An ongoing thread for us GE contributors to give short reviews to films (old or new) that aren’t really worth creating an entirely new thread for… but are worth commenting on anyway.

(Archive I)
(Archive II)
(Archive III)
(Archive IV)


20 responses »

  1. Dracula: Dead And Loving It (1995) – A Dracula spoof directed by Mel Brooks and starring Leslie Nielsen seemed a potentially interesting mix of comedy talents, but this was a critical/commercial flop back in its day

    Watching this film now, the most curious aspect of it is that its main source of parody is Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula film from a few years before. And yet while Coppola’s film was deliberately melodramtic, gaudy and flashy (and great fun), Brooks’ film seems almost staid and restrained by comparison. It almost feels like Coppola’s film should be spoofing Brooks’ ho-hum recreation of the cliches of vampire films that have been seen a zillion times before!

    To be fair, the film is tolerable and has a smattering of funny moments. But its adherence to the Dracula story and treating the narrative almost seriously at times is stifling and largely kills it.

  2. The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969) – WW2 comedy set in Italian village just after the fall of Mussolini where the Germans arrive to occupy and plunder the town’s one significant resource – it’s massive wine collection. But thanks to their blustering and rather buffoonish mayor (perfectly cast Anthony Quinn) the town has other ideas.

    Watching this Stanley Kramer film, it struck me as I did watching his “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” – he may have not been the world’s most brilliant director but he knew how to put a production together (and he started off as a producer). And like IAMMMMW, this film is superbly produced and put together, making particular excellent use of the real Italian village surroundings.

    A good solid entertainment, although it’s lack of success was the beginning of Kramer’s decline as a popular filmmaker.

  3. Billy Budd (1962) – 18th Century British naval drama where a principled and naive seaman (Terence Stamp on debut) is put on trial for the murder of a brutal master-at-arms (Robert Ryan).

    Even though this film made a star of Stamp and got him an Oscar nomination, it’s largely forgotten today. And that’s a shame because it’s a terrific film. Instead of simplifying the issues of how doing one’s duty and following the law will lead to tragic consequences, it embraces its complexities and is all the better for it.

    Excellent performances from a top-notch cast; Ryan is so compellingly loathsome (without descending into caricature) that the fact that he doesn’t attempt to hide his American accent isn’t an issue.

  4. I loved Charles Laughton’s reaction to the murder. It’s very authentic, and unusual for a film. It’s like “I can’t believe this just happened!”

  5. Actually that was Peter Ustinov (the film’s director as well). If made 15-20 years previously Laughton would’ve been a natural to be cast in it.

  6. House Of Games (1987) – Famed playwright David Mamet’s debut directing feature, it’s about a successful psychologist (Lindsay Crouse) whose uptight mindset and demeanour is turned upside down when she gets involved with a conman (Joe Mantegna) and before long she is in over her head. Or is she?

    There’s a heck of a lot of good stuff in this. Generally excellent dialogue (as one would expect from Mamet), stylishly directed and structured and consistently compelling. However, it takes some strange turns in the second half with a twist that anyone who’s seen The Sting can spot a mile off and a disconcerting and unconvincing final 15 minutes which is a bit of a letdown.

    Still, definitely worth seeking out.

  7. T2 (Trainspotting 2) –

    So I resisted writing about this one for a long while because I wanted to think the nostalgic haze I was viewing the movie through was causing me to judge it more harshly than I should have, but, man, despite the first ten minutes showing real promise (and that’s only because of Carlyle’s Begbie) this was terrible. Straight up. Terrible. Like watching old men who happen to be great actors walking around a movie set they’re only visiting without knowing someone had a camera on. Or, no, you know what it was like? You remember the scene in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back? And they walk onto the set of Good Will Hunting 2? And they break the fourth wall, and you can tell Good Will Hunting 2 would be the worst idea in the history of moviedom? I kept waiting for that, for the set to crumble around them and reveal it wasn’t really Danny Boyle directing and they weren’t really making a Trainspotting 2, it was all just a big joke.
    Sadly, that never happened and the movie limped to its conclusion and I vowed to still remember how incredibly good the original was and never think about this one again.
    And T2? Fuck off. Everyone knows that means Terminator 2.

  8. Clifford (1994) – A notorious comedy oddity of its era, Martin Short playing the world’s most obnoxious 10 year-old kid (!) who is so dislikable that his parents are all too happy to palm him off to his uncle (Charles Grodin), whose life turns to ruins after just a few days with him.

    This has a terrible reputation so I went in with very low expectations, which is perhaps why I mostly enjoyed it. It never reaches any great heights and falls apart in the last 25 minutes (including a dire ‘action’ finale) but Short & Grodin make a funny comedy team and actually create a decent amount of amusing moments.

    I wouldn’t exactly recommend this film but it’s better than Roger Ebert’s infamously negative review of it was.

  9. Someone could write a book about those bizarre, long-delayed Orion bankruptcy releases (Clifford, Car 54 Where Are You, China Moon, Blue Sky, The Favor, etc).

    Clifford was shot in 1990.

  10. Quite amazing that when Jessica Lange won her Oscar for ‘Blue Sky’, the director of the film (Tony Richardson) had been dead for well over 3 years.

  11. Single White Female (1992) – A young woman rebounding from a relationship breakup (Bridget Fonda) advertises for a roommate and finds initially the perfect companion (Jennifer Jason Leigh) but things turn nightmarish very quickly.

    For the first 60% or so, this is gripping stuff. Stylishly and thoughtfully made with two fine leads (a pity Fonda dropped out of acting in the early 00s). Unfortunately it largely junks that by becoming a crude slasher in the latter stages with some absurd scenes (a person can be killed when a thrown stiletto hits them in the eye?).

    Still, there’s some good filmmaking here and essential for anyone who wants to see early 90s fashion and computer technology.

  12. “(a person can be killed when a thrown stilleto hits them in the eye?)”

    *turns on Fire Stick to rent movie immediately.

  13. I.Q. (1994) – A mechanic (Tim Robbins) is seemingly no chance of wooing a well-to-do academic (Meg Ryan) away from her stuffy fiancee (Stephen Fry), but he’s helped by striking up a friendship with her uncle… who just happens to be Albert Einstein (Walter Matthau).

    The sort of 1990s film critics would give a pass to because it’s ‘inoffensive’. To be fair it has pleasant 1950s period settings and a nicely understated performance from Matthau. But in truth it’s tedious, reactionary nonsense. We’re supposed to sympathise with Robbins (badly miscast) even though he lies about being intelligent for most of the film because it wins over Ryan (incredibly unconvincing as a maths genius). Even though he’s portrayed as the bad guy I actually felt the most sympathy for Fry’s character

    It reminded me a bit of Forrest Gump (made same year and from same studio) where genuine intelligence is distrusted and stupidity is revered because it’s supposedly more truthful and honest.

  14. Too Funny to Fail (2017) – Documentary on 1996’s failed sketch comedy program, “The Dana Carvey Show”.

    Despite the series’ short run, it’s notable for featuring a remarkable roster of talent (Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Robert Smigel, Louis C.K., Charlie Kaufman, Spike Feresten and others) years before they’d become household names.

    Pretty much everyone involved sits down to discuss what went wrong (even the network executives) excluding C.K. and Kaufman. Both Colbert and Carell made their television debuts on the series and credit it for their entire careers (months before they landed the gig both men were considering quitting comedy). Fascinating how a series that only aired 7 episodes made such a huge impact.

  15. Private Benjamin (1980) – A spoilt, young Jewish lady (Goldie Hawn) is widowed on her wedding night and makes an impulsive decision to join the army. She predictably struggles initially with the demands but then as she matures as a person begins to make a success out of it.

    This was a huge hit back in its day, amongst the top 6-8 films of its year at the box office. And it was a critical darling of its day, even getting nominated for Oscars in multiple acting categories and even best script. After watching it I’m wondering how and why did it get such acclaim?

    On the plus side, it has Hawn’s effortless charisma, some mildly funny bits in the army segment and the issues the film covers of female independence and relationships with men are interesting in the context of co-writer Nancy Meyers’ later works.

    But to be honest, I thought this film was barely passable. The army segment is a surprisingly small amount of the film (and not that great anyway) and the later segment with her in Europe and in a relationship with a Frenchman (a young Armond Assante) seem to belong in a different film and are pretty blah anyway.

    I guess the film’s success can be put down to capturing the zeitgeist of various moods in early 80s America, but for mine the film doesn’t hold up well at all.

  16. Striptease (1996) – An ex-FBI employee (Demi Moore) has to turn to stripping to get money for an appeal to win custody of her daughter, but things get complicated when a slimy senator (Burt Reynolds) takes a fancy to her.

    A notorious dud back in the day and the beginning of the end of Moore as a major film star, and it’s easy to see why. In what is otherwise trying to be a goofy, farcical comedy (e.g. Reynolds’ performance), Moore totally sucks the life out of the film with her misguidedly serious performance, as if the film was a serious drama about broken families.

    Even without Moore’s dreary acting, the film probably would’ve sunk anyway. Writer/director Andrew Bergman (who’d done some good work elsewhere) is totally lost handling this material. The action finale is so inept and shoddy (and had post-production problems) it’s laughable.

    Gambit (2012) – This remake of a 1960s Michael Caine/Shirley Maclaine art heist caper film seemed to have a lot going for it; a script by the Coen brothers, a fine cast including Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz and Alan Rickman. But the film bombed so badly in Britain that it barely got a release 18 months later in America and sunk without trace.

    And after having seen it, it deserved its fate.

    The film obviously had major production troubles as it has a very short running time and it seems like they used voiceover narration to try and cover for a slipshod narrative; we basically dive into the main plot without any setup whatsoever.

    The film tries to be a light, breezy, old-style fun caper film but is an almost total failure at it. Curiously, Firth is playing the ‘hero’ and Rickman (one of the film’s few bright spots) the villain but Firth’s character is so obnoxious you almost sympathise with Rickman more.

    Apart from being bad, what else both films mention Donald Trump; in the context of him now being President you now realise how often he was referred to (and appeared in as himself) in films of the past 30 years.

  17. The Time Traveller’s Wife (2009) – A man (Eric Bana) has the genetic curse of involuntary time travel through all periods of his life. He is still able to find love and happiness with a young lady (Rachel McAdams) but tragedy is heading his way…

    A tragic, fantastical emotional love story like this I would usually lap up but this left me completely cold. Too much lazy writing and narration, too much unbelievable behaviour (even for a film with a plot like this) and surprisingly passionless.

    In terms of the setting and visual style, it certainly has the ‘tony’ look down pat but that just makes one feel more alienated from the characters. Easy to see why this was considered a disappointment when released and quickly forgotten.

  18. Batman Returns (1992) – This was the only one of the original four Burton/Schumacher series of films and I’d never been massively desperate to see it as I’d never particularly cared for the other three movies.

    But as these things go, this was surprisingly good. Mainly down to a script that was more interesting than one usually finds in mainstream big-budget comic book films. As has been noted by many over the years, Pfeiffer steals the show as Catwoman but I appreciated Christopher Walken underplaying as the villain when he could’ve so easily hammed it up. The finale is a bit messy and overblown but overall, it’s certainly my favourite of these quartet of films.

    Altered States (1980) – A self-absorbed scientist (William Hurt) believes that sensory deprivation and hallucinatory drugs are the key to understanding the nature and truth of man and tests them on himself. Any prizes for guessing whether things get out of control?

    Paddy Chayefsky wrote some great scripts over the years but this isn’t one of them; not only does it have his patented weakness of all the characters being excessively verbose (and shouting 99% of the time) but it is nowhere near as profound as it thinks it is. And director Ken Russell seems to sense this by just turning this into a visual effects extravaganza that – as silly as it often is – makes it far more entertaining than it would’ve been if it had been taken seriously.

    Worth seeing once, but not a classic.

  19. The Disaster Artist:

    I’ve seen The Room multiple times. I’ve enjoyed watching analysis and parody videos and read Greg Sestero’s hilarious memoir of the same name. I’m the target market and I really disliked this.

    The tone is off. I don’t like how it’s shot. It’s smug. There’s very little joy in the thing. It skips or rapidly speeds through a lot of the most interesting stuff n the book.

    James Franco is terrific as Tommy Wiseau, of course. No disputing that. But I thought Dave was distracting with his mugging (he makes this exaggerated “pained look” that quickly becomes grating) and generally just not up to the task of playing off his more talented brother.

    I guess it’s worth watching, but you’d be better off just buying the book.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.