Monthly Archives: April 2014

Perfect Friday (1970)

perfect friday

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Kooky trio robs bank.

This uniquely structured and offbeat sleeper details an elaborate bank heist where staid bank employee Mr. Graham (Stanley Baker) uses his inside knowledge to pull off an ingenious robbery. Unfortunately he is dependent on the oddball couple of Nick (David Warner) and Britt (Ursula Andress) to help him.

This film is probably more of a kooky character study than it is a heist flick. The three characters are intrinsically different from each other and their constant bickering, feuding, and interplay are a treat. In fact they never get into the actual robbery or even the details of it until the last forty minutes.

Baker is fun in the lead. He is the perfect caricature of the stuffy British businessman. His contained pomposity and cryptic deliveries are right on-target. Warner makes for a good contrast. He is lazy and undisciplined with a tendency to wear outrageous looking outfits. It is interesting though that he can get serious when he needs to particularly during the crime itself.

Andress is the scene stealer and this is a perfect role for her limited acting abilities. She plays a greedy woman prone to outrageous extravagance and indulgence even if she lacks the funds for it. Her caricature of the materialistic woman gets taken to the extreme and is hilarious. In most cases she would be disliked, but here her beauty and innocuous way she delivers her lines make her amusing instead.

Director Peter Hall seems to pride himself on making it offbeat and full of many twists and succeeds most of the way even with his use of the glass offices that the bank employees have to work in. The robbery itself is intricate and believable and full of mounting tension. The film’s only real problem comes with its ending that is too abrupt and in many ways almost like a cop-out. There is such a fun chemistry between the three characters that it really could have been played out much more.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: November 10, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated R

Director: Peter Hall

Studio: Chevron Pictures

Available: None at this time.

Tattoo (1981)

tattoo

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: He tattoos her body.

Karl Kinsky (Bruce Dern) is a tattoo artist hired to put tattoos on some models for a fashion shoot. There he becomes obsessed with one of the models named Maddy (Maude Adams). The two begin dating, but when he starts to show signs of being too possessive she breaks it off, which angers him. He then drugs and kidnaps her and takes her to an abandoned house where he becomes determined to put his ‘mark’ on her by spending weeks creating a tattoo that will eventually covers her entire body.

Bob Brooks who was best known for directing award-winning commercials particularly in the U.K. shows a rather lifeless effort here in his one and only cinematic effort. I thought it would have been more interesting to have given the viewer a close-up and clinical understanding of how a tattoo is implemented and the basic overall procedure, but unfortunately the film breezes past this part and tries turning it into a conventional thriller, which lacks tension or intrigue.

Dern’s character resembles that of a psycho caricature and the way he unravels so quickly is uninteresting. The story and pace meander badly and Joyce Bunuel’s script is more like an outline than a character or plot driven story.

Adams is badly miscast. For one thing she is a weak actress that fails to add any extra dimension to either the character or role. She is also too old. Most stalkers tend to prey on younger women and equate their perceived virginal innocence with a better ability to dominate and control them not a jaded 35-year-old woman who has already openly slept with a lot of different men and whose incessant, vapid yammering would be a turn-off to any guy.

When we finally get to see the finished tattoo at the end it looks like the most garish thing imaginable and second only to the awful one that he has on his back. Watching their tattooed bodies gyrate together during sex seems almost comical.

The film achieved some notoriety during its initial release when Dern stated during interviews that the sex the two had was real even though Adams insisted that it was simulated. Personally I think it was faked and Dern merely said this as a way to generate more interest in the movie. Either way it doesn’t matter because it’s a lousy movie anyways.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: October 9, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated R

Director: Bob Brooks

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS

Nothing But the Best (1964)

nothing but the best 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Maybe crime does pay.

James Brewster (Alan Bates) is a young ambitious man who will do anything to not only climb the corporate ladder, but raise his social standing as well. He works at a large company and finds things tough. Everyone else is competing for the same thing and James finds himself being boxed out and unable to get the attention and recognition he feels he deserves. Then he meets Charles (Denholm Elliot) a master con-man and forger and he realizes the only way to move up is by doing it the criminal way. The two move in together where Charles teaches James all the tricks of the trade. James becomes so good at it that he realizes he no longer needs Charles so he murders him and stuffs his body inside a large trunk, which he has hidden. Then he becomes engaged to the beautiful Ann Horton (Milicent Martin), but her extended family has connections he is not aware of, which could put a kink to his otherwise lofty plans.

The screenplay was written by Frederic Raphael who has had a distinguished career in screenwriting including penning the script to Stanley Kubrick’s last film Eyes Wide Shut. Although there really isn’t any one particularly funny moment and some of the criminal activity is a bit complex and hard-to-follow the dialogue is still snappy and the less than honorable characters surprisingly engaging. Clive Donner’s direction gives the proceedings a breezy pace and the characterizations of the upper British crust are on-target and fun.

Elliot, who is one of the best character actors ever and had a long and distinguished career playing a wide variety of them, is terrific. Somehow this guy has always had an ability to make conniving, immoral people engaging, funny and even somewhat likable and his part here is no exception. His presence is a major plus and helps give the film its drive and it’s a shame he couldn’t have remained through the whole duration. I also enjoyed Pauline Delaney as James’s landlady Mrs. March who becomes aware of his illegal activity and extorts sex out of him in order to keep quiet.

There are a couple of twists at the end that are interesting, but not what you expect. James never really gets the comeuppance that you think he should, which to some degree is disappointing, but on the other hand kind of refreshing. We are so used to seeing films have a moral theme of some kind where bad guys are eventually punished and justice prevails that having one pretty much get away with it is intriguing simply for its novelty.

The color on the print I watched was horribly faded making it look almost like a cheap computer colorized attempt even though it really wasn’t. This film, which was widely hailed by critics and audiences alike, deserves a Criterion release and a thorough restoration and I am shocked that it hasn’t already.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: March 10, 1964

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Clive Donner

Studio: Royal Films International

Available: None at this time.

Sky Riders (1976)

sky riders

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rescued by hang gliders

Businessman Jonas Bracken (Robert Culp) living in Greece comes home one day to find his wife Ellen (Susannah York) and three children kidnapped by a terrorist group. The police can seem to make no headway so Ellen’s ex-husband Jim (James Coburn) gets involved. After analyzing the background of one of the photos of the victims taken by the kidnappers he realizes that they are being held hostage inside a mountaintop monastery and the only way to get to it is by air, so he hires a crew of hang gliders to fly into the locale and rescue the family.

The film is fast-paced it gets right into the story from the very beginning and never slows down. The kids are pretty cute especially the precious little girl, which helps the viewer emphasize with their predicament and urgency to get out. The Greek locations are exotic and help give the film an extra flair.

The biggest problem is the script. The Coburn character has never hang glided before and yet somehow manages to be trained well enough in only a couple of days to fly into the steep mountaintop location without a hitch, which seemed farfetched. It also seemed highly implausible that this group of hang gliders who work at the local circus would be willing to take on such a dangerous mission or even know what to do once they landed and had to take on the gun toting bad guys. I would have expected a lot more missteps and mistakes from this novice bunch and yet they handle everything like they were a group of seasoned commandoes.

Coburn’s performance is misguided as well. Normally I love his toothy grin and throaty chuckle, but here he does it while watching the hang gliders perform at the circus even though his ex-wife and son are being held hostage. I would have thought he should have been so nervous and tense that he wouldn’t have smiled at all and been instead in a perpetually serious manner.

The scene of when they fly into the locale is done with a darkened lens to simulate nighttime, which beside being annoying makes it hard to see and lessens the dramatic effect as well as the excitement.

On the whole it’s a very basic action flick and an empty-headed one at that. The terrorist group and their ‘cause’ are quite generic and the thin plot and cardboard characters barely camouflage the fact it’s just an excuse to show off some nifty hang gliding footage and nothing more.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: March 26, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 27Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Douglas Hickox

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD (Regions 1 & 2)

Bull Durham (1988)

bull durham

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Catcher mentors a rookie.

Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) is a veteran of the minor league baseball system and is brought in to the Durham Bulls to help mentor Ebby Calvin ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) a rookie pitcher with a ‘million dollar arm, but a five-cent brain’. Crash teaches Nuke all about the finer points of the game as well as learning to show discipline and control both on and off the field. Annie (Susan Sarandon) is a local fan who each year does some ‘mentoring’ of her own with one of the players by taking them in and having a torrid sexual relationship with them. This year she chooses Nuke much to the consternation of Crash who would like her for his own.

The film is loosely based on the experiences writer/director Ron Shelton had while being a minor league player during the late 60’s.  Keeping the focus solely on the minor league level and never analyzing the majors was to me a big strength. Too many times Hollywood sports movies try to capture that ‘championship season’ or ‘miracle victory’ while forgetting that there are hundreds if not thousands of players who never get to that point, but still have interesting stories to share. The minor league theme puts the game back to its grass roots level where it should be while evoking a wonderful feeling of modern day Americana.

The film makes the viewer feel that they are right down on the field with the players and they gain special insights into the game that they would never have just watching it in the stands on or TV. The thoughts that go through a hitters head as he stands at the plate are interesting as are the interplay between catcher and pitcher. The meeting at the mound scene where the players get together during a game to discuss what wedding gift to get another player who is about to be married is hilarious as is the segment where Crash teaches Nuke all the sports clichés to give when being interviewed by the media.

Robbins is terrific in what I still consider one of the best performances of his career. The character could have been annoying if there weren’t so many young men out there like that. The composite of the young, brash, cocky hot shot who thinks he knows everything, but actually knows very little is so perfectly done that just about anybody will be able to identify with somebody they know or have known who is just like it.

Costner on the other hand is a bit too detached and his performance comes off very much like the restrained way he dances during the closing credits. The character also seems like a flaming alcoholic as he is seen drinking in just about every other scene, but his ongoing exchanges with Robbins are great and the main ingredient that holds the film together.

Throwing in a sex angle was to me a turnoff as personally I never like to mix the two. The Millie (Jenny Robertson) character that is shown and known to sleep with a lot of the players seemed to me to be idiotic especially since this takes place in the 80’s, which was at the height of the AIDS scare.

Sarandon is okay although the part was originally intended for Kay Lenz who I think I would have preferred. The line where her character states that she would never sleep with a player who hit under 250 unless he had a lot of RBI’s and was a great glove man up the middle is classic and the scene near the end where her and Crash make love in a bathtub while surrounded by a throng of lighted candles is on a visual level a highlight.

I loved the bluesy music score as well as the shrine to Thurmon Munson seen at the end. I wouldn’t say this is my favorite sports movie, but the characters are richly textured and the dialogue instantly quotable, which makes it a winner anyways.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: June 15, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 48Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ron Shelton

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video