Movie A Day: Death Heat

The week began with literal murder threats on loved ones and ended with the heat making it impossible to sleep in a house designed to have winters not kill you. Here’s hoping you all had more fun than me.

A mixed bag. I’m on a documentary/bio-pic jag with diversions into classic films and porno. So pretty typical, I guess.


187 06/25 The Snake Pit (1948) 3.5/5  Olivia de Havilland stars in this one about a woman sent to a mental hospital with no recollection of how she got there. A doctor helps her piece together her story and it’s a little hokey. The main reason to watch this is de Havilland is absolutely amazing in it.

188 06/26 Bill Cosby: Fall of an American Icon (2017) 3/5   A good recap of his history of abuse. It’s horrible to listen to the stories, of course, but valuable and not as exploitative as it could have been.


189 06/26 Bettie Page Reveals All (2012) 4/5   A really well done documentary with Page (via voice over interview clips) telling her own story. There will never be a more iconic pin-up model and the doc does a great job of not only telling her story but packing in tons of pictures and footage. That said, the blu-ray disc is an abomination with one of the worst sound designs that I have ever heard. The music (which isn’t great to begins with) is mixed way too hot and often drowns out the people speaking, only to get even louder when they are not. I’m tempted to knock a star off the review but I’m guessing it’s a mix on the blu-ray and not on the film proper if viewed elsewhere. I’m hoping anyways, since it really is terrible.


190 06/27 Michael Jackson: Searching For Neverland (2017) 2/5   A made for TV biopic on the pop star’s final years as told by his bodyguards. It avoids all talk of child molestation and paints the bodyguards as saints. That’s really the problem with this one, it’s hard to root for Jackson to get back on his feet when you know he’s molested children, so fuck him and his money problems, right? Chad C. Coleman from The Wire is the main lead bodyguard and he’s great. Navi is shockingly, creepily good as Jackson, but it’s just not enough to make me care about a child molester.


191 06/28 In A Lonely Place (1950) 3.5/5   Bogart stars as a down on his luck screenwriter who gets wrapped up in a murder he may or may not have committed. Bogart is great in the role, getting to play a not as nice guy as he typically did at this point in his career and Gloria Grahame more than holds her own as the inspired love interest. It’s a good film but I didn’t find myself wrapped up in it.


192 06/29 Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (2016) 3/5   This one was in the works just prior to both of the stars passing, so it’s a bittersweet affair that I wanted to like more. It shows their eccentric current life, but doesn’t go too deep in what brought them to this point. So if you go in not knowing too much about them, you’re going to be a little lost since they come off kooky. That said, what it does deliver, it delivers well.


193 06/29 I Always Said Yes: The Many Lives of Wakefield Poole (2013) 4/5   Really interesting documentary on dancer, choreographer, pornographer and chef Wakefield Poole. I know him from the porn, he’s arguably the greatest gay adult filmmaker of all time (with his “Bijou” easily one of the greatest adult films of all time.) It was interesting to see how close he was to the front lines of gay rights though, with numerous stories and encounters with Harvey Milk and other political heros. A really well done picture, and Poole seems like the sweetest man in the world despite having a bittersweet history.


194 06/30 The Times Of Harvey Milk (1984) 4/5   Great documentary on the first gay man to hold public office in California. I was familiar with him through Gus Van Sant’s film Milk, but it was great to see the real story. A bittersweet film considering how it all ends, you get a really great sense of who Harvey was and why it was such a tragedy.


195 06/30 Pleasure Maze (1986) 2.5/5   A rather workmanlike effort of an adult film about robot hookers and their testers which is all an excuse for 80’s futuristic costumes and run of the mill sex scenes one would expect of the era. The fantastic cast helps to elevate it, but it’s no classic.


196 07/01 Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014) 4/5
Ends up the story behind the picture is as bonkers as rumoured. I’m not convinced that Stanley would of pulled the film off if he stayed on, but it is fun to think about. Sadly missing is Ron Perlman’s fantastic Brando story which can be found on Marc Maron’s podcast WTF. At any rate, this is one of the better documentaries on filmmaking and worth checking out.


197 07/01 Love & Mercy (2014) 3.5/5  Bio-pic on Beach Boy genius Brian Wilson uses the trick of casting Paul Dano as young 60’s Brian and John Cusack as 1980’s Brian trying to get his life together with the help of Dr. Eugene Landy. It sounds weird, but if you have ever seen a documentary on Brian, it makes sense. This one was well done, it goes pretty deep into both the music and Wilson’s troubles, though I could see a non-fan getting a little lost and wondering what the big deal is.

198 07/01 Lovers Lane (1986) 2.5/5   The second feature on the Peekarama disc from Vinegar Syndrome that featured Pleasure Maze is less inspired and even more workmanlike. Director Duck Dumont knows how to shoot, it’s too bad he doesn’t push himself in these two features. Then again, it could be the sign of competing with  SOV 80’s wall to wall porn. At any rate, the cast helps this one, but not enough to put it ahead of any other of its like.


199 07/02 A Band Called Death (2012) 4/5   Back in the early 70’s three black brothers were inspired to move on from their funk band and start a rock group. They called it DEATH, and they were punk as fuck before there was a proper name for punk. Not the cool New York punk either, but the edgy hardcore sounds that came out in the late 70’s early 80’s. Anyway, they were completely ignored, never got their record out and finally are getting their due. This documentary is really quite fantastic as despite their name, they are such positive people and seeing them finally get some of their due is wonderfully inspiring. It’s as much a family story as it is a music doc and really worth checking out.


200 07/02 Heat (1995) 4/5   Nice revisiting this one, my first time watching the “Director’s Definitive Edition”. One of the best heist crime movies ever made, I have to admit that Pacino is as scenery chewing in this one as he is in SCARFACE. All acting sins are forgiven with the incredible LA shootout sequence that is one of the most perfectly shot action scenes you will see. It all holds up just fine and the cast listing is absolutely bonkers.

 

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Movie A Day!: Imitation of Jacks

Another mixed bag of a week. Sort of. I decided to watch some un-watched Criterion Collection discs this month, which lead me to watching all my David Lynch titles that are not in boxes in prep for re-watching Twin Peeks before the new series. Despite only two of those Lynch titles where from Criterion. Mix that up with some oldies and a cheeky Vinegar Syndrome title and it’s not a bad week at all.


136 05/07 The Incredibly Strange Film Show: Russ Meyer (1988) 3/5   A very well done biography on Meyer hosted by Jonathan Ross that manages to hit all points of his career included his start as a combat photographer in WWII. It also shows a clip of a possibly 8 hour documentary that Meyer was working on his own life that would of been amazing but was apparently never finished. A real shame. I would love to see a proper feature length doc on this man.


137 05/07 Imitation of Life (1959) 4/5   Lana Turner stars in this soapy melodrama from Douglas Sirk about a struggling, mature actress in New York who befriends a black housekeeper, Alice (played by Juanita Moore, and she is fantastic) and together they find success. Well, sort of, they stay in their roles based on race and that’s really what this movie is about. Alice has a real struggle with her rebellious, white passing daughter that is far more interesting than the trials that Turner has that leave her in a near constant state of helpless hysteria. You can clearly see a through-line from these style of Sirk pictures to John Waters since his characters are always in the same state hysteria. Anyway, this was pretty great since you don’t think of these sort of topics in 50’s films. Also, Sirk really is great at this stuff. He has a workmanlike sense of direction, but it’s pretty perfect.


138 05/07 Blue Velvet (1986) 4/5   After Dune floundered, David Lynch somehow got the chance to make a film closer to his sensibilities first explored in Eraserhead. It was interesting watching this one on the back of Imitation of Life since they have a pretty similar world of 1950’s like innocence, only Lynch’s small midwest town is a perverted nightmare. Jeffrey, played by Kyle MacLachlan, finds and ear in a field and becomes obsessed with solving it’s mysteries that leads him to a world of pain. Dennis Hopper is absolutely brilliant as the force of nature Frank, Isabella Rossellini is fantastic as the damage nightclub singer Dorothy and Laura Dern manages to hold her own as the symbol of everything good, the girl next door. It’s aged very well, and still holds all it’s power to remain one of Lynch’s best films.


139 05/09 Wild At Heart (1990) 4/5   David Lynch does the Wizard of Oz as a bonkers Elvis inspired road movie with Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern starring as Sailor and Lula who spend most of the film either ruminating or fucking. It has no business being as good as it is. Lynch went genuinely weird with this one and it completely works. Willem Dafoe is unforgettable in his small role and it’s fun to see legends Harry Dean Stanton and Diane Ladd go a bit bonkers. Crispen Glover, man, priceless. I’m too much of a Lynch fanboy to call this one my favourite, but it just might be.


140 05/11 Champion (1949) 4/5   Kirk Douglas takes the lead in this boxing noir about a guy and his handicap brother who is on the skids so Kirk gets into the fight game for the money. It starts off pretty standard, but soon Douglas’s mercilous ambition creeps through and the emotional bloodletting eclipses what’s in the ring. I don’t think I have seen Douglas more unlikable in a movie. This one was a real treat, and recommended.


141 05/11 Mulholland Dr. (2001) 3.5/5   David Lynch’s Neo-Noir about an actress caught up in a mystery is considered a classic, but I just can’t get into it. It’s gorgeous, everyone is on point, it’s delightfully “Lynch-ian” and I can’t knock a thing about it. I have just never warmed to it. Maybe I’ll “get it” the next time I watch it.


142 05/12 Funny Face (1957) 4/5   I really enjoyed this one. Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire star in this musical about a frumpy beatnik girl that gets whipped up into the world of high fashion. Hepburn is far too adorable to be frumpy, but she’s surprisingly good in this musical and manages to steal the film with her avant-garde beatnik ballet sequence in a cafe that’s supposed to be played for laughs. Astaire more than holds his own and it’s all looking spectacular under the direction of the legendary Stanley Donen, who also directed one of my all time favourite films, Singing in the Rain. It’s crazy that it’s taken me this long to watch this one.


143 05/12 Her Wicked Ways (1983) 3/5 Jesie St. James stars as a gold digging heiress who has just inherited a billion dollars and Joanna Storm is the daughter trying to get the money back in this adult romp directed by The Lewis Brothers. It’s not the greatest adult film you’ll ever see but it’s just so well done compared to the regular fare in the period that it it ends up being pretty fun. Storm is a real scene-stealer and definitely helps to keep the film moving. The Peekarama DVD from Vinegar Syndrome is a real winner.


144 05/13 One-Eyed Jacks (1961) 4/5   The only film that Marlon Brando directed is this western. I think it’s just me but I think it’s weird that his only directed film is a western. Seems weird, right? Anyway, this is a typical vengeance tale with Brando’s Rio seeking out old partner Karl Malden’s “Dad” Longworth who ditched him during a bank robbery. It’s a gorgeous film and done with the naturalistic acting style Brando was known for and just completely works. There’s a feeling of distance and brooding that is tricky for films to nail, and the support cast featuring Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens and Katy Jurado are all perfect as well. Recommended.

One-Eyed Jacks also ended up being the last film shot in VistaVision so I managed to watch two VistaVision films over the weekend. You just never know what’s going to happen when you blindly watch stuff.  Isn’t the world marvellous?

Hold your loved ones tight.