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The NeverEnding Story, and six more movies

 

THE NEVERENDING FILM FESTIVAL #157
Sunday, May 14, 2023

For some reason, the management at Haugen & Dahl doesn't want me watching movies between 8AM and 4:30 PM Monday-Friday, so obviously, there are going to be fewer movie reviews, now that I'm not sitting in my recliner at home 24/7.

I've only seen half a dozen movies in the past month, including none of these. All seven today, like most of the movies stacked up behind them, were watched months ago.

That said, I still love movies, still got stupid opinions about 'em, so dim the lights and raise the curtain for...

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993)

I'm not nuts about him like some people, but sure, I'm a fan of Bruce Lee, especially Enter the Dragon. Here's his big-budget biopic, which I've seen half a dozen times, and I love it. I'd love it lots more, though, without the layer of mysticism that's slathered all over it.

It's based on a biography written by his wife, with a script by Robert Clouse (who directed Enter the Dragon), so for all I know it's true, and Mr Lee's family really believed they were haunted by demons, and Bruce saw weird visions and had dark premonitions. Maybe that was an important part of his life story, so it belongs in the film. If so, well, here it is, but to me that part of the movie is as silly as the preaching scenes in a Billy Graham flick.

Other than being haunted by demons, the movie rocks. Lee is played by Jason Scott Lee (no relation), who bears almost no physical resemblance, but still he's perfect. That he didn't become a big star after this is another indictment of Hollywood.

Lauren Holly nails it as the love of Lee's life. Nancy Kwan, Robert Wagner, and Miss Michael Learned are here, all having a good time. 

The movie was directed by Rob Cohen, who's had other hits including the first Fast and Furious movie, but this is so good I'll forgive him for that.

Appropriately soaring and emotionally wrenching music by Randy Edelman, which I can and do whistle at inappropriate times all through my life, and played by the orchestra here, it always makes my eyes water.

Bruce Lee was Mr Martial Arts, so how are the fight scenes? There are six of them, all enjoyable and well-staged (spoiler: Lee wins them all). Of course, the fights would've been better with the real Bruce Lee, but he was unavailable. The younger Mr Lee is adequate at kung fu, though the cinematic tricks helping him win are fairly obvious.

This was the first time I'd seen the movie in twenty years, and I was annoyed that one of the best fight scenes was missing. What the hell? But my copy's running time matches IMDB's listing, so… oh, wait. The fight I'm remembering wasn't in this, it was in Enter the Dragon. I'll just say, Dragon has to be pretty dang good, if I'm mistaking it for that.

Verdict: YES, and it would be a BIG YES if someone could please send me a version all the hokum and spirituality edited out.

♦ ♦ ♦   

The Exiles (1961)

For one day, student filmmaker Kent Mackenzie follows some Native Americans, exiles from the reservation, who live in Los Angeles.

It's a depressing day, and you can tell that it's like any other day. Most of these characters are drunks drinking heavily, and there's little ahead of them in life but more of the same. 

There's also a visit to the reservation, and some lengthy footage of long-lost L.A., all filmed on location at the bottom of American life.

Unless you live in that realm or you're a social worker, you've never seen such scenes before, not up close and personal like this. It's not fun and frankly not entertaining, but it is honest and beautiful.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦   

Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All (1982)

Ex-Olympic athlete Flash Gordon teams up with "girl reporter" Dale Arden to outrun boiling lava, fly through a meteor shower, defeat dinosaurs, escape cavemen and an attempted human sacrifice, outsmart a space villainess and her cleavagey-clad dancing reptilian soldierettes, and of course, smack down Ming the Merciless, who's here providing support to Adolf Hitler.

This was made by Filmation, the cartoon factory that churned out most of the bland Saturday morning shows you'll remember if you're of my vintage — The Archie Show, The Brady Kids, Fat Albert, Gilligan's Planet, Shazam, She-Ra, and "New Adventures" of Aquaman, Batman, Superman, etc. Most of Filmation's output was forgettable before it was over, but they delivered a pretty good Star Trek animated series, and this is on that level. It's genuinely good.

It's not quite "the greatest adventure of all," but it's the best adaptation of the Flash Gordon comic strip — yes, better than the 1930s movie serials. Unlike the campy 1980 live action movie, it takes the source material seriously. It also helps that it was written by sci-fi stalwart Samuel A Peeples.

Verdict: YES. 

♦ ♦ ♦  

My Brother the Time Traveler (2017)

There are some laughs in this low-key story of two estranged brothers, one of whom is so nuts he thinks he's a time traveler, while the other is so nuts he's simply normal. There's a plot twist you can see like the skyline of New York City from ten miles away, but other than that this is adequate entertainment.

If you wanna watch it, I will not try to talk you out of it, but I won't waste too many keystrokes trying to talk you into it either.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦   

The NeverEnding Story (1984)

This movie is mostly meant for pre-teens, so there's no sex, vulgarity, or violence, but still — it's great.

I was supposedly a grown-up when it came out in 1984, but it was magic for me then, still is, and always will be. This is the flick I'd like playing on a loop while I die at some shitty hospice.

Like the better-known Princess Bride, it's about a little kid getting sucked into a book, but this is better because the kid reads the book himself, instead of having the story read to him. It's a movie about the joy of reading a great book, something I worry that fewer and fewer kids know.

The story inside the book (and movie) is about a boy on a quest, to rescue the empress by beating back the Creeping Nothing, which is of course an allegory for adulthood. Toward that goal, the kid's gonna gotta get through the swamps of sadness, past the big apathetic turtle, and wake up on a luck-dragon's paw. Then some more wild stuff happens, but that would be telling and all the fun is in seeing it for yourself.

Great music. So-so special effects, with lots of unconvincing greenscreenery, but that's OK — the real special effect here is the story, and the book.

Quibbles? I have a few, sure. The boy's too young to like girls, got it, but still it stinks that he abandons the empress and doesn't even invite her to go flying on the shaggy dog. And he never returns the book. And he never takes the math test. And he never tells his grumpy father to shut up, something Dad sorely needs to hear.

And of all the movies that never needed a sequel, this one needed one the least, but it got two. I've never seen either and never will, but I'll watch this original any time I need a kick of optimism against the Creeping Nothing.

"Kind people discover that they are cruel. Brave men discover that they are cowards. Confronted with their true selves, most people run away screaming."

Verdict: BIG YES.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Such Interesting Neighbors (1987)

This is mid-career Spielberg, from his anthology TV show Amazing Stories, and it's based on a short story by one of my favorite authors, Jack Finney.

As written by Finney, the story is great. It's been a few years since I last re-read it, but it's clever, slightly mysterious, slightly scary, and a whole lot of fun. This version is dumbed down, glib, and feels like a sub-par episode of Bewitched.

Adam Ant co-stars, and Spielberg didn't direct it, so maybe it's unfair to call this mess a Spielberg. It was his show, though, and this episode is the dullest thing I've ever seen with his name on it.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦   

Targets (1968)

This is an early effort from writer-director Peter Bogdanovich, starring Boris Karlloff and James Brown (but not that James Brown), with lovely cinematography by László Kovács.

Targets is a crazed-madman movie, a genre that annoys me. It's too easy, to set up a story where everyone's vulnerable but nobody thinks about how vulnerable they are, and add a crazed madman to the mix.

That said, this is America, so the crazed madman shtick could happen anyplace, any time, and will today, and tomorrow, and the day after, and there's also no denying that Targets hits its mark.

The killer looks like the oldest kid from My Three Sons but isn't, and he spends almost half the movie toying with the idea of a killing spree, then follows through. He starts with his family, then snipes half a dozen people on the freeway, then buys a ticket to a drive-in movie and starts picking people off there.

So the "targets" of the title are you and me — the people watching a horror movie. This time, it's personal.

Karloff is great as an aging monster-movie star who wants to retire, but gets cajoled into attending a promotional screening at the drive-in.

Targets was filmed on location all over the L.A. metropolitan area, with the Reseda Drive-in playing itself and looking great. Bogdanovich wasn't yet a big name, and this is a Roger Corman movie, but it's riveting, and it's also a lot of fun seeing the scenery of the era.

Verdict: A reluctant YES.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Coming soon, or eventually:

The Man in the Moon (1991)
Man on the Moon (1999)
Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring (1971)
My Dinner with Hervé (2018)
The Paper Chase (1973)
Promised Land (2012)
Rubber (2010) 

5/14/2023   

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

Alter
Cineverse
Criterion
CultCinema Classics
DocsVille
Dust
Fandor
Films for Action
Hoopla
IHaveNoTV
IndieFlix
Internet Archive
Kanopy
KinoCult
Kino Lorber
Korean Classic Film
Christopher R Mihm
Mosfilm
Mubi
National Film Board of Canada
New Yorker Screening Room
Damon Packard
Mark Pirro
PizzaFlix
PopcornFlix
Public Domain Movies
RareFilmm
Scarecrow Video
Shudder
ThoughtMaybe
Timeless Classic Movies
VoleFlix
WatchDocumentaries
or your local library.

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —
 
Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff.

 
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11 comments:

  1. Captain HampocketsMay 15, 2023 at 5:08 AM

    I have not seen "Rubber," but am interested to hear your opinion. It sounds very interesting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm curious to know why you haven't seen it. Curious to know why I hadn't seen it before. Are you afraid it'll be too stupid to laugh at? That was my expectation.

      Delete
    2. Just too lazy to seek it out so far.

      Delete
    3. It's better than expected, and worse, but I'm glad that (paraphrasing Cher from MOONSTRUCK) I snapped out of it.

      Delete
  2. The news today that Alex Haley simply made up several quotes in his supposed interview of Martin Luther King for Playboy in 1965, particularly with regard to Dr. King's views on Malcolm X, likely represents historical journalistic malpractice. Dr King comes off as being hostile to Malcolm X's philosophies and strategies with regards to Negroes in America.

    This is particularly troubling since Haley also wrote "The Autobiography of Malcolm X". How much of that was made up? Haley, a Republican, might or might not have benefited from additional controversy between the two Black leaders. (As I assume you know, Alex Haley was also Black).

    Here's a link to the story, at least as reported by CNN, which I have found to be reasonably reliable.

    https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/15/opinions/martin-luther-king-malcolm-x-relationship-joseph/index.html

    John

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Quite interesting, thanks. I'd seen the headline earlier — "Opinion: It’s time to confront how a single quotation may have changed history in error" — and sailed right past it. Serious effort would be needed to come up with an even more boring headline.

      So now I've read the article, and it's interesting indeed. Seems to me, more than their different strategies, they were both just too dang busy to be buddies,

      It doesn't have any impact on my opinion of Haley, though. He's been forever tarnished already, with the revelations that big chunks of ROOTS were plagiarized.

      Still, Haley wrote most of a hell of a book, and King and X were fascinating men who made the world a better place.

      Delete
  3. I assume you've seen One Night In Miami because I assume you've seen everything. It's an event that actually happened (different time, different place) but the idea of being in on a conversation among Sam Cooke, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown in 1964 is interesting and, in this case, mostly works. I happen to be a particular fan of two of these gentlemen, and rather admire the other two, so I had fun watching. It was a decade ago, and I should watch again.

    John

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hell, it's only been three years? I guess time passes weirdly.

      John

      Delete
    2. This might be something I'd like to watch, but it's not something I already have.

      Delete
  4. And if there's anybody you don't need to make up quotes for, it's Dr. King, one of the most articulate and expressive people of his generation. If you're interviewing Sonny Liston, you have to make up the whole thing, but Haley clearly had an agenda.

    John

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Despite being old, MLK was basically before my time, which sucks. The good die young if Republicans have anything to say about it.

      Been meaning to watch ROOTS again. I expect it would disappoint me, though...

      Delete

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