The Birds (1963)

The Birds (1963)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Screenplay: Evan Hunter from a story by Daphne Du Maurier

Stars: Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Suzanne Pleshette, Jessica Tandy and Veronica Cartwright

The Pitch: “Hey, Alfred Hitchcock wants to make The Birds!”

Tagline: Suspense and shock beyond anything you have seen or imagined!

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

 

Another classic from the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.  This is one of a few movies I was always allowed to stay up and watch even on a school night as a kid.  All you need to know (and you probably already know it) is that birds are attacking and killing humans in Bodega Bay (and maybe the entire world)!

 

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The 50 Greatest Action Movies

Empire Online presents The 50 Greatest Action Movies.  It’s not a bad list.  I’ve seen 43 of the 50.  Keeping that in mind, here are, in alpha order, my ten favorite action movies using just the movies on their list…

  • Casino Royale
  • Commando
  • Die Hard
  • Enter the Dragon
  • John Wick
  • Mad Max 2
  • Mad Max Fury Road
  • Point Break
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • The Killer

Narrowing down the list was tough.  I tried to eliminate some movies if they were more drama or sci-fi than action.  With that said, this list is still pretty subjective.  A movie that would have made the list had it been a choice would have been Rambo.

Any thoughts?

Backtrack (2015)

Backtrack (2015)

Director: Michael Petroni

Screenplay: Michael Petroni

Stars: Adrien Brody, Jenni Baird and Bruce Spence

The Pitch: “Hey, let’s make a ghost movie with Adrien Brody!”

Tagline: Nothing haunts like the past.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Psychologist Peter Bower (Brody) is having a terrible time dealing with the death of his daughter.  He was teaching her to ride a bike when he became distracted and she was struck by a truck and killed.  Bower begins to have dreams of the dead and even starts to see them while awake.

As Bower sorts out the meaning of his visions, he also tries to remember what distracted him and lead to the death of his daughter.  Bower believes that they are linked.  Following the clues, he returns to his boyhood home and a secret that ties it all together.

 

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11 Tiny Errors You Never Noticed in “The Andy Griffith Show”

Me-TV presents 11 Tiny Errors You Never Noticed in The Andy Griffith Show.  Here are three of my favorites…

ANDY REFLECTS – “The Bookie Barber”

Outside the barber shop, Andy tells Barney that one of his ears is longer than the other. After the quip, he walks off camera, presumably down the street. However, as soon as he exits the frame, watch the glass of the shop window. In the reflection, you can see Griffith immediately stop and hunch over, presumably under the camera. He awkwardly stands there for the rest of the shot.

TUBA – “The Mayberry Band”

You can see the reflection of the film crew and equipment in Andy’s tuba. Though warped around the curve of the horn, it’s an interesting glimpse at the set, as you can see ladders and rigging.

BARNEY IS PLUGGED IN, TOO – “Opie the Bird Man”

A handful of episodes later, another microphone cable can be spotted, running up Don Knotts’ pant leg. Look for it in an overhead shot, when Andy and Barney talk to Opie, who has climbed up a tree.

Split (2017)

Split (2017)

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Screenplay: M. Night Shyamalan

Stars: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson and Betty Buckley

The Pitch: “Hey, M. Knight Shyamalan has a cool idea for a movie!”

Tagline: Kevin has 23 distinct personalities. The 24th is about to be unleashed.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

 

Kevin Wendell has 23 different personalities.  One of them kidnapped three girls and locked them in a remote location.  All they know is that a new personality, ‘the beast’ is coming and they are considered sacred food.

M. Knight is back!  The twist ending has received a lot of buzz and is a cool reveal more than a twist.  With that said, I watched the movie thinking that one of the girls was actually one of Kevin’s personalities.  I really believe that M. Knight wanted us to lean that way… but I was wrong.  It’ll be interesting to see how M. Knight re-visits this story-line.

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Sleepless (2017)

Sleepless (2017)

Director: Baran bo Odar

Screenplay: Andrea Berloff based on the French film Sleepless Night

Stars: Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Dermot Mulroney, Scoot McNairy, Gabrielle Union and Octavius J. Johnson

The Pitch: “Hey, let’s remake Sleepless Night!”

Tagline: Don’t judge a cop by his cover.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

 

Sleepless starts off with a lot of potential and then quickly becomes turns into a brainless action fest.  That’s not a bad thing if you’re not hoping for more, but based on the trailer I was.

Sleepless opens with a drug ripoff that turns into a shootout leaving the drug couriers dead. The two masked men who ripped off the 25 million dollars worth of cocaine get away and we learn that they are cops.  Vincent Downs (Foxx) and his partner show up at the station and Downs requests to investigate the case.  Pretty smart move since he and his partner committed the crime.  This is probably the last smart thing that happens in the movie.

Downs and his partner go to the crime scene and discover another pair of detectives are also working the case.  To make matters worse both the drug dealer and the drug buyer are on to Downs (how do they figure this out before the cops?) and so they kidnap Downs’ son.

Downs’ has a son and a wife.  He doesn’t live with them because he was never home.  Son tolerates dad who is always late or doesn’t show up for scheduled visits.  Wife is ready to move on to another man who has been in her life.  This family life could be expected from a drug dealing no good cop.

Downs gets a call and is told to bring the cocaine to the drug dealer’s casino.  Yep, just bring 25 million of coke to the casino and you’ll get your son back.  So what does Downs do?  He takes the satchel of coke to the casino.  Ah, but he has a plan.  He’ll go into the men’s room and hide half in the ceiling.  Then he’ll wait to give his son back before giving them the rest of the drugs.

Can you think of another place that has more cameras than a casino?  Not the brightest plan.  What follows are a bunch of fights as Downs gets his son back, loses his son, fights the drug dealers and fights the other cops investigating the crime.  There are fights in the hallway, fights in the kitchen, the disco, the spa, the pool and the parking garage.  You’ll see more people with guns get their guns taken away by unarmed folks than in any other movie I can remember.

The thing that bugs me is that this could have been a better movie with just a little more thought.  Nits I will pick…

  • Downs takes all the coke to the casino and then hides half of it in the casino.  What’s the point?  Doesn’t he know about cameras?
  • When the female cop trailing Downs discovers he’s brought the stolen coke to the casino she doesn’t call it in.   Instead she takes the coke and hides it in a locker in the spa in the same casino?!?
  • When Downs goes to get the coke he hid so they will give him his son he discovers it is missing.  So he goes to the kitchen and packs up sugar.  The drug dealers take it without checking because cops are supposedly on their way up.
  • In fight scene after fight scene someone with a gun has it taken away from them by an unarmed person.
  • In a scene in the parking garage, one of the thugs puts on a mask and begins firing off tear gas rounds.  The tear gas has no effect on anyone.  Perhaps he was just firing off smoke grenades, but if that is the case why is he wearing a mask and the smoke would hinder his and his partner’s vision as well.
  • Downs’ wife shows up at the parking garage just in time to kill a thug and save his life.
  • It turns out (major spoiler alert and cliché) that Downs is a good cop who has been undercover for two years.  His dedication to the case is an admirable thing.  Ignoring his family was all in the line of the job.  Aww!  His son and wife are going to forgive him and all will be well in the Downs’ household.
  • The cliché I was hoping that they’d avoid was that the bad cop was actually the female detective’s partner.

If it sounds like I hated Sleepless, I didn’t.  If you go in expecting a fairly mindless action flick, you should like it.  I was just hoping for so much better.

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Ken Meyer Jr.’s Ink Stains 26: Adams, Jones, Nino, Anderson, Cirocco and More!

If you’re a fan of fanzines, then you’ve got to check out Ken Meyer, Jr.’s monthly column Ink Stains.  Each month Ken (who is an amazing artist) posts… well, let’s let Ken explain…

I have a collection of over 200 fanzines from the 60’s-80’s that I plan to scan and talk about, one at a time. I hope to have some of the participants answer a few questions. Many of those participants are established comics professionals now, while some have gone on to other things. I will show a few snippets from each zine and give you a link to download a pdf of the whole thing, which I hope all of you will do!

For Ink Stains 26, Ken took a look at Venture 5 from 1976.  Edited and published by Horizon Zero Graphiques/Frank Cirocco.

I owned this issue!  I remember being impressed by the Neal Adams cover and interior art by Jeff Jones, Alex Nino, Brent Anderson, Carl Potts, Frank Cirocco, Gary Winnick, Steve Leialoha, Steve Oliff, and Tom Orzechowski.  What a gathering of talent.

In Ken’s Ink Stains 26he talks about his friendship with Brent Anderson and reprints the first piece that Ken ever had published — the Bruce Lee piece inked by Anderson below! [This did not appear in Venture 5.]

Ah, the memories of the glory days of fanzines.  Thanks to Ken Meyer, Jr. for making these available!

The Thing from Another World (1951)

The Thing from Another World (1951)

Director: Christian Nyby, Howard Hawks (uncredited)

Screenplay: Charles Lederer based on the story Who Goes There by John W. Campbell Jr.

Stars: Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan, Robert Cornthwaite, Douglas Spencer, James Young, Dewey Martin, Robert Nichols, William Self, Eduard Franz and James Arness.

The Pitch: “Hey,let’s turn Who Goes There into a movie!”

Tagline: What do you know about it? What does science know about it? What does ANYONE know about THE THING?

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

A small band of scientists and soldiers are stationed in the Arctic.  They discover what appears to be a flying saucer buried in the ice.  They also find an alien being frozen in the ice.  When they bring back the block of ice containing the creature, they have no idea the horror that is in store.

The Thing from Another World is a Classic!

 

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16 Epic Facts About “Spartacus”

Roger Cormier and the Mental_Floss present 16 Epic Facts About Spartacus.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. YUL BRYNNER TRIED TO MAKE HIS OWN SPARTACUS MOVIE FIRST.

A Spartacus film starring Brynner and Anthony Quinn was on the slate for United Artists, with the titles Spartacus and The Gladiators already trademarked. UA even paid for a full-page ad to be published in Variety in February 1958 for The Gladiators. However, Douglas and his film company owned the movie rights to Howard Fast’s novel, Spartacus, and when Universal Pictures backed Douglas—along with Ustinov, Olivier, and Laughton all preferring Trumbo’s script over the script for Brynner’s project—Douglas had won. Brynner’s film was never made.

3. STANLEY KUBRICK WAS NOT THE FIRST DIRECTOR.

David Lean (1957’s The Bridge on the River Kwai) turned down an offer to direct, and Laurence Olivier was asked but declined because he thought both acting and directing would be too much. Douglas believed that the original director, Anthony Mann, was scared of the large scope of the movie, and he also didn’t like how close he was to the British actors, so he fired him after two weeks of filming. Douglas turned to Kubrick, his director on Paths of Glory (1957), who agreed for a salary of $150,000.

8. KUBRICK TOLD THE HIRED CINEMATOGRAPHER TO TAKE A SEAT.

Because Kubrick was a cinematographer himself and very exacting in what he wanted, he eventually told Russell Metty, the man hired by Anthony Mann, to do nothing and let Kubrick do all the work for him. Metty would win his first and only Oscar for Best Cinematography for “his” work on Spartacus.

Stagecoach (1939)

Stagecoach (1939)

Director: John Ford

Screenplay: Dudley Nichols  from an original story by Ernest Haycox

Stars: John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Andy Devine and John Carradine

The Pitch: “Hey,let’s make a western that’s more than just white hats vs black hats.”

Tagline: Danger holds the reins as the devil cracks the whip ! Desperate men ! Frontier women ! Rising above their pasts in a West corrupted by violence and gun-fire !

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

 

Stagecoach is not only one of the best westerns ever made, but one of the best movies ever made.  It has it all, danger, romance, humor, mystery and more.  It could actually be the film that laid the ground work for disaster/apopcalyptic movies.  Throw a group of strangers together and drop in a disaster and see what shakes out.

The strangers include: The stage driver and his partner riding shotgun, an alcoholic doctor and a prostitute (who’ve been run out of town), a gambler, a pregnant woman, a bank manager (who has a bag of stolen money) and an escaped convict seeking revenge for the murder of his father and brother.

The stagecoach is traveling through Apache territory in the middle of an uprising.  As they get deeper and deeper into Indian territory, the odds of their surviving are dropping fast.

This is the movie that made John Wayne a star.

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15 Facts About “Silence of the Lambs” That You Didn’t Know

Cory Mahoney and the Hollywood.com present 15 Facts About Silence of the Lambs That You Didn’t Know.  Here are three of my favorites…

3. The moth cocoons Buffalo Bill placed in his victims throats were actually made from a combination of Tootsie Rolls and gummy bears, in case they were swallowed. 

7. Silence of the Lambs the only horror movie ever to win Best Picture at the Oscars.

Only two others have even been nominated: The Exorcist and Jaws.

9. Jonathan Demme always had characters speak directly into the camera for conversations with Clarice, yet he always filmed Jodie Foster looking slightly off camera.
The idea was to make audiences directly experience her point-of-view to more easily empathize with her character. We think anyone who has watched those gripping last few moments of the film can confirm the success of this technique.

The Rules of Wolfe by James Carlos Blake

The Rules of Wolfe by James Carlos Blake

Publisher: Mysterious Press

First sentence…

Eddie Gato pleaded with us to take him on that run last winter but we said no.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

 

Eddie Gato Wolfe is an ambitious young man who wishes to make a fast rise in the vast Wolfe family criminal organization.  When things aren’t moving as fast as he’d like, Eddie heads down to Mexico and takes a security job for the La Navaja drug cartel.

Assigned to a remote but luxurious desert villa, days and nights are boring.  The only time things liven up is when the cartel bosses fly in with young women to party.  Although contact or conversations with the help is not allowed one of the women seems interested in Eddie… and he in her.  Eddie learns her name is Miranda.

On Miranda’s next visit he sneaks a visit to her and they hit it off.  All is going well until the man who brought her finds them together.  He and Eddie fight and the man ends up dead.  The dead man is the brother of  La Navaja’s leader.  Eddie knows that unless he and Miranda can escape across the desert and back into the United States, a brutal merciless death awaits them both.

Eddie and Miranda head into the desert with the knowledge that the entire La Navaja cartel will be looking for them.  They’re only hope is a lot of luck and maybe some help from the Wolfe’s… the family that he deserted.

James Carlos Blake has another winner!

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13 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About “Arsenic and Old Lace”

Lou Lumenick and the New York Post present 13 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Arsenic and Old Lace.  Here are three of my favorites…

The Broadway version was too good for his own good

The main draw on Broadway was Boris Karloff as the critic’s homicidal brother, who is described as looking “like Boris Karloff’’ because of botched plastic surgery.

Much to Karloff’s chagrin, the producers insisted that he remain on Broadway while Josephine Hull and Jean Adair, as the aunts, and John Alexander, as their brother who thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt, reprised their roles in the movie.

Grant almost didn’t have the part

Grant wasn’t the first choice for the film, but Bob Hope wasn’t available because of a schedule conflict (Capra needed to shoot the film just before reporting for World War II military duty).

Grant, who donated his entire $100,000 salary to wartime charities, insisted, “Jimmy Stewart would have been much better [than me] in the film.’’ Stewart later starred opposite Josephine Hull in “Harvey’’ — for which she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

 

An auteur filled Karloff’s shoes

When Karloff left to head up a road company of “Arsenic and Old Lace,’’ he was replaced on Broadway by Erich von Stroheim. Karloff’s rival Bela Lugosi played the part for five weeks onstage in Los Angeles.

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