Pretty solid thriller about a monster in a crate on a train traveling across Asia that (of course) gets out of that crate and begins wreaking havoc on the claustrophobic space of the titular train. Horror legends Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing play rival scientists, and Telly Savalas (whose prominent billing contrasts with his short screen time) shows up near the end as a gypsy who gives the movie a jolt of energy. The monster itself is a low-tech affair with glowing red eyes, but somehow, in the context of the film, it just about manages to work.
Mumblecore master Andrew Bujalski brings his distinctive (to say the least) touch to the world of primitive computer programming in this fascinating little movie set in hotel during a (what else) computer chess tournament. Shot on black-and-white video that mimics the technology of the era, it's funny, somber and even a bit surreal as it follows the paths of various programmers trying to navigate life in the late 1970s. Defiantly low-key and like no movie I've seen in a long time -- maybe ever -- and well worth a look if you're looking for something different. Really different.
Like the Dr. Phibes films, this 1973 darkly comic thriller pits a revenge-obsessed Vincent Price against a group of insufferable prigs whom you can't wait to see fall victim to his deathtraps. The twist this time around is that Price is a Shakespearean actor getting back at the critics who've blasted him in their reviews, and all his murders are based on the works of the Bard. Price, who received some less-than-favorable notices in his career, must've had a blast in this movie, and he really hams it up in the best possible sense of the word. Diana Rigg plays his daughter, figuring into a plot twist I saw coming a mile away (which didn't ruin the fun), and the movie manages to generate a twisted, slightly nasty feeling that sets it apart from the wackier Phibes films. One of the movies I had left on my DVR after Turner Classic Movies' Halloween extravaganza, and one I'm very happy I watched before hitting "delete."
The great Rudy Ray Moore takes on the menace of angel dust in this indescribable artifact from 1979. Bargain basement dance numbers bump up against would-be social drama and some jaw-dropping fantasy sequences, with Rudy himself giving it his usual sense of absurd energy. Unlike other movies where he's fighting The Man, in this movie Rudy most definitely is The Man, a former cop worshipped by his former co-workers and generally seen as the only guy with a chance of getting Angel Dust off the streets. Un-be-lievable. You must see it. For a sample of its mad genius, read what I wrote about the film's opening credits here.
Now that Allie has (thankfully) moved out of the Disney princess phase, I thought I'd introduce her to a higher class of princess movie with this 1987 fairy tale from director Rob Reiner and writer William Goldman. I've been re-reading Goldman's books on screenwriting lately, and he shares plenty behind-the-scenes stories from "The Princess Bride" in "Which Lie Did I Tell," which made me want to re-watch it even more. Still holds up, I'm happy to say, with Cary Elwes coming off especially well as the hero, combining genuine charm with a real sense of heroic purpose. Also, it's a kick to see a relatively young Mandy Patinkin as a master swordsman, then tune into to "Homeland" every Sunday and see the same actor skulk through the shadowy corridors of power as a not-so-young CIA chief.
One of the greats. Seriously, if you've never seen it, stop reading this blog and correct that mistake immediately. Director David Fincher expertly recreates 1970s San Francisco, but even more than that, he creates a mystery that envelopes the lives of several unrelated men, then watches that mystery -- and their obsession -- play out for many, many years. Scariest line in the movie: "Before I kill you, I'm going to throw your baby out the window."
One of those much-heralded noirs that somehow slipped under my radar and never seemed to find its way onto DVD. Thankfully, Turner Classic Movies saved the day once again, giving it a rare screening in November. Not-so-happily married guy Dick Powell stumbles into a relationship with semi-femme fatale Lizabeth Scott, and things go downhill fast, pushed along in no small part by obsessive detective Raymond Burr. If you're a fan of film noir, do whatever you can to see this.
How great was Walter Matthau? I first encountered him as a kid in "The Bad News Bears," but he could play everything, from comedy to drama to thrillers. He's part of some of my very favorite movies, like "A Face in the Crowd" and "The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3," and as I plow through the twisted back alleys of Hollywood history, he keeps showing up in the most unexpected places. In this 1973 crime caper, he plays the title role, a very clever career criminal trying to save himself from mob retribution when he accidentally steals their money from a small town bank. Andrew Robinson and John Vernon provide strong support, but the most surprisingly element in "Charley Varrick" is Joe Don Baker, playing a hired gun. Looking almost exactly like a young Elvis Presley, he brings a real sense of cool menace to his role, upping the suspense stakes considerably.