Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

James Bond must discover what his evil nemesis Blofeld is doing with all those stolen diamonds.  What makes this one so much fun is all the little touches.  Sadistic gymnasts Bambi and Thumper throwing Bond a beating; Jill St. John in a purple bikini; crazy car chase through Las Vegas; M beating out the slot machines; and of course the 2 creepy henchmen Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. The most bubblegummy and campy of all the Bond films, but way enjoyable.

Quickie Synopsis

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Five Easy Pieces (1970)

A talented man from an upper-class family of musicians runs away from it all.  Jack Nicolson, early and great, is a dissatisfied prick running away to work on oil rigs and go bowling and screw around.  Good movie about a talented fortunate man with inner turmoil and restlessness.  Yes, he's a dick and don't go looking for a plot, but Nicholson is brilliant as a man who is screaming on the inside.  Watch for Karen Black as his ditzy clinging gal and Sally Struthers. And of course the famous diner scene.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Frenzy (1972)

An down-on-his luck man is falsely accused of multiple rapes/murders in London.  Great Hitchcock.  Both gruesome and funny--best yet are the the scenes of Inspector Oxford having experimental gourmet meals forced on him by his wife, played by Vivien Merchant with a delightfully nutty flair.  Good solid acting all around.  Hitchcock totally messes with you with his long camera shots and suspense, but it's a fun ride.  A real British treat.

Quickie Synopsis
I didn't
Do it
You Bastards!

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Cowboys (1972)

An aging cattle herder must hire a group of greenhorn schoolboys for a dangerous cattle drive.  A kinder, gentler John Wayne, but no pushover.  Most excellently cast with the likes of Roscoe Lee Browne who just about upstages Wayne, and very early Robert Carradine.  Bruce Dern is again a sublimely miserable prick you love to hate.  Entertaining from start to finish.  I like to see John Wayne like this.

"I'm thirty years older than you are. I had my back broke once, and my hip twice. And on my worst day I could beat the hell out of you."

Quickie Synopsis
Coming of Age
With Cattle
And Bandits

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)

A quirky romance between a newly separated single father and an odd performance artist.  John Hawkes and Miranda July create an intimate little romance with unique dialogue.  Written and directed by Miranda July, there are some things in this movie that under other circumstances would be questionable, but all works perfectly here.  Scene to see is the brothers chatting on the computer. Brandon Makenzie-Lee Ratcliff plays the younger brother, and is so cute and interesting, you've got to laugh.  

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Frozen River (2008)

A desperate woman resorts to smuggling illegal immigrants to support her family.  This is a grim tale with a hint of redemption and hope.  Melissa Leo is raw and strong.  Misty Upham is perfect as her Native American smuggling partner.  The beauty of this movie is the way these two souls come together, each with their own burdens to bear.  Very minimalistic and hard-hitting movie.  You can feel everything closing around this main character and the harsh winter chill.  Good solid stuff.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Harold and Maude (1971)

Young man obsessed with death falls in love with an 80-year old woman.   Almost 40 years old, this film still stands up solidly as a cult classic.  Bud Cort is a shy, twisted young man who stages his own death and goes to funerals for kicks.  Ruth Gordon plays a sadly happy soul who teaches him how to let go.  Keep an eye out for the great Vivian Pickles as the obnoxious mother, and the coolest Jaguar you'll ever see.  Killer soundtrack by Cat Stevens.

Quickie Synopsis

The Lords of Flatbush (1974)

The Lords,  a gang of four brooklyn youts (not youths) in 1950's Brooklyn, find themselves facing adulthood.   This movie is a treat-- a young, pre-rocky Sylvester Stallone steals every scene he's in playing meathead Stanley.  Perry King is Chico the playboy, and pre-happy days Henry Winkler as Butch.  Imagine a darker, neurotic Jewish Fonzie.  Some very memorable scenes in this one-- Stallone in the store buying a wedding ring for his girlfriend is priceless.  See it.

Quickie Synopsis
Growing up

Friday, March 19, 2010

Croupier (1998)

A weary writer takes a job as a croupier in a British casino.  A darkish, multi-layered tale of a man narrating his own life.  It's a pleasure to watch Clive Owen as a virtuoso roulette dealer, working with precision and a studied disdain for his clients.  So much more is happening between the folds than what you're seeing.  A tantalizing look into the workings of a casino, but so much more than that.  Very cool and very understated.

Quickie Synopsis
As Jake

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Carny (1980)

A small-town girl joins a traveling carnival. Ok, so what, you say? If you can find this one, watch the hell out of it, it's a gem. 3 great things about this movie? Jodie Foster, Gary Busey, and Robbie Robertson (yes, guitarist from The Band). Gary Busey steals the show outright as an abusive clown in the carnival dunking tank. Robertson is cool and surprisingly good as Patch, the veteran "carny". Jodie Foster is ripe in this one, and about to fall off the tree. The plot won't leave you speechless, but amazingly watchable.

Quickie Synopsis
3 Balls
A Dollar

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Imposters (1998)

2 unemployed actors stowaway on a cruise ship. Just accept that this is a zany farce and you will laugh. Stanley Tucci and Oliver Platt are like a crazed hot-dog and hamburger bouncing off the grill. There is such a deep understanding of comedy and a love of zanyness going on here. Many moments that will have you crying with laughter. The cast is given carte blanche to take their characters way over the top. But with the likes of Steve Buscemi, Alfred Molina, Lili Taylor, Tony Shalhoub, Bill Connolly et al, it's a pleasure. My fave is Campbell Scott as the smarmy Nazi Ship Officer.

Quickie Synopsis
At Sea

Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974)

A man and his girlfriend escape from the cops in their scrumptious yellow '69 440 Dodge Charger. Yes another car chase movie--hold it right there though. Great chases, quirky camera shots, violent ramming of police Mopar pursuit cars---none of that CGI fantasy, this is the genuine stuff, smashing up beefy muscle cars, for real. Wouldn't call this a character study, as Peter Fonda is a jerk, and his girl, Susan George is cute and stupid and the dialogue is kind of idiotic. But boy, can they smash up police cars on country roads. Very well shot with an ending you won't soon forget. Get yer six-pack on for this one.

Quickie Synopsis
In the sun

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sayonara (1957)

An ace fighter pilot falls in love with a Japanese dancer against the Air Force's orders.   If you're wondering what all the hoopla was about over Marlon Brando, this one should clear it up for you.  Red Buttons nails it as a tough from-the-gutter airman who also falls in love with a Japanese woman.  Miyoshi Umeki, who plays his wife, is so darn cute that you want to pat her on the head and buy her a lollipop.  James Garner is great as Brando's sardonic buddy.  Absolutely stunning film.  Only weak spot would be Ricardo Montalban playing a Japanese kabuki dancer.   Really?   Anywhoo, this is a marvelous movie you can watch again and again.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Crossing Delancey (1988)

An ethnic Jewish love story taking place in the Lower East Side, NYC.  Featuring Amy Irving, and Peter Riegert as Sam the pickle man.  Very charming movie with an excellent performance from Yiddish stage actress Reizl Bozyk as bubby. (that's a Jewish grandmother).  Sylvia Miles gives a high-octane performance as the pushy yenta.  As she slobbers away on chicken and does the matchmaking hard sell at the kitchen table, you know you're on to something good here.  Very gentle and smart story.  See it.  Would it be so wrong bubby?

Quickie Synopsis
Side Love

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)

This  movie is the grandaddy of all car chases -- a 40-minute extravaganza of wrecked Plymouths, a luscious 73 Ford Mustang Mach 1, a beautiful symphony of real cars getting trashed, real stunts, and no special effects.  No plot to speak of-- a guy has to steal 40 cars.  Acting?  Well, not really.  But the last 40 minutes of this movie has the greatest car chase EVER.  If you love car chases, this is the holy grail.

Attention! This is NOT the crappy Nicolas Cage remake, but IT IS the 1974 original.

Quickie Synopsis

Monday, March 8, 2010

Heaven Help Us (1985)

A newcomer to a Catholic Boys School in 1965 Brooklyn befriends the local misfits. Lots to like about this one. Andrew McCarthy and Mary Stuart Masterson as the leads, a great assortment of Monk-teachers; Brother Wallace Shaw, Brother John Heard and Brother Donald Sutherland--Goddamn, what a Catholic school! Kevin Dillon steals the show as the brainless, ballsy Rooney. This movie is a lot of fun, but also has the proper heaviosity, and apparently hits the mark for showing the cruelty, repression, and hijinks of a Catholic boys school in the late 60's. Well worth a look.

Quickie Synopsis

Idiocracy (2006)

After a military experiment goes awry, average guy Joe wakes up in the future, where everyone are morons, and he is by default, the smartest guy on earth.  Very funny social satire.  Imagine sitting on a toilet-chair eating cheese spread and watching the hit OW, MY BALLS tv show.  Yes, much potty humor, but very clever exaggeration of the dumbing down of America.  Funny and scary. See it.

Quickie Synopsis

Friday, March 5, 2010

Kabluey (2007)

An aimless man who's brother is deployed in Iraq, tries to take care of his unruly nephews and gets a job as an odd mascot. Sad and funny movie. Lisa Kudrow is full of misery as an overwhelmed lonely mother. Conchata Ferrell owns every scene she's in. (You'll know her when you see her.) Scott Prendergast is the perfect slack-jawed yutz. He wrote and directed it, and it is a hoot to watch.

Quickie Synopsis

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Mechanic (1972)

One of my all-time faves. An solitary high-end hitman takes a young protege under his wing.
First off, if you're a Charles Bronson fan, this is a must--one of his best. Michael Winner takes his time setting up the action, and things move nice and slow and violent, early 1970's style.
Jan-Michael Vincent plays well off Bronson and they develop a good chemistry. There's no dialogue for the first 15 minutes of the film, just Bronson setting up a hit. What's cool is Bronson's zen-like approach to killing his targets. Wax on Wax off. Good stuff.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Great Santini (1979)

Lt. Col. "Bull" Meechum is a gung-ho Marine fighter pilot madly terrorizing all around him. His teenage son Ben, a star basketball player, tries to balance his entry into manhood with pleasing his insatiable father.

Robert Duvall plays such a nasty abusive crazy son of a bitch, yet still somehow gets you to feel some affection for him. This is his flagship career performance. Blythe Danner is a peach as his soft southern wife, and Michael O'Keefe plays Ben, his oldest son and target of his abuse. Wonderful movie about a painful subject.

PS Pat Conroy wrote the autobiographical novel "The Great Santini" closely based on his violent, abusive fighter pilot dad.

Quickie Synopsis

The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984)

A guido's unstable cousin gets him into trouble in Little Italy. Eric Roberts finest role no-doubt. Pre-palooka Mickey Rourke is all charm and smiles and fire in this one. Kenneth McMillan, Tony Musante and the great Burt Young add the proper heaviosity. The affection between the cousins is what pulls this movie together. Watch Eric Roberts build a dagwood sandwich in a city park, you'll be a fan right off. Too many good scenes to mention here. This one is unmissable.

Quickie Synopsis

Monday, March 1, 2010

Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)

13-year old Dawn Weiner is in hell. She is relentlessly ostracized at school, ignored and mistreated at home. You feel so bad for this girl, she is surrounded by clueless parents, a dorky brother, princess sister, sadistic classmates and meatheads. Watching her endure all this is like getting hit on a bruise, again and again. Despite her circumstances, there is a certain spirit in her that does not seem to get touched. Painful to watch, and compelling to watch.

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