Sunday, March 24, 2019

MORE REVIEWS! 3.25.2019

HOLD-UP (1985) Jean-Paul Belmondo comedy heist flick based on the same Jay Cronley novel as the Bill Murray movie QUICK CHANGE. It's fun, of course, with a few harrowing truck and car stunt scenes directed by Rene Julliene. And this is one of the last films in which Belmondo would do his own stunts. He retired from stunt work saying that he didn't wish to be "France's flying grandpa." Set in Montreal, one of the few times the actor shot in the western hemisphere. Kim Cattrall is here, dubbed in French, a year before appearing as Grace Law in BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA.

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LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (1988) Art house meets grindhouse in Ken Russell's attempt to bring one of the worst horror novels ever written to the screen. Amanda Donahue is simultaneously alluring and unsettling as an acolyte of of a giant serpent living in caves beneath an English manor house. Hugh Grant and Peter Capaldi look astonishingly young as the two erstwhile heroes of the story. I'm convinced, by the way the movie is shot, that Russell intended this to be shot in period and in black and white as an homage to silent films. The way each scene is framed and the style of acting brings me to this conclusion.

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PRIVATE HELL 36 (1954) Steve Cochran and Howard Duff as a pair of LA cops in a devil's bargain over a stack of stolen cash. Steve wants the money so he can do right by nightclub singer Ida Lupino. Howard knows what he's done is all wrong by his wife Dorothy Malone. Fine, taut police noir directed by the master Don Siegel. Siegel had a real flair for bringing an immediacy to stories like this with his use of realistic locales far from the studio backlots. He also had a knack for drawing you into the more intimate scenes to make you feel a part of them. The guy never placed his camera wrong.

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SADDLE TRAMP (1950) Aimless drifter Joel McCrea becomes responsible for a quartet of orphans when a pal of his dies unexpectedly. This ones rates in the "pretty darn good" western category. Sharp writing, fast pace, some real suspense in a gorgeous technicolor production. McCrea excelled in heavy drama, screwball comedy and as an action star and this one is a fine entry in the string of westerns he made throughout the 1950s. A strong supporting cast led by John McIntyre, John Russell and Ed Begley.

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THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN (1970) Unusual combination of western and prison story. Professional crook and full-time louse, Kirk Douglas gets ten years in Yuma but tries to tempt new warden Henry Fonda into letting him go in exchange for half of a hidden fortune. Engaging and fun so long as you can get past the painfully dated soundtrack featuring a theme song by Trini Lopez. I guess Jerry Fielding could only score so many movies. A trove of great characters actors fill out the cast including Warren Oates, Burgess Meredith and Hume Cronyn.

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 (2008) Grim, realistic film about the occupation of Berlin by the Russian army following the end of the WWII. Based on the diary of a German woman who survived the war only to have to deal with the brutal abuse that came with defeat. Not exactly a date night movie, the story reveals ugly truths about human nature and what it means to live another day. There are no good guys in this movie, only human beings paying for the decisions they made by the harshest means. Works as a companion piece, practically a sequel, to 2004's DOWNFALL.

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ERASED (2012) Currently on Netlfix. Aaron Eckhart is a credible lead in a flick that could have been TAKEN 4 if only Liam Neeson had signed on. It's a solid chase thriller with loads of paranoia and suspense. The action takes place in Belgium which looks like a country created solely as a backdrop for spy dramas. The action is frequent and believable for the most part. No one gets up after dropping three stories or receiving a blow to the head from a hammer. Though the characters spend more than forty eight hours on the ruin without every taking on calories.

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BELLMAN and TRUE (1987) Tight, British bank heist flick with a fresh perspective. A computer programmer is dragooned into a 12 million pound bank job when a mob uses his son as hostage. Well-crafted and suspenseful with loads of (at the time) state-of-the-science tech aspects.

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KILL ME AGAIN (1989) One of my favorite directors, John Dahl, on his first excursion into noir territory. Femme fatale Joanne Whalley hires PI Val Kilmer to help her fake her own death in order to escape from her psychotic boyfriend Michael Madsen with a million is stolen mob money. It's all juicy gumshoe stuff and moves along at a clip, peppered with tough talk and iced over with cynicism. Betrayals, lies and double-crosses pile up as fast as the corpses and all comes to a satisfactory conclusion. Kilmer is too young and too pretty for the role but manages to pull it off nonetheless. My wife and I re-cast it a true 50s noir and deciced on Robert Mitchum, Lisabeth Scott and Dan Duryea

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HONOR AMONG THIEVES/FAREWELL,FRIEND (1968) Unusual heist film as the robbery takes place in the second act and serves to set up a mystery. Delon is his usual suave, enigmatic self and Bronson relishes his role as a total heel. Some clever complications and solutions and the kind of slow-burn suspense sequences often present in Euro-crime flicks. And there's some tres 60s elements as well but, thankfully, no horrid Euro-music soundtrack to mar the action.

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