Movie A Day: Straight Sugar Pierce

Sick with summer cold this week. Got bad enough that I missed a day of work. Still have it. I feel like this phlegm-y mess is my life now. As a result, lots of movies were watched. I finished up my “True-Life Adventures” jag and started catching up on my Vinegar Syndrome back log. So the sleaze is back, dear readers.


212 07/09 Straight Outta Compton (2015) 3.5/5   The story of NWA is a great story to tell. The performances are great, especially Ice Cube’s kid who plays his dad. I watched the extended director’s cut and it goes on a bit too long frankly, with NWA’s story actually being done before the halfway mark which leaves all the solo stuff which is great for Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, but also means that MC Ren and DJ Yella practically disappear. Still, it’s well done and nails the culture of the era and how stupid the rap business can be. Once again I feel like I would have rather watched a documentary.


213 07/09 Johnny Belinda (1948) 3.5/5   Jane Wyman stars as a deaf/mute girl who is getting help from a town doctor, only there’s a darkness to Cape Breton small time life. Wyman does a great job, and the unsavory subject matter is handled will in this one. It’s best described as a “woman’s picture” from the era, but it plays almost like a film noir.


214 07/10 Detour (1945) 4/5   An essential noir title that I finally got around to watching. A piano player decides to hitchhike from New York to Los Angeles, and gets into the wrong car. It’s a lean number that just completely works and this guy gets hammered maybe the hardest by the wrong set of circumstances and the wrong woman. Essential viewing.


215 07/10 The Hearse (1980) 2.5/5  A woman recovering from a breakdown decides to move into her aunt’s country house and discovers a satanic history and things that go bump in the night. It never really gelled for me and poor Joseph Cotton deserved better movies that this.


216 07/12 Malibu High (1979) 3/5   From the looks of it, this is one of those dopey titty High School comedies that were so popular. It’s not. It’s actually a rather messed up film about a girl who gets dumped and gleefully enters into a prostitution racket. It’s sort of played for laughs, but nothing lands and despite the pacing/cheapness issues it has, it actually works as a low budget neo-noir.


217 07/12 Red Mob (1993) 2.5/5   Russia takes a stab at 80’s style action spectacle and it ends up a total mess. The plot makes zero sense. Something about an ex KGB trying to reconcile with his son and getting mixed up in some other KGB… I have no idea. The action gets bonkers in the second half and the last third is a helicopter chase that seems to last 5 days. It’s more a curiosity than it is “good”, but I have to admit, Sergey Veksler as “Nick” has some serious action chops. To bad he couldn’t transition to western made films.


218 07/12  Journey Into Fear (1942) 3.5/5   The last film Orson Welles delivered to RKO, it’s directed by Norm Foster but Welles’ hand is all over it. Joseph Cotton (who is great in this and carries the film) is an arms dealer in Turkey who gets mixed up in some Nazi intrigue. It’s lean and sharp, but not as good as Welles’ other noir pictures.


219 07/14 Jackie (2016) 3/5   What makes this one interesting is also the problem. The film tells Jackie Kennedy’s story of the days of the assassination. As an assassination nut, it’s interesting and actually something that tends be glossed over. So it’s interesting in that regard, but it also relegates her story to that of “grieving widow” and I’m sure she had a lot more going on than that. It’s a shame since everyone is so good in it.


220 07/14 Sweet Sugar (1972) 4/5   I may be a little biased on this one. Way back in the VHS days dad brought this one home and we watched it late on a Friday night. My intro to the sleazy Women In Prison genre, and at around 12 years old I probably shouldn’t of watched it. It left a mark since it’s so bonkers. Hooker Sugar gets roped into working in a sugarcane plantation run by “Doctor John”, a nut who uses the women for strange experiments. Add in voodoo and this one really is one of the better examples of the genre. It doesn’t hurt that lead Phyllis Davis can carry the film with both her beauty and brawn.


221 07/15 Nurse Sherri (1978) 2.5/5   This one mixes up Satanic possession with the nurse genre and ends up being a real mess despite attempting to be ambitious on no budget. It never works. There’s an alternate cut that puts the sex first over the horror that is supposed to be better, I may check it out at some point.


222 07/15 Mildred Pierce (1945) 4/5   Joan Crawford revitalized her career for the first of many times with this one. She plays a mother that would do anything for her child. It sounds like a melodrama, but it plays like a noir and a dark one at that. Crawford is fantastic, the script is razor sharp and consummate pro director Michael Curtiz nails it. Recommended.

 

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.