This is a 1998 drama starring Sean Penn and Kevin Spacey based on a 1984 play, and it shows because there is a lot of talking.

It tells the story of three Hollywood players who like to do the drugs and other things we all know Hollywood types like to do. Sean’s character is especially wigged-out on drugs and gets really paranoid and stressed out.

Most of the film takes place in one house in the hills somewhere, so there is not a whole lot going on, just a lot of rambling about things that don’t really make for good film watching.

Anna Paquin turns up as a young drifter who would do anything for a place to stay, she was a refreshing change from all of the drama going on about her, but alas did not have much screen time.

The performances were good by all, and Sean was trying really hard to get an Oscar, but he did not succeed. Chazz Palminteri was excellent, with both Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright doing their best with what they had too.

This isn’t terrible, but it could have been a lot better.

Date watched: May 11th
Score: 5/10
Film count 2019: 15

Last Year in Marienbad

If this film was a painting it would be a Jackson Pollack…nice to look at, but no idea what it is about. It was released in 1961 and is an Italian/French production, in French.

U.S. title of the film

There is no real story, and the characters have no names. There are three main protagonists, two dapper dudes and a stylish woman. It appears one of the dapper dudes is trying to convince the woman shack up with him, and the other dude, who is either a beau or husband, is scheming a bit. He is a gambler and continuously beats the other dude at a simple but difficult card game, really getting on the dudes nerves.

Dapper Dude 1 about to be beaten by Dapper Dude 2.

Dapper Dude 1, mirror, stylish woman

The rest of the film is just lots of dialogue about statues, gardens, doors, photographs, mirrors, and hotels. Often the dialogue is repeated or recycled, we hear the same thing over and over again. Also, there is a lot of pipe organ music, dark stuff, playing throughout. Sometimes all of the characters including many extras just freezing in unison with the camera slowly moving past them, then unfreeze. Or, they will all freeze except one of the main actors who slowly glides past them. There is a lot of slow in this film, although in one scene Dapper Dude 1 and the woman are slowly walking along one of the many corridor shots, then suddenly speed up for no apparent reason.

Nice corridor

At lot of the film was made inside or outside a couple of large palaces in Germany, quite amazing places. For me that was the most interesting part of the film.

The characters talked about this statue a lot, trying to figure out what it all meant.

This film is a “left bank” new wave French film, just a fancy way of saying it is an experimental film made by ultra-hipster directors. “Right bank” films were more commercially successful, and less pretentious, and included directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. I am definitely right bank.

Contemplating the life of shoes

Most film critics say this is one of the greatest films ever made, some say that it is pretentious nonsense, and some just don’t know what to make of it. Mostly I just found this quite dull, and confusing as heck. Read this review, it gives you a good idea of what real reviewers say.

The director himself said there was no story and no meaning to the film, just take from it what you will…fair enough. For me it was just a very nice film to look at, especially as it was filmed in nice black and white (one scene noticeably changed to greys and whites) , and also in widescreen which suited the location.

If someone asks me what this film is about, I will slowly walk away from them, preferably down the nearest corridor.

Date watched: December 23rd
Score: 5/10
Confuse-O-meter score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 84

Reform School Girls

Browsing on YouTube for eighties films I chanced upon this and chose it because it had the name Wendy O. Williams attached to it. She was of course the vocalist for the Plasmatics, a band I got into a while back.

The story is about a teenager busted for a crime she unwillingly took part in (a shootout between her boyfriend and a security guard), and she is sent off to reform school. The school turns out to be run by a mean and unhinged ward head, and a nazi-like reform school warden. The school is populated by bad girls, mostly wearing designer lingerie and sporting very 80’s hairstyles.

Wendy plays a bully who is also best buds with the ward head, Edna. Together they terrorise the new girl and her fellow new inmates. The story follows pretty much any other story of this type: the girls rebel against the oppressive regime, fight the bully, a kind-hearted doctor at the school tries to expose the goings-on at the school but fails. But after the suicide of one of the girls, all of the girls go berzerb and trash the place then march on the warden. Edna totally flips and goes on a shotgun rampage then dies after climbing up a tower (while blasting away with the shotgun), which caught fire after Wendy drove a bus into the tower, causing an explosion and fire, and she fell to a flaming/screaming death.

Williams, the warden, ward head “Edna”.

It all sounds rather fun, but for the most part it just played out like a bad 80’s action flick, but with scantily-clad females and of course a nude shower scene or two. Reading about it on the Interwebs I see that the director actually intended this film to be a spoof of two of his own earlier “women-in-prison” films which he was not pleased with. It didn’t really feel like a spoof, it mostly played out quite straight except for Edna who was playing her part way over the top.

Still, it was kind of fun to watch, mostly because of Edna and Wendy. I suspect Wendy was pretty much playing her on-stage self, when she yelled angrily in one scene you could hear the angry singer of the Plasmatics.

Some trivia from IMDB:
Wendy O. Williams refused to wear any outfits that weren’t her own for the film. She also refused to take off her boots and even wears her boots in the shower scenes.

Wendy O. Williams would come to work and do 200 sit-ups before coming onto the set.

Director ‘Tom DeSimone’ has stated that actress Pat Ast could be a headache on set as he would have to feed her lines, and in one scene in particular she refused to walk because the ground was too soft.

This documentary about Wendy, while not well made, was interesting.

Date watched: November 30th
Score: 5/10
Film count 2018: 79

Beyond The Time Barrier

This is a 1960 science fiction film that was made in 10 days, and it shows.

The story is about a test pilot who jumps in his X-80 super fighter jet and whizzes off into space, aiming to break the 6,000 mph mark. What he ends up doing is transport himself to the year 2024. There he discovers that the world has been affected by a plague caused by the nuclear tests of the 50’s and 60’s, and we discover that this is an anti-nuke film.

The year 2024 (actual screenshot from the film)

Most of the population has become mindless savages who are held captive by people who are not savage but are mostly deaf mutes. The big boss, named The Supreme, and his chief security officer are the only ones who can speak, and they don’t want the pilot to go back to the past. Being held captive are four other time travellers from various times in the past, including a meddling Ruskie. They want to help the pilot go back to the 1960’s so he can prevent the nuclear tests, but actually they are planning on going back too.

“Take that you cad!”

The beautiful girl in the story is Princess Trirene, granddaughter of the The Supreme, and she can read minds and she trusts the pilot so helps him escape to the past. Once back in 1960 the pilot instantly ages to an old man, but he manages to convince the Pentagon brass that nuclear tests must stop.

“Gimme some sugar baby!”

“Spare a talent for an old ex-leper. “

The acting in this film is quite wooden, and at times some actors were in ultra-dramatic mode. The dialogue was simple and quite silly at times, especially the science boffins’ explanation of why the pilot went ahead in time. I liked the fact that the Pentagon brass accepted his highly implausible story about his adventures and demand that nuclear testing must stop, they basically just said “Yeah, alright then, you seem to be telling the truth”. If it was a 2018 film starring The Cruiser it would take half the film for Tommo to convince them, not 30 seconds.

“So, you went to the year 2024?”. “Yep, sure did”. “And you reckon we have to stop nuclear testing?”. “Yep”. “Seems legit, better do something about it then”.

The director was Edgar G. Ulmer, who also directed The Man from Planet X. I can’t decide which film I like more…maybe The Man from Planet X just because of the wacky alien.

The film was made with the cooperation of the Air Force. From Wikipedia: The film’s action sequences used Air Force weapons, M1 carbines and M1911A1 pistols, with the actors taking care not to fire the weapons directly at one another.

This is neither bad nor good, but I found it slightly entertaining just for the silliness of it all.

Date watched: November 23rd
Score: 5/10
Film count 2018: 75

The Black Six

My blaxploitation-fest continues with this 1974 outlaw biker film.

As in the previous blaxploitation films I have been watching, there is an American Rugby connection with all six of the main actors being actual players back in the day. They all came from different teams such as the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers. Some of them did some other work in film or television, but this was really the high point of their silver screen fame. I must say though that they were all quite natural on screen, sometimes funny, but not quite up to Fred or Jim level.

The story starts out with the murder of a black American Rugby player by a honky biker gang. He was killed because his white girlfriend is also the sister of the leader of the honky gang, and he didn’t like that.

We then meet Bubba and the other members of The Black Six. Bubba is also the brother of the murdered player. The Black Six is a peace loving biker group who roam the countryside on their bikes, working and sleeping where ever they can. They find work on a farm stacking hay bales into the loft of a barn. It was quite funny as they were obviously throwing light wooden boxes with hay glued on the outside…

After finishing the work the nice farm lady invites them in for dinner where they have a good meal, and of course there is a lot of good-hearted banter and joking around. The lady pays them what little money she can, as times are tough, and she hopes they would drop by again someday when she has more money so they can fix the barn wall which needs repairing. They ask if they can sleep in the barn for the night, which she happily agrees to.

The next day the lady goes outside to see that the gang has left, and that the barn has been fixed! A postman comes up to her and says; “I just saw that bunch of Negroes ride out, I just what to make sure everything is all right, you know how they are!”, to which she replies, “Yes…I know how they are!” with a smile on her face.

Mrs. Perkins

This was the actress’ only film, but she did fine.

Bubba (played by Gene Washington of the San Francisco 49ers) finds out in a letter from his mother that his brother was slain, so he decides he must go home and find out what happened. The rest of the gang of course join him. They don’t want to bash heads, they just want to find out who did it, as the police don’t who know did it although they kind of did but they are afraid of the honky gang.

The rest of the story is really quite dull, but the ending is where things get weird. After finding out who did it the Black Six decide to go violent and end up wasting all of the honky white gang in a rumble in a field, quite viciously. Unbeknown to them another even more vicious gang (or motorcycle dudes as the poster says) was waiting nearby, they just wanted to join in on the fun. Part of their attack strategy was to throw lit flares at them. The Black Six picked up the flares and threw them back, so there was a lot of flare throwing which looked like fun. There were dozens of the flare-throwing gang, but the Black Six were doing a good job of wasting them too. The last remaining member of the original gang who fled the carnage at first is ordered by the other gang leader to do something about it, so he lights up a flare, places it in the open gas tank of his hog, then makes a banzai run for the Black Six. He does a jump in the air and explodes, causing all of the other hogs which were strewn about the battlefield to explode. Over the flames we see shots of each of the Black Six like thus…


We then see this…

From Wikipedia:
Several of the football players were disappointed with elements in the original script, especially that the black motorcyclists would be killed in the end, despite the fact that they stood for truth, justice and the American way. As a result of their protests, an inconclusive ending was shot.

That explains the ending. There was however no sequel.

It was a very cheaply made film and didn’t really have much of a story. But, the six main characters were fun to watch and the actors playing them seemed to be enjoying themselves. The ending too, though bizarre, was a bit of fun. So, it was not too bad, but the Slaughter films are the best of the blaxploitation films I have watched in the last week or so.

Date watched: October 19th
Score: 5/10
Film count 2018: 67

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

After watching the various Tim Roth and Gary Oldman films recently, I decided it was time to visit this film, a film I last saw a very long time ago.

My memories of this this film before I watched it were that it was witty and fun to watch, but as I started watching it I remembered that it is actually quite tedious and kind of boring, for the most part. It is certainly not “mercilessly funny”.

The story was kind of confusing at times. It is based on Hamlet, a play I have never read, so maybe if I knew that story better this may have made more sense.

And despite Tim and Gazza being two fave actors of mine, I thought they both over-played their roles a bit, they seemed to think that they had better act this as if they were on stage rather than on a film set, perhaps that is the director’s fault. So, their comedic reactions were a bit over the top with a lot of double-takes, comedy pauses, and various other techniques more commonly seem on stage or in bad TV comedies.

It was genuinely funny at times though, I especially liked Gary Oldman’s character building modern machines out of paper, or “discovering” scientific concepts, only to have Tim’s character destroy or completely ignore them. Some of the dialogue was quite witty and funny, there was just not enough of it.

Reviews for this were mixed, with Wikipedia saying that some reviews say it is more suited to the stage than film. It received a Golden Lion at the Venice Film festival. Roger Ebert did not like it at all.

I may just try to read Hamlet and see if that helps me understand or not understand this film a little better: that is the question. But, I do find Shakespeare tiresome to read…perhaps a dumbed-down version will be in order.

Date watched: September 14th
Score: 5/10
Film count 2018: 57

Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen

This is a 2015 comedy/crime film directed by Takeshi “Beat” Kitano, and starring a few of the most well known actors from Japanese film and TV.

It is the story of Ryuzo, an ex-yakuza, and his ex-yakuza buddies getting the gang back together to fight a group of young gangsters who are ripping off old people. There are a few other elements to the story, but they don’t really mesh together, rather they are separate side stories which don’t really help the main plot.

Unfortunately the comedy is very corny and resorts to fart and toilet jokes quite a lot. It was also very inconsistent at times, and when Ryuzo had to walk through a red-light district dressed like this…

…I had written off the comedy part of the film.

I haven’t seen any other Kitano films, but he is well respected so I am sure he could have made a better film than this one. There were one or two laughs here and there, and the acting was fine but not great, but on the whole it is a film for the older Japanese generation who want to reminisce about the old days, which is fine but not my cup of green tea.

Kitano is a regular on TV here. He has his own prime TV show which is part “That”s Incredible”, game show, and comedy. It has been on air since 1997.

Date watched: April 21st
Score: 5/10
Film count 2018: 30