Tag Archives: Entertainment

Take This Job and Shove It (1981)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Modernizing a beer factory.

Frank (Robert Hays) is hired by a conglomerate called The Ellison Group to find ways to improve a beer factory that they own and get it in the black. Since Frank is originally from the small town where the factory is located he excitedly takes-on the task, but soon finds himself at odds with many of the workers, some of whom he was friends with in highs school, but who now look at him as a threat to their jobs. While the ideas that he implements are at first resisted the situation in the factory improves and the place begins turning a profit. Unfortunately it becomes such a success that The Ellison Group decides to sell it to a man with a background in the oil business, who doesn’t know the first thing about beer production, which gets everyone in the factory to rebel from the acquisition in very physical ways when the new owner and his cronies arrive for a visit.

The movie was filmed at an actual beer factory, The Dubuque Star Brewery, in Dubuque, Iowa, that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and although no longer functioning as a brewery it still stands today. The history of the place is similar to the movie as it was bought by Joseph Pickett in 1971 who implemented a massive renovation when he found that it was still using equipment from the 1930’s. The story itself was inspired by the hit country song that sat on top of the country charts for 2-weeks and was performed by Johnny Paycheck and written by David Allan Coe, both of whom appear in the movie.

The production has some nice on-location shooting of not only Iowa, but also the Twin Cities and I really dug the basketball court in the mansion owned by Eddie Albert’s character. The working class issues and the gritty nature of their jobs and lifestyles is basically on-target, but the movie bills itself as a comedy, and the trailer makes it seem almost like it’s going to be a farce, but in reality it’s more of drama with very little action until the end. There’s not much that’s funny either and the thin, predictable premise gets stretched-out longer than it should ultimately making it boring and a strain to sit through.

The main defect is the Robert Hays character. While he performs the part well he’s not enough of a jerk, or nemesis and thus the confrontational drama is missing. Having him from the area originally was a mistake as he seems too different from everyone else around him and creating him as an outsider from the big city that had little to no regard for the people working under him would’ve created the necessary fireworks that this otherwise benign film lacks. It also would’ve made a more interesting character arch where he’d go from arrogant, city-slicker to a humble man who would learn to appreciate those that he initially looked down on instead of having him already a semi-part of the group to begin with. It also hopelessly wastes the talents of Barbra Hershey, who gets cast as an idealistic, pro-labor lady, a perfect part for her, and I was expecting the two to quarrel over their contrasting viewpoints, but it never gels and she’s seen far too little.

The script also suffers from logic loopholes and continuity errors. While a hotel room door may seem like a minor thing to quibble about it became a big deal for me. The scenario starts out funny enough, possibly the only amusing bit in the movie, with Fran Ryan playing the owner of the hotel touring him around the cramped, rundown room and acting like it’s a more ritzy place than it really is. Later though while Hays is asleep, his buddies from the factory rip the door off its hinges by attaching a chain to it that’s connected to a pick-up truck, but there’s no scene showing, or explaining, how the door ends up getting reattached. The door is also apparently always unlocked as both Hershey and the Martin Mull character walk into the room from the outside unheeded, but most if not all hotel room doors automatically lock when they’re closed, so why doesn’t this one? In the case of Martin Mull he walks in on Hays while he’s still asleep, but you’d think Hays definitely would’ve locked the door from the inside and put the security chain on it before going to bed, so again how is Mull able to just open it? He doesn’t even bother to knock, which is absurd too since he’s never been to that hotel before, so how would he even know for sure he had the right room and wasn’t walking in on a stranger?

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: April 1, 1981

Runtime: 1 Hour 41 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Gus Trikonis

Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Available: DVD-R, Blu-ray-R

The Beast (1988)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: Tankers stranded in desert.

During the invasion of Afghanistan in 1981 a group of Soviet tanks roll into a small village and callously bomb every home and building to a cinder. One of the tanks, led by Commander Daskal (George Dzundza), orders his driver Konstantin (Jason Patric) to run over an Afghan man to the shock and horror of everyone else. When Taj (Steven Bauer), who is one of the Afghan fighters, returns to the village and sees all the carnage, including the death of his father and brother, he becomes committed to seek revenge. He assembles a small group of fighters to go out into the desert to search for the tank, which they call the beast, and which has become lost when it takes a wrong turn and thus stranding them in the middle of nowhere with no option but to turn around and go back to where they came from, which they want to avoid. As the gas and rations become scarce the tensions mount particularly between Daskal and Konstantin who share widely different viewpoints as well as with Samad (Erick Avari) an Afghan interpreter who Daskal no longer trusts and now considers to be a traitor.

This film was requested for review by a reader of this blog named Nick (it was requested over a year ago and I do apologize that I got caught up with things and forgot about watching it). What struck me though is how he said it was such a gripping film and one of the best war movies, in his opinion, ever made and yet few people, including myself, had ever heard of it. I figured if the movie was as great as he said it should be better known and feared it might not live up to his billing, but when I watched it I found myself just as caught up in it as he said and impressed with how emotionally compelling it was from beginning to end.

Why this great film fell into obscurity and was dismal at the box office where it managed to only recoup a paltry $161,000 out of an $8 million budget is yet another example of the cruelty of the Hollywood business. It was directed by Kevin Reynolds who had just come-off doing the breezy road comedy hit Fandango and who wanted to follow that up by doing something completely different. He decided to do a filmization to the stageplay ‘Nanawatai’ by William Mastrosimone who was inspired to write the play after witnessing a group of mujahideen fighters capture and execute a Soviet tank crew in 1986. David Puttnam, the then head of Columbia Pictures, loved the script and threw his full support to the project. However, during the course of the filming Puttnam was ousted and Dawn Steel took over. She wasn’t as enthusiastic about the movie and when it was completed it got released to only a few theaters with no promotion. Few people heard or saw it and it went into oblivion only to finally several decades later get the recognition it deserved through the release of the DVD and has now acquired a fairly sizable cult following.

The use of a hand-held camera and graphic violence, including seeing the man get run over by a tank and then afterwards the remains of his mangled body, all help accentuate the harsh realism of war. Having it shot in a desert in Israel helps add to the authenticity as deserts in North America look different and cannot match the distinct topography of a Middle Eastern one. Leonard Maltin in his review, which I didn’t read until after viewing the film, describes the plot as ‘predictable’ and the pace ‘ponderous’ while the characters are in his opinion ‘stereotyped’, which I couldn’t disagree with more. While I haven’t seen every war movie out there I found this one to have many intriguing twists that I wouldn’t have guessed. The characters have distinct personalities and the pace is perfect with each scene and line of dialogue opening up a new story wrinkle.

My only two complaints is that the Afghan townspeople at the beginning are a bit too blissful as after all a war was going around them, which they were aware of, so I’d have thought they’d be more guarded and only cautiously gone outside if completely needed versus behaving as if they’re in a bubble with no worries about the horrors around them until it finally happens. The Russian soldiers are too Americanized. Great effort was put into the Afghans to make them seem authentic including having them speak in their native tongue with subtitles, but actors playing the Russians not only speak in English, but do it with American accents. I’m okay with them talking in English as forcing them all to learn Russian would’ve been too exhausting and requiring the movie to be completely subtitled, so I’m okay with that compromise, which seemed almost necessary. I presume for the project to get financed the studio insisted on American actors to play the parts in order to make it more marketable, so I understand that concession as well, but at least have them sound Russian should’ve been a requirement as many times throughout the movie  I had to keep reminding myself this was a Russian army as outside of George Dzundza’s brilliant performance, the rest hardly seemed foreign in any way.

Alternate Title: The Beast of War

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: September 16, 1988

Runtime: 1 Hour 51 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Kevin Reynolds

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, Tubi

X Y & Zee (1972)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Wife sabotages husband’s affair.

Zee (Elizabeth Taylor) is the middle-aged wife of Robert (Michael Caine) and the two have been in a tumultuous marriage for many years. Then at a party Robert spots Stella (Susannah York) who is a single mother with two boys. Robert enjoys her much calmer less confrontational demeanor, which is the exact opposite of Zee’s and the two quickly fall into an affair. Zee though becomes aware of what’s going on and becomes determined to put a stop to it one way or the other. At first she is meddlesome by constantly calling-up Stella and warning her about Robert and even going to her place of business to harass her. When that doesn’t work she tries playing into Robert’s sympathy and at one point even attempting suicide, but when all that fails and the affair continues she uses her gay friend Gordon (John Standing) to dig-up some dirt on her and when she finds out the secret that Stella has she uses it to exact her revenge.

Taylor and her over-the-top shrewish performance is the whole reason the movie works and if you watch it for that purpose you won’t be disappointed. Sure she’s played this role a bit too often to the point that it was becoming more of a caricature for her and ultimately what I feel killed her career as by the 80’s she was no longer making films for the big screen, but still when she’s as entertaining doing it as she is here it’s still a joy to watch. Unfortunately she dominates every scene that she’s in that it leaves very little room for her co-stars particularly York who’s completely dull by comparison. York certainly was an accomplished actress, but in this movie she’s unable to go toe-to-toe with her superior co-star and the film suffers for it. A strong actress with a definite presence was needed instead York just quietly sits there looking overwhelmed as Taylor’s character continuously berates her. If anything Mary Larkin, who plays Caine’s nerdy secretary, should’ve been the love interest, Caine ultimately sleeps with her anyways, as she’s so meek that you would feel sorry for her when Taylor got snarky with her, but with York you feel nothing and it’s almost like she’s transparent.

Caine on the other-hand is able to hold his own, but his frothy retorts at Taylor’s abuse is never quite as clever, or entertaining as hers. My biggest issue with his character is why doesn’t he just divorce her as he’s quite wealthy and could easily do it and yet avoids it. He mentions at one point wanting to kill her, but never just divorcing her. Since the couple never had any kids it would be less messy, so why not just take that route and then he could see York, or any other woman for that matter without worrying about Taylor getting in the way. I realize some marriages are held together for weird reasons, even those when it becomes achingly clear that it should end, but for whatever reason it doesn’t. However, after 2-hours of watching this those reasons should eventually become clear, but they never do.

Spoiler Alert!

I sat through almost the entire movie just waiting to find out what the ‘dark secret’ was that York’s character held, as described by Leonard Maltin in his review, only to finally realize it was nothing more than her being a closet lesbian. What’s worse is that nothing much happens once the secret is exposed. Maltin also describes Taylor/York’s lovemaking scene as ‘ranking high in the annals of poor taste’ though this sentence has been removed from his review in the later editions of his book presumably to avoid making him look homophobic, but whatever lovemaking he may of seen I didn’t and I watched the full 1 Hour 49 Minute newly remastered version from Columbia Pictures (same version streaming on Amazon Video), so either a minute of it got snipped on this cut, or Maltin was offended at seeing the two women hug, which is all there is.

Admittedly I was disappointed as I was hoping to see them kiss, or in bed together, which would’ve livened it up a bit and made it worth sitting through, which otherwise is a strain. The lesbian angle should’ve been introduced much earlier and showing Taylor and York not only getting-it-on and enjoying it, but inviting the reluctant Caine in as a threesome. That would’ve made the movie truly sophisticated and ahead-of-its-time, but having it end the way it does with York seeming very ashamed and defeated about her homosexuality makes it dated and out-of-touch with modern-day sentiments. A misguided relic of its period that really doesn’t have much to say and nowhere near as ‘daring’ as the filmmakers thought it was.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: January 21, 1972

Runtime: 1 Hour 49 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Brian G. Hutton

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD-R, Amazon Video, Tubi

Murph the Surf (1975)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: A brazen jewel heist.

Jack Murphy (Don Stroud), a successful surfer known as Murph the Surph, and Allan Kuhn (Robert Conrad) who is also a surfer and becomes friends with Jack where they decide to team-up to commit some daring robberies.  They start out robbing people’s homes during the day, but then graduate to even bigger heists including New York’s American Museum of Natural History taking the precious gemstone the Star of India and the Eagle Diamond. However, once they have the jewels in their possession they’re immediately tailed by the police, but Allan comes up with the perfect hiding spot where no one can find the stolen loot, but as the pressure from the cops mount one if not both seem liable to crack.

The film is based on the actual incident, which occurred on October 29, 1964, where three men, Jack Roland Murphy, Allan Kuhn, and Roger Clark robbed the New York Museum of 24 precious gemstones in what was called at the time The Jewel Heist of the Century. However, in retrospect the crime wasn’t as sensational as it originally seemed since the alarm systems, including the ones on the display cases, were all non-operational. All 19 of the exterior windows were left open 2-inches overnight to allow in ventilation and there was no security staff, which seemed to be almost inviting a robbery to happen. The film also changes the story a bit in that in the actual crime three men were involved, but for whatever reason the story here whittles it down to only two.

The unique way the plot gets structured where the heist is broken up into segments and the narrative handled in a non-linear way is what makes the movie interesting. In fact it’s the relationship between the two leads, and the amoral girlfriend that’s wonderfully played by Donna Mills, who sleeps around between the two and eggs them on to commit more and more daring crimes, keeps it engaging. The robbery itself, especially with how easy it becomes, is almost anti-climactic and the other robberies that they do including an amusing one where they rob a rich couple’s house while they are away and then initially get stopped by a cop during the crime only to then have the cop turn his attention to fighting off the homeowners guard dog, which allows the two men to escape, is funny. There’s also an amazing boat chase that’s as exciting as any car one out there.

The performances, particularly by Don Stroud, who used to be a surfer himself before entering into acting, is quite good. Conrad, best known for his work in the TV-show ‘Wild Wild West’ is not bad either though not as engaging. He’s usually best at doing macho types, which is what he is here too. The contrasting personalities of the two, and their constantly competitive natures where they try to one-up the other is entertaining as is how their friendship ultimately begins to dissolve.

The film’s one drawback, outside of  having a modest budget look better suited for a television movie, is there’s no tension. A heist film really needs that and while the irreverence is nice a balance is necessary. A distinct nemesis would’ve helped. There are an array of cops/detectives that are constantly haranguing them, but they don’t have much of a presence. All of the cop roles should’ve been combined into one and then have this person constantly on the radar hounding the guys at every turn, which would’ve then have given it the extra drama and clash that’s otherwise missing. Still it’s a neat idea for a movie and one that should be revisited.

Alternate Title: Live a Little, Steal a Lot

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: July 11, 1975

Runtime: 1 Hour 41 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Marvin J. Chomsky

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD-R

Hide in Plain Sight (1980)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Searching for his children.

Thomas Hacklin (James Caan) is a divorced father of two children who has visiting rights to see his kids every weekend. One day when he arrives at his ex-wife Ruthie’s (Barbra Rae) residence he finds the home abandoned and no one around. He eventually learns that her and the kids have been put into the Witness Protection Program due to her remarriage to Jack (Robert Viharo) a gangster who qualified for the program when he became a state’s witness against the mob. Thomas’ efforts to find his kids prove futile and the authorities are no help, but he becomes relentless and hires a lawyer (Danny Aiello) to represent him in court, but even then the odds remain seemingly insurmountable.

The film is based on the novel of the same name by Leslie Waller, which in-turn was based on the actual experiences of Thomas Leonhard who one day in 1967 when he went to pick-up his kids for his weekly visitation found them gone and the house that they had been living in with his ex-wife Rochelle to have been abandoned. This then precipitated an 8-year crusade by Thomas to get them back, which proved to be a landmark legal battle, but on July 4, 1975 he was eventually reunited. The film though changed several things from the true story including adding in a subplot where Thomas gets followed by the mob and eventually leads to a violent confrontation. It also compresses the time span from 8 years to 18 months.

While I enjoyed the movie more than when I first saw it over 10 years ago the issues that I had with it during the first viewing remained the same. Most of it had to do with Caan’s, in this the only film that he directed, non-use of close-ups, which the studio heads complained about during the production. A good example of this is when Thomas and ex-wife are arguing on a public sidewalk the camera does not move-in, like in most movies, to allow us to hear what they’re saying, but instead pulls back, so they go further away, but what’s the point of seeing characters on the screen argue if we can’t hear what it’s about? Another scene has Thomas arriving at his ex-wife’s abandoned home, but instead of having the camera go inside with him as he enters it, it remains outside and then tracks around the home to the back door, which Thomas is seen leaving. This though lessens the impact as having the viewer visually witness the suddenly empty house would’ve been far more dramatic.

I did though like that many of the scenes were shot in Buffalo at the exact locations where the real-life incidents happened. The film reconstructs the look and feel of the 60’s quite nicely and many of the participants from the actual events coached the actors on how to perform their roles accurately. The acting is impressive especially by Viharo who’s mafia mobster caricature is right on-target. Kenneth McMillan is quite entertaining as a police detective who initially impedes Thomas’ efforts, but eventually has a change-of-heart. As with any great character actor, which McMillan clearly is, it’s what they add to the part that makes it interesting and here it’s his excessive eating with virtually each scene he’s in has him stuffing his face though I wondered how many takes were required to do each scene and if he ultimately overate and got himself sick while performing the role.

Spoiler Alert!

I was annoyed though with how certain fictional things that got added-in like Thomas’ dealings with the mob got played-down instead of up. The original script by Spencer Eastman called for a lengthy car chase and violent fist-fight, but Caan chose to take the subtle route making these moments less tension filled and possibly too slow and uneventful for some people to sit through. I was also amused how the actual reunion between the father and kids was different from the one in the movie where it’s portrayed as being a happy one. In real-life the kids disliked their father’s rules and ended up moving back with their mother showing how ironic life can be where you fight hard for something and then when you finally get it it ends up not being as great as you thought it would be.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: March 21, 1980

Runtime: 1 Hour 32 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: James Caan

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD-R (Warner Archive Collection), Amazon Video

The Greek Tycoon (1978)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Marrying a rich man.

Originally intended as a fact based bio of Aristotle Onassis and his marriage to Jacqueline Bouviar Kennedy where Jackie was offered $1 million to play herself, but when she turned it down the producers decided to turn it into a ‘fictional’ story where the names of the characters were changed, but many of the elements remained the same. The plot deals with a Greek shipping tycoon named Theo Tomasis (Anthony Quinn) who is known to fool-around on his wife Simi (Camilla Sparv). One day while hosting a posh party on his yacht he sets his sights on Liz (Jacqueline Bisset) who is the wife of a politician James Cassidy (James Franciscus) who’s running for the democratic nomination for the U.S. Presidency. While Theo and Liz are able to get away from the rest of the guests and talk he’s unable to admit how smitten he is with her due to her marriage. Liz returns to the states with her husband and he’s elected President, but then is assassinated. Now widowed she decides to return to Greece and meets-up with Theo. Theo in-turn leaves his wife, who was tired of his philandering ways, and marries Liz though their marriage ends-up being a rocky one as well as Theo is unable to change his old habits making Jacki feel she’s just another ‘notch-on-his-belt’.

Producer Nico Mastorakis is probably better known for having directed the controversial horror film Island of Death, which to this day remains one of the most notorious movies ever made, but before he got into filmmaking he was a reporter, who under the guise of being a musician for a rock group, gained access to Onassis’ yacht the Christina while Aristotle was hosting a party with guests Jackie and Ted Kennedy. He hid a small camera inside the his guitar and was able to take pictures of the event before having the negatives confiscated by Ted Kennedy’s security detail. Nico though remained fascinated with Onassis and his experiences while on the his yacht convinced him he’d make a perfect subject for a movie. Quinn, met with Onassis just months before his death where he reportedly gave him blessing to play the role, so Quinn initially agreed to do it only to back-out later when he spoke with Jackie who asked him not to do it. However, months later, she then publicly snubbed him at a restaurant, which got him so angry that he changed his mind and called Nico to tell him he wanted to go through with it and play the part, of which he was paid the handsome figure of $500,000.

As a soap opera, which is all this amounts to, it’s watchable with the biggest asset being the exotic European locales. The plot moves along breezily enough to keep it mildly compelling though no effort is made to make it conform to the early 60’s time period when it all began making it seem instead like it could’ve all occurred during the 70’s. The assassination is especially surreal as James gets shot as he and Jackie are walking along the beach, but no sniper is ever seen. The camera pans over to where the shots were fired and all we see are trees like some phantom gunmen came out of nowhere to kill him and then just disappeared into thin air with no explanation for who did it, or why.

Quinn’s acting though is really impressive and one of the few reasons to watch it. Quinn has always had a magnetic energy that grabs the viewer into  his characters and makes you fascinated enough in them to keep you engrossed though the dark glasses he’s seen constantly wearing was a distraction. He wears them all the time even while inside and at night, which seems weird and makes him appear almost like he’s gangster. There’s a few times when the glass lenses inside the frames are clear and not darkened, but no explanation for why, or how they changed. His propensity for Greek line dancing only succeeds in reminding viewers of another more famous movie that he was in, Zorba the Greek, and for that reason alone it should’ve been avoided altogether.

Bisset on the other-hand doesn’t have much of a presence. Normally she’s a great actress, but her character here isn’t fleshed-out enough to make anything that she says or does interesting. It’s a transparent composite of what one might deem a First Lady to be, but with nothing unique, or distinct added into it and thus making her time onscreen seem quite blah. She does have one energetic moment when she gets into a fight with him after he embarrasses her in front of a few men and even proceeds to attack him physically, but other than that her performance, like the rest of the movie, is sterile with very little to recommend.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: May 12, 1978

Runtime: 1 Hour 47 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Studio: Universal Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

Circle of Two (1981)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Old man/young teen.

Ashley St. Clair (Richard Burton) is an aging painter of 60 who has lost his passion and hasn’t either sold, or attempted to do a painting in over 10 years. Sarah (Tatum O’Neal) is an unhappy 15-year-old who’s tired of dating guys her own age as she finds them to be immature and only interested in one thing…sex. She then meets Ashley, first after she sneaks into an adult theater to watch an X-rated movie and then later at a coffee shop. Despite the extreme differences in their ages they still connect through their mutual interest in art. Ashley even begins to paint again and the two share an enjoyable, but platonic friendship. However, once Sarah’s parents (Robin Gammell, Patricia Collins) find out about they put an immediate stop to it by locking her in her room and and in protest Sarah refuses to eat.

Based on the novel ‘A Lesson in Love’ by Marie-Terese Baird this film marks the final one to be directed by famed Greek director Jules Dassin and in many ways this may be the weakest one that he did. The whole way the relationship gets going is very rushed and forced. Bumping into the same person twice in one day, in the big city of Toronto, doesn’t seem likely and then having Sarah fall so head-over-heels for him to the point she starts spouting out the ‘L’ word quite quickly is dingy. A more plausible scenario would’ve had Ashley teaching an art class (he no longer paints, but still has to bring in an income somehow) of which Sarah attends and then through the course of several months a bond is slowly created.

The sex angle is a complete mess. Fortunately Ashley makes no moves on her, but Sarah does aggressively begin to come-on to him and at one point stands completely naked in front of him. In her autobiography ‘A Paper Life’ O’Neal expressed great discomfort in having to do this scene though I didn’t detect this, but maybe that’s just because she’s such a great actress, but either way the scene was completely unnecessary.  It’s also inconsistent with the character as she broke-up with her boyfriend Paul (Michael Wincott) because he was trying to pressure her into having sex and she was still a virgin, so if she didn’t want sex with a guy her own age why would she want it with one who was way older and is this era of pre-Viagra how could she even be sure he could do it? A better scenario would’ve had sex never coming into play and it was simply their other mutual interests that connected them and it was only outsiders, like Sarah’s parents, that presumed the worst when it really wasn’t occurring.

The one bright spot is the acting with both leads being superb. O’Neal proves that her strong and memorable performance in Paper Moon was no fluke and the only thing that keeps the film watchable. Burton is excellent as well. Although he usually has a strong presence here he wisely takes a step back playing someone who’s weak and tentative, which in many ways reflected his own career at the time where many felt he was washed-up and the years of alcohol abuse certainly did age him making him look even older than 60 when he really wasn’t, and thus a perfect fit for the part. The only issue here is that Tatum seems way too mature for 15 both physically and personality-wise and having her play someone who was 17 would’ve been more appropriate.

While the film remains marginally compelling the talky ending in which Burton goes on a long speech like a tenured professor lecturing to a college class practically ruins it. I was also frustrated that we never learn much about the old man, played by George Bourne Sr., an elderly gentleman who agrees to let Ashley paint his portrait for a fee, which in-turn revitalizes his career and I felt this character should’ve been in it more, or at least a few scenes showing what they talked about as his portrait was being done.

Tatum’s abstaining from all food plays-out poorly as well. For one thing she doesn’t change physically, so we’d never know she wasn’t eating if it weren’t mentioned. She then travels to New York and I was fully expecting her to pass-out in the middle of crowded Grand Central Station from a lack of nutrients, but apparently in-between time she had eaten something, but this should’ve been shown and the fact that it isn’t is a sign of shoddy film-making, which despite Dassin’s previous output, this whole movie ends up pretty much being.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: May 7, 1981

Runtime: 1 Hour 46 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Jules Dassin

Studio: World Northal

Available: DVD-R, Amazon Video

The Boys in Company C (1978)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Going through boot camp.

Tyrone (Stan Shaw), Billy Ray (Andrew Stevens), Alvin (James Canning), Vinnie (Michael Lembeck), and Dave (Craig Wasson) are five young men from varying backgrounds and wildly different temperaments who get drafted into the army in August of 1967. Their experiences in boot camp, which is harshly run by the demanding Sergent Loyce (R. Lee Ermey) and the equally stern Sergeant Aquilla (Santos Morales) prove challenging both physically and psychological, but the real test comes when they’re put out onto the battlefield and their personalities begin to disintegrate.

While the film acts like everything that goes on is based on fact and even includes specific dates for each event and at the end small bios of what occurred to the characters after they returned to civilian life it’s actually all fictional and based on a screenplay written by Rick Natkin in 1972 while attending a film class at Yale and then later expanded. It’s noted as being the first film in the 70’s to deal with the Vietnam War on the field of battle as well as the film debut of R. Lee Ermey playing a similar role to the more famous one that he did in Full Metal Jacket. Here though he’s thinner and while the things he says are certainly still aggressive it’s not in quite the over-the-top way as in the Stanley Kubrick film. In fact I sympathized with him here and the challenges he faced in trying to get the rag-tag group conditioned and how he supported the Tyrone character and the racism he had to deal with. Morales also plays the same type of drill sergeant and found it ironic that both men had some missing front teeth in the same areas of their mouths and wondered what the story was behind that.

Shot in the Philippines where its similar type of topography to Vietnam lends an authentic look and the viewer is given a vivid feeling for what wartime life was like where things could be calm and peaceful one moment and then bombs going off the next. While I’ve had my issues with Wasson, Stevens, and Lembeck in some of their other films where I considered their acting to be weak here their performances are solid and the transitions their characters go through during the course of the movie are compelling though without question Shaw is the standout.

While the first half shows the realities of war the second part becomes mired in the darkly comical absurdities. This was clearly inspired by the era where such films as M*A*S*H took the Korean conflict and turned it into a surreal comedy, but mixing the grittiness with moments of levity cheapens the reality. Scott Hylands’ character is particularly off-putting. He plays a captain who makes one insane blunder after another until he becomes more of a caricature. I’m sure it’s quite possible for high-ranking officials to make the occasional misjudgment, but this guy becomes clownish to the top degree making it almost farcical in the process. The climactic soccer game has the same issue where the soldiers can get out of fighting on the front line if they just agree to lose the game, but this scenario never actually occurred to any veteran I’ve ever known and it’s jarring to go from action on the battlefield to kicking a ball around like a war movie that suddenly turns into a sport’s one.

It’s still well enough directed to keep it engaging and there are some strong even profound moments despite the severe shifts in tone, but it would’ve been better had it maintained the realism from the beginning and not thrown-in stuff that would’ve been better suited for satire.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: February 8, 1978

Runtime: 2 Hours 5 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Sidney J. Furie

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

Protocol (1984)

protocol

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 0 out of 10

4-Word Review: Goldie goes to Washington.

Sunny Davis (Goldie Hawn) works as a cocktail waitress at a Washington D.C. bar, who one evening while driving home from work, she notices a crowd of media people surrounding an event where foreign dignitaries are leaving a dinner gala, which piques her curiosity enough to pull over and get out to see it in person. Once she’s in the crowd she rubs against another man and feels what she thinks is a gun and she accuses him of such, which gets the man to take the gun out and point it at the visiting Emir (Richard Romanus) from the country of El Othar. When Sunny sees this she tackles the would-be assassin and becomes an instant American hero in the process. Overnight she becomes the top of every news story. Politicians in Washington begin to believe she’d be an asset and offer her a position within the protocol department in government. She readily accepts as it pays more than her old waitress job, but it comes with a catch. The US wants to establish a military base on the country run by the Emir whose life Sunny saved, but in order to achieve this deal they offer Sunny to become another one of the Emir’s wives without her knowledge.

This was the second attempt at political satire for screenwriter Buck Henry who did First Family 4 years earlier, which I thought was bad enough, but this thing manages to be even worse. The majority of the problem is that politics and government can be very messy and if one is going to analyze the topic in any type of realistic way then it needs to get messy and dirty as well and yet this movie glosses over all of the negative aspects and tries to make American politics uplifting and inspiring, which might’ve worked in the 30’s and 40’s, but in this more cynical age it comes-off as corny and ill-conceived.

The political and media landscape has changed so drastically that most viewers living today will find the humor to be completely unrelatable. Politics today, for better or worse, has become highly divisive, so having a benign President that everyone supports such as here seems almost like a fairy tale. The satirical jabs at the news media will also prove hollow as we no longer live in a world where the mainstream press as all the clout and instead now takes a backseat to social media and thus making the majority of the jokes here quite dated. The way it portrays Muslims will also be considered problematic and even back then while it was being filmed it was protested by the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee over what they felt was a disrespectful approach to Islam.

Goldie is certainly likable, but her character is blah and poorly defined. Outside of living with two gay guys there’s nothing unique about her and the viewer gets no sense of what makes her tick. A good example of this is when she gets offered the position she isn’t even sure what the word protocol means and has to look it up in a dictionary and yet after she gets the job she quickly becomes an expert on all the protocol by-laws. This was apparently because she read-up on all the literature she was given, but this isn’t shown making her newfound sudden expertise come-off as weird and hard to explain. The fish-out-of-water concept really needed to be played-up more. There are a few comically awkward moments, but in order to make it consistently funny it needed to continue through the whole movie.

The fact that she becomes so famous over preventing the assassination of the leader of a foreign (fictional) nation that most people probably couldn’t find on a map didn’t make sense. If she had saved a popular President’s life then I could see everybody getting excited about it, but doing it for a foreign dignitary might be enough for a ‘feel-good’ story, but that would most likely be it. Also, there’s no concept of the 15-minutes of fame here. Even if she did become an overnight sensation it would only have lasted until the next news cycle when another media hero would replace her and yet this movie has her remaining popular for months and even years later.

What really killed it for me though was the Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-like ending, which I found to be utterly nauseating. For political satire, if you can even call this that, it fails on all levels. Being There on the other-hand is an example of how to do it right, which this thing unfortunately doesn’t even come close to.

My Rating: 0 out of 10

Released: December 21, 1984

Runtime: 1 Hour 36 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Herbert Ross

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Video

The Take (1974)

take1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Black cop accepts bribe .

Terence Sneed (Billy Dee Williams) is a San Francisco cop brought to Paloma, New Mexico to help take down local crime boss Victor Manso (Vic Morrow). The only problem is that Manso invites Sneed over to his place and offers him a significant amount of cash to get on his ‘payroll’ and thus allow him to get away with his crimes. Sneed is also informed that another top official in the police department, Captain Frank Dolek (Albert Salmi) is on the take as well. Sneed accepts the cash, but then double-crosses Manso by having Dolek secretly tailed where he finds out who all of Manso’s connections are and uses this info to try and bust Manso’s drug operation, which ends up being a tall order that gets Sneed in hot water not only with Manso, but with his police supervisor Chief Berrigan (Eddie Albert) as well.

The film is based on the 1970 British novel ‘Sir, You Bastard’ by Gordon Frank Newman, which became a bestseller and set-off a series of three books that he wrote around the Sneed character. There were though differences between the book and movie as in the novel Sneed was white and worked in Scotland Yard. The one thing though that remained the same was Sneed being unscrupulous and working outside the system.

The fact that the protagonist accepts bribes and most of the way it’s unclear whether he’s even a good guy at all is what makes the movie interesting and helps differentiate it from the other early 70’s cop action flicks. This is the complete opposite of Serpico where the cop refused all bribes and vigorously fought against it. Here we see the other angle. Instead of the main character being on the outside looking in he’s a part of the corrupt system and in order to survive in it must be willing to play along, which I found more realistic and insightful as someone who’s able to totally rise above the evil environments they’re in is rare and therefore we get more of an everyman’s perspective here. It also works against the ‘Save the Cat’ book, which has become the bible of today’s screenwriters, which insists that the main character must be likable for the movie to work. Here Sneed is anything but and at certain points when he forces an overweight suspect (Robert Miller Driscoll) to take-off his clothes and do jumping jacks in humiliating fashion to the amusement of the other cops he becomes downright nasty, but in-turn it makes the movie less formulaic, which too many movies today have become.

Williams’ skill as an actor helps to keep the character engaging and he gets great support not only by Eddie Albert as his exasperated superior, but also surprisingly by Frankie Avalon who has a small, but memorable bit as a drug dealer who initially comes-off as quite cocky, but melts dramatically once inside the interrogation room. Unfortunately for Vic Morrow, who’s played some classic villains in his career, his presence here doesn’t work. This is mainly from his get-up including dyed blonde hair and at one point a pseudo cowboy outfit, which looked campy. I also didn’t like that it’s shown right away that his character has heart problems, which telegraphs a major vulnerability that instantaneously sets the viewer into expecting that this will predictably lead to his eventual demise.

As for the action I felt it started well particularly the opening courthouse ambush, which is well choreographed with a funky score, but it becomes rather pedestrian after this. Having the main character misjudge things like when he tries the intercept Manso’s transporting of illegal goods, but ends up chasing down the wrong van each time, which were intentionally being used as decoys, was refreshing because in too many other police movies the hero cops always gets things right the first time and his hunches are never proven wrong, which again is just not how things work in reality. Either way it’s not as exciting as it could’ve been with a lot of car chases and action scenarios that ultimately prove to be generic in nature.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: May 5, 1974

Runtime: 1 Hour 32 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Robert Hartford-Davis

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD-R