz.com

About  Starz
Starz (NASDAQ: STRZA, STRZB) is a leading integrated global media and entertainment company with operating units that provide premium subscription video programming on domestic U.S. pay television channels (Starz Networks) and global content distribution (Starz Distribution), www.starz.com

Starz Networks is a leading provider of premium subscription video programming through the flagship STARZ® and ENCORE®  pay TV networks which showcase premium original programming and movies to U.S. multichannel video distributors, including cable operators, satellite television providers, and telecommunications companies. As of September 30, 2015, STARZ and ENCORE serve a combined 55.8 million subscribers, including 23.3 million at STARZ, and 32.5 million at ENCORE, making them the largest pair of premium flagship channels in the U.S. STARZ®  and ENCORE®, along with Starz Networks' third network MOVIEPLEX®, air more than 1,000 movies monthly across 17 linear networks, complemented by On Demand and authenticated online offerings through STARZ PLAY, ENCORE PLAY, and MOVIEPLEX PLAY.  Starz Distribution develops, produces and acquires entertainment content, distributing it to consumers globally on DVD, digital formats and traditional television. Starz Distribution's home video, digital media and worldwide distribution business units distribute original programming content produced by Starz, as well as entertainment content for itself and third parties.

“DA VINCI’S DEMONS: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON” Blu -ray™
Street Date:                 January 26, 2016       
Pre-book:                     December 16, 2015
Cat. #:                         BD63740
UPC:                           013132637402
Run Time:                   534 Minutes
Rating:                        Not Rated
SRP:                            $54.99
Format:                        1.78:1 / 16x9
Audio:                         English Dolby TrueHD 7.1, Spanish Mono
Subtitles:                     English SDH and Spanish              

“DA VINCI’S DEMONS: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON” DVD
Street Date:                 January 26, 2016       
Pre-book:                     December 16, 2015
Cat. #:                         ST63739
UPC:                           013132637396
Run Time:                   534 Minutes
Rating:                        Not Rated
SRP:                            $44.98
Format:                        1.78:1 / 16x9
Audio:                         English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Mono
Subtitles:                     English SDH and Spanish

Buy it at Amazon.com:
Blu-ray
DVD




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Sunday, December 20, 2015

"JURASSIC PARK TRILOGY" Coming to DVD in March



JURASSIC PARK TRILOGY (JURASSIC PARK / THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK / JURASSIC PARK III)

Release Date: 3/8/2016


Synopsis: Experience one of the biggest movie trilogies of all time like never before with the Jurassic Park Trilogy! "You won’t believe your eyes" (Rolling Stone) when dinosaurs once again roam the Earth in an amazing theme park on a remote island. From Academy Award®-winning director Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park) and Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park III), the action-packed adventures find man up against prehistoric predators in the ultimate battle for survival.
Featuring visually stunning imagery and groundbreaking filmmaking that has been hailed as "a triumph of special effects artistry" (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times), this epic trilogy is sheer movie-making magic that was 65 million years in the making. "Welcome to Jurassic Park."

DVD Widescreen Multi-Feature(61176041) : Disc 1 (Side A): Jurassic Park
 Format:      DVD      UPC:      0-2519-23370-6-2
 Unit Type:      Multi-Feature      Number of Media:      1
 Street Date:      3/8/2016      PreOrder Date:     
 Run Time (HH:MM):      2 Hours 7 Minutes          
 Language:      English      Disc Type:      DVD-9 (Single Sided)
 Packaging:      Snap Case with Slip Sleeve      Layers:      Single
 Audio:     English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
French Canadian Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
       Subtitles:      English SDH
Spanish
French

 Picture:      Anamorphic Widescreen
Color/B&W     COLOR
 Rating:      PG-13      CARA Rating:      -
 Bonus Features:      • Theatrical Trailer


DVD Widescreen Multi-Feature(61176041) : Disc 2 (Side A): The Lost World: Jurassic Park
 Format:      DVD      UPC:      0-2519-23370-6-2
 Unit Type:      Multi-Feature      Number of Media:      1
 Street Date:      3/8/2016      PreOrder Date:     
 Run Time (HH:MM):      2 Hours 9 Minutes          
 Language:      English      Disc Type:      DVD-9 (Single Sided)
 Packaging:      Snap Case with Slip Sleeve      Layers:      Single
 Audio:     English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
       Subtitles:      English SDH
Spanish
French

 Picture:      Anamorphic Widescreen
 Color/B&W     COLOR
 Rating:      PG-13      CARA Rating:      -
 Bonus Features:      • Theatrical Trailer


DVD Widescreen Multi-Feature(61176041) : Disc 3 (Side A): Jurassic Park III
 Format:      DVD      UPC:      0-2519-23370-6-2
 Unit Type:      Multi-Feature      Number of Media:      1
 Street Date:      3/8/2016      PreOrder Date:     
 Run Time (HH:MM):      1 Hour 33 Minutes          
 Language:      English      Disc Type:      DVD-9 (Single Sided)
 Packaging:      Snap Case with Slip Sleeve      Layers:      Single
 Audio:     English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
English DTS Digital Surround 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
       Subtitles:      English SDH
Spanish

 Picture:      Anamorphic WidescreenColor/B&W     COLOR
 Rating:      PG-13      CARA Rating:      -
 Bonus Features:      • The Making of Jurassic Park III
• Feature Commentary with Special Effects Team
• The New Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III
• Tour of Sam Winston Studio
• A Visit to ILM
• Dinosuar Turntables
• Behind-the-Scenes
• Storyboards to Final Feature Comparison
• Jurassic Park III Archives
• Theatrical Trailer
• Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs
• JP Institute



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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Kitano's "VIOLENT COP" and "BOILING POINT" Included in Film Movement Classics Line-up for 2016



2016 SLATE OF FILM MOVEMENT CLASSICS INCLUDES TAKESHI KITANO’S VIOLENT COP AND BOILING POINT FOR DVD AND BLU-RAY

OTHER TITLES INCLUDE KAMIKAZE 89, STARRING R.W. FASSBINDER; SCOLA’S UGLY, DIRTY AND BAD; LEE TAMAHORI’S ONCE WERE WARRIORS; SCI-FI CULT CLASSIC THE QUIET EARTH, BILLE AUGUST’S THE BEST INTENTIONS; AND OSCAR-WINNER ANTONIA’S LINE


December 15, 2015 (New York, NY) – Film Movement, the New York-based film distributor of first-run, award-winning independent and foreign films, is proud to announce its 2016 Film Movement Classics line-up today, which includes films from an array of auteurs and features various genres, such as sci-fi, thrillers, yakuza and period films.

Japanese actor/director Takeshi “Beat” Kitano’s acclaimed first two films as a director, VIOLENT COP and BOILING POINT, lead the list, as well as a new 4K restoration of Wolf Gremm’s cult classic KAMIKAZE 89, starring Rainer Werner Fassbinder in his last film role, and Marleen Gorris’ ANTONIA’S LINE, which is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Academy Award win. Other titles include Italian director Ettore Scola’s Cannes-winning film, UGLY, DIRTY AND BAD (originally released as DOWN AND DIRTY in the U.S.); Bille August’s THE BEST INTENTIONS (with a screenplay by Ingmar Bergman); Lee Tamahori’s ONCE WERE WARRIORS; and Geoffrey Murphy’s post-apocalyptic THE QUIET EARTH.

All films will be available for theatrical runs and retrospective screenings and will be released on Blu-ray and DVD with newly commissioned essays and bonus material in 2016.

Film Movement, a multi-platform distribution company, launched its Classics imprint this year. Films already released on both Blu-ray and DVD include Peter Greenaway’s THE PILLOW BOOK; Yves Robert’s TALL BLOND MAN WITH ONE BLACK SHOE, Liliana Cavani’s FRANCESCO, and Eric Rohmer’s THE MARQUISE OF O… and FULL MOON IN PARIS.

“We’re pleased to be releasing such strong and diverse titles under Film Movement Classics, bringing these out-of-print titles back to theaters, digital platforms and home video,” said Michael E. Rosenberg, President of Film Movement, “and we plan to continue to build our Classics catalog in the coming years.”

Below, please find descriptions of the 2016 Film Movement Classics line-up (alphabetical order):

ANTONIA'S LINE (Marleen Gorris, 1995, Netherlands, Dutch, 102 min) - In the aftermath of WWII, strong-willed Antonia returns to her small hometown where she has inherited her mother’s farm. Antonia, joined by her free-spirited artist daughter Danielle, ingratiate themselves with the town’s tight-knit and eccentric community. As the years unfold, love and tragedy come to Antonia and Danielle and the pair foster a vibrant circle of strong, liberated women.  ANTONIA’S LINE won the Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language Film, 1996 and will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of this win in 2016.

THE BEST INTENTIONS (Bille August, 1992, Sweden, Swedish, 182 min) - Swedish master Ingmar Bergman penned this loving tribute to his parent’s epic romance. In 1909, poor, idealistic theology student Henrik Bergman falls in love with Anna Åkerbloom, the intelligent, educated daughter of a rich family in Uppsala. After their wedding Henrik becomes a priest in the north of Sweden. Urbane Anna can’t stand living in the rural county and grows increasingly restless. She returns to Uppsala and the couple’s love and commitment are put to the test.

BOILING POINT
(Takeshi Kitano, 1990, Japan, Japanese, 97 min) - In the second film from action auteur Takeshi “Beat” Kitano, two members of a Japanese junior baseball team get mixed up with the local yakuza after their coach is attacked by gangsters. The pair gets more than they bargained for when they travel to Okinawa seeking revenge in this violent and strangely humorous revolutionary take on the yakuza picture.

KAMIKAZE 89 (Wolf Gremm, 1982, Germany, German, 106 min) - In his last acting role, legendary director Rainer Werner Fassbinder plays Jansen, an expert cop living in a dystopic future (and clad in a sharp leopard skin jacket) where a mysterious organization known as The Combine controls all media. After The Combine’s headquarters receives several bomb threats, Jansen is tasked with infiltrating the nefarious conglomerate. This cult classic features a soundtrack by Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream and an array of New German Cinema stars, including Brigitte Mira (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul), Frank Ripploh (Taxi Zum Klo), and Gunter Kaufmann (The Marriage of Maria Braun).

ONCE WERE WARRIORS
(Lee Tamahori, 1994, New Zealand, English, 102 min) - Jake Heke lives with his family in a tenement house for native Maori in the slums of Auckland. Despite his love and devotion, Jake’s battle with alcoholism frequently results in terrifyingly erratic outbursts in front of his children and violent beatings of his wife Beth. After Jake loses his job, each member of the Heke family is forced to face their own personal demons and the societal constraints that shackle native New Zealanders.

THE QUIET EARTH (Geoff Murphy, 1985, New Zealand, English, 91 min) - In this sci-fi cult classic, Zac Hobson, a mid-level scientist working on a global energy project, wakes up to a nightmare. After his project malfunctions, Zac discovers that he may be the last man on Earth. As he searches empty cities for other survivors, Zac’s mental state begins to deteriorate – culminating in the film’s iconic and hotly debated ending.

UGLY, DIRTY, AND BAD (Ettore Scola, 1976, Italy, Italian, 116 min) - Acclaimed Italian auteur Ettore Scola (celebrating his 85th birthday in 2016) pairs up with legendary actor Nino Manfredi in this irreverent Cannes-winning grotesque comedy. Giacinto (Manfredi), along with four generations of his sprawling, crooked clan, lives in a cramped, dilapidated home on the outskirts of Rome. When a work accident leaves him blind in one eye, the derelict suddenly finds himself rolling in insurance money. Refusing to share the wealth, Giacinto’s relatives concoct several harebrained plots in hopes of wrenching the riches away.

VIOLENT COP (Takeshi Kitano, 1989, Japan, Japanese, 103 min) - In his directorial debut, and one of his first dramatic roles, writer/director Takeshi “Beat” Kitano plays Detective Azuma, a hostile cop who’s not afraid of using violent means to catch his culprits. When his sister is kidnapped by a sadistic drug lord, Azuma’s Dirty Harry-style tactics escalate in his quest for vengeance in this stunningly innovative cops-and-robbers thriller.


About Film Movement:
Launched in 2002, Film Movement is a full-service North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films, based in New York City.  Film Movement has released more than 250 feature films and shorts from 50 countries on six continents, including top prize winners from Sundance, Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Berlin, Tribeca and other prestigious festivals.  Film Movement releases its films through numerous distribution channels, including thousands of art-house cinemas, universities and libraries; home video; television outlets; cable video on demand; digital platforms; and in-flight entertainment. For more information, please visit www.filmmovement.com.



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Friday, December 18, 2015

COUNT DRACULA -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle



For prolific Spanish cult director Jesus "Jess" Franco, COUNT DRACULA (1970) was a welcome venture into classier territory than that found in his more exploitative efforts such as BLOODY MOON and THE HOT NIGHTS OF LINDA

Not only that, but it served as a vehicle for Christopher Lee to finally get to play the character of Dracula closer to the original Bram Stoker version, with more of the novel's dialogue (at least in the early scenes in Dracula's castle during which he tells Jonathan Harker of his family history) and a Dracula who more closely resembles the one described by Stoker. 

Shot in Spain, the film (now available on Blu-ray and DVD from Severin Films) benefits not only from some terrific found locations that add immeasurably to to its production values, but also from a top-notch cast headed by Lee and the equally venerable Herbert Lom as Professor Van Helsing, who now runs the clinic at which Dr. Seward (Paul Muller) works and where a grievously distraught Harker (Fred Williams) ends up after his ordeal at Castle Dracula.


How Dracula happens to move into the very estate that borders the clinic where Harker ends up after his escape is best left unpondered while we enjoy this dry and slow-moving, yet somehow involving retelling of the famous tale through Franco's restless lens.  As usual, his camerawork is largely fluid and informal, and rife with crude zooms that keep us up close and personal with the characters. 

In addition to American good guy Quincey Morris (Jack Taylor), we also meet his bride-to-be Lucy (exotic Soledad Miranda, later to star in Franco's VAMPIROS LESBOS and SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY) and her friend Mina (the beautiful Maria Rohm), who will both be targets for Dracula's nocturnal bloodlust while they stay at the clinic looking after Mina's ailing fiance' Jonathan.  (Franco himself plays a weaselly orderly). 

Of great interest to fans of eccentric actor Klaus Kinski, who would later sprout fangs himself as NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE (1979), is his presence here as Renfield, the celebrated "fly eater" played in the 1931 version by Dwight Frye.  Kinski is allowed to indulge himself in the role, resulting in a lot of "Look at me, I'm acting!" moments in which he improvs aimlessly and fiddles with his hair a lot. 


The two leading ladies acquit themselves well, especially Soledad Miranda whose Lucy is Dracula's main interest early on and is the victim of several nighttime attacks.  Lom is his usual solid, dependable presence as our main representative of good and resident vampire expert. 

As for Lee, it's of great interest to see the differences between this and his earlier star-making turn in Hammer's 1958 DRACULA (known in the USA as HORROR OF DRACULA).  He's less imposing here than the frightening, feral Count of twelve years before, and looks a bit awkward without the flowing cape, yet there's a greater depth to the character which makes him interesting. 

Franco's staging of several scenes (edited by fellow cult director Bruno Mattei of such films as ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE JAIL: THE WOMEN'S HELL, ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING, IN THE LAND OF THE CANNIBALS, and MONDO CANNIBAL) is visceral and grotesque, especially the staking and beheading of the undead (including the Count's trio of not-so-bashful brides).  The ending is less frenetic than the confrontation between Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing's Van Helsing in the Hammer version, but is satisfying nonetheless and closer to that described by Stoker.


The Blu-ray from Severin Films is full screen HD with Dolby 2.0 English soundtrack.  No subtitles.  A commentary track featuring actress Maria Rohm and film historian David Del Valle is both informative and at times rather charming.  Extras also include an avant-garde behind-the-scenes documentary entitled "Cuadecuc, Vampir" (75 min.), directed by Pere Portabella, which reinterprets Franco's film in grainy black-and-white images that are often more eerie and atmospheric than the original.

In addition to this are interviews with castmembers Fred Williams and Jack Taylor, and director Jess Franco himself.  French filmmaker Christophe Gans gives an appreciative assessment of the film and its director in the featurette "Stake Handlers", while Christopher Lee himself offers an emotional reading of the actual Bram Stoker novel.  Rounding out the bonus menu are alternate versions of the film's opening titles in various languages and a German trailer.

Somewhat staid and even a bit dull at times, COUNT DRACULA remains one of Jess Franco's most involving and visually compelling films (of the ones I've seen, anyway) and will definitely prove fascinating to his many ardent fans.  For anyone who appreciates the classic tale of Dracula in whatever form, this is an intriguing, invaluable interpretation which should be seen. 

Buy it at Amazon.com:
Blu-ray
DVD

Stills used are not taken from the Blu-ray


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Thursday, December 17, 2015

CALAMITY JANE -- Movie Review by Porfle



CALAMITY JANE (1953) takes place in a dreamy Technicolor version of the Old West straight out of the matinee oaters of the 30s and 40s.  In fact, when we get our first long shot of the town of Deadwood, it looks almost like a cowpoke version of Oz. 

The film hits the ground running with Doris Day's rousing opening number, "The Deadwood Stage (Whip-Crack-Away!)", in which she sails into town riding shotgun on the stagecoach and then makes her way into the saloon-slash-theater "The Golden Garter" to regale all her friends with tall tales of her latest exploits.

Doris Day is a hoot playing a blonde, female version of Gabby Hayes who, as the film progresses and she acquires a few wardrobe and makeup refinements, gradually reveals her true hidden beauty to her stunned male friends including Howard Keel's "Wild Bill" Hickock. 


Keel is his usual tall, oak-solid self with a singing voice as deep as the ocean.  Philip Carey is adequate though a tad nondescript as dashing cavalry officer Lt. Daniel Gilmartin.  The rest of the cast is populated by a delightful assortment of motley Western types along with Dick Wesson as tenderfoot actor Francis Fryer from back East (who must perform in drag when the Golden Garter's owner accidentally books him as a female performer).  Keep a sharp eye out for Glenn Strange and Bess Flowers in bit parts as well.

Allyn Ann McLerie, who would later play a matronly schoolmarm in the John Wayne classic THE COWBOYS, makes a wonderful transition from shy, homely maid to ravishing dancehall singer as Katie Brown.  When Calamity travels to Chicago to ask sought-after beauty Adelaid Adams to perform at the Golden Garter, she mistakes Miss Adams' maid Katie for the famous singer and fetches back her instead. 

The nervous Katie's true identity is quickly revealed during her disastrous debut performance, but with Calamity's prompting the rowdy audience gives her a second chance and, with renewed self-confidence, she wins them over on her own.


While the first half of the movie is an endlessly frothy fountain of fun, the second threatens to bog down in romantic plot complications when the four main characters--Calamity, Bill, Katie, and Danny--all fall in love with the wrong people.  Fortunately, the film is carried along by some genuine heartfelt sentiment (mainly through song) before bursting forth with the requisite happy-ending vibes as everyone gets paired up like we know they're meant to be.

The songs by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster are just plain delightful.  In addition to the exhilarating "The Deadwood Stage (Whip-Crack-Away!)", Doris gets to perform such toe-tappers as "Just Blew in from the Windy City", "A Woman's Touch" (with Allyn Ann McLerie), and her duelling duet with Keel, "I Can Do Without You."  I'd forgotten that the Billboard chart-topper "Secret Love" originated from this show, so it was to my very pleasant surprise to hear Doris' beautiful rendition of it late in the film. 

Keel solos on the love song "My Heart Is Higher Than a Hawk (Deeper Than a Well)" and McLerie gets two onstage numbers, "Hive Full of Honey" and "It's Harry I'm Planning to Marry", while displaying one of the shapeliest pairs of gams you're likely to see in quite a spell.  A reprise of the film's opening number takes us into the feelgood fadeout with a goofy smile on our faces and a renewed appreciation for the divine Dodo.



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MovieZoot Adds Four Christmas Themed Movies for Holidays



Dramas of Redemption, a Sci-Fi Fantasy and an Animated Short Add Movie Spice for Seasonal Viewing Pleasure From MovieZoot.com

New York, NY...    M&M Television, Inc. and MovieZoot.com announce the addition of four Christmas movies to its live, free, online streaming movie website for the Holidays. Unique to MovieZoot, these four new additions to its collection of movies tell intricate stories of sacrifice, yearning, redemption, intrigue and folly, bringing new perspectives and appreciation to traditional Holiday movie fare.

The Christmas Wife (1988)
Widower John Tanner (Jason Robards) is unhappy that he has to miss a longstanding Christmas gathering with his son Jim (Jim Eckhouse) and his family. So to avoid being alone, he decides to hire a platonic companion for the holidays, enlisting the services of forlorn escort Iris (Julie Harris). He makes it clear from the beginning, however, that there will be no hanky-panky between the two. But sparks begin to fly when charming John begins to warm Iris' bitter and bleary heart.

A Christmas Without Snow (1980)
Leaving her son behind at her parents' home in Omaha, Neb., recent divorcée Zoe (Michael Learned) attempts to start her life anew by moving to San Francisco. Seeking something to fill her lonely hours, she begins singing with a church choir. When new choirmaster Ephraim Adams (John Houseman) is hired, Zoe finds his attitudes and ideas difficult to tolerate. Faced with the challenging task of satisfying Adams' unrelenting perfectionism, Zoe is tempted once more to run away from her problems.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
Martian ruler Kimar (Leonard Hicks) is upset that the children of Mars are lazy and under the influence of too much pop culture from Earth. They are obsessed with the planet's television programs and don't want to do much of anything. In an attempt to get the kids peppy again, Kimar orders the kidnapping of Santa Claus (John Call), hoping that the jolly old toymaker will know how to cheer the children up again. But two Earth children are also nabbed, and this complicates things for Kimar.

Santa's Surprise (1947)
In this early seasonal Holiday short animated film, five children from around the world follow Santa home on Christmas Eve, and decide to give him some extra help around the workshop.  As Santa delivers presents to Audrey and some other children, they slip into his sleigh to repay him by cleaning up his house, often with a clumsy Dutch boy's antics.  In Santa's Surprise, we are first introduced to the character of Little Audrey in her first appearance on film in this animated classic. She later had decades of leading roles in the early days of popular and widely distributed animated film shorts.

At MovieZoot.com, there is no downloading required because the movies are streamed on-line directly to any device so War Movie enthusiasts can watch - at no cost - what they want; when they want; how they want to view it; wherever they are located.

MovieZoot.com is wholly owned and operated by parent company M&M Television, Inc. and is based in Fayetteville, North Carolina with marketing and press representation in New York City.



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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

KILL ME, DEADLY -- Movie Review by Porfle



(NOTE: This review is based on a preliminary screener.  No DVD info is available at this time.)

In an era when many people won't even watch black-and-white movies, it takes real conviction to actually make one.  Not only does it have to look extra good, and extra convincing--like ED WOOD or YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN--but everything else about it has to be practically downright magical in order to justify its colorless existence. 

That's why it's so impressive to see first-time director Darrett Sanders and one-time screenwriter Bill Robens (SCREAM OF THE BIKINI) score such a satisfying bullseye with their delightful film noir spoof KILL ME, DEADLY (2015).  Not only does it look as good as some of the finest examples of its target genre, but the comedy and performances are pitch perfect. 

Leslie-Anne Down (THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY) makes a welcome appearance as flighty, eccentric millionairess Lady Clairmont, who hires private gumshoe Charlie Nickels (Dean Lemont) when she suspects that someone's trying to kill her.  The fact that she's been receiving notes that say "I'm going to kill you" reinforces her suspicions.


Lady Clairmont is the owner of the world's most precious jewel, the Bengal Diamond, which carries a deadly curse--each of its previous owners died mysteriously at the age of 95.  When she is murdered and the diamond stolen, Nickels is thrust into a morass of intrigue, treachery, and danger that will involve not only famed gangster Bugsy Siegel (Joe Mantegna) and various heirs to her fortune, but also the beautiful and mysterious Mona Livingston (Kirsten Vangsness, "Criminal Minds"), the standard femme fatale whom the hardboiled dick can't help falling for even though she may be behind the whole sordid affair.

The story hits all the familiar tropes and cliche's of the genre with wit and finesse to spare.  While twisting his way through it Nickels must deal with the usual plainclothes cops and hired thugs who constantly get in his way, all the while giving us a running commentary that shoots holes in every weary, metaphor-packed voiceover you've ever heard. 

At one point he informs us, "I was too busy dodging bullets to make out the meat with the gats, so I cheesed it and headed over to Tony's Liquor Lounge on Cahuenga for a heart-to-heart with boy millioniare Clive Clairmont."  Later he remarks about Mona, "She had a hold on me like a wolverine on a moose."  And those are some of the milder examples.


Lemont is all stern-jawed and Bogartesque as Nickels, never letting on that he knows how ridiculous it all is.  (His acting style reminds me of SCTV's Dave Thomas.)  Naturally he gets beaten up and knocked out a lot during the course of the story while dishing out plenty of punishment himself, with even this familiar cliche' getting amusingly turned upon itself.

The story touches base with films from THE MALTESE FALCON (the black bird itself makes a guest appearance early on) to the film's namesake KISS ME, DEADLY, with even a nod to Scorsese's classic TAXI DRIVER at the end, and manages at all times to be sharply witty while only occasionally veering into farce. 

Some of the characters lend authenticity by playing it straight while others perform hilarious caricatures of their character types.  Particularly good are Nicholas S. Williams as Lady Clairmont's delightfully sniveling son Clive--who exits the film way too soon--and Vangsness, whose "Mona" reminds me of a female Joe Besser (I'm a Besser fan so this is a compliment) and is so maddeningly two-faced that she can't get through a single sentence without brimming with comic insincerity.


In addition to Mantegna, who makes an interesting Bugsy Siegel, is another of Vangsness' "Criminal Minds" castmates Shemar Moore in the small role of Bill, the piano player in Tony's Liquor Lounge, and Raleigh Holmes as Lady Clairmont's seductive daughter Veronica.  Paul F. Tompkins of "Mr. Show" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" turns up as a former employee of Lady Clairmont suspected in her murder.  Especially good is Lynn Odell as Nickels' outlandishly efficient secretary Ida, who actually solves 99% of the case herself in manic style while he's bumbling his way through it.

In addition to its overall above-average production values, KILL ME, DEADLY boasts such gorgeous black-and-white photography and period atmosphere that I'm almost sorry it's a spoof of film noirs instead of a serious private eye thriller. But as a comedy, it's a deadpan delight that starts out intriguingly offbeat and just gets better, and funnier, as it goes along. 

Tech Specs

Runtime: 100 minutes
Format: 1:85 Flat
Sound: Dolby SR
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Comedy
Website: www.KillMeDeadly.com




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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ennio Morricone Shares "L'Ultima Diligenza di Red Rock - Versione Integrale" From The Hateful Eight Soundtrack



ENNIO MORRICONE SHARES "L'ULTIMA DILIGENZA DI RED ROCK - 

VERSIONE INTEGRALE" FROM THE HATEFUL EIGHT SOUNDTRACK


This morning, Ennio Morricone shared "L'Ultima Diligenza di Red Rock - Versione Integrale", the opening track from his upcoming score of Quentin Tarantino's new film The Hateful Eight. Pitchfork premiered the piece. Listen to the track HERE.

Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight Original Motion Picture soundtrack features compositions from Ennio Morricone and will be released worldwide via Decca Records (and on vinyl via Third Man) on December 18, 2015. Fans that pre-order the album HERE will be given the chance to receive a hand-stamped, direct-to-vinyl pressing of the Czech National Symphony's recent performance of the score at Abbey Road Studios in London (while supplies last).


The Hateful Eight film will be released on December 25, 2015 screening exclusively in glorious Ultra Panavision 70 mm film for a limited period and going wide in January 2016. To watch the film's official trailer, click HERE.
 
www.thehatefuleightsoundtrack.com



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ON THE TOWN -- Movie Review by Porfle




Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly took their sailor act from ANCHORS AWEIGH 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 fun 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 (all musicals before that seem to lead up to it), 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.

FRANK SINATRA 5-FILM COLLECTION




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