Wednesday, March 17, 2010


1931 - USA
77 minutes
Directed by Marion Gering
cast: Sylvia Sidney, Gene Raymond, Wynne Gibson

Poor little flower girl Kathleen Storm (Sylvia Sidney) has just married the man of her dreams, fancy-lad Standish McNeil (Gene Raymond). Before the couple can fly to Russia and start a new life that will most likely have him killed on the front lines, Kathleen's gangster ex-boyfriend, Kid Athens, shows up to rub em' out, see. Seems the old thug never got over this dame and vowed to kill anyone who took dem' gams away. A copper shows up to get Kathleen as a witness in a case against Kidjust as the thug is breaking into her apartment. He fills the flatfoot full of lead, leaving the couple to take the wrap. Hotshot Assistant Attorney, John Hartman, who works for Kid Athens, manipulates the jury to a guilty verdict. Standish is sent to death row and Kathleen to tuna town. Thus begins the mucho melodrama of failed appeals, publicity stunts, undying love, stoolies, riots, bust outs and the hangman's noose.
Writer Ernest Booth was serving a life sentence in Folsom Penitentiary for bank robbery when he wrote this script with Louis Weitzenkorn. After his early parole, due to health reasons, in 1937, Booth would write the prison flicks WOMEN WITHOUT NAMES (1940) and MEN OF SAN QUENTIN (1942). His script steers clear of some overly dramatic pitfalls common with these pictures. Unfortunately for Ernest Booth, he didn't steer clear of the law. In 1941 he was arrested and questioned in a case involving the death of wealthy socialite Florence Stricker. As a result of the arrest, he was jailed on a weapons violation charge. Several years later Booth was found guilty of a string of armed robberies and sentenced to life in San Quentin where he died from tuberculosis. Paramount really packs in the production values with some impressive action sequences and more extras than I have ever seen in a Women In Prison Film! Gloomy and fast paced, LADIES OF THE BIG HOUSE is solid precode trash that should be sought out by ol' timey exploitation lovers.
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Saturday, March 6, 2010

2010 Oscar Picks

Its Oscar time again. Is that your enthusiasm or your lunch I smell? Yeah, I know. CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE wasn’t nominated so why does the sultan of sleaze care about the finest cinema have to offer? Well, I try to watch all the nominated screeners to gauge the level of dishonesty involved in this annual douche bag popularity contest. I also like to bet on just about anything. For those willing to wager, I have Mickey Rooney at #1 on my 2010 celebrity death list. Just saying.

So let’s get to the list of people you wouldn’t even join for free brunch.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role:
• Penelope Cruz (Nine)
• Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air)
• Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart)
• Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air)
• Mo’Nique (Precious)

I didn’t see NINE. When I heard they were going to queer up Fellini’s masterpiece 8 ½ by turning it into a musical, I tossed all my Judi Dench spank material in the bin.  Cruz won last year for VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA so odds are she’s a loser this year. Anna Kendrick phoned in an easy role. Her cast made her look better than she actually is so this is big skip-a-roo.  Gyllenhaal and Farmiga both showed some skin in similar low key multi dimensional roles but neither was as memorable as Mo’Nique bringing to life one of the best female screen villains of all time. If Lionsgate lobbied the academy as much as Fox Searchlight & Paramount, Mo’Nique is the clear winner.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role:
Matt Damon (Invictus)
• Woody Harrelson (The Messenger)
• Christopher Plummer (The Last Station)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
• Christopher Waltz (Inglorious Basterds)

Somehow I missed the LAST STATION.  Oh yeah, it’s about Tolstoy. That’s how I fucking missed it! Plummer may win because he’s old but it’s only his first nomination. I’m betting most of the Academy doesn’t give a duck fuck about Russian writers either. I hear he’s a real dick to film crews so to hell with that twink fucker. Matt Damon didn’t have a big enough character arch in INVICTUS and Tucci was wasted (better in JULIE & JULIA) in the goofy THE LOVELY BONES; count them horses out of the race. Woody Harrelson should be moved to the best actor category since he had more screen time than Waltz, Tucci and Damon combined. How in the hell a pot smoking liberal environmentalist could bring that level of complex emotion and willful suspension of disbelief to a jar head without showing any of his political bias is a testament to his great acting skill. The scene in which he silently listens to Ben Foster’s monologue, his face alone finally revealing the broken humanity inside, is one of the greatest acting performances ever filmed. He will loose to Christopher Waltz. He got to use multiple languages and played a villain. Oscilloscope Laboratories doesn’t have the money to petition the Academy like the Weinstein Company and their screener DVD was really cheap looking. It’s the only award Inglorious Basterds will win.

Best Actress in a leading role:
Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
Helen Mirren (The Last Station)
Carey Mulligan (An Education)
Gabourney Sidibie (Precious)
Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)

This one is easy. Sandra Bullock can only play small variations on one role, nobody gives a flying adult diaper about Oscar winner Helen Mirren anymore, Carey Mulligan doesn’t have the physical flaw required to bring home gold in her miscast role and Gabourney Sidibie’s great performance is probably the only role she can play. Since winning for Sophie’s Choice in 1983, Streep hasn’t won in her last 11 nominations. She has reinvented herself in the last couple of years from a quality actress to a commercially viable actress. JULIE & JULIA was essentially two films and her performance managed to keep the doo doo logs from one half from floating into the other.

Best actor in a leading role:
Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
George Clooney (Up in the Air)
Colin Firth (A Single Man)
Morgan Freeman (Invictus)
Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)

This is a lock. Clooney was playing Clooney, Freeman was playing Freeman, Renner was playing Renner and Firth just had to play a nice guy having a breakdown. Bridges easily wins for a performance nowhere near as good as Mickey Rourke’s loss last year for THE WRESTLER. Bet the house.

Best Picture:

The Hurt Locker
An Education
District 9
The Blind Side
Up in the Air
A Simple Man
Inglorious Basterds

This year they decided to add ten films which means some obvious clunkers made the cut. Let’s trim some fat. UP is a god damned cartoon. While a good one, they already have a kiddie picture category called Best Animated Film of the Year which it will win so no go daddy-o. A SIMPLE MAN is a Jewie Ingmar Bergman film. The Academy likes to think American cinema is on par with European classics so they tossed it on here. It won’t get a single vote. We’ve seen or read stories like AN EDUCATION a zillion times and this one is British. CRANK 2 has a better chance of winning as a write-in. UP IN THE AIR is the middle aged male version of AN EDUCATION and it’s only here in the hopes of women who fantasize that George Clooney is ready to settle down will put down their wine glass and cat long enough to tune in. The imbecilic INGLORIOUS BASTERDS & impressive DISTRICT 9 were nominated to get a fanboy audience to watch the ceremonies. They won’t and it doesn’t matter; neither is winning. THE BLIND SIDE is a crappy heart string pulling movie geared towards white guilt that manages to embarrass itself and Michael Oher. If it had any competition that would be PRECIOUS, a tougher film that doesn’t need whitey for a hand out. It’s the best film out of the ten but doesn’t stand a chance.

The battle, I’m sure you know is down to AVATAR vs. THE HURT LOCKER. The solid money is on the eye candy spectacle AVATAR. It’s been cleaning up on the trophy circuit but is nothing more than a poorly written environmental fantasy for the socially inept. AVATAR shouldn’t even be nominated. It’s a piece of shit. THE HURT LOCKER is a damn good original piece of work that deserves to win but sadly it won’t. Why? The way the voting works is the winner must have 51% of the votes so they keep voting until one film reaches the magic number. That almost eliminates DISTRICT 9 from skimming AVATAR votes. Then you have the highest grossing AVATAR vs. the lowest grossing THE HURT LOCKER. Only a few of the big box office hits have won OSCARS (Example TITANIC, RETURN OF THE KING) but no film has grossed as little as THE HURT LOCKER and won best picture. AVATAR also has bigger studio bucks behind it for lobbying the Academy. Chances are Kathryn Bigelow will win best director (first for a female) so that lessens the best picture chances. Hmmm….. Ah fuck it; I’m going for the underdog THE HURT LOCKER. It’s a real movie. I can’t wager on something as brain hemorrhage inducing as unobtanium. 

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Friday, March 5, 2010


a.k.a. Shadow of Death, The Edison Effect
Directed by Robert Kirk
cast: Deborah Foreman, Clayton Rohner, Lyle Alzado, Anthony Perkins
Here’s a mess of a slasher mish-mash starring former NFL defensive end, Lyle Alzado, as the game show obsessed con Moeser. During his electrocution for the rape and murder of 23 men, women and children (he cackles before his execution, “it was actually 24“) the giant goon short circuits the entire prison resulting in a riot that leaves 13 guards and 37 inmates dead. Years later, the town folk don’t talk much about the event or the strange happenings at the abandoned prison. That is, until Robert Edwards (Anthony Perkins) shows up to direct his Women in Prison picture “Death House Dolls“. 
Before we can enjoy the obvious fun of a reanimated Lyle Alzado zombie running around killing the crew of a W.I.P. set, we are forced to spend half an hour with our bland stock leads stunt girl, Susan Malone (Deborah Foreman from VALLEY GIRL), and her screenwriter boyfriend, David Harris (Clayton Rohner).  It’s painful, but just as your mind wanders towards unpaid taxes, Moeser shows up with a giant jackhammer to save the bloody day.
The numerous in-jokes, rip-offs, groan-inducing stock characters and blatant use of dream sequences (very common around this time) to emulate the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series actually added more nostalgia than “seen it before” snobbery to my viewing experience. 
Yeah it’s predictable, poorly written, and badly directed, but DESTROYER throws in enough nudity, explosions, rats, and body parts to make for a decent six packer. Anthony Perkins and the one note Alzado put forth some effort; seeing the big lug simulate the tornado tongue using a pair of scissors must have caused some serious soda spit takes from theater patrons. Sadly, Lyle Alzado would die four years later at age 43 from brain cancer blaming it on a 22year addiction to anabolic steroids. The same year as DESTROYER, Renny Harlin directed an electric chair horror film called PRISON starring Viggo Mortensen, Waldemar Korzeniowsky directed THE CHAIR and 1989 would see two more hit the big screen with Sean S. Cunningham’s THE HORROR SHOW and Wes Craven’s SHOCKER. Only available on VHS and Laserdisc, DESTROYER will most likely be the one forgotten.

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