Movie A Day! 131-140 : Hot Pepper Pleasure

Late posting this one, and since last week was busy, it’s a ten title affair. We should return to regular programming.

131 04-19 Dry Wood (1973) 3/5
132 04-22 Hot Pepper! (1973) 3.5/5
Another great pair of documentaries from Les Blank, both dealing with Creole life. DRY WOOD mostly features the people of a small town and a pig roast while HOT PEPPER! is a profile on Zydeco accordionist Clifton Chenier. Both are pretty great, and like the previous Blank films show a joy of the simple life and community we seem to be lacking these days.

133 04-23 The Ernie Kovacs Collection Vol 2 (2012) 4/5
Another collection of Ernie’s morning, evening, specials and game shows. Similar to volume one, but a smaller collection. Still a fantastic bit of history that’s funny too. Amazing stuff.

134 04-24 Lenny (1974) 3.5/5
Bob Fosse takes a time out from musicals to do this biopic on comedian Lenny Bruce. I’ve been wanting to revisit this one since watching Fosse’s ALL THAT JAZZ earlier this year, and I enjoyed it about as much as I remember liking it the first time I saw it. It’s not the perfect picture, but Fosse’s direction and editing hold your attention, and Dustin Hoffman nails the intense Bruce. Worth checking out if you’re curious, but you might find it a little lacking since it doesn’t really check of the milestones of Bruce’s career.

135 04-24 Come Under My Spell (1979) 1.5/5
Another Carlos Tobalina Peekarama double feature from Vinegar Syndrome. This one finds Tobalina attempting a story! A hapless exchange student can’t score with American girls until he finds a book on hypnotism. It’s not as rape-y as it sounds, but with zero star power, piss poor acting and the typical hallmarks of Tobalina’s directing featuring out of focus shots, rough editing and to top it all off, some crewman sitting in the frame of the action, this one is a miss.

136 04-25 Tootsie (1982) 4/5
Dustin Hoffman plays a struggling, tough New York actor who to prove a point, dresses in drag to get a part on a soap opera. This one could of been painful to watch these days, but it holds up nearly perfectly. It’s laugh out loud funny, but the humour comes out of the situation as opposed to at the expense of Hoffman in drag. Mostly anyway. As a straight white guy, I might be insensitive. I loved it regardless, and Bill Murray and Teri Garr are both brilliant in supporting roles, as is Jessica Lange. The music however dates the film horrendously in the era it’s from, the early 80’s with the “Go Tootsie Go!” song that plays over montages (it is an eighties movie, it has montages) especially cloying. Not enough to ruin the film though, thankfully.

137 04-25 Lady Dynamite (1979) 2/5
The other Tobalina feature paired with COME UNDER MY SPELL, this one fares a bit better. A woman finds out that despite being faithful to her husband for ten years, she’s caught the clap. So she decides to make up for lost time and go on the prowl. It’s more polished than COME, but it’s still pretty dull stuff. I think Tobalina is the most artless of the directors that Vinegar Syndrome features. If you could ever get the sense he was trying, it could be fun to watch like an Ed Wood picture. You can tell though that he’s only interested in having product for his theater chain. To bad.

138 04-26 Blind Woman’s Curse (1970) 3.5/5
Half yakuza samurai picture, half ghost story and totally awesome. Meiko Kaji (LADY SNOWBLOOD) plays a young woman who takes over her fathers yakuza clan after he is killed. While attacking rivals for vengeance, she accidentally blinds a bosses sister, and believes herself cursed for it. That’s all in the opening minutes, and that’s the best I can figure it out since the film is bonkers. It never fully makes complete sense, but it’s a hell of a ride with some cool sword fights balanced out with horror elements and gore. Another great pick from Arrow Films to put out here in region 1!

139 04-27 Always For Pleasure (1978) 3.5/5
140 04-27 Lagniappe (2006) 3/5
Another pair of films from Les Blank, this time showing the details around Mardi Gras in New Orleans. ALWAYS is pretty much the perfect New Orleans documentary, showing a variety of parades from funeral procession to St. Patricks Day to the big Mardi Gras event itself. The best thing though is like his other documentaries, he concentrates on the music, the food and the people. So when it get’s to Mardi Gras, he shows the side street parades with the local tribes, spy boys and flag boys, it’s a side you never see on TV. LAGNIAPPE is made up of outtakes and musical performances shot during the same time that the original doc was made, and is a nice little extra glimpse.

That’s about it. The big news the past couple days of writing this is earthquakes in Nepal and more race riots, this time in Baltimore. It all makes me feel a bit helpless. I mean, I can scoot some cash to the red cross and whatever, but not much else. Awful times ahead I think, though we’re not nearly in as bad of shape as we were last year where every month seemed to spawn a new horror.

UPDATE: This is even later posting than expected. I wrote this Monday night, April 27 to post the following morning, and then got busy at work and forgot. Total failure. At least this one isn’t a lost blog and I’m posting it now. I guess this going live late at night for me will give people overseas a big thrill.

Yeah, right,

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Movie A Day! : 154-160 “Take A Look!”

Right, finally a movie post! I got in a few this weekend, and they were all pretty good ones too! I also started my workout stuff, and boy is it slow going. I did my first full workout after a week of warming up to it, and it was pathetic. I felt thinner though the next morning, so my dumb brain is at least in the right place. Let’s look at some movies!

154 07-01 Zatoichi’s Revenge (1965) 4/5

I’m jumping back into this series. This one is the tenth film, and it ended up being one of the best so far. Basic plot is Zatoichi arrives at the town where he trained with a Master Masseuse, only to discover that his master has been murdered by a crime boss who has teamed up with a corrupt magistrate. Their diabolical plan is to get the villagers into massive debts via gambling and loans so that the villagers have to commit their daughters to a brothel the gangster owns to pay the debts off. It makes for a darker tone than some of the other films, and the slow burn of Zatoichi dispensing justice adds to the suspense. I love these films!

155 07-05 We Walk The Line : A Celebration of the Music of Johnny Cash (2012) 2.5/5
Not the worst all-star tribute show, but not the greatest either. The highlights are Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, but they don’t get much air time. The version I watched was during one of those stupid PBS pledge drives which is the worst possible way to watch anything, but there was nothing presented that made me think I would want to get the complete show on DVD.

156 07-06 The Ernie Kovacs Collection (2011) 4.5/5
This is a 6 DVD set featuring selections from Kovacs TV career, from the earliest surviving show in 1951 until his last shot show in 1961 when his career was cut short do to a car crash taking his life. Don’t know who Kovacs is? Don’t worry, you’ve seen his influence via Monty Python, Dave Letterman, SNL, pretty much every cutting edge comedy show you can think of. Before TV had a proper form, Kovacs was playing with it, and this collection is simply amazing to watch. Not everything is laugh out loud funny, in fact, most of it is so surreal and strange that it’s surprising it made it to TV at all. Many of his highlights are here, the “Eugene” silent special, his smoking a cigar underwater, the infamous 30 second skit that cost $12,000, the Music Special, examples of his game show “Take A Look”, despite all the material you just want more. Current TV seems dead in comparison to the life and energy Kovacs brought. My only complaint is that many of the shows presented are edited due to rights issues with music. That any of this exists at all, the TV companies were in the process of erasing and dumping Kovacs output in the 60’s when his widow stepped in to buy the material back, makes the music issue a small one. Genius is used far too often these days, here’s a case where it absolutely fits.

157 07-08 The 90’s : The Last Great Decade? (2014) 2.5/5
This was a 3 part, 6 hour look back at the 90’s, which I think is technically my decade since I graduated high school in 91 or whenever I graduated high school. How do people remember dates like this? I never can. I just know it was around this time. Maybe 92. I thought it would be a fun watch, but it just wasn’t. I remembered everything they showed, but there was really no context. It was “Waco happened, then Bill Clinton fucked someone, then Nirvana, then some other thing, then Clinton fucked someone else”, all presented in news clips with no actual context. I would of liked it more if it dealt with movies or music. Especially music since I was totally Gen-X and into the grunge/punk scene. So the end of the whole thing was basically a big “Who cares?” which is kind of a perfect gen-x reaction to looking back at the gen-x decade when you think about it. I probably would of preferred a look at the 80’s, the previous decade I lived through, but as a child that couldn’t fully experience it. To answer the question of the title; it probably was the last “great” decade in that fun and horrible things happened without the threat of losing personal freedoms that seems imminent at this point of the 2010’s.

158 07-12 American Hustle (2013) 3/5
Finally got around to watching this one. Maybe it was high expectations (I really liked SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and loved THE FIGHTER), but it ultimately left me flat. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s a great story with fantastic performances and production. It just never clicked with me. I love a good crime film, and the con in this one was novel and interesting. I think the problem I had was that in order to get that seventies look, it feels a little dressed up and camp. Only Christian Bale appeared authentic, the rest were just too polished and jived wrong. It was distracting enough to pull me out of the picture, as opposed to BOOGIE NIGHTS which hit the look perfectly. Still, not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, and one I’m sure I’ll revisit again.

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159 07-13 Sugar Cookies (1973) 3.5/5

Another stellar Blu-ray presentation by Vinegar Syndrome, this one see’s them teaming up with the mighty Troma studios to bring out an early sexploitation shocker. Before hitting legend status in the eighties with THE TOXIC AVENGER, Lloyd Kaufman struck out with this Hitchcock inspired thriller that he refers to as “The only X-rated movie to not make any money.” Basic plot is an actress is killed in a bizarre sex game, so a woman grooms a naive newcomer into being her replacement. The femme fatale in this one is Mary Woronov. Woronov is a cult legend, mainly from Roger Corman films like DEATH RACE 2000 and ROCK ‘n’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL. She always seems to play a prison-marm type role, so it’s nice to see her in this before she got typecast. In this one, she’s drop dead gorgeous and beguiling as the sexually ambiguous Camila Stone who is manipulating poor Lynn Lowry as the actress replacement. It’s the type of performance that should win awards, she carries the entire picture. Too bad it has such a stupid title that makes it sound like a goofy titty flick instead of the type of thriller Brian DePalma would mine years later with DRESSED TO KILL. Certainly worth checking out, provided you’re not afraid of near constant nudity. The blu-ray looks fantastic, and has some great interviews.

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160 07-13 Nebraska (2013) 4/5

Poor old Bruce Dern is so incredibly old looking he can only get roles like this where he plays confused, feeble old men. Fortunately, this one is by Alexander Payne, who has mastered making films about the human condition that manage to not be completely overwhelming with over sentimentality. The basic plot is that of Dern traveling from Montana to Nebraska to pick up a sweepstake prize with his son. It’s all an excuse to explore the father/son/life dynamic, and who know that Will Forte was this good in a serious role? I mean, he’s a comedic genius, MACGRUBER proved that. To see him so low key and subtle, along with everyone else, it just makes for a beautiful and funny film that completely satisfies on all levels. It’s also got Bob Odenkirk as the other brother, so this one just wins on all levels.

Right, that’s it for this week. Pretty near half a month of viewing, and it’s six titles. Not good as far as “A Movie A Day” goes…

Feel free to argue or comment, and share and like and all that stuff.

the end