Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Hot Spot (1990)

Synopsis: It’s the movie that catapulted a post-Miami Vice Don Johnson’s career into the A-list stratosphere! Well, not really.... but it is chock full of some awesome T&A. 

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Harry Madox (Don Johnson) is a handsome drifter who is not above larceny to make ends meet. After staging a daring daylight robbery at a local bank, he receives an alibi from an unexpected ally: Dolly Harshaw (Virginia Madsen), a sexy and mysterious local woman who has her own plans for him.” 

What Did I Learn?: Virginia Madsen and Jennifer Connolly both look amazing when topless. 

You Might Like This Movie If: You want to hear the song that was used (along with another song) to create a St Germain classic

Really?: 1) So, wait...  Dolly (Madsen) bumps off her husband and inherits his sizeable fortune, and her big ambition thereafter is to trap some sleazy drifter into a loveless relationship with her? Huh? 2) Hold on... Gloria (Connolly) makes it clear she never had a same-sex relationship with her now-dead friend, but Frank (William Sadler) has incriminating pictures of her comforting the other girl. What’s the big deal? And why couldn’t she simply leave town if people jumped to the wrong conclusion after seeing the photos? Toughing-it-out, or moving to Houston or Dallas seem like much better options than stealing from one’s employer to pay off a blackmailer. 

Rating: The Hot Spot is a little clich├ęd, and its plot doesn’t always make a lot of sense, but I’ve always liked the mood and atmosphere of this nearly-forgotten film noir. Johnson is the epitome of cool, Madsen and Connolly are incredibly sexy (albeit in completely different ways), and we’re even treated to some wonderful blues, including the haunting “Harry’s Philosophy,” by the great John Lee Hooker. Check it out if you get the chance. 8.5/10

Terminal Island (1973)

Synopsis: It’s basically a cheesy, badly-written, and poorly-acted low-budget version of Escape From New York....featuring Magnum and TC!

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Magnum PI co-stars Tom Selleck and Roger Mosley team up in this intense, action-packed drama. Following the Supreme Court decision to outlaw the death penalty, California passes an initiative that designates San Bruno Island as a dumping spot for first degree murderers.” 

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, it’s really, really easy to manufacture gunpowder from a few rocks on an island. 

Really?: 1) A co-ed prison? And all of the women happen to be smokin’ hot? Well, that explains the absence of any male-on-male rape. 2) So, why does Monk (Mosley) and the others take orders from Bobby, who looks like he couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag?  3) Who exactly are the rebels on the island, and why are they feuding with Bobby’s group? More to the point, why are we supposed to care one way or the other about them? 

Rating: As a fan of the Magnum PI TV series, I wanted to like Terminal Island, but it’s just plain awful for a number of reasons (see: “Synopsis,” “Really?” and “What Did I Learn?”), and imagine my surprise when I discovered that Selleck and Mosley don’t even exchange any dialogue with each other! I cannot recommend this movie. 3/10 stars.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

North by Northwest (1959)

Alfred Hitchcock Movie #5

Synopsis: Did you ever want to see Don Draper dodge bullets, steal a truck, ruin an auction and become a fugitive from justice? This is your lucky day...

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is not a spy. And he’s certainly no murderer. Nevertheless, Thornhill’s a wanted man: enemy agents want him dead, the police want him arrested, and a cool, mysterious blonde (Eva Marie Saint) just plain wants him.” 

What Did I Learn?: The ability to drink large quantities of alcohol is a useful skill; you never know when some thug might pour a pint of bourbon down your throat against your will and place you behind the wheel of a stolen car. 


Really?: 1) Why didn’t the porter continue to page Mr. Kaplan after speaking with Thornhill? Come to think of it, why did the baddies seriously think they could smoke out a super-secret-agent by simply paging him? 2) Wait just a New York Minute.... how in the world could Thornhill escape from the UN after everybody saw him assassinate X? 3) I realize this movie was made in 1959, but I had an extremely hard time believing Thornhill could simply jump on a train to Chicago without a ticket even though the cops know he’s somewhere in Grand Central Station. Wouldn’t they simply lock down GCS? And what are the odds of him getting on the very same train as the villains, even though it was entirely a spur-of-the-moment decision? 

Rating: It’s funny: North by Northwest was released over half a century ago, but it’s still fresh, and incredibly compelling. Cary Grant is at the top of his game in this film, and he shares some wonderful chemistry with EMS. Interestingly, North by Northwest heavily influenced the early James Bond movies, and there are a number of scenes that are eerily reminiscent of From Russia with Love. Highly recommended. 9/10 stars.

'Vertigo' (1958)

James Stewart Movie #5

Alfred Hitchcock Movie #4

Synopsis: War veteran-and-bachelor becomes obsessed with cute blonde, goes off the deep end, and winds up as creepy weirdo. Oh wait – that’s the Synopsis for Taxi Driver

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Considered by many to be director Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest achievement, Leonard Maltin gives VERTIGO four stars, hailing it as ‘A genuinely great motion picture.’”

What Did I Learn?: If you’re going to participate in an elaborate murder conspiracy, don’t keep souvenirs!! 


Really?: 1) Funny how Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes) pretty much disappears right before the third act, isn’t it? 2) Scottie is a detective, but aside from flashing his badge once, he never uses any of the resources available to the boys-in-blue. 3) Wait, how does Madeleine sneak past the hotel clerk (not once, but twice), get into the room, and then zoom away in her car? This is left unexplained. 4) Hold on, why would Judy stay in San Francisco after the murder? I realize she still loves Scottie, but she doesn’t look him up. Come to think of it, I had a hard time believing Gavin would leave her more-or-less broke afterwards. It would make a lot more sense for him to either bump her off, or pay her a nice chunk of change to guarantee her silence. 

Rating: I haven’t watched every single Hitchcock film, so I honestly don’t know if ‘Vertigo’ is his best work, but it is a mesmerizing, original, and genuinely suspenseful thriller. It's well worth viewing. Highly recommended. 10/10 stars.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

James Stewart Movie #4

Alfred Hitchcock Movie #3 (Please click the link to read my review of the 1934 version of this film)

Synopsis: Hmm.... attractive blonde and goofy-looking tall guy thwart assassination plot at the symphony. Hey, it’s basically Foul Play without the laughs! 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “James Stewart and Doris Day, in a rare dramatic role, are superb in this brilliant suspense thriller from the undisputed master. Stewart and Day play Ben and Jo MacKenna, innocent Americans vacationing in Morocco with their son, Hank. After a French spy dies in Ben’s arms in the Marrakech market, the couple discover their son has been kidnapped and taken to England.” 

What Did I Learn?: The rules for eating at a Moroccan restaurant are more complicated than IKEA assembly instructions.  

Really?: 1) Holy crap, how many fucking times do we have to hear Doris Day sing “Que Sera Sera?” 2) So wait, Louis Bernard was obviously in cahoots with the Arab on the bus, but it was the Hank who provoked the phony scuffle by accidentally removing a woman’s hijab. How could they have planned that? 3) Um...exactly how long did those fans of Jo wait for the McKennas to return to their London hotel room? I had a hard time believing they wouldn’t feel uncomfortable and simply leave. 4) I realize the 1950s were a little more formal than our current decade, but why does Ben feel the need to wear a suit and tie on the bus to Marrakech? Wouldn’t it be about a zillion degrees outside? 

Rating: The Man Who Knew Too Much is a stylish remake of Hitchcock’s 1934 thriller, and overall, it’s a much more entertaining movie. That said, I have to deduct a couple of points for an extremely lacklustre ending, and the overuse of Day’s God-awful “Que Sera Sera.” 8/10 stars.