You Too Can Be A Cinema Snob: Seven Beauties (1975), Storm Over Asia (1928), Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), Max Havelaar (1976)

If you’ve read enough of my reviews then you probably know that while I tend to write about B-movies, Hallmark, Disney, and late night cable movies, I do reference a lot of other films. Recently Gary did a post on The Great Train Robbery that not only revolutionized cinema by simply cutting back to a previously used set, but also firmly established that we preferred narrative films over actualites/documentaries and the cinema of spectacle. Since people seemed to respond well to his post, I thought I would occasionally do a post like this where I take advantage of YouTube to share some great films that happen to be available at the time of posting. If they are not available anymore, then simply take them as recommendations. Maybe one day I will actually review these, or perhaps they may have already been reviewed here. I hope you enjoy these kinds of posts. If not, feel free to tell me.

Seven Beauties (1975, dir. Lina Wertmüller) – This is a classic of Italian cinema from the 1970s by director Lina Wertmüller. It’s about a man who fancies himself quite a ladies man and a stereotypical suave Italian gangster type. Things turn bad for him and it takes him as far as a concentration camp during WWII. This is an example of Italian Comedy which was a special genre of comedies made between roughly 1960-1980 in Italy. The defining characteristic would be their choice of material that would often be dark, non-PC, and almost feel out of place in a comedy. It’s one of my favorites of the genre with a great performance by Wertmüller’s De Niro, Giancarlo Giannini who people might know from Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008) among other films. This particular version is dubbed into English.

Storm Over Asia (1928, dir. Vsevolod Pudovkin) – Not all propaganda is bad filmmaking. Early Soviet Cinema was often loaded with propagandistic messages, but they were also very well made movies. Storm Over Asia is by director Vsevolod Pudovkin who also made such classics as Mother (1926) and The End of St. Petersburg (1927). This one uses a tale of a Mongolian who turns out to be a descendant of Genghis Khan to send its message. I love the end as he and his people cause such a storm with their horses that they are literally blowing over soldiers with the wind.

Meshes of the Afternoon (1943, dir. Maya Deren) – When you move beyond mainstream films and start looking into more underground/experimental cinema, then certain names will pop up. Names like Stan Brakhage, Kenneth Anger, and Michael Snow. Maya Deren is one of these people. Meshes of the Afternoon is usually the first Maya Deren film introduced to people. You will find numerous versions of this film available. Not because the visuals are any different, but because the film was made with zero sound or musical accompaniment. This is one that is popular for people to add their own soundtrack to.

Max Havelaar (1976, dir. Fons Rademakers) – It’s sad, but to my knowledge most people only really know about one Dutch director. That being Paul Verhoeven. However, there are certainly many more out there. Fons Rademakers is probably not nearly as well known outside of Holland as Verhoeven even though his 1986 film The Assault won Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. Max Havelaar is his adaptation of the very important Dutch novel of the same name. After it’s publication it changed the nature of Dutch colonialism and has ramifications for the country beyond that as well. Keep your eyes peeled for Rutger Hauer before he became a star in the United States. Also, I suggest checking out more of Rademakers’ films. Especially one of my personal favorites called Als Twee Druppels Water (1963) AKA The Dark Room of Damocles.

Hallmark Review: The Wishing Well (2009, dir. David Jackson)


It’s not often that I review two movies from two relatively different sources that are both by the same director, but that’s the case this time. David Jackson is also the director who brought the Halloweentown series to an end with Return To Halloweentown. This time he took on something much easier than ripping off Harry Potter with a miscast lead. It’s about a wishing well! Sort of.


The movie begins before the title card appears, and we meet Abby Jansen played by Jadin Gould. She will be your smiling one-dimensional little girl for the movie. I mean your Hallmark Bailee Madison stand-in for the movie. Then we cut to stock footage of New York City before we meet our leading lady named Cynthia Tamerline played by Jordan Ladd.


She works for Celeb magazine where not only is Charles Shaughnessy her boss, but her secretary is Lurch with a nose ring.


Obviously this movie needs to find an excuse to get Cynthia out with the country folk now. That’s why Shaughnessy calls her in and tells her either publish, perish, or become a nanny for my kids. He suggests that she write a story for one of his other magazines called Great Housekeeping. It’s for people who think Good Housekeeping just isn’t good enough. I thought she chose to write about a woman named Angela and her charity to save the vampire flies, but somehow that will cause her to end up in Slow Creek, Illinois to find a celebrity who may have visited their wishing well. But before that, she looks up Angela’s push to save the vampire fly on No affiliation with This one has Darcy from A Gift Of Miracles writing for it too.



This time she ripped off numerous encyclopedia entries about flies, but it is a little odd that she copied from the United Church Of God’s magazine Vertical Thought.


Anyways, she’s off to Slow Creek, Illinois, which is the “Home of the Wishing Well.” Not just any wishing well, but the Wishing Well. That is till the 2011 Canadian film Wishing Well came out to give them some stiff competition for that title.

She arrives at the hotel where she is going to stay and finds that Ernest Borgnine runs the place. Cynthia is in town for a story that she can take back to Celeb magazine…I thought. Regardless, this is where I am obligated to say that these townsfolk are probably hiding a terrible secret about a Muslim American solider who died overseas and whose father was murdered in the town. I mean the movie has Borgnine, it’s a small town, and Cynthia’s last name is Tamerline which is close enough to Cass Timberlane played by Spencer Tracy in the movie of the same name. That meant while watching this movie, I immediately thought of the film Bad Day At Black Rock (1955) which had Tracy and Borgnine in it. Great movie by the way that I simply updated to a modern context. Here’s the trailer.

But onward with this movie now.

Annoying little girl tells us that wishes come true if you believe and make the right wish. Then we find out that not only is the hotel run by someone Retired and Extremely Dangerous, but that the diner is run by ‘Hot Lips’ O’Houlihan (Sally Kellerman).


Now Cynthia visits the local paper and finds out that it’s run by the little girl’s dad played by Jason London.


So this is what happened to Eric Camden’s associate pastor’s twin brother.

Cynthia starts to look into this wishing well of theirs. Turns out it was once a hot attraction, but then this happened.


Don’t you just hate it when your ex shows up and your wish doesn’t come true, but your ex’s does. Now writer Enid Jones had it out for the well.



But this isn’t enough for her so she goes to dig in the archives. Long story short, Ronald Reagan once visited their well back in the 1960’s.


That and a UFO was seen on a farm in Slow Creek. Interesting! What else is interesting is that they didn’t pull this Reagan and a wishing well thing completely out of their ass. Reagan actually did visit a wishing well in Dublin, Ireland back in the 1980s. Hmmm…I guess that means I need to listen to some Irish music while I finish writing this review. Well, Dropkick Murphys (Flannigan’s Ball) is Irish enough for someone who is a quarter Irish and from the Bay Area.

Oh, and since Reagan was mentioned. I guess I need to break out Genesis’ Land Of Confusion as well.

More annoying girl, and then Cynthia wakes up the next day to find out that she is now in the Twilight Zone. She is just somebody who has been hired as a local reporter. She calls up people back in New York City, but they don’t know who she is. She doesn’t try to tell them anything personal that only she would know, but just keeps calling.

This is when you can say the film goes on autopilot. Cynthia becomes more of a fixture in the town and discovers just how important this paper is to its residents. The paper is in trouble and might be bought out soon. The little girl is still annoying. A guy dies and she writes his obituary. Another guy sets his house on fire trying to beat his record for how many of his collectible lighters he can have going at once. I’m not making that up. During the scene where he explains his little game and current record I said to my dad that he didn’t mention this is the third house he’s gone through playing this game. Then she is waking up in bed to a phone call telling her his place is burning down. Of course! She writes an article that moves people about the fire. Finally, the townsfolk watch a meteor storm.


Then this big city guy’s mustache shows up to buy the paper. It’s okay though because it turns out the guy who died left a huge amount of money to the paper in his will. I guess that’s better than the huge wad of cash in a can from Christmas Land.

Now just in case you thought you were finally getting this Twilight Zone like story, she wakes up on a plane back to New York City to receive praise for the story she wrote for the magazine. Yep, makes as much sense as you think it does. By that, I mean very little. She leaves her job at Celeb magazine and goes back to Slow Creek where smiley and her dad know who she is. Then it just ends abruptly.


That’s it! It’s quite lousy. Even my Dad said this was a stinker and he’s usually easy to please with these movies. No reason to waste your time with this. Go watch Bad Day At Black Rock instead.

Since I happened to catch her this way. I’m really sorry Jordan.


Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to throw a coin in a wishing well because I’m shipping up to Boston to find my wooden leg and I can use all the luck I can get.

There’s More Than One “American Monster”

Trash Film Guru


Question : what do you get when you combine a violent home invasion, an ex-mercenary (I think) with a burned-off face, a bunch of good ole’ boys who hang out in a convenience store and like to make fun of the retard who mops the floors there, a grotesquely overweight lecherous creep who lurks in playgrounds paying teenage girls to flash their tits, and a sadistic neo-Nazi meth-gang leader whose idea of fun is to strap a husband and wife to chairs facing each other, give them both guns, tell them that one has to shoot the other in the face in order to survive, and then kills the “winner” anyway?

If your answer is “probably the most depraved and amoral comic book of the year,” congratulations! You’re exactly right. But, as much misanthropic fun as that is in and of itself, my best guess is that writer Brian Azzarello…

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A Star is Born in Monument Valley: John Wayne in John Ford’s STAGECOACH (United Artists 1939)

cracked rear viewer


If you think the characters and Western tropes in STAGECOACH are familiar, you’re right. But let’s be clear… STAGECOACH introduced many of these now-clichéd devices to film, and is one of the enduring classics of the American West. Director John Ford was well versed in Westerns, having cut his professional teeth on them during the silent era. This was his first sound Western and Ford was determined to reinvent the genre, with much more adult themes than the usual Saturday matinée kiddie fare. He succeeded with a daring story featuring an outlaw and a prostitute as his heroes, and exceeded his goal by creating a brand new Hollywood star in the process: John Wayne.


Wayne had been a football player for the USC Trojans when an injury caused him to lose his scholarship. Through some university connections, he was able to gain employment in the film industry as a prop…

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Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Skippy (dir by Norman Taurog)



Oh my God, they actually killed the dog…

That was my main reaction, this morning, as I watched the 1931 film Skippy.  Skippy aired on TCM earlier this morning and I set the DVR to record it because, long ago, Skippy was nominated for best picture and, for quite some time, it has been my goal to see and review every single film ever nominated for the best picture.

And I have to admit that for the first hour or so, I wasn’t sure if I’d actually be able to get all the way through Skippy.  Skippy is very much a film of the early 30s and you never known how much you appreciate jump cuts, tracking shots, and even the occasional hand-held camera shot until you watch a movie that features none of them.  It’s definitely a different style of story telling and I sometimes found myself struggling to adjust to it.

Add to that, Skippy was a film about children and, while the film’s star, 9 year-old Jackie Cooper, was a natural before the camera, the other child actors often seemed forced.  There was a lot of overacting that, if nothing else, made me appreciate even more Jacob Tremblay’s subtle performance in Room.

There were a few things that I did appreciate about Skippy.  As I’ve stated on the site before, I love history and Skippy was definitely a time capsule.  The film follows 6 year-old Skippy (Jackie Cooper) as he leaves the safety of his upper class home and explores the poor side of the town and the film does a good job of contrasting Skippy’s sheltered home with the nearby neighborhood of Shantyown.  It’s while wandering around Shantytown that Skippy meets and befriend Sooky (Robert Coogan).  Skippy and Sooky accidentally break a windshield that belongs to the evil dogcatcher, Mr. Nubbins (Jack Rube Clifford).  Mr. Nubbins retaliates by taking away Sooky’s dog and demanding that the boys pay him 3 dollars for the dog’s freedom.  Though it’s a mighty struggle that involves many comedic schemes, the boys manage to raise the 3 dollars.  Mr. Nubbins takes the money, says that he’s going to use the money to buy a new windshield, and that he’s going to kill the dog anyway.  So, Skippy and Sooky have to raise three dollars more just to discover that Mr. Nubbins has already shot their dog.

As Sooky sobs, Skippy fights back tears and asks if they can at least have the dog’s body so they can give it a proper burial.

“It’s already been disposed of,” Mr. Nubbins snarls.

And, at this point, I was just sitting there and thinking, “What the HELL!?”  Seriously, I can only imagine what it must have been like to be a child in 1931, watching this film (which was based on a comic strip that all the kids probably read every day), laughing at jokes that were probably quite funny back then, and then suddenly being smacked in the face by Mr. Nubbins announcing that not only was the dog dead but his body had been cremated.  I can only imagine that amount of tears that were shed in those 1931 theaters!

(Making things even worse is the discovery that the town’s rules for dealing with stray dogs were written by none other than Skippy’s father.)

And as I thought more about it, it occurred to me that this is one thing that would never happen in a movie today.  You don’t kill the dog, unless you want Keanu Reeves to show up and kill you.

Sooky breaks into tears as soon as he hears that his dog has been killed.  Skippy manages to hold back until he gets home and then he breaks into sobs.  (According to Jackie Cooper, director Norman Taurog threatened to kill the dog in real life unless Cooper gave him authentic tears.)  Fortunately, all is eventually resolved by both Skippy and Sooky getting new dogs and Skippy’s dad beating up Mr. Nubbins.  Yay!

Anyway, for the most part, Skippy is one of those films that will mostly be interesting to Oscar completists for me.  However, I will always be stunned by the fact that, in the film, Mr. Nubbins actually killed that dog.


little train

Edwin S. Porter’s THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY is one of early cinema’s best known films. More obscure is 1905’s THE LITTLE TRAIN ROBBERY, Porter’s parody of his own film, with a cast of kids robbing a miniature train, kind of a precursor to Keystone comedies to come. So by popular demand (awright, one person!), here’s THE LITTLE TRAIN ROBBERY: