Sunday, May 31, 2015

Movie Review: Starman

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen, Charles Martin Smith, Richard Jaeckel, Robert Phalen, Tony Edwards, John Walter Davis, Ted White, Dirk Blocker, M.C. Gainey, Sean Stanek, George 'Buck' Flower, Russ Benning, Ralph Cosham, David Wells, Anthony Grumbach, James Deeth, Alex Daniels, Carol Rosenthal, Mickey Jones, Lu Leonard, Charlie Hughes, Byron Walls, Betty Bunch, Victor McLemore, Steven Brennan, Pat Lee, Judith Kim, Ron Colby, Robert Stein, Kenny Call, Jeff Ramsey, Jerry Gatlin, David Daniell, Randy Tutton, John Carpenter, Steve Dressler, Joel Edwards, Nick Sagan 
Director: John Carpenter 
Columbia Pictures Corporation, Industrial Light & Magic, Delphi II Productions, USA, 1984. 
Starman title
Voyager II space probe lands on a distant planet with an invitation to aliens. Starman (Jeff Bridges) visits Earth but Air Force gives him a hostile welcome and shoots his space shuttle down in Wisconsin. Widow Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen) is still mourning her dead husband Scott. Starman clones the physical form of Jenny's husband. Jenny faints. Starman has metallic spheres that he uses for different purposes. He uses one to send message and requests a transportation back to home planet.
Starman's space shuttle
Jeff Bridges
Karen Allen
Jenny Hayden
NSA boss Fox (Richard Jaeckel) sends SETI scientist Mark Shermin (Charles Martin Smith) is sent to investigate the wreck. Shermin would like to give Starman a guest's welcome but Fox wants to cut him into little pieces. Starman wants Jenny to drive him to Arizona. First Starman does not know much English or about anything but he learns fast. First Jenny is scared of the weird man but she begins to like him as they get to know better. Starman has three days to reach the pick-up area or he will die. 
Starman calls home
Charles Martin Smith
Mark Shermin
Richard Jaeckel
On the trip they are chased by angry rednecks who did not like Starman resurrecting a shot deer. Also army and trigger-happy police are after them. Luckily they meet some friendly folks along the way. The cook who gives Starman a lift looks familiar even without beard. It's Buck alright! Starman comes from an advanced and peaceful civilization, that has lost individual personality traits. Starman learns from Jenny about love and caring.
George 'Buck' Flower
Cook (George 'Buck' Flower)
Starman's skills save Jenny's life
Karen Allen and Jeff Bridges
Starman and Jenny having romantic time
The script was stuck for several years in development hell and the project was almost abandoned because its similarity to  "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial." Finally Michael Douglas assigned John Carpenter to be the director. At that time Carpenter wished to go more mainstream, and focus on the emotional drama of the story and he does a great job in this. John Carpenter has a small cameo as helicopter pilot.

Starman is beautiful and sweet scifi road-movie love story. Although the story has elements from "E.T." and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", it is the chemistry between the main characters that makes it great. Jeff Bridges is a sympathetic alien and lovely Karen Allen brings emotion to her role. There is also some humour when Starman clumsily tries to learn how to be a human. The cinematography and Jack Nitzsche's music are great.

The movie was followed by short lived TV-series.
Carpenter's cameo
Karen Allen
Rating: Very Good

Friday, May 29, 2015

Movie Review: Memoirs of an Invisible Man

Memoirs of an Invisible Man 
Starring: Chevy Chase, Daryl Hannah, Sam Neill, Michael McKean, Stephen Tobolowsky, Jim Norton, Pat Skipper, Paul Perri, Richard Epcar, Steven Barr, Gregory Paul Martin, Patricia Heaton, Barry Kivel, Donald Li, Rosalind Chao, Jay Gerber, Shay Duffin, Edmund L. Shaff, Sam Anderson, Elaine Corral Kendall, Ellen Albertini Dow, Jonathan Wigan, I.M. Hobson, John Carpenter, Chip Heller, Aaron Lustig 
Director: John Carpenter 
Warner Bros., Canal+, Regency Enterprises, Alcor Films, Cornelius Productions, USA, France, 1992. 
Memoirs of an Invisible Man title

The story is based on the book by H.F. Saint. 

Stock analyst Nick Halloway (Chevy Chase) is a lonely guy. At gentlemen's club his friend George Talbot (Michael McKean) introduces him to perfect woman Alice Monroe (Daryl Hannah). Later in the evening Nick goes to bar and next day he has hangover. Nick goes to visit Magnascopics laboratories. Skipping a boring lecture, Nick decides to take a nap in empty sauna. A scientist spills coffee on equipment and Nick is exposed to radiation. When Nick wakes up parts of the building and Nick have turned invisible. 
Chevy Chase and Michael McKean
Nick Halloway and Michael Talbot
Daryl Hannah
Alice Monroe
Don't spill coffee on computers

Evil CIA agent David Jenkins (Sam Neill) wants to catch Nick and use him as a guinea pig and make him a perfect assassin. Nick escapes and tries to get help from Dr. Wachs (Jim Norton) but Jenkins kidnaps Wachs. Nick has to cancel a date with Alice, because he is invisible and having dinner looks gross. He goes hiding in George's cabin. Problems arise when George and his friends come to cabin also. There his friends talk behind his back. Nick takes a risk and tells Alice about his problem. Alice starts to help him. 
Modern architecture
Sam Neill
David Jenkins
Jim Norton
Dr. Wachs

As funny reference to James Stewart classic, Nick uses false name Harvey. Nick also uses bandages and dark glasses like Claude Rains as Invisible Man in 1933. Sam Neill pulls his trademark diabolically smiling villain role. Dary Hannah's role a s Nick's romantic interest is first quite small but becomes important later. Carpenter himself makes a quick cameo as helicopter pilot. The invisibility effects look still good. This scifi comedy is quite different movie in the productions of John Carpenter, having no horror and very few action scenes. Chevy Chase brings comedic touch to the scifi adventure. Still the movie is not similar laugh out fest as "Vacation" movies but more subtle in the style of "Back to the Future." 
Invisible Man in 1992
Nick goes jogging
John Carpenter
John Carpenter as helicopter pilot

Also when characters in Carpenter's films have romance, they are often in some way misfits or outsiders (Starman: romance between alien and earthling, Vampires: lovers turn into vampires, Christine: shy boy and his car). Nick is also a bit tragic figure, without family and his friends do not really know him very well so he is invisible even before the accident. Nick tries to maintain his morality instead of becoming a monster as in Paul Verhoeven's "Hollow Man." The movie has some slack moments and the ending leaves many things open. Not among the top of Carpenter or Chase films but still a greatly entertaining mixture of romance, comedy, scifi and thriller. 

Rating: Good

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Movie Review: I'm Gonna Git You Sucka

I'm Gonna Git You Sucka
Starring: Keenen Ivory Wayans, Bernie Casey, Antonio Fargas, Steve James, Isaac Hayes, Jim Brown, Ja'net DuBois, Dawnn Lewis, John Vernon, Clu Gulager, Kadeem Hardison, Damon Wayans, George James, Marc Figueroa, Robert Colbert, Marilyn Coleman, Jester Hairston, Hawthorne James, Anne-Marie Johnson, Gary Owens, Eve Plumb, Clarence Williams III, Michael Goldfinger, John Witherspoon, Homeselle Joy, Vickilyn Reynolds, Paul Motley
Director: Keenen Ivory Wayans
United Artists, Front Films, Ivory Way Productions, Raymond Katz Production, USA, 1988.
I'm Gonna Git You Sucka title
In Any Ghetto U.S.A. a victim of O.G. (=Over Golded, wearing too many gold chains) is found. The victim was named Junebug (Bobby Mardis). Goons of Mr. Big (John Vernon ) come to collect the debt Junebug owed. The goons Leonard and Willie (Damon Wayans and Kardeem Hardison) try to take Junebug's widow Cheryl (Dawnn Lewis) as hostage but Junebug's Ma Bell (Ja'net DuBois) throws them down the stairs.
Bobby Mardis
Another victim of O.G.
Kardeem Hardison and Damon Wayans
Willie and Leonard
Ja'net DuBois and Dawnn Lewis
Ma Bell and Cheryl
Junebug's war hero brother Jack Spade (Keenen Ivory Wayans) arrives home. He decides to put an end to Mr. Big's crime syndicate. He asks help from Ma's old friend and host of Annual Youth Gang Competition John Slade (Bernie Casey) John declines because he has retired from being a hero.
Keenen Ivory Wayans
Jack Spade
John Vernon
Mr. Big
Bernie Casey and Keenen Ivory Wayans
John Slade

Next Jack tries to recruit Black Revolutionary leader Kalinga (Clarence Williams III) who likes beans. Unsuccessful in recruiting help Jack goes to bar where Cheryl works. Mr. Big's goons harass them again, but Ma (or rather obvious moustached stunt man) comes to fight the baddies. Manly man Jack does not like Ma fighting his fights. However Jack is not a real war hero and he has a childhood trauma of being bullied by gang of midgets.
Annual Youth Gang Competition

After John changes his mind and teaches Jack how to be a real hero, they go to get guns from One Eyed Sam (Hawthorne James). John contacts his old friends Hammer (Isaac Hayes) and Slammer (Jim Brown), pimp and informant Flyguy (Antonio Fargas) and Kung Fu Joe (Steve James). Fred Williamson look-alike, Shaft- and Jim Kelly- clones and the other guys set out to destroy Mr. Big's gold chain empire. However the heroes are quite accident-prone so it is up to Jack to save Cheryl.
Antonio Fargas
Jim Brown and Isaac Hayes
Slammer and Hammer
Steve James
Kung Fu Joe

Isaac Hayes and Antonio Fargas make fun parody of their characters Truck Turner and Huggy Bear. Chris Rock makes an amusing appearance as stingy rib joint customer. Young Marlon Wayans and Shawn Wayans appear briefly as pedestrians.
Chris Rock
Rib Joint Customer

It is hard to believe now, but before sinking in the "Scary Movie" and whatever movie swamp, the Wayans Brothers could make some genuinely funny movies. At least this one (spoofing blaxploitation movies) and "Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking your Juice in the Hood" (spoofing ghetto gang movies) are light years away from the terrible spoofs of the later times. Somehow the Wayans clan (and other American spoof makers) lost the balance between satirizing the genre conventions and lazily mocking popular films. I mean just compare the parodical style of late author Terry Pratchett, cleverly using a well known trope, deconstructing it and creating something new, funny and surprising vs the modern spoof style which only takes something temporarily popular phenomena and then pours a ton of crap on them. Well, honestly this is not Pratchett either but still it manages to satirize the overtly macho image of the 1970s black heroes that fell out of fashion in the 1980s. And the bling culture of the rap artists.

There are lot of jokes on blaxploitation tropes, still the movie is fun without knowing all the references. There are some contemporary jokes I didn't get such as running joke about Norway product salesmen. However compared to later Wayans productions the humour relies mostly on absurd and unpredictable situations instead of mocking contemporary celebrities or movies. The typical Wayans gross-out humour is kept at minimum staying at level of "Naked Gun" or "Airplane" movies. This is the funniest movie the Wayans Bros. have made.

Rating: Very Good

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Movie Review: Ghosts of Mars

Ghosts of Mars 
Starring: Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube, Jason Statham, Clea DuVall, Pam Grier, Joanna Cassidy, Richard Cetrone, Rosemary Forsyth, Liam Waite, Duane Davis, Lobo Sebastian, Rodney A. Grant, Peter Jason, Wanda De Jesus, Doug McGrath, Rick Edelstein, Robert Carradine, Michael Krawic, Eileen Weisinger, Rex Linn, Matt Nolan, Marjean Holden, Charlotte Cornwell 
Director: John Carpenter 
Screen Gems, Storm King Productions, Animationwerks, USA, 2001. 
Ghosts of Mars title
In 2176 Mars is being colonized. Ominous rumours are spreading and a ghost train arrives with only one passenger, Lieutenant Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge, "the chick from Species"). She has taken illegal substance called Tetramonochloride, her favourite drug. So does the compound have one or four chloride ions, take your pick. 
Train arrives to station
Natasha Henstridge
Melanie Ballard
Earlier Melanie and her police squad traveled to Shining Canyon to pick up prisoner James Desolation Williams (Ice Cube). Along came Commander Helena Braddock (Pam Grier), Sergeant Jericho Butler (Jason Statham) and rookies Bashira Kincaid (Clea DuVall) and Michael Descanso (Liam Waite). 
The town seems abandoned
Pam Grier
Commander Helena Braddock
Ice Cube
James Desolation Williams
Shining Canyon seems deserted. Melanie and Jericho find only body parts and weird art made of metal wire and scissors. They also find bodies hanging from the ceiling. Williams and other prisoners sit in their prison cells. There is also Dr. Whitlock (Joanna Cassidy). She has escaped from Druckers Bridge mining colony. There are some surviving colonists who seem to be possessed. One of them kills himself in a locked vehicle yelling Melanie and the others to stay away and not opening the door. So logically Melanie orders Jericho to open the door. Jericho does not want to. 
There is something wrong in Shining Canyon
Jason Statham
Jericho Butler
The colonists possessed by ancient Martian spirits start to attack. Also Desolation Williams is temporarily freed and he and Melanie fight some crazies. The possessed colonists form a black metal/ orc tribe and decapitate the unpossessed. The police and the criminals must combine their forces to survive the attacking horde, "Assault on Precinct 13" style. Anthrax and Buckethead provide some heavy metal tunes to spice up the combat scenes. 
Big Daddy Mars (Richard Cetrone)
Gangsta in space part 1
Although "Ghosts of Mars" loans ideas from Carpenters previous movies, this is Carpenter at his weakest. There is not the effective horror of "the Thing" or "Halloween." The characters are not interesting enough and the attacking horde looks like campy barbarians. Ice Cube is meant to be similar antihero as Snake Plissken but he is more a regular gangsta in space. The Asylum should make a movie "Gangstas vs Metal Heads in Space."  Natasha Henstridge acts tough but seems a bit disoriented. Statham's character is hilariously chauvinist macho man. Pam Grier's role is annoyingly small. "Ghosts of Mars" is disappointingly forgettable scifi horror action film. 
Ice Cube
Gangsta in space part 2
Rating: Bad

Movie Review: Eyes of Laura Mars

Eyes of Laura Mars
Starring: Faye Dunaway, Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Dourif, Rene Auberjonois, Raul Julia, Frank Adonis, Lisa Taylor, Darlanne Fluegel, Rose Gregorio, Bill Boggs, Steve Marachuk, Meg Mundy, Marilyn Meyers, Gary Bayer, Mitchell Edmonds, Michael Tucker, Jeff Niki, Toshi Matsuo, John E. Allen, Anna Anderson, Deborah Beck, Jim Devine, Hanny Friedman, Winnie Hollman, Patty Oja, Donna Palmer, Sterling St. Jacques, Rita Tellone, Kari Page, Dallas Edward Hayes
Director: Irvin Kershner
Columbia Pictures Corporation, USA, 1978.
Eyes of Laura Mars
Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway) is a controversial fashion photographer who takes violent and sexy photographs, kind of foreseeing Benetton ad campaigns. Serial killer is inspired by Laura's art and begins to repeat the murders of the photographs using Laura's workmates as unwilling models. During the murders Laura has visions seeing through the killer's eyes. 
Faye Dunaway
Laura Mars
Faye Dunaway and Rene Auberjonois
Laura's agent Donald Phelps tells the bad news
Road rage photo shoot
Witnessing another murder Laura tries to tell about her visions to the police. Detective Lt. John Neville (Tommy Lee Jones) has a hard time believing Laura's story. Also Laura's older photos bear surprising similarity to real unpublished crime scene photos. 
Eyes of Laura Mars
Rose Gregorio
Laura sees through killer's eyes, here the victim is Elaine (Rose Gregorio)
Tommy Lee Jones
Detective John Neville
There are some suspicious characters around Laura. Chauffeur Tommy Ludlow (Brad Dourif) is a former jailbird and he carries a stiletto. Laura's no-good ex-husband Michael Reisler (Raul Julia) has also returned to city to extort money from Laura. Laura's agent Donald Phelps (Rene Auberjonois) is also not as nice guy as he first seems as he can be quite manipulative. 
Raul Julia
Michael Reisler
Brad Dourif
Tommy Ludlow
Laura's psychic visions begin to disturb her work as the killer is coming after her. John tries to solve the murders with Laura, and the two start a romance. As the murderer kills more of Laura's friends the list of possible suspects becomes shorter. 
Laura and John start a romance
Darlanne Fluegel
Model girl Lulu (Darlanne Fluegel)
This movie is American giallo movie following in the footsteps of Italian horror legends Dario Argento and Mario Bava. Laura's room has plenty of mirrors and the killer even wears brown leather gloves. The movie is based on John Carpenter's story and screenplay. Still the movie feels a bit tame compared to Italian gialli or to movies directed by Carpenter's himself. The producers intervened too much with the project and the excitement runs out of steam in the end. In the same year Carpenter released his own giallo-inspired "Halloween."

Irvin Kersher directed this before "Empire Strikes Back." Faye Dunaway is good as troubled artist. Young Tommy Lee Jones is at his handsomest here. Brad Dourif and Raul Julia have unbalanced and creepy characters.  Barbra Streisand sings the theme song "Prisoner". Fashion scenes are stylish and the soundtrack with hip 70s style disco-music is just great for the film's atmosphere. Despite the flaws it is recommended watching for friends of stylish thrillers.
Fashion models before the photo shoot
killer's brown leather gloves
Could be a scene from Argento-movie
Rating: Good

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