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Frank's Movie Log

My life at the movies.

  1. A still from The Seventh Seal (1957)

    The Seventh Seal 1957

    B+: 4 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by Ingmar Bergman. Starring Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bengt Ekerot, and Nils Poppe.

    The movie where the knight plays chess with Death. Time has rendered the once iconic imagery almost comical. Indeed, throughout much of the first act, I couldn’t shake an unintended sense of amusement as the production’s Gregorian chants, smoke-filled sets, and chain-mail costumes evoked Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But critics hold writer-director Ingmar Bergman’s film in high esteem for good reason. Starting with a scene in a tavern that begins innocent but turns dark at a rapid pace, the film gripped me. Continue reading...

  2. A still from Five Elements Ninjas (1982)

    Five Elements Ninjas 1982

    C+: 3 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by Cheh Chang. Starring Tien-Chi Cheng, Tien-Hsiang Lung, Meng Lo, and Michael Wai-Man Chan.

    The Shaw Brothers do ninjas. Solid fight choreography early as two rival kung fu clans meet in a martial challenge. The losing clan calls in the mysterious five elements ninjas, a Japanese group that destroys the rival clan using a variety of inventive techniques. A lone warrior survives and seeks ninja training. He later returns and we’re treated to some bonkers fight scenes packed with over-the-top violence and liberal amounts of Hammeresque blood. An entertaining ride but the lower production values and flatter performances pale next to the superior Duel to the Death.

    Watched on 08 Aug, 2021
  3. A still from Better Off Dead... (1985)

    Better Off Dead... 1985

    B: 4 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by Savage Steve Holland. Starring John Cusack, David Ogden Stiers, Kim Darby, and Demian Slade.

    John Cusack plays a Northern California teenager who finds himself lost after his girlfriend dumps him for the captain of the ski team. Between half-hearted suicide attempts, he hatches a plan to win her back. He’ll ski the notorious K-12 slope. Continue reading...

    Watched on 06 Aug, 2021
  4. A still from 24 Hour Party People (2002)

    24 Hour Party People 2002

    B+: 4 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by Michael Winterbottom. Starring Steve Coogan, Lennie James, John Thomson, and Paul Popplewell.

    24 Hour Party People isn’t a documentary. In chronicling the rise and fall of the legendary “Madchester” music scene it chooses legend over fact whenever possible. A badge it wears with pride. Continue reading...

    Watched on 05 Aug, 2021
  5. A still from Obsession (1976)

    Obsession 1976

    D+: 2 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by Brian De Palma. Starring Cliff Robertson, Geneviève Bujold, John Lithgow, and Sylvia Kuumba Williams.

    Cliff Robertson plays a wealthy New Orleans land developer. As the film opens, he and partner John Lithgow have just closed a lucrative deal. We meet Robert’s wife and nine-year-old daughter who soon fall prey to kidnappers. Robertson double-crosses the kidnappers, leading to a car chase and his family’s death. Fast-forward fifteen years and Roberts, on a business trip to Italy, chances upon a woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to his late wife. Continue reading...

  6. A still from Business and Pleasure (1932)

    Business and Pleasure 1932

    D: 2 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by David Butler. Starring Will Rogers, Jetta Goudal, Joel McCrea, and Dorothy Peterson.

    Will Rogers plays a struggling razor blade manufacturer sailing with his family to the Mediterranean to close a deal to acquire Damascus steel. His boisterous manner offends an upper-crust playwright played by Joel McCrea. Onboard ship, Rogers becomes entangled with a vamp played by Jetta Goudal, while McCrea romances Rogers’s daughter.

    Rogers delivers every line as though it was a time-honored folksy saying. He’s got charm, but I liked how the opening paints him as loud and self-absorbed. Your enjoyment will hinge on how much of his shtick you can take. Boris Karloff has an uncredited part as an Arab sheik.

  7. A still from Freaks (1932)

    Freaks 1932

    B+: 4 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by Tod Browning. Starring Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, and Roscoe Ates.

    Though shot with actual carnival performers, Freaks features no carnival performances. Instead, the film focuses on the self-contained world behind the scenes. We see performers celebrate a new baby, struggle through a bitter breakup, and find new romance. Director Todd Browning paints these characters as relatable, not idealized saints or sullen outcasts, just folks living their lives. We relate. Then Browning strikes. Continue reading...

  8. A still from Race with the Devil (1975)

    Race with the Devil 1975

    B-: 4 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by Jack Starrett. Starring Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Swit, and Lara Parker.

    Peter Fonda and Warren Oates play two buddies setting out from San Antonio with their wives in an RV. They’re headed for a much-needed ski vacation in Aspen. They pull off the highway to a secluded riverbed to camp. The bucolic central Texas landscape features as the guys ride their dirt bikes while the wives chat. Fonda and Oates display the familiarity, banter, and semi-sibling rivalry that speaks silent volumes to their character’s long-standing friendship. Then later that night, they chance upon a gathering across the ravine they shouldn’t have seen. Continue reading...

  9. A still from Possessor (2020)

    Possessor 2020

    B: 4 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by Brandon Cronenberg. Starring Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Rossif Sutherland.

    In an alternate 2008, a mysterious company performs contract killings by having their agents possess the bodies of unwilling third parties. Continue reading...

    Watched on 22 Jul, 2021
  10. A still from The Man Who Played God (1932)

    The Man Who Played God 1932

    D: 2 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by John G. Adolfi. Starring George Arliss, Bette Davis, Violet Heming, and André Luguet.

    George Arliss plays a renowned concert pianist who loses his hearing, learns to read lips, and discovers renewed purpose by playing anonymous benefactor to strangers he sights in Central Park. The sixty-four-year-old Arliss doesn’t convince as a fifty-year-old. The thick foundation and dark lipstick combined with his long features conjured visions of the Joker. Bette Davis has a supporting role as an admirer of Arliss. She charms, and I appreciated the script’s giving her character relatable dignity, but the material didn’t engage. When one of Arliss’s beneficiaries started hacking the melodramatic cough of cancer, I laughed.


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