2019年7月29日 星期一

Some Other Movies From 1975

1975 was the year I was born.  Time flies when you're... alive?

The top five movies that year were Jaws, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Dog Day Afternoon and Shampoo.  My favorite of these movies is Shampoo, if only for that scene where Warren Beatty's sitting at a table surrounded by women he's slept with.

Other good movies of that year were Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Barry Lyndon, The Sunshine Boys, The Godfather Part II, Tommy, The Towering Inferno, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Nashville, Three Days of the Condor, Shivers and The Man Who Would Be King.

Worst movie?  I don't have any real grudge against it, but I've always found the Pink Panther franchise annoying.  For this reason I'd have to nominate The Return of the Pink Panther, which also came out the same year I did.


5. Night Moves

Check out Gene Hackman's answering machine in the beginning of this movie.  Pre-his-tor-ic.

If you wanted to work your way through the "great movies of the 70s," you could do much worse that start with Gene Hackman's filmography.  I Never Sang for My Father, The French Connection, The Poseidon Adventure, The Conversation, Superman... there are a lot of great films there.  Of course they weren't all winners, but during that decade he was a lot more careful about the roles he took, and his career was on the upswing.

Night Moves is another great one.  Hackman plays a private detective in search of a missing girl, and this film has the same sense of paranoia that made movies like the first French Connection and The Conversation so good.  Night Moves also has a nice male-female dialectic going for it, in that the male characters are constantly trying to come to terms with the female characters (and vice versa).

2. Deep Red

Dario Argento.  Yup.  Feels so good say it again: Dario Argento.  There, that's better.

Deep Red is perhaps the slasher movie of all slasher movies.  It's just so damn right in so many ways, and it came out so long before many of its more famous cousins.  The Goblin soundtrack sets the tone early on, and from there it's an absorbing detour through a series of grisly murders.  I like (the original) Suspiria, but this is the one that really does it for me.

Fun Fact: those gloved hands seen throughout the movie belong to the director.

Some Good Ones

1. Rollerball

Seems pretty corny now, but this movie was blowing people's minds in 1975.  Don't bother with the 2002 remake; it's not only terrible but it missed the point of the 1975 film.  You take the NFL, put it on rollerskates, make it even more violent - and THAT was the point of the original movie.

In Rollerball James Caan finds himself forced out of the game as a result of corporate machinations.  It's heavy-handed for sure, but it remains both one of the great 70s dystopian films and one of Caan's best performances.

2. The Killer Elite

My only reservation about this movie is that it was a bit too far ahead of its time.  Just imagine that airport martial arts battle a decade later.  It would've been epic.

The great Sam Peckinpah directed, with James Caan starring as a spy out for revenge, and Robert Duvall as a friend turned enemy.  It's predictably violent, but it's somewhat unique in that it often follows through on the violence, showing us the consequences of gunshot wounds and blows to the head.  Critics weren't loving it in 1975, but I think modern audiences will find a lot to like there.

3. The Ultimate Warrior

A surprisingly well-written movie about life in a post-apocalyptic commune.  Yul Brynner stars as a soldier of fortune (?), with Max Von Sydow as the commune's leader.

4. The Other Side of the Mountain

A young woman finds her skiing career cut short after an accident which paralyzes her from the neck down.  There's way too much narration during the first half, and I think one of the boyfriends could have been cut out of the movie altogether, but it's alright.  Beau Bridges and Dabney Coleman are the most famous people in it.

5. Once is Not Enough

What?  Was "young women paralyzed in accidents" some kind of popular theme in 1975?  As in The Other Side of the Mountain, another young woman gets paralyzed after a motorcycle accident in Italy.  This young woman happens to be the daughter of Kirk Douglas, who plays an aging movie producer.

And then, shades of incest.  Yep, in 1975 Kirk Douglas was willing to go there.  It was 1975 after all, and by that point the "aging movie producer" and Kirk Douglas weren't all that different.  Both, in their respective ways, were looking to score.

Good?  Bad?  Definitely Disturbing!

1. Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom

I tried reading the book a while back.  Had to give up.  Those familiar with the book will probably understand why.

I will say the movie improves upon the book, which was basically a catalog of perversions.  The movie brings the subject matter closer to the present day, and also interjects certain philosophical points which were not present in Marquis de Sade's work.

Those approaching this movie with trepidation should know that it doesn't get rough until halfway through.  After the first half?  Well, bring a strong stomach.

Fun and Not-So-Fun Facts: The making of this movie could be a movie in itself.  I recommend reading its Wikipedia page AFTER seeing it.

Some Bad Ones

1. The Eiger Sanction

In some ways this movie couldn't be more politically incorrect if it tried.  In other ways it was trying WAY too hard not to be 007.  Clint Eastwood directed and starred in it, back when he was known more as an action hero than as an auteur.  There are some beautiful women in this movie, and also some great climbing sequences, but these two things don't make up for the fact that it never quite knows what it wants to be.

2. Night of the Ghoul (a.k.a. "The Ghoul")

Man this movie just creeps along.  I suppose some people would find it atmospheric, but I thought it was like watching paint dry.  John Hurt, who would later go on to meet an unfortunate end in 1979's Alien, is probably the cast member most familiar to moviegoers in 2019.

3. Trilogy of Terror

Hey, it's Karen Black, recently seen in 1979's Killer Fish!

I don't get how you make someone roofie you at a drive-in.  What was the villain's evil plan, when all is said and done?  The first of the three shorts never bothers to explain how her plan "worked" exactly.

The second part is similarly overacted, and you'll see the plot twist coming from a mile away.  It doesn't help matters that Black's psychiatrist is played by the captain from the Police Academy movies.  It may have worked much better in Richard Matheson's original treatment, but as a film it's crushingly obvious.

The third part is your standard evil doll/toy/puppet story, yet it does manage to generate some tension near the end.

This made-for-TV movie has quite a cult following, but I'm not buying it.  When you consider that classics like The Exorcist came out in 1973, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out in 1974... naw, it's just not that good.

Drinking Game: Every time the camera aims up Karen Black's skirt take a shot.  You'll be blasted in no time.

4. Hustle

Burt Reynolds!  And Catherine Deneuve!  In the same movie!  The 70s were strange.

And speaking of strange, something about this movie feels off from the very beginning.  Reynolds plays a cop, Deneuve plays a prostitute, and the way they relate to each other just seems WEIRD.  Don't think I'm getting on some kind of moral high horse when I say this.  It's just the way they talk to each other.

And then they call both of the dead girl's parents to the police station, just before telling them that it's not necessary for both of them to be there.  And then Burt Reynolds tells the father he can't smoke, only to let him smoke a second later.  The movie goes on and on like this.

By the time it got to "Well, after all, how many albinos are there?" I couldn't help but smirk at this movie.  It's trying so hard to be tough, but the actors are writing checks the script can't cash.  Seeing Reynolds and Deneuve together has its novelty, but that novelty isn't enough to hold this movie together.

Fun Fact #1: The murdered girl's friend is played by Catherine Bach, who'd go on to play Daisy in the Dukes of Hazzard TV show.

Fun Fact #2: That guy holding up the liquor store at the end is Robert Englund, who'd go on to play Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies.

Unpleasant Fact: The producers of this film wanted Catherine Deneuve for the role because they thought her being French made her more believable as a prostitute.

5. The Apple Dumpling Gang

This Disney movie was - for whatever reason - a big hit in 1975.  Bill Bixby (!) stars as a man stuck with someone else's kids, and by the end everyone comes to understand the true meaning of family.  Just typing that last sentence made me slightly nauseous.

Only the Cheesiest Cheese, Only the Corniest Corn

1. Switchblade Sisters

"We're Jezebels, cop!  Remember that name!"

I'm only sorry I didn't see this movie sooner.  It is - without a doubt - the silliest, most unrepentantly BAD thing I've seen in years.  Girl gangs, women's prisons, a rumble on rollerskates, SHITTY acting, bad fight choreography... this one really checks off all the boxes.  Lovers of terrible movies should see this YESTERDAY.

2. The Giant Spider Invasion

Like Switchblade Sisters, this one lets you know what's going on early.  Town folk go to a revival, giant spiders, special effects that aren't special, cringeworthy acting, and stock footage abound.  The best parts of this movie are the "scientific" explanations provided by the "scientist" characters.  "I've got a man from NASA and he knows what he's doing!"  Yeah, whatever dude...

Fun Fact: the giant spider is actually a VW bug covered in artificial fur.

Porn (Sort of)

1. Black Emanuelle

"Black" Emanuelle, because the main character is played by Indonesian Laura Gemser, as opposed to earlier Emanuelle Sylvia Kristel.  This is the version with the "hardcore inserts" (heh heh), and it's painfully obvious that another actress features in those inserts.  In this one, egomaniacal/nymphomaniacal Emanuelle goes to Africa.  People then get naked and do "erotic" things.  It's all fairly dumb, but Laura Gemser sure was beautiful.

2. The Story of O

Beautifully photographed movie about a young woman who gets on the bad side (or is it the good side?) of a group of sadomasochists.  Corrine Clery stars, with Udo Kier as her "lover."  It has a low score on Rotten Tomatoes, but I think critics have been unduly harsh on this movie.  It's also not as explicit as I was led to believe.

Fun Fact: Corrine Clery would appear in Moonraker two years later.  Moonraker was the biggest film she ever did.

Porn! (For Sure)

1. China Girl

"Such language from a brilliant lady scientist!"

James Hong is in this.  In case you're not familiar with James Hong, he has a filmography that goes back to 1954.  He was also the bad guy in Big Trouble in Little China.

The further back you go, the talkier porn gets.  If you added all of the sex in this movie together, it would probably amount to around 15 minutes, and that's out of a 1.5 hour runtime.  Watching porn back in 1975 required PATIENCE, the kind of patience people no longer have.  Even more recent porn aimed at women moves faster.

The lead in this movie is kind of cute, but she never gets down the way you'd expect her to.  Instead, she assigns all of the banging to her Caucasian henchwomen, and when sex finally does happen - after an eternity of dialogue - it's fairly disappointing.

Thing is, the story is kind of interesting.  There's a Chinese gang stealing state secrets in northern California.  One of the state secrets is the formula for some kind of potion that allows users to "steal other people's thoughts."  As a way of uncovering the formula, the Chinese gangsters employ a form of "sexual interrogation."  This sexual interrogation involves injecting subjects with a drug that prevents orgasm - thus driving them insane.  If someone thought through these concepts a little better they'd make for an good movie!

Related Entries:

Some Other Movies From 1977
Some Other Movies From 1979
Superhero Movies From October 2018 Onward (8)
The Other Movie Oscars: The 1980s

2019年7月28日 星期日

"Libra" by Don DeLillo (1988)

"He would put someone together, build an identity, a skein of persuasion and habit, ever so subtle.  He wanted a man with believable quirks.  He would create a shadowed room, the gunman's room, which investigators would eventually find, exposing each fact to relentless scrutiny, following each friend, relative, casual acquaintance into his own roomful of shadows.  We lead more interesting lives than we think..."

Don DeLillo is an American author best known for his novel White NoiseLibra, the direct successor to White Noise, came out three years after.

In Libra DeLillo explores the Kennedy assassination and the role Lee Harvey Oswald might have played in it.  As you might expect, the novel is rich in conspiracies and speculation as to what might or might not have motivated various factions to kill the President.  Throughout the novel Oswald, a pathetic figure, is both seduced by ideas and driven to make himself a "man of history."

In tone Libra is a bit more subdued, a bit more literal than White Noise.  It's also, somewhat paradoxically, less sweeping in scope.  Where White Noise was a commentary on America as a whole, Libra is more a study of a single personality and how larger forces can converge around that personality.

So is it good?  Well, in my opinion it could have been a lot shorter.  The continual meditations on various plots can be somewhat masturbatory, and certain episodes from Oswald's life could have been omitted.  The ending of the book also falls flat, and Jack Ruby's role (and motivations) are never satisfactorily explained.  It just doesn't seem to have the weight of White Noise, perhaps because the author was too worried about authenticity.

Even so, if you've read White Noise you'll probably like this one.  I just wouldn't be in a tremendous hurry to read it.  You'll have already seen interpretations of these events in popular culture, movies like Oliver Stone's JFK or James Ellroy's Underworld USA trilogy.  These other interpretations have, I must say, a lot more impact than whatever DeLillo was trying to do in Libra, and for this reason I consider the novel something of a failed experiment.

Related Entries:

"Goldfinger" by Ian Fleming (1959)
"Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" (2013)
"Choke" by Chuck Palahniuk (2001)
"Purity" by Jonathan Franzen (2015)

2019年7月22日 星期一

Some Other Movies From 1977

In 1977 I turned two.  I doubt I saw any movies that year.  I was probably too busy watching Sesame Street.

The top 5 movies of 1977 were Star Wars, Smokey and the Bandit, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Saturday Night Fever and The Goodbye Girl.  I love the first four of these movies, but I don't think The Goodbye Girl deserves to be in the top 5.

Other good movies of that year were A Bridge Too Far, The Deep, The Spy Who Loved Me, Oh, God!, Desperate Living, The Duellists, The Last Wave, Martin, Pumping Iron, Rabid, and Suspiria.

Woody Allen fans are going to hate me, but for worst movie I'd nominate Annie Hall.  I've never been able to get into that movie, and for me it was the beginning of a long-standing dislike for Woody Allen.  Something about that guy and his films really gets under my skin.


1. Sorcerer

On one level: it's about four guys trying to transport six boxes of dynamite across 218 miles of South American jungle.  On another level: it's about four guys trying to escape the consequences of bad decisions.  On yet another level: it's about Man trying to escape fate - or death - or the contingent nature of his existence.

However you choose to interpret this movie, director William Friedkin was at the top of his game when he made it.  The cast is excellent, and the visuals are arresting.  In some ways this movie reminded me of Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo, in that its characters set themselves herculean tasks, but the characters in Friedkin's movie exist on a more individual level, where Herzog's protagonist is beholden to a larger cultural obsession.

2. 3 Women

Director Robert Altman puts it on a slow boil for this story of three women who cross paths in rural California.  Sissy Spacek would of course go on to win an Oscar for Coal Miner's Daughter, but the relatively overlooked Shelley Duvall more than holds her own in this movie.  The weird paintings in this film are almost a character in and of themselves.

3. Cross of Iron

It's not Stalingrad, it's not Come and See, but this Sam Peckinpah-directed movie is both very entertaining and full of his characteristic kind of violence.  James Coburn and Maximilian Schell star as Nazi officers stranded in Russia, and the film is chock full of irony (if you'll excuse the slight pun).

Fun Fact #1: Quentin Tarantino is a big fan of this movie.  It served as inspiration for his film Inglorious Basterds.

Fun Fact #2: This movie was plagued by production difficulties, many centered around Peckinpah's substance abuse.  It went 2 million pounds overbudget, and every 2 or 3 weeks production was halted so that Peckinpah could recover his "cognitive abilities."  Once in the editing room, Peckinpah started snorting cocaine to speed up the editing process.

Fun Fact #3: Before settling on this movie, Peckinpah was offered the job of directing the first Superman.  Hard to imagine, but true.

Some Good Ones

1. The Amazing Howard Hughes

A LONG time before 2004's The Aviator, Tommy Lee Jones starred in this made-for-TV movie about the famous pilot, tycoon and eccentric.  The low budget shows in certain transitions between periods of Hughes' life, but Jones was good in the role.  My biggest complaint about this one is the actress who plays Katharine Hepburn.  Her accent is all over the place.

2. The Gauntlet

In 2019 this movie would have twice the number of car crashes, and twice the number of stunts.  Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, or Keanu Reeves would also be in it... and it would be WRONG, so wrong.  It would be wrong because in the end it doesn't come down to the number of car crashes or the difficulty of the stunts.  It also doesn't come down to the realism of computer generated imagery.  It comes down to the characters, and in most action movies - whether they were made this year or in 1977 - that element is usually lacking.

In The Gauntlet Clint Eastwood stars as a cop charged with bringing back an important witness.  The dialogue is first-rate, the action scenes are gripping, and the performances are all memorable.  Yeah, in 2019 they could reboot it and make it more like The Fast and the Furious, but why do that?  Why try to capitalize on something that was great the way it was?

Fun Fact: Before Clint Eastwood and future ex-partner Sandra Locke signed on to star in this, Marlon Brando and Barbara Streisand were in talks to co-star.

3. Black Sunday

In the 70s they also worried about terrorism.  Back then discussions tended to revolve around a Beirut/Israel-Palestine/Iran axis, rather than an Iraq/Iran/Afghanistan axis, but the concerns were mostly the same.  Should we negotiate with terrorists?  Were American commitments throughout the world making Americans more safe, or less so?

Long before 9/11, John Frankenheimer directed this movie about terrorism coming home.  Robert Shaw stars as an Israeli counter-terrorism expert, with Bruce Dern as a damaged man just returned from Vietnam.  It's a very suspenseful movie that works on many levels.

Not-So-Fun Fact: The real-life even that inspired this movie also served as inspiration for Steven Spielberg's Munich.

4. The Car

What I liked most about this movie is that it doesn't bother to explain anything.  There's a car careening around and killing people, and it's left to local law enforcement to pick up the pieces.  James Brolin (father of Josh!) stars as one of those law enforcement types, with Ronny Cox as one of his fellow officers.  If you ask me, I'd say it was one of the best horror movies of the 70s.

Fans of Christine may be wondering which came first, Stephen King's novel or this film.  For the record The Car came first, though it was preceded by Steven Spielberg's Duel and the movie Killdozer!.

5. Demon Seed

Whatever happened to Julie Christie?  Wikipedia says she's still around, but I sure haven't seen her in anything for a while.  She was a much bigger deal in the 70s.

In Demon Seed she plays a woman terrorized by a form of artificial intelligence.  The "synthesized RNA" which composes the A.I.'s brain is plausible, even if the manner in which the characters interface with this brain is somewhat ridiculous.  That floppy disk the scientist uses?  Your cell phone stores that amount of information many times over.

Given the level of technology at the A.I.'s disposal, and the fact that no one ever seriously considers rendering it "blind," I'd have to put Demon Seed in the B movie category.  This said, it's still a lot of fun, anticipating movies like WarGames and Transcendence by several years.

It's worth noting that even though The Turning Point (below) won a couple Golden Globes that year, Demon Seed has a higher score on Rotten Tomatoes.  This is, I think, a fair assessment of how entertaining these movies would be for modern viewers.

6. Semi-Tough

The perfect antidote to a movie like Equus (below).  Semi-Tough even gets all "zany" in the end, in the way that you just don't see anymore.

And it should be said that in 1977 Burt Reynolds was at the height of his power.  He starred in Smokey and the Bandit the same year, he'd been in The Longest Yard - another great football movie - three years before, and he was definitely one of the biggest movie stars on the planet.

In Semi-Tough Reynolds stars with Kris Kristofferson and Jill Clayburgh as three friends mixed up in both the NFL and a self-improvement craze.  It's a consistently funny movie, even if it lags a bit toward the end.

Fun Fact #1: Brian Dennehy is in this.  It was his first movie.

Fun Fact #2: Carl Weathers is also in this.  He appeared as Apollo Creed in the first Rocky the previous year.

It's Icky and Doesn't Make a Lot of Sense but You'll Probably Try to Sit Through it Anyway

1. Eraserhead

I have the idea that this is a movie about cancer: cancerous thoughts, cancerous relationships, and cancers of the body.  But don't quote me on that.  I'm really not sure.

It's a hugely influential film, whatever it's about.  In some ways David Lynch would only get weirder later on, in other ways he'd get less weird.  It's in black and white, it could be called ponderous, and those without a taste for the eccentric should give it a wide berth.

Some Bad Ones

1. The Turning Point

It starts out alright, but sprains its ankle soon after.  Rather than focusing on Anne Bancroft's character - the aging ballerina - this movie gets sidetracked into one subplot involving Shirley Maclaine's character - a former dancer trying to recapture her vanished youth - and another subplot involving her daughter's affair with another dancer.  The dance scenes also distract from the movie, rather than add to it.  On the whole, a movie that's less than the sum of its parts.

2. The American Friend

Uh... why would you believe the medical report handed to you by the gangster who wants you to kill someone?  And why would the gangster bother hiring someone outside his immediate circle if he's going to send his henchman along anyway?  I feel like people gushing over this movie are, like the film's main character, taking a lot of things on faith.

3. Equus

Acting with a capital "A" + a fair amount of pretentiousness = Equus.  Richard Burton stars as a psychiatrist in a facility for adolescents, tasked with counseling a young man after he's been convicted of animal cruelty.  It's definitely one of the weirdest movies I've seen in a while, but I can't say it's entertaining.

Fun Fact: Sydney Lumet directed Network (one of my favorite guilty pleasures) the previous year.

So Bad It's Good

1. (Alien) Prey

British science fiction/horror outing that strays into softcore porn.  It's ostensibly about an alien attempting to survive on Earth, but there's also a love triangle involving two lesbians and the alien visitor.  The alien has vampire teeth and cat makeup, and the characters spend a lot of time searching for things.

Certain critics like to (over)analyze gender roles and sexual themes in this movie, but in my opinion it wasn't executed well enough to justify that level of analysis.

2. Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo

Back in 1977 we were primitives - too primitive for Transformers - and we had to make do with Herbie the Love Bug and shit like that.  I joke, but in both conceptual and moviemaking terms it was a long way from 1977 to whenever the first Transformers came out.  Western culture had to incorporate certain Japanese elements for Transformers to happen, and in 1977 people wouldn't have been able to make that kind of leap.

In Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo Don Knotts and Some Other Guy race Herbie - or Herbie races them? - across France.  And OF COURSE there's a jewel heist subplot.  Oh, and another subplot involving romance between TWO CARS because fuck it.  Ocean's Eleven it ain't, Smokey and the Bandit it ain't, but it can be a pleasant hour and a half if you decide not to overthink it.

Fun Fact: Eric Braeden, who appears as one of the race car drivers in this movie, would go on to play Victor in The Young and the Restless TV show.  Almost four decades later, he's STILL playing that role.

Related Entries:

Some Other Movies From 1979
A Smattering of New Age Theosophy (in case you're wondering what they're arguing over in Semi-Tough)
Superhero Movies From October 2018 Onward (8)
The Other Movie Oscars: The 1980s

2019年7月16日 星期二

"Goldfinger" by Ian Fleming (1959)

"Bond came to the conclusion that Tilly Masterson was one of those girls whose hormones had got mixed up.  He knew the type well and thought they and their male counterparts were a direct consequence of giving votes to women and 'sex equality.'  As a result of fifty years of emancipation, feminine qualities were dying out or being transferred to the males.  Pansies of both sexes were everywhere, not yet completely homosexual, but confused, not knowing what they were.  The result was a herd of unhappy sexual misfits - barren and full of frustrations, the women wanting to dominate and the men to be nannied.  He was sorry for them, but he had no time for them."

Ian Fleming was a British naval intelligence officer before he turned to fiction.  His first novel, Casino Royale, appeared in 1952.  His heavy drinking and smoking led to his early death at age 56.

Before I get into an analysis of this book, let me state for the record that I'm a huge fan of the Bond films, and that among these films Goldfinger is one of my favorites.  I've seen it so many times that I can recite bits of its dialogue from memory.  I've also watched all of the Bond films, in their entirety, at least five times each.

So perhaps you'll imagine my disappointment after finally reading one of Ian Fleming's novels.  Not only is it casually sexist, but it's even more casually racist into the bargain.  Even for the time in which he wrote, Fleming was an astonishingly prejudiced person, beholden to ideas of sexual and racial superiority that have thankfully fallen out of fashion.

In Goldfinger Koreans are frequently described as "ape-like," and women serve little purpose beyond secretarial work and sexual gratification.  Anything non-White is deemed inferior, and Bond, the ideal of British manhood, represents the apex of a racial and sexual pyramid that probably has blacks, Jews, and homosexuals at its base.

The plot?  It's fairly similar to the movie, yet without the flourishes that made the movie such a hit.  Pussy Galore, rather than being the head of an all-female flying aerobatic team, is instead the boss of a "lesbian gang."  Auric Goldfinger, rather than being an enigmatic, vaguely European presence, is instead a more conventional sort of villain.  Even Oddjob, so memorably used in the movie, is reduced to a racial stereotype, the inscrutable Asian lackey.

Which is not to say the movie was a racially, sexually, or politically aware work of fiction.  Of course it wasn't.  It was campy fun.  It was its era's version of The Fast and the Furious.  But where the movie is relatively innocuous, the book is a more toxic brew, composed of the sort of snobbery your average British aristocrat would have dealt in circa 1959.

Will I be reading any more of Ian Fleming's books?  No, I have no desire to return to that narrative.  I'm just happy that the producers of the Bond films were able to distill something better from the novels, a more generalized, more accessible male fantasy that has withstood the test of time.

Related Entries:

"Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" by Lee Child (2013)
"Choke" by Chuck Palahniuk (2001)
"Purity" by Jonathan Franzen (2015)
"American Sniper" by Chris Kyle (2012)

Some Other Movies From 1979

In case you're wondering, my goal is to work my way back to 1975, the year I was born.  This means there are five more entries to go, covering 1975-1979.  I'll be going backwards through the odd years first, then forward through 1976 and 1978.

And by the way, if we assume that I've watched 15 movies for each year, my tally at the present time is 585 movies.  Doubling that gives an approximate number of hours I've lost - irretrievably - writing these entries.  The upside is that I win almost any movie-related argument.  The downside is that my mind is a freaking ocean of movie trivia.  I could seriously bore you with discussions of various actors, actresses and directors.

Anyway, on to 1979, the year in which I turned four.  The top five movies of that year were Kramer vs. Kramer (still great), The Amityville Horror (hasn't aged well), Rocky II, Apocalypse Now and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  People will probably think I'm crazy for saying this, but of those five Star Trek: The Motion Picture is still my favorite.  It's long, it's ponderous, but in its way its even trippier than Apocalypse Now.

Other good movies from that year included Alien, 10 (there's Dudley Moore again), Moonraker (James Bond in space!), Norma Rae (excellent), Being There (masonic symbols abound), 1941, All That Jazz (one of my favorite movies), Monty Python's Life of Brian, Breaking Away, The Brood (classic), Time After Time and Woyzeck.  There are a lot of movies I either haven't seen or can't remember from that year, so the above list should be taken with a generous grain of salt.

I can't pick a worst movie for that year because my understanding of late 70s film trends is lacking.  I will say that I never understood the appeal of Meatballs, even if I'm a big fan of Bill Murray.

It'll Put a Smile on Your Face

1. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

Erin Gray.  DAMN that woman was fine.  I can remember having a crush on her back when this show was still on TV, and four decades later I'm just as impressed by how beautiful she was.  What a woman!

This TV pilot is Star Wars with a touch of Moonraker.  Buck Rogers, an astronaut from 1987, finds himself in the future after some kind of wormhole something puts him in suspended animation.  The script was well-written, the women are stunning, and Gil Gerard is great in the lead role.

Fun Fact #1: A lot of the special effects in this pilot (and the subsequent TV series) were recycled from the earlier Battlestar Galactica.

Fun Fact #2: Erin Gray would go on to appear in the Silver Spoons TV show after two seasons of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

Sadly Forgotten

1. Cuba

Bond alumnus Richard Lester directed this look at the final days of Batista's regime.  Sean Connery stars as a British soldier of fortune, with Chris Sarandon and Brooke Adams as members of the Cuban aristocracy.  In 2019 this movie would be in Spanish, and both Sarandon and Adams' roles would have been played by other people, but it's still a well put-together film that tackles the subject with more polish than other, better-received movies.  I think Adams was miscast as the love interest, but this is my only real complaint.

Fun Fact: Brooke Adams is a descendant of presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

Some Good Ones

1. Killer Fish

Lee Majors.  Now that was a damn handsome man.  Being a damn handsome man in the late 70s was probably awesome.  Sure, the possibility of AIDS was there, but in 1979 no one was giving it any thought.

In this Italian-Brazilian-French production, Majors leads a team of jewel thieves as they attempt to expatriate a box of emeralds from the confines of Brazil.  Along the way a school of piranhas attempt to ruin the party, with Karen Black's screams adding a sense of peril to the film.  Overall it's cheesy fun, and I liked the disco soundtrack.

Fun Fact #1: Lee Majors had just ended his run on The Six Million Dollar Man TV show.  He'd return to TV two years later in The Fall Guy.

Fun Fact #2: This was released a year after Piranha.

2. The China Syndrome

A power company tries to cover up a near-meltdown at a nuclear reactor.  Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas (who also produced) star.  It's a well-executed movie that had a good grasp of what people worried about in the late 1970s.

Not-So-Fun Fact: This movie was released just before the accident on Three Mile Island.

3. Zombi ("Zombie") 2

This is good in the way Killer Fish is good, only more so.  Lucio Fulci directed, and it has all the gore and beautiful women you'd expect.  In my opinion the golden age of zombie movies was the late 1970s, before they started overthinking the genre.  Zombi 2 was intended as a sequel to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, and went on to become a very profitable movie.

4. ...And Justice for All

"I'm out of order!  You're out of order!  This whole damn trial is out of order!"

...or something like that.  Al Pacino stars as a defense attorney trying to do the right thing in Baltimore.  The first 1/3 of this movie is GREAT, the second 1/3 is not so great, and the last 1/3 is very memorable.  Like Pacino's character, it's trying to do too much in too short a span of time.

5. The Electric Horseman

I can't help but think that the version of America shown in this movie is gone now.  The rodeo circuits.  The corporate world's concern for Middle America.  Las Vegas at the height of its power.  We still have the shadows of all these things, but not the substance.  Seeing them as they once were is fascinating in and of itself.

In The Electric Horseman Robert Redford and director Sydney Pollack team up yet again.  In this instance it's for the story of a former rodeo star turned corporate spokesman, and the script is half romance, half commentary on corporate America.  Jane Fonda costars, playing a reporter not too far removed from the other reporter she played in The China Syndrome.

Oh, and this movie was also Willie Nelson's cinematic debut.  The songs he recorded for the movie were a big hit.

6. Escape to Athena

You just know that any movie featuring Roger Moore as a Nazi commandant is going to be a helluva lot of fun.  In Escape to Athena Moore's Nazis are reclaiming (stealing) art treasures on a Greek island.  Telly Savalas, Richard Roundtree and Elliot Gould costar.

This movie and The Cassandra Crossing (which I haven't yet seen) were what broke director George P. Cosmatos into the mainstream.  He'd go on to direct Rambo: First Blood Part II, Cobra, Leviathan and Tombstone.  His son Panos Cosmatos directed Mandy two years ago.

Fun Fact: Stefanie Powers, of TV's Hart to Hart, is in this.

Idle Speculation: Telly Savalas was the Vin Diesel of his generation.

7. The Black Stallion

A boy befriends a horse after the two of them are stranded in North Africa.  Definitely one of the best movies of 1979.

8. The Warriors

Gang warfare in the near future.  In a way this movie is like A Clockwork Orange, but without the genius of Stanley Kubrick to back it up.  In another way it's a solid action movie along the lines of (the later) Escape from New York.  This was one of Walter Hill's earlier films, and unlike later entries it's not macho enough to be off-putting.

Fun Fact: Michael Beck, the star of this movie, would go on to star in the disastrous Xanadu the following year.  "Xanaduuu/Xanaduu--uu-uu..."

Some Bad Ones

1. Quadrophenia

Dead boring.  Where Tommy was gloriously weird 70s rock n' roll craziness, Quadrophenia is a much more earnest take on what it meant to be a young person in the early 60s.  I'm not that well informed on the Mods vs. Rockers feud, but it all seemed fairly pointless to me.  Critics (at the time at least) loved it, so feel free to ignore my thoughts on the matter.

Fun Fact: Sting is in this.  He shows up about halfway through.

2. Ashanti

Beverly Johnson.  Damn.  I had to watch that nude swimming scene twice just to get it out of my system.  She even manages to make Erin Gray look average.  Is it just me or did Michael Caine have a talent for being in movies with achingly hot women?  Aside from Beverly Johnson, there's also the "princess" from The Man Who Would Be King.  He even ended up marrying that princess in real life.

In Ashanti, Caine stars as a foreign aid worker who's stumbled into the African slave trade.  The white savior motif aside, it starts out decent but gets real dumb real fast after William Holden shows up.

3. The Champ

Jon Voigt, Faye Dunaway and... Ricky Schroder!  Never underestimate the long shadow cast by Silver Spoons.

In The Champ Voigt stars as a washed-up boxer trying to make a big comeback, with Dunaway as his ex-wife.  

I just couldn't get into this movie.  Voigt's character is impossible to empathize with, Schroder's is annoying, and Dunaway's is barely there.  There doesn't seem to be any "through line" in this film, something leading the viewer from the beginning to the end.  And for what's ostensibly a boxing movie there's very little boxing to be found in The Champ.

4. Tourist Trap

The first half of this low budget horror movie is quite good, but halfway in it takes a detour into I-Don't-Know-What-The-Fuck-Is-Going-On Land.  The biggest problem is that they didn't think through the killer's psychology.  The director also had trouble deciding if he was going for Carrie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or House of Wax.

So Bad It's Good

1. Beyond the Poseidon Adventure

...lest we forget that the 70s were the golden age of disaster movies.  The same decade that saw Airport, The Towering Inferno and Earthquake also saw Beyond the Poseidon Adventure.

I have no idea how they roped Michael Caine and the always-adorable Sally Field into this thing, but the script was doing them no favors.  And to top it off it looks incredibly fake from the get-go, with a boat that's obviously mounted on some kind of lift bobbing up and down in front of a screen.  From that point onward?  I suggest you see for yourself!

Fun Fact #1: Sally Field would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Actress the following year.

Related Entries:

Superhero Movies From October 2018 Onward (8)
The Other Movie Oscars: The 1980s
Some Other Movies From 1981
Some Other Movies From 1983

2019年7月15日 星期一

A Smattering of New Age Theosophy

Anyone else have New Age parents?  I'm referring here to Baby Boomers: people old enough to have dodged the draft and/or been to Woodstock.  My parents skew young for that generation, but not too young to have been influenced by the Krishna consciousness, communal living and astrological thinking of that time.

I suppose my own thinking is to some extent a reflection of theirs.  I'm an empirical sort of person, and my embrace of logic and factual accuracy is in part a reaction to the theosophy I was exposed to as a child.  My parents never forced their beliefs on me, and my inborn character had something to do with it, but my fondness for philosophy and the scientific method was in some contexts a deliberate reaction to discussions of past lives, astral healing and the like.

What follow below are some excerpts from books in my parents' library.  I chose these books randomly, and the sections quoted were also chosen randomly.  Maybe you'll find them insightful enough to embark upon a new spiritual path.  Maybe you'll just find them amusing.  Maybe they'll remind you of your own parents, in this life or the next.

"Free awareness, or from our standpoint, 'pre-perception,' is the basis for our physically focused sense perceptions.  Pre-perception is undifferentiated; it is an ability to, or potential for, organizing awareness along certain specific lines.  Our regular perception brings the earth alive for us by structuring our basic awareness, sifting it through the differentiated senses and alternately blocking out other data that might otherwise also 'come alive' to us."

- Adventures in Consciousness by Jane Roberts

Q: Deep waters here.  Or are they?  Sometimes piling on intellectual (scientific) terms can give the illusion of meaning.  This is one of the cornerstones of Scientology.

"Free awareness" seems to imply a lack of subjectivity.  If the barrier between subject and object (i.e. one's individual self) has been removed, IS there such a thing as awareness?  If we are existing (or perceiving) in a state of oneness with the universe, can such a thing as "awareness" even occur/exist?  This mention of "undifferentiated" awareness also begs the question.  While remaining open to new information seems necessary, isn't it also necessary to filter information through an individual being?  Isn't that the essence of individuality?

Also, is perception possible without sensory input?  Without physical being?

"Power goes into our word according to the feeling and faith behind it.  When we realize that the power that moves the world is moving on our behalf and is backing up our word, our confidence and assurance grow.  You do not try and add power to power; therefore, there must be no mental striving, coercion, force, or mental wrestling."

- The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr. Joseph Murphy

Q: Strong Gospel of John vibe here.  "In the beginning was the word (Logos)..." and so forth.  And yet the last sentence seems very Buddhist.  I suppose it all depends on the author's definition of "power," which could just as easily be the Holy Spirit, individual spiritual power, or the ultimate nature (perhaps negation) of all existence.

"Many mediums have 'spirit controls,' guides who take over and protect them while the physical body is in a trancelike state.  Sometimes these guides are exactly as presumed, discarnate entities who lived many years ago and have now dedicated themselves to aiding in this work.  In certain instances there is a different element involved.  Several years ago I went with a group to a Spiritual church conducted by a very successful medium.  His 'guide' would apparently take possession of his body as soon as the trance state was established."

- Psychic Energy by Joseph J. Weed*

Q: I fail to understand what "discarnate" means in the context of an entity that somehow still exists.  Maybe the author explains it elsewhere in the book.  But um yeah, cool man, guides who take over and protect us while we're in a trancelike state.  Good to know!

"BB turned and faced a woman who seemed to be walking in slow motion, in one place.  She appeared middle-aged, overweight, tears running down her face... (I'm sorry, I'm sorry, Mommy didn't mean to leave you, baby doll, but she just couldn't help it, but I'm coming back, I'm coming back to help you just as soon as I can... I'm coming back somehow...)"

- Far Journeys by Robert A. Monroe

Q: I seem to remember that this book is about astral projection.  Certain people expend a lot of time and energy toward contacting loved ones who've died.  I'm never quite sure how I feel about the idea that we all have a spirit that lives beyond our physical selves.  I understand why people find it comforting, but it seems to me that the erasure of such individuality could be equally comforting, if you believed that nothing is truly gained or lost in a closed system.  Given such a closed system, even in death we're still part of the totality of things.

This of course begs the question as to whether our universe is a closed system.  Do I know the answer to that question?  Of course not.

"Every cell of the body is enveloped in soul or thought, and its initial impulse is to conform to the divine-natural law.  When this law is not observed by the will of man and cells are reduced to the slavery of lust, they combine with other cells of like condition, and, rather than submit longer to the debased condition, they destroy the organism.  But the destruction of the cell as matter does not destroy it on the mental plane; the mental entity survives, and again seeks to carry out the great law of soul evolution that was implanted in it from the beginning."

- The Twelve Powers of Man by Charles Fillmore

Q: Shades of Zoroastrianism.  This could easily be a passage from the Zend Avesta, or even Herman Hesse's most famous work.  The old duality between mind and body, flesh and spirit.  Without getting into whether or not such a duality really exists, this passage seems to hinge upon this "slavery of lust" mentioned by the author.  No idea what that means, and I'm not about to read "The Twelve Powers of Man" in hopes of finding out.

*That's really his last name.  I swear.

NOTE: No offense intended toward anyone who adheres to any of the authors, books and ideas quoted above.  I wrote this entry with a lot of affection for my parents, who are able to overgeneralize on any number of topics.

2019年7月10日 星期三

Superhero Movies From October 2018 Onward (8)

For reviews of older superhero movies click here and here.  It felt like time to get rid of the "baggage" those older entries carried, so I'm starting again from October 2018's Venom.

Oh and by the way, I think I'll stop reviewing these movies as a separate genre at the end of 2020.  Endgame has come and gone, the MCU is now an established brand, and to be honest I think most of the best superhero movies are behind us.  2020 seems like a good time to move on to movies as a whole, rather than focusing so much on whatever Marvel Studios, Warner Bros., or Sony are putting out.

Superhero Moves On The Way

Morbius, the Living Vampire (Taiwan Release Date Unknown, July 31, 2020 in the States)

Wonder Woman 1984 (Taiwan Release Date Unknown, June 5, 2020 in the States)

The New Mutants (Taiwan Release Date Unknown, April 3, 2020 in the States)

Birds of Prey (Taiwan Release Date Unknown, February 7, 2020 in the States)

Joker (Comes Out in Taiwan October 3, 2019)

Spider-Man: Far From Home

What I Liked: Zendaya.  She was my favorite thing about this movie.  Her character holds the whole thing together.  Without MJ this movie wouldn't make a lot of sense.

Also Mysterio's illusions.  I don't think I'm giving any plot points away when I mention them.  His illusions are some of the more visually impressive things in the MCU.

And speaking Mysterio's illusions, the battle at the end is great.  Setting this battle in London was a good choice.

What I Didn't Like: You can see the plot twist coming from a mile away.  Maybe not calling him "Mysterio" right of the bat would have helped.

Future/Sequels: A third one seems likely.  Still no word as to whether this take on Spider-man will tie into Sony's other Spiderverse films.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix

Got bored and saw it the other day.  It was blazing hot outside, and there wasn't much else to do.

What I Liked: For one thing it wasn't nearly as bad as some of the reviews would lead you to believe.  It's definitely NOT great, but if you were able to sit through Apocalypse you'll be able to sit through this one.  It's actually not bad up until Jean visits the house, though after that point...

What I Didn't Like: At times this movie just doesn't make sense.  WHY do the cops show up after Jean visits that house?  And WHY do the two mutant factions fight in New York?  And WHY do the aliens insist on boarding the train from the other end, when they're clearly walking all along its length, thus making it incredibly easy for the X-Men to fight them off?  

To make things worse, Sophie Turner really can't carry a movie.  Watching her interact with some of the other, more talented cast members is truly cringeworthy.  As bad as this movie is, it's still better than X3and yet I found myself missing Famke Janssen throughout the film.

Most inexplicable of all is Magneto.  First he says revenge is wrong and that he's given up on it.  Then someone gets killed and he's all about revenge again.  Then he learns about the Phoenix Force and he's all about saving Jean.  This, and that magnetism/telekinesis battle between him and Jean is the most unintentionally hilarious thing I've seen in a long time.

Future/Sequels: As far as anyone knows, The New Mutants is still coming out next year.  After that it'll be a long wait before we see Marvel Studios' take on the same set of characters.

Avengers: Endgame

What I Liked: Everything.  This movie is awesome from beginning to end.

What I Didn't Like: Only two (very small) complaints: 1) Bruce and Nebula's explanation for their "heist" probably isn't going to satisfy anyone who bothers to think it through, and 2) the part at the end where all the "Marvel superheroines" line up and go into battle seems a bit too much like checking off an item on a checklist.

Future/Sequels: The next MCU offering is Spider-Man: Far From Home later this summer.  No other films have been given a release date as yet.  I think it's fair to say that Marvel will make a big announcement soon.


What I Liked: Uh... it's more... British than the original?  That's good, right?  More interesting?

And uh... the fight with the giants is kind of cool.  Brief but cool.

This movie has the quirkiness that made the Mignola comics good.  Upping the gore was also a good idea.  Not sure about the humor though.  Seems like they should have doubled down on that part.  Making this movie funnier would have also differentiated it from the original.  As it is it strays too close to the Del Toro version.

What I Didn't Like: It's pretty bad right from the beginning.  For me the worst thing was the sequence explaining Hellboy's origins.  This part of the movie ventures so close to Del Toro's version that you can't help but compare this one to that one, and this one is always going to suffer by comparison.  They should have avoided that altogether.

Future/Sequels: Ha ha not likely.


What I Liked: Zachary Levi and Asher Angel are both examples of great casting, the story is well thought out, and the battle at the end takes some interesting twists and turns.  I consider Shazam! a vast improvement over Aquaman, which was trying to do too much in too short a time, and also Captain Marvel, which was in my opinion one hot mess of a movie.  Shazam! is much smaller-scale compared to those other two films, but its smallness works to its advantage.  It's very focused and to the point.

Mark Strong, who was wasted on Martin Campbell's Green Lantern, has much more to do in Shazam!  Even if his reasons for being "evil" aren't that well thought out, he's still a good (bad) villain.

What I Didn't Like: The battle at the end goes on a bit too long.  I think shortening it would have made for a better movie.  The introduction of the rest of the Marvel Family feels a bit rushed, even if it was gratifying to see them onscreen together.

Future/Sequels: No definite plans for any sequels as yet, but one of Shazam's other villains is introduced in a post-credits scene.  It's early to say, but I think this movie will be well received and I'd be surprised if a sequel isn't announced soon.

Captain Marvel

What I Liked: There's a part about halfway through, when Carol Danvers is reunited with an old friend.  In that part you can see Brie Larson's skill as an actress.

The fight on the spaceship near the end is oddly satisfying, but some of my satisfaction may have to do with 90s soundtrack, and the fact that I was a much younger guy when those songs were everywhere.  Nostalgia, in other words.

What I Didn't Like: Going back to the comic books, I never found Carol Danvers especially interesting, and this movie did nothing to change my mind.  Really, what is her reason for doing anything in this film?  At what point does her character change or make any real kind of discovery?

She's also so much more powerful than anyone she comes up against in this movie.  There's no sense of threat when "danger" strikes.  Jude Law?  Nope.  The Skrulls?  Not really.  Ronan the Accuser?  Their confrontation is a non-event.

I've also got to say, the explanation given for Nick Fury losing his eye really bothered me.  It's always seemed like this event should be of crucial importance, but in the movie it's explained in such an offhand manner.  The randomness of this explanation diminished the entire film.

Future/Sequels: Strap yourself in because Avengers: Endgame is less than two months away.  After Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home Marvel has announced no other films, though if Captain Marvel does well I'm sure we'll see a sequel.  I've heard a lot of talk about an Eternals movie, but we'll see.

I think what's going to make or break a Captain Marvel sequel is the Asian market, especially China.  If it goes over big in Beijing and Shanghai (as Aquaman did) you can be sure there will be another one.  If, however, this movie fails to find an audience in such places, I imagine Kevin Feige will start vaguely alluding to "future adventures" without making any real commitment.

Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

Does this one count?  Batman and the Justice League are in it.  It also features the newer and older versions of Aquaman.

What I Liked: It's a funny movie, though not as good as the first.  This said, it's not nearly as hyper as the first one, which might be a relief for those who found the first film slightly overwhelming.

What I Didn't Like: It does drag a bit toward the end.  It's weird to say, but I found myself having to really concentrate on Lego Movie 2.  There are SO many references, to so many things, that after the first hour my brain got tired.  

Future/Sequels: There might be a sequel to the Lego Batman movie, though there's no release date as yet.  There might also be The Billion Brick Race.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

What I Liked: Everything.  In my opinion this movie's awesome from start to finish.  The characters, the plot, the animation, the soundtrack, all of it's great.  I suppose it depends on how it does financially, but Spider-Verse could be a real game-changer for CBMs.

For me the best part of the film was the Bill Sienkiewicz-inspired sequence halfway through.  I've been a huge fan of that guy for years, and seeing his art animated almost brought tears to my eyes.  That version of the Kingpin?  That's all Bill Sienkiewicz.

What I Didn't Like: Small complaint: no Spider-Woman.  I've always liked Spider-Woman more than Spider-Man, and it would've been wonderful to see Jessica Drew (finally) show up in this movie.

Future/Sequels: There's talk that Spider-Woman could feature in the sequel alongside Spider-Gwen and Silk, but such plans are tentative of course.  It's entirely possible that a sequel would feature Spider-Man 2099 instead.


What I Liked: Atlantis looks cool.  Amber Heard is easy on the eyes.  The battle in the end - aside from a ridiculous pause in the action for a predictably romantic moment - looks amazing.

What I Didn't Like: Weird moments of exposition.  Instead of showing the audience what's happening/has happened, the characters in this movie often feel the need to stop whatever they're doing and explain things.  The only part of this movie where the action flows seamlessly is when Aquaman and Black Manta have their big showdown halfway through.

The part in the beginning about Aquaman's parents could have been removed entirely.  It adds absolutely nothing to the story, and starting the movie from the adult Aquaman's first appearance would have made a lot more sense.

This movie gets dumber as it goes along.  By the end I was laughing at certain scenes and bits of dialogue, and I wasn't the only one.  And before someone chimes in with "at least it doesn't take itself so seriously," let's remember there's a difference between laughing WITH a movie and laughing AT a movie.

The small ray of hope being that it's not as terrible as Justice League.  Not that this is saying much.

Future/SequelsShazam!, also set in the DCEU, will be out in a few months.  After that it's a long wait until Wonder Woman 1984.  Aquaman 2?  It's kind of early to tell, but the movie's been doing well in China, and those wanting a completely brainless superhero romp will be all over this one.


What I Liked: After a really clunky beginning there are some great action sequences.  Everything after Venom shows up is much better than the 15 minutes that try (and fail) to set up the story.  The fight between Venom and Riot near the end is very good.

What I Didn't Like: That beginning part.  It feels like they weren't sure what kind of movie they were making.  Horror?  Action?  Science fiction?  Going more for the "body horror" elements would have improved the film, and the spaceship/alien invasion subplot could have been dispensed with altogether.

As clunky as the beginning is, the dialogue throughout the movie is by far the worst part.  None of the actors seem at ease with what they're saying, and a couple of lines are unintentionally hilarious.

Future/Sequels: There are plans for a sequel with Woody Harrelson's Carnage in a bigger role.  I think that after setting up the general premise, a sequel is bound to be better.  Harrelson would also make a great villain.  Last I heard, Sony's next comic-based movie will be Morbius the Living Vampire, with Jared Leto as Morbius.  There may be some crossover between Venom and Morbius.

Related Entries:

The Other Movie Oscars: The 1980s
Some Other Movies From 1981
Some Other Movies From 1983
Some Other Movies From 1985