Author Topic: Antares' Short Summations  (Read 148785 times)

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #390 on: June 11, 2014, 11:50:06 PM »
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) 76/100 - If this film did one thing for me, it was to make me really miss hearing someone just play a guitar and sing. In the beginning of the film, the Coens capture a time that has long since disappeared. Unfortunately, as the story, if you could call it that, moves along, it kind of loses that tonal quality that made me think that this was going to become my favorite Coen brothers film. Maybe they should have cut the John Goodman subplot and focused on his partner's fate at the beginning, and then segued into Davis' slow descent into obscurity. At least the storyline would have had a modicum of structure to it. Maybe I'll like it better after a second viewing, which has become commonplace for me with other Coen brothers films.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #391 on: June 17, 2014, 10:09:03 PM »
Zatoichi the Outlaw (1967) 56/100 - This, the sixteenth film in the successful Zatoichi franchise is loaded with many firsts for the blind swordsman series. For the first time we get to see some blood spurting when Ichi slices an opponent, which in my opinion, is what was finally needed to make the action more palpable. This film also marks the initial offering of its star, Shintaro Katsu, as producer, under the auspices of his newly formed company, Katsu Productions. Katsu also sings what will become the series' theme song and damn, if he doesn't have a fine voice too. The final first is personal, for this was the first film in this marathon that I did not like at all. It's badly directed, sloppily edited and has a confusing storyline that had me look at the clock a few too many times before it ended. And although it never materializes, you get a sense that there's going to be a bit of pinku creeping in down the line as the following films are made. There's a quasi rape scene in the middle of the film, which if it had been made a couple of years later, would probably have had some gratuitous nudity attached to it. You can tell that either Daiei or Katsu himself, are tossing the idea around in their heads.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #392 on: July 15, 2014, 09:40:29 PM »
Zatoichi Challenged (1967) 72/100 - I'm coming down the home stretch in the Daiei produced films in this series, and I'm getting a sense that they're running out of steam. From the earliest moments in this film, I knew it was being directed by Kenji Misumi, who has turned out to be my favorite director in this marathon. But he too, seems to be on auto pilot for this one, as the story, while character driven, is pretty much a re-hashing of Fight, Zatoichi, Fight from a few years earlier. Instead of Ichi caring for an infant, it's a young boy this time and while Misumi's direction and cinematography are top notch as usual, the story lacks any real punch to make it memorable. You can feel the screenwriters stretching a bit to make a slightly different plot twist for this one. When all is said and done, the ending was quite satisfying, with Ichi coming close to being killed, with his quasi-bushido integrity saving his skin.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is
« Last Edit: July 15, 2014, 09:43:35 PM by Antares »

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #393 on: August 31, 2014, 03:00:04 AM »
Zatoichi and the Fugitives (1968) 85/100 - In my previous review for Zatoichi Challenged, I opined how I felt that the last films in the Daiei run where losing a bit of steam. Was I ever wrong! This film took the basic Zatoichi formula and added the most vicious and ruthless villains in the series so far. Add an engaging screenplay and my favorite actor of all time, Takashi Shimura, and this is, in my mind, the best in the series up until now. Once again, Ichi is wounded, and it looks like he might not survive this go round. But there's still seven more films to go, so you know that isn't going to be the reality. Lots of action, blood spurting, a severed arm and Ichi using his own sword to remove a musket ball from his shoulder, this film just flew by. One more to go in the Daiei films and then it's time for Mifune meets Katsu! I can't wait. If you're on the fence about watching any of the films in this series, then I give my highest recommendation for this entry.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #394 on: September 07, 2014, 04:44:09 AM »
Samaritan Zatoichi (1968) 64/100 - This was the last film in the Zatoichi series made by Daiei studios before declaring bankruptcy and ceasing to be. And though the previous film, Zatoichi and the Fugitives infused some well needed energy into the series, this last film just couldn't maintain the impetus. The first film in this series, directed by Kenji Misumi, that I felt was running on life support. It features a hodgepodge of Zatoichi-staple story lines, infused with some silly humor that is beyond believable. A few times I found myself wondering why they even bothered to make this last film. It's not a bad film, just eighty minutes of rehashed, kind of ho-hum action. Oh well, on to Toho and a meeting with Mifune!

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #395 on: November 06, 2014, 06:55:12 PM »
Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (1970) 66/100 - OK, so it's been two years since the last Daiei Zatoichi film and now Toho has taken over the franchise. It obviously has a bigger budget than what Daiei would allow, a topnotch chanbara director in Kihachi Okamoto, not only to direct, but to co-write the screenplay. And finally, Toho's biggest star actor in Toshirô Mifune to kick off the proceedings with a bit of punch. You would think that this would result in a exciting romp starring two of Japanese cinema's most lovable and interesting characters, but in never quite gels. It's as if Toho had found a formula for making money, but didn't have the proper measurements to make it work. First, they made the film too long, with only sparse amounts of action. Zatoichi films should never venture beyond the 90 minute mark and this one clocks in at 115 minutes. If you're going to add some length, then for goodness sake, add some depth. Second, they tried to pad out the screenplay with comedic moments that make Ichi look foolish and thirdly, just never made the story engrossing enough to capture the viewer's interest. I never thought I'd say this about Mifune, but he just dials it in and collects his paycheck. Ichi has his sword broken in the opening moments of the film, yet he fights throughout the film with what appears to a new sword. Where did he obtain this new sword? I really feel that Okamoto should have enlisted Shintaro Katsu to help write the screenplay, as he would have probably fixed a few of the missteps in the storyline. As Zatoichi films go, this is definitely a middle of the pack offering, that hopefully, with a bit more understanding of the character, will be righted in the remaining films.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #396 on: November 08, 2014, 01:52:28 AM »
Zatoichi Goes to the Fire Festival (1970) 74/100 - In this second offering from Toho they decide to hand the screenwriting chores to the star of the film, Shintarô Katsu. This, along with securing the directorial talents of Kenji Misumi, the man who directed most of the successful Daiei Zatoichi films, makes for a more structured and interesting film this go round. Yet, it still isn't what I'd consider a classic Zatoichi romp. They have one of the better bad guys this time with Toho star Masayuki Mori, playing a blind, evil yakuza who wants Zatoichi's head, no matter what the cost. One hilarious comedic moment at a roadside teahouse, where a bickering married couple argues and fights as Ichi approaches, and the series first foray into pinku. But then there's Tatsuya Nakadai playing a crazed ronin, similar to his turn as Ryunosuke Tsukue in Dai-bosatsu tôge, who seems to be in the story, just to give Ichi a final showdown at the end. He kind of sleepwalks his way through the role, and I felt his presence halted the screenplay when he appeared. There's also a weird action scene in a bathhouse where Ichi defends himself against a dozen naked yakuza. And while the use of water buckets is quite well placed, the scene seems to be just there for shock and giggles. It's definitely a middle of the road offering in the series, but Toho is starting to get it right. Hopefully, the last four films will progress more towards the better Daiei renderings.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #397 on: November 12, 2014, 10:02:01 PM »
The Mob (1951) 78/100 - Found this over on YouTube, and though it really is more of a crime film than a noir, I have to say that I really enjoyed this. Broderick Crawford does a good job as the undercover cop who infiltrates the docks, looking for mob related activity. You can see the beginnings of his Highway Patrol character Chief Dan Mathews, from a few years later starting to emerge. The most fun part of the film is spotting some of the better character actors of the fifties and sixties in minor roles. Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, John Marley, Neville Brand, Emile Meyer, Lawrence Dobkin and Frank De Kova all have small, but interesting roles in the screenplay. It's a fast paced film that never relents in keeping the story engaging and involving. Toss in some very good camera work and you've got one of those hidden gems from the vaults of Columbia Pictures.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #398 on: November 13, 2014, 11:59:27 PM »
The Naked Street (1955) 71/100 - Three of the stars in this film were actors that I've never really cared much for, Anthony Quinn, Farley Granger and Peter Graves. But for the most part, they do a really good job with a storyline, which on the surface, seems pretty trite. But as the story progresses, it kind of wakes up out of hibernation and turns into a good little drama. Probably the only weak spot is the narration done by Graves, which sounds whiny at times, and other times, kind of nerdy. That aside, this is the best I've ever seen Farley Granger act in a film. His chemistry with Anne Bancroft is legit and when he's framed, both in the story and by the camera, the pain and anger in his demeanor looks genuine. Pity he wasn't as good as he is here, in the rest of the films I've watched him in. And it's always pleasant to watch anything with Anne Bancroft in it. She's never mentioned when lists are compiled of the sexiest actresses, but something about her is spellbinding.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #399 on: November 14, 2014, 12:27:56 AM »
Zatoichi Meets the One Armed Swordsman (1971) 77/100 - Well I guess that old saying that Third time's a charm is adequate for this installment in the Zatoichi series. Toho, in the first two films they produced, seemed unable to grasp what it was that made the series so spectacular for Daiei. They'd try all of the motifs that had been used, but never quite got it to gel. But with Zatoichi Meets the One Armed Swordsman they finally find the correct balance of action, comedy and pathos that make this film a real treat for Ichi fans. Another interesting idea, but I hope it's just used this one time, is the crossover with the successful Hong Kong film star Yu Wang. I've never been a big fan of chop-socky films, but here in tandem with the Zatoichi character, it makes for a fun romp. The story also throws a bit of ambiguity into the mix as the two main stars can't communicate with each other, due to their language barrier. Is Ichi responsible for ratting out the one armed swordsman for a reward? Of course, if you've watched any of the previous films, you know that's not the case, but it's addition into the screenplay makes for a nice diversion to the usual plot lines in the series. If you're a fan of Shaws Brother's films, then this may be a good starting point for you if you're thinking about delving into this wonderful series of films. The only disappointment for me is that I wish Criterion would have secured the rights for the Hong Kong release of this film, as it was released with a different ending. It would have been interesting to see Ichi meet his demise in that film, and there definitely was plenty of room on the Blu-Ray to fit it in.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is
« Last Edit: November 14, 2014, 04:44:21 PM by Antares »

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #400 on: November 20, 2014, 12:13:03 AM »
Zatoichi at Large (1972) 60/100 - For all intensive purposes, this film is a dud. Little nibbles of the usual Zatoichi tropes, spliced together in a ho-hum, I've already seen all this, screenplay. As the film is playing out, I'm blurting out, He's the final duel, She's the forsaken female and The cowardly yakuza boss who'll wilt like a dead flower when Ichi finally gets around to killing him. The only saving grace for this entry is that it has some of the best camera work I've seen in this series. Kazuo Mori must have really been impressed with Sergio Leone's cinematography, because he uses a plethora of in your face close ups throughout the film. If you're a completest, then it's worth a watch. But if you're not, you can definitely skip this one. It's not the worst film in the series, but it really just a waste of time and energy.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #401 on: November 21, 2014, 02:42:43 AM »
Crime in the Streets (1956) 60/100 - This is a film that's let down by many glaring weaknesses. First, it's suppose to showcase the gritty nature of slum life in post-war New York City, but the entire film is shot on a sound stage. It never once conveys the claustrophobic nature of tightly packed, slum dwellings. It's all too neat and quiet. You hear cars honking, but rarely does one pass by. Second, John Cassavetes is pretty unbelievable as an 18 year old teenager. Third, the ending is way too sappy to be believed, touting the ridiculous notion that love redeems Frankie's lost soul. James Whitmore, as usual, does his best with some pretty tired dialog. But his social worker, out to reform all the troubled waifs of the world, is a one note character. Sal Mineo, Mark Rydell, Virginia Gregg and in a surprising turn, Peter J. Votrian as the younger brother, all give good performances. I can't fault Don Siegel, he makes the best of what must have been a miniscule budget, as this was released by Allied Artists. You can tell that he will be a force to be reckoned with in the following decade.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #402 on: November 22, 2014, 03:24:39 AM »
Armored Car Robbery (1950) 74/100 - Economical heist caper that moves quickly from start to finish. William Talman is excellent as the anal retentive mastermind of an armored car heist that goes terribly wrong. Not much exposition in the beginning and if you blinked, suddenly the film was over. But it packs more into its scant 67 minutes than most noirs do in double the time. Charles McGraw plays the gruff, hard boiled detective with his usual steely demeanor and Adele Jergens shows you why she was called The Eyeful and The Girl with the Million Dollar Legs. I really can't think of much more to write, but I'd take a film like this over something with too much style and too little action.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #403 on: November 22, 2014, 03:36:02 AM »
Desperate (1947) 56/100 - I would have rated this about 20 points lower if it hadn't been for some really great camera work in the middle and toward the end of the film. It's hard to believe that Anthony Mann was the director of this turkey. Didn't anyone read the screenplay before they started shooting the film. I mean, c'mon, there are so many ridiculous plot points in this story. A cop is killed, yet they let the protagonist go, because they want to use him as bait for the rest of the gang? How did Raymond Burr find him the second time? Steve Brodie uses the same kind of move to thwart not only the original robbery, but when he firsts escapes the gang. At times, I thought I was watching a comedy noir. The only saving graces are the performance by Burr and gazing upon Audrey Long's gorgeous face. Mann shot a lot of her in profile and I can understand why. The camera just loves her and at times, I thought I was looking at Marilyn Monroe's older sister.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #404 on: November 22, 2014, 05:42:45 AM »
Backfire (1950) 62/100 - For a good part of this film, I couldn't make heads or tails as to what the hell was going on. At first, I kind of liked the flashback narrative, that is, until the flashback involved a very stereotypical Chinese butler recounting his portion of the tale on his deathbed. It also wasn't very difficult to figure out who "Lou Walsh" was going to turn out to be. I also think this is the first time I've watched Ed Begley stumble through a performance. He's usually pretty good, but here, he's kind of a buffoon cop. Lastly, prior to watching this, I'd only seen Viveca Lindfors in roles from the 1970's and onward. I never realized how beautiful she was in her younger years, and how much she kind of looked like Ingrid Bergman.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is