Monday, May 25, 2020

Holiday Flix: Casablanca Express

On this day, we celebrate Troops around the World.  In my case, I do it with fictional ones.  Today's Film is Casablanca Express, a 1989 Thriller about WWII.  The Plot is simple- the Germans want to capture Winston Churchill while he's in Africa.  Can he be rescued from a train?  On the job are the Sons of 2 famous Actors- Jason Connery and Francesco Quinn.  Oftentimes when I'm talking about a Film, I'll describe the 'tone' or 'look' as being 'all over the map.'  In this case, it is literal.  Let's break this down by Country, shall we?  England brings us our fictional Protagonists like Churchill and Connery's Character- not to mention Connery himself.  Canada brings us legendary Character Actor  Glenn Ford in a key role.  Africa- specifically Alger- brings us the setting...even though they actually shot it in Morocco.  Our Female Lead is from Argentina (thankfully not Brazil).  Finally, Italy brings us Quinn and nearly everyone else behind the Scenes.  The Director- Sergio Martino- has a crazy Resume with over 60 Credits behind the Camera.  Of note, he's done Giallos like The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, All The Colors of the Dark and my personal favorite Title- but not Film- Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key.  He also did such Films as 2019: The Fall of New York, The Fishmen and their Queen and Slave of the Cannibal God.  If anyone was the right pick to tell a tale of British heroism in Africa, it was clearly the guy behind The Great Alligator!  Is this barely-remembered Film worth a second look?  To find out, read on...
In 1942, Churchill is in Africa, albeit in secret.  Obviously you can't let the Nazis know where he is right now!
Desperate to get him out, they turn to a 'fixer' of sorts- Connery- who knows how to do extractions.
For all the build-up he gets, however, he's attacked and subdued by Agents that same day.

He is spared, but he doesn't know why (until later).
He works with two other Agents, the latter of whom he's also in a relationship with.

They go on the train, which was the backup plan they went to after the earlier attack.
Did they make the right call?
Nope- it was all a trick!

The earlier attack was to get them to abandon the Plane plan and go to the Train.  An inside man- Ford- then would end up tipping off the Nazis.  Ruh roh.
Connery manages to get to the train- which was stopped by a bombing- and make an elaborate rescue attempt for his comrades and Churchill.
He manages to save many- but not all- of the hostages and Churchill, although his comrade- Quinn- doesn't make it.

In the aftermath, he finds out that this was actually the *double* of Churchill and he's upset.  All's fair in love and (World) War (II), right?
A strange mix of realism and bombastic adventure.  The Film, first and foremost, is pretty darn good.  It won't 'blow you away' or anything, but it is good.  It feels real- since they shot it in Casablanca-, it can feel gritty- lots of people get shot and killed- and it can feel relatively-epic.  The Film never seems to feel like the big-budget stuff that it is trying to ape.  This is 1989, so they are clearly going for Indiana Jones in many ways.  It doesn't *quite* succeed, but the almost-John Williams Score does its best.  I'm kind of amazed that they weren't sued over this.  The confusing part of this one for me is that it wants to be fun and bombastic throughout...until suddenly it gets somber.  A Priest gets shot, a little girl is wounded and many people die.  War is hell...but so are jarring transitions.  We first met Connery and then it went to a playful bit with him and his lady in the Shower.  An hour later, he's been beaten, their comrade has been shot and a dozen people are dead.  Wow.  I don't necessarily fault them for being somewhat-realistic here- as Nazis did kill many people- per se, just the manner in which they did it.  Tonal shifts aside, this has a fun, pulp feel to it and I enjoyed it.  If you're looking for Films about this time and with this kind of feel that you haven't seen, check it out.  I'm sure that you'll have a...Pleasence time...
Next time, we resume our regularly-scheduled program.  It's going to be a Horror Movie, but that won't exactly narrow things down for you.  Stay tuned...

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Old School TV: Boris Karloff's Thriller- 'The Prediction'

I won't be random for a bit as I have two more of these to get through.

As such, we return to Boris Karloff's Thriller for...
For the first time, Karloff is actually IN THE STORY and not just watching from The Near Dark Area.

He's a fake Psychic who dabbles deeply in cultural appropriation.
To be clear, this is not me being 'OMG I'm so offended' or anything- just pointing out the obvious.

It is, after all, a Stage Show within the Episode.
During a performance, he has a real vision- which shakes him to his core!

He sees a Boxer dying in the Ring, which is pretty rare. 
According to Google, there have been 1,876 in the last 136 years (and this aired in 1960).
He continues to have visions, while the people around him are keeping secrets.

His Assistant is dating a guy who her Dad won't like. 

Well, I have some good news and some bad news...
His Manager decided not to warn the Boxer's Manager and just got drunk instead.
More predictions- all about death- come true, including that of the Assistant's Father.

Karloff tries to help, but people pay him very little heed.
He has one last vision- a man named Dudley dying in a car crash. 

As it turns out, Dudley is the guy who the Assistant is dating and is now going to elope with.

After some attempts at coercion and just accepting fate, Karloff gets himself *ahead* of the duo on the road and puts himself in the path of the car, killing him.

Afterwards, they see the Petrol Station (this is the UK) blow up- the same one they would have stopped it.  He traded his life for their's (but not the Petrol Station Workers').  The End.
The kid gets in the picture and nails it!  Was it any surprise that Karloff would be good here?  I mean, he's Boris Karloff.  Sarcasm aside, it was nice to see him take a bigger part in this.  I've already seen Shatner get killed twice in this Series, so it is nice to get some variety.  The Story- as a whole- isn't anything too unique or special.  The 'guy gets visions and tries to save people' shtick is nothing too exciting.  There are many subtle aspects to it, however, that I think Karloff nails.  He doesn't play it too soft.  He doesn't play it too hard.  Like a master craftsman, he is very precise here.  The other Actors do nicely too, even if their parts aren't as juicy.  The lovebirds never get any real 'breakout' moments, bu do just fine here.  It's interesting how much they tell us and don't show us.  For instance, we don't see the fight where the guy dies.  We don't need to, so why bother?  If you like classic, Old School TV, this will deliver, as always.  It isn't above being cliche, but...so be it.  Look into this man's eyes and say something bad- I dare you!
Next time, I have one last one to go from this batch and one more famous Guest Star.  Surely, I can't be serious.  Stay tuned...

Friday, May 22, 2020

'90s Animation vs. The Loch Ness Monster

I didn't go looking for this at first, but it just kept popping up over time.
Eventually, I noticed the pattern and decided to talk about it here...

What is the deal with the Loch Ness Monster?!?

In this case, why were '90s Cartoons and Animation so obsessed with it?!?

Examples...

1) On Gargoyles (as part of the Avalon World Tour Arc), our Heroes meet the Monster and discover that Xanatos wants to control it.  One of them- Angela- befriends it.
They eventually free it, revealing their creature to actually be the baby.  This won't be the last time you see this.

2) On James Bond Jr (1991, so it counts!), we get the other version of this story-

It's a fake.
Just like on Rambo (1986, so it doesn't count!), it turns out to be a Submarine as part of the villain's ploy.

3) On The Simpsons, an Episode revolves around Mr. Burns wanting to capture and display the creature.

In a comedic twist, that doesn't work out, so Nessie gets a job at one of his Casinos.
4) On Aah, Real Monsters, Nessie is a Guest Instructor.

I mean, they are all Monsters, so why not?
5) On Godzilla: The Animated Series (following the '90s Film), the creature shows up as one of the Creatures of the Week.

Well, it is a Show about Godzilla, so of course they fight.
6) On '90s phenomenon Celebrity Death Match, we got to see a battle of two creatures...

Nessie vs. Bigfoot!

Guess who wins.
7) Lastly, we come to Extreme Dinosaurs (aka the final push I needed for this) and their Loch Ness Episode.

They hear about the creature and assume that it is a Dinosaur they can befriend (since they are stranded in the future).  So do their enemies, who try to train it to kill them.
It, of course, fails in time and Nessie's Mom shows up (that one again) to punish the bad guys.

I think I got all of the major ones.  Let me know if I missed any and feel free to tell me why this obsession happened.

In the meantime, I may go shopping...
You think I'm joking too...

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Impossibly-Cool Cover Art: The Intruder (1975)

In 2017, the Film was restored to proper quality for a Blu-Ray Release. 
With far less work, I 'restored' the Poster.

Pay me, Internet!
Wow.

It is not exactly the most unique Poster, it works for all of the right reasons.

Kind of amazing to think that this Film was apparently never released.

Here's the original...
Personally, I think the color accents help, without taking away the retro look of it.  Best of both worlds, no?

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

*Deleted* Poor Bastards of Cinema: The Grudge 2 (2006)

This is a tricky one...but I can't ignore it.

In the *Theatrical Cut* of The Grudge 2, this poor lady is just some sick lady who guilt-trips her one daughter- Amber Tamblyn- into checking on her other one- Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Aside from one random Dream Sequence, that's it.
...but in the Alternate Epilogue, her Story is wrapped up.  Yea?

After everything (or in the middle, since time is variable in this Series), she gets a delivery at home.
It comes from...Japan.

Yes, just Japan.  Countries send me packages with no forwarding address all of the time!
The package contains her now dead Daughters' clothes (aw) and the Journal read by Tamblyn earlier.

As she looks through it (as you do with strange books), hair appears in it and then a freaky eye!
Suddenly she gets a 'lump in her throat...'
...and a giant hairball comes out of her mouth, destroying her jaw like some sort of candy that affects her jaw negatively.  What is that thing called again? 
Her fate is sealed with a strange POV shot of Kayako's eyes as she sees Sick Mom without her jaw (a Grudge tradition).
What was the point of this?  Why did it kill this woman for no clear reason?  Why did it set up its own 'revenge' kill?

I guess the Producers questioned this too...and cut this Epilogue.   They also reshot the Ending before that- bonus!

Did she deserve to die?  No.
Does this make any sense?  No.

It was still on the DVD, so it counts!

Next up, a random death or two from a recent Anime Film.  Should be random and pointless.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Forgotten TV: Ray Bradbury Theater- 'Exorcism'

I did another experiment in random picks, on account of the fact that I have so many of these Anthology Shows 'in stock' and can't always decide what to pick.

The dice lead us to this Episode of a mostly-forgotten Show called The Ray Bradbury Theater.  I haven't done an Episode since October of 2018, so I guess I was overdue.
This one is called Exorcism...

A local woman learns that her strange neighbor is getting books on Spiritualism and what looks like the Occult.  What is she up to?
She suspects that the woman is the cause of all her misery.  How?

She's obviously a Witch!

This woman has a litany of complaints and issues that all apparently 'go back to' the so-called Witch, the biggest of which is the fact that only she can get elected to the head of the Local Women's Club.
Her husband is the Mailman, who keeps peeping at the mail to share the gossip.

He thinks that she's crazy, especially when she makes a bizarre drink to 'protect herself' after getting a zit the next morning.  Damn Witch!
She goes to the Meeting and makes a strong pitch for why SHE should be in charge of the group.

Well, it might have been stronger if she wasn't slurring her words and about to pass out, thanks to what she drank right before!
In a stupor, she falls out the window.  The 'Witch' says that she would do anything if she came back to life, even let her be in charge of the group.

Naturally, she pops back up.

That's it?  Alright then...
That was it then?  Seriously, this Episode isn't bad, but it surely is anticlimactic.  I feel bad picking on Ray Bradbury for so many reasons, but this story is just 'meh.'  I wish I could say that there was a big, interesting twist or reveal.  I wish I could say that I really cared about these characters.  Sadly, I can't.  It's not terrible, mind you, but the bar is definitely set higher when the Bradbury name is attached.  The Acting is good, if over the top throughout.  Sally Kellerman as the maybe-Witch is the best part of this.  The other Actress does a good job playing an over-the-top WASP Character, but, she's still, you know, an over-the-top WASP Character.  I just didn't care for her.  There are definitely better Episodes out there and I still have *checks* Math, 58 more to potentially cover.  I should just calm down and move on.  Right, Sally?
A curious Episode for all of the wrong reasons.  Oh well- nobody nails every one.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Anime Flix: WXIII- Patlabor the Movie 3

What did I get myself into?  As noted, I bought this one from a Thrift Store for $1 late last year.  It went on the pile of Movies I needed to cover at some point.  That point is now!  This is WXIII: Patlabor the Movie 3, the final Film for the original run of this Series.  I apparently stumbled upon a whole big thing that I'll probably have to make Bob cover at some point.  Patlabor was a long-running Manga (and later Anime) that ran in some form until this 2003 OVA (Original Video Animation aka Movie).  It was rebooted much later, since Hollywood isn't alone in that trend.  So, to be clear, I'm coming in after 70 Episodes, countless Manga and 3 Movies.  So will this make sense?  Surprisingly-yes!  Thankfully, the Film feels fairly self-contained and you can actually just watch it without even knowing what the hell 'Patlabor' is.  The Plot involves a series of strange attacks around Tokyo, some Police Officers, a mysterious Genetics Company and a woman stuck in the middle.  Can they solve the case before too many Poor Bastards of Cinema meet their end?  To find out, read on...
A series of strange attacks and incidents have been occurring.  Debris falls from the sky.  Something attacks a boat.

It is up to 2 Detectives- one young and one old- to work the case. 
On the way back from the scene, he picks up a lady with car trouble in the rain and gives her a ride.

This will, of course, be important later.
Meanwhile, we see that a secretive Company is talking about their experiments.  This one is #12, which is somehow living longer than expected.  What about the one after that, which is missing.

And yes, this does feel like it may have inspired 2006's The Host.
In a neat bit, they find a VHS Tape of a News Story about the Plane Crash that is important to the story.  In the background, they 'zoom and enhance' to find a guy talking.

Since they can't hear it- obviously- they find a deaf woman to read his lips.

'Project 13.'
Right at the thirty minute mark- Syd Field's Screenplay was translated into Japanese, I see- a big ass monster shows up at a Plant!

All of a sudden, this Police Procedural turns into a Monster Movie for the next 10 minutes! 
With the monster in hiding, the case continues, now with a new mission.

The young Detective starts up a tentative romance with the woman from earlier, but finds out that she was a Geneticist that worked on Project 13.

In summary, she had her Husband die, followed by their daughter- to cancer.  Seeing how cancer cells regenerate in perpetuity (is that true?!?), she uses...her daughter's cancer cells on #13.

That was alot of Plot to unload.  Time to relax and listen to some vinyl.  Got any? 
Skipping ahead- mostly just the techno-babble about how they lure the creature in-, we see that the Movie has another bit of tonal shifting.

The creature is wearing a damaged mech-vehicle as a shell and fighting the cops, who have, well, Gundams!
The creature is eventually defeated and there's one last twist- its body will be destroyed by order of the Company.

Thankfully for you, I didn't screen cap the part where they reveal that the creatures has what appear to be human breasts.  Oh, Japan!
More tragedy strikes as the woman falls to her death- despite the Detective's best efforts- and dies with her 'daughter.'

In the aftermath, details of the incident are leaked by who is clearly supposed to be the young Detective.  The End?
What is this Film?!?  Is it a Police Procedural?  Is it a Monster Movie?  Is it Kaiju Film?  Is it a tale of love, loss and rebirth?  I guess 'yes' to all of them.  From what I can tell, the Patlabor Series as a whole is just about Cops/Detectives/Agents stopping crimes/danger with vaguely-futuristic technology like mech-vehicles and the basically-Gundam Suits you saw above.  I'm sure that there is more to the Plots, mind you, but that's all you need to know, I think.  I'll get Bob on more of these in the future.  As a standalone Film, this thankfully all makes sense.  It is weird as hell, but it makes sense.  All of the weird stuff is treated like it is just a normal, every day thing, which is nice.  Oh, of course you used cancer cells to grow a giant Crayfish monster- why not?  You guys have Gundam Suits- complete with hand guns sized for them- of course you do!  That's just obvious.  The parts without the giant monster are probably the best, as they do so much with so little.  The Film nicely uses good dissolves and transitions.  They do some nice compare-and-contrast bits where you see the differences between the 2 Detectives.  In addition, they play with visuals in neat ways, like a random shot drawn to look like an Elevator's Security Camera or the bit where they zoom in on the VHS Footage.  In contrast, I will note how they make the Scientist Woman look as pale as a Ginger Vampire- what's the deal with that?  The Film will appeal to you if you liked mixed styles and narratives.  If you don't, you'll be annoyed with stuff like the fact that the final fight has a child playing piano as the accompanying music.  It is truly Japanese- for better or worse.  If nothing else, the Film will make you feel...
Next up, I try to finish off a Disc of 4 Films that I started last year.  One was good and one was terrible, so anything goes!  Stay tuned...