Wednesday, February 23, 2011

THE BEASTS ARE ON THE STREETS (1978)

Way better than I expected straight-forward story about a truck driver who wrecks into the fence of a zoo and a bunch of animals get out and start wandering around town. You got tigers, lions, rhinos, ostriches, panthers, bears, elephants and camels. There was some mention on a giraffe, but I don't remember seeing it.

Done in the standard 70's made-for-TV style you have a kind zookeeper who has to head up and capture the animals alive before a couple of drunk hunters and the trigger happy cops get 'em. It was entertaining enough to keep me happy, but it'll be awhile before I watch it again. I bet kids back in 1978 loved this movie though, since it's almost nonstop animal action. And that lion cub was so cute! I honestly think I said "Awwww!" every time he was on the screen...his paws were so big!

If you can find a copy I recommend it, even though I was very disappointed in the lack of monkeys and orangutans. WTF? A rampaging spider monkey running around throwing his poo at people is entertainment gold...just ask Robert McCammon. =P
tiger vs. man

lion vs. dog

lion vs. horse

tiger vs. bear

bear vs. paddle boat.

Oh shit! It's the dad from CRITTERS!!!

TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN (1969)

In one of the earliest mockumentaries in movie history we find Woody Allen as Virgil Starkwell, a bumbling lifelong criminal who's exploits are explored here in film. He was bullied at a young age and soon turned to a life a crime. First small stuff like breaking into gumball machines and stealing purses, but then graduates into robbing banks...or attempting to rob banks. Along the way he meets the beautiful Louise.

For it's time I'm sure it was fresh and very funny, but it's kinda dated now. First time viewers will enjoy it based on how much they like Woody Allen. It also helps if you've seen some of the movies this film references...I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG, COOL HAND LUKE, The Marx Brothers and even VERTIGO (notice the restaurant Virgil takes Louise on their first date). I love Woody Allen, so even after not seeing this film for many years I still found it funny and the absurd slapstick humor reminded me a lot of his short stories which I highly recommend.

While watching the wackiness of this film I couldn't help but think that less than a decade later he would write and direct the masterful INTERIORS. Truly impressive.
Louise Lasser,Woody Allen's wife from 1966-1969.

Camera shadow.

Monday, February 21, 2011

THE CRUCIFIED LOVERS (1954)

Good film, but not Mizoguchi's finest moment...then again his finest moment (UGETSU) might be the best film ever made so we can cut him some slack here.

Osan is the wife of a wealthy businessman. Her brother needs money desperately or he's going to be thrown in prison. Osan knows that her husband will never give her the money so she instead asks his top employee Mohei. Mohei agrees to get the money for her, but when he's caught in the act things quickly go terribly wrong and Osan and Mohei are falsely accused of being lovers, which is punishable by public crucifixion! To make matters even worse, all of the business rivals and people who owe money to the husband want the story of the "lovers" to be true (or at least believed to be true) so that he'll be run out of business.

I liked this movie fine, the acting was good and the cinematography by Kazuo (RASHOMON, YOJIMBO, UGETSU, FLOATING WEEDS) Miyagawa was beautiful, but the story was too slow and the ending disappointing. I really wanted there to be a bigger sense of desperation in the two "lovers" on the run.

I can't see anybody, except for the biggest of the classic Japanese cinema nerds getting too excited over this one.

UMBERTO D. (1952)

An old man, at the end of his rope, looks for a loving home for his dog, so he can commit suicide without a guilty conscience.

Vittorio De Sica was a huge part of Italian neorealism and most people say that THE BICYCLE THIEF is his greatest film and yes it's a great film, even "one of the foundation stones of Italian neorealism" (Roger Ebert), but my favorite De Sica film is UMBERTO D. And it all has to do with the heartbreaking performance by non-actor Carlo Battisti and his character's love for his dog, Flag.

Umberto is living a horrible life. He's old, he rents a shitty room from a bitch landlady who doesn't care that the room has ants and even goes so far to show how much she doesn't care by letting couples hump in his room while he's out! That's some lowdown shit! The one spot of happiness in his life is Flag who some of the neighborhood kids call Fag. LOL. I'm just bullshitin', nobody calls the dog Fag. Anyway, Umberto's whole life revolves around Flag. So when his landlady throws him out, he decides to kill himself, but first he has to find a loving person to leave Flag with. That's much harder said than done.

I'm not going to be an asshole and give it all away, but this film is extremely sad, so make sure there isn't any hot chicks around when you watch the dog pound scene.  It's brutal and even after repeat viewings I still get all worked up watching it, but it's nothing compared to the end which is legendary in it's tearjerking abilities. So make sure you have you big girl panties on when you watch it.

Beautifully made and highly recommended.
 
If you don't get a lump in your throat when he starts walking backwards then you're got problems.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A NEW LEAF (1971)

Is it just me or doesn't Walter Matthau look like a Monkees-era Michael Nesmith in that poster?

I bought this movie for three reasons: I like Walter Matthau, the film is rather obscure and every review I've read was extremely positive including Roger Ebert's four stars out of four. I was also still excited from my recent discovery of a forgotten Jack Lemmon romantic comedy, THE APRIL FOOLS, that I thought was wonderful. A NEW LEAF, despite all the glowing reviews, is not that good of a movie. In fact, I found it boring and uneven. The uneven part makes sense, because I just now discovered that the original cut of the movie was over an hour longer and even had Matthau going around killing people! When the studio saw the finished product they trimmed it down into this forgettable mess.

The film opens with Matthau being informed that the money he inherited years ago is all gone and now he's flat broke. He goes to his uncle, who hates him, and begs for money. The uncle agrees to give him $50,000 in a wager that he can't find a rich woman to marry in 6 weeks. If he fails Walter has to repay his uncle $5 million! Anyway, Walter finds awkward nerd (and rich) Henrietta and starts speed-courting her...but will he get her to marry him in time? And will he resist his temptation to murder her? WTF?

There are a few scenes that I halfheartedly smiled at, but I never once laughed. Mainly because Walter's character was a fucking spoiled asshole. The woman who played Henrietta (Elaine May who was very funny in Allen's SMALL TIME CROOKS) was likable, but completely unbelievable. I understand that she's a lonely dork, but what does she see in Walter's character? He's a selfish prick.

I know Ebert gave it four stars and raved about how funny it was, but I found the entire movie to be very disappointing. If I had to give it a star rating, I'd give it 1.5 out of 4 stars. Skip it. Watch THE APRIL FOOLS instead.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

THE WILD AND WONDERFUL WHITES OF WEST VIRGINIA (2009)

After watching this excellent documentary and all of the extras I feel like I've only brushed the surface of the surface of the White family story. There needs to be a reality show about these people!

Back in 1989 young director Julien Nitzberg filmed a interview he did with Jesco White, a hard-living, tap dancing, drugged out hillbilly. The footage eventually led to a PBS documentary called "Dancing Outlaw" which I've never even heard of, but it was a cult hit and a few years ago fan Johnny Knoxville contacted Nitzberg and from that meeting they decided to go back and visit Jesco and his family to see what was going on...apparently a whole fucking lot has been going on and it's all fucking movie watching gold! TWAWWOWV could have easily been 15 hours long and I would have watched it all and still begged for more.

Where to even begin? The White family might be highly entertaining, but they are also completely fucked. They all seem to be on welfare, so with their excessive amounts of free time and complete lack of ambition they do nothing but get high, drink, fight, rob people, drink more and screw. The entire family is a train wreck with zero redeeming qualities, but that's what makes them so much fun to watch...as long as I don't live near 'em.

For this movie the filmmakers followed them around for a year and the Whites don't hold back on anything. They're doing drugs left and right, cussing, gettin' drunk, talking about different crimes they're committed, littering and involved with nonstop drama...everything from a baby getting taken away by the state to one young White getting sentenced to 50 years in prison for shooting a family member three times...in the neck!!! There's also some tap dancing.

I thought this movie was highly entertaining, very well made (especially the editing and how it introduced the family members early on) and much more memorable than a lot of documentaries I've seen recently...I'm looking at you EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP. In the hours since I finished watching the movie I've spent some time online looking for more information about the family and what's going on currently, but I can't really find anything. =( I guess my only hope for a White family fix is if they ever make a sequel.

Make sure to watch the Extras on the DVD. There's one great scene where the husband of one of the White women is outside talking about the beauty of nature and fuck the coal companies for fucking up the land then just a few seconds later he's tossing beer bottles and trash off in the grass...then he and his buddy moon the camera so deep you can see the one dudes complete ball sack. LOL.