Oct 23, 2017


There is a moment in CHILDREN OF THE CORN, a 1984 film based on a Stephen King short story, when we first meet the happy (and very 80s yuppie) couple of Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton gloriously celebrating his graduation from Med school where there is absolutely no question in the audience's mind that they are doomed.  Moments before this, we witness the children of the small, fictional town of Gatlin, Nebraska band together and massacre all the adults – poisoning them through their adult drink of coffee and slicing the throats of others.  Led by the charismatic (and loud) Isaac and his vicious henchman Malachai (who seems to revel in killing adults – and anyone who disobeys this new order) the children are very Biblically inclined with names like Job, Rachel, Sarah and Amos.  It begs the question, just how messed up is this town that someone in modern times actually named their child Malachai?

These kids aren't playing.

Just in time for Halloween, Arrow Video has released a new, beautiful hi-def transfer of CHILDREN OF THE CORN packed with extras. It’s another notch in the impressive roster of Stephen King film adaptations.  A writer-director friend of mine recently posted his “definitive” list, ranking his top King novel picks (and I won’t dare to argue with him since the list was “definitive”).  Many of the comments noted how that list could easily translate into a films list as well, as 99% of them had been adapted as a film or TV movie. I doubt that there is any other author that has had the majority of their work adapted, many of which are now considered iconic classics like THE SHINING (I must note though that CHILDREN OF THE CORN did not make his list).

Isaac is the leader of the Children, and really needs some corner time.

CHILDREN OF THE CORN was first published in the March, 1977 issue of Playboy magazine, then included in the collection of short stories, NIGHT SHIFT, a copy which can be seen as an easter egg on the dashboard of Horton and Hamilton's car.

Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton as the doomed yuppie couple.

The film itself is not exactly one of the best King adaptations, but does have its charms, especially in the first hour which features Hamilton and Horton making every horror mistake in the book to put them in the direct line of jeopardy. It's one of those horror pictures that will have you yelling at the screen thanks to the utter ineptitude of the protagonists whose actions scream KILL ME to the adolescent murderers that stalk them.

Not your typical Sunday School.

The following may contain SPOILERS.  You have been warned.

While traveling down a Nebraska back-road, Horton hits one of the escaping children with his car who has just had his throat slashed by Malachai. Wanting to (rightfully) report the dead person, the couple at first heed the crazy old man at the gas station’s warning (a staple of the horror genre) to stay away from the town of Gatlin, but the road signs seem to all want them to end up there anyway.  The town is empty with all the phone cords cut and corn seemingly engulfing the town, but does the couple get out of there upon discovering this?  Nope, of course not.  They instead keep investigating including entering a deserted and ruined farmhouse where they find Sarah, a young girl with cognitive powers.  She’s one of the of good kids (there are two – she and her brother Job who was forced to watch Malachai slash his father’s throat) however Isaac has dispatched Malachai and some of the others to collect the “interlopers” and Hamilton soon finds herself captured and being crucified (thankfully no nails in hands or feet, just tied) to a corn-husk cross in the middle of a field.  The rest of the picture features Horton trying to outrun the children and attempting to retrieve Hamilton, so they can do what they should have done in the first place - get out of town ASAP.

Malachai not happy, probably because his parents named him Malachai.

Beginning with the children’s names, the picture is packed with Biblical references and imagery, including what may or may not be an attack by Satan who seems to be inspiring the situation.  The adults are all murdered following a church service, narration from Job revealing that Isaac was having his own revival out in the corn field.  The Satan element is one of the more confusing elements of the picture as it is introduced late in the game and isn’t overly explained.  There is a benefit to the ambiguous nature of the overall “big bad” but it leaves the audience with a lot of questions, the biggest one being does this power intend to spread beyond the limits of Gatlin.  This is part of the reason that the second half of the picture is not as strong as the first, the first hour primarily focusing on Hamilton and Horton exploring the strangely empty Gatlin and the audience waiting for the children to appear and make their yuppie lives a living hell (literally).

Malachai making sure Linda Hamilton thinks twice before having children.

Extras on the disc, as per usual with Arrow Blu-ray releases, are exceptional including a visit to the locations used to double for Gatlin, an interview with an actor whose big scene as the “blue man” (an integral figure in the plot) was cut, trailers and advertising materials and the 1983 short film DISCIPLES OF THE CROW which was the first filmed adaptation of the King story.

Another doomed church service in the short DISCIPLES OF THE CROW (1983).

DISCIPLES OF THE CROW is an interesting addition to the package as the material, while similar (couple terrorized in small town by homicidal children) it couldn’t be more different.  First, the happy couple of Horton and Hamilton are replaced by an angry, arguing couple (Burt and Vicy) that barely like each other.  The location is also lifted from Nebraska to Oklahoma and instead of corn, the children worship a crow god (hence the title).  As with CHILDREN OF THE CORN, the massacre follows a church service, again religion not helping the poor, unsuspecting adults who find themselves dead at the hands of their children.  The fact that couple spend the entire time arguing (Burt is particularly a jerk) makes the couple less likable than Hamilton and Horton which completely changes the overall tone of the material.  It’s a highlight on this disc and worth watching, and kudos to Arrow for including it.

Wonderful artwork that adorns the packaging for Arrow's new Blu-ray disc release of CHILDREN OF THE CORN, now available.

While CHILDREN OF THE CORN is not as memorable (or nearly as good) as more prominent King adaptions like CUJO, THE SHINING or IT (to name a few), it does have its moments and horror film fans will not be disappointed with Arrow’s Blu-ray disc release.

Oct 15, 2017

OCTOBER 2017 HORROR – SISTERS (1973) Directed by Brian De Palma

SISTERS is very De Palma in that his fascination with the work of Alfred Hitchcock shines through clearly.  This is aided especially by frequent Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrmann’s musical score which I had never heard before, but have become an instant fan of.  As usual with De Palma’s work (RAISING CAIN or DRESSED TO KILL for example) it delves into psychological horror – an element I can’t get too deep into without spoiling the picture – but it’s so effective here and well set up that even the over-the-top approach that is taken works perfectly.

Creepiest concept for a game show ever created.

The picture begins with a very uncomfortable 1970s game show called Peeping Toms - which will come into play tonally later on.  De Palma's REAR WINDOW fetish can be found in all of his work...BLOW OUT, BODY DOUBLE, etc. as a central theme is that of voyeurism that ultimately leads to bad things for all involved.  In this instance, contestants watch as a man (Lisle Wilson) is present while a “blind” woman (Margot Kidder) begins to undress in front of him unaware of his presence.  We discover that she is an actress and he is just a bystander as the contestants on the show are asked to guess what he will do next.  Will he just let her undress, or reveal his presence?  They pick wrong and Kidder and Wilson win prizes – she a set of steak knives (which will come in handy later) and he a free pass for two to the unfortunately named African Club.  Given that he is an African American male, he shakes his head bemusedly at the ironic racism that is happening to him.  One must wonder if the prize was geared to him or was it a coincidence?  Race does play a part in this picture and it has an uncomfortable presence given that the poor guy never had a chance – even though there are so many warning signs for him to run, he does what every male does and sticks around when sex is very clearly going to happen.

Lisle Wilson and Margot Kidder.

[SPOILER ALERT] – not a major one, but enough that may annoy so consider yourself warned.

Kidder plays a French-Canadian model (she is Canadian in reality) who we discover has a sister that is never seen on-screen.  That sister - which is spelled out on the one-sheet \as well as the trailer promoting the picture - was a conjoined or Siamese Twin that she was separated from.  Kidder is also harassed by her obsessively stalker (and insanely creepy) ex-husband (William Finley) who interrupts her date with Wilson at the African Club, then hangs out outside of their apartment while they have sex.  Kidder is seen taking pills, and reveals that she and her sister are celebrating their birthday.  Out of pills, Wilson heads out to replenish her supply and picks up a birthday cake for the sisters as well.  Arriving back at the house he is stabbed repeatedly by the prize steak knives, an act that is observed by Grace (Jennifer Salt) a reporter for the Staten Island Panorama who lives next door and acting as the REAR WINDOW Jimmy Stewart character (just way more annoying).  It seems Grace isn’t well liked by the police, and when she calls them they are hostile towards her.  She drags them to the murder scene only to find it completely cleaned up.  Grace is a reporter and convinced something is up, forces her way into the story determined to undermine the police (who she constantly refers to as idiots) and solve the murder herself.  It seems that everyone is a Peeping Tom of some form in this picture.

Jennifer Salt as Grace being a Peeping Tom herself.

Grace is truly an annoying human being.  She is intrusive, belligerent and it is no surprise that the police dislike her.  For the audience, she’s not the most likable protagonist and is in fact she is so grating that you kind of hope she fails (although you still feel sorry for poor Lisle).  The police make racist statements like “these people are known to stab each other” and Grace jumps on that assuming the police don’t care that another African American man has just been murdered.  That may or may not be the case, you get the sense that their annoyance is directed completely at her, and without a body, tough for them to investigate anything.

Jennifer Salt with Charles Durning, who is reduced to a paid Peeping Tom.

One of the things that is unique about this picture is that the first half hour focuses entirely on Kidder and Lisle, only to completely switch over to Grace once the murder occurs.  Grace writes for a small Staten Island newspaper, but seems to be accorded respect as if she were writing a column for the New York times.  Charles Durning appears as a private detective, and the only person to believe that a murder has in fact taken place.  Durning is reduced to a paid Peeping Tom as he follows what he believes to be the place where the body is hidden, waiting for someone to come and pick it.  The final image of the movie solidifies this, summing up the entire theme and tone of everybody watching somebody.  As their investigation heats up, that’s when De Palma goes into full De Palma mode and delves into the psychological taking us from sexual thriller to horror.

Margot Kidder looking somehow virginal after having sex.

One of the scariest things ever to be portrayed on screen – in any movie – is that of a mental institution.  In the movies, you can be institutionalized just because the doctor says you’re nuts.  After that happens, anything the victim says sounds crazy – even if they are completely sane.  Grace’s investigation leads her to just such a place and that is when things go off the deep end.  Zooming into her eye, De Palma takes us on a wild psychological journey with imagery that will haunt you long after the picture is over.  De Palma doesn’t hold back at all here, and this is where the tone transforms fully from Thriller to Horror as Grace is taken on a journey through Kidder’s mind, experiencing her past first-hand.  It's here you notice the subtle hunchback on Finley's back.  De Palma transforms us into Peeping Toms as we look into the mind of Margot Kidder, and the nightmare he is creating for Grace.

Never go to a mental institution in a movie.  It never goes well for anyone.

This being a De Palma picture, things do not end well for anyone.  It’s a film like this where De Palma’s techniques really shine.  His use of split screen (shortly after the murder) is extremely effective here and gets across more information and creates tension that makes it appear that everything is happening in real time.  Made early in his career, the smaller scale works in his favor, unlike later like with DRESSED TO KILL or BLOW OUT (which I know have their supporters) which feel bloated and over-produced (although I am starting to finally warm up to BLOW OUT).  A perfect double feature would be this and De Palma’s 1984 thriller BODY DOUBLE which also features peeping-tom activities and a witnessed murder. 

SISTERS is available as a Criterion Collection DVD, as a digital download through iTunes and from Arrow as a region B Blu-ray disc.

Oct 11, 2017


FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED is not a typical horror picture that one would expect containing the name Frankenstein in the title.  The focus of the picture is not the created “Monster” (as it is referred to in the 1931 Universal picture) unless you count Peter Cushing’s Doctor Frankenstein who is himself more of a fiend than any monster he could possibly create.  Don't get me wrong, the advertising materials show a vile creation and a vile creation indeed there is.  Yet the role he plays in the narrative is not one that you would expect making this a unique, engaging and smart film.

Peter Cushing as Frankenstein and Simon Ward perform some unauthorized brain surgery not covered by any HMO.

Under an assumed name, Frankenstein travels to connect with a doctor he wishes to collaborate with and continue his unholy experiments only to find that the man has lost his mind and is now a ward of a mental institution.  Frankenstein proceeds to blackmail a young couple who are smuggling cocaine, kidnaps the doctor from his cell, performs unauthorized brain surgery on him and perpetrates a vicious rape.  As far as the picture goes, the rape feels completely unnecessary, yet establishes how immoral and evil Cushing’s Frankenstein truly is.  It does have the effect of some added shock value yet feels tacked on and takes the viewer out of the picture for a brief time following. Indeed, it was added after the picture was shot, as the head of the studio believed the picture needed more “sex”.  Cushing himself hated the sequence, citing it as the most difficult he has ever had to shoot. Any way you look at it, it is an uncomfortable moment.

Peter Cushing blackmails Simon Ward and Veronica Carlson into being his unwilling accomplices.

Hammer horror pictures were “gothic” horror films made from the 50s though the 70s in England.  They relied primarily on a stable of actors such as Peter Cushing (Baron Frankenstein), Christopher Lee (who played Dracula) and Oliver Reed.  There were seven Hammer Frankenstein pictures in total, starting with THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN in 1957, six of which starred Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein.  FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED is the fourth sequel in the franchise.

Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein.  He also played Van Helsing in the Hammer Dracula pictures.

Cushing’s performance is so cold, so mean, so calculating even when he is carrying out the vilest of acts you feel he could go even lower if necessary to reach his goal. His performance is so convincing and terrifying it is more effective than any monster could be.

From the opening sequence of the picture.

An opening sequence involving a break-in acts as a red herring but sets a violent tone for the rest of the picture.  It's an unnerving and violent moment with a truly scary figure (picture above).  Also, the scenes within the mental facility, especially those involving a troubled young lady, do not fall into the typical "safe" standards of 50s horror pictures.  This is a film that goes out of its way to be shocking and grisly which is enhanced by the sound design.  Even though the audience never sees Frankenstein cutting into the skull of his creation, the noise has the effect of nails on a chalk board and is held long enough to make things extremely uncomfortable for the viewer. 

Frankenstein's latest "creation".

This being a Frankenstein picture, there is indeed a re-animated body, but it doesn’t follow any of the conventions that any other Frankenstein film (or the book) has outlined.  If it wasn’t for the stitches in his head, you’d have no idea he was a re-animated corpse.  I dare not go further for fear of spoiling the surprising and smart ending, but it is worth noting the different approach that sets this picture apart from the pack.  The scene is further enhanced by rich photography that brings out the intensity of a raging fire that surrounds and threatens to engulf the characters, and plays a vital role in the abrupt and savage ending.

Rich photography brings out the violence of the flames threatening Baron Frankenstein.

Part of a Blu-ray collection, HORROR CLASSICS, VOLUME 1, put out by Warner Home Video, the presentation here is outstanding with muted colors and deep shadows that enhance the gothic tone of the picture.  It’s a testament to the staying power of the Hammer Horror series, that this is picture – unlike many older horror films – still retains its shocking impact almost 50 years later.

Warner Home Video's wonderful Blu-ray release which includes Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed.

May 24, 2017

BOND '17 - Sir Roger Moore

When I started my every-five-year-or-so re-evaluating the EON Productions' James Bond, 007 franchise in series order about 14 weeks ago, I never thought that the first post - which comes on the heels of viewing the final Roger Moore picture A View to a Kill this past Sunday, would be a memorial post. I had planned to kick the series off with a 30-year anniversary look at The Living Daylights.  Given that I had just finished the Moore films, the news yesterday morning that Sir Roger Moore has passed away at the age of 89 was especially sad.  He was alive and well on the screen just days before, and I have been also watching all the special content for each film, including the commentaries recorded for the 50th Anniversary Blu-ray set by Sir Roger Moore himself on each of his entries.  In those commentaries he comes across as warm and playful, and truly blessed with being given the chance to play such an iconic character so many times, while doing so in the shadow of Sean Connery whose shoes are still difficult to fill.

Sir Roger Moore and Grace Jones as Mayday in A View to a Kill (1985)

Sir Roger came into the role the same year I came into the world, so growing up I was introduced to the world of Bond by seeing ads for the Moore pictures on television, on marquees and elsewhere.  The first full Bond picture I saw from beginning to end was For Your Eyes Only, which not only cemented my life-long passion for the franchise, but also stands as my favorite in the Moore series (which I will discuss in more depth in a separate post).  My first memory of being exposed to anything Bond anything was a poster for Moonraker that had Sir Roger in a spacesuit surrounded by lingerie-clad women.  I was 6 at the time, and my parents didn't like me seeing that poster.  This was the age of Star Wars though (it was in between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back) so a dude in a spacesuit with a gun was what I found intriguing.  I was too young to notice the women - well, yet.

Sir Roger Moore and Barbara Bach as Agent XXX in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Watching the series all the way through like this, and this being the 5th time I am doing so (it just keeps growing.  This will be the first time through with Spectre) I pick up the nuances of the actors as they take on the role, Sir Roger was more of a spit-spot gentleman  than the rough-edged Connery.  On the commentary tracks, he frequently discusses how he hated a scene in The Man With The Golden Gun where the story required that he rough up Maude Adams, something Connery seemed to be much more comfortable with.  Watching the scene, you can sense the uncomfortable tension between both of them, Miss Adams because she is such a sophisticated beauty, and Moore because he does not want to be doing it at all.  This is a scene that he brings up in almost every commentary on every picture.  When making For Your Eyes Only, Sir Roger had expressed concern over a scene where he wantoning kills an assassin, a scene that really stands out in that picture as great, but to Sir Roger, he did not feel it suited him.  To him, Bond wasn't ruthless for the sake of being so.  He had a gentleman's code and even if a woman had a gun in his back, he treated her with respect.

007 gets ruthless revenge in For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Sir Roger brought a tongue-in-cheek lightness to the role that has turned off many a Bond fan over the years that felt he wasn't tough enough - like Connery or more recently Daniel Craig.  He had a twinkle in his eye, and was always charming in the role, flirting with any woman who passed his way.  His reactions were always that of someone enjoying themselves, and if you watch closely, you can catch some very real and amusing reactions to lines and actions like in Octopussy when Maude Adams explains to Bond that her father referred to her as "his little Octopussy", Moore's head is half turned but you can see a look of "err, that's not right" cross his face when the line is delivered.  One poor choice on the filmmaker's behalf had Roger coming off almost obsessed with women in Octopussy where at an auction he comments on all the beautiful ladies twice, then later zooms a camera in on Q's busty assistant's bust line.  This didn't suit his persona who always seemed to respect women even as he jumped into bed with all of them (well except for young Lynn-Holly Johnson in For Your Eyes Only where Bond drew the line on the incredible age difference - another first for Bond, Bond turns down sex).

About to face off with Christopher Lee as Francisco Scaramanga in The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)

Early on in Live and Let Die, Moore's first outing as 007, Sir Roger finds himself in 1973 Harlem, one of the few times where Bond looks and feels so completely out of his element.  There is a danger here where even in the most rough spot surrounded by bad guys it felt as though Bond could always find a way out, here he is in deep and really feels unaware of how to carry himself in these surroundings.  Sir Roger is perfect for this predicament. Connery had a roughness where you feel he could carry himself even here whereas Moore is as clueless white as a white guy can get in the way he's dressed, his perfectly coiffed hair and impeccable manners.  He sticks out like a sore thumb (the CIA operative on his tail that saves him even says so), and it's a rare moment where you feel Bond is in way over his head.

Bond stands out in Harlem in Live and Let Die (1973)

The films always took great delight in having Moore's Bond busted in a compromising position with the leading lady while an authority figure shockingly looked on (M and the Russians catching him with XXX in The Spy Who Love Me, in zero gravity with Dr. Goodhead in Moonraker, during a phone call from Margaret Thatcher in For Your Eyes Only, a Q invented surveillance robot in A View To a Kill that finds Bond in the shower with Tanya Roberts).  It was a nice gag that never wore out its welcome.

007 taking full advantage of Zero Gravity in Moonraker (1979)

Sir Roger was not just known for Bond, having starred in The Saint Television series as well as being active in UNICEF among other film roles and writings.  That being said he leaves behind his strongest legacy with two almost full decades of Bond pictures (1973 - 1985), an unbroken streak of seven that beats even Connery (unless you count Never Say Never Again which is not an official entry in the EON series since it was done by another producer who was always trying to kick off his own Bond series.  If you do count that, then he and Connery are tied) and I doubt anyone inhabiting the role now will reach that amount given how actors don't like to be typecast and are probably pretty antsy to move on more quickly.

Defusing a bomb is no laughing matter in Octopussy (1983)

Here's hoping Sir Roger is now enjoying a good cigar and one Vodka martini, rather shaken, wherever his spirit may rest.

The Roger Moore Bonds:







Apr 2, 2017

MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH LOS ANGELES - L.A In Print, On Film and Television: LETHAL WEAPON (1987)

Warning - spoilers and plot details of Lethal Weapon lie ahead.

When it comes to Christmas action films (who knew there was such a genre) one picture always dominates the conversation, Die Hard.  This past Christmas, I revisited that other L.A. Christmas action picture that doesn't get mentioned enough during the season, Lethal Weapon.

Scripted by Shane Black who is known for setting his films during Christmas time, Lethal Weapon was released in 1987 (one year before Die Hard) and still stands as the ultimate 80s buddy-cop picture.  Mel Gibson cemented his stature as a mega-80s-superstar as Martin Riggs, an on-the-edge and suicidal cop and Vietnam special forces vet mourning the death of his wife.  He is teamed with veteran cop Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) who is just "too old for this s--t" having turned 50 when we are first introduced to him.

It's Christmas at the Murtaugh house which takes an immense beating in this picture

Lethal Weapon was a smash hit and kicked off a blockbuster franchise consisting of 3 sequels and recently a TV series on Fox.  This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the film, so revisiting it recently I was asking myself before watching, am I now "too old for this s--t"?

Lethal Weapon is a surprisingly dark-toned picture, and I would even go so far as to call it an action-Noir which I believe is enhanced by the Los Angeles setting.  L.A. is very much a central character in this series with prominent locations like Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, Hollywood Boulevard and a beach near El Segundo.  The picture opens with the credits super-imposed over the Los Angeles skyline as the camera moves to an iconic circular hotel in Long Beach as a young, beautiful woman leaps to her death with a word (there is also one on Sunset Boulevard off the 405 that looks similar).

The opening of the picture already sets the Noir tone and establishes L.A. as the setting

I never really clued into the Noir elements in the picture until this most recent viewing.  First you have a lead character, played by a mega-star, who is seen shoving a gun into his mouth and contemplating suicide.  He lives in a small trailer by the beach with his dog, and keeps himself alive through re-runs of The Three Stooges.  Gibson's Riggs is an ideal Noir character, a law-enforcer who is a good cop, but clearly just one step away from going over the edge at any given moment.  Murtaugh thinks it is an act until a situation with a suicide jumper makes it clear to him that Riggs is a self-destructive powder keg just waiting to be ignited.  There is also a Vietnam vet backstory in play here that was becoming a big thing in films during this period thanks to films such as Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July.  Riggs' issues seem to stem more with the death of his wife, but it becomes apparent there are other demons at play here from his war years and his experience in special forces.

Murtaugh realizing that Riggs' suicidal wish is no joke

Danny Glover's Roger Murtaugh isn't exactly an upbeat character either.  Having just turned 50, he is starting to feel his age as he deals with his lovely middle-class family that seems to be maturing around him much too quickly.  You can tell he loves being a cop, but the years are starting to catch up with him and the introduction of the unpredictable Riggs enhances that.  Murtaugh's home life takes a beating in this picture as his daughter is kidnapped, the villains descend upon the house with no trepidation and the front room - Christmas tree and all - is demolished by a car smashing through the living room wall.  This trend continues into the sequels like in Lethal Weapon 2 when South African heavies break into the home at night, bind Murtaugh and his wife in their beds and threaten to blow their heads off.  Needless to say their insurance premiums must be through the roof.

Gary Busey as the picture's heavy, Joshua

This brings me to the villain, Joshua, played by a still sane and (at least visibly) sober Gary Busey.  Joshua has no qualms going directly after the LAPD, kidnapping an innocent (Murtaugh's daughter) nor attacking a home in broad daylight during a wedding with a barrage of gunfire from a helicopter (a scene that later is copied to an extent in the Shane Black directed Iron Man 3).  He is just as lethal as Riggs, but more calm and collected making him more dangerous than your average thug.  The fight between he and Riggs on the lawn of the Murtaugh residence in the mud as fellow LAPD officers watch on, is dark, violent and unsettling as the two beat themselves to a pulp.  Riggs is getting all his demons out on Joshua who has threatened his newly adopted family, the one that has begun to help with the healing process and bring him back from the edge.

Tis' the season to fight on a lawn in L.A.

The score by Michael Kamen has an tone of melancholy to it, with a jazz sax wailing in the background mixed with his usual dose of pulse-pounding actin cues, it plays up a Noir feel that other action pictures just don't have.

The Christmas tree lot gunfight, a unique setting

Finally this brings me to Los Angeles, and the part it plays.  During the day, it has the feeling of oppression with the sun constantly beating down during a time when most of the country is cold, snowy and dark.  A gun battle in a Christmas tree lot is as noisy and as brutal as they come, definitely not in the holiday spirit and enhancing the idea that Christmas in L.A. is something out-of-the-ordinary.  It may be Christmas, but L.A. is a hard town even when it comes to buying the symbol of the season, a tree.  Later the location shifts to the desert, reminding us that Los Angeles and is surrounded by this hot, barren terrain.  It almost doesn't feel like the United States as Murtaugh and Riggs confront Joshua in an effort to get Murtaugh's daughter back (even more surreal is the addition of a limousine that is among the vehicles present).

The Car chase set piece on Hollywood Boulevard is a highlight of the film

A brutal and exciting action sequence that begins on Hollywood boulevard and moving to the nearby 101 Freeway is the piece de resistance of the picture's set pieces.  It is amusing watching in 2017 as Riggs is able to run around Hollywood brandishing a machine gun without a badge, and is merely flagged by an LAPD office who doesn't seem to react to the weapon at all.  Had it been Murtaugh waving that piece on the streets at night without identification, would he be treated as fairly?  The sequence is big, bold and surreal, an action sequence that plays up the L.A. surroundings in a dark setting that once again spotlights that L.A. truly is alive at night, but underneath all the glamor of Tinseltown there is an element of menace, something that Film Noir and the writings of authors such as Raymond Chandler really put the spotlight on.

Nobody minds Mel running around with a Machine gun on 1987 Hollywood Boulevard.  Not sure he'd be so lucky in 2017.

Am I calling Lethal Weapon a Noir picture?  No, not at all.  It is really what it appears to be on the surface, a big, blockbuster buddy-cop action picture.  It is a smarter movie though than one would think it to be with fleshed out characters and a distinctive Noir tone that you can tell both writer Shane Black and director Richard Donner has injected into it.

Mar 27, 2017


My poor neglected blog, time to give it some love.  Yes, at the beginning of the year I threatened to get back to regular posting - well, it didn't happen so much. If at first you don't find you have time, try, try again.

For the record, my promised Love Affair with Los Angeles series is coming.  I have it all mapped out, and just have to get it down on "paper".

There has been a social media trend of people posting their favorite films from every year they have been alive.  I learned of it from the editor of the James Bond Social Media Project blog and since Saturday I aged another year, it feels like perfect timing for me to jump onto this bandwagon.

So here it is, my favorite films, by year, for the past 44 (yikes) years.

1973 - PAPER MOON (Dir: Peter Bogdanovich)

1974 - CHINATOWN (Dir: Roman Polanski)

1975 - BARRY LYNDON (Dir: Stanley Kubrick)

1976 - (tie) NETWORK (Dir: Sidney Lumet) / ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (Dir: Alan J. Pakula)

1977 - ANNIE HALL (Dir: Woody Allen)

1978 - THE DEER HUNTER (Dir: Michael Cimino)

1979 - ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (Dir: Don Siegel)

1980 - RAGING BULL (Dir: Martin Scorsese)

1981 - RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (Dir: Steven Spielberg)

1982 - THE VERDICT (Dir: Sidney Lumet)

1983 - THE RIGHT STUFF (Dir: Phillip Kaufman)

1984 - A PASSAGE TO INDIA (Dir: David Lean)

1985 - THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (Dir: Woody Allen)

1986 - SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT (Dir: Spike Lee)

1987 - RADIO DAYS (Dir: Woody Allen)

1988 - DIE HARD (Dir: John McTiernan)

1989 - DO THE RIGHT THING (Dir: Spike Lee)

1990 - GOODFELLAS (Dir: Martin Scorsese)

1991 - JFK (Dir: Oliver Stone)

1992 - THE PLAYER (Dir: Robert Altman)

1993 - REMAINS OF THE DAY (Dir: James Ivory)

1994 - THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (Dir: Frank Darabont)

1995 - (tie) BRAVEHEART (Dir: Mel Gibson) / CASINO (Dir: Martin Scorsese)

1996 - FARGO (Dir: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)

1997 - L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (Dir: Curtis Hanson)

1998 - BULWORTH (Dir: Warren Beatty)

1999 - THE INSIDER (Dir: Michael Mann)

2000 - WONDER BOYS (Dir: Curtis Hanson)

2001 - THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (Dir: Wes Anderson)

2002 - CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (Dir: Steven Spielberg)


2004 - FINDING NEVERLAND (Dir: Marc Forster)

2005 - SYRIANA (Dir: Stephen Gaghan)

2006 - THANK YOU FOR SMOKING (Dir: Jason Reitman)

2007 - THERE WILL BE BLOOD (Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson)

2008 - THE DARK KNIGHT (Dir: Christopher Nolan)

2009 - UP (Dir: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson)

2010 - THE SOCIAL NETWORK (Dir: David Fincher)

2011 - MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (Dir: Woody Allen)

2012 - SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (Dir: David O. Russell)

2013 - ALL IS LOST (Dir: J.C. Chandor)

2014 - EDGE OF TOMORROW (Dir: Doug Liman)

2015 - MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (Dir: George Miller)

2016 (tie) MOONLIGHT (Barry Jenkins) / ZOOTOPIA (Dir: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush)

2017 - (so far...) GET OUT (Dir: Jordan Peele)