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.

 

Movie a Day! : 063-072 – The End of March

Well, here we go. The end of March! More classic movies and filth to look at! Let’s dig in!

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063 03-16 Walk A Crooked Mile (1948) 3.5/5
Another film to be found in the “Film Noir Classics IV” set. This one is more of a police procedural as opposed to a proper noir. Basic plot is: Two federal agents, one American and one Brit on loan from Scotland Yard are after communist spies that are stealing nuclear secrets from one the leading Nuclear testing base in California. It’s a pretty good picture, that has a noir look of deep shadows, but not a noir plot. That said it’s a fun watch that isn’t hyperactive in “Red Scare” propaganda, and it features Raymond Burr in an early role as one of the commie heavies.

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064 03-16 Funny or Die Presents Season Two (2011) 2/5
The last set/season from HBO. This is one of those shows that you want to like more but just flat out don’t. It’s largely not funny or inspired. Some of the better bits, like the recurring “Lady Refs” and “United States Police Department” start strong but peter out really quickly. The rest feel like filler. That said, my biased love for everything “Tim & Eric” means I needed this set, and I did love their contributions. The other exception was Rob Huebel’s “Do You Want To See A Dead Body?’ series which was the only other highlight to the set. Since it’s so miss over hit, you’re better served just finding the good stuff off Youtube or wherever it posts online.

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065 03-21 Flight (2012) 2/5
Basically this is a “TV Movie of the Week” with a big budget and name actors. Denzel Washington is a pilot who’s plain crashes, caused by mechanical failure. He manages to pull off an amazing maneuver that saves most of the passengers. He’s also a coke-head drunk, so now it’s a big problem. That’s the set up. This movie is a total mess that despite being preachy (drunk pilots are bad), makes it really clear that this guy is a pretty awesome drunk pilot. It’s directed by Robert Zemeckis, and as of now, all the good will he earned with “Back to the Future” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” is burned.

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066 03-22 Grey Gardens (1975) 4/5
067 03-23 The Beales of Grey Gardens (2006) 3/5
This is a pair of documentaries by the Maysles brothers about Edith and “Lil Eddie” Beale, eccentric cousins to Jackie Onassis, as they hold out living in their East Hampton estate. There’s not much to say, the Maysles are so personal with the subjects that it’s awkward and fascinating to watch despite not really having a “story”, you just spend 90 minutes with a reclusive mother and daughter, and wonder how and why they live the way they do. The original film is rightfully a cult classic that is both tragic and hilarious in equal parts. The follow up film is assembled from outtakes filmed at the time of the original and feels like more of the same (which it is) where as I would of personally liked to have learned more about them as opposed to witnessing them. Still, the pair makes for an interesting watch for sure, and both can be found on the Criterion Collections recent Blu-ray.

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068 03-23 Check it Out! With Dr. Steve Brule Seasons One & Two (2010) 4/5
This is a series spun off from “Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job”. Like everything Tim & Eric, you either love it or hate it. Where am I on that spectrum? The “Boats” episode is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Nuff said ya dingus!

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069 03-25 Between Midnight and Dawn (1950) 3/5
Another from the “Film Noir Classics IV” set, this one is more of a police procedural crime picture that a proper noir. Follows a pair of prowl car cops as they negotiate a romantic triangle and a small time mob boss about to kick start a mob war. The romance feels forced and light which causes the more serious crime angle to suffer. Still, Edmond O’Brien is always fun to watch, and this is no exception.

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070 03-28 Walk East On Beacon (1952) 2.5/5
The final film in the previously mentioned Noir Classics set is another procedural film that has the “Red Scare” panic cranked up to 10. While beautifully shot, acted and featuring the style tropes found in noir, it just never really works. The switch from following the cops to following the commies is distracting so you never really connect with any of the characters, which causes the film to plod along and feel much longer than the running time. I’m also going to go on record that despite the promise of the poster, I doubt this is the “Crime of the Century”.

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So that’s it for this TCM set, I give the whole thing a 4/5. While none of the films in it will change your life, on the whole they’re still pretty good and you can do a lot worse with your dollars.

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071 03-29 What Price Hollywood? (1932) 3.5/5
This one is about a waitress who gets discovered by a big time movie director and put into the pictures. It’s my understanding that this film was the template of the “A Star Is Born”genre, and it certainly hits all the plot points of that movie. Heck, the director of this one later did the Judy Garland version! Anyway, it was pretty good, with Constance Bennett excellent as the waitress. She plays the part more brassy and ambitious, as opposed to completely naive and wonder-eyed, and it makes for a better picture since the men come off more weak and base. I’m guessing it’s due to being a pre-code, or at least on edge of the code line that women could still be strong instead of victims. That said, the very end is a let down, and I’ll leave it at that.

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072 03-29 Abduction of an American Playgirl (1975) 3/5
This one is a roughie porn put out by Vinegar Syndrome as the debut of their “Peek-a-Rama” double feature line. I’m guessing that they are using it to separate the hardcore porn from the softcore exploitation of the “Drive-In” collections. Anyway, this one is about a couple of broke horn dogs who kidnap a girl to rape in a cabin since they can’t afford to go out and pick up a girl due to being broke. That said, it’s all played for laughs since the two are buffoons, and the girl they kidnap is more game for them than they are for her. So it’s a reversal and theme that is still going to be offensive to pretty much anyone these days, but actually plays pretty good with some genuine laughs to be found in the situation.

So that wraps up March! Here’s my totals:

21 Watched   19 First Timers  0 In Theaters

I’m well off now for the “Movie A Day” goal, and way off from my totals for March last year.

41 Watched, 37 First Timers, 1 In Theater

I’m screwed!

Feel free to offer suggestions of what you would like to see me rant about. Also, please do share and spread my brain around.

noir,

The End