I Should Have Watched Something Else, But I Sat Through Superdragon vs. Superman (1975, dir. Chia Chun Wu)


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The movie is also called Bruce Lee Against Supermen. By that they mean Bruce Li Against 80 Minutes Of Your Life. I really should have been watching something else.

Right now a woman is riding a shark while wearing a bunny suit. (Zodiac Fighters, 1978)

Right now a woman is riding a shark while wearing a bunny suit. (Zodiac Fighters, 1978)

The movie begins with a car chase. Get used to that cause it will happen a lot. This time it’s a police car chasing a couple of criminals. The criminals see that the police are catching up. They are carrying a bag full of money, which they promptly toss out the window. A man and a woman find the money, but are surprised by Bruce Li dressed as Kato.

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Why is he dressed like Kato? Who knows? Once a battle after the credits is done, he won’t do it again for the whole movie. There will be a mention of The Green Hornet who I’m pretty sure is two guys dressed like Supermen. Kato takes the couple to his car and drives them away to the police station.

Right now a dog taught to hate is heading towards a tragic end. (White Dog, 1982)

Right now a dog taught to hate is heading towards a tragic end. (White Dog, 1982)

Now the film cuts to the opening credits. There are flies all over them. I’m not sure why. Later we’ll see flies on the Superman uniforms of the Supermen who might be The Green Hornet in this movie.

After dropping the couple off at the police station we see Kato drive away. He doesn’t get far before he appears to have trouble with his tire. After getting out he is attacked from behind.

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One thing immediately clear is that not only is Bruce Li not as good an actor as Bruce Lee, but not as good a fighter either. However, everyone else is worse than him in this movie.

After Bruce Li dispatches with them, it cuts to one guy in a suit strangling another guy in a suit. The guy being strangled tells him The Green Hornet did it. That’s when it cuts to some newspapers to tell us that Dr. T has invented a way to refine food from petroleum by-products. He has been invited by the Arabs so he is going to travel to the middle east with his daughter. Then we get to see the Supermen who might be The Green Hornet.

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They also have this glowing ball.

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Sadly Burt Reynolds doesn’t talk to them through it. Instead, it flashes, and a printer spits out something we can’t read. If you watch this movie, then I hope you enjoy this shot of the Supermen because you won’t see them again in uniform till the very end of the film.

Right now a Russian Count may or may not be coming to the rescue. (The Marquise of O, 1976)

Right now a Russian Count may or may not be coming to the rescue. (The Marquise of O, 1976)

That’s when we cut to the bad guys talking to a guy who is willing to pay big bucks for the bad guys to get Dr. T’s formula. He is willing to pay a lot of money. Now we cut to the “Middle East”

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No joke. That’s supposed to be an Arab. That Chinese guy right there is supposed to be an Arab. You might be wondering what he sounds like. He sounds like a Chinese stereotype. I think he is trying to do a Middle Eastern accent, but it’s hard to tell. I seriously doubt they cared. Now the movie cuts to Will Our Heroes Be Able to Find Their Friend Who Has Mysteriously Disappeared in Africa? (1968) as they take Dr. T out to a dig site.

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When they arrive at the site they hand the doctor some ore. He suddenly has an attack, but is okay once his daughter gives him some medication. Then he takes a good long look at the ore. We get nice closeups of the ore. We get a zoom shot on her dropping a liquid on the ore. We get a zoom shot on the doctor looking through a magnifying glass at the ore. Once that padding of the movie is done, the daughter decides to go swimming.

Right now a playboy is realizing he killed someone. (Il Sorpasso, 1962)

Right now a playboy is realizing he killed someone. (Il Sorpasso, 1962)

This is when the movie decides it’s time to show us the daughter swimming around naked. Oh, and we see the bad guys spying on her, but it’s really just so we can see her naked. Will they actually say anything? Nope. She just gets dressed, then cut to an airplane landing.

Now we watch a man cross the street for a minute or so before hailing a cab to pad the movie out some more. Then we cut to fighting.

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We don’t know what they are fighting about at first, but who cares! They’ve got 80 minutes of your life to take away so some of it might as well be mildly entertaining. It turns out they were just practicing. We find out…

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this guy in red needs help protecting Dr. T and his daughter. I’m quite sure it’s Bruce Li, but I’m not sure if he was one of the Supermen at the beginning or not. Doesn’t matter because in the next scene Dr. T is getting kidnapped and shoved in a car. In a car that’s passing, the two guys above spot the car and give chase. A long slow car chase.

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Right now a pen tester is going through somebody’s trash. (Sneakers, 1992)

Back in the movie the car chase is still happening with a needlessly crazy angle…

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that doesn’t add anything to the film.

Right now a boxer is finding out that winning the fight doesn't keep him from the fate he didn't know was coming. (The Set-Up, 1949)

Right now a boxer is finding out that winning the fight doesn’t keep him from his fate he didn’t know was coming. (The Set-Up, 1949)

After a four minute slow speed car chase our two heroes pretend to be lying on the road to stop the kidnappers. They take them by surprise and a fight breaks out.

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I call that kick, the Dolemite. That’s where you just place your foot near their face and they pretend to get hit.

Right now you're looking at Degrassi long before Netflix got ahold of it.

Right now you’re looking at Degrassi long before Netflix got ahold of it.

After three minutes of fighting we cut to this guy…

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who is ordering a sniper. Then we cut to who I assume is Bruce Li and Dr. T’s daughter walking around.

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Then they walk around some more.

Right now you're looking at an Eastern you should see. (White Sun of the Desert, 1970)

Right now you’re looking at an Eastern you should see. (White Sun of the Desert, 1970)

After three minutes of walking around we cut to a shot of a building. For reasons that I don’t know, a guy who I assume is still Bruce Li walks up to a little girl and somebody takes a shot at him. He grabs the little girl and they hide behind a pillar. She is carrying a little wind up toy. Bruce winds it up and places it on the street. He leaves the girl to make a run for the building.

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He runs to the top of the building where the shot came from. Then he throws a rope over the edge of the building and rappels down the side of it to pad the movie out some more.

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Then he gives chase.

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Right now this woman is in the middle of having explained to her what happened last year. (Last Year at Marienbad, 1961)

After seven and a half minutes of him chasing him, the two fight.

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It cuts to this shot during the fight.

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After leaving the audience wondering Where’s Waldo? it then cuts back to the two of them on the top of the building where the bad guy falls to his death.

Back to the phone guy, and we learn that “The Green Hornet” is a real problem for him. But after listening to the unseen person on the other end, he says he’ll just get Superman. Maybe that’s this next guy who now does his part to pad this movie out more.

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After he spends a minute of doing his martial arts/calligraphy routine, we cut to ninjas flipping.

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No really, random ninjas inserted that flip around for 10 seconds. Maybe Godfrey Ho did this part of the movie.

Right now you're looking at a very famous scene of a historical event that didn't take place where the film says. (Battleship Potemkin, 1925)

Right now you’re looking at a very famous scene of a historical event that didn’t take place where the film says. (Battleship Potemkin, 1925)

Now a guy and a girl speak in Adam and Eve talk before padding the movie out with sex.

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We cut to the doctor getting kidnapped again before cutting back to sex. Now the doctor’s daughter runs on the street, bumps into a guy, and he takes her to the sex scene. Then we see more sex to pad the film out some more. Daughter bursts in and immediately starts a cat fight with the girl. After one tries to hold the other’s head under a running shower, we cut to this.

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While they have to wait for “Green Hornet”, the doctor is getting tortured by bad camera effects.

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Planet of Dinosaurs (1977)

Planet of Dinosaurs (1977)

Right now that’s how I feel about the rest of this review. Let’s cut through this: chase, fight, pointless hostage scene, fight, chase, fight, pointless hostage scene, fight, fight, fight, chase, and movie!

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Make that the middle finger, and you have what I felt the film was trying to tell me. You didn’t miss anything. It’s all padding. The chase scenes go on forever, the fighting is boring, and the plot is almost non-existent. Please go watch the other movies and TV Shows I mentioned rather than subjecting yourself to this. Well, that is except for the one just below this text. That documentary was awful.

Right now another bad movie is getting made because of what this title card says. (I Love Dollars, 1986)

Right now another bad movie is getting made because of what this title card says. (I Love Dollars, 1986)

Cleaning Out The DVR #31: Libeled Lady (dir by Jack Conway)


(For those following at home, Lisa is attempting to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing 38 films by the end of this Friday.  Will she make it?  Keep following the site to find out!)

In the 1936 comedy Libeled Lady, tabloid newspaper editor Warren Haggerty (Spencer Tracy) has a problem.  His newspaper has just published a story accusing wealthy heiress Connie Allenbury (Myrna Loy) of being the other woman in a scandalous divorce.  The problem is that Connie was not the “other woman” and she is now suing the newspaper for $5,000,000.

“5 million dollars!” an astonished Warren declares, “nobody has that type of money!”

(It was 1936, after all.)

However, Warren has a plan and, since this is a screwball comedy, it’s an unneccesarily complicated plan.  He hires a former reporter, the suave Bill Chandler (William Powell, the suavest man alive in the 30s) to meet with Connie.  Warren believes that there’s no way that Connie won’t fall in love with Bill.  (Perhaps Warren had recently seen The Thin Man…)  Once Connie does fall in love, Warren will arrange for Bill’s wife to catch the two of them together.  In order to avoid the scandal, Connie will drop the suit.

The problem is that Bill isn’t married.  However, Warren has a solution for that as well.  Warren arranges for Bill to marry Warren’s fiancée, Gladys (Jean Harlow).  Gladys is not happy about the arrangement but goes along with it because, despite his behavior, she truly loves Warren and Warren promises her that the marriage will only last for 6 weeks.

(When the minister says that he hopes he’ll be invited to the new couple’s silver anniversary, Gladys replies, “It better be in six weeks.”)

And, at first, things go as planned.  Bill meets Connie on a luxury cruise and she quickly falls in love with him.  However, Bill finds himself falling in love with her too.  Soon, he no longer wants to frame her.  However, that’s not the only complication.  Finally fed up with Warren’s behavior, Gladys has started to think that maybe it would be better to be married to Bill.  Soon, she decides that she has no intention of getting a divorce…

Libeled Lady is a minor but enjoyable screwball comedy.  The plot is thoroughly implausible but, fortunately, William Powell was one of those actors who could get you to believe almost anything.  As anyone who has seen any of the Thin Man films can tell you, Powell and Myrna Loy had great chemistry together.  Spencer Tracy seems a little uncomfortable with the role of Warren but Jean Harlow is a lot of fun as Gladys.  She doesn’t have a big role but, at the same time, you can still understand why she was such a huge star and why her tragic death a year later was such a shock.

(At the time the movie was made, Harlow was dating William Powell.  She wanted to play Connie but MGM was determined to repeat the formula of previous William Powell/Myrna Loy comedies and Harlow settled for the secondary role of Gladys.)

As enjoyable as the film is, it still does seem a bit strange that it was nominated for best picture.  It lost the Oscar to The Great Ziegfeld, another MGM film that starred William Powell and Myrna Loy.

Cleaning Out The DVR #30: The Great Ziegfeld (dir by Robert Z. Leonard)


(For those following at home, Lisa is attempting to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing 38 films by the end of this Friday.  Will she make it?  Keep following the site to find out!)

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Do you know who Florence Ziegfeld was?

Don’t feel bad if you don’t because, until I saw the 1936 film The Great Ziegfeld, I had no idea and history is my number one obsession.  Florence Ziegfeld was a theatrical producer who, in the early days of the 20th Century, produced huge spectacles.  He was a showman who understood the importance of celebrity and gossip.  He produced a show called The Ziegfeld Follies, which was considered quite risqué at the time but which looks remarkably tame today.  Florence Ziegfeld was so famous that he even got his own Oscar-winning biopic.

The Great Ziegfeld features the always smooth William Powell as Ziegfeld.  When we first meet him, he’s promoting a strongman and a belly dancer and nobody takes him seriously.  But through hard work, good luck, and his own instinct for showmanship, he becomes famous and his shows gets bigger and bigger.  The film follows Ziegfeld as he gets married, both times to someone he is grooming to be a star.  His first wife is Anna (Luise Rainer), who loves him but divorces him when it becomes obvious that Ziegfeld’s life will always revolve around his work.  His second wife is Billie Burke and we know that she is Ziegfeld’s true love because she’s played by Myrna Loy.  Whenever you see William Powell and Myrna Loy in the same film, you know that they belong together.

The majority of The Great Ziegfeld is taken up with recreations of Ziegfeld’s stage shows.  In fact, the film almost feels more like a musical variety show than a real biopic.  (Judging from the credits, quite a few of Ziegfeld’s stars played themselves and recreated their acts on the big screen.)  I can understand why this was attractive to audiences in the 1930s.  With no end in sight to The Great Depression and Ziegfeld himself recently deceased, this movie was their only opportunity to see one of his spectacles.  The film made sure that they got their money’s worth.

However, for modern audiences, all of the acts just add to what is already an oppressive running time.  My main impression of The Great Ziegfeld was that it was really, really long.  The movie itself is well-produced and William Powell and Myrna Loy are always fun to watch but the movie just goes on and on.  As well, this biopic is so worshipful of Ziegfeld — the title is meant to be taken literally — that, as a result, he comes across as being one-dimensional.  I did appreciate the film as a historical artifact but otherwise, it didn’t do much for me.

However, it did something for the Academy.  The Great Ziegfeld was named the best picture of 1936!  Luise Rainer won best actress despite only being on-screen for a handful of scenes.  So many people were critical of Rainer’s award that, the very next year, the Academy introduced the award for best supporting actress.

As for why Ziegfeld won that Oscar — well, if you look at its competition and some of the other 1936 films that received nominations, you’re struck by the lack of truly memorable films.  It would appear that, in a weak year, the Academy decided to give the award to the biggest production they could find.

And that was The Great Ziegfeld.

(Incidentally, if Flo Ziegfeld were alive today, he would probably be a reality TV producer.)

Cleaning Out The DVR #29: Broadcast News (dir by James L. Brooks)


(For those following at home, Lisa is attempting to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing 38 films by the end of this Friday.  Will she make it?  Keep following the site to find out!)

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I’ll give you three chances to guess what the 1987 film Broadcast News is about.

Broadcast News takes place at the Washington bureau of a major network news operation.  (You can tell this film was made in the 80s in that nobody’s working for a blog and there’s no mention of Fox, MSNBC, or CNN.)  This is where a group of hard-working men and women do their best to make the national news anchor, Bill Rorish, look good.

Bill Rorish is played by Jack Nicholson and, even though he only has about five minutes of screen time (out of a 133 minute movie), he pretty much dominates the entire film.  Some of that is because he’s Jack Nicholson and he kicks ass.  All Jack has to do to dominate a scene is show up and arch an eyebrow.  But, beyond that, everyone in the movie is obsessed with impressing Bill Rorish.  Whenever a reporter and his producer get a story on the air, they obsessively watch to see if Bill smiles afterward.  Bill Rorish is the God they all hope to please and the film (as well as Nicholson’s performance) suggests that he barely even knows that they’re alive.  It’s telling that the only time Bill shows up in person (as opposed to appearing on a TV screen), it’s because a huge number of people at the Washington bureau are being laid off.

When Bill says that it’s a shame that budget cuts are leading to so many good newspeople being laid off, someone suggests that maybe Bill could help by taking a cut in his million-dollar salary.  Needless to say, Bill Rorish is not amused.

Broadcast News centers on three of the characters who work at the Washington Bureau.  First off, there’s Jane Craig (Holly Hunter), a producer.  Jane is a true believer in the mission and the importance of journalism.  Her ethics and her belief in what constitutes proper journalism are everything to her and, at times, she can get more than a little self-righteous about it.  (If Broadcast News were made today, Jane would spend the entire movie whining about how new media is destroying the country.)  At the same time, Jane is completely neurotic, a self-described “basket case” who, at one point, ends up sobbing in a hotel room as she prepares to go to sleep by herself.

Jane’s best friend is Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks), a reporter who wants to someday be an anchor.  Aaron is smart and funny (and he better be, seeing as how he’s being played by Albert Brooks) but he’s not telegenic and he’s almost as neurotic as Jane.  Like Jane, Aaron is all about journalistic ethics but there’s a defensiveness to Aaron.  Whenever Aaron complains about vapid news anchors, it’s obvious that he’s more jealous than outraged.

And then there’s Tom Grunick (William Hurt), who represents everything that Jane and Aaron claim to be against.  He’s handsome, he’s smooth, he’s charismatic, and he’s definitely not an intellectual.  He knows little about the specifics of current events.  However, he has great instincts.  He knows how to sell a story and he knows how to present himself on camera.  He’s also a surprisingly nice and sincere guy, which makes it all the more difficult for Aaron to justify his belief that “Tom is the devil.”

From the minute that Tom arrives at the Washington bureau, there’s a strong attraction between Tom and Jane.  (Jane even sends another reporter to Alaska after she finds out that Tom slept with her.)  Tom wants to be a better reporter.  Jane wants to be happy but fears compromising her ethics.  And Aaron … well, Aaron wants Jane.

Not surprisingly, considering that the film was made 29 years ago, there were some parts of Broadcast News that felt extremely dated.  A scene where Aaron complains about a story that Tom did on date rape feels especially uncomfortable when viewed today and both Jane and Aaron occasionally came across as being a bit too self-righteous.  In today’s media world, Tom’s sins really didn’t seem like that big of a deal.

But, for the most part, I enjoyed Broadcast News.  It was an intelligent film, one the featured people having actual conversations about actual ideas and, listening to them, I realized how rare, in both movies and real life, that actually is.  It’s a witty film, full of good performances.  While I hope I never become as self-righteous as Jane, I could still relate to her in her more neurotic moments.  And who wouldn’t want a best friend like Aaron?

And, for that matter, who wouldn’t want a lover like Tom?

(That’s something I never expected to write about a character played by William Hurt.)

And, of course, there’s this scene.  Poor Aaron!

Broadcast News was nominated for best picture of 1987.  However, it lost to The Last Emperor.

 

Cleaning Out The DVR #28: Top Hat (dir by Mark Sandrich)


(For those following at home, Lisa is attempting to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing 38 films by the end of this Friday.  Will she make it?  Keep following the site to find out!)

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The 1935 film Top Hat is a film that, much like An American In Paris, is pure joy.

Top Hat features Fred Astaire as Jerry Travers, a famous dancer who has come to London to star in a show that’s being produced by his friend, Horace Harwick (Edward Everett Horton).  (Oddly enough, Gene Kelly also played a character named Jerry in An American In Paris.)  Jerry may be sophisticated and refined but he’s still enough of an American that, upon leaving a snooty British club that insists on total silence, he still breaks up the tedium with some impromptu tap moves.

Back at his hotel, Jerry is practicing a tap routine and makes such a racket that he ends up waking up the guest staying in the room below him, Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers).  When Dale goes upstairs to complain, Jerry immediately falls in love with her.  Soon, he is pursuing her all over London, trying to win her heart.  Eventually, he even follows her to Venice.

And Dale is definitely attracted to Jerry.  Whenever they get near each other, they start dancing.  (Needless to say, whether they’re dancing or talking or merely looking at each other from across the room, Astaire and Rogers have wonderful chemistry.)  However, Dale thinks that Jerry is actually Horace.  And Horace happens to be married to her friend, Madge (Helen Broderick.)  Convinced that Jerry is pursuing an adulterous affair with her, the indignant Dale makes plans to marry the Italian fashion designer, Alberto Beddini (Erik Rhodes).

The plot is typical screwball comedy stuff and the fact that you don’t even end up getting annoyed with all the misunderstandings is a testament to the abilities of Astaire, Rogers, and their wonderful supporting cast.  Even if not for the dancing, Top Hat would be a success because of the chemistry between the actors and film’s mix of sophistication with just pure silly fun.  I imagine that for audiences dealing with the daily realities of the Great Depression, Top Hat offered a wonderful escape.  And you know what?  It still provides a wonderful escape for today, as well.

(Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just dance this presidential election away?)

And then, of course, there’s the dancing.  That really is the main reason that we’re here, right?  Check out a few scenes.  They’ll make you happy.

(Incidentally, I’m a bit disappointed that YouTube does not feature more from Top Hat.)

Top Hat was nominated for best picture, though the award itself went to Mutiny On The Bounty, a film that did not feature quite as much dancing.

Karma’s a Bitch: THEY WON’T BELIEVE ME (RKO 1947)


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1947 was a peak year for film noir. There was BRUTE FORCE BORN TO KILL , DARK PASSAGE, KISS OF DEATH, THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, OUT OF THE PAST, and NIGHTMARE ALLEY , to name but a few. THEY WON’T BELIEVE ME doesn’t get the notoriety of those I just mentioned, but it can hold its own with them all. This unheralded dark gem from the RKO noir factory boasts an outstanding cast, and a taut, twisted screenplay from hardboiled pulp writer Jonathan Latimer.

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Larry Ballantine’s on trial for the murder of his wife and his girlfriend. Larry’s a real cad, a lying and cheating weasel. He takes the stand and tells his side of the story, as the film goes into flashback to recount the sordid details. Larry’s stepping out on rich wife Greta with co-worker Janice, who gives him an ultimatum. She’s transferring to Montreal, and Larry…

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