Monday, March 14, 2016

Escape from New York (1981)

Running Time: 99 minutes
Directed By: John Carpenter
Written By: John Carpenter, Nick Castle
Main Cast: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes
Click here to view the trailer


Note: The whole "what I knew going in and why I chose it" thing didn't work for me last week, so again I'll be fooling with the review format here and there to try and find a nice fit. Ultimately, all the reviews will probably end up staying the same as they've always been...

Welcome back again this week, as I've taken to post dating the reviews so that you guys get some fresh content more frequently. This was actually written on March 4, but you won't actually be reading it until March 14. Just trying to spread things out a bit.

Being a huge fan of the original Halloween, They Live and, to a milder degree, Assault on Precinct 13, I always have an interest in any John Carpenter films I haven't seen. So when it came time to put together the 2016 Blind Spot list, it was a toss up between this and Big Trouble in Little China, as I knew both would be fine candidates. Both are films that I've always wanted to see & never got around to and both are films that your average film Joe should have under the belt.

The film is set in the future (1997, to be exact), in a world where the crime rate has risen over 400% from normal. In this future, Manhattan Island has been turned into the country's lone maximum security prison, a giant wall built around the island, so even if someone does make it across the East River, they still can't get out. There are no guards inside the wall - just every prisoner for him or herself. When Air Force One is hijacked by terrorists, the POTUS (Pleasence) takes to the escape pod, activating it and flying off to what he thinks will be safety. Not so fast, Mr. President! It turns out the pod manages to land inside the walls of Manhattan Island a.k.a. prison. When a team of men, headed up by Agent Hauk (Van Cleef), goes inside to retrieve the President, they're greeted by an unusual prisoner who produces the Commander-In-Cheif's ring finger (ring still intact) and tells the team to exit within thirty seconds or the PREZ "gets it". With no other alternative, Hauk recruits newly incarcerated Snake Pliskken (Russell) to penetrate the wall and safely retrieve the President. If he does so, he'll be pardoned of all his past wrongdoing and given a free ride out of New York. However, just in case he decides to take the opportunity to escape the clasp of justice, he is implanted with two tiny explosives, inside the arteries in his neck, which will explode if Pliskken doesn't make his time limit. Oh yeah - Snake only has twenty-two hours and change to get the POTUS, as the leader of the free world must appear at a summit that will end at that time, or else the United States could be on the brink of war. *heavy sigh of relief* That was a mouthful and really all I've given you is the setup and really none of the stuff that happens to Snake once inside the wall.


Sure, the film is super action packed and has MORE than enough material to satisfactorily fill out it's ninety-nine minute running time. However, it's also set in the future - something that almost always turns me off when it comes to movie plots. I don't know what it is: Maybe it's because I already live past the future that most of these older films are referring to and really, not much has changed in regards to flying cars, all silver wardrobe and alien overlords - therefore deeming the films quite unrealistic. Seriously though, I guess my imagination just craps out on me when it comes to thinking and discussing futuristic societies and situations.

One things for sure, you really can't sneeze at the cast. You've got Kurt Russell, who is always solid. Sure, we're not overrun with stellar Kurt Russell movies or anything, but the guy is solid and anyway, this isn't really the type of film that calls for stellar performances. He's fine for the role and plays the badass well. You've also got Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence and Harry Dean Stanton in there, not to mention the big breasted Adrieene Barbeau and the scary as hell Ox Baker. It's quite the fun house collaboration of actors and I'm pretty sure Carpenter wouldn't have it any other way. In fact, the wild, over the top personalities that the cast provides, fits right in with the whole futuristic, "all of New York is a prison" motif.

To be honest, I wasn't super thrilled with the ending. Did the President really have to be corrupt? Didn't we already have enough plot and subplots to follow along with, without making the President a heel? Couldn't we just be presented with the simplest of ideas - the President just inadvertently landed himself in a prison where there are no guards...GO! I felt like everything was just too muddled with the talk of the summit and then all of the stuff with the cassette tape and then finally, the big reveal that the President is a somewhat crooked and being taught an ultimate lesson by Pliskken. Okay - so maybe I'm making too big a deal out of all that. Maybe I should just relax, sit back and enjoy the fun that is Escape from New York. But the thing is, is that I just didn't like it AS MUCH as I thought I was going to and I really feel the need to nitpick and try to get to the reason why. It was a fine film, don't get me wrong and an audience of less picky movie goers, who haven't seen Escape from New York, are probably going to come out of it with a new front runner for favorite film. It's the type of film one can obsess over and go all fanboy on and hey, I really don't blame any fanboy who puts this at the center of their fandom. Ultimately, I've grown into too picky a film watcher and that's my own problem. I LIKED IT, but I had a hunch going in that I was going to like it more...

RATING: 6.5/10  Not bad, but I was hoping it'd crack the '8' marker and give me another favorite John Carpenter movie. Oh well...there's always Ghosts of Mars...

March 4, 2016  11:14pm

Monday, March 7, 2016

1010. Mrs. Miniver (1942)

Running Time: 134 minutes
Directed By: William Wyler
Written By: Arthur Wimperis, George Froeschel, James Hilton, Claudine West, from the novel by Jan Struther
Main Cast: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Teresa Wright, Richard Ney, Dame May Whitty
Click here to view the trailer

Note: So since this is both a former/future BOOK movie AND my very first Blind Spot review, I'm going to be tinkering with the review format just a little, as I'm looking to try a shorter style review for the Blind Spot movies.



Literally knew nothing going into Mrs. Miniver. I had an inkling that it was a Best Picture winner, but I wasn't even 100% sure on that fact. Giving a perusal to the other contenders that year, I've personally only seen three of the ten noms; this one, The Magnificent Ambersons and Yankee Doodle Dandy - the latter of which I'd have to give the coup. However, despite knowing literally nothing about Mrs. Miniver prior to my viewing, I had always heard of the film and it was one of the ones that I was always shocked didn't make it into my edition of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book. And after watching it yesterday, this seemed to me like just the thing that would've been up THE BOOK'S alley. And yes, a few years ago when they completely revamped THE BOOK, this one was finally included.

It was pretty much chosen because 1) I'd heard about it so much, in passing, but had never seen even a sliver of it and 2) at this point, any Best Picture winner that has escaped my eyes has to be considered a blind spot, right?


The film revolves around the Miniver family (imagine that), headed up by Mrs. Miniver (Garson), along with her husband, Clem (Pidgeon). They're a fun couple, at times playful - who have raised one son, Vincent (Ney) into a fine young man and are in the process of raising two more kids - 1 boy, 1 girl. The family has surpassed the middle class and live comfortably, thanks to Clem's efforts as a successful architect. However, when World War II breaks out, even the upper class aren't exempt from the wrath of warfare. The film follows the Miniver clan as they face the struggles that living in a war torn country present - watching their beloved "Vin" go off to battle and spending sleepless nights in a shelter, while bombings and air raids sound like the end of the world outside. There's also this whole subplot about a rose - which is also named the "Mrs. Miniver"...


I realize it was a different time and this was probably just the sort of film that got the Academy drooling back in the early forties, but DAMN, this was kind of a chore to get through. To be fair, I started out liking it. Greer Garson was quite the looker and the chemistry that she and Walter Pidgeon had was just so fun - reminding me of the great, playful chemistry that Myrna Loy had with William Powell. The whole movie starts out with Mrs. Miniver buying an expensive hat behind her husband's back, afraid to finally tell him that she's made the purchase. Meanwhile, Mr. Miniver, wants to bring up the subject of buying a new car, afraid to do so as well and not yet knowing that his wife has already made a large purchase. It's all so fun and a fine way to get me at least interested in the couple. Albeit, that interest didn't really last long, as we're soon thrown into the throes of WWII and we've plenty discussed my dislike for war films or even anything resembling a war film. Add to that the fact that the film was very OF it's time (which it kinda' had to be I guess, to really give us a taste of the time), and I just couldn't get into this, whatsoever.

I will say though that the film made me realize what an impact World War II had on literally EVERYBODY who was living at the time, especially those living in Europe where the battle was being waged. It also made me realize why there's probably so many films on the subject, as artists have a tendency to create based on what has worn on them emotionally and CLEARLY, WWII wore down a lot of artists (filmmaker's and novelists, I'm talking about here) emotionally. Be it the Holocaust and the massacre of millions of Jews or simply a family who had to spend a few unforgettable nights in a bomb shelter, while their babies bawled their eyes out and they wondered if they'd ever see the light of day again. Speaking of that, I'd have to call that particular scene the best of the film - a scene where Garson and Pidgeon's characters' hear bombs going off outside and try to mask their fear by discussing Alice in Wonderland - played masterfully by both actor and actress. Despite my dislike for the movie, I'll still admit that there are a handful of perfectly acted, perfectly executed scenes - including one where a German soldier holds Mrs. Miniver at gunpoint and another where Dame May Whitty's Lady Beldon forfeits the rose competition. Unfortunately, all of these wonderful scenes are interlaced with quite the boring affair and again, it's a war movie, which for the life of me, I just can't get lost in. My imagination just clams up on me when I'm presented with war material and no matter how hard I try, 95% of the time, I'm unenthused.

RATING: 4/10  I'll consider the discovery of Greer Garson as the one big takeaway of this film and everything else is just very rough to get through. Unless you're a list hound (like me) and don't care about seeing all of the Best Picture winners, then give this a pass.

February 29, 2016  4:33pm

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

2016 Blind Spot Series

Because I didn't already have enough irons in the fire...I present - the 2016 BLIND SPOT SERIES!

And yes, grabbing an image from a movie, opening it in PAINT and putting some text on it is the extent of my banner making abilities. And I realize it doesn't make sense that the banner features Rear Window - a movie I've seen a dozen times - but Jimmy Stewart is intently watching something there, just as I intend to intently watch all of my Blind Spot selections.

If you're a fan of movie blogs, then there's a good change you already know what the "Blind Spot Series" is, but for those of you who only read this movie blog (I both pity and thank you), here's how it works.

First things first, twelve films are chosen. Twelve films that I've NEVER seen (a.k.a. my blind spots). Once the twelve film list is created, I pick one each month to watch and subsequently review here on the blog. That's about it...To my understanding, the trick is to pick twelve films that are relevant/popular/famous/infamous/classic. You're trying to fill in the gaps in the gaps of your cinematic viewing holes. The whole idea is that by keeping the number to twelve and only committing to one review per month, it's quite the easily attainable goal and something I won't likely peter out on.

I would feel like a plagiarist if I went any further and didn't mention the mastermind behind this whole idea (because, believe me folks - yours truly isn't smart enough to come up with such a brilliant idea). The man's name is Ryan McNeil and he operates a website called The Matinee. 2016 will be his fifth year partaking in the blind spot series and countless other bloggers have followed suit. You can check out The Matinee by clicking here and please do.

Despite the fact that Ryan was the mastermind, I have two other bloggers to mention for inspiring me to take the Blind Spot Series challenge. First, there's Brittani over at Rambling Film, who's Blind Spot reviews I've been reading for the past couple years. It's always been a premise that has intrigued me and since this blog needs more front page feature reviews, I've finally been intrigued enough to take part myself. Thank you to Brittani for the inspiration. I also need to thank Donald over at Cue Marks, who is making 2016 his inaugural year for the Blind Spot Series as well. If you haven't yet checked out Donald's blog, please do yourself a favor and do so. He has a lot of really exciting things going on over there - not only the Blind Spot Series, but two other features: The Great Directors and Three Great Movies. You can check out Brittani's latest Blind Spot review here and Donald's here.

Now then...for my list.

Keep in mind that for the past six years I've been working on finishing the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, to ultimate success last October. Therefore, finding twelve essential, classic, popular films that I've yet to see was a bit tricky. However, once I got one idea, I got a second and before I knew it, a list of twelve was put together. I'm not sure how CLASSIC these are, but they're all films that I've heard SOMETHING famous about at one time or another and all ones that I should have probably seen by now. Without further ado...

1. Superman: The Movie (1978 - Richard Donner)
2. Mrs. Miniver (1942 - William Wyler)
3. True Grit (1969 - Henry Hathaway)
4. Wall Street (1987 - Oliver Stone)
5. Frozen (2013 - Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee)
6. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961 - Stanley Kramer)
7. The Goonies (1985 - Richard Donner)
8. The Karate Kid (1984 - John G. Avildsen)
9. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984 - Steven Spielberg)
10. Escape from New York (1981 - John Carpenter)
11. The Blues Brothers (1980 - John Landis)
12. Harvey (1950 - Henry Koster)

I should note that I have NEVER, EVER seen any of the previous twelve films from beginning to end. Yes, I have seen bits & pieces of Wall Street, Superman, The Karate Kid and Harvey, but I've NEVER seen them all the way through. I'll let the rest of my list speak for itself. I really felt like I should have seen all twelve of these by now, as I've heard things about a lot of them and i really feel like all twelve of them would illicit gaped mouths if I were to say I'd never seen them.

Now remember, I'm to pick one film each calendar month and review it for the blog. So if you're keeping track at home, you'll note that I'm already two months behind. Therefore, in the month of March you'll get three Blind Spot reviews while I play a bit of catch up. After that, I'll stick to the one per month schedule strictly, so as not to burn out.

Thank you once again to Ryan, Brittani and Donald for their continued inspiration. I look forward to this project.

March 2, 2016  4:08pm

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #69: Re-Animator (1985)

Running Time: 105 minutes Directed By: Stuart Gordon Written By: Dennis Paoli, William Norris, Stuart Gordon, based on the story Her...