The Circle

The-Circle

2017

Image Nation Abu Dhabi/Playtone/Europa Corp/STX Entertainment

Directed by James Ponsoldt

Produced by Anthony Bregman/Gary Goetzman/Tom Hanks/James Ponsoldt

Screenplay by James Ponsoldt/Dave Eggers

Based on “The Circle” by Dave Eggers

You know what THE CIRCLE could have used? Paddy Chayefsky. See, he understood satire. As anybody who has seen “Network” and “The Hospital” can attest to. He understood that when you have an absurd premise you have to kinda embrace that absurdity and make it work for you. He understood that the wit, irony and sarcasm of satire could make his point about societal issues much better than by relentlessly pounding his audience over the head with those issues.

Which is the main problem with THE CIRCLE. At it’s core, it can be considered a horror movie. One in which social media is The Monster. Technology is not our friend in this movie. And the men who control that technology use that it to enslave people by convincing them that technology will make their lives easier, better and oh, so much more fun. In the world of THE CIRCLE you’re not really a fully functioning human being unless your life is being lived online, every aspect, every thought and feeling shared with millions of faceless strangers that you only interact with through a computer screen.

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Mae Holland (Emma Watson) is overjoyed when her best friend Annie (Karen Gillan) gets her a job interview at The Circle, an enormously powerful Internet corporation that appears to be a mashup of Apple, Google and Facebook. If and when you see this movie, if you find that The Circle’s enormously charming and charismatic head and co-founder Eamon Bailey seems to remind you a lot of Steve Jobs, I’d say there’s an excellent chance that he’s supposed to.

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Mae comes to work at The Circle and her life immediately starts to get better. She’s able to get her parents (Bill Paxton, Glenne Headly) on her medical plan which means that her father can get treatments for his MS. She can buy a better car. Her ex-boyfriend Mercer (Ellar Coltrane) is leery of The Circle and all of their social platforms that are way too hungry for personal information for his taste. But Mae is enjoying it all. The Circle is like one big college dorm with parties going on and a seemingly endless variety of activities for it’s employees to enjoy. In what is the movie’s best scene, one that demonstrates how the movie could have been more satirical, two Circle employees exhibit cult like behavior as they cheerfully attempt to talk Mae into spending more time on campus, indulging in the numerous activities available and then sharing her experiences online. They are honestly curious as to why she wouldn’t want to fully embrace the multiple social media sharing platforms of The Circle.

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“Sharing Is Caring” “Secrets Are Lies” “Privacy Is Theft” “Knowing Is Good. Knowing Everything Is Better” These are the slogans of The Circle, fostering a sort of Orwellian philosophy promoted by Eamon Bailey as his right-hand man and co-founder Tom Stenton (Patton Oswalt) quietly works in the background and there are strong hints he’s manipulating elected government officials such as Congresswoman Santos (Judy Reyes) Mae meets the third co-founder of The Circle, Ty Lafitte (John Boyega) who has withdrawn from the day-to-day operations of The Circle and tells Mae two things: that he did not create The Circle for the purpose it serves now and she is not to trust anybody in or anything about The Circle.

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But that’s kind of hard for Mae to do when in a series of spectacularly unbelievable events, she becomes the poster girl of The Circle. Mae elects to go “Fully Transparent” and walks around with a camera pinned to her so that every minute of her life can be observed online. Mae has tasted the Circle’s Kool-Aid and likes it just fine and it’s not long before she’s proposing that everybody in the United States should be mandated to become members of The Circle.

There’s two main problems I had with THE CIRCLE. The first is that it takes itself way too seriously. The social commentary on the evils of social media is shoved front and center and that’s the one note the movie never leaves. As I said earlier, some sprinkling of satire would at least have given the movie some much needed humor.

The second problem? The waste of talent. The movie’s MVP’s are Karen Gillan, Bill Paxton (this is his final movie role) and Glenne Headly. They’re the only ones in the movie that bring their characters to life and when they’re on screen, the movie’s energy level rises considerably. Emma Watson appears to have been taking acting lessons from Kristen Stewart as she runs the gamut of emotions from A to B. Tom Hanks and Patton Oswalt have roles that are little more than extended cameos and any movie that doesn’t take advantage of the considerable talent of Judy Reyes is just criminal, far as I’m concerned. John Boyega gets to do little more than lurk in the background and act mysterious for most of the movie in what is yet another criminal waste of exceptional talent.

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My recommendation? If you’re really interested, wait for THE CIRCLE to show up on Netflix, Amazon or Hulu and watch it at home. It’s not that it’s a bad movie. Just one that is unnecessary. Maybe if it had come out years ago before social media became such a dominant element in human society and had the same prophetic elements that made “Network” such a brilliant exploration of where television was going to go and done the same for social media it might have had some impact. Now? Too late. Way too late.

Rated PG-13

110 minutes

Sleight

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2017

Diablo Entertainment/WWE Studios/BH Tilt/High Top Releasing/Universal Pictures

Directed by J.D. Dillard

Produced by Eric B. Fleischman/ Sean Tabibian/Alex Theurer

Written by J.D. Dillard/Alex Theurer

Remember the first time you saw “Unbreakable”? Remember that “oh, shit” moment when you thought you were watching one type of movie and suddenly realized you were watching a Superhero Origin Movie? Well, watching SLEIGHT is kind of like that. You think you’re watching a movie about a street magician/drug dealer trying to make a better life for himself and his sister. And then there’s a revelation about our protagonist where we see that he has a superpower. One he created for himself. And while there’s a lot of questions still to be answered about his superpower (or maybe I should say superpowers..but I’ll get to that in a minute) for me it most definitely puts the movie into the Superhero genre.

Bo (Jacob Latimore) is the guardian and provider for his younger sister Tina (Storm Reid) following the death of their parents. By day he’s a street magician, performing David Blaine-level magic tricks and some of them are so mind-boggling that there’s only one explanation for how he does it: it has to be magic. Bo does have an ace up his sleeve to assist him in his magic. He’s got an electromagnet that he built himself embedded in his upper arm. A brilliant engineering student, Bo had to give up a scholarship and drop out of school to take care of and support his sister.

The magic tricks aren’t bringing in enough money. Which is why Bo has a night job slinging yayo for Angelo (Dule Hill) whose affable, friendly exterior hides a psychotic soul. Bo is quite successful at juggling his double life until a rival drug dealer encroaches on Angelo’s territory and Bo finds himself being forced into increasingly more violent and dangerous situations as Angelo insists that Bo is now “one of his boys.” Seeking to get out of the drug business, Bo makes the mistake of cutting a kilo of coke with baking powder, trying to make extra profit for himself. Bad idea. Angelo finds out and demands that Bo pay him $40K or else. And believe it or not, things get worse from then on.

Let’s get the bad out of the way first so I can wrap up this review on a high note. First off, there’s a lot left unexplained about the electromagnet and how Bo put it in his arm. But the movie is clearly set up for a sequel so I suppose the writers felt they had to leave something for the next movie. I do like how Bo isn’t turned into Magneto. He can move small metal objects and larger ones as long as they aren’t too heavy and that’s about it. But that’s enough. There are some imaginative uses Bo puts his magnetic powers to use that demonstrates the character’s resourcefulness and smarts.

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And I was highly intrigued by his magic tricks as there are some Bo does without the use of his magnetic arm and for me, I felt I was getting hints that Bo may actually have genuine magical abilities, especially after he relates a story to his girlfriend Holly (Seychelle Gabriel) about how he fell in love with magic watching an old street magician perform. That’s why I said earlier that Bo may actually have superpowers, remember?

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The pacing of the movie is one that may make you feel you’re watching a movie that is far longer than the actual 89 minute running time but thankfully, the performances aren’t boring. Dule Hill is the movie’s MVP and if you only know him from “The West Wing” and “Psyche” then you might be shocked as to how easily he slips into the skin of this vicious drug kingpin. Know what his performance reminded me of? Remember that classic bit from Dave Chappelle’s show where Wayne Brady picks him up for a night of hanging out and informs Dave that he’s going to show Dave that he’s not as soft and square as Dave has been making fun of him on his show for being? And by the end of the night, Wayne Brady revealed himself to be an angel-dust smoking, murderous pimp who actually was so terrifying that people ran away shrieking when he appeared? Well, Dule Hill is like that here.

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Sasheer Zamata from “Saturday Night Live” has a supporting role as Georgi, Bo’s next door neighbor who helps out by babysitting Tina while Bo is out selling drugs and serves as his conscience. They have an easy rapport together that immediately drew me to them and if there is a sequel I’d like to see their relationship explored in greater detail. How did Bo meet Georgi and what was it about her that led him to trust her with so much of his life?

So should you see SLEIGHT? It’s an interesting take on the Superhero Origin. Considering the ridiculously small budget there’s a lot to admire in what’s up on screen. The performances are solid and if you like superheroes but feel burned out by the Marvel/DC mega million CGI spectacles and want a superhero that’s a little more grounded and down to Earth then you ought to check it out. SLEIGHT didn’t hit a home run for me but at the same time I didn’t feel my time or money was wasted.

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89 Minutes

Rated R

Get Out: Guest Review by Sean E. Ali

My good friend and collaborator Sean E. Ali has finally gotten around to seeing the one movie that apparently everybody and their mother has seen and loved this year: GET OUT. And as usual, his thoughts about the movie are thoughtful, insightful and as on point as Simone Biles sticking the landing after dismounting from a balance beam. And as usual he posted them on Facebook. And as usual I went ahead and re-posted his post here as what he has to say is too good not to be preserved for others to read. So without further delay, I turn the floor over to Mr. Ali…

So I finally got around to seeing Jordan Peele’s GET OUT

The image with this?

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Yeah, that was me too, folks.

In fact that’s STILL me because I’m wondering if the Sunken Place is a reflection of American society, with regards to race, as it is a state of mind. I left the theater and went to the store and it was hard to shake the impression GET OUT had made in the short time it rolled out.

Really, I kept looking around, feeling like I was being watched.

I even turned on the flash on my phone.

I’ve heard this film described as a horror film, a horror action comedy, a mystery thriller comedy, a suspense thriller, a compelling statement on race and racism…

…more than a few conservative white bloggers went down the usual path of the film being racist or reverse racism – with emphasis on the way the final act of the film plays out and (of course) how the way it plays is just another example of the black revenge sentiment on white people… blah, blah, blah, Obama, blah, PC culture, blah, blah…

That segment of criticism being complete and total bullshit.

If you leave GET OUT thinking it’s racist against white people, you are, in my humble opinion, the stupidest individual God ever allowed to be born and please, for the love of that same God – do not breed.

Honestly, Earth has enough dumb people with no direction and scads of free time.

Just check your brain at the door and pick up your crayons while I get back to this.

So the film opens with an unidentified black man apparently lost in the middle of a very suburban neighborhood. He’s looking for a particular house to hook up with some people, but as the scene plays out he never gets to his destination. The manner of his detour is honestly something black comedians have joked about forever, it’s possibly one of those nagging thoughts anyone gets in an unfamiliar spot that falls under the “what if?” category of things you hope never happen to you far from home.

We go to the title credits and get dropped into a back and forth set of lead up scenes: a young, attractive white woman having a hard time choosing a donut and a dark skinned black man shaving like he’s about to go on a date. A couple more beats in, the black man becomes Chris, a photographer with a good eye to judge from the images and the white woman becomes Rose, his girlfriend who’s about to introduce him to the folks which means a road trip to a secluded house near a lake in the middle of nowhere…

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It’ll probably be the longest trip of Chris’s life…

…if he survives it.

Now I’m probably one of the last folks to see this film. Horror’s not my thing as a genre and even with the surface racism and the deeper examination of disposability of black lives in general and black men in particular – a very real and current situation that has been more prevalent in recent years than ever, the less discussed in the open subject of genetics and how perceptions of natural ability can be envied and coveted by those who are gifted differently, stereotyping and tone deaf “white ally” progressives who are sometimes far more ignorant than the bigots they criticize, and possibly the ultimate application of racial appropriation that I’m ever going to see for some time – this film was not calling me because even with all that, it still fell in the “horror” line.

So what got me in the seat today?

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Folks who saw the film discussed it with the aspects mentioned above as a major part of their conversations. The movie itself is quick and to the point. It sets up the situation, tosses us into odd, layered with strange, layered with discomfort, layered with something sinister and disturbing. It’s pretty predictable in spots, you figure out pretty quickly where Chris stands in relation to the other players in this one, and even how he manages to get a shot at getting out of his situation if he’s lucky. I will spoil it a little by saying there are no really redeemable or sympathetic white characters who will be saving the day…

…and that’s seen as well as unseen when I think about it…

It’s Chris’s show practically from start to finish.

After going through it, I graded it more as a sci-fi thriller in a TWILIGHT ZONE meets OUTER LIMITS with a nod to Blaxploitation horror flicks from the 70s. Rod Serling would’ve written this in another time be place. If you don’t believe me, see the TWILIGHT ZONE episode “The Encounter” which features George Takei as a Japanese American gardener who has to deal with a prospective client who is a bitter, bigoted veteran from World War II grappling with the way the world is changing as the civil rights movement was starting to get underway and the Japanese were proving to be pretty adept at miniaturizing electronics. The story Serling wrote then was equally frank in its observations and wasn’t broadcast for over a quarter century because white viewers at the time were horrified that they could be presented so harshly.

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Let’s take a moment to remind folks that Serling was a successful white guy who was acclaimed as a television screenplay writer as well as playwright, so you know folks were upset to not air that one again…

…but then race wouldn’t have been the excuse, it would’ve been Serling’s liberal bent to blame…

But the film itself isn’t anything you haven’t seen before in THE STEPFORD WIVES or INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS with the exception of the villains of the piece not being some fantasy threat, but an exaggerated satire on one ethnic group usually deferred to as greater being as brutal and selfish as any “thug” in execution of their goals…

…but they smile in your face the whole time they’re trying to kill you.

So, if you haven’t gone to see GET OUT, should you?

Oh yes, absolutely…

…and if you’re still bugged at the end by the way white people are portrayed. If you think that it’s unfair and not terribly sensitive…

…welcome to my world.

The Sunken Place is everywhere when you think about it.

Still I think you’ll enjoy it nonetheless.

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The Fate of The Furious

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2017

Universal Pictures

Directed by F. Gary Gray

Produced by Neal H. Moritz/Vin Diesel/Michael Fottrell/Chris Morgan

Written by Chris Morgan
Based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson

If way back in 2001 when the first movie in the franchise “The Fast and The Furious” hit the theaters you had told me that movie would be the first in a series of (so far) eight movies and that the eighth movie would feature a better James Bond villain than most of the recent Daniel Craig James Bond movies….

And fans of the Daniel Craig/James Bond movies are right now rolling their eyes or tuning out this review. But what can I say? To a large degree, “The Fast and The Furious” movies (as well as the Tom Cruise “Mission: Impossible” series) are giving me what I used to go to James Bond movies for. Insanely over the top action sequences. Astounding fight scenes. Lush, exotic locations. Cool gadgets and gizmos. More gorgeous women than one movie should be allowed to contain. Batshit insane plots that at once seem perfectly logical yet utterly nonsensical. Colorful, larger-than-life heroes. Brilliantly deranged multi-billionaire supervillains bent on taking over or destroying the world. All this and more is in THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS, a movie that despite being the eighth installment still manages to provide something new. A lot of it is improbable and some of it I do admit, baffling (the character development and relationships between Deckard Shaw, Dominic Toretto and Luke Hobbs is something that you’re either going to just have to go with or reject as total BS) but the movie delivers on what it promises and since I’m a fan of these movies, that was good enough for me.

Hard to believe that this series started off as a knock-off of “Point Break” ain’t it? In the course of eight movies we’ve watched Dominic Toretto and his crew morph from street racing hi-jackers into a gonzo, hyperactive mash up of The IMF and The A-Team and it’s been fun to watch. This movie ups the ante considerably as Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) goes rogue and turns against his own team, forming an alliance with international cyberterrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron) who has a plan to become her own nuclear superpower, a rival to both the United States and Russia.

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Dominic’s team is naturally baffled and mystified as to Dominic’s defection. Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) thinks they should go get Brian O’Connor to help them out. Dominic’s wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) nixes that idea. Brian is out of the game (but it’s nice that they took a minute to acknowledge his character is happy in his retirement). The newest member of the team, hacktivist Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) thinks they should give him up as a lost cause. The team’s technical expert Tej Parker (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) frankly doesn’t know what to make of the situation.

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Fortunately assistance arrives in the person of Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) the government shadow operative and his protege Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) who brings along Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) to capture both Dominic and Cipher and stop her nefarious plans.

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Oh, naturally it’s a little more complicated than that since you’ll remember (or maybe you don’t) that Deckard Shaw was the Big Bad of the previous movie and spent a considerable amount of the running time trying to kill Dominic and his crew. By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the controversy involving the circumstances of Shaw’s joining the crew and I think that writer Chris Morgan could have done better than to simply not address the issue at all. But since there are two more movies left to go as the current scuttlebutt says that the series will wrap up with the tenth installment I’m thinking that maybe there will be more to this.

And actually, considering that Statham steals the movie every chance he gets with such energy and humor I don’t think anybody will mind too much. His bickering back and forth with Dwayne Johnson provides much of the humor with Tyrese Gibson picking up the rest as he seems to have settled comfortably in the role of the series’ comedic relief. And Statham has a fight scene on Cipher’s flying headquarters that is among the finest of fight scenes he’s done. Seriously. It’s that jaw-droppingly good.

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As for the set-pieces: there’s a race through the streets of Havana that’s a nice callback to the roots of the series. A wild sequence in New York where Cipher takes remote control of hundreds of cars in Manhattan and uses them as weapons and the insane final action sequence which finds Our Heroes in Russia, being chased across a frozen sea by a nuclear submarine, barely staying ahead of it while fighting off hoards of enemies in vehicles just as tricked out as theirs.

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Some are going to say that THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS goes way too far. I’m not one of them. It’s a movie that knows exactly what it is, what it’s supposed to be and what it’s supposed to deliver. It’s not embarrassed or ashamed of what it is and director F. Gary Gray handles his cast and his movie with a sort of delirious, goofy glee as if he’s having the time of his life and wants us to join in the fun. I know I did. Highly Recommended.

PG-13

137 minutes

Silver Streak

MPW-57609

1976

20th Century Fox

Directed by Arthur Hiller

Produced by Thomas L. Miller/Edward K. Milkis

Written by Colin Higgins

Music by Henry Mancini

For most people “The” Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder Movie is “Stir Crazy.” But lemme ask you this: outside of the “Dat’s right, we bad, we bad” scene, how much of the movie’s plot or story do you actually remember? And let’s not even bring “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” and “Another You” into this conversation. Richard Pryor doesn’t enter SILVER STREAK until we’re a good hour into the plot but it’s a wise move. Because he gives the movie a huge burst of energy and unpredictability that carries us along for the other hour. He comes in the movie at exactly the right time he’s needed. And for me, that makes SILVER STREAK “The” Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder Movie. Put any of their other collaborations on the TV and I’ll most likely doze off thirty minutes in. Put SILVER STREAK on and I’ll be on the edge of my seat from start to finish. SILVER STREAK is a movie I’ve seen maybe fifteen times since I first saw in the theater way back in 1976 and I saw it again today on Netflix and laughed just as hard and enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time I saw it.

Before you continue with this review I feel it only fair to warn you that this is the movie with the “shoe polish” scene where Richard Pryor disguises Gene Wilder in blackface in order to get him past FBI agents looking for him. In the context of the movie their actions make perfect sense. However I know the hypersensitive among you don’t give a poobah’s pizzle for context so maybe you should just go to another movie review, okay? But you’ll be cheating yourself out of the scene where Richard Pryor is attempting teach Gene Wilder how to “be black” is among one of the most hilarious in movie history.

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Book editor George Caldwell (Gene Wilder) boards a train called The Silver Streak in Los Angeles to travel to his sister’s wedding in Chicago. Yeah, he could have flown but he’s looking forward to just getting some work done and being bored. His Pullman Porter Ralston (Scatman Crothers) assures him that boredom is exactly what he’ll get. He meets quite a few of his fellow passengers in the club car, including vitamin salesman Bobby Sweet (Ned Beatty) and ends up having dinner with the insanely hot Hildegarde “Hilly” Burns (Jill Clayburgh).

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Their late night rendezvous is interrupted by what George thinks is a dead body falling off the roof of the train past the window of Hilly’s compartment he sees while they’re in her bed. It’s complicated even more by George’s insistence that the man is her boss, Professor Scheriner (Stefan Gierasch) The next day George goes to check on the professor and instead runs into two shady characters, Whiney (Ray Walston) and Reese (Richard Kiel) who throw George off the train. They both work for Roger Deveraux (Patrick McGoohan) an international art dealer whose reputation will be destroyed if Professor Scheriner’s book about Rembrandt is published. Professor Scheriner has his possessesion “The Rembrandt Letters” ancient documents that will authenticate the claims Scheriner has made in public that Deveraux is a fraud.

George manages to get back on The Silver Streak with the help of eccentric crop duster Rita Babtree (Lucille Benson) who flies George to the next stop in her biplane and to his astonishment George sees that Professor Scheriner is not only alive and well but is ace boon coons with Deveraux. Hilly assures him that everything is okay. Well, George is ready to chalk up the whole thing to an alcoholic dream until Bob Sweet reveals that he’s actually FBI Agent Stevens and they’ve been after Deveraux for a year ever since he engineered a plane crash in Germany that killed 100 people just to cover his ass. Then Sweet/Stevens is killed and George is once more forced to jump off the train but when he seeks helps to get back on again it’s with the assistance of professional thief Grover T. Muldoon (Richard Pryor) and here’s where my plot synopsis stops because I cannot believe that after all I’ve told you, you wouldn’t want to see this movie.

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I mean, c’mon. Just look at the cast: Gene Wilder. Richard Pryor. Both at the height of their popularity and creative powers. Jill Clayburgh has never been sexier than she is in this movie. The bad guy is fargin Patrick McGoohan and his henchmen are Ray Walston and Richard Kiel. Ned Beatty. Scatman Crothers. Valarie Curtin, Fred Willard, Lucille Benson, Len Birmen and Clifton James (in a role that just as well might be a cousin to J.W. Pepper from the James Bond movies) all have major and significant supporting roles.

SILVER STREAK is essentially a riff on the Alfred Hitchcock notion of an innocent man getting caught up in a situation way above his head but discovering that he’s got talents and gifts he never knew he had to help him. And Gene Wilder does a really good job of being Cary Grant. While watching this movie today I was struck by two things: I never before noticed how handsome Gene Wilder truly was and how well he wore his clothes. He’s at the center of SILVER STREAK and he makes the movie work by never elevating George Caldwell to to status of superhero. George is a ordinary guy but he rises to whatever challenge he has to meet with strengths he didn’t know he possessed until he had to use them.

As for Richard Pryor…what can I say about Richard Pryor in this movie other than in my list of Top Ten Favorite Richard Pryor Movies SILVER STREAK would be in the Top Five. Just for a scene that he and Gene Wilder have. They’ve stolen a fire-engine red Jaguar and are racing to Kansas City to save Jill Clayburgh from the bad guys. Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor simply talk about the situation they’re in and what they have to do to save her and beat the bad guy while that magnificent Henry Mancini music quietly plays behind their dialog. That scene right there to me is what the magic of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in their movie collaboration was. SILVER STREAK is currently available for streaming on Netflix. Stop reading this review and go watch it.

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114 Minutes

Rated PG

Hudson Hawk

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1991

Silver Pictures/Tri-Star Pictures

Directed by Michael Lehmann

Produced by Joel Silver

Screenplay by Steven E. de Souza/Daniel Walters

Story by Bruce Willis/Robert Kraft

There are those that will insist that HUDSON HAWK is a failure, a flop and a misguided project doomed from the outset to failure. I strongly disagree. It is a movie that along with “Big Trouble In Little China” “The Last Dragon” “The Assassination Bureau” “Sunset” “The Man With The Iron Fists” “Action Jackson” “Shoot ‘Em Up” “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai” “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins” and “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” is a movie that nobody knew what to make of it because they couldn’t figure out what genre it was. Was it a caper movie? Yes. Was it a spy thriller? Yes. Was it a comedy? Yes. Was it action-adventure? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Whatever you want to throw in. HUDSON HAWK was all of those and more because like those other movies I named and much more besides it defined being put in a genre because the story took whatever it needed from whatever genre it wanted to, mixed in wonderful characters and then it hit the ground running at top speed and never stopped until the end credits. Long before the term was coined and before I even knew what it was, when I saw HUDSON HAWK in the theater back in 1991 I knew I was watching a New Pulp movie.

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Eddie Hawkins aka The Hudson Hawk (Bruce Willis) is the world’s greatest cat burglar. That’s why on his first day out of prison after doing a dime, he’s blackmailed by his parole office and the Mario Brothers (not the ones you’re thinking of. These guys run a Mafia family). Along with his partner Tommy “Five-Tone” Messina (Danny Aiello) he pulls off the theft of the last commissioned work done by none other than Leonardo DaVinci, their individual tasks synchronized to the both of them singing “Swinging On A Star” at the exact same time. Yes, yes, I know how it sounds but if you’ve seen the movie I’m willing to bet that you’re grinning right now. Because the scene is impractical, silly, goofy and yet, you’re singing right along with Eddie and Tommy. Me, I admire a movie for having the audacity to even pull off such a notion. And what the hell, it’s downright FUN to watch.

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What gets Eddie interested in what is going on is that when he turns over the item he’s stolen to the Mario Brothers and their employer Alfred (Donald Burton) there’s an object inside which is desired by Alfred’s employers: Darwin and Minerva Mayweather (Richard E. Gant and Sandra Bernhard) who in a masterful comic performance always keep us an audience off guard as to what the hell these two whackos are going to do next. The object is also desired by CIA Director George Kaplan (James Coburn) and his ‘MTVIA’ Agents, all of whom are named after candy bars: Almond Joy (Lorraine Toussaint) Kit Kat (David Caruso) Snickers (Don Harvey) and Butterfinger (Andrew Bryniarsky) as well as by Anna Baragli (Andie MacDowell) who is a top operative for the Vatican’s own counter-espionage agency. Eddie is astounded to discover that the object was fabricated by none other than Leonardo DaVinci (Stefano Molinari who gets the best visual gag in the movie which also involves The Mona Lisa)

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The Mayweathers need Eddie to steal various DaVinci relics that will place in their possession the components of La Macchina dell’Oro. The last and greatest of DaVinci’s inventions. One that can turn lead into gold. The Mayweathers were supposed to be working with The Vatican and The CIA in this but oh those crazy kids decided to just go rogue and grab everything for themselves as they intend to use the power of La Macchina dell’Oro to control the world gold market. Hilarity ensues. As well as a lot of action and for me, at least, a fun movie.

My own personal theory as to why this movie wasn’t the hit it deserved to be back in 1991was that the year before, “Die Hard 2” completely blew all expectations to smithereens and made more money than the original. So people most likely went to the theater looking for something similar and simply didn’t know what to make of this goofy, pulp-inspired adventure. Moviegoers wanted to see more of John McClane or a character like him and just couldn’t get into this more laid back, less intense Bruce Willis who actually goes through most of the movie smiling and looking as if he’s having a great time.

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And for me, that’s one of the major pluses of HUDSON HAWK: everybody looks as if their having nothing but fun making this movie. David Caruso in particular stands out for me as he steals every scene he’s in without saying a word. Kit Kat communicates solely with business cards and by his wardrobe/costume in whatever scene he’s in. The chemistry between Willis and Aiello feels real and I could easily have seem them continue to play Eddie and Tommy in a Crosby/Hope style in future films. I love that is not only James Coburn in this movie but that sound effects and phone ringtones from his Derek Flint movies are used as well. “Bunny! Ball Ball!” The lush sets and gorgeous locations.

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Understand me, my intention is not to change your mind about HUDSON HAWK or indeed, any movie I review. It’s just for me to give you my insight as to why I like and/or love a particular movie and maybe intrigue and/or interest you enough to maybe want to see it for the first time or revisit it. HUDSON HAWK is one of those movies that everybody seems to either love or hate. You can put me firmly on the side of those who love it.

100 Minutes

Rated R

Forbidden World

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1982

New World Pictures

Directed by Alan Holzman

Produced by Roger Corman

Written by Tim Curnen/R.J. Robertson/Jim Wynorski

I watched FORBIDDEN WORLD on the heels of watching another “Alien” knock-off: “Life.” Despite is having been made 30 years ago, I’d have to say that FORBIDDEN WORLD is the better movie in terms of sheer entertainment. I mean, I actually had fun watching this movie whereas even though it’s got the bigger budget, major acting talent and far better special effects, “Life” was a slog to get through. Maybe it was because FORBIDDEN WORLD revels in gratuitous gore and nudity and I’m a depraved soul. Maybe it’s because I’m a child of the 1980s and have an affinity for movies of that period. I dunno. I’ll leave it for you to judge.

Which means of course that for some of you brought up on CGI you won’t even be able to get into this movie as you’ll dismiss the special effects. I say that there’s a certain amount of charm to be derived from watching a movie of this nature when the special effects are on the cheap but you can see where the people both in front of and behind the camera are doing their utmost to make it all work. And for me, it does.

But don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to sell you on the notion that FORBIDDEN WORLD is some kind of sci-fi cult masterpiece. It ain’t. But what it is is a goofy artifact representing a style of moviemaking that isn’t done anymore.

There’s a scientific research station on the far distant world of Xarbia and something there has gone seriously out of control. Federation troubleshooter Mike Colby(Jesse Vint) along with his faithful robot sidekick SAM-104 (Don Olivera) heads there to find out what’s going on.

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He meets up with the requisite motley crew manning the station. Creepy Scientist In Charge Dr. Hauser (Linden Chiles). His assistant Dr. Barbara Glaser (June Chadwick) who judging by her later actions with Mike must have gotten her degree in Sex Therapy.

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Lab Assistant Tracy Baxter (Dawn Dunlap) who, by the way appears to like taking showers with Dr. Glaser for no apparent reason other than…well, they just seem to like taking showers together. There’s your Head Of Security who must have gotten his job through nepotism as he appears to be woefully unable to secure anything and your Obligatory Mad Scientist Dr. Timbergen (Fox Harris).

What has gone wrong on Xarbia is “Subject 20” a synthetic DNA strain that the research team was genetically engineering in order to create a new food source. Subject 20 quickly metamorphs into a life form in in own right and begins killing the humans for food, injecting them with it’s own DNA to turn the humans into pure protein which it then consumes. Now I don’t know about you, but that demonstrates to me that somebody writing this thing was looking to do a bit more than just have their monster simply eat people. And this gives the special effects department an opportunity to go nuts showing still living human beings turn into gooey protein bars before being slurped up by Subject 20.

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I just wish that the writers had put a little more thought into some other aspects of the movie such as: if Mike Colby’s spaceship has hyper-drive then why is he in suspended animation at the beginning of the movie? And why was he under for so long that his son back on Earth is now older than he is? Are the flash-forwards we see Mike having while in suspended animation supposed to indicate he has some sort of psychic ability? And dagnabit, just why do Dr. Glaser and Tracy like to take showers together?

Like I said earlier, I’m not trying to sell you on FORBIDDEN WORLD being a lost masterpiece. Far from it. But it is a Roger Corman movie and if nothing else that man knew how to make a movie that keeps your attention. You can watch FORBIDDEN WORLD on YouTube at the link I’ve provided below. Get yourself some friends, some pizza, some booze and have a good time.

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Rated R

77 Minutes