Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Movies Of Bronson Pinchot

All movies starring Bronson Pinchot and reviewed on the Ace Black Blog are linked below:

Risky Business (1983)

Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

After Hours (1985)

True Romance (1993)

Courage Under Fire (1996)

The First Wives Club (1996)

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.
The Index of Movie Stars is here.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Movie Review: Starship Troopers (1997)

A satirical humans-versus-bugs science fiction action epic, Starship Troopers is ridiculous fun.

In the distant future, the entire world is governed by The Federation. Citizenship and voting rights are bestowed on those who serve the government, preferably in the military. The rest of the population are merely civilians. Earth is under threat from massive bugs who reside in the distant world Klendathu and its surrounding planets. With the war heating up, high school lovers Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) and Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards) graduate and join the military. She is smart and joins the starship pilot training program, where she is paired with fellow trainee Zander Barcalow (Patrick Muldoon). Johnny is athletic and joins the Mobile Infantry, where he reconnects with classmate Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer). Dizzy has a crush on Johnny, but his heart is set on Carmen. Carl Jenkins (Neil Patrick Harris) is another friend of Johnny's, and he joins Military Intelligence.

The humans woefully underestimate their enemy, the war against the bugs takes a bad turn, an entire Earth city is destroyed, and Johnny's Mobile Infantry unit loses a lot of soldiers. A new aggressive battle plan is formulated, and Johnny is re-assigned to the Roughnecks, a battle-hardened division under the command of the tough-as-nails Jean Rasczak (Michael Ironside). The humans drive towards the heart of Klendathu to try and understand the intelligence behind the bugs and annihilate their threat.

Directed by Paul Verhoeven with an A-budget of over $100 million but occasionally donning a saucy B-movie ethos, Starship Troopers fluctuates between wildly enjoyable and cringe-worthy creakiness. Vaguely based on the Robert A. Heinlein book of the same name that Verhoeven claimed to have never read, the film carries a mean satirical streak that celebrates unifying neo-Fascism with a friendly face as a natural destiny for an Earth embarking on interstellar battles. Verhoeven litters the movie with public service announcements that evolve Orwellian domination into the corporate culture of good-for-you information, all ending with the itchy friendliness of a "would you like to know more?" question.

The scenes that attempt to develop the characters, and therefore require acting, are cheesy and sometimes step into dreadful territory. The one thing Verhoeven did not spend money on was acting talent. The young actors were selected to look good in a multi-ethnic society that only breeds beautiful and athletic offspring, but their lack of ability in front of a camera is almost painful, matched only by often inane dialogue courtesy of screenwriter Edward Neumeier.

The film's ending appears rushed, the gory war seemingly coming to a sudden pause with an unexplained capture. Either the budget was exhausted or sequels were being planned, but in any case the conclusion is unsatisfying, other than the enduring image of Neil Patrick Harris in on overcoat straight out of the Nazi SS closet. No serious sequels were forthcoming, other than straight-to-DVD level low budget knock-offs.

But it's the second half of Starship Troopers that really shines. Most of the clunky romances are set aside as Verhoeven focusses on the war, and the film excels as a humans against bugs action extravaganza with expert special effects deployment. Verhoeven loves his gore, and within the high-adrenaline combat action he lets loose with numerous scenes of broken bodies, the huge arachnids impaling and decapitating en-mass, and even engaging in old fashioned brain sucking. None of it is for the faint of heart, but the slick visuals and elevated levels of excitement are quite thrilling.

Starship Troopers falters when the humans have to talk to each other, but soars on the killing fields of insane interplanetary wars.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Movie review: Charade (1963)

A stylish spy thriller with a dash of humour, Charade thrives on a hip vibe generated by a crackling mystery, a stellar cast, and a cool Parisian setting.

Regina "Reggie" Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) is trapped in a loveless marriage with a husband she barely knows. While she is on vacation, suave stranger Peter Joshua (Cary Grant) seems to make it a point to meet her. Reggie returns to her Paris apartment and is startled to learn that her husband Charles is dead, having been thrown from a train, and has left her next to nothing. At Charles' funeral service, three grim strangers show up: Tex (James Coburn), Scobie (George Kennedy) and Gideon (Ned Glass). They all seem eager to confirm that Charles is indeed dead.

Joshua reappears and befriends Reggie, while in the following few days Tex, Scobie and Gideon start to make their menacing presence felt with veiled and obvious threats. American Embassy official Hamilton Bartholomew (Walter Matthau) connects with Reggie to warn her that Charles was illegally in possession of $250,000 that belonged to the United States government, and that the three henchmen are his former crime accomplices and likely won't stop at anything to find the missing money. Reggie has no idea where her ex-husband has stashed the loot, but soon realizes that even with Joshua's help her life is in grave danger, she can trust no one, and nothing is at it seems.

The premise is simple: a plucky damsel in distress is surrounded by a throng of potentially dangerous men. The bad guys are chasing a classic MacGuffin in the form of a missing cache of World War Two money stolen by four soldiers while on a mission behind enemy lines. Elegantly directed by Stanley Donen, Charade is often referred to as the best Hitchcockian film not directed by Alfred Hitchcock. This is a engaging thriller handled with a light touch, Donen translating the Peter Stone screenplay (based on the 1961 short story The Unsuspecting Wife) into a romp through Paris, with romance and humour injected in just the right amounts to brighten the mood.

The Henry Mancini music score and title song, as well as the animated opening credit sequence by Maurice Binder, announce Charade as a slick example of 1960s film making. Donen aims for chic smoothness, and achieves it through personality and pacing. Even during the more serious action and danger scenes Donen leaves no doubt that Reggie will emerge unscathed, and there is a steady stream of hints pointing to the many plot twists. Charade unfolds like a fun trip through a handsomely-trimmed maze; there are a few surprises around some corners, but never any doubt about the final destination.

On closer examination there are plot holes to be sure, as well as some incongruous character reactions as Reggie demonstrates remarkable composure and finds a steady steam of clever quips in the face of sudden danger. The flame of romance between Joshua and Reggie also has the potential to flounder on the jagged rocks of a 25 year difference between Grant and Hepburn. That hurdle is mostly cleared by making Reggie the romantic instigator, a stance that fits in with her relief and liberation at the end of a loveless marriage. Hepburn and Grant develop an easy chemistry and glide over the rough patches on a large dose of star charisma.

The supporting cast is deep in talent. George Kennedy waves a steel claw to good effect, James Coburn does the same with a Texan accent, and Walter Matthau adds bureaucratic oiliness. Filled with unscrupulous villains chasing a cheeky heroine, Charade wins on charm.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Movies Of Janet Leigh

All movies starring Janet Leigh and reviewed on the Ace Black Blog are linked below:

Holiday Affair (1949)

Jet Pilot (1957)

Touch Of Evil (1958)

Psycho (1960)

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Harper (1966)

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.
The Index of Movie Stars is here.

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