Category: Celebs

RIP: Albert Pyun

Albert Pyun died yesterday at the age of 69.  Mr. Pyun had been in failing health for some time dealing with multiple sclerosis and dementia for the last few years.  Albert Pyun was a writer, director and producer of low-budget genre films.

Mr. Pyun’s first film The Sword and the Sorcerer was a surprise hit.  Made for just $4 million, The Sword and the Sorcerer made back it’s investment during the first week of release.  It would go on to gross nearly $37 million.  The success of The Sword and the Sorcerer set the pattern for most of Albert Pyun’s career.  He would write/co-write and direct low-budget films which gave him creative control to tell the stories he wanted to tell.

Some of Mr. Pyun’s best known films include: The Sword and the Sorcerer, Cyborg, Captain America (1990), Bloodmatch, Nemesis, Mean Guns and Road to Hell.

Some of the actors that appeared in Albert Pyun films include: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Christopher Lambert, Tom Sizemore, Dennis Hopper, Steven Seagal, Steven Bauer Natasha Henstridge, Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, Kris Kristofferson, Lance Henriksen, Robert Patrick, Ice-T, Michael Paré, Brion James and Tim Thomerson.

My favorite Albert Pyun film is Cyborg starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.  It contains a cool fight scene in the rain that always comes to mind first when I think of that movie.  I still need to see Mr. Pyun’s Road to Hell starring Michael Paré and Deborah Van Valkenburgh in an un-official spin-off of Streets of Fire.  I applaud Albert Pyun finding his niche in Hollywood.  He was able to make the films he wanted the way he wanted.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Albert Pyun’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Irene Cara

Irene Cara passed away yesterday at the age of 63.  No cause of death was given.

Irene Cara was an actress, singer and song writer.  Although her performance in Fame made her a household name, Ms. Cara had been a performer since she was a little girl.  When she was three years old she was one of five finalists for the “Little Miss America” pageant.  She studied music and dance.  While still a child she performed on The Original Amateur Hour, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and became a regular on PBS’ The Electric Company.

Irene Cara would go on to appear on stage in Broadway productions (and some off-Broadway plays as well).  She became a regular cast member of Love of Life.  This was followed by starring roles in the feature films  Aaron Loves Angela and Sparkle.  Television called and Irene Cara made guest appearances on Kojak and What’s Happening!!.  Next came roles in Roots: The Next Generation and Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones.

Irene Cara became an international superstar with her role in Fame.  Ms. Cara was originally cast as a dancer, but her role was re-written once producers heard her voice.  Irene Cara sang the title song, Fame as well as the movie’s other single, Out Here on My Own.  In addition to the singles and soundtrack selling in the millions, both songs were nominated for an Academy Award.  Irene Cara became one of the few singers to perform more than one song at an Oscar ceremony.

Based on her performance in Fame, Iren Cara received Grammy Award nominations for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.  She also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Musical. She was crowned Billboard’s Top New Single Artist, Cashbox Magazine’s Most Promising Female Vocalist and Top Female Vocalist.  When a Fame television show was announced, Irene Cara was offered the opportunity to reprise her role, but declined.

In 1983, she co-wrote (with Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey) and sang the title song for the movie Flashdance“Flashdance… What a Feeling” would go on to become another multi-million seller as well as winner of  the Academy Award for Best Song.  For her performance Irene Cara won the 1984 Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, the 1984 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, and American Music Awards for Best R&B Female Artist and Best Pop Single of the Year.

Irene Cara would continue singing and acting for the rest of her career.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Iren Cara’s family, friends and fans.

“Peeping Tom” (1960) / Z-View

Peeping Tom (1960)

Director: Michael Powell

Screenplay: Leo Marks

Stars: Karlheinz Böhm, Anna Massey, Moira Shearer

Tagline: WARNING! Don’t see Peeping Tom unless you are prepared to see the screaming shock and raw terror in the faces of those marked for death!

The Plot…

Mark Lewis (Böhm) hopes some day to be a filmmaker.  He currently works on a film crew and after hours he’s a photographer of soft core porn.  People see Lewis as a shy, quiet recluse.  If they only knew he’s a psychopathic killer who gets off by filming women’s faces as he murders them.

When Helen, a kind woman takes an interest in Mark, they begin to date.  Helen’s blind mother feels something is off with Mark and starts to dig deeper…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

When Peeping Tom was released in 1960, it was marketed as horror and exploitation.  Peeping Tom failed to find an audience.  Over the years Peeping Tom became a popular cult film and its popularity increased.  Martin Scorsese has long championed this film.

While daring for 1960, it seems much less so now.  Kudos for the final scene when Mark realizes he has no means of escape and has planned for this eventuality.

Peeping Tom earns 3 of 5 stars.

“Small Engine Repair” (2021) starring Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham, John Pollono, Ciara Bravo & Spencer House / Z-View

Small Engine Repair (2021)

Director: John Pollono

Screenplay: John Pollono

Stars: Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham, Jordana Spiro, John Pollono, Ciara Bravo, Spencer House, Josh Helman, James Badge Dale and James Ransone 

Tagline:  None.

The Plot…

Frank (J. Pollono), Terrence (Bernthal) and Packie (Whigham) have been best friends since high school.  When Frank’s marriage broke up, he kept custody of his daughter, Crystal (Bravo).  Thankfully, the guys stepped in to help raise her.  When Frank had to do some time in prison because of his temper, the guys took custody of Crystal until Frank got out.  Now Crystal is about to go to college and the guys can breathe a little easier…

When Frank asks Terrence and Packie to meet him one night at his small engine repair shop, they have no idea what’s up.  When they learn that it involves something that happened to Crystal, there is no line that they won’t cross to make things right.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

I’m surprised that more people aren’t talking about Small Engine Repair.  It is one of the most under-rated movies I’ve seen this year.  John Pollono adapted his play for the screen, directed and also stars.  He’s joined by Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham (both are always great), Ciara Bravo and Spencer House (who more than hold their own).

Small Engine Repair reminded me of Slingblade in that it’s a small budget film, focused on working class folks with a powerful story that was written and directed by the star of the film.  Small Engine Repair takes time to set everything up and covers a lot of ground.  Then we get to the last act and the tension mounts as we learn what Frank has planned.  Once all cards are on the table there is no turning back… or is there?

I loved Small Engine Repair and hope that more people get a chance to see it.

Small Engine Repair earns 5 of 5 stars.

“Run Sweetheart Run” (2020) starring Ella Balinska & Pilou Asbæk / Z-View

Run Sweetheart Run (2020)

Director: Shana Feste

Screenplay: Shana Feste, Keith Josef Adkins, Kellee Terrell

Stars: Ella Balinska, Pilou Asbæk, Clark Gregg, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Marco Khan

Tagline:  None.

The Plot…

Cherie (Balinska) is a single mom, and pre-law student working her way through college working as a secretary for a high-priced lawyer.  When her boss calls saying that he needs her to take his place at a dinner that evening with an important client, she reluctantly agrees.

Cherie meets Ethan (Asbæk) who turns out to be rich, handsome, charming and interested in Cherie.  As the evening progresses, Cherie begins to feel attracted to Ethan.  When they arrive back at Ethan’s house, he invites Cherie in for a drink.  Although hesitant, Cherie says she’ll come in for just one.

Cherie will soon find herself on the run for her life.  Ethan was not at all what he seemed to be.  Who will believe that Ethan is a savage murderer who intends to kill Cherie before sunrise?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Run Sweetheart Run takes surprising turns that some may not like.  I absolutely enjoyed them.  There are times when the fourth wall is broken.  When Ethan and Cherie go for a nightcap, as Cherie enters the house, Ethan turns and looks directly into the camera.  He then makes a go away motion to the audience and the camera backs up.  Ethan then enters the house and from a distance we hear screams, smashing furniture and suddenly Cherie bursts out of the house running for her life.

The movie takes on a supernatural aspect about three quarters of the way through, although there have been hints along the way.  Ella Balinska is excellent as the “girl on the run” who will have to survive by her wits and toughness.  Pilou Asbæk is believable as the charming date at one moment and terrifying killer in the next.  If you’re a fan of movies that break the mold and take chances, then Run Sweetheart Run may be for you.

Run Sweetheart Run earns 4 of 5 stars.

THE LAST ACTION HEROES by Nick de Semlyen is Coming!

The Last Action Heroes: The Triumphs, Flops and Feuds of Hollywood’s Kings of Carnage by Nick de Semlyen looks like something many of us will want to check out.  Here’s the lowdown…

The behind-the-scenes story of the larger-than-life action stars who ruled ’80s and ’90s Hollywood—Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jackie Chan, Steven Seagal, Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundgren, and Jean-Claude Van Damme—and the beloved films that made them stars, including Die Hard, Rambo, and The Terminator.

The Last Action Heroes opens in 1990, at the Cannes film festival, where Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone finally forged a truce. After years of bitter behind-the scenes combat—Stallone once threw a bowl of flowers at Schwarzenegger’s head; the body count in Schwarzenegger’s Commando was increased to “have a bigger d*** than Rambo”—the world’s biggest action stars had at last formed a friendship.

In The Last Action Heroes, film journalist Nick de Semlyen charts their wild, carnage-packed journey from enmity to friendship. He also reveals the personal stories of the colorful characters who ascended in their wake, from Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal, to Chuck Norris and Jackie Chan. But as the ‘80s rolled on, the era of the invincible action hero who used muscle, martial arts, or the perfect weapon to save the day started to fade. When Jurassic Park trounced Schwarzenegger’s Last Action Hero in 1993, everyone knew that the glory days of these macho men–and the vision of masculinity they celebrated–were officially over.

Drawing on candid interviews with the action stars themselves, plus their collaborators, friends, and foes, The Last Action Heroes is a no-holds-barred account of a period in Hollywood history when there were no limits to the heights of fame these men achieved, or to the mayhem they wrought, onscreen and off.

If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, pre-orders are available now.  The book drops June 6, 2023.

Thanks to @popcornwithafork for the head-up!

“Judge Dredd” Alt Poster by Mickaël Journou!

Mickaël Journou created this cool alt Judge Dredd poster.  Here’s what he had to say about it:

I recently rewatched the movie. An all-time classic for me (yeah, huge fan of Sly! haha). I’m obviously older now so I couldn’t help to wonder if our current society is heading towards what we see in that movie. This is my new full digital art poster!

You can see more of Journou’s art on his Twitter feed.

“Alligator” (1980) starring Robert Forster / Z-View

Alligator (1980)

Director:  Lewis Teague

Screenplay:  John Sayles from a story by John Sayles, Frank Ray Perilli

Stars: Robert Forster, Robin Riker, Michael V. Gazzo, Dean Jagger, Sydney Lassick, Jack Carter, Henry Silva, Buckley Norris and Sue Lyon 

Tagline:  It lives 50 feet beneath the city. It’s 36 feet long. It weighs 2,000 pounds…And it’s about to break out!

The Plot…

An alligator that was flushed into the Chicago sewers twelve years ago begins feeding on discarded animal remains used in experiments.  This causes the gator to grow to a gigantic size with an insatiable appetite.  When body parts of missing city workers show up, police officer David Madison (Forster) and a rookie cop are sent into the sewer to investigate.

They discover the alligator, or perhaps it’s better to say the alligator discovers them.  Madison barely escapes but his partner isn’t as lucky.  Madison reports that there’s a giant alligator living in the sewers system, but no one believes him until the gator comes to the surface… and it’s hungry!

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Alligator is a better movie than you might think a low-budget Jaws knockoff would be. That’s  thanks to the folks involved.  Lewis Teague (Death Race 2000; Cujo) knows how to get the most bang for the buck directing low budget horror.  John (The Howling; Piranha; Lone Star) Sayles provides a story with more depth than expected from a giant alligator movie.  Robert Forster is joined by Michael (Godfather II) Gazzo, Sydney (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) Lassick and Henry (Sharky’s Machine) Silva.  Dean Jagger and Sue Lyons also appear in what would be their last film roles.

There are two cool Easter Eggs in Alligator: 1) The first sewer worker to go missing is named Edward Norton which is a tip of the hat to The Honeymooners.  2) There’s graffiti on a sewer wall near the end of the movie that says, “Harry Lime Lives”.  This is a reference to Orson Welles character in The Third Man who escapes through a sewer.

Bryan (Breaking Bad) Cranston worked on the film as a production assistant for the Special Effects department and became friends with Robert Forster.

Alligator isn’t a great film, but it’s better than you might expect.

Alligator earns 3 of 5 stars.

“An Ache in Every Stake” (1941) starring The Three Stooges / Z-View

An Ache in Every Stake (1941)

Director:  Del Lord

Screenplay:  Lloyd French

Stars: Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard, Symona Boniface, Vernon Dent, Bess Flowers and Bud Jamison 

Tagline:  None.

The Plot…

Larry, Curly and Moe are delivering ice using their horse drawn ice carriage.  Along the way, their escapades cause a business man to twice fall onto a birthday cake he is trying to bring home.  When a woman at the top of a very long/steep staircase calls for a block of ice, the boys are at a loss as how to get it up before it melts.

After several false, but funny starts, they get the ice up to the house.  Their antics disrupt the woman’s caterers so much that they quit.  No worries.  Larry, Curly and Moe offer to cook and serve the birthday meal… which is for, you guessed it, the man who was trying to get birthday cakes home.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

An Ache in Every Stake is another favorite Three Stooges short.  If the long staircase looks like the same one Laurel and Hardy tried to get a piano up, it’s not!  Yeah, I was sure it was too.

An Ache in Every Stake earns 5 of 5 stars.

“A Plumbing We Will Go” (1940) starring The Three Stooges / Z-View

A Plumbing We Will Go (1940)

Director:  Del Lord

Screenplay:  Elwood Ullman

Stars: Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard, Symona Boniface, Dudley Dickerson and Bud Jamison 

Tagline:  None.

The Plot…

There’s bad blood between Officer Kelly (Jamison) and the boys (Larry, Curly and Moe) when a judge finds them innocent of stealing chickens. (And they’re plainly guilty!)  Later the cop sees the guys attempting to catch fish from a pet store tank.  The chase is on!

When a butler thinks the boys are plumbers, he invites them in.  Seeing the police officer getting closer, they accept the offer.  In order not to blow their cover, Larry, Curly and Moe attempt to fix a bathroom leak…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

A Plumbing We Will Go was Curly’s favorite Three Stooges Short.  It’s hard to argue that it’s not the best.  Every scene has a laugh, starting with the judge finding the boys not guilty of chicken stealing as Curly pulls out his hat and chicken feathers fly everywhere.  Most folks know the gag where Curly keeps adding pipes to pipes and traps himself.  But there’s so much more – the cook dealing with the results of the “plumbers” work – the guests watching tv with a picture “so real”… even the final scene has a callback to a magician who appeared in an earlier gag and returns to end the short with a great “trick”.

A Plumbing We Will Go earns 5 of 5 stars.

“The Parallax View” (1974) starring Warren Beatty / Z-View

The Parallax View (1974)

Director:  Alan J. Pakula

Screenplay:  David Giler, Lorenzo Semple Jr. based on The Parallax View by Loren Singer

Stars: Warren Beatty, Paula Prentiss, William Daniels, Hume Cronyn, Chuck Waters, Earl Hindman, Bill McKinney, Jim Davis, Ted Gehring, Doria Cook-Nelson and Kenneth Mars 

Tagline:  Assassination. Try to see it from their point of view.

The Plot…

Joe Frady (Beatty) is a newspaper man covering presidential candidate Charles Carroll’s press conference. Frady’s girlfriend, television reporter Lee Carter (Prentiss) is also covering the event when a gunman shoots and kills Carroll.  An investigation determines that the gunman acted alone.

Three years later, Joe’s ex-girlfriend, Lee, shows up terrified.  Six witnesses to the Carroll assassination have died under mysterious circumstances. Lee believes that she will be next.  Joe tries to calm her and says that she’s over-reacting.  Yes, the witnesses died and some were in unusual circumstances, but all could be explained.  When Lee turns up dead of an overdose, Joe decides to do an investigation of his own.  Soon enough (and after some attempts on his life), Joe discovers an organization named the Parallax Corporation that he believes recruits assassins.  Joe decides to infiltrate the company and bring them down.  What could go wrong?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

The Parallax View is definitely a product of its time.  Director Pakula lets scenes play out.  I enjoyed the long, shots and pace, which may be too slow for many of today’s audience members.  Pakula is joined by a cast of powerhouse actors: Beatty, Prentis, Daniels, Cronyn and McKinney.

I would have liked The Parallax View better if I cared more about Joe Frady.  When his ex-girlfriend comes to him scared out of her mind and convinced she is the next target of professional assassins, Joe displays little sympathy.  Then she turns up dead and Joe’s biggest concern is to take up her story.

Joe’s plan to infiltrate a corporation of professional assassins is pretty weak.  The fact that they’ve successfully completed hits on Presidential candidates and those who know too much doesn’t factor into Joe’s thinking.  I had problems with Joe’s actions when he discovers a bomb is on his flight.  Joe also under-reacts when the “corporation” discovers he’s been lying to them.  There are other things I could nit pick, but the truth of the matter is that the direction by Alan J. Pakula is entertaining enough that I went with the flow,

The Parallax View earns 3 of 5 stars.

RIP: Robert Clary

Robert Clary, the actor best known as Corporal LeBeau on the popular television series, Hogan’s Heroes, has died.  Mr. Clary was 96.

Born in Paris, France, Robert Clary began singing professionally at the age of twelve!  When the Nazis invaded France, Robert Clary along with twelve other family members were sent to a concentration camp.  Mr. Clary was the only one to survive.

After the war, Robert Clary continued his singing career.  Some of his recordings were popular both in France and the U.S.  In 1949, Mr. Clary came to the United States.  He started getting roles on television and Broadway.

In 1965, Robert Clary began appearing on Hogan’s Heroes in the role that made him famous.  The series ran from 1965 – 1971.  In 1972, Mr. Clary was cast in a role on Days of Our Lives that lasted until 1987.  In 1990, he joined The Bold and the Beautiful in a part that lasted 43 episodes.

Other notable Robert  Clary appearances were in the feature film, The Hindenburg, as well as television guest spots on The High Chaparral, Love American Style. Fantasy Island and The Munsters Today,

Robert Clary always seemed to have a joy about him that made you smile.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Robert Clary’s family, friends and fans.

“Return to Glennascaul” aka “Orson Welles’ Ghost Story” (1951) / Z-View

Return to Glennascaul aka Orson Welles’ Ghost Story (1951)

Director:  Hilton Edwards

Screenplay:  Hilton Edwards

Stars:  Orson Welles and Michael Laurence 

Tagline:  None.

The Plot…

Orson Welles is driving late one night on a nearly deserted road.  He spots a stranded motorist beside a car and asks the man if he could use a ride.  The man accepts and they drive off.  To pass the time, the man begins to tell Welles of an incident where, at the very same spot the man picked up two women who were stranded…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Welles actually made Return to Glennascaul while he was on a break from filming Othello.  When Welles picks up the stranded motorist, he asks him what’s wrong with his car.  The man replies, “Trouble with the distributor.”  Welles replies that he’s had problems with his distributor as well.  Welles is of course referring to the producers of Othello which is a cute inside joke.

Return to Glennascaul is a short ghost story that is enhanced by having Orson Welles as the “star” narrator.

Return to Glennascaul aka Orson Welles’ Ghost Story earns 3 of 5 stars.

“El Vampiro Negro” (1953) / Z-View

El Vampiro Negro (1953)

Director:  Román Viñoly Barreto

Screenplay:  Alberto Etchebehere, Román Viñoly Barreto based on the screenplay M by Fritz Lang & Thea von Harbou

Stars:  Olga Zubarry, Roberto Escalada and Nathán Pinzón.

Tagline:  None.

The Plot…

A serial killer that the press labeled El Vampiro Negro (The Black Vampire) continues his killing spree of little girls.  Late one evening Amalia (Zubarry), a singer in a less than reputable nightclub, accidentally spies the killer dumping a child’s body in a sewer drain.  Amalia is frightened and afraid to go to the police.  When detectives ask questions of the nightclub’s employees, Amalia lies and says she didn’t see anything.

El Vampiro Negro continues to murder little girls. When police find their bodies, there is no evidence left behind. The killer is both smart and lucky.  As a patron of the nightclub where Amalia sings, the killer comes into contact with Amalia’s young daughter.  She will be his next victim…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

El Vampiro Negro is a re-tooling of Fritz Lang’s M.  Although the title might make you think El Vampiro Negro is a silly horror film, it is far from being silly.  I’m surprised that El Vampiro Negro isn’t better known since it is well written and beautifully directed.  The black and white cinematography by Aníbal González Paz is mesmerizing.  The camera loves Olga Zubarry and she’s excellent in her role.  Peter Lore became an international star after his performance as the killer in M.  Unfortunately Nathán Pinzón didn’t receive the fame, but his performance is just as powerful.

El Vampiro Negro earns 5 of 5 stars.