Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg's PERFORMANCE (1970) on TCM-HD
for the first time. Damn, the more Nic Roeg movies I watch (and technically he's co-director here but his influences in the look and pace of the flick are obvious) the more amazed I am at how he manages to squeeze reasonably good performances out of music personalities (Bowie in "Man Who Fell To Earth," Garfunkel in "Bad Timing," etc.) while also making each of his movies both look nothing like each other and comfortably familiar (at least through the early 80's). "Performance's" story is meaningless (British gangster on the run hides in rock star's basement) because it's all about the performances and the 'mood' of the piece, which is exquisitely seductive and psychedelic while backed by one well-chosen and put together soundtrack (Roeg sure knows his music). Jagger is basically playing himself but (a) James Fox plays very well opposite him (each seducing the other through little reveals of who they are and want from the other) and (b) when the show-stopping 'Memo From Turner' scene kicks in Mick explodes on-screen. I seldom pause and rewind movie scenes midway through my first viewing (always wait until the end to rewatch the cool stuff afterward) but that 'Memo from Turner' music video-within-a-movie scene had me hitting rewind on the DVR a few times before I could continue watching. Pallenberg and Breton are kind-of forgettable as the female companions though (imagine if Mia Farrow and Tuesday Weld had gotten the roles!) but even that comes with the benefit of ample nudity and sex to sell the allure of the lifestyle Turner has (and Chas is seduced by). Is it me or is "Performance" the inspiration for almost every music video that aired on MTV in the early 80's? DARKTOWN STRUTTERS (1975) on TCM Underground
for the first time. The hell??!!
This blaxploitation flick tries so hard to be funny and bad-ass (in a cartoony way that somehow mixes politically-incorrect racial humor with the fashion sense/set design from "The Apple") that it cancels itself out into a borderline-unwatchable mess. Some of the outfits and wacky sets are surreal but incoherent, as if it was pieced together from discarded sets/props of every other futuristic 70's movie being shot around L.A. at the time. Roger E. Mosley is the only face I recognized but only because he was a semi-regular panelist on "Match Game."
Pass! MST3K #616: RACKET GIRLS (1951/1994) on DVD
for the first time. Thank God for the 'Are You Ready for Marriage?'
short and decent riffing from Mike & the Bots because otherwise this would be unwatchable. A really bad stock footage-crammed and public domain music-usurping 'poverty row' female wrestling flick that feels like something Ed Wood would have looked at for inspiration (or, as Crow aptly puts it, as Truffaut felt when he saw Citizen Kane for the first time), "Racket Girls
" doesn't titillate or excite despite half the flick consisting of (jump cut-heavy, soft, grainy B&W) girl-on-girl action. The women in the flick are all dogs (except maybe for star 'Peaches' Page but it's a judgement call) and the men either gangsters or wimps (including Ed Wood regular Timothy Farrell as the manager of the gym where most of the non-action takes place) with only Paul Merton's Monk delivering something close to a colorful performance as a double-crossing bookie. This collective mess, however, is turned into silly putty by the Brains with one knockout riff (lyrics to R.E.M. songs to point out one of the gangsters looks like Michael Stipe) after another ('Music... Why Here, Why Now, Why Us?') after another ('this movie is refreshingly itself'). Mediocre host segments though (who the hell was/is Lisa Loeb?), a prelude to the downward spiral that would soon follow. MST3K #1009: HAMLET (1961/1999) on DVD
. This is the fifth or sixth time I fall asleep in the middle of this "experiment," wake-up 20 minutes before the end (when the final act picks things up) and then watch the portions I missed afterwards. And yet I don’t think “Hamlet” is a bad MST3K
episode (the good riffs really stand out among the mediocre one’s), just one in which the subject matter and dready B&W picture/sets combine to make it near-impossible to watch it in one sitting. It doesn’t help that The Brains (a) reduce their jokes-per-minute ratio down to S1/S2 frequency levels and (b) their mockery seems stunted by too much respect for the source material. It just doesn’t feel like M&TB's dig into the Bard with their usual zeal and creative juices flowing. Or maybe there just wasn’t enough lemonade that could be squeezed out of this sour German lemon. And maybe I’m high on World Cup fumes right now but, to me, Maximilian Schell makes a very good Hamlet (not Branagh or Olivier good but decent given the scenery/language limitations). When a joke connects though ('cold water in the groin' Polonius dubbed by John Banner, Hans Caninberg's goofy facial expressions for Claudius, 'Cut to Camera 2,' etc.) it's hysterical.Kevin Costner's OPEN RANGE (2003) on DVD
for the first time. Maybe I'll change my mind eventually but after two viewings I loved this western despite (a) the one-dimensionality of the villains (Michael Gambon is clearly slumming for an American paycheck) and (b) Diego Luna's charmless performance as Button almost singlehandedly undermining the driving force behind the story's narrative. Duvall and Costner (who at least is humble-enough to allow his co-star both top billing and most of the spotlight) have great chemistry together; any scene with these two guys talking to each other is gold. Kudos to Annette Bening for using every fiber of her acting being to turn Sue Barlow into a somewhat believable Western woman (within the genre's limitations) along with some good supporting performances (James Russo, Michael Jeter, Larry Kubiac from "Parker Lewis"
, etc.). The shootout climax is not only exciting and gruesome (mostly because of how freaking LOUD
them rifles and six-shooters are mixed in the soundtrack) but it's arrived at and earned without cheating by over an hour's worth of set-up. I'm not crazy about Michael Kamen's score and Kevin uses a couple of "Postman"-like touches (slow-motion toward the end) that bugged me, but "Open Road" is a reminder of just how good a Costner movie can be when he can manage to put his well-publicized ego in check. One of the few DVD's I own that would gladly upgrade to Blu-ray if it became available. Imagine those Canadian landscapes (and fake clouds!
) in 1080p, or that shootout in an uncompressed soundtrack.