Movies I Have Seen Lately

Saw a Takashi Miike picture called The Great Yokai War. "Yokai" is a Japanese term for monsters from folklore, as opposed to the more familiar kaiju. It's a kids' picture, about a young boy from Tokyo sent out to live in the countryside with his older sister and his intermittently senile grandfather. When a vengeful spirit appears, the boy gets caught up in a war between warring groups of yokai and must find his courage to become the "Kirin Rider", the hero who will set everything to rights. It's not a bad picture - nothing deep, but an amusing story. Some of the yokai are really trippy, Japanese folklore can get pretty "out there", apparently.

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  • Today I also watched Dream House (2011) on a Netflix DVD. It starred pre-Bond Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts. All three were very good, as usual. It has a decent story involving a property where a family murder occurred. The studio took it away from the director, Jim Sheridan, and produced the final edit. Neither Sheridan, Craig nor Weisz would do publicity for the movie. Craig said meeting his wife, Rachel Weisz, was the only thing good about it for him. It's really not bad. I just think they resented the treatment of the director. If anyone wants to watch it, DON'T WATCH THE TRAILER FIRST. The studio gave away a big part of the ending.

  • I finally saw Cooley High (1975), Michael Schultz's third feature movie and a screenplay by Eric Monte, who contributed significantly to the creation of the Jeffersons characters. The script apparently saw several rewrites. It starts off as the "Black American Grafitti" (which I think is how it was pitched to AIP) and ends with a "Where are they now?" but it takes some very dark turns before it gets there.

  • I recorded Cooley High, but haven't watched it yet. The TV comedy What's Happening!! supposedly had a connection to Cooley High. Maybe it inspired the show, but none of the character names or actors match up.

    • From what I've read, What's Happening!! was the result of an intention to make a Cooley High series. They decided to make a show that had some aspects of the earlier part of the movie, cleaned up, but the final product was a separate entity. I only saw WH!! a handful of times, but Rev from the movie and Raj from the series have some obvious similarities, and both groups of friends hang out at diners run by superficially similar women. If you know the show I suspect you'll see similarities that aren't occuring to me.


    • I watched Cooley High a couple of days ago. I think the message is that sometimes you can get away with foolish choices and sometimes you can't. I have watched maybe one episode of What's Happening!! since the show ended. IMDB has a listing for its original pilot episode, which doesn't seem to be streaming. According to what I've read, the first pilot was written by the screen writer of Cooley High and was a "dramedy." After poor response in test screenings, the studio had it retooled into a full comedy show. Absolutely no actors in Cooley High carried over to the TV show. Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (Cochise) went on to play alongside John Travolta in Welcome Back, Kotter. Garrett Morris (Mr. Mason, a serious character) very shorty joined the original cast of Saturday Night Live.

  • CRAZE (1974): "The owner of an antique shop has a dark and deadly secrethe hides from his customers. the shopkeeper is really the disciple of an African deity and must make human sacrifices in order to gain power and wealth. Our deranged antique dealer preys upon his customers to supply his vivtims for his sacrificial ceremonies. His ways od slaying his victims prove to be most creative as well as equally cruel and viscious. When the shop keeper's assistant becomes suspicious fo his employer's behavior, it puts the assistant in great danger." 

    That's a fairly accurate summary, except the assistant was complicit in the murders all along but eventually turned on him. The shop keeper is played by Jack Palance. The detective investigating the murders is Michael Jayston (the Valeyard from Doctor Who). The soundtrack of the print we watched was so muddled we could barely make out the dialogue. In addition, the sound would frequently drop out altogether for seconds at a time. We decided to watch it anyway (not that it was all that difficult to follow, even without knowing what was being said). The soundtrack finally cleared up about a half hour from the end. The movie is bad (no question), but it's not so bad that it's good.


    A TRAILER is available, but it's one of those "Sign in to confirm your age" ones and I don't like to do that.

  • NABONGA (1944): "A young girl is the only survivor of a plane crash that carried herself and her father, a bank embezzler escaping with the money. Befreinded by a gorilla that protects and cares for her, the girl grows up in the jungle guarding the fortune. The son of the president of the bank from which the money was stolen tracks down the girl to recover the money, but falls for the girl and must protect her from an unscupulous guide who wants the money for himself."

    A mildly entertaining jungle flick with all the expected tropes and clichés. It stars Buster Crabbe as the bank president's son. I'd never heard of this movie before tonight, but it's no undiscovered gem; it's decidely mediocre. It is, however, only an hour and eleven minutes long.




  • Jeff of Earth-J said:

    NABONGA (1944):

    A mildly entertaining jungle flick with all the expected tropes and clichés. It stars Buster Crabbe as the bank president's son. I'd never heard of this movie before tonight, but it's no undiscovered gem; it's decidedly mediocre. It is, however, only an hour and eleven minutes long.

    I probably won’t watch it, but I see it has Barton MacLane, who was in just about everything back then. It introduces Julie London, who went on to have a long career.

    I’ve been watching a number of movies that are slightly over an hour long. The “B” movie was conceived to play after the longer “A” movie in those days. Some are mediocre, some are as good as the longer movies.

    Speaking of B movies:

    I discovered that there are 28 movies about Blondie and Dagwood, and bought a single-disk Blu-ray with all of them. I’ve only watched the first one so far (on TCM) but was impressed with how close it was to the source comics.

    I also discovered a six-movie series called the Hildegarde Withers Mystery Collection. She is a busybody school teacher who pushes the local head police detective into finding the murderer in each movie. She is played by a fun-to-watch Edna May Oliver in the first three movies. He is played by the also fun-to-watch James Gleason in all six movies. Looking for Edna’s other work, I found that she played the Red Queen in a live action Alice in Wonderland (1933), which had a lot of big names covered up with costumes and masks (she wasn’t masked).  This movie had very good special effects of a movie of its time. She also played a scene-stealing, very feisty old lady in the A-movie Drums Along the Mohawk (1939). It’s a Revolutionary War movie with a lot to offer.


  • VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST (1973): "An African prince's punishment for taking another man's woman is by being entombed alive. Centuries later, a band of explorers searching for ancient burial sites disturbs the prince's resting place. A curse placed upon his tomb causes the prince's corpse to arise and begin killing the explorers, while they desperately search for a way to stop this unliving nightmare."

    Surprisingly (considering the title and the year) this is not a "Blaxplotation" film. Nevertheless, I'll bet you have some idea of what this movie is like. (If not, see the clip below.) In the past, both the prince and the woman are caucasians wearing body paint. The present-day reincarnation of the woman is white and, oddly, the mummy becaomes white in his human foram as well. Much of the movie takes place on a ship. It it, perhaps, the most anti-climatic ending I have ever seen. I have no idea why the word "exorcist" is in the title (other than to cash in on the vastly superior movie based on the William Peter Blatty book). Tie that together with the hint with the hint of Blaxploitation and you've got a "winning" combination.




  • IN HOT PURSUIT (1977): "Based upon a true story, the film tells the tale of two young men who live in a rural Georgia town trying to make a living, but unfortunately do so by transporting marijuana. Caught red-handed with their latest shipment, the men are sent off to jail to face a long prison sentence. Not liking the idea of spending a large portion of their life behind bars, the two men stage a prson breakand head on the run, pursued by a group of police officers intent upon their recapture."

    That recap covers, like, the first half hour of the film. If I were to use one word to describe this movie, that word would be "inept." Not that the criminals are inept (which they definitely are), but the entire film itself is. Here is one example: after they are caught early on, their escape plan hinges upon all four of them being assigned to fix the jail's air-conditioner on the roof of the building. They overpower the lone guard and are rescued by helicopter. Two of them jump in and the other two hang onto the landing struts (see movie poster below). The dialogue in every scene is incredibly banal, but take for example the scene when one guy buys a prefabricated house. "Okay, here's my money. I want it delivered without a scratch on it, exactly as it is now." The director spends an interminably long time setting this up, even though we all know well in advance how it's going to end (again, see movie poster below). There's another scene where an old lady buys a brand new car, and... y'know what? I cabn't even. Here's a written review I found online that pretty much sums it up so I don't have to spend any more time thinking about it.

    Originally titled Polk County Pot Plane and based upon an odd true-crime story about Southerners who used a DC-4 to smuggle weed, this mindless mélange of rampaging redneckery feels like something a bunch of good-ole-boy buddies made for laughs on weekends. Although the picture has decent production values, as seen in lengthy car chase scenes punctuated with extensive property destruction, the cast comprises hapless non-actors and the storyline is feeble. It’s also worth noting that the picture’s leading characters, played by real-life brothers Bobby and Don Watson, are named “Boosh” and “Oosh.” When combined with the fact that most of the characters in the picture don’t even have proper names, you get a fair idea of the effort that was expended on filling the film with fresh ideas. The gist of the piece is that Oosh and Doosh run dope for mobsters who pay to operate the DC-4. When Oosh and Doosh get busted after the noisy chase sequence that opens the picture, the amiable criminals become pawns in a power struggle involving mobsters and other smugglers. Yet this set-up is merely a thin excuse allowing the filmmakers to generate vignettes of, say, an 18-wheeler blasting its way through a mobile home and causing an explosion of glass and lumber. With their jeans, T-shirts, beards and unruly hair, the Watson brothers look as if they should be roadies for the Marshall Tucker Band, while the folks playing cops and criminals seem like neighbors and relatives of the filmmakers who were persuaded to mug inertly while cameras rolled. About the only performer who registers as having a discernible personality is the fellow playing the unnamed DC-4 pilot, because he gets to utter such choice lines as, “I’m gonna get down to the meat of the coconut.” (Translation: “Let me get to the point.”) Adding to the overall sloppiness of the movie is a chaotic score that includes everything from rinky-dink piano music straight out of the silent-film era to rumbling Southern-fried funk that lays delicate flute melodies over chunky R&B grooves.

    Maybe not the worst film I've seen lately, but it ranks right up there. Just watch the trailer.



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