Book Review: WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE CASABLANCA by Noah Isenberg (W.W. Norton 2017)


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CASABLANCA was released seventy-five years ago today, and The Cult of Casablanca is stronger than ever! The film resonates with young and old alike in its themes of lost love, redemption, and answering to a higher moral authority. Noah Isenberg’s latest book, WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE CASABLANCA: THE LIFE, LEGEND, AND AFTERLIFE OF HOLLYWOOD’S MOST BELOVED MOVIE, takes a look behind the Silver Screen to track the history of the film  from its beginnings through its continuing popularity today.

Isenberg, a professor of film studies at The New School and author of the definitive EDGAR G. ULMER: A FILMMAKER AT THE MARGINS (2014), gives the reader a three-pronged look at the film. In the first, he meticulously delineates the screenplay’s roots, from its birth as the play Everybody Comes to Rick’s by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison, to the adaptation by brothers Julius and Philip Epstein, to the contributions of writers…

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Bunnyman: Vengeance


 

Before I start, if you haven’t watched the first two Bunnyman movies, do yourself a favor and go watch them now…don’t worry about reading this review…just go down that rabbit hole now, I’ll be here when you get back.

(For those of you that are impatient, Bunnyman trilogy is about a man who dresses like a Bunny and likes to hunt Easter eggs…(FFS…watch the damn movies!!)

Let’s talk about the technical stuff while everybody catches up!

 Writer-director: Carl Lindbergh,

Starring:

Diana Prince (Puppet Master: Axis Termination),

Debby Gerber (“Glee”)

Marshal Hilton (The Bunnyman Massacre)

Now on to the VENGEANCE! and I mean let the fur fly!

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Preview:

The man known as Bunnyman returns home to find his family running a haunted house attraction. The family welcomes him home, but soon realizes you cannot domesticate a wild animal. Death and mayhem ensue as the family turns on one another to fulfill their bloodlust…

 

Review:

If you haven’t already guessed, I am a huge fan of the Bunnyman movies. And when I got this screener I couldn’t watch fast enough. In this final chapter, all …umm Rabbies break lose and vengeance is regained! And I mean regained with a VENGEANCE!

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Would I recommend this movie?

Nothing will stop you from watching the final chapter. Watch it as soon as you can escape your bloody burrow…or I will be gunning for your rabbit skin!

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Bunnyman: Vengeance will be available on VOD thru Uncorked Entertainment on October 20,2017….

 

And you can watch the awesome trailer here!

Clowntergeist: Preview, Review and Trailer


Sorry I have been “Clowning” it up a but with my last few reviews, but you know, Coulrophobia and all!

 

ok, seriously, my last movie review was about clowns; and now this one.

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Let’s get the technicals out of the way:

Studio: High Octane Pictures

Director: Aaron Mirtes

Cast :  Tom Seidman, Burt Culver and Brittany Belland

 

Plot:

Emma, a college student with a crippling fear of clowns, must come face to face with her worst fear when an evil spirit in the body of a clown is summoned terrorizing the town she calls home. One by one Emma and her friends receive a balloon with the exact time and date of when it will appear to kill them written on it. After receiving her balloon, Emma realizes that she has two days left to live, and must fight against the clock to find a way to survive.

 

Review:

As much as this movie captured all the, shall I say tongue-in-cheek, plot lines. It did manage to scare me quiet a bit!

Now, please don’t read to much into the plot holes when you watch this movie. They are several to fall into. At times I am not sure this is meant to be a serious movie. But I was thoroughly entertained!

 

Would I recommend this movie?

On my horror scale:

3.25 out of 5. But factor the fun of it, I give it a 4!

Poster: 

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But, since it is time for IT (trailer via Lisa Marie Bowman)  to come out, no wonder I am getting so many clown movies to screen! And nightmares to sleep thru!

 

Should we watch the trailer for ‘Clowntergeist’ together? Yes we should!

 

 

Who wants to hold hands now!

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Clowntergeist will be available on VOD on all your platforms September 12, 2017 And on DVD in October, just in time for Halloween!

 

The Fabulous Forties: In Conclusion


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Having just finished reviewing all the films in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set, I thought I would conclude things by listing all of the films that can be found in the set.  They are listed below, from best to worst, in descending order.  Since most of these films are in the public domain, they can be found on either YouTube or the Internet Archive!

Enjoy!

  1. My Man Godfrey
  2. His Girl Friday
  3. The Last Chance
  4. Lady of Burlesque
  5. D.O.A.
  6. The Black Book
  7. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
  8. Dishonored Lady
  9. Jungle Book
  10. The Strange Woman
  11. Passport to Pimlico
  12. Second Chorus
  13. Trapped
  14. The Adventures of Tartu
  15. The Chase
  16. The Adventures of Gallant Bess
  17. Cheers For Miss Bishop
  18. The Stork Club
  19. The Lady Confesses
  20. The Immortal Battalion
  21. The Red House
  22. Meet John Doe
  23. Gung Ho!
  24. Love Laughs At Andy Hardy
  25. Shock
  26. Port of New York
  27. Topper Returns
  28. The Sin of Howard Diddlebock
  29. This Is The Army
  30. Guest In The House
  31. The Devil Bat
  32. Broadway Limited
  33. Tulsa
  34. Sundown
  35. The North Star
  36. Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman
  37. Whistle Stop
  38. That Uncertain Feeling
  39. Treasure of Fear
  40. Pot O’ Gold
  41. Penny Serenade
  42. Outpost In Morocco
  43. Jack London
  44. Dick Tracy’s Dilemma
  45. Freckles Comes Home
  46. The Town Went Wild
  47. Lil’ Abner
  48. Dr. Kildare’s Strange Case
  49. Boys of the City
  50. Drums of Africa

Lisa Marie Reviews The Oscar Nominees: Battleground (dir by William Wellman)


I love February.

Why?  Well, first off, we all know that February is the most romantic month of the year.  February is Valentine’s Day, romantic movies, flowers, lingerie, and chocolate.  February is also the month when, in a lead up to the Oscars, TCM devotes a good deal of its programming to showing Oscar nominees of the past.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, one of my dreams is to watch and review every single film that has ever been nominated for best picture. Now, realistically, I’ll never be able to accomplish this goal because the 1929 Best Picture nominee The Patriot is currently a lost film.  But, even if it does mean that I’ll only be able to see 510 out of the 511 nominated films, it’s still a dream that I’m pursuing and, with the help of TCM and the month of February, it’s a dream that’ll come true.

Take, for instance, Battleground.  This 1949 Best Picture nominee (it lost All The King’s Men) recently aired on TCM.  I’m not exactly a fan of war films but, since it was a best picture nominee, I still made sure to DVR and watch it.

Set during the final days of World War II, Battleground follows one platoon of soldiers as they fight and attempt to survive the Battle of the Bulge.  The platoon is made up of the type of characters that we usually expect to find in a WWII film but, fortunately, they’re played by an ensemble of likable actors who all bring their familiar characters to life.  There’s Jim Layton (Marshall Thompson), the newest member of the platoon who nobody wants to run the risk of getting close to.  There’s Holley (Van Johnson), the cheerful soldier who is unexpectedly thrust into a position of leadership that he might not be right for.  Roderiques (Ricardo Montalban) is from Los Angeles and is amazed by the sight of snow.  “Pops” Stazak (George Murphy) is the type of older soldier who you would totally expect to be nicknamed “Pops.”  Bettis (Richard Jaeckel) is scared of combat.  Kippton (Douglas Fowley) spends nearly the entire film looking for his lost teeth.  And finally, of course, there’s the hard-boiled but warm-hearted Sgt. Kinnie (James Whitmore).

In some ways, Battleground is a very conventional film and it’s easy to wonder how it ended up getting nominated for best film of the year.  (Among the eligible films that were not nominated: The Bicycle Thief, Champion, The Fountainhead,  On The Town, Sands of Iwo Jima, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, They Live By Night, and White Heat.)  However, the film’s nomination makes a bit more sense when you consider that it was released just four years after the end of World War II.  It was a film that appealed both to the veterans who were able to relate to the film’s story and to the patriotic spirit of a country that had just defeated the greatest evil of the 20th Century.

Battleground did not exactly make me a fan of war movies but it’s still a well-made and effective film. As opposed to a lot of other war films, Battleground never makes war look like fun.  For the most part, the emphasis is less on strategy and combat and more on the soldiers who are simply trying to survive from day-to-day.  The end result is a film that serves as a moving tribute to the soldiers who fought in World War II.

6 Obscure Films Of 2013: The Call, Copperhead, It’s A Disaster, See Girl Run, UnHung Hero, Would You Rather


Well, it’s that time of year when I look at the list of the films that I’ve seen over the past 12 months and I realize that there’s quite a few that I haven’t gotten around to reviewing yet.  Here are my thoughts on six of them.

The Call (dir by Brad Anderson)

Abigail Breslin is kidnapped by a serial killer.  While trapped in the trunk of the killer’s car, Breslin manages to call 911.  Breslin’s call is answered by Halle Berry, a veteran operator who is recovering from a trauma that — by an amazing and totally implausible coincidence — was caused by the same guy who has just kidnapped Breslin.

Before it became a feature film, The Call was originally developed as a weekly TV series and, as I watched, it was easy to imagine weekly episodes that would all feature a different guest star calling 911 and needing help.  For the first hour or so, The Call is well-made and acted but undistinguished.  However, during the final 30 minutes, the entire film suddenly goes crazy with Breslin running around in her bra, Berry turning into a blood thirsty vigilante, and the killer suddenly getting very verbose.  However, those 30 minutes of pure insanity were just what The Call needed to be memorable.  There are some films that definitely benefit from going over-the-top and The Call is one of them.

Copperhead (dir by Ronald Maxwell)

Copperhead is a historical drama that takes place during the Civil War.  In upstate New York, farmer Abner Breech (Billy Campbell) is ardently opposed to both the Civil War and the union cause.  In most movies, this would make Abner the villain but, in Copperhead, he’s portrayed as being a man of principle who, by refusing to compromise on his views, is ostracized and ultimately persecuted by the rest of his village.  Abner’s views also bring him into conflict with his own son, who is pro-Union.

Copperhead is a slow-moving film that features some rather good performances along with some fairly bad ones.  However, I’m a history nerd so I enjoyed it.  It certainly tells a different story from what we’ve come to expect from American films about the Civil War.

It’s A Disaster (dir by Todd Berger)

Of the six films reviewed in this post, It’s A Disaster is the one to see.  In this darker than dark comedy, Julia Stiles brings her new boyfriend (David Cross) to Sunday brunch with 6 of her closest friends.  During the brunch, terrorists explode a dirty bomb in the city.  With everyone trapped inside the house and waiting for the world to either end or somehow revert back to normal, long-simmering resentments come to the forefront.

To say anything else about It’s a Disaster would be unfair so I’ll just say that it’s a very funny film, featuring excellent work from both Stiles and Cross.  If Jean-Paul Sartre was alive and writing today, he would probably end up writing something very similar to It’s a Disaster.

See Girl Run (dir by Nate Meyer)

Bleh!  That’s probably the best description I can give you of this film.  It’s just a whole lot of bleh.

Emmie (Robin Tunney) is unhappy with her boring marriage so she runs back to her Maine hometown, stops wearing makeup and washing her hair, and pines for her high school boyfriend, Jason (Adam Scott), who works at a sea food restaurant.  Jason also happens to be friends with Emmie’s depressed brother, Brandon (Jeremy Strong).  It’s the same basic plot as Young Adult, just with no humor and a lot more talking.  In Young Adult, it was hard not to admire Charlize Theron’s wonderfully misguided character.  In See Girl Run, you just want to tell Robin Tunny to take a shower, put on some clothes that don’t look like they were stolen from a hospital storage closet, and stop whining all the time.

It’s difficult to put into words just how much I hated this movie.  This is one of those films that critics tend to describe as being “a film for adults.”  I have to agree — this is a movie for really boring, depressing adults who like to talk and talk about how their lives haven’t worked out.  If See Girl Run is what being an adult is like, I’ll just continue to be an immature brat, thank you very much.

UnHung Hero (dir by Brian Spitz)

So, this is not only the worst documentary of 2013 but it’s also quite probably one of the worst documentaries ever made.  The film opens with footage of Patrick Moote (who claims to be a comedian) asking his girlfriend to marry him.  As Moote goes on (and on) to tell us, she turns down his proposal and then dumps him because, according to her, his penis is too small.  Moote spends the rest of the film talking to various people and asking them whether size really matters.

Well, he could have just asked me and saved a lot of time.  I’m sorry if this endangers any fragile male egos but yes, size does matter.  If Moote’s penis really is as tiny as he claims it is, I probably would have turned down his proposal as well.  Then again, Moote could be hung like Jamie Foxx and I’d probably still refuse to marry him because, quite frankly, he’s the whiniest and most annoying person that I’ve ever seen.  He’s like an even less charming version of Morgan Spurlock.  What Patrick Moote never seems to understand is that size matters but personality matters even more.

Would You Rather (dir by David Guy Levy)

Would you rather have a root canal or sit through this piece of crap?  Having seen Would You Rather, I can tell you that it’s not an easy question to answer.

Jeffrey Combs plays a sadistic millionaire who invited a bunch of strangers (including Brittany Snow, John Heard, June Squibb, and Sasha Grey) to his mansion and forces them to play an elaborate and deadly game of Would You Rather.  Unfortunately, none of the characters are interesting, the film’s sadism is more boring than shocking, and talented actor Combs is totally wasted as the one-note villain.

6 More Films From 2012: 4:44: Last Day On Earth, First Position, Flight, The Paperboy, Red Tails, and The Trouble With Bliss


Continuing my desperate attempt to review all of the 2012 films that I’ve seen but haven’t gotten around to reviewing yet, here’s six more reviews.

1) 4:44: Last Day On Earth (dir. by Abel Ferrara)

Whether it’s because of the Mayan calendar or the fact the Obama got reelected, people seem to be obsessed with the end of the world right now and it’s been the subject of several recent films.  4:44: Last Day On Earth is one of the more low-key entries in this genre.

Willem DaFoe plays a New York-based actor who deals with the impending end of the world by meditating in his loft, having sex with his much younger girlfriend, and having awkward conversations on Skype with his daughter.  As opposed to the characters in several other end of the world films, DaFoe doesn’t use the situation as an excuse to go on a quest for true love.  Unlike 2012, there’s no talk of escaping the apocalypse.  Instead, the world is ending and DaFoe has no choice but to accept it.  From a cinematic point of view, DaFoe’s passivity can be frustrating (4:44 is a film that’s willing to be boring to make its point) but, at the same time, it does force a viewer like me to wonder how she would handle the end of the world in a way that a film like Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World does not.

One interesting thing that distinguishes 4:44 from other end-of-the-world films is that, in 4:44, the world ends specifically because of the actions of mankind.  Whereas films like Melancholia and Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World presented a random apocalypse, 4:44 presents the apocalypse as the fitting punishment for the sins of humanity.  While I could have done without the scenes of DaFoe listening to Al Gore droning on and on about global warming (because, seriously, Gore always sounds like the creepy community college professor who you know is having an affair with one of his students), this still adds an interesting element to the film.

4:44 requires a bit of tolerance and a lot of patience but it’s still a film that’s worthy of being seen.

2) First Position (dir. by Bess Kargman)

First Position is a documentary about ballet so, of course, you know that I loved it.  The film follows six young dancers as they prepare for the Youth American Grand Prix in New York City and it brought back a lot of memories (both good and bad) for me.  First Position captures both the beauty and the pain of both dance and life.

3) Flight (dir. by Robert Zemeckis)

In Flight, Denzel Washington plays a cocky and talented pilot who is also an alcoholic and a drug addict.  In a truly harrowing sequence, the plane that Washington is piloting goes into a nosedive over Atlanta.  After Washington manages to crash-land the plane with only a few fatalities, he finds himself hailed as both a hero and also under investigation.  Working with a union rep (Bruce Greenwood) and a slick attorney (Don Cheadle), Washington tries to cover up his mistakes while, at the same time, romancing a recovering heroin addict (Kelly Reilly).

Flight has a brilliant opening and a strong ending.  Unfortunately, the middle of the film tends to drag.  Flight also suffers from the fact that cinematic addicts are always more fun to watch when they’re under the influence as opposed to when they’re getting sober.  On the plus side, the film itself is well-acted and the cast is always fun to watch even when the rest of the film is getting bogged down.  Washington is brilliant in the lead role and John Goodman has a great cameo as the world’s most helpful drug dealer.

4) The Paperboy (dir by Lee Daniels)

In 1960s Florida, Hillary Van Wetter (an amazingly sleazy John Cusack) is on death row for the murder of a small town sheriff.  His girlfriend, the flamboyant Charlotte Bess (Nicole Kidman), convinces reporter Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) to return to his hometown and investigate the case against Van Wetter.  With the help of his younger brother (Zac Efron) and an arrogant colleague (David Oyelowo), Ward works to get Van Wetter off of death row but it becomes obvious that all of the film’s characters are hiding secrets of their own.

The Paperboy has a few isolated moments where it achieves a certain pulp poetry but, for the most part, Lee Daniels’ follow-up to his Academy Award-winning Precious is a total and complete mess.  Unfortunately, it’s not even all that interesting of a mess.  Nicole Kidman’s vampish performance and her white trash femme fatale outfits are definitely the film’s highlight.  As for Zac Efron, he’s not much of an actor but he’s pipin’, boilin’ hot.  It’s just  too bad the character that he’s playing isn’t that interesting.

In the end, The Paperboy showcases everything that didn’t work about Precious and nothing that did.

5) Red Tails (dir. by Anthony Hemingway)

Red Tails was one of the first “major” releases of 2012 and it’s also one of the most forgettable.  The film, which was executive produced and reportedly co-directed by George Lucas, is based on the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-Americans who served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II and who had to not only fight Nazis abroad but racial discrimination at home.  There’s undoubtedly an inspiring story to be told here but Red Tails is such a predictable and corny film that it feels as if Lucas and Hemingway essentially wasted the real life story of the Tuskegee Airmen on a painfully generic movie.

6) The Trouble With Bliss (dir. by Michael Knowles)

Morris Bliss (played by Michael C. Hall) is the type of guy who always seems to show up in quirky independent films.  He has no job, he has no money, and he lives in a tiny apartment with his father (Peter Fonda).  Since there’s nothing more attractive than a middle-aged guy with no future, he finds himself being pursued by an 18 year-old (Brie Larson), who also happens to be the daughter of a former high school classmate, and his married neighbor (played by Lucy Liu).

I have a weakness for quirky indie films but the nonstop quirkiness of The Trouble of With Bliss feels less like narrative imagination and more like total desperation.  Michael C. Hall’s a likable actor but he essentially turns Morris Bliss into Dexter Morgan and, as a result, I kept expected for the trouble with Bliss to turn out to be that he had about a few dozen bodies hidden away in a closet somewhere.

Now that would have been a quirky film!