Film Review: The Choppers (1961)

Also known as: Rebeldes del volante (Mexico)
Release Date: November 30th, 1961
Directed by: Leigh Jason
Written by: Arch Hall Sr.
Music by: Al Pellegrini
Cast: Arch Hall Jr., Marianne Gaba, Robert Paget, Tom Brown, Burr Middleton, Rex Holman, Chuck Barnes, Bruno VeSota

Fairway International Pictures, Rushmore Productions, 66 Minutes

Review:

“[to Jim Bradford, as he is being arrested] We had a ball. A real ball.” – Jack ‘Cruiser’ Bryan

Out of all the films with Arch Hall Jr. in them, this is the best. I first discovered him on Mystery Science Theater 3000 years ago when the Eegah episode first aired. Most of his films are written and directed by his father, Arch Hall Sr. While this one is written by Sr. it isn’t directed by him. That’s probably why this is a better film than the others and Hall Jr. came off a bit more relaxed and natural than when he was directed by his dad.

For those that aren’t familiar with Arch Hall Jr., he was an aspiring pop singer and guitarist that was really into hot rods and the rockabilly lifestyle. That being said, The Choppers was a good vehicle for him, pun intended.

The premise is about this gang of young hoods that chop up parked cars and steal their valuable bits. The don’t really steal the cars, they just strip them and then use the parts to make or enhance their own vehicles.

Arch Jr. plays Jack ‘Cruiser’, who is a hot rod driving, guitar strumming, wannabe badass. He gets in way over his head due to his gang of misfits and eventually finds himself in some serious shit.

This film is pretty damn tame though. It’s like if you took The Outsiders, stripped it of everything that made it cool, tried to edit it down to a G-rating and then de-saturated all the color and gave the lead a guitar so he could randomly break off into song from time to time, than you would have this movie.

In the end, this is a really short picture and it isn’t boring. It’s not exciting but it has some value, more so than the other films from this creative team.

But there doesn’t seem to be much of a point to this picture other than reminding kids in 1962 to not be juvenile delinquents.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: ’60s hot rod and biker movies. Also, other stuff with Arch Hall Jr. like Eegah and Wild Guitar.

Film Review: Roadblock (1951)

Also known as: Walk a Crooked Mile (working title)
Release Date: September 17th, 1951
Directed by: Harold Daniels
Written by: George Bricker, Steve Fisher, Richard H. Landau, Daniel Mainwaring
Music by: Paul Sawtell
Cast: Charles McGraw, Joan Dixon

RKO Radio Pictures, 73 Minutes

Review:

“You’re a nice guy, Honest Joe, but you’re not in the right league. I’m aiming for the World Series.” – Diane

Roadblock stars Charles McGraw and was put out by RKO but it doesn’t seem to be a well known film-noir picture. I discovered it by seeing it featured on TCM’s Noir Alley. Even though I’ve become a fan of McGraw’s work, it’s nice to see something I wasn’t familiar with.

The film also stars Joan Dixon and she is quite the femme fatale. I really liked her in this and I wish she would’ve been in more of these films and grown into a more prolific actress. I don’t know, she was pretty effective at luring me in, as well as McGraw, who is usually a heroic character but falls into the dark depths because of the sultry and seedy touch of Dixon.

The plot involves an insurance scam so it’s impossible to see this picture and not immediately think about Double Indemnity, which did insurance scams first and much better. However, that film really is a classic and it is hard to compete with it. At least this doesn’t try to copy it and tells its own fairly unique tale.

Here, McGraw’s Joe Peters is an insurance investigator that wants to win over Dixon’s Diane. They crossed paths while traveling and Peters discovered that she was into the finer things in life. Not being able to afford the type of lifestyle Diane is attracted to, Peters uses his knowledge about a $1.25 million dollar cash shipment to do some dirt in an effort to give Diane the life she desires.

What’s strange about this film-noir for its time, is that the femme fatale starts to come around when she realizes that she loves Peters more than money. By that point, it is too late. But when all is said and done, Diane walks away from the chaos unscathed. Sure, Peters gets his just desserts but Diane can go on living her life, albeit with a broken heart. Back in the days of classic film-noir, a character like Diane couldn’t go unpunished. But here, she does – defying the Hollywood censors and codes of the era.

Apart from that, there isn’t much here that is all that special or noteworthy. It’s a good movie but far from a great one and there are probably fifty classic noirs I’d put before this one but I enjoyed it, nonetheless.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Some other lesser known noir movies: The Man Who Cheated Himself, Jealousy, The Underworld Story, The Accused, I Wake Up Screaming and The Threat.

TV Review: Broadchurch (2013-2017)

Original Run: March 4th, 2013 – April 17th, 2017
Created by: Chris Chinball
Directed by: James Strong, Euros Lyn, various
Written by: Chris Chinball, Louise Fox
Music by: Ólafur Arnalds, Arnór Dan
Cast: David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Jodie Whittaker, Arthur Darvill, Andrew Buchan, Carolyn Pickles, Charlotte Beaumont, Charlotte Rampling, Eve Myles

Kudos Film and Television, Shine Group, Imaginary Friends, ITV, 24 Episodes, 45 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

ITV’s Broadchurch is one of the top five shows I have watched in recent memory. A bold statement, sure, but in a world full of crime dramas, this show is a big step above what is currently on television.

The showrunners must be big Doctor Who fans, as it features David Tennant in the lead role as DI Alec Hardy, Arthur Darvill as Rev. Paul Coates and Olivia Colman (who appeared in one episode of Doctor Who) as the other lead, DS Ellie Miller. Eve Myles from the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood shows up as a regular in the second series. (Updated note: Jodie Whittaker would go on to be the first female version of the Doctor after this show.)

Jodie Whittaker (Attack The Block) plays the mother of a murdered boy. Solving the mystery of the boy’s murder is what drives the plot of series one, while the trial of the murderer drives some of the plot of series two. Series two also focuses on a case that Hardy was unable to solve before he moved to Broadchurch.

This show, unlike many other crime dramas, is not predictable. There are a lot of layers, twists and turns and while that is a typical formula of these shows, the execution of it on Broadchurch is not only stellar, it is refreshing.

The show is also beautiful to look at. Filmed in Dorset, many shots are full of the iconic coastal cliffs, grassy hills and beaches of that area. The geography of the show enhances the tone greatly and while it feels warm and inviting at first, it is also cold and in someways, desolate.

The acting is top notch and this may be David Tennant’s greatest work, even considering his run as the Tenth Doctor on Doctor Who and his role as the villainous Kilgrave on Jessica Jones. Olivia Colman has never been better and she is an actress that I have loved since first seeing her work with Mitchel and Webb in their sketch comedy shows, as well as Peep Show. The rest of the cast is equally fantastic.

There is a lot of shit on television today but Broadchurch is the antithesis of that norm.

Each series is also only eight episodes, which allow this masterpiece to be binge watched quite quickly.

Both of the series to date are now streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Doctor Who and Torchwood for all the shared actors, the American remake Gracepoint and the BBC crime show Luther.

Film Review: Jonah Hex (2010)

Release Date: June 17th, 2010 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Jimmy Hayward
Written by: Neveldine/Taylor, William Farmer
Based on: Jonah Hex by John Albano, Tony Dezuniga
Music by: Marco Beltrami, Mastodon
Cast: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon, Wes Bentley, Aidan Quinn, Lance Reddick, Tom Wopat, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

DC Comics, Legendary Pictures, Mad Chance, Weed Road Pictures, Warner Bros., 81 Minutes

Review:

“War and me took to each other real well. It felt like it had meaning. The feeling of doing what you thought was right. But it wasn’t. Folks can believe what they like, but eventually a man’s gotta decide if he’s gonna do what’s right. That choice cost me more than I bargained for.” – Jonah Hex

This has a measly 4.7 rating on IMDb. I’m calling bullshit on that. This is not as bad as a 4.7 would imply but I’ll get into why.

This film came out, it didn’t look exciting, it didn’t generate the right kind of buzz and it just sort of fizzled out immediately. To be honest, I didn’t support its theatrical run and sort of forgot about it until a friend and I were talking about Josh Brolin and his multiple comic book roles. So I figured that I’d check it out, eight years later.

What I didn’t know, at the time, is that this thing has a pretty stacked cast. Not only do you have Brolin and Megan Fox, probably the hottest starlet circa 2010, but you also have John Malkovich, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon, Wes Bentley, Aidan Quinn, Lance Reddick, Tom Wopat and an uncredited Jeffrey Dean Morgan. This is a movie full of manly men with talent.

There is a lot working for this movie but there is also a lot working against it, which is why it wasn’t successful. Well, and the trailers made it look goofier than it actually was.

The biggest problem with this picture is running time. Now I have to assume that this fell victim to producer meddling, being behind schedule or a writers’ strike. Reason being, this film should not have been just 81 minutes. It feels like there is a half hour missing from the movie and there probably is. Maybe a lot of scenes came out so bad that they got cut and this is the only way they could have salvaged the film. Whatever the reason, this picture lacks character development, story development and any real emotional weight or deeper context.

That aside, however, this is a balls to the wall action fest with some cool ideas and the kernel of something that could have been really damn good had it been managed much better.

Brolin was good as Hex. Fox was incredibly hot as the eye candy, which is all she needs to be. Malkovich was a formidable villain but just didn’t have the time to properly shine and the same goes for Fassbender, really.

Ultimately, this felt like a completely wasted opportunity. It had some very good pieces but the puzzle was left unfinished with most of the pieces hammered into the wrong place.

I still think that there is more going right for this film than wrong and I can’t give it a rating below a 5 out of 10. The film just feels unfinished and I wish they would have spent the time to work out the noticeable kinks and given us something more worthy of this film’s roster of onscreen talent.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Other sci-fi/comic book/western hybrids: Cowboys & AliensWild Wild West and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. Also, the Jonah Hex episodes of Legends of Tomorrow.

TV Review: Californication (2007-2014)

Original Run: August 13th, 2007 – June 29th, 2014
Created by: Tom Kapinos
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Tree Adams, Tyler Bates
Cast: David Duchovny, Natascha McElhone, Madeleine Martin, Evan Handler, Pamela Adlon, Madeline Zima, Stephen Tobolowsky, Bill Lewis, Judy Greer, Tim Minchin, Mädchen Amick, Ezra Miller, Justine Bateman, Peter Gallagher, Kathleen Turner, James Frain, Carla Gugino, Rob Lowe, Zoë Kravitz, Meagan Good, Rza, Maggie Grace, Michael Imperioli, Heather Graham

Totally Commercial Films, Aggressive Mediocrity, Twilight Time Films, And Then…, Showtime, 84 Episodes, 29 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I heard a lot of good things while Californication was on the air. I held off on checking it out until it was over, recently binge watching it on Netflix.

The story follows novelist Hank Moody (David Duchovny) as he tries to win back his long time baby mama Karen (Natascha McElhone) and balance a life of sex addiction, drugs, booze and his daughter (Madeleine Martin). Also, early in the series, he gets caught up in having sex with the underage daughter (Madeline Zima) of his baby mama’s new fiance. The show is accented by Hank’s manager and best friend, Charlie (Evan Handler) and his wife, Marcy (Pamela Adlon).

The show starts out really strong and each season is actually pretty good before it runs off the rails in the final season of its seven season run.

Duchovny is lovable as the childish and womanizing novelist but ultimately, he constantly does questionable things and always finds himself in trouble or making situations much worse. Sometimes, it is just the result of unforeseen circumstances but typically it is the result of a myriad of bad or careless decisions.

The constant back and forth between Hank and Karen is enjoyable for the first few seasons but it eventually grows tiresome about midway through the series’ run. Maybe that is because I binge watched it and didn’t see their relationship grow, evolve and fall apart over the course of several years time.

Hank’s daughter started out as a decent enough character but after a season or two, she becomes completely unlikable and doesn’t recognize that her father isn’t really all that bad and that despite his pitfalls has genuinely tried to put her first.

The best overall story during the run of the show was the up and down relationship of secondary characters Charlie and Marcy. They go through more real world problems and drama than Hank and Karen do and in the end, they reconnect and find each other, ending off better than they ever were throughout their tumultuous relationship. And Stu, who becomes Marcy’s husband over a season or two, was hysterical. The love triangle between Charlie, Marcy and Stu was the highlight of this entire show. And honestly, this relationship makes Hank and Karen’s look like bullshit high school level drama.

By the time I got to the end, I really didn’t care about where Hank and Karen ended up because based off of their track record, I knew it had the possibility to go in the opposite direction five minutes after the final credits rolled.

The show was pretty solid for most of its run but the final goodbye was long overdue by the time I got to the end.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Shameless, Weeds, Entourage and Aquarius.

Film Review: The Accountant (2001)

Also known as: O Contador
Release Date: January, 2001 (Sundance)
Directed by: Ray McKinnon
Written by: Ray McKinnon
Music by: Rusty Andrews
Cast: Ray McKinnon, Walton Goggins, Eddie King

Ginny Mule Pictures, 40 Minutes

Review:

“If a man builds a machine and that machine conspires with another machine built by another man, are those men conspiring?” – The Accountant

I didn’t know much about Ray McKinnon other than his role as the preacher on the first season on Deadwood and seeing him pop up a few times in Sons of Anarchy. But he was a powerful performer and really lured me in when he was on screen.

I’ve been a fan of Walton Goggins for a really long time. I remember seeing him for the first time in that terrible fourth Karate Kid film and that also terrible third Major League movie. However, he stuck with me. I then remember seeing him get an Academy Award way back in 2002 for a short film that he had produced. I figured I’d check it out, as I wanted to go back and see a lot more of his earlier indie stuff. To my surprise, that short film was written, directed and starred Ray McKinnon. Well, it stars Goggins too, as well as another actor, Eddie King.

Man, I don’t really know how to describe this but it takes you to a lot of places emotionally in forty minutes. It is the perfect length, however. Had this been stretched out to feature length it probably would’ve dragged on too much and lost it’s impact.

In a lot of ways, this is like a punch to the gut but not in a bad way. There is some serious stuff to deal with here but it leaves you with some hope and also taps into the nostalgia of those who love simpler times and classic Americana.

This really has a strong Southern spirit to it in the best way possible.

McKinnon is utterly f’n superb in this and Goggins was the perfect actor to play off of him. These guys have real chemistry, which is probably why they’ve been good friends for years and have done multiple projects together.

I also thought that the music made for the film by Rusty Andrews was damn good and really added to the emotions and feelings that this film successfully conveyed.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Ray McKinnon’s Randy and the Mob and Chrystal.

Film Review: Cape Fear (1962)

Also known as: The Executioners (working title)
Release Date: April 12th, 1962 (Miami premiere)
Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
Written by: James R. Webb
Based on: The Executioners by John D. MacDonald
Music by: Bernard Hermann
Cast: Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, Martin Balsam, Polly Bergen, Lori Martin, Telly Savalas

Melville Productions, Talbot Productions, Universal Pictures, 106 Minutes

Review:

“I got somethin’ planned for your wife and kid that they ain’t nevah gonna forget. They ain’t nevah gonna forget it… and neither will you, Counselor! Nevah!” – Max Cady

I had to rectify a grave injustice that I have committed against myself for decades. That injustice was never seeing the original version of Cape Fear. Strangely, I love both Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck, plus this has Telly Savalas in it. That alone should have had me on board for this years ago but alas, I didn’t see this wonderful picture until 2018. In my defense, if I had already seen every classic, I wouldn’t be able to be wowed by them the first time.

This is, far and away, better than the remake done by Martin Scorsese and I am a big fan of that picture. That version got in my head when I was a young teen and it never really released its grip. I do need to go back and watch that one too, in the near future.

Anyway, Robert Mitchum is one of the most charismatic actors to ever grace the screen. When Mitchum decides to delve into darker roles though, the audience is in for a treat. Well, if they consider terror as a treat. He’s just so damn good playing such an evil bastard. Between this movie and The Night of the Hunter, he really exists on an evil level in a way that other actors don’t. If you want to see a master of their craft at work, this is a prime example of Robert Mitchum transcending his craft and having a presence that reaches through the screen and haunts your imagination.

Gregory Peck was perfection as the other side of this coin. He represents good and is a solid moral character that believes in law and justice. He is pushed to his limit and almost crosses over to the dark side a few times but ultimately, he keeps his soul clean and pure. If this was made in modern times, the ending would have looked like an obvious attempt at leaving things open for a sequel. But in 1962, goodness prevails without evil being mortally wiped out. Plus, in 2018, they would have had the hero blast a dozen holes into the bad guy while the audience cheered.

This is just a classic tale of good versus evil and that’s why it works so well. There are no bones about how terrible of a person Mitchum’s Max Cady is and the same can be said about the goodness of Peck’s Sam Bowden.

What was surprising about this, at least for me, is that a motion picture from 1962 could cross the lines that this one did. There were the threats of rape and pedophilia, which are disturbing now but imagine seeing this unfold through the eyes of someone in 1962 when film’s were censored by the morality police and the rating system wouldn’t exist for another 6 years.

Cape Fear is near perfect as a straight up thriller. It gives you an immediate sense of danger and dread and slowly simmers for 90 minutes before its nerve wracking climax.

Every actor in this was superb.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: PsychoThe Night of the Hunter and the 1991 Cape Fear remake.