Film Review: Rififi (1955)

Also known as: Du rififi chez les hommes (original French title)
Release Date: April 13th, 1955 (France)
Directed by: Jules Dassin
Written by: Auguste Le Breton, Jules Dassin, Rene Wheeler
Music by: Georges Auric
Cast: Jean Servais, Robert Hossein, Magali Noël, Janine Darcey, Pierre Grasset, Marcel Lupovici, Robert Manuel, Carl Möhner, Marie Sabouret, Claude Sylvain, Jules Dassin (credited as Perlo Vita)

Pathé, 118 Minutes

Review:

“[to Tony about Cesar] For a job with you he’ll come. Cesar! There’s not a safe that can resist Cesar and not a woman that Cesar can resist.” – Mario Ferrati

Jules Dassin, a maestro of film-noir, was blacklisted from Hollywood. So he took his talents to France and made Du rififi chez les hommes or just Rififi.

Other Dassin fans have told me to watch this for quite a while now but I just got around to it because I have a giant laundry list of stuff that I need to watch. But I am glad that I did as this is now my favorite of Dassin’s crime pictures.

I think that this benefited from Dassin not being under the controlling eye of Hollywood execs. It felt more personal, much more gritty and allowed Dassin some creative freedom in an era where it didn’t really exist, at least in the United States.

The big heist sequence in this film was fantastic and one of the best I’ve ever seen. It takes up a big chunk of the second act of the picture but each shot was well crafted and every moment served a purpose and was interesting.

Seeing heists in film is really common nowadays but back in the mid-’50s it wasn’t. Dassin put great detail into this sequence and what makes it cool, seeing it all these years later, is that it isn’t high tech, it is much more hands on and displayed real cunning, as opposed to just some boffin on a laptop hacking cameras, lasers and safe codes.

I also thought that the acting in this was really good. All of the key players were able to express themselves without a lot of dialogue. You could read things on their face, which also made the experience more effective for English speaking audiences that have to see this film with subtitles.

The cinematography was top notch and a lot of that can be credited to the lighting. But ultimately, it was Dassin’s directorial prowess that brought all the pieces together in the right way, visually.

Between this film and Le Samouraï, I’m really digging French film-noir. For other fans of noir out there, or just Jules Dassin fans, this is certainly not a waste of your time and is pretty close to being a film-noir masterpiece.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Other noir pictures by Jules Dassin: The Naked CityNight and the CityThieves’ Highway and Brute Force. Also, the French neo-noir Le Samouraï.

Film Review: Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017)

Release Date: March 31st, 2017 (WonderCon)
Directed by: Sam Liu
Written by: Ernie Altbacker
Based on: The Judas Contract by Marv Wolfman, George Perez
Music by: Frederik Wiedmann
Cast: Stuart Allan, Taissa Farmiga, Brandon Soo Hoo, Jake T. Austin, Kari Wahlgren, Sean Maher, Christina Ricci, Miguel Ferrer, Gregg Henry, Meg Foster, David Zayas, Kevin Smith (cameo as himself)

Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment, 84 Minutes

Review:

“They prepared well. Their reaction time is much better.” – Robin, “Robin, stop complimenting the bad guys.” – Nightwing

I don’t watch a lot of the animated films that DC Comics puts out but it was hard for me to not check out an adaptation of The Judas Contract, as it was a story I loved when I was reading Teen Titans as a kid in the ’80s. Granted, I haven’t read it since the ’80s but it was my introduction to one of my all-time favorite characters, Deathstroke.

And yes, Deathstroke is a big part of this, which was a big selling point for me.

This film starts with a sequence that sees Starfire meet the Titans for the first time. It then fast forwards to a time where she is in charge and Dick Grayson has been off being Nightwing for awhile. Dick comes back and works with this new version of the team. However, one team member is a spy for the villains of the story, one of which is Deathstroke.

I love how all of the characters were used in this and I also loved that there was a bit of profanity and a level of violence that lets you know that this isn’t a cartoon for kids. I guess this is the norm with a lot of the DC animated feature films now, which is kind of cool considering that I’m an adult that has grown up watching these characters for decades but am too old to really dig a Saturday morning cartoon at my age.

The voice acting was well done, the action was solid and the script was really good. You felt for these characters and their struggles.

You also get to see a cameo by Kevin Smith playing himself in the animated DC universe.

I was happy with this and am glad that I gave it a shot. Honestly, it’s made me want to check out some of the other animated features by DC.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other recent DC Comics animated features.

Comic Review: Comic Review: Hack/Slash – Omnibus Five

Published on: June 12th, 2012
Written by: Tim Seeley
Art by: Dan Leister, Elena Casagrande, James Lowder

Devil’s Due Publishing, Image Comics, 300 Pages

Review:

I really loved this series back in the day when it was new and fresh. Reading this fifth and final omnibus, however, makes me kinda glad that this series wrapped up. I don’t know why but it lost its luster for me. I know other people still like it but it just feels like it is moving without a clear direction as to where it’s going. But this does end with the series’ official finale.

I’m several years behind on reading these stories but I’ve spent over a decade with Cassie Hack and Vlad and I do love them but even they seem like they’re bored with the proceedings. Tim Seeley has done well with his creation but this just feels like he was ready to move on and put his focus on his other work.

Most of this book just feels like filler that is working towards winding down but also taking its sweet time in doing so. There is an interesting Mercy Sparx crossover thrown in, which was cool to see but not anywhere near as exciting as some of the other crossovers from Hack/Slash‘s past.

When you do reach the finale, which is a story stretched over the final six issues in this collection, it is kind of welcomed. I thought that finale was actually the best part of the book. Granted, the first story dealing with a monster island of kaiju and a mad scientist was also kind of neat.

I do like how this wrapped up even if the characters don’t get a very happy ending. The ending had impact and real finality to it and any return to the series would cheapen it. It’s not the ending I wanted to see but it did bring closure where so many other comic series that call it quits, leave the door wide open for eventual followups.

This series was its strongest when it was at Devil’s Due before moving over to Image due to Devil’s Due’s financial woes. Tim Seeley gave us a damn good series though, overall.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: The other Hack/Slash omnibuses. But They should be read in order.

Film Review: Explorers (1985)

Release Date: July 12th, 1985
Directed by: Joe Dante
Written by: Eric Luke
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, Jason Presson, Amanda Peterson, James Cromwell, Robert Picardo, Dick Miller, Meshach Taylor

Paramount Pictures, 109 Minutes

Review:

“It’s asking for coordinates on x-, y- and z-axes to locate a point in space relative to its terminal. How did you dream this?” – Wolfgang Müller

The Explorers was one of my favorite movies in the mid-’80s. It kind of fit in with all those other kid adventure movies like E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe Goonies and Monster Squad. These kid films did really well back then and they all sort of just tapped into something that films didn’t do as good before the decade. I guess that’s why Stranger Things and the modern It movie have built up solid fan bases off of the nostalgia for these sort of films and stories.

This movie is no different and it also came from the imagination of Joe Dante. Ultimately, this feels like a Spielberg film too but he wasn’t even involved but maybe Dante’s experience working with Spielberg on Gremlins, a year earlier, kept that magic mojo going.

The plot follows three boys and their attempt at building a spaceship. Yeah, it is really fantastical and unrealistic but the movie is more about imagination and childhood than the going to space bit. Granted, they do go to space and meet aliens but even then, this is still about youthful imagination, living your dreams no matter how ridiculous they may be and never losing hope in yourself. It’s a metaphor, y’all!

What makes this movie so fantastic is that you do see this through the eyes of children but you also see it through the eyes of an adult, in this case the super talented and underutilized Dick Miller. Miller’s character, an old man that once had dreams and aspirations similar to the kids, discovers what these kids are up to and when he witnesses them succeed, he is living vicariously through them and tapping into something he hasn’t felt in decades. It’s pretty f’n touching and Miller really conveyed the right emotions in playing this part. While Miller’s role in the movie isn’t very big, it’s central to the most pivotal message this film tries to communicate to its audience.

The special effects in this are really good and I loved the sets and the creature effects on the aliens, once these kids journeyed to their spaceship.

Spoiler alert, the aliens are friendly and as the film rolls on, you come to discover that they’re just kids to. So the Earth kids and the alien kids meet and you see that they’re not too dissimilar. The alien kids are also driven to go on adventures and discover the universe with childlike enthusiasm. Plus, Robert Picardo was awesome as the male alien, even if you couldn’t see him under the bulky costume.

I like watching this film as an adult because it keeps me grounded by making me remember the ideals and view of the universe I had when I was a kid. Watching this as an adult is similar to being in the shoes of the Dick Miller character.

This is one of Joe Dante’s best pictures.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Flight of the NavigatorE.T the Extra-TerrestrialD.A.R.Y.L., The Goonies, Monster Squad.

TV Review: The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs (2018)

Original Run: July 13th, 2018 – July 14th, 2018
Directed by: Austin Jennings
Written by: Joe Bob Briggs
Cast: Joe Bob Briggs, Diana Prince

Not the Funeral Home, Shudder, 13 Episodes/Segments, 120 Minutes (roughly) (per episode)

Review:

People that have followed this site back when it was still Cinespiria, know that I have a pretty solid love for Joe Bob Briggs. He is the greatest Texan that ever lived and possibly the greatest American as well. I have been watching this guy since I was in grade school because my parents had no idea what I was doing late at night on the weekends. I could’ve been snorting lines off of a dead ferret for all they knew.

Well, I’ve watched Joe Bob my entire life other than a nearly twenty year gap between the cancellation of Monstervision on TNT and then the birth of this awesome show, which just dropped a few days ago.

Anyway, if you too are a hardcore Joe Bob fan or just loved Drive-In Theater or Monstervision than this thirteen film marathon is exactly your cup of Joe Bob!

This was absolute perfection, Joe Bob didn’t miss a damn beat and it felt exactly like those shows did way back in the day. I stayed up for the entirety of this 26-plus hour marathon, other than dozing off a bit during Rabid and Daughters of Darkness but I pushed on through with a big ass mug of dark roast. I didn’t indulge in bottles of bourbon because that shit would’ve knocked me out. I’m much older than I was when Joe Bob used to be on TV and therefore, I am not as resilient. Had I known they would just end up streaming all these movies as episodes after the marathon, I wouldn’t have pushed myself so hard.

Anyway, what made this so f’n great is that it streamed live on Shudder and therefore, it didn’t have to be censored like the movies when Joe Bob was on TNT. We got titties, gore and no commercials! Just Joe Bob and the movie. And man, it was great hearing him add his commentary once again.

Joe Bob presented thirteen films. In order, those films were Tourist TrapSleepaway CampRabidThe ProwlerSorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-RamaDaughters of DarknessBlood FeastBasket CaseRe-AnimatorDemonsThe Legend of Boggy CreekHellraiser and Pieces. I’ve already reviewed most of these films but for the handful I haven’t reviewed, I will have those posted in the next few weeks.

It just felt really good having Joe Bob back on TV. They’ve basically called this his retirement from hosting movies but this was so huge for Shudder that it crashed the website a few times. I only missed out on the first hour and everything ran smooth after that. But the demand is obviously there and really, this should lead to Joe Bob making a come back on a full-time basis.

I don’t want this to be the end. You can’t bring back Joe Bob and then just take him away after a day. It’s cruel, it’s mean and it’s un-f’n-American!

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Joe Bob Brigg’s other great shows: Drive-In Theater and Monstervision. Good luck tracking down full episodes of those, however.

Comic Review: Deathstroke, Vol. 1: The Professional

Published: March 14th, 2017
Written by: Christopher Priest
Art by: James Bennett, Belardino Brabo, Mark Morales, Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, Larry Hama

DC Comics, 143 Pages

Review:

I started reading some of the modern Deathstroke stuff recently. Being that I felt like I needed to have the earlier stories in his current run to have a better grip on what was happening, I decided to go back and start with the first collection of Deathstroke issues since the start of DC’s Rebirth.

This was an interesting book and it showed me how far the character of Deathstroke has come since I used to read about him in the ’80s and ’90s. Plus, it really helped to give me more context as to where he fits in the DC Comics universe now.

This collection has two stories in it. One of them sends Deathstroke to an exotic country where he must deal with double crosses and twists. He also comes face to face with supervillain, the Clock King. The second story takes Deathstroke and his daughter Rose to Gotham City. We see them get tangled up with Batman and the modern Robin, Damian Wayne. I feel like there are some hints or Easter eggs here that will come back in the current ongoing story arc, Deathstroke Vs. Batman. But I won’t read that until the final two issues come out.

I really liked this volume in the current Deathstroke run. I’ve always liked the character and it seems like the writer, Christopher Priest, has a good grasp on who Slade Wilson is. The stuff with Slade and his daughter was really well written.

I also though the art was damn good and liked seeing that Larry Hama worked on some of it.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Deathstroke stories since DC’s Rebirth. Also, the current runs on Nightwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Film Review: Get Carter (1971)

Release Date: February 3rd, 1971 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Mike Hodges
Written by: Mike Hodges
Based on: Jack’s Return Home by Ted Lewis
Music by: Roy Budd
Cast: Michael Caine, Ian Hendry, John Osborne, Britt Ekland

MGM-EMI, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 112 Minutes

Review:

“You know, I’d almost forgotten what your eyes looked like. Still the same. Pissholes in the snow.” – Jack Carter

I can’t believe I never watched this film until now. It’s a cool ass motion picture. Now I did see the remake with Stallone from 2000 but that one left a bad taste in my mouth. This however, was a balls out revenge fest.

Michael Caine plays Jack Carter. He discovers that his deceased brother was murdered by some mobsters. He then spends the rest of the movie on a revenge quest, knocking off the scum that were behind his brother’s death.

There are also a lot of babes and Caine gets to toy around with several, most notably the incredibly sexy Britt Ekland, who gets naked. She would go on to be a Bond girl in The Man With the Golden Gun and would get even more naked in The Wicker Man.

I loved Caine in this and it is so cool seeing him kick serious ass in his younger days. Sure, he kicks ass as an older man too but he just had a presence here that made him debonair, dangerous and pretty fucking sexy, if I do say so myself. I’m not gay but I can appreciate a masculine dime piece through straight eyes.

This film also had film-noir elements to it, which pulled me in right away. This is more of a neo-noir, as it has that sort of style to it. The tone reminds me of Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï.

The plot has noir styled twists and turns and it throws femme fatales into the mix but you never really feel like Caine’s Carter could be outwitted by them.

There really isn’t anything negative I can say about the picture. It was well acted, well directed and had some stupendous camera work and cinematography.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Other old school Michael Caine movies: The Italian Job, PulpThe Ipcress FileFuneral In Berlin.