Amazon Prime Movie of the Day : DJANGO, PREPARE A COFFIN

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‘Its hard to find a good ” Django” film after Sergio Corbuccis original, even though, after its success, there were hundreds of films which boasted themselves with the title “Django”. Sadly most of these films used the name as a marketing strategy to boost ticket sales. The main characters often had nothing to do with the Django that Corbucci established, sometimes they didn’t even have his name attached to them.
“Django, Prepare a Coffin” is one of those rare films that use the existing character, with all its quirks, and is able to bring him to life in a new scenario with a new actor.’

—Nolden  of LETTERBOXD

Really enjoyed this 1968 Spaghetti Western, ably directed by Ferdinando Baldi (TEXAS ADIOS, BLIND MAN). Originally written for Franco Nero (the star  of the original DJANGO), when he was unavailable they offered the role to Terence Hill (born Mario Girotti) because of his striking resemblance to the popular Nero.

But Terence Hill proves himself in this movie a capable leading man of his own, with a more easy and affable screen presence than the talented but oft explosive and hyperbolic Franco Nero. Hill’s more subdued take is perfect for this imaginative story of double and triple crosses.

 

 

Movie Review : STAR TREK BEYOND… Great or Badly Flawed??!!

STAR TREK BEYOND – As a rule I avoid trailers for movies I know I’m going to see. Like CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR or STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS, I knew STAR TREK BEYOND was a movie I knew I was going to see, so I wanted to go into the film, and be as blank a slate as possible, not basically pre-watching the film before the film.

It has worked with me for other films. Loved CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR, liked STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS.

With STAR TREK BEYOND  I  did manage to catch one trailer, the one with the mortorcycle and music that caused something of a negative pushback online, but for myself I thought it was fine. Not a great trailer, but an okay one.

The movie, finally seen, in a solid, nearly empty theater with great picture, and great sound (2D not 3D) and verdict?… I enjoyed it. I think the look of it was fantastic, the beginning and middle solid. Some good performances and fun scenes. It’s a nice, if flawed, addition to these new STAR TREK films.

Why flawed?

To explain that I’m going to have to get into specifics, as in spoiler theory. But a quick nonspoiler take on STAR TREK BEYOND… if you haven’t already seen it in the theater, save money and wait for it on streaming or for rent.  A cheap rental.

Okay that sounds harsh for a movie that I thought started off very strongly. Okay here is some detail to explain my feelings. To avoid spoilers skip everything except the last paragraph, and come back after you’ve seen it.

Here we go:

 

An action movie ultimately is defined by the quality of the conflict, the quality of the conflict that opposes our heroes, the quality of the antagonist. STAR TREK BEYOND has a great actor, Idress Elba, who is completely wasted;  who is given a largely mediocre and nonsensical role, and motivation.

You have an antagonist that in one of the film’s most memorable scenes early in the picture, shows he possesses a weapon that can kick serious ass. But instead of using this awesome weapon for achieving his vengeance, he… for over a hundred years… only uses this devastating weapon, to pirate other ships, in an attempt to find a so-called ultimate weapon.

That weapon when found is unimpressive piece of nonsense, compared to the weapon he already had at his disposal.

It’s like somebody who wants to take revenge against the people he blames for his family’s death, armed with a machine gun, who instead of taking this machine gun and getting his vengeance immediately, spends over a hundred years carjacking  people in the hopes of finding a different ultimate  weapon, and that weapon when found, turns out to be a yo-yo or slingshot.

It’s that much of a let down and disappointment, compared to the weapon he already had.

It makes no sense and delivers a flawed and weak and toothless ending.  How no one in production could see this glaring issue with the plot/script is baffling.

And speaking of weak, why would our antagonist, this eater of life… be getting weaker after consuming lives? Each life should be making him stronger.

So on top of this dud of a doomsday weapon, this antagonist himself at the ‘climax’ Of the film, for no conceivable good reason… is a weak, crying, easily beaten, and more than a bit rubbish, whiner.

The actors do the best they can with this, but the writing /plot ultimately lets them down. This one falls squarely at the feet of the writer, Simon Pegg, who writes everything well except the most important thing to get right, the villain and the villains motivations.

I thought the first rebooted STAR TREK film was great. In many ways it is STAR WARS done better than STAR WARS, possessing as it does that EMPIRE STRIKES BACK vibe. It is a solid A-.

I thought the 2nd one, while it had deeper pitfalls than the 1st film, the poor idea to try to cleave too close to WRATH OF KAHN, also had higher peaks. And as a whole I think it is masterful, it just edges  out the first film being a solid A-/A.

END SPOILERS

 

This third one I was enjoying till the whole idiocy of the  ‘doomsday weapon’ and the poorly written antagonist and final act. Whereas I can rewatch the first two reboot STAR TREK movies constantly, and proudly own both Blu-Rays, I have no desire to sit though this 3rd movie ever again.

Grade: C-.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Currently Watching : MONK and LA MANTE RELIGIEUSE

Two very different, yet thematically similar films are France’s THE MONK and LA MANTE RELIGIEUSE.

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Natalie Saracco’s 2014 film LA MANTE RELIGIEUSE (known by the trivial and clumsy English title of MANEATER) is a modern drama of a woman who burns with an inconsolable flame, and a man of faith, that challenges her toward more. A wonderful film, twisty and enthralling and sensual. Grade: B+.

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Director Dominik Moll’s 2007 film THE MONK, starring one of France’s most compelling actors, Vincent Cassell is about a man of faith, into whose life comes a woman who burns with an inconsolable flame. It’s a beautiful gothic, baroque painting distilled to film; a gorgeous, horrific, and surreal parable played out in the colors of flesh and blood, and to the moaning of the pleasured and the damned. Grade: B+.

There is a Flatiron Film Company DVD from 2013 that runs a 100 minutes and has no special features to speak of (at a minimum a DVD or Bluray should at least sport a director’s or cast commentary) so until there is a better DVD release, you can view this movie for free (as of this writing) on the Roku channel THRILLER THEATRE.

NetFlix Movie review : THE EXORCISM OF MOLLY HARTLEY

 

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THE EXORCISM OF MOLLY HARTLEY – There’s a very interesting opening to this film, and a wonderful texture that belies this film’s formulaic poster and unoriginal title.

This is a sumptuously filmed, and quite sexy film. Well performed, well directed by Steven R. Monroe, with a score that is reminiscent in places of John Carpenter or Daria Argento scored films. But particularly the look of this film compels… it is gorGEous.

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This is a film that is less horror and more a taut thriller and in some ways a muscular but dumb action movie aesthetic, crafted onto the bones of what should be just a formulaic possession film.

I like this film, even though the fourth act is something of a misfire, it is not doing anything exceptionally original, and in many ways it is very trite and yes dumb, (the patient gets to take a trip out of the asylum, gets to go back in with his vestments. Really? The demon voice, and pea soup, spitting, it is all this close to parody. I may be twisted but I found the scene with the scissors and the ear, hilarious. So there are definite tonal issues), however compelling visuals and  a quick moving story keep the film ahead of its flaws, and makes for an entertaining watch. 

So while not in the same league (or hemisphere) as the granddaddy of exorcism films… THE  EXORCIST, it’s head and shoulders above more plodding and dire Excorcism films, such as EXORCISMUS,

Grade: Recommended. B. Not worth a purchase, but worth a look if you catch it on VOD or as a rental. Currently showing on NetFlix.

 

 

Fanfare for a Death Scene (1964) and best Cinematographers!!

Today’s recommended movie FANFARE FOR A DEATH SCENE (1964)

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This is a forgotten little 1964 made for TV movie, that sports the phenomenal camera work of the great Conrad L. Hall. The opening sequence alone is reason enough to view this film.

You can view the film courtesy of Amazon Prime.

Click here for Fanfare For A Death Scene

When it comes to the great camera men of cinema, Conrad Hall, in terms of bravura visual styling and seminal impact, is right up there with the best of cinematographers.

The best of them being Karl Freund (the father of cinematography in many ways, creating much of the visual techniques and language of cinema in ground breaking films such as METROPOLIS and DRACULA) Karl Struss (SUNSHINE) and Freddie Young (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA), James Wong Howe (SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS), Vilmos Zsigmond (two great collaborations with Robert Altman, IMAGES and THE LONG GOODBYE), Geoffrey Unsworth (2001, SUPER MAN), Bradford Young (MOTHER OF GEORGE, AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS, PAWN SACRIFICE, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR, SELMA), Guy Green (GREAT EXPECTATIONS), Lisa RInzler (MENACE II SOCIETY), Sergey Urusevskiy (I AM CUBA), John Alton (his wonderful collaborations with Anthony Mann, such as T-MEN, RAW DEAL), and Yoshio Miyajima (particularly with his collaborations with Masaki Kobayashi in films such as HARA KIRI and KWAIDAN).

For more on FANFARE FOR A DEATH SCENE there is a wonderful article on the production by Stephen Bowie here!

Come back next time for more VOD picks and reviews!

Netflix Daredevil Season 2 Television Review

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The first season of Netflix’s DAREDEVIL was with one or two missteps, a masterpiece… and now the long awaited 2nd season has broken onto Netflix. And the verdict after watching all 13 episodes… it’s good overall, great in sporadic parts, and uneven throughout most of it. It feels tired and maudlin in a way the first season never did.

And much of the weakness of the 2nd season is directly related to carrying over the missteps of Season 1. The death of Vondie Curtis Hall’s character of Ben Urich was a mistake, and the sometimes screeching, sanctimonius, annoying nature of the Karen Page charater, also was always poised to upset the ship.

And here those two blips combine to I think after the first 3 strong episodes, bog down the remaining 10 episodes. Every scene with the Karen Page character (doing her Nancy Drew with the Editor), just highlights how much better those scenes would have played with Hall’s Ben Urich character bringing gravitas to those moments.

And while the actress who plays Karen Page, is definitely striking, her character is written and played annoyingly, so giving her more screen time this season is analagous to nails on a chalkboard. Her voiceover to round out the last episode, I’m sure was meant to be this poignant summation of the season, but came off as so much trite, cliched fluff. A failure of writing and delivery.

On top of that example, the writing which was a standout of most of season 1, stumbles here in season 2. I thought episode 5 was a complete trainwreck, boring, navel gazing, let down by both the writing and directing. It tried to mirror the emotional intensity of the 5th episode of Season 1, but lacked a story and writing and performances capable of carrying the episode.

Add to that the whole Daredevil/ Elektra/ Black Sky plotline, was delivered in a bit of a muddled fashion, it all reeks of perhaps needing more rewrites. I who am familiar with these characters, found the season a bit unclear and unsatisfying at times.

Those negatives acknowledged, there was much to like about season 2, I thought the action scenes were excellent, the characters of Stick and the Punisher compelling, the performances of most of the leads stellar.

So overall, glad to have seen the 2nd  season, but I didn’t love it.

And here’s hoping season 3 brings the magical return of Ben Urich’s character, and less screen time for the Karen Page character and the Paper’s Editor (who I found equally uninteresting),

Overall Grade:  B-.

 

 

Currently Reading: S.H.I.E.L.D.: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION OMNIBUS

 

S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Complete Collection Omnibus

 

S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Complete Collection Omnibus (Marvel): Marvel is proud to present — in a single complete volume — one of comics’ most-innovative series! With international threats on the rise, Tony Stark and a council of global powers tapped Nick Fury to protect the US from Hydra, A.I.M., Baron Strucker, and the Yellow Claw. The greatest team in comics, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, dove into the world of covert ops, mixing Cold War drama with the mighty Marvel manner. They set the tone, but when Steranko took over, he rewrote the entire rulebook. Steranko turned S.H.I.E.L.D. into one of the most visually innovative comic series ever published and every early story is presented in oversized glory. You’ve been granted Priority A-1 access, so reserve your copy today! Collecting the Nick Fury stories from Strange Tales (1951) #135-168, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1968) #1-15, Fantastic Four (1961) #21, Tales of Suspense (1959) #78, Avengers (1963) #72, Marvel Spotlight (1971) #31 (which reveals an important Nick Fury secret!), and material from Not Brand Echh (1967) #3, 8, and 11. Features work by Lee, Kirby, Steranko, Roy Thomas, Denny O’Neil, Archie Goodwin, Jim Starlin, Howard Chaykin, John Severin, Herb Trimpe, Don Heck, Barry Windsor-Smith, Sal Buscema, Joe Sinnott, and more. 960-page oversize color hardcover. – Released in September 2015, in two versions, one with an Alex Ross cover and one with a Steranko cover.  I like Alex Ross, but his cover for this book is underwhelming, clearly the Steranko cover is the one to get.

And you’ll pay for it, as quantities on the Steranko version are climbing in price. But well worth the seeking out.

 

S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Complete Collection Omnibus