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How dare you compare The Martian to the greatness of trash cinema?

No, you're absolutely right. Speaking of which, Star Slammer: The Escape is coming to blu ray from Kino Lorber, that 1988 Fred Olen Ray sleazy sci fi prison movie set in space. That's cause for a celebration. Wish I had friends around here to celebrate with!



Don't get me all wound up, Stirchley.
Too hot in CT for that today. Thinking more about The Martian, if I ever see it at Stop and Shop for a few dollars I would probably add it to my collection & watch it again. I did like the parts where he was growing stuff.
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I’m here only on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays. That’s why I’m here now.



NEIGHBORS (1981)
Director: John G. Avildsen


Looking at my blank screen yesterday evening, I decided to rummage through my old Betamax videocassette collection, where I came across "Neighbors", a film I have seen at least 4 times previous, over the last 30 years.



It's one of those movies I wasn't sure of. I remember always feeling some despair and unease whenever I watched it. I also remember feeling as if it was a bit of a great comedy that was over looked and dismissed as being a failure.

I can now confirm that it's all of those things.

John Belushi, playing against type, is a square and conservative suburbanite complaced in a dead end marriage, ready to collapse into his tv set, when out of the blue comes a new force in his life, played by a manic Dan Aykroyd, as his new menacing, yet somehow intriguing, next door neighbor.




After being come on to by his new neighbor's wife and continuously harrassed by their overbearing headgames, a night of backyard adventure ensues and strange things start to happen.

This is a weird ass movie, first of all. It makes zero sense. There is no logic to speak of. No one is consistent with any of their actions, motivations are scribbled down and tossed away, and the tone is something of an old cartoon mixed with a poor attempt at camp humor, with constant send ups to pop culture references hidden in a soundtrack that invades the space this movie occupies in an obnoxious manner.




I didn't mind very much, though. There were several moments where the comedy mis-fired with a loud thud and some of the choices the director made were very stupid (like playing Bee Gees while Belushi powders his chest and flosses his teeth in a segment that should have never happened to act as a time barrier), but aside from a few noisy plops, "Neighbors" is a fun time at the movies.

I thank Dan Aykroyd for that.
He took the writing and made it fit perfectly with his character. He comes across intimidating in one breath, and in the next, a complete jerk who couldn't hurt a fly. It's a schizophrenic mess of a movie, but that's what adds to the charm. Whether or not this was all an accident in the editing room, I do not know, nor does it matter. I suspect it was true to the tone of the book written by Thomas Berger, though I confess to not having read it.




Belushi does his best work here.
He plays the straight guy more than fine, and even turns in a few moments of dramatic acting, if only for a brief transitory moment with his facial expressions. I wish he had kept going. I wish he were still alive today. He would have won many awards, I'm sure of it. He had that despairity every good dramatic actor needs to be an everyman with depth.

I also enjoyed the location, and the fact that 70% of the film was shot at night. The interiors were old wood grain paneled badness, but that tackiness also lended a certain warm feeling of being home, in a finished rec room downstairs, a bare bones shower room in the root cellar, and a living room of frayed fabric couch and chairs with cloth doilies on the end tables.



Outside at night was the most fun. It was like hanging out on a Summer evening, never knowing what would happen next, messing around the back yard where the toxic swamp lived, where the weeds recessed with pressure and stood back up erect with every passing footstep. A grown man sneaking around on his front lawn, looking for companionship and finding a mentally maladjusted neighbor offering his company, and his dirty coffee cup.



There's rarely a dull moment in this movie, which is strange to realize in retrospect because it moves along at a snail's pace. I could see how some people would find it dreary and dull. I can also see how people would not find any of it funny, for the obvious mistakes that were made in production that have nowhere to hide in the finished film. However, to me, it's easily forgiven. It was John Belushi's last film, and it was his best performance. I think I can say the same for Aykroyd's performance. This is a completely bat****t movie, but it deserves its audience.






Neighbors rules! My parents took me and a friend to see it as part of a double feature with Stripes! Ahhh the memories.

I liked The Martian but thought it started to drag.



VANILLA SKY (2001)
Director: Cameron Crowe

I've seen the Spanish film "Open Your Eyes" that this movie is adapted from, and I liked it a lot. I think as a movie it is much better, but for different reasons.

"Vanilla Sky" is just an enjoyable Americanized version and that doesn't seem to be enough for the critics. First off I understand why the person who has seen "Open Your Eyes" would be upset. I saw Vanilla Sky first, and was not aware of there being another original film it was based off of.

Months later I saw the original and was instantly in love with it's uniqueness and surreal feel.

Then I tried Vanilla Sky again and JESUS CHRIST, forget it! I'm not reviewing the original, I'm reviewing the remake and the remake only, as a standalone film.

As a standalone film, Vanilla Sky is very powerful. It is not perfect. By not perfect I mean that it has a few moments of dopeyness and convenience. I just happen not to care. Tom Cruise does some of his very best work in this film. I know Cruise is the poster child for deranged and spoiled. He's a super wealthy leader in a hack religion and he jumps on couches and does his own stunts and probably thinks he's better than you. I honestly don't care. As an actor he is terrific. In this film Vanilla Sky he gets me very emotionally involved because his face is so experienced with conveying emotion. He does have a great smile, and he was in good shape and he did wear cool clothes and had a stylish haircut and yes, I enjoyed all of this. This surface material helps put across who he is, and it shows his power as a star. I've always liked Tom Cruise a lot as an actor. He doesn't burn out with his eyes. He believes everything he says and does. I have never once seen a fast cutaway from a Tom Cruise expression because he may have faded out and stopped believing after a line reading. No. Tom Cruise believes his world. He believes what he has created. Call him crazy. Make fun of his nose to knock him down a peg, ridicule his religion, but don't say Tom Cruise cannot act because you've only seen "Top Gun" and Mission:Impossible".

The story, I am not going to get into because the film works best as a surprise, and frankly, I don't care to try and sell this film. I enjoyed it and just wanted to get my thoughts out about it.

I genuinely got choked up from this movie. It was able to create a deep sadness and cold reality that Cruise played with absolute perfection. There's a scene where he calls his love interest up on the phone and has to leave a message. He is so manic and nervous. It's heartbreaking. His insecurities have him delusional. Or maybe his delusions have him more confident?

Another scene is where Cruise's character calls a bartender out for not being face to face with him. After he gets the bartender's attention, Cruise goes limp and humble as he follows up his original hostile comment with a respectful reply. He just wants to be accepted. Cruise sells of all of this. I just can't stress how impressed I am with Tom Cruise in this movie.

There are plenty of scenes that showcase Cruise's ability as an actor as he plays a privileged, good looking millionaire as well as an isolated, deformed and devastated man in love.

As far as Tom Cruise being a "this" or "that" because he decided to help finance a pet project, ..so what? He clearly loved the original film enough to want to have a chance to play this part. The music was more than solid, the camera work amazing, great performances all around, and some typical American hit you over the head - easy to read lettering to ensure everyone can have a piece. What some viewers may have overlooked is that Vanilla Sky is a great movie on its own. It's not a perfect movie, especially if I were to insist on comparing it to the original film it was spawned from, but I had it as a new experience when I originally saw it, I feel lucky about that, and never had a deep hatred for Tom Cruise to begin with. Yeah, I know he's got issues..and money..and power. I simply do not care. He's a tremendous actor when he gets the right role. Roman Polanski goes around raping chicks and fleeing the country and that guy gets stroked off at every turn. At least Cruise tries to help people when he's not holding his family hostage with the help of the satanic, excuse me, scientificoligologically challenged church.

He got the right role. Good on him for seeing that opportunity and taking it for himself.
I know this movie didn't do well critically. That was a gamble. But I connect with this movie so I'm glad I don't always listen to critics or else I might have missed this one.

Since I originally saw this back in 2002, I've re-watched it a handful of times. This latest time I was sure I would think this movie was just mediocre. I was surprised to find myself loving it all over again like it was the first time.

Now I'll have to go and get "Open Your Eyes" and watch that again.




THE HITCHER (1986)
Director: Robert Harmon

I've seen "The Hitcher" several times since its release back in '86. The most recent time was last night.

This is a mixed bag of a movie. On one hand you get a tense and vividly written horror film. On the other hand you get a sort of road movie feel with long pauses to enjoy the scenery.



Why does it not always feel like the perfect mix then? I mean, a combination like this should be incredible. Mix Paris Texas with Duel and cast a completely new kind of villian as Rutger Hauer, still able to take rain drops falling from his head and chin and give us an upward eye profile glance and a sneer. What went wrong? I'll try and answer this later.

I gotta say that casting Rutger Hauer was a pretty smart move. He's awesome, as usual. Back before he became a doughy and smiley gentleman for his 90's era heyday, The Hitcher offered him one last evil guy role to sink his teeth into. He plays it with as much fun as he did Roy Batty 4 years prior. He comes off really funny when he busts C. Thomas Howell's ass, especially at the diner scene about 7/8ths into the movie. This scene is a standout as Rutger's Rydell character has Howell's Jim Halsey character in check. Howell gives a great comedic performance through the deranged, confused and frustrated eyes of a man fresh off of puberty. C. Thomas seems to take his role seriously enough to deliver on the required arc of a boy turned man while running from the law and being dished head games by a mysterious drifter bent on framing him for several murders.

Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Nash, a stuck-in-the-middle-of-nowhere waitress who befriends Halsey and aids him through the desert. She does her usual solid work. Nothing too special but also nothing particularly embarrassing. Speaking of which, I have to admit my disappointment with her not showing any skin. I suppose I'm a bit of a pig but I was looking forward to her breasts being bared. I've seen this movie enough times to know that she never does but each time I watch it I cannot help but wish I had forgotten her accidentally losing her shirt to rusty nail on a door frame. Sadly she probably does lose her shirt along with her torso when she is ripped in half by a truck that Ryder is driving to torment his pawn (Howell).

Yeah, it's a sick movie. It's a drag, too. It just starts off so damned good and then stalls, then starts again, then gets absolutely nuts, then it ends like a Clint Eastwood western, which I do appreciate. I thought the very ending was the work of a very confident and stylish director. Harmon was a professional still photographer and his eye for composition certainly shows here. The camera movements are meticulous and elegant and paced very adequately from scene to scene, as if a timer was calibrated into the dolly tracks to match each shot up. It probably was. I've seen clueless critical backlash for this film being murky. Well, who ever said that is an idiot. This same critic talked about changing a bulb for a better picture. Yeah, duh! You probably saw the movie with a bad projector bulb, you DUNCE!!

Another overpaid critic mentioned that he thought this film was a homophobic anti AIDS film. Say what?1 Where the hell did this jackasss get his degree, the toilet store? What an IDIOT!

Anyway, holy *****....none of this is true.

The film is a solid thriller, with some nice surprises. It is violent and sometimes tasteless but ..I mean,what? Boo hoo for you. It's a horror film. And don't give me Jonathan Demme's Silence of the Lambs as a comparison on how to make a sophisticated horror film because that movie was mediocre at best.

"The Hitcher" is what you think it will be except much more. You get the menace of Rutger Hauer, the plain jane plot device of Jennifer Jason Leigh, and the boyish charm of C. Thomas Howell, all wrapped together in some late night cable tv adult viewing.

So, to answer my own question as to what happened to The Hitcher to prevent it from being the great movie its premise offered? What went wrong?

Nothing.

It's a recurring illusion that this movie failed to make the grade. It's a fleeting suspicion that this movie isn't as good as its premise. People were spoiled back in the mid to late 80's. They wanted the terror of Wes Craven and the sensibilities of Barry Levinson along with the critical popularity of someone profound (insert name here).

The spoiled rotten expectations came from a juicy era, and a bit later horror got really bad again, and again, and again..until charisma was reduced to scripts that thought they were smarter than they actually were. One liners being a distant trend, The Hitcher is an out of time movie. The timing of its release was off.

If people had known films like this would be extinct within 10 years, I really believe it would have had a few golden leaves on its jacket. As it is, The Hitcher is not a great movie. But it's a pretty damn good one!




SUNTAN (2016)
Director: Argyris Papadimitropoulos (damn!)



I recently watched Police Academy and felt good about movies again. I know that Police Academy isn't a great film by any measure, but it has a straightforwardness to it and amidst the nudity, profanity and cartoon violence, a sentimentality for its day. There is also a happy ending, more or less. It's wrapped up pleasingly (even though the end credit roll song is complete cringe). I don't mind a happy ending in a movie. I don't know why today that happy endings are so frowned upon.

It seems like the last 20 or so years, happy endings, or endings that tie themselves together are just not there in large numbers. It's very trendy to write a deeply disturbing movie and then leave everyone hanging during the middle of a troubling scene. When this stunt is pulled, the film maker's get 2 almost guaranteed benefits: they don't have to finish the story and get to evade responsibility on that front, and usually there is critical acclaim often involving the words "profound", "challenging", "unflinching".

"Suntan" is a deeply challenging, unflinching and profound character study of a middle aged man who sacrifices his medical practice and self respect in hopes of earning the companionship of a touring gang of twenty-somethings. He becomes one of the gang and we're never sure why. He gets to party and even participate in some sexual activity and we are definitely even more so now, not sure why. Are these kids just completely brain dead? Do they feel sorry for him? What does he offer besides a quiet agreement? Are they building him up just to knock him down? Is it a cruel trick? Or is it a game?



Some of these questions get answered which is appreciated. This Summer town breeds a particularly ample number of horny young adults in the month of August, and Doctor Dolittle gets to sit at the table with them, assimilating into their free spirited world of nude volleyball, nude swimming, nude everything.

We witness this man fall apart and fall into an infatuation with one of the younger women who befriends him, as if to single him out as her own special pet. What follows is uncomfortable and messy, and we're there every step of the way to see it unfold.

By the time the last few frames roll we get a rushed character arc. The doctor, seconds away from committing the most heinous crime, quickly derails his base instinct into a more responsible and caring manner that ties into the first act of the film. Then everything goes black and of course, we get the credits rolling.

I have to admit that this film was very well acted and upon further thought, written.
The ending at first seemed tacked on and unfinished. As if someone was building a sports car, never bothered to put any windshields or headlights on, left the bumper half hanging off, and then tried to sell it as a finished vehicle with showroom floor prices.

Suntan struck me as another ugly movie that was made to sicken people. But there is a moral. It's in plain sight. No windshield means no protection from the incoming message blowing your hair back in disbelief. No headlights means no way to navigate to any convenient understanding of the road this movie takes you on. No bumper means if you get rear ended by this film you must remember where you are and that stuff like this is going to happen when you decide to take a bumpy ride.

So I tried to tie it all together for myself. The unfinished movie by Argyris Papadimitropoulos.
But it is finished. It's a warning. For certain people. Or, for anyone, really. Anyone could fall into this trap I would imagine. Not everyone is a balding overweight failing Greek doctor, but everyone has the potential to be infatuated with things that seem to swoop down on you unexpectedly and titillate you with complimentary perks, things you're not used to having, and you may die and go to heaven until the supply stops, and then you could die and go to hell. You've become an addict. You've realized you've always been an addict and your darkness will possess you and make you do things that are against your usual character.

Will you ever come to your senses and just take it on the chin and appreciate what you had without trying to hold onto it forever?

I can't say that I loved this movie. It was very disturbing. I laughed a few times and enjoyed some of the sights but ultimately I was on edge. I knew going in that it was going to be "one of those movies".

For the first time in quite a while a movie left me thinking until the next day about it; How I felt, why I felt that way, was there a point to the movie? I think so. There will be no rush to ever watch this picture again, and it's safe to say that Police Academy will definitely be spinning every 7 years or so as the rest of my life goes on, but I'm satisfied with "Suntan" as a movie that challenged me in a deeply disturbing, profound and unflinching way.






THE AMBULANCE (1990)
Director:
Larry Cohen



Larry Cohen is a director I may be checking out a bit more. I was already aware that he directed It's Alive and its sequels, Q: The Winged Serpent, The Stuff (which I just cannot like no matter how much I try), and Return to Salem's Lot, before I accidentally queued this film into my bin. I had no idea what to expect. How about that 2nd to last sentence? Is that grammar karate I just did, or am I an idiot? Don't answer that.

The first bit of sound was a music cue in the form of a synthesizer that screamed post apocalyptic mid 1980's Italian B movie mixed with horror, and I was certain that this movie would be so murky and cheesy that I may have had to turn it off.

But I was way off base.

Aside from the establishing shot of Eric Roberts sporting a mullet that Patrick Swayze himself would make fun of, what immediately struck me about this movie was how promising it seemed to be. Roberts walks down a busy city sidewalk at rush hour hitting on an attractive woman and we see his comic timing through a telephoto prime lens (as if any other kind of lens could be used for a scene like this).


On 2nd thought, this may not be a telephoto prime. I could have sworn there was way more blur in the background. Who cares?

What was even more impressive was that the dialog coming out of their mouths wasn't just filler. It actually had a tiny bit of weight to it. Not dramatic but definitely engaging enough to pay attention. How can this be? Five seconds ago I thought I was hearing the music to accompany Lucio Fulci and now I've got a hip, urban fable with snappy writing and classy camera work on my hands.

I kept waiting for the movie to blow it. Then I waited some more while enjoying myself. But it never happened. This movie kind of rules.




Virtually every person cast in this picture is doing solid work. James Earl Jones, Red Buttons, and of course Roberts, who has me clapping my hands alone in my living room with his over-the-top body language. Yes, that's right. Roberts steals his own scenes when he has to explain to the police what has been happening as they continuously never believe him. His raises him arms over his head, spins around, wildly waves and arches his arms with physical violence - but at the same time his voice is calm and his pronunciation is perfect, his delivery is very composed and to the point with no added color. It's amazing. He's literally doing his usual manic Eric Roberts but only with his body - his voice being a different entity completely, that of a perfectly helpful gentleman. I was rolling with laughter.

Red Buttons plays his sidekick - wait, before I go any further I just have to say that the story is unique but not everything works. There is some sloppy coverage and dubbing occasionally. But it doesn't matter. It's a cheap movie that just happens to have everyone involved throwing down like it was a classic Hollywood thriller.

Here may be a movie that no one's heard of. I know I never did. When the credits rolled I was giddy. I had seen a gem. It's rare I find something that I think is going to be utter trash and it turns out to be the opposite.



The Ambulance is silly and sometimes splotchy with it's production value, there's no mistaking this for a top tier film, but if I ever need to watch Eric Roberts, James Earl Jones and Red Buttons (especially Red Buttons) tear it up in an obscure surrealistic thriller/romance drama with good writing, this will be the first movie I go to.



Well written, unique and funny, with a few dashes of terror, and always weird and absurd.

This movie is too damned good to miss if you like goofy.

One last thought is that this movie informed me that director Larry Cohen also pens his films so he's the one responsible for not only directing and composing the scenes, but for writing all the zany dialog and eccentricities of the characters. His attention to detail and a lot of his jokes are robust with a grenade effect attached so it may not hit you until the next scene is playing out. I love that kind of writing. Why bother writing any other way?

I was not bored for a second.




MATINEE (1993)
Director: Joe Dante



Set in 1962, Matinee opens up on a military base centering on a fatherless family and a young boy's eventual involvement into a legendary b film producer's in-person appearance at the local theater where he helps run the prop heavy show of a new series of creature features that build in shock seats, odor-rama and flying insects as part of the spectacle.



Watching this movie reminded me a bit of Cinema Paradiso. Director Joe Dante clearly loves films and takes any opportunity to pay a deep love letter like respect to his youth. The story, like Paradiso, also unfolds with a father figure who fosters the boy into his dream world and lets him take the wheel.



Amidst the war and nostalgia themed segments, I felt this film, unlike Paradiso, was missing a strong romantic component. Obviously this is not a very heavy or serious film but it does play with themes that prevent itself from being pure camp. I think that is where I fell off a bit. Tonally this is an interesting movie. It's certainly not a film that hits all of the formulaic notes for a period comedy. Strange things happen outside of the obvious film-within-film parameters. Some of the dialog is straight out of left field and plays hiding in plain sight subtle. I just wish Dante would have tightened up his writing/editing a bit. I didn't find myself completely immersed in either world. The drama I was disconnected from and the camp, though closer than the dramatic, was still too eclipsed by the thematics to fully engage me all of the way through with a general feeling of glee and celebration.



Regardless of my minor distractions, I'd probably recommend this movie to just about anyone with an attention span and who loves movies. It is a fine film that does things no other film has done, and does them well. It just happens, like most Dante movies happen to be, a bit uneven.




The Neverending Story (1983)
Director: Wolfgang Petersen

German director Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot) quite obviously set out to create a passionate and screaming "children's" film of fantasy by employing odd choices to his toolkit, not least of which involved hiring on composers Klaus Doldinger and Giorgio Moroder to score the film with a heavily dark and moody electronic soundtrack.
I remember being about 9 years old walking through the mall and passing the theaters inside. I was with my stepfather and pointed to a poster of Sixteen Candles while simultaneously begging him to take me to see it. He firmly denied me this pleasure and instead I had to settle for The Neverending Story. I was so upset. His responsibility was to protect me from the mature themes of teenage sex comedies. Little did he know that the film we were about to see hurt me 20 feet deeper than a ridiculous film like Sixteen Candles ever could
.

This is not a movie for children to watch and walk away whistling dixie. Not for 1984 it wasn't. Not for me, anyway.

When there is this collective consciousness thing happening, like for instance, scripts leak onto each other in the studio systems resulting in sharp similarities between several films, or pop songs all seem to have that one particular keyboard sound in every song on the radio, or like today auto-tune is used as a hook...
Well, in the 1980's I clearly remember there was a lot of hair blowing back and a lot of the general feeling was long distance shouting or moaning that carried over the wind as if you were screaming to someone beyond the grave that you missed, or screaming to God. Duran Duran 'Hungry Like the Wolf', right near the end of the song a woman moans twice as if in deep, lonely pain. This was big back in the mid 80's and it is overflowing in The Neverending Story, a deeply sad tale with a dimly lit rainbow at the end.

Which brings me to the cinematography by Jost Vacano. Dark and lovely. The entire film, even during daytime and especially back alley scenes, takes on a darker filmic tone. I miss older lenses and stock. Not to sound like an old grinch but honestly, nowadays if you got a children's fantasy it would be bright and over saturated like a god damned board game or it would be artificially dark blue and muted like a Chris Nolan picture. Obnoxious or boring, take your pick. Petersen had his movie shot like a real film. Most film makers did before the Sony's came around and started slip sliding away with the texture and porousness of motion pictures.

No one can accuse this film of being too cheerfully photographed. The matte paintings, lighting, sets, costumes, props and visual effects may show seams and bleed but they are still a joy to look at, regardless.
I suppose seeing this movie for the first time today would be a tame and amusing experience for a good portion of movie goers, but back in 1984 some German director kidnapped me, dragged me into the back parking lot and shivved me in the gut with a sterling silver book mark.

To this day The Neverending Story is one of the major reasons I still cannot help seeing any and all films like a child might; constantly scouting for peculiar stones that glow, 6 point star filtered lighting, hazily lensed long fur white scarves over flowing ivory robes, paint soaked brass pillars, bewitching lipstick. The visuals and music were just too powerful back then for me to not absorb and retain like some sort of virus.
This is also a creepy film. Some of the cutesy animal scenes with voices kind of sound pervy, I won't lie. I guess it's innocent. Damn shame my mind has to be in the gutter every time the flying dog creature gets his ears scratched.



I shouldn't give this film too high of a rating because it is silly and dated but for capturing my imagination I'd rate it



I just watched The Ambulance. I wasn't as high on it as you, but I did really like it. The style is definitely my cup of tea. Gracias.

I really like Matinee too.
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I just watched The Ambulance. I wasn't as high on it as you, but I did really like it. The style is definitely my cup of tea. Gracias.

I really like Matinee too.
There were some scenes that just hit me at the right time.

Like when James Earl Jones is still chewing gum after being slaughtered, or when Red Buttons spashes the bedpan into the villian's face and he goes "*****[email protected]" and Buttons says "no, piss!"..stuff like that..when Eric Roberts finds out so and so has a BF and his new cop friend asks if he is gonna let the BF know if she is OK and he says "[email protected]@ck himmm" in that famous E. Roberts pre-nervous breakdown exaggeration.

But yeah, it's not the best movie in the world



POPATOPOLIS (2009)
Director: Clay Westervelt

This is a funny documentary about Jim Wynorski, B film making legend responsible for "Chopping Mall" and "Deathstalker II" who has taken on the task of shooting a low budget soft core film called "The Witches of Breastwick" in 3 days.



Director Westervelt has really captured some great stuff here. His camera seems to be running at the most opportune times to catch things like Wynorski breaking down with frustration, shooting off nasty comments about his cast, insulting everything he can and just generally being a huge douche for most of the movie.

Here's a guy who knows how to take the cheapest route and deliver most crowd pleasing content. No wonder he was hired by Roger Corman over 30 years ago and has been going strong since. I mean, that's what garbage filmmakers essentially do. They take the most common ground collection of ingredients needed to appease the masses and shellac everything until it becomes marketable. Wynorski seems to have his craft figured out a bit more, though. His credo is "Big Chases....Big Chest, and you will have a winner, sir."



What came as a mild surprise was some of Wynorski's cast. They were all camped out in some cabin rental with no wardrobe or makeup, let alone catering, and the insight they gave for the camera came across very anecdotal and intelligent. They are serious actors who are, for whatever reasons, working with a total hack. A hack that makes a bit of money but probably nothing substantial for his players. They seem in on the joke but that doesn't mean they aren't suffering and self loathing.

A good amount of this fly on the wall feature is based around Wynorski's relationship with his mother, who just gushes about her son as if he is such a good little boy with so much talent. Jim calls his mother every Sunday, but the viewer gets the impression that Jim does it out of guilt and habit and possibly doesn't really lend much of an ear to his mother's day to day recap conversations over the phone. before saying goodbye and "talk to you next Sunday".

Also, I'm not sure of the exact reason but the film maker seems to linger on Wynorski's mom having trouble hanging up the phone and although funny, I can't really feel that great about something that paints this picture when I put everything into context. This guy is a spoiled brat. He's a bully, he's super entitled, he thinks he's some kind of hip old force of nature, and the truth is, he's just a lucky SOB. I don't think anyone watching this would take away anything different. Wynorski knows he's lucky, and this may be part of the reason he comes across so shrill and condescending. He constantly fidgets, covers his mouth and darts his eyes around the room while directing. His confidence is in his passion, but his humor is in his circumstance. He knows his livelihood is doing exactly what he's doing.



I believe the director of this doc did a fine job at recording the essence of Mr. Popatopolis. I find myself coming back to this movie often enough as this is my fourth time watching it. It's a damn good movie and it is always a lot of fun for me.

I recommend this film for anyone who likes trashy cinema, even on a casual level, and anyone who is thinking about taking up film making. This seems to be a mini handbook for what not to do, and sometimes what exactly to do.




WAR MACHINE (2017)
Director: David Michôd

Taking a cast like Griffin Dunne, Alan Ruck, Meg Tilly, Anthony Michael Hall and Russell Crowe would seem like a juicy idea, ripe for some expert storytelling and amazing ensemble work, right? That's what I thought. Say Brad Pitt is the star, what happens then? A couple things: either he'll be serviceable and the script will be funny, or, he'll be barely tolerable and the script will be trash. What's frustrating is that none of this fits that neatly into a determination about "War Machine", an alarmingly bad movie with only half of a handful of semi-effective moments.

The main issue with this film is the first 45 minutes. The basic premise is that a platoon led by a self decorated man near the end of his career is sent to a counter resurgence mission with nothing but a confused agenda. With little to no face time with the president and not much of a chance to "figure things out" on their own, the crew is left no choice but to basically improvise their way through yet another dead ass mission to uphold some paranoid ideal set forth by the powers that be.

To add insult to injury, a couple of jack asses in the unit decide to bring along a reporter from Rolling Stone for the mission and lucky for us the audience, we get to hear his narration for about 60% of the film. Picture "Goodfellas" voice over turned up to 11. It's so distracting and unnecessarily in your face, you'd think that there should be words scrolling like Star Wars through every scene of the movie. SHUT UP ALREADY! JESUS CHRIST!!

Whatever message this film makes an honest attempt to bring home to the movie going public gets completely denied by the horrid first act. How horrid is it? It's as horrid as ***** and I do not say this lightly one bit. The jokes are past "bad". They are offensively embarrassing. The timing is waste. Wasted everything. Too much dead air. One gets a strong feeling that the writing and direction rely on something thought to be sophisticated and "adult" is to be found in these "offbeat" NON beats, but this level of miscalculation is jaw dropping. I couldn't believe how bad the jokes were. We get Ben Kingsley, once playing Ghandi, back again to reprise his role, this time sporting an influenza-like cough that interrupts a basic conversation as if to be a gag (literally). All this does is make one put their hands up and shrug their shoulders. "Why"? Why do this? It's not funny. It's not relevant at all. All it's saying in its transparent way is: "we don't know what we're doing. At all."

Griffin Dunne does his usual energetic work but his slur has gotten worse as he might need some dental work before taking another role which requires him to deliver dialog more than 2 sentences at a time. I like Dunne as an actor but there are some bad decisions being made here. One positive thing I can say is that Alan Ruck (Cameron from Ferris Bueller's Day Off) does solid work, in fact, he's probably giving the best performance of the picture with his 3 scenes of about 40 seconds each.

Meg Tilly shows up briefly with hair that seems to match Pitt's in an almost beauty salon scheme thought to bring some Newmanesque credibility. They manage to share a couple of good dramatic moments together, but it all just feels wasted in the grand scheme of things.

As for Brad Pitt I'd have to say that his performance is good when he's not talking. He can carry enough emotion with his face. It's just that when he opens his mouth, we have to hear his fake gravely voice. First of all, this is painful. It sounds like a 9 year old trying to deepen his voice to sound 18. Pitt takes long pauses between sentences and I had to wonder if he did this so he could draw in enough breath to continue on with his fake gravely voice. I believe if he had put his sentences closer together, that he would have run out of steam and lost the voice. It's embarrassing.

One thing I am happy about is the presence of Anthony Michael Hall. This is his biggest and best role he's had since he got to star in the Hughes films. It's true that he is a shell of his former nerd appeal. He's big and bulky with a wrestlers voice and a forehead that could crack open a Stella Artois. But his work is good. Limited here, but good. He plays rough and tough well enough but his eyeball intensity and forehead creasing mixed with his taut cheek work make his emotional projection that of someone who seems capable of much more. I hope to see him back on the A-List more often. Truth be told, Anthony Michael Hall is the only reason I decided to watch this movie. If it hadn't featured him, and I wasn't curious, I would never made it past the first 20 minutes.

"War Machine" isn't the worst film ever made. It has a message, but that same message kind of cancels itself out because it does two things wrong. It allowed the first act to exist in the state it's in, and it tied things up with a smarmy narration by a fictional Rolling Stone editor. So essentially it tries for irony by using the thing it makes fun of as its main plot device. I see this happen a lot and keep wondering when Hollywood will smarten up. For all of the intricate themes and stories that they want to tell, how is it that they still think they can get the message home when the front door to the club locks you out until you're too tired to want to go inside.

I felt like I was at the hottest nightclub in town hungry to see what was happening, but the door man was an idiot and by the time he let me in I was rained on and cranky.

for a few decent moments of performance and a message that should have been more prominent much, much sooner.

I just want to add that so far, any anticipated production I've ventured to see from Netflix Original Films has been a disappointment. Is this coincidence or am I at the end of what's possible to appreciate from where movies are now, in the hands of a streaming company, no longer ruled by a golden lion or a mountain circled with stars?



Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985)
Director: Who cares?



I need to write because I'm in a funk and foul so I chose this film to dissect.

Part 2 suffers from a grimy look. It comes across brown and dirty. Brown and dirty is the color of a poop. Poop is also dirty. I'm not saying this movie is poop, it's not, but it does have brown hues to it, and because it has moments of dirtyness, it could be considered poop by someone expecting a top shelf comedy with award winning writing, which this film is the exact opposite of.

The jokes aren't nearly as good or as well timed as part 1. Some jokes get repeated to bad effect. There's one moment early on where we get to see female nudity (small breasts) at the beach, and another moment where we see a man's behind in a shower room after being bullied by his in-subordinates. They super glue his hands to his hair in the shower by using an epoxy resin as a replacement for his shampoo. Captain Mauser. That's his name. He says the F word. It's rated PG-13. So far boobs, butt and F word. Not bad for an early PG-13 offering. Tackleberry also pops an erection and blasts off one of his guns in the dark.

The movie, like this review, is disjointed. The editing makes it suffer tremendously. There may have been issues with re-shoots, who knows for sure? Who cares for certain? The movie doesn't completely suck but it's not as good as part one. Bobcat Goldthwait is in this one. He's kind of funny but also embarrassingly annoying.

This movie feels depressing and I'm not sure why. It has lost a big chunk of soul compared to the first film. Even as a standalone movie it kind of just exists as a series of hit/miss jokes.

"And all the rookies will get down on their knees, and they'll say 'Captain Mauserrr...yowzi YOWZAHHH, ohhh yeahhh, OHH YEAHHH, OH...Oh?..Oh?!"

Art Metrano as Captain Mauser does the best work in this film aside from Michael Winslow (sound effect virtuoso). His showbiz attitude of limp wrist operatic comes across very funny, and he wears all sorts of egg on his face with glee. Very controlled performer, very natural. I wish they had made the film more about him.

Colleen Camp plays a goblin-like, yet somehow strangely attractive policewoman who knows a thing or two about guns. She also has a healthy family of fist fighting table manners much to the surprisAre you still reading this?

I'm done.




Police Academy Series

This will help me break down what I have witnessed on blu ray this past week concerning the Police Academy franchise.

Police Academy (1984)
Director: Hugh Wilson

It's funny, it has tons of gags, it's mostly based in reality and the jokes are written into the characters and their situations. This movie doesn't rely entirely on stunt people for a strictly sight-gag yawn fest. I enjoyed most every character and Police Academy plays out like a classic. The comic timing is further honed by the editing, never letting a joke resonate too long but also never pulling the rug out too quick before moving on. That's proper showmanship.


Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985)
Director: Jerry Paris

The second installment still has some choice moments but the main issue is that it's lost the core humor and writing of the first installment. We're introduced to a new ass kissing captain of the ship and he's crude and dopey but full of spark. That's Art Metrano with his sidekick Lanse Kinsey playing Mauser and Proctor, respectively. They bring most of the weight in this entry with their well worked out shtick of back and forth. Kinsey who plays Proctor shows promise that will eventually bail out the further Police Academy's from being tedious and humorless. He's a nice addition. Winslow as Larvelle Jones comes again with a few new tricks and Colleen Camp and family bring some mental illness to the dinner table. The biggest gripe I have with part 2 is the editing. Something happened where everything feels too pasted together. It's quick and cheap as a movie and not the well oiled machine that was part 1.


Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986)
Director: Jerry Paris

Chapter 3 has things getting pretty unbelievably silly and gunky after a slick and crisp opening. We get new recruits, this time bridging over Zed played by Bobcat Goldthwait, who was the dynamically challenged punk criminal of the 2nd film. He's a cop now. He manages to get in some interesting grunts and ticks but ultimately not much is happening in this movie except for Mauser and Proctor again, and they do fine work, as usual. Proctor, in particular, seems to have really inhabited his role, and he shines as an idiot in what I can only describe as a totally committed moron. Good stuff. Sadly the movie is mostly garbage.


Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol (1987)
Director: Jim Drake

Citizens on Patrol (C.O.P.) is strictly stupid. Once again we have new recruits signing up including David Spade and the strangely beautiful Corrine Bohrer. Gues stars feature Tony Hawk and some other famous skaters who get some screen time. The opening rap song "Citizens on Patrol" is indicative of exactly the movie you will get. Police Academy has become comfortable enough to now stamp their brand on your face no matter how silly and cheap it plays out. Once again, we are treated to some nice bits here and there with the return of Proctor, and this time Mauser is gone and G.W.Bailey steps back in for his role as Captain Harris, part one's nemesis. They make a good "bad guy" team. Maybe not as good as Metrano did as Mauser, but Bailey has the chops and range to really take care of business and Harris and Proctor don't miss a beat(pun). "It's definitely gum, sir. Bubble gum...cherry, I think!" Hightower finally gets to spread his comedic wings in a bit that looks like he finally feels comfortable being funny. And he is: "Yama, yama, yama, yahhh-ma!"


Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach (1988)
Director: Alan Myerson

Well, here is the 2nd worst Police Academy film. Guttenberg has left as Mahoney, leaving us with non-actor Bubba Smith as a dull Hightower. Taking Mahoney's young and handsome face is Lloyd Braun from Seinfeld as Commadant Eric Lassard's nephew. So much story here. This installment is mostly just bad, bad bad! Proctor and Harris still make a good team but the movie is so poorly written and directed that they lose footing quick and succumb to the overpowering stank that is this movie. Avoid.


Police Academy 6: City Under Siege (1989)
Director: Peter Bonerz (That name!!)

Believe it or not, City Under Siege isn't half bad. It still suffers from limp writing and hokey and ridiculous characters, but it has something Police Academy never had and that is style. Yes, it's actually photographed and lit well. On top of that, some of the jokes are just subtle enough to realize that some touch up writing was employed, which is nice for a change. I think a bit of care went into this movie, and the problem seems to be that the movie, as a whole,, is pretty awfully written. Enough scenes make up for the sheer absurdity as they accent this fact of everything being stupid, and we are rewarded with character traits never before seen. Larvelle Jones does the robot, Tackleberry demonstrates some artistic shooting skills, Hightower gets to try on supernatural physical powers that play like a Marvel film. It's all pretty interesting for a while and seems evenly peppered throughout to make this nearly ended saga an almost passable movie experience. Proctor and Harris are still at it and have some choice moments. Sadly, this the last film that Lance Kinsey - as Proctor - appears in.


Police Academy: Mission to Moscow (1994)
Director: Alan Metter

In the same way that John Landis destroyed Beverly Hills Cop, Alan Metter (Back to School) ends Police Academy on the sourest, weirdest and most depressingly awkward of notes.
Captain Harris spends the entire film trying to make trouble for the gang - alone. He no longer has a sidekick in Proctor. He actually talks to himself to try and move the plot along. It's very sad to see. The cast seems to have packed on about 10-20 lbs since the last film, they made one every year previous and this final chapter didn't pop out until 5 years later. The hiatus shows in the QC dept. Everything is sluggish and forced. It's definitely a case of the producers making things up as they went along. "Very, very" bad, with "many, many" mistakes. Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING is funny about this movie. It's offensively horrid. The music has been butchered. No longer do we get the sweeping marching band orchestral of the previous six films. Now we have to endure bizzaro keyboard renderings, using oddly placed space-age and delay effected sounds. It's as if the sound designers and music editors were hung over from a crack/lsd binge the night before, except instead of being creative, it's just blindingly wrong, overflowing with bad decision making throughout the entire run time. Even Ron Pearlman as a Russian crime lord cannot come close to saving any scene, whatsoever. We have to suffer through a badly dubbed French film styled slapstick based completely in Russia. It almost seems as if this movie is trying to do something to earn points by playing up to a completely un-American comedy sensibility. This movie unfolds like it was made in 1978 by a talentless television comedian. It's so lifeless and strange that at one point I said out loud, completely straight faced and impulsively: "Oh-my God." I don't think Proctor would've been able to do anything to help this movie, either. I'm glad he stayed home.


Well, there we have it. My analysis of the Police Academy films. I don't think there's much else to say. I took about a week to watch and digest these films, presented in HD quality on blu ray disc.

The best film is part 1. That's a no-brainer.

The others have moments - G.W.Bailey, Art Metrano and Lance Kinsey are all saviors of the series with their experience and aptitude for comedy, and part 6 is a strange blend of failure and inspired craftsmanship, but if you're in the market for one institutional knee slapper, Police Academy is certainly not the worst choice you can make for a night at home watching a movie before bed.



TRESPASS (1992)
Director: Walter Hill



I really enjoyed this movie. Walter Hill as director brought a lot of well staged and edited action sequences together with great sound and a lot of spirit. Two fireman, hip to a hidden treasure in an old abandoned building, decide to go on a hunt for a million dollars worth of gold merchandise, stolen 50 years prior, from a church.

What these two don't know is that the defunct building is the safe haven to criminal business men who stake claim to the area. You can guess what happens next. All out war. Cunning survival techniques, double crosses, and some nice, shiny objects of treasure lust on display. Junkies, stew bums, heroes, intelligent and animated crime lords, cowboy thugs. We get Ice -T, Ice Cube, Bill Paxton, William Sandler, just to name a few. It's a campy time but still manages to use concrete aspects of a thriller, and shows the infancy of "reality tv" styled film making, as a young gang member often documents the proceedings from his video camera POV. I wouldn't call this distracting, though. It doesn't dominate the picture.

This is a fun movie. Sure, it has implausibilities like a lot of action films, but they're easily forgiven once you decide to go along for the ride. Chances are, you'll know within about 8 minutes whether or not this is your kind of film. If you watch a film like a hawk for plot holes and can't get past a few woodenly delivered lines here and there, you may as well skip this one altogether. But if you're an adventurer and like your action films dark, ruthlessly violent, funny and smartly executed, you really cannot go wrong with "Trespass".





I went into this having seen it on VHS two decades ago, and not remembering much of anything. I was wholly satisfied once the movie ended. They don't make em' like they used to. No "fix it in the mix" green screen or CGI cartoon garbage. It's a man's film, not a little boy's movie. Walter Hill usually makes movies for guys and teenage boys, but this was made back when things were different. That's why I enjoyed it so much. I'm glad I found this one again.






BLADE RUNNER (1982)
Director: Ridley Scott

A futuristic noir picture that is a crowning achievement for science fiction cinema. One of the most important visual films ever produced in the realm of sci-fi. It mixes classic detective with modern cop thriller.

Harrison Ford is assigned to track down and kill a handful of escaped slave androids and in the process falls in love with a female robot who has had childhood memories implanted, unbeknownst to her. Harrison's character Rick Deckard fosters her while trying to keep his assignment priorities in check, and in the process must question his own motivations and mortality.

This is really a much more complex and adult oriented film than many people have given it credit for. It tackles things in a slow paced and strange way but I get a feeling that most viewers discount it because they simply cannot look past the obvious things that get used against a movie like this.

If special effects were a distraction from a good story, I suppose Blade Runner would be guilty as charged. The model and set work in this film is simply magnificent. It has been copied to death so many times since 1982 that I can see why it's not as sacred or unique to modern movie goers. Back when this film came out, Harrison Ford was not a dramatic actor. He was Han Solo from Star Wars. A wisecracking, egocentric macho man with a certain charisma and charm to play anyone's cool uncle or father figure. Blade Runner took his public image and turned it inside out to a shocking degree. He was now vulnerable.

Music had never been used in a film like it was used in Blade Runner. Greek electronic composer Vangelis created a lush and haunting score that held this movie at all corners. Blade Runner's sound design is also brilliant. Scarce Rhodes piano notes, tubular bells, dulcimers, orchestra cymbals, all used in unconventional ways mixed with reverberated computer glitch blips, overhead fan blade whirring sounds, smokeless engine rushes and inventive mechanical/hydraulic cues were ocassionally signature of Ridley Scott's previous work on Alien, except now it was much more extravagant and dense. A whole world has been created for study from the soundtrack alone.

I suppose I have to say that I saw Blade Runner at the drive in theaters on a mild Summer night back to back with Sharky's Machine. Nothing, and I mean nothing, was like Blade Runner when it came out. It was mindblowingly sophisticated and deep.

It may may not be a perfect film on every level, and honestly, I'm glad it's not. I appreciate that some of the more dopey things about Blade Runner are there in the film. Because if Blade Runner were perfect, and I mean, what is perfect anyway(?), then it would be too much to watch. It'd be like seeing God. You wouldn't be able to take it. There would be riots in the streets. The dream would take over and people would be convulsing in the aisles, belching up popcorn and peeing their pants.




Glad to see another fan of Blade Runner What version did you watch? The most popular is the Final Cut, but I prefer the original theatrical release version. Very cool you see in at a drive-in These days many people wouldn't know what a drive-in was. I saw Blade Runner first run at a theater with a huge screen, one of those fancy theaters from the 1930s. It burnt down sadly. I must have seen Blade Runner there at least 4 or 5 times.