Speedtrap (1977, directed by Earl Bellamy)

In a southwestern metropolis, a mysterious criminal is stealing cars and outrunning the police.  When the insurance company realizes that the cops are never going to be able to do their job, they decide to bring in an outside hire to solve the crimes.  They turn to a paisley-shirt wearing private investigator named Pete Novick (played by Joe Don Baker).  Novick’s a hard-drinking, hard-living P.I. who is going to solve the case no matter what.  Authority figures like police Captain Hogan (Morgan Woodward) hate him.  Women like cop Niffty Nolan (Tyne Daly) and psychic New Blossom (Lana Wood) want to have him.  Men like mechanic Billy (Richard Jaeckel) want to hang out with him.  You get the idea.  It’s a Joe Don Baker movie.

Speedtrap is basically one car chase after another, the majority of which are excitingly filmed and continue until almost every car involved has been destroyed.  Though the movie was directed by Earl Bellamy, it has the feel of a Hal Needham film as it keeps the characterization to a minimum and instead focuses on vehicular mayhem.  Speaking of Hal Needham, it’s also easy to imagine Burt Reynolds, in his B-movie days, playing the role of Pete Novick but not even he would have been as perfect for the role or the movie as Joe Don Baker.  Baker shambles through the movie, all the while keeping the same passive-aggressive grin on his face.  There’s nothing smooth about Joe Don Baker, which is why he was fun to watch in a movie like this.  Whether he’s having a one-night stand with a psychic (only in order to help for “totally relax” so that she can have her visions) or going out of his way to annoy almost every single person that he meets, he’s undeniably Joe Don Baker.  During one chase scene, an annoyed Novick snaps, “Beep beep my ass!”  Only Joe Don Baker could have pulled that off.

Eventually, the thief steals the wrong car.  This one has a suitcase in back that’s full of the mob’s money.  This gives Robert Loggia a chance to ham it up as a mafia don who wants Novick to capture the thief and then turn him over to the syndicate.  Novick, however, has even less respect for the mob than he does for the police.  The mafia subplot is a distraction but Timothy Carey plays Loggia’s main henchman and brings with him a few moments of genuine menace to the film.

Speedtrap has never gotten a DVD or Blu-ray release but it’s an entertaining B-movie and it deserves one.  How about it, Shout Factory?  A million Joe Don Baker fans are looking to you.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special James Coburn Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Whether he was appearing in a western, a spy film, a war film, a comedy, or a dark drama, James Coburn was one of the coolest and most underapperciated actors around.  He made bad films tolerable and good films even better.  Regardless of the role, Coburn brought his own unique style to each and every performance.  He was born 92 years ago today in Nebraska so here are just four of the films from his legendary career.

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Magnificent Seven (1960, directed by John Sturges)

In Like Flint (1967, directed by Gordon Douglas)

A Fistful of Dynamite (1971, directed by Sergio Leone)

Affliction (1998, directed by Paul Schrader)

Here’s The First Teaser For The Stand

Let’s just be honest here.

Come December, we all know what we’re going to be in the mood for.  After making our way through 11 months of 2020, everyone is going to watch a miniseries about a society-destroying pandemic that leads to a civil war and the destruction of a major U.S. city.

I mean, seriously.

The latest version of The Stand will premiere on December 17th, on CBS All Access so, if you’re thinking of canceling your subscription because of how terrible Big Brother has been this season …. well, hold off for a few months.  This version of The Stand features Alexander Skarsgard and Whoopi Goldberg and it’s probably going to be really bad but …. well, our longtime readers know how I feel about Alexander Skarsgard.  I’ll watch him in anything.

Anyway, here’s the first teaser for The Stand.

Randall Flagg says hello.

Baby, can you dig your man?

He’s a righteous man!

Artist Profile: James B. Settles (1902 — 1957)

by James B. Settles

Other than the fact that he was born in Missouri and his first credited cover work was for Amazing Stories in 1942, I haven’t been able to find out much about James B. Settles.  As an illustrator, Settles had a good eye for detail and an obvious affinity for mechanical drawings.  Though he did his share of front covers, Settles is probably best-known for illustrating the back covers of Amazing Stories.  His back cover illustrations almost always seemed to be of some sort of futuristic mode of transportation.

Here’s a sampling of the work of the mysterious James B. Settles:

Lisa’s Oscar Predictions for August

As this very strange year enters into the home stretch, it does seem like, almost despite itself, the Oscar picture is becoming a little bit clearer.  The Venice and Toronto film festivals have announced their lineups.  Theaters are tentatively reopening and, assuming that there isn’t a spike in moviegoers contracting the Coronavirus as a result, the majority of them could be reopen by December.  For all the talk about how this year was going to be the Streaming Oscars, it’s totally possible that, with the eligibility window being extended to February and assuming theaters don’t have to close again, the Oscars could, once again, be dominating by traditional theatrical releases.

Anyway, here are my predictions for this month.  Though the picture may have cleared a little, the year is still pretty uncertain so take these with a grain of salt.  I imagine, over the next month, we’ll see a lot of movies scheduled for that January/February window of eligibility.

Be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, and July!

Best Picture


Da 5 Bloods

The Father

Hillbilly Elegy


News of the World




West Side Story

Best Director

Paul Greengrass for News of the World

Ron Howard for Hillbilly Elegy

Spike Lee for Da 5 Bloods

Steven Spielberg for West Side Story

Chloe Zhao for Nomadland

Best Actor

Tom Hanks in News of the World

Anthony Hopkins in The Father

Delroy Lindo in Da 5 Bloods

Gary Oldman in Mank

Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of MacBeth

Best Actress

Amy Adams in Hillybilly Elegy

Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Jennifer Hudson in Respect

Frances McDormand in Nomadland

Kate Winslet in Ammonite

Best Supporting Actor

Chadwick Boseman in Da 5 Bloods

Richard E. Grant in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Mark Rylance in The Trial of Chicago 7

Forest Whitaker in Respect

Steven Yeun in Minari

Best Supporting Actress

Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy

Natasha Lyonne in The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Saoirse Ronan in Ammonite

Meryl Streep in The Prom

Helena Zengel in News of the World