I’m back!!! Well, I’ve never left, but the Round up is back after as short hiatus and this time it’s filled with plenty of goodies including two batches of Twilight Time titles (Oh Joy! their best yet!), plenty of Lionsgate, Paramount and more and more! So let’s get the party started!
The Dogs of War (****) MGM/Twilight Time Starring Christopher Walken, Tom Berenger, Paul Freeman, Colin Blakely, JoBeth Williams Directed by John Irvin 1981/R/International Version: 1 Hour 59 Minutes. & U.S. Version: 1 Hour 44 Minutes/Aspect Ratio Anamorphic Widescreen: 1:85.1/Special Features: Isolated Music Track for Geoffrey Burgon’s Score/Original Theatrical Trailer
Thrilling and very entertaining action-thriller starring a post Oscar Winning Walken as a mercinary for hire named Shannon, who takes on a job of planning a coup for a capitalist group represented by Endeen in a African nation of Zangaro run by a lunatic dictator. Shannon heads to do some reconiassance work when he’s captured and tortured by his army. Returning to the States to recooperate, Shannon enlists his fellow mercenary friends (Berenger, Freeman, etc.) to go back and follow through on the coup for a lucrative sum of money. The final twenty or so minutes featuring a major battle of explosions and gunfire that is a little over the top, but the film really works. Walken is terrific here as well as Berenger. This film is easily one of those guilty pleasures that you can watch over and over again especially watching New York in the late 70’s early 80’s which is unique.
This disc is a very soild release and one I’d personally hope they would add to their excellent catalog. The film is definitely for fans of the genre and it’s always great to see Christopher Walken chewing up scenary and making movies like these alot of fun. Thumbs way way way up!
Salvador (****) MGM/Twilight Time Starring James Woods, James Belushi, John Savage, Elpida Carrillo, Cynthia Gibb and Michael Murphy Directed by Oliver Stone 1986/R/2 Hours 3 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 1:85.1 Anamorphic Widescreen/Special Features: Isolated Score Track for Georges Delerue’s Score / Audio Commentary with Director Oliver Stone / “Into the Valley of Death” – The Making of Salvador / Deleted Scenes / Original Theatrical Trailer
This is a very intense and poignant film based on the real life escapdes of rebel journalist Richard Boyle played brilliantly in an Oscar nominated performance by James Woods, who travels to El Salvador in 1980 with his friend Doctor Rock (James Belushi, According To Jim) in what would become a political firestorm of dictatorship and the assassination of a prominent member of the Catholic Church. Helping a fellow photographer (Savage, “The Onion Field”), Boyle then has to deliver a very important film as well as save his girlfriend Maria (Carrillo, “Predator”) and her family’s life by getting them out of the now war torn country. The making of the film is just as harrowing as the film itself which is very powerful and has been completely over looked due to Oscar Winner Oliver Stone’s more popular films in “Platoon”, “Born On The Fourth Of July”, “JFK”, “Wall Street” and “Natural Born Killers”. This is the film which really got “Platoon” made and revived Stone’s career as both a writer and would establish him as one of the best directors of the decade soon after. Woods is terrific here giving a very intense, yet poignant performance as Boyle and the supporting cast is excellent as well, especially Belushi who pretty much shed his comedic style for this film to go toe to toe with Woods and compliment each other exceptionally well.
This Blu-Ray looks very nice a nice upgrade over the original MGM DVD from over ten years ago and also offers the same features including the incredible documentary “Into The Valley of Death” which is just as intense as the film is. This is a terrific release without question and one of Stone’s most powerful film. Thumbs way way way up.
The Killer Elite (****) MGM/Twilight Time Starring James Caan, Robert Duvall, Mako, Gig Young, Burt Young, Bo Hopkins, Arthur Hill Directed by Sam Peckenpah 1975/PG/2 Hours 3 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 2:35.1 Anamorphic Widescreen/Special Features: Isolated Score Track featuring Jerry Fielding’s Score / Audio Commentary with Film Historians Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, and Nick Redman / Passion and Poetry: Sam’s Killer Elite / Promoting The Killer Elite / TV and Radio Spots / Original Theatrical Trailer/BONUS: Noon Wine TV Movie (1966) Starring Olivia de Haviland, James Robards, Theodore Bikel, Per Oscarsson /Special Features Audio Commentary with Film Historians Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, and Nick Redman
After the unforgettable revisionist Western “The Wild Bunch”, Director Sam Peckenpah was a bit of a wild shot when it came to his projects with films such as “Ballad of Cable Hogue”, “Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid”, “Junior Bonner”, “Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia” and the controversial “Straw Dogs.” Peckenpah enjoyed alot of commercial success with the hit film, “The Getaway” starring Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw and despite that, Peckinpah was still on the outs with most studios in Hollywood because of his much publicized drinking and drug habits. However, “The Killer Elite” was pretty much one of the last major studio projects that the esteemed director would be offered and it is a real good one. Caan and Duvall star as Locken and Hansen, a pair of agents working for a very private security firm that is a part of the CIA. Hansen after their latest mission to protect a very important person in the ranks betrays Locken nearly crippling him in the process. After going rogue Hansen has now become a target for the firm and after extensive rehab, Locken is brought back in to go after and eliminate him with the help of a Japanese martial artist (Mako) and his associates (Hopkins and Young).
The film is a tense and at times, light entertainment in which Peckinpah pulled back a bit from his usual hardcore and intense violence that was a turn off to alot of his previous films which didn’t exactly sit too well with audiences then. Now is a whole other story because this intensity is really lacking in today’s films along with character development and themes. The film is very strong and entertaining with Caan giving a very solid performance. This blu-ray features the premiere release of the film in the format and one definitely worthy of the label and have done Peckinpah’s films solid justice to this point with some nice features on this disc and in particular the commentary which is excellent as usual and the inclusion of what would be considered the beginning of Peckinpah’s rebirth as a director “Noon Wine” a 1966 telefilm which garnered high acclaim makes it’s first ever release and looks great. This another terrific release of another excellent and underappreciated film. Thumbs way way up!
La Bamba (***1/2) Columbia/Twilight Time Starring Lou Diamond Phillips, Esai Morales, Rosanna DeSoto, Danielle Von Zernick, Joe Pantoliano Directed by Luis Velez 1987/PG-13/1 Hour 49 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 1:85.1/Special Features: Isolated Score Track featuring Carlos Santana and Miles Goodman’s Score/ Audio Commentary with Director/Writer Luis Valdez, Actors Lou Diamond Phillips and Esai Morales, and Producer Stuart Benjamin / Audio Commentary with Producers Taylor Hackford and Daniel Valdez / Original Theatrical Trailer
This film based on the true story of rock n’ roll legend Richie Valens (Phillips, “Young Guns”) who passed away rather tragically along with other legends Buddy Holly (read the review below for this film) and J.P. Richardson aka. The Big Bopper who all died tragically on the same plane crash in the late fifties at the age of seventeen just as his recording career was about to take off with three hit singles to his credit including the unforgettable “La Bamba”. The film revolves his life and his family including his overprotective brother (Morales, “Bad Boys”), his caring mother (DeSoto) and his high school sweetheart Donna (Von Zernick, “My Science Project”) until that fateful night that would change rock n’ roll history forever. The film is somewhat overlooked when it comes to biographies of this type that include the recent “Dreamgirls”, “Ray” and the upcoming Miles Davis film despite being a hit film in 1987.
This blu-ray pretty much reprises the special edition DVD that Sony put out a decade ago and this is not a bad looking film which was really shot well and ably directed by Luis Velez. The picture quality is very strong and vibrant for a movie shot over 27 years ago. This is a film that is absolutely worth exploring again and that would be more appreciated now, then it really was back then. Thumbs up.
Che! (***) Fox/Twilight Time Starring Omar Sharif, Jack Palance, Ceasare Denova, Woody Strode, Robert Loggia Directed by Richard Fleischer 1969/PG/1 Hour 36 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 2:35.1 Anamorphic Widescreen/Special Features: Isolated Score Track featuring Lalo Schifrin’s Score/Original Theatrical Trailer
This film is a bit of an oddity in which really came out pretty much years after revolutionary Che Guervara’s passing and Fidel Castro becoming the infamous Cuban dictator the world will never forget. The film in a very strange bit of casting has Oscar Winner Omar Sharif (“Doctor Zhivago”) as Che and fellow Oscar Winner Jack Palance (“City Slickers”) has Castro. The film directed by Richard Fleischer deals with Che, a former Argentinian doctor who joins Castro, a rebel fighter in the Cuban revolution and becomes one a historical figure until he’s betrayed by Castro in the end. The film is a very interesting and fresh (at the time) account of what happend these events in his life eventhough Walter Salles’ “The Motorcycle Diaries” was a more poignant and faithful of the book that was published based on this point in history. Steven Soderburgh took a major stab at retelling Che’s story in 2008 featuring Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro, as the historic revolutionary which is available as part of the Criterion Collection.
Like I said before, this film is definitely a product of its’ time and an interesting curiosity that would play better as a good historical film for classrooms as well as a good comparison to the other films based on Che. This is a unique title in this catalog and it’s nice to see it in the format. Thumbs up.
The Buddy Holly Story (****) Columbia/Twilight Time Starring Gary Busey, Charles Martin Smith and Don Stroud Directed by Steve Rash 1978/PG/1 Hour 53 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 1:85.1 Anamorphic Widescreen/Special Features: Isolated Score Track featuring Joe Renzetti’s Score/ Audio Commentary with Director Steve Rash and Actor Gary Busey / Original Theatrical Trailer
Like “La Bamba” which was reviewed earlier, “The Buddy Holly Story” which was released a decade earlier tells the story of the lanky, nerdy looking Texas singer played in a brilliant Oscar nominated performance by Gary Busey (“Lethal Weapon”) who combusts the screen playing the hell out of the role along with his bandmates (Charles Martin Smith, “American Graffiti” and Don Stroud, “Mike Hammer”) under the excellent direction of Steve Rash and the cast really performing Holly’s songs live which earned composer Joe Renzetti an Oscar Win for Best Adaptated Score.
The film is really a great showcase for Busey, who really and probably would’ve won the Oscar in any other year hands down gives the performance of his career. He’s lean and passionate and embodies the spirit of the real Buddy Holly with love. This is another nice looking blu-ray disc by the label in their ever growing catalog of preserving the best films, “The Buddy Holly Story” is definitely a winner and largely due to Gary Busey, who really is the film. Thumbs way way up.
The Fault In Our Stars: Little Infinities Edition (****) Starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe and Sam Trammell Fox/2014/PG-13/Theatrical Cut: 2 Hours 6 Minutes & Extended Version: 2 Hours 13 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 1:85.1/Audio Commentary by Josh Boone and John Green/Deleted Scenes with Optional Audio Commentary by Josh Boone and John Green/The Stars Align/ The Scribe on Set/Our Little Infinity/The Music Behind Our Stars/Gallery/Theatrical Trailer
Bittersweet, but very romantic and charming film where both Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort display themselves as this years’ most romantic on screen couple and great looking ones since Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in “The Notebook” ten years ago. The film based on John Green’s best selling book features Woodley as Hazel Grace Lancaster, who is dealing with her own bout of respatory cancer in which she has to always travel with an oxygen tank so she can breathe easier. One day forced by her caring mother to go into a cancer support group, she meets Gus (Elgort, “Divergent”) a former athlete who’s lost his leg to bone cancer and is the total opposite of Hazel in his cheerful demeanor which eventally wins her over and the pair become inseperable and do ultimately fall in love despite their grim prospects of a long future together. Of course, the film has the tragic end to one of the characters which I won’t spoil here and alot of moments culled from other films of this type, what makes this film this good is definitely Woodley and Elgort who really have great chemistry together and you really do believe them as a couple going through this heartache and their resistance of falling in love all too real. This is one of my favorite films of the year and I’m honestly surprised at how good it is. Woodley deserves an Oscar nomination for this and don’t be surprised if she really does get one along with Elgort. Thumbs Way Way Up!
Brick Mansions (***) Starring Paul Walker, David Belle, The Rza Directed By Camille Delamarre FOX/2014/PG-13 (Theatrical Version) 1 Hour 30 Minutes/Unrated (Extended Version) 1 Hour 40 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 2:40.1/Special Features: On Set Action with Paul Walker/Becoming Tremaine/Brick by Brick/Theatrical Trailer
Slick and entertaining action film produced and written by Luc Besson (“Lucy”) which features Walker in his final film role as Damien, a tough Detroit Detective who is given an assignment to inflitrate the “Brick Mansions” complex in the run down part of the city that is run by a seemingly ruthless crime lord named Tremaine (RZA), whom he is believed to be his father’s murderer. Soon Damien receives help from a former convict Lino (Belle, “B-13”) who wants to destroy Tremaine’s reign of drug dealing in the complex and also happens to have kidnapped his girlfriend so that Lino would come to him. There’s more at stake when they discover that Tremaine has obtained a stolen nuclear missle which he threatens to launch at the city if he doesn’t get 30 million dollars. However, Damien and Lino find out the real truth as to why that missile was so easily stolen by Tremaine which leads back to the highest officials in the city.
The film is a remake of Besson’s own “B-13” which also starred Belle and this isn’t a bad film at all and was released during a busy Summer and got lost in the shuffle. Walker does his tough guy act one last time with good results and RZA isn’t a bad villiain. There’s also some fun action sequences that are very enjoyable for a film of this type. Definitely watch the extended cut which actually plays much better than the theatrical cut. Marginal Thumbs up.
They Came Together (****) Starring Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Cobie Smulders, Christopher Meloni, Melanie Lynskey and Ed Helms Directed By David Wain Lionsgate 2014/R/1 Hour 23 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 1:85.1 Audio Commentary with Director and Co-Writer David Wain and Producer and Co-Writer Michael Showalter/They All Came Together Featurette/San Francisco Sketchfest Table Read/Theatrical Trailer/Deleted Scenes
This is surprisingly funny and nutty comedy that features Rudd and Poehler as a pair of newly minted singles in Manhattan, who meet one night wearing the same costume at their friend’s party which was in fact a set up for them to meet and go on a date to which they end up pretty much hating each other. Then after meeting up at a bookstore, they do end up going out together and eventually become a loving couple until they break up. Rudd going back to the sexy Cobie Smulders of “The Avengers” and Poehler engaged to marry “The Hangover’s” Ed Helms, until they see each other again to rekindle their love for one another David Wain style.
This is one nutty movie that I really didn’t know what to expect to be honest, but I really liked it for what it is and if you really liked Wain’s other films such as “Hot Wet American Summer”, Role Models” and the underrated “Wanderlust”, this movie is definitely for you. I definitely like Rudd and Poehler together here and they really do make the film that much better in my view. Thumbs up
Godzilla (***) Starring Aaron Taylor Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche Directed By Gareth Edwards Warner Bros./2014/PG-13/2 Hours 3 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 2:40.1
This was one of the more highly anticipated films of the Summer movie season and the year as this year marks the celebration of the famed monster, “Godzilla”. The film which is entertaining for what it is features Taylor-Johnson (“Kick-Ass”) as Ford, a soldier who returns to Japan to visit his father (Cranston, “Breaking Bad”) a former scientist who still insists that a meltdown that happend isn’t what it seems and the proof is when a creature that absorbs nuclear energy is awakend from its’ cocoon which soon wrecks havoc both in Japan in the U.S. in search of its’ long dormant mate to reproduce. With a last deseperate hope, Godzilla is awakened to destroy the MUTO creatures from destroying the entire free world.
The film is nicely shot and the effects are tremendous, but I have to agree with most critics in that the film took too long to reveal Godzilla himself which in all honesty IS the best thing about the film eventhough I liked it for what it is. Edwards’ direction is very solid, but Taylor-Johnson as a hero wasn’t all that memorable or appealing for that matter. It’s a mixed bag really, but one if your shut your mind off for two hours, it does the job. Marginal thumbs up.
Now for my “Odds and Ends Segment”
The Dead 2 (**) Starz!/Anchor Bay 2014/Not Rated/1 Hour 38 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 1:85.1 This is the sequel to the original 2010 thriller directed by The Ford Brothers which this time around revolves around an infected Indian worker with some kind of disease stemming from Africa (how’s this for a real life coincidence) working off a gambling debt rolls into town and almost instantly infects the town turning everyone into: you guessed it flesh eating zombies! One desperate American worker working on a windmill farm tries furiously to get back to his wife and child before a major outbreak literally consumes them. While I didn’t see the first film, this film is well crafted for what it is considering its’ meager budget. Unfortunately, it falls into the category of been there and done that even better with the show like “The Walking Dead” and the film “28 Days Later” as strong examples. The film is watchable and fans of the genre will no doubt enjoy this. Thumbs down
Born To Race: Fast Track (**1/2) Starz!/Anchor Bay 2014/PG/1 Hour 38 MInutes/Aspect Ratio: 2:40.1 This is another sequel to another film that I missed out on called “Born To Race” from a couple of years ago. This film deals with the story of a young man named Danny Kruger, who has a race car pedigree stemming from a famous family who is asked to join a famous racing academy. Paired with a bitter rival, Kruger has to work through many complications that will make him the best in the world if he has the heart to do so which includes his girlfriend going off to an Ivy league college, fierce competition at the school and the advances of a fellow student. The film pretty much has the making of a Top Gun on wheels, but it falls way short of that. For what it is, it is an entertaining film that is well shot and has nice production values. This isn’t a classic or a masterpiece by any means, but it is a good time killer and gets bonus points for the effort. Marginal Thumbs Down.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (*) Starz!/Anchor Boy 1984/R/1 Hour 28 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 1:85.1 This film marks the Anniversary of one of the more infamous slasher films of the 1980’s. Released a few weeks before Christmas by Tri-Star Pictures, the film with its dubious and infamous marketing campaign which sent parents into a frenzy to not only get the commercials pulled from television broadcasts, but also managed to get the studio to yank the film after the successful box office it was getting. Even Siskel & Ebert completely lambasted the film during one of their review shows and right fully so since the movie isn’t any good to begin with that ultimately ended up on their “Worst of” shows at the end of the year. As for the film, it is bad, real bad. A Canadian production about a kid who witnesses his parents murdered by a maniac dressed up as Santa Claus one Christmas Eve and eventually that kid grows up, he pretty much has own sense of sick vengeance by committing similar murders that include a bow and arrow, a leathal spanking session to name a few and even gives a little girl a bloody knife as a Christmas gift. How inspiring to be sure to the true sprit of the season. The film has obtained cult status after being buried for a long time due to dubvious reputation and there’s really nothing here to enjoy about this film. Fans of the genre will be delighted that it’s on Blu-Ray, I’m not one of those. Thumbs way way way down
The Rover (***) Starring Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson Directed By David Michod Lionsgate/2014/R/1 Hour 42 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 2:40.1/Special Features: Something Elemental: Making The Rover
This is a bleek, dark and striking film to watch with Pearce playing a loner trying to survive in the Australian Outback after the collapse of society. Roving throughout the land, Pearce runs into Pattinson, who’s wounded and left for dead by his brother. Soon taking him on a journey to get back to regular society if it exists, they encounter hostiles at every turn and strange characters that has seen the world pass them by with tragic consequences.
This is to be honest is somewhat of a tough film to watch despite the great performance by Pearce here who really chews up the scenary with the minimal dialog he’s given and Pattinson also is very good. The most striking part of this is the beautiful cinematrography that is definitely a major character in this film deplaying the desolate landscape they battling to get out of. The film is not for the faint of heart at times, but a film in the tradition of “I Am Legend” and “The Quiet Earth”. Thumbs up solely for the performances and the visuals, the story itself is somewhat pointless.
More odds & ends on the DVD front:
My Man Is A Loser Starring John Stamos, Michael Rappaport, Bryan Callen and Tika Sumpter Lionsgate/R/1 Hour 29 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 1:78.1
This is a meandering and misguided comedy that really borrows from alot of other romantic and non romantic comedies in which bachelor Stamos tries to help his friends score a major deal from work while dealing with their spouses who have given them the cold shoulder. While Stamos finds himself falling in love with his bartender (Sumpter) and his cool bachelor ways prevent him pursuing something with her at least until the predictable ending. Not a bad film at times, but really filled with needless stereotypes and scenarios that have payed off in better films and definitely not this one. Thumbs way way down
Denver The Last Dinosuar: The Complete Series (6 Disc Set) 1988-90/VCI Entertainment/21 Hours 40 Minutes. Pretty much forgotten cartoon series with a rather catchy theme song that ran on CBS if i’m not mistaken revolves around a dinosaur which is awakened in modern day California and befriend by a group of kids of all types. A harmless and nice little series that ran for three seasons and son disappeared into syndication and hasn’t been seen since until now. A nice cartoon that is definitely dated however, but recommended for fans of 80’s kids shows and cartoons as well as younger kids of today.
That’s alot for his column and there’s plenty more upcoming including Transformers Age of Extinction, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: 40th Anniversary Edition and many many more! Until next time, my blu-ray play is now turned off!