Monday, March 25, 2019


THE LAST SEDUCTION (1994) Hapless small town guy Peter Berg is manipulated by big city hustler Linda Fiorentino. This slice of '90s hardboiled noir is directed by John Dahl who did some really fine feature work (Red Rock West, Rounders) before turning to TV. Fiorentino is simply splendid as the femme fatale who takes off with close to a million dollars of conman hubby Bill Pullman's cash. The movie was budgeted and intended for a fastplay cable entry of the Skinamax variety. But Dahl had other plans and actually had to pledge to the producers that he had "no artistic aspirations." He must have had his fingers crossed because this lean, spare story, fueled by equal parts lust and greed, is nothing short of a masterpiece. Terrific performances, a great jazz score, smart dialogue and loads of twists and turns. Fiorentino lost out on an Oscar nomination only because the movie appeared on cable before going to theaters.

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PRIVATE'S PROGRESS (1956) A British service comedy featuring Ian Carmichael as his patented clueless ninny who gets drafted into a behind-the-lines mission to recover art stolen by the Nazis. Richard Attenborough in one of the series of wiseguy Cockneys he played in the 50s. And Terry Thomas in his breakout role as Major Hitchcock. "A shower. An absolute shower." Lots of fun with a cynical, satiric edge. Carmichael would return as the same character (along with others in the cast) in the classic labor union comedy I'M ALL RIGHT, JACK (1959).

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COLT .45 (1950) Minor Randolph Scott western that packs lots of shootin', ridin' and story twists into a tight 74 minutes. Scott is a salesman for Samuel Colt who gets his six-guns stolen by bad guy Zachery Scott who goes on a crime spree using them. Zach's a "leaves no witnesses" type and real psycho. The time period of the movie purports to the the 1840s but everything about the production is the usual 1870s setting of these fastplay westerns. The Indians in the story are all played by actually Native Americans and are allied with hero Scott to see that justice is done. Lloyd Bridges is here playing the kind of scheming rotter he excelled at in this period of his career. Ruth Roman is the love interest and she's one tough gal. Over the course of the movie she's slapped, punched and shot off a horse but maintain her pluck throughout.

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TONY ROME (1967) Frank Sinatra wise-asses his way through Miami Beach leaving a trail of fresh corpses in his wake. It's standard private eye stuff with everyone lying to Tony to hide their sordid little secrets. Sinatra seems to be having a good time and does a surprising number of his own stunts. Director Gordon Douglas keeps things moving as he always does. I imagine that some of the reveals in this might have been shocking or edgy for 1967 audiences, all very "adult." 
And Tony's good with a comeback.

Diana: People change. They don't always turn out the way you expect.
Tony: I know. You should see my baby pictures.

Tony: This isn't a family. It's just a bunch of people living at the same address.

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LADY IN CEMENT (1968) A sequel to TONY ROME and superior in many ways. The wisecracks are funnier. Raquel Welch replaces Jill St. John and Dan Blocker relishes the chance to play a heavy for once. All of the scenes with Frank and Dan are gems with a few laugh-out-loud lines. There's a real chemistry there and it's apparent these guys liked each other a lot. Ol' Blue Eyes must have liked Blocker the way he lets the big guy literally throw him around. It's boilerplate private eye stuff and, thanks again to Gordon Douglas, races along as fast as Tony's POS Ford can take it.

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MURDER PARTY (2007) Just recently discovered director Jeremy Saulnier and decided to check out his first flick. A naive nobody finds an invitation to a "murder party" to be held on Halloween. He makes a costume and shows up to discover that he's to be the victim of a bunch of art school students looking to earn an NEA grant. Oh yeah, it goes over the top and is grisly fun as well as bitter social commentary.

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 KINGDOM (2012) Wes Anderson movies play like a cover of the New Yorker come to life. There's a fragile charm to them and a heavy dollop of quirk. They're airily constructed and exist in an alternate universe removed from real emotion and consequence. Like so many pretenses to art, they're enjoyable but forgettable. And there's always a conscious effort made to make sure the audience doesn't think these are stories for kids even though they have the tone and pacing of classic children's stories. Usually this divide takes the form of an unnecessary sexual reference to guarantee a PG-13 rating. This movie is no exception. A splendid cast playing the sort of characters that populate Anderson's films against a backdrop of an idyllic world free of all cares and worries but the ones the characters create for themselves.

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RAW DEAL (1948) Excellent film noir directed by Anthony Mann. Dennis O'Keefe is on the run from the cops and torn between two loves, his loyal gal pal Claire Trevor and the legal secretary, Marsha Hunt, he has the hots for. The triangle heats to the boiling point as O'Keefe wants to settles the score with the guy who sent him to the slammer. John Ireland is on hand as a sardonic gunsel and Raymond Burr at his burr-ly best as a sociopath pyromaniac.

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THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES (1941) Billionaire Charles Coburn decides to take a job, incognito, at one of his own department stores to get to the bottom of who's been agitating his workers. It turns out to be Jean Arthur and her rabble-rousing boyfriend Robert Cummings. Comedy ensues in a story that manages to take on the issues of management vs. labor while skirting around the more dire consequences. The usual bright and heartfelt script by Norman Krasna and sure direction by Sam Wood. Arthur is, as always, adorable as the principled everygirl. Cummings gets everything he can out of some very funny scenes. And Coburn, in an Oscar-nominated role, gives his best put-upon magnate performance.

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211 (2018) Another Nick Cage actioner cranked out from the mill at Millennium. Like all their product, it's competently made and delivers what you expect from them. That beings lots, and lots and lots of gunplay. A simple set-up leads to the last half of the movie being one extended shoot-em-up between a gang of military trained bank robbers and the entire police force of a mid-sized town. And Cage is Cage. What can I say? It's on Netflix.
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 (1986) This might go down in cinema history as the only time Chuck Norris can be seen smiling on film. Witless, meandering script, indifferent direction, lazy editing all hamper what might have been a fun little romp. Chuck and Lou Gossett Jr seem to be having fun and have a nice rapport. And Chuck does his very best to deliver comedic lines along with the spinkicks. But it's all a pointless exercise as everyone else is phoning it in.

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