The Inner Circle

This is a 1946 film-noir mystery starring a bunch of mostly unknown actors, except for William Frawley who appeared in a few well-known TV shows back in the fifties and sixties.

The story was about the moider of a gossip radio announcer (they didn’t call them DJ’s back then it seems), and a rather intricate plot in which the leading blond has appears to be covering up the murder when in fact she is actually trying to cover-up the fact that her sister involved in the murder (but innocent of course) which is not a good thing as their father is a congressman, so she first gets herself the job of secretary for a detective who just happened to be looking for one, then she gets the detective to investigate the crime and while doing so she hits him over the head at the scene of the yet-unreported crime. A fuzz chief arrives and immediately suspects the detective but the blond comes along and gives a convincing story to the fuzz chief that in fact the crime was perpetrated by a mysterious woman in black, but it was actually the blond with a mourning dress on because she was pretending to be the moider victim’s grieving wife, when in fact he was not married as the fuzz chief noted. From there the story goes on all sorts of tangents and soon we have a cast of potential moiderers.

“I didn’t moider nobody!”

It was all told in a jovial and humourous manner with plenty of one-liners and sassy jokes from the witty blond, who was the highlight of the cast. This is not Bogart level stuff, but it was nonetheless quite entertaining with decent acting. Unfortunately the quality of this film on YouTube was pretty bad.

The ending though was a bit weird and second rate. To find the moiderer the detective came up with a plan. He got all of the principal players to go to the scene of the crime where a live radio broadcast was already set up. An announcer starts the broadcast explaining that the moider will be solved by the detective, and each of the people involved in the crime will be reading from a script of the actual events. So they all go through the script and the detective gets the moiderer to unwittingly reveal himself. The moiderer though was not the character that the story had up to that point suspected, so that at least was good.

But, apart from the unconventional and rather contrived ending, this was a quite fun way to spend 57 minutes.

Date watched: November 10th
Score: 6.5/10
Film count 2018: 72

Jail Bait

There is little to do on a very hot and humid Japanese summer’s afternoon except watch a good B-grade crime film with an electric fan by your side, so I chose this Ed Wood-directed film.

The story is about a young man who gets in with the wrong crowd, panics during a bungled heist and offs a night watchman. From there he feels guilt and with the help of his world-famous plastic surgeon father, prepares to turn himself in. But, the mastermind behind the heist is out to get him because he thinks he will also go to the joint. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that it makes the film worth the watch, even if it was a tad predictable, and it involves a face change.

So for an Ed Wood film this has a pretty coherent story, nothing spectacular, but it is a decent tale. The acting though is very Eddy, some of the actors are quite wooden, although the main cast do a pretty good job.

There was a very bizarre comedy/dance act scene in the film, it seemed very random. It involved a real act, a blackface performer (one of the last) by the name of Cotton Watts, and well, it is best if you just watch the actual scene here.

There was this scene (screenshot below) where I was wondering why Eddy wanted to have this guy show off his ripped chest as he put on a shirt. Turns out he was Steve Reeves, a bodybuilder in the day and this was his second appearance on film. He would go on to a successful film career, especially in Italian peplum films. Unlike most other films he was in, his actual voice was used, he was dubbed in the others.

Just changin’ my shirt, and lookin’ good.

The fellow who played the plastic surgeon, a Britisher by the name of Herbert Rawlinson, died from cancer aged 67 the night after shooting finished. His character was originally intended for Bela Lugosi, but Herbert was a good choice.

The young man was played by Clancy Malone who was an aspiring actor, and who delivered Eddy’s groceries. This was his only film.

The Cotton Watts scene was not filmed by Eddy, rather it was footage taken from one of Cotton’s shows. From Wikipedia:

The inclusion of the footage in this film probably reflects the sensibilities of the intended audience. Jail Bait was primarily released in areas of the Deep South, where blackface still held a nostalgic appeal.

This is not essential watching, but I liked it. Watch it here why don’t you?

Date watched: July 14th
Score: 6.5/10
Film count 2018: 41

Ghostbusters (2016)

This was a film I was looking forward to, as well as kind of dreading. I didn’t really think the original film needed updating, it is fine as it is, even the CG back then was pretty adequate if I remember correctly, but with an all female main cast I thought it might be worthwhile.

As it turned out it is a very mixed bag. The cast were all fine, especially Chris Hemsworth who was the funniest of all despite little screen time. All of the actresses were fine in their parts, with Melissa Ann McCarthy the funniest of the four. And the cameos by Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, and Ernie Hudson were all well done.

Unfortunately though a lot of it just fell flat, especially some of the attempts at humour which didn’t raise much more than a smirk, or were eyebrow raising at times. It also seemed a bit cobbled together at times, but it was very slickly made. The story followed the original just a bit too much, and it didn’t introduce anything much new except for a few new ghost-busting gadgets.

And the final battle scene just a bit tedious, I was just waiting for it to end. And of course we were left with a hint of things to come in the inevitable sequel.

It wasn’t terrible, but it could have been better, but I am not sure how. Perhaps some sharks would have helped.

Date watched: March 10th
Score: 6.5/10
Film count 2018: 21

The Polka King

This is the story of Jan Lewan, polka ponzi scheme perp.

Jack Black plays Jan, and he does a good job of it, along with the rest of the cast in their roles. The best character would be Jan’s mother-in-law, although she is portrayed as a grumpy curmudgeon which she probably wasn’t so much in reality, but it was good for a few laughs.

There are a few fictional elements added to the story for comedic purposes, and the real reason for Jan being skivved in prison was fabricated, but the rest of it seemed accurate when compared to the documentary at least.

Jan was involved in the film, mostly by chatting with Jack Black on Skype about his life story, and Jan joined him during recording of the soundtrack. Jack also worked with the Jan Lewan orchestra. Jan fully endorses the film.

If you are interested in real-life stories of polka intrigue then this is worth a watch as it is quite accurate. As a stand-alone film it is just average.

Date watched: January 26th
Score: 6.5/10
Film count 2018: 7

Whitney: Can I Be Me

This doco about Whitney (whose music I absolutely loathe) is by English filmmaker Nick Broomfield (he made the excellent The Leader, His Driver and The Driver’s Wife and Aileen: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer) which is the main reason for watching, as his films in the past have been great, and I thought it was an odd choice for him to make this, being an official doco. Overall it was actually quite badly filmed and put together but was quite gripping as well, mainly because of watching Whitney and her total loser husband Bobby Brown, spiral out of control.

Date watched: 12th October
Score: 6.5/10
Film count 2017: 59

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

James and I watched this last night after a toss up between watching this or Return of the Jedi.

The last time we watched this was in December 2013, you can read the review for it here. My opinions of the film have not changed much, but I would add that some of the dialogue was diabolical.

It was a big improvement over the previous two episodes though, and had some pretty good action scenes.

Only 33 days to go until Episode VIII.

Date watched: November 11th
Score: 7
Film count 2017: 126

Passengers

Kind of interesting but gets boring then picks up towards the end even though it’s totally predictable, but it looks good and the actors are ace, especially Michael Sheen as an android. It does justify the nastiness which happens to Jennifer Lawrence’s character though, it pretty much says it’s OK to stalk people and ruin their lives, they will come around in the end. There has been quite a backlash to it’s creepy premise.

Laurence Fishburne got $20M for about 20 minutes of screen time. He took the money pill.

Date watched: 17th October
Score: 6.5/10
Film count 2017: 55