Archive for the ‘Movies (I)’ Category

Ida Movie Poster

Like everyone else who writes about films, I’m working on a year-end top-ten movies-of-2014 list. Here are some short pieces I wrote throughout the year about some of the contenders:

If I see a better movie than IDA released in theaters in 2014, I will consider myself one very lucky movie-lover. But I highly doubt that’s going to happen.

This is a movie about a young nun in 1960s Poland, about to take her vows when she’s informed that she was born Jewish. With her one known relative, a caustic aunt with a troubled history, she sets out to find her family’s final resting place.

IDA looks like a prestige picture and it is one, but also it’s a road movie and a buddy movie, a coming-of-age movie and even a detective movie. That’s not to imply that this is a film that is light of heart; it very literally carries the weight of the world. But I invoke those genre touchstones as a way to say that this is one highly watchable prestige picture.

Sadly, most people — myself included — look at a black-and-white period picture about a Polish nun, and worry it’ll be a chore to sit through, a homework movie. It’s not that. For a movie set in the 1960s that looks for all the world as if it could have been made then also, IDA feels remarkably alive, current, relevant. It accomplishes so much in half the running time of any given superhero movie.

This is a movie about faith, family, nature, nurture, history, pain, hope, hopelessness, and acceptance. It’s about so many of the most important things in life, and it’s only 80 minutes long. Time-wise, that’s a steal at the price of three modern-day superhero movies.

 

Ida (Blu-ray)

 

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@jonnyabomb

 

 

 

“I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.”

 

 

 

IN A LONELY PLACE is something different. It’s one of the great American movies from the first half-century of the art form but it feels more intensely personal than many of the finest of the studio era. It takes place in Hollywood but there’s nothing bright or sunny about it. It looks like a noir and acts like one in a couple places, but really it’s a dark character piece and the central mystery is primarily internal and existential in nature. It’s a Hollywood noir, maybe. There aren’t many like it; that’s for sure.

 

 

 

Dorothy B. Hughes wrote the novel upon which the film was based. Edmund North is the writer who adapted it. The film’s star, Humphrey Bogart, owned the production company which produced the film. Nicholas Ray was the director. Ray made effective, striking genre films — i.e. THEY LIVE BY NIGHTTHE RACKETON DANGEROUS GROUNDMACAO — and later made films that were even more distinctive and bound for glory — i.e. REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and JOHNNY GUITAR. He’s one of the lesser-known of great American directors. At the time the film was made, Nicholas Ray was married to its leading lady, the incomparable Gloria Grahame. Not long after its release, the marriage ended. 

 

 

The story of IN A LONELY PLACE is as follows:  Bogart, in a role reportedly close to his heart, plays Dixon Steele, a belligerent screenwriter who is assigned a crappy book to adapt.  He hires a pretty hat-check girl to come to his apartment and summarize the book for him so he doesn’t have to read it.  When something terrible befalls the girl, the police pick up Dixon for questioning.  Grahame plays his neighbor, Laurel, who saw him with the girl the night before.  She’s his alibi.  They become an item, but his erratic and explosive behavior leads her to wonder whether the cops are right to suspect him after all.

 

 

 

The suspicion drives the plot, so of course one couldn’t call it peripheral, but IN A LONELY PLACE is truly about what transpires between Dixon and Laurel. It’s hardly a typical whodunit. Whether he did it or not is important to the film primarily because of what it means for him and for her. If he’s a murderer, that’s bad, but what if he isn’t, and the film somehow ends in broken hearts regardless?

 

 

This is a doom-laden and tragic love story that is dark as night.  It’s not a date movie.  It’s kind of the anti-date movie.  Doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful though.  May not be easy or reassuring, but it says volumes about men and women and how we so often are to each other.

 

 

If you’ve never seen IN A LONELY PLACE, please turn off the computer and head down to the Metropolitan Museum Of Modern Art today.  This is a classic and a masterpiece and a bunch of other clichéd descriptions which actually apply in this case.

Killer title, too.

 

 

IN A LONELY PLACE screens at 6:30pm on Saturday at MoMA. Highest possible recommendation.

 

 

— JON ABRAMS.

@JONNYABOMB

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)    The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

And please note the spelling, because the Quentin Tarantino movie from 2009 is called “INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.” That movie is great, but it ain’t this one.

THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS, please note spelling and emphasis, is the original piece that started it all.  It was directed by Enzo G. Castellari (HIGH CRIME, GREAT WHITE, 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS), one of the better-known and busier auteurs in Italy whose work has since been sporadically rediscovered in America, along parallel journeys, by B-movie maniacs such as the esteemed Mr. Tarantino. The first Castellari movie I think I saw was a spaghetti Western called KEOMA, which sent me on a path through the maestro’s work that ultimately ended me at a double feature of BATTLE SQUADRON and STREET LAW that turned out to have been introduced by no less than Sr. Castellari and Mr. Tarantino themselves!  QT was bringing the maestro along with him on the preliminary press tour for INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.  This appearance is online, amazingly…

In that clip they’re discussing 1969’s BATTLE SQUADRON, a.k.a. EAGLES OVER LONDON, an Italian-made movie about the German aerial assault on the United Kingdom.  Say what?  Yup.   Besides “spaghetti Westerns”, did you know that the Italians made “spaghetti World War Two movies”? It’s a little-known bit of trivia that is charming and weird and just a little culturally and historically mind-blowing, considering where Italy stood at the time — you know, on the other side.  Enzo Castellari made several of these films, known to some as “macaroni combat” films.  In my barely-educated opinion, THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS is one of the best of its kind.  It’s set up to be a movie just like THE DIRTY DOZEN, an all-star team of mean men on a mission, albeit one which features virtually no recognizable faces (on this side of the world at least.) The Bastard team is

1. Bo Svenson (BREAKING POINT), who’s something like a super-sized Steve McQueen;

2. Peter Hooten (ORCA), as the butch guy in an ascot who’s supposed to have the anti-authority John Cassavetes role;

3. An Italian 1970s Black-Sabbath-looking guy who has a downright shocking hairdo reveal;

4. A whiny little dude who’s the most likely to be fertilizer before the end credits roll;

5. A German turncoat [spoiler!] who rocks the 1970s Jew-fro look so hard that he puts both Will Ferell and Seth Rogen together to shame;

and best of all,

6. Fred Williamson (VIGILANTE), otherwise known as “The Hammer.”

The Inglorious Bastards (1978) The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

Fred Williamson rules this movie. He really plays his character in this movie like Bugs Bunny – mischievous, anarchic, and hilarious. He dominates so much that the movie was released in several markets under the inimitable title G.I. BRO.  The Hammer is the main reason, alongside the gunfights and the explosions and the lake full of naked blond German spies, that you will have a total blast watching THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS.

The Hammer

To be honest, seeing this one before the Tarantino movie hurt my experience of the Tarantino movie.  Tarantino tends to favor the long-ass conversation and there ain’t too much of that here.  Not that what QT did do isn’t terrific, but after seeing the original, you kind of yearn to see a more literal approximation of a Castellari film — more action, less talk, more titties.  Then again, that’s what we have the original for.  I recommend it.

Severin Films has a three-disc edition that includes a ton of extras and a CD of the rousing Francesco De Masi score.  Get it if you can; see the movie regardless.  As far as midnight movie experiences go — because let’s face it, you ain’t likely to be watching this during the day — this is absolutely one of the better ones imaginable.

Petition me for a more thorough review on Twitter: @jonnyabomb

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

DAILY GRINDHOUSE BANNER

Daily Grindhouse would be pretty much my favorite website even if I weren’t writing for them, but since I am, here’s a collection of all my work so far.  It’s some of my very best stuff. Enjoy!

25TH HOUR (2002) 48 HRS. (1982) 52 PICK-UP (1986) 88  THE ACT OF KILLING (2013) ACT OF VIOLENCE (1948) Alex Cross (2012) ALIEN (1979) ALIEN ZONE (1978) ALPHABET CITY (1984) american sniper  AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981) ANACONDA (1997) ANTS (1977) The Apple (1980) ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992) ARTISTS & MODELS (1955) Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) BADLANDS (1973) BAIT (2012) A Band Called Death (2013) BASKET CASE (1982)  BATMAN (1989) BATTLE ROYALE (2000) The Baytown Outlaws (2013). Beetlejuice (1988) BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO (2013) BEST WORST MOVIE (2009)The Big Lebowski (1998) Big Trouble In Little China (1986) BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974) BLACK DEATH (2011) THE BLOB (1988) BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) The Brides Of Dracula (1960) brothers-2009 BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (1965) untitled CARRIE (1976) CB4 THE MOVIE (1993) CEMETERY MAN (1994) Charley Varrick (1973) CHEAP THRILLS (2013) CHOPPING MALL (1986) class-of-1984-poster The Colony (2013) COMPLIANCE (2012) CON AIR (1997) Conquest (1983) THE CONTRACTOR (2013) Creature (2011) CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) CRIME WAVE (1954) THE CROW (1994) DARKMAN (1990) DEAD & BURIED (1981) DEADLY FRIEND (1986) deranged-1974-movie-review-jpeg-35312 THE DESCENT (2005) THE DEVIL’S EXPRESS (1976) dillinger-1973 DIRTY HARRY (1971) Django (1966) Django Unchained (2012).  DOG SOLDIERSDOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) DRACULA (1931) Dredd (2012) DRIVE (2011) Drive Angry (2011) End of Watch (2012) EQUINOX (1970) Escape From New York (1981) Evil Dead (2013) THE EXORCIST (1973) Eyes Without A Face (1960) FACE-OFF (1997) Fast Five A tumblr_n2u9s565B11rscnczo1_500 Fist Of Legend (1994) FRANKENSTEIN (1931) GANJA & HESS (1973) the-gauntlet-1977 Get Carter (1971) ghostbusters GHOSTBUSTERS 2 (1989) ghosthouse 1988 GI Joe Retaliation (2013) THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011) GOD TOLD ME TO (1976) GONE GIRL (2014) THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY (1966) The Great Silence (1968) Gremlins 2 - The New Batch (1990) The Grey (2012) Halloween (1978) Hannie Caulder (1971) Hardbodies (1984) Hardware (1990).. Henry (1990) High Crime (1973)  THE HILLS RUN RED (1966) . IMG_8699 THE HIT (1984)Hit Man (1972) hobo with a shotgun HOMEFRONT (2013) The Horror Of Dracula (1958) the host - no words HOUSE (HAUSU) (1977) The Iceman (2013) The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus (2009) IN A LONELY PLACE (1950) THE INNOCENTS (1961) THE INSIDER (1999) The Invisible Man (1933) Iron-Man-3-2013 I SAW THE DEVIL (2010) Island-of-Lost-Souls-19331 Jackie Brown (1997) jaws jennifers body  JUAN OF THE DEAD (2011) The Keep (1983) KILLER JOE (2011) The Killers (1966) Killing Them Softly (2012) The-King-of-Comedy-1983 LADY IN CEMENT (1968) LADY TERMINATOR (1989) THE LAST CIRCUS (2010) BERRY GORDY’S THE LAST DRAGON (1985) Lawless (2012) LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962) the-leopard-man-movie-poster-1943-1020199765 Leprechaun (1993) A LIFE LESS ORDINARY (1997) LINK (1986) Liz & Dick (TV, 2012) Lockout (2012) The Lords of Salem (2013) Lost Highway THE MAGIC BLADE (1976) MAN OF STEEL (2013) THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO LITTLE (1997) The Man with the Iron Fists (2012) Maniac Cop (1988) THE MANITOU (1978) MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE (1976) men-in-war-1957 MIGHTY PEKING MAN (1977) MILANO CALIBRO 9 (1972) MULHOLLAND DR. (2001) MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D (2009) My_Darling_Clementine_1946 NakedSpur-1953-MGM-one navajo-joe-1966 NEAR DARK (1987) NEON MANIACS (1986) night of the comet NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986) THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) Night of the Living Dead (1968) NOSFERATU (1922) NOTORIOUS (2009) OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN (1983) ONLY GOD FORGIVES (2013) OUT OF THE PAST (1947) PACIFIC RIM (2013) pet-sematary-1989 Phenomena (1985) POOTIE TANG (2001) POSSESSION (1981) PREDATOR (1987) Premium Rush (2012) PRIVATE SCHOOL (1983) PULP FICTION (1994) Pursued (1947) q-the-winged-serpent-movie-poster-1983-1020195479 quick-change-poster BERANDAL (2014) RAVENOUS (1999) RAW FORCE (1982) Raw Meat (1972) RE-ANIMATOR (1985) Rear Window (1954) RED RIVER (1948) RED ROCK WEST (1992) Relentless (1989) RIDDICK (2013) tumblr_njo3upN5tn1sy67obo1_540 the road  ROBOCOP (1987) ROBOCOP (2014) SCANNERS  Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) SCROOGED (1988) Shaft (1971) Sheba, Baby (1975) SHOCK WAVES (1977) shogun_assassin SORCERER (1977) source-code Spring Breakers (2013) SQUIRM (1976) STARSHIP-TROOPERS-1997 story of ricky  STREET TRASH (1987) Streets-Of-Fire-1984 THE STUNT MAN (1980) SUDDEN IMPACT (1983) Super (2011) SUSPIRIA (1977) switchblade_sisters_poster_02 (1) TAXI DRIVER (1976) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) THE THING (1982) THIS IS THE END (2013) thriller TORQUE (2004) touch of evil The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) TREMORS (1990) TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007) THE TWILIGHT PEOPLE (1972) THE UNKNOWN (1927) Under The Dome VAMPIRE’S KISS (1988) VERTIGO-1958-649x1024 Vigilante (1983) vigilante force THE VISITOR (1979) WHICH WAY IS UP (1977) WHITE HUNTER  WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL THE WICKER MAN (1973) winters-bone WITCHBOARD (1986) worlds-greatest-dad-2009 ZODIAC (2007) ZOMBI 2 (1979) ZOMBIELAND (2009)

Make Daily Grindhouse your daily destination for genre movie news, reviews, and interviews — there’s a ton of truly great content over there, beyond just the parts with my name on ’em.

And follow me on Twitter for updates!: @jonnyabomb

The Invisible Man (1933)

Island of Lost Souls (1933)

I’m never happier than when I’m writing about old horror movies.  Hopefully that’s true for you too, because as of today, you can read what I wrote about a pair of old horror movies over at Daily Grindhouse!

>>>READ IT HERE!!!<<<

And then follow me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

The Insider (1999)

For all his technical experimentation, psychological insight, and sophistication of purpose, Michael Mann is essentially a pulp director.  It’s very rare that he departs from the overarching genres of noir and action.  THIEF, MANHUNTER, HEAT, COLLATERAL, MIAMI VICE, and all of his TV work (Crime Story, Miami Vice, and Luck) are all ne0-noirs.  LAST OF THE MOHICANS and PUBLIC ENEMIES are history-based action movies.  Even ALI, a biopic of one of the most famous men to have ever lived, could be argued to fit within these bounds as more of a genre film than the standard biopic, since the boxing film has always only been a step away from noir and Mann’s compositions in ALI remain moody and romantic as in any of his other films.

THE INSIDER, then, is perhaps Michael Mann’s most high-minded movie, and on paper, there’s no reason it should be remotely as watchable and rewatchable as it is.   It’s a true story about network TV, newsmagazine journalism, and big tobacco, and yet it’s suspenseful, moving, and entertaining as all hell.  It belongs to the same line as ACE IN THE HOLE, THE PARALLAX VIEW, and ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, yet ironically it’s more grounded in realism and less dependent on lurid incident than any of them.  There’s only one bullet in all of THE INSIDER, and it isn’t ever seen in motion.  The drama of THE INSIDER comes from depositions and confidentiality clauses, lawyerese and how it makes the layman’s head spin, of good intentions and obfuscations and families straining under corporate pressure.  It’s a thriller where the suspense is primarily internal.  The roiling atmosphere that engulfs the film is stormy and ominous and reflective of the thought processes of the lead characters.

So much of that comes from the robust, dynamic, iconoclastic directing choices of Mann, working with his cinematographer  Dante Spinotti, returning from MANHUNTER, LAST OF THE MOHICANS, and HEAT.  Mann and Spinotti enlist their typical blue-gray palette, but this time there are greens and oranges and constantly disarming variations on all of the above — all of which keep the movie from resembling any other ever made.  THE INSIDER has an unprecedented look, which separates it from easy comparison, while making it easy on the eyes for its duration.  There’s also a rare intimacy and tactile sensation to THE INSIDER, beginning from the very start, where Al Pacino as 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman is driven to a meeting with a Hezbollah leader — we can almost feel the ridges and pores of the blindfold over his eyes as it ripples with the wind and sunlight flickers through.  You can feel the otherworldliness of a driving range at night, the dampness of a rooftop just after a rain, the warmth of a bar, the isolation of a hotel room.  The movie puts the viewer in these environments, which makes the story feel that much more urgent.

In a word, THE INSIDER is absorbing.  Absorbing.  That happens through unity of disparate crafts.  The musical selection, both of score and soundtrack, is impeccable and distinctive as it ever is with Mann, and the editing style is precise and hypnotic.  The script by Mann and Eric Roth is impeccably-rendered, full of dialogue that is full of truth and untruth and both and neither, and then to deliver it, you have a roster of some of the world’s greatest actors, led by Al Pacino, bellowing but focused in maybe his last truly excellent role to date, Christopher Plummer in his rummiest of cadence as beloved newsman Mike Wallace, and Russell Crowe, who was so ferociously incredible in his transformative role as the title character that the 1999 Oscar voters realized they fucked up by not giving him Best Actor for this movie and corrected the mistake the very next year.

In fact, is there anyone who is seriously willing to argue that the elected Best Picture that year, AMERICAN BEAUTY, is in any way comparable to THE INSIDER as a whole?  I’m sure there is, actually — just don’t try arguing it with me.  I’ll smoke you.

THE INSIDER lands on Blu-Ray on February 19, 2013. If you appreciate greatness, you will buy it.

 

@jonnyabomb

 

The Insider

 

 

The Insider

 

 

This collection has been much-requested and a long time coming.  To get at the reviews, just click on the movie poster of your choice.  And be sure to bookmark this page, because it’s bound to get updated frequently!

         Age Of The Dragons (2011) Alex Cross (2012)          Assault On Precinct 13 (1976)      A Band Called Death (2013)  The Bay (2012) The Baytown Outlaws (2013).        Big Fan (2009) The Big Gundown (1966)    Black Death (2010)          The Brides Of Dracula (1960) Bring it On (2000) Brothers (2009)               Cloud Atlas (2012)   Conan The Barbarian (1982) Conquest (1983)    CREEP (2004)  

The Dark Knight (2008) The Dark Knight Rises (2012)       Days of Thunder (1990)         Django Unchained (2012)           EQUINOX (1970) Escape from New York (1981) Evil Dead (2013)         Fist Of Legend (1994) Flight (2012)       The Gauntlet (1977) Get Carter (1971)    gi_joe_retaliation_ver30 THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (US, 2011).          The Grey (2012) Halloween (1978)       Hardbodies (1984) Hardware (1990)   The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009)    Hit Man (1972)          The Iceman (2013)     THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS (1978).   THE INSIDER (1999)  The Invisible Man (1933)  Iron Man 3 (2013) Island Of Lost Souls (1933)      The Keep (1983)   Killer Joe (2012) The Killers (1966) Killing Them Softly (2012)          LadyTerminator                Lincoln (2012)   The Lords of Salem (2013)      The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) Manborg Maniac Cop (1988)  THE MANITOU (1978)  MEN IN WAR (1957)      MULHOLLAND DR. (2001)     NEAR DARK (1987)      Night of the Living Dead (1968)          Peeples (2013) A Perfect World (1993)      PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971)        THE PROFESSIONALS (1966)      The Raid (2012)       Red Tails (2012) Relentless (1989)    SALT (2010) Bill Hicks Sane Man (1989)   SCROOGED (1988)  Severance (2006) Shaft (1971)       Southern Comfort (1981)    Spring Breakers (2013)  THE SQUID &THE WHALE (2005)  State of Play (2009)              Teddy Bear (2012) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)    This Is The End (2013)   The Tourist (2010)  THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (1976)    TREMORS (1990)  Triangle (2009)       Tyson (2008)       Vigilante (1983)