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Frank's Movie Log

My life at the movies.

  1. Home Movies 1979

    D: 2 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by Brian De Palma. Starring Nancy Allen, Mary Davenport, Kirk Douglas, and Vincent Gardenia.

    While teaching a film course at Sarah Lawrence College, Brian De Palma devised a learn-by-doing curriculum. His students would write, produce, and direct a feature under his supervision. But as the project unfolded, the budget grew. Kirk Douglas came aboard to star and De Palma took over directing duties. The result harkens back to De Palma’s early farcical black comedies. Continue reading...

    Watched on
    01 Dec 2021
  2. Little Murders 1971

    D: 2 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by Alan Arkin. Starring Elliott Gould, Marcia Rodd, Vincent Gardenia, and Elizabeth Wilson.

    In a New York City overflowing with muggers, obscene phone callers, and murderous snipers, Elliott Gould plays a nihilistic photographer who finds himself pursued by flighty optimist Marcia Rodd. It’s a black comedy that never winks at the audience despite its ever escalating level of insanity. Continue reading...

    Watched on
    29 Nov 2021
  3. Three the Hard Way 1974

    D+: 2 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by Gordon Parks Jr.. Starring Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly, and Sheila Frazier.

    This one hurt. The taunt opening follows a young black man escaping from a mysterious prison camp. As he creeps from building to building, the film proffers a disturbing image: a pile of bodies—each of them black—discarded like refuse. Continue reading...

    Watched on
    28 Nov 2021
  4. The Big Stampede 1932

    D: 2 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by Tenny Wright. Starring John Wayne, Noah Beery, Paul Hurst, and Mae Madison.

    John Wayne plays John Steele, a deputy lawman sent to clean up the New Mexico territory. He arrives in town and poses as a drunken drifter while sizing up local cattle baron Sam Crew. Then John is on the frontier, befriending a wagon train leader named Cal and making eyes at Cal’s niece Ginger. Then the train comes under attack from Sam Crew’s gang. To apprehend the gang, John recruits Sonora Joe, a Mexican bandit who first tries to rustle the wagon train’s cattle.

    If this sounds disjointed, then I have conveyed a sense of watching this film. Continue reading...

    Watched on
    28 Nov 2021
  5. 8-Bit Christmas 2021

    D-: 1.5 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by Michael Dowse. Starring Winslow Fegley, Neil Patrick Harris, Steve Zahn, and June Diane Raphael.

    A tepid Christmas Story update. Devoid of authenticity and drowning in manufactured nostalgia. One could explain away the timidity and anachronisms by pointing out that Neil Patrick Harris is relating the story to his tween daughter. Fair enough, but the films it emulates had more heart and courage. Worst of all, the finale’s attempt at a John Hughes-like catharsis feels so heavy-handed it could almost be parody.

    Watched on
    27 Nov 2021
  6. College Coach 1933

    D: 2 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by William A. Wellman. Starring Dick Powell, Ann Dvorak, Pat O'Brien, and Arthur Byron.

    Pat O’Brien plays an opportunistic football coach hired to raise a struggling college program’s fortunes. The story reminded me of High Pressure, and while I bought O’Brien as a coach, he didn’t convince as a wheeler-dealer. Continue reading...

    Watched on
    26 Nov 2021
  7. Blood Rage 1987

    C: 3 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by John Grissmer. Starring Louise Lasser, Mark Soper, Julie Gordon, and Jayne Bentzen.

    Commentary watch. Moderator Ewan Cant prompts director John Grissmer for insight, but Grissmer responds to most early questions with one-word answers. As the film unfolds, he expands to single sentences. When asked how he achieved a memorable effect, he replies, “With a lot of work.” He regards the picture as a work-for-hire effort, scuttling my hopes he was drawn to the material’s doppelgänger plot. John Dalley, who now co-owns the picture, offers little insight, but speaks with enthusiasm. My most interesting take-away: producer Marianne Kanter—who plays a sanitarium doctor—dictated the nudity and violence.

    Watched on
    25 Nov 2021
  8. Dead & Buried 1981

    B: 4 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by Gary Sherman. Starring James Farentino, Melody Anderson, Jack Albertson, and Dennis Redfield.

    James Farentino plays Dan Gillis the beleaguered sheriff of Potters Bluff, a coastal New England town small enough that everyone knows everyone. Gillis struggles to uncover the culprit behind a rash of murders, only to discover a far-ranging conspiracy. The producers added two extra death scenes to bump the gore-factor, one of which makes no sense and proves the lone blemish on what’s otherwise an effective blend of beguiling atmosphere and inventive practical effects. A terrific EC Comics style horror.

    1. “Gary Sherman”. Post Mortem with Mick Garris. Podcast audio, Mar. 17, 2021.
    Watched on
    18 Nov 2021
  9. Dune 2021

    C: 3 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Starring Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, and Oscar Isaac.

    Everything I missed in the Star Wars revival. A cogent, epic story, memorable characters, and an immersive world.

    But it’s incomplete. The innumerable slow-motion shots of Zendaya turning to squint-gaze over her shoulder never pay off. We’re offered no sense of the populous ruled by the various houses. And the abrupt ending underwhelms. Still, I’m convinced director Denis Villeneuve knows what he’s doing and where he’s going. Bring on part two.

    Watched on
    18 Nov 2021
  10. Halloween 1978

    A: 5 stars (out of 5)

    Directed by John Carpenter. Starring Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tony Moran, and Nancy Kyes.

    Once upon a time, Goldilocks wanted to watch Halloween. First, she reached for the 2007 Anchor Bay Blu-ray, but found the colors too saturated, too warm. The daylight scenes looked artificial. So she reached for the 2013 Blu-ray, but found the picture too dark, the blue hue too pronounced. Characters disappeared into the shadows. It was too cold. Finally, she found the 2021 Shout Factory 4k. It’s still dark, but not too dark. The outdoor scenes looked natural, and the dark scenes still held detail. It was just right.

    Watched on
    30 Oct 2021


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