Category: Movies

RIP: Gene Lebell

Ivan Gene Lebell, martial artist, actor, stuntman, professional wrestler, and real life tough guy passed away in his sleep on August 9, 2002, at the age of 89.

Gene Lebell began training in wrestling and judo before the age of ten.  After earning his black belt, Mr. Lebell went to Japan to further his training.  When he returned to the US, he competed in the Amateur Athletic Union National Judo Championships, winning the heavyweight title at the age of 22.  In 1963, Mr. Lebell agreed to fight a boxer who claimed he could beat any martial artist.  Gene Lebell choked him out in the fourth round.  Using his martial arts training it was easy for Gene Lebell to transition into professional wrestling where he often was used as an enforcer during big matches.

Gene Lebell’s reputation as a martial artist brought him to the attention of Hollywood where he got work as both a stuntman and actor.  With over 250 stunt credits and over 150 acting credits on his resume, odds are you’ve seen Gene Lebell on television or feature films.

Television appearances include: The Jack Benny Program; The Munsters; Gomer Pyle; The Man from UNCLE; Mission Impossible; The Green Hornet; Batman; The Wild, Wild West; Mannix; The Rockford Files; Kung Fu; Kojak; The Six Million Dollar Man; Starsky & Hutch; Knight Rider; The Fall Guy; Walker, Texas Ranger; Married with Children; The X FIles; More Wild, Wild West and The Shield.

Feature Films include: Blacula; Walking Tall; Earthquake; The Towering Inferno; The Killer Elite; Rocky;  Every Which Way But Loose; The Jerk; Raging Bull; Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid; City Heat; Remo Williams; Rush Hour; Runaway Train; Rocky IV; Die Hard 2; Marked for Death; The Last Boy Scout; Waterworld; Strange Days and Spider-Man 2.

There’s a famous story that when Gene Lebell was working on a Steven Seagall film, the star said that due to his martial arts training, no one could choke him out.  Mr. Lebell took exception to the statement.  Seagall allowed Gene Lebell’s  to place him in a chokehold to prove his point.  Steven Seagall not only lost consciousness but also control of his bowels.  While Steven Seagall denies this ever happened, there are others who claimed to have been there and seen it happen.

Gene LeBell was a man’s man, a 10th degree Black Belt; and appeared in some of my all-time favorite movies and television shows.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and fans.

“Dig” Starring Thomas Jane and Emile Hirsch – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

Dig starring Thomas Jane and Emile Hirsch.  Yeah, deal me in.

The house of a widowed father and his daughter who suffers from major hearing loss is up for demolition. After arriving at the construction site they are soon taken hostage by a dangerous couple who will stop at nothing to retrieve what lies beneath the property.

CAST: Thomas Jane, Emile Hirsch, Harlow Jane, Liana Liberato

DIRECTOR: K. Asher Levin

“Carter” (2022) / Z-View

Carter (2022)

Director:  Byung-gil Jung

Screenplay by:  Byeong-sik Jung, Byung-gil Jung

Starring:  Joo Won, Kim Bo-Min, Sung-Jae Lee and Mike Colter

Tagline:  No Memory, One Mission

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

A man wakes up in a hotel room with no memory of who he is or how he got there.  A voice in his head tells him his name is Carter, a transmitter only he can hear is in his ear, a bomb has been implanted in his head and his mission is to rescue a young girl whose blood is the key to a cure to a virus quickly spreading around the world.  With that we’re off and running.

Carter is an all out action film with a small mix of sci-fi and a touch of zombies.  The movie takes place in real time and features over the top stunts and seldom slows down.  This is the film’s greatest strength and perhaps biggest weakness.  The fight scenes are so over-the-top we quickly understand that Carter is going to be able to take out dozens of attackers without so much as a scratch.

Normally this would be a turn-off, but the fight scenes take place in unique situations (outside of a building stories above the street, on motorcycles, in three side-by-side vans speeding down crowded streets, falling from an airplane without a parachute while engaging in a gun battle to get a chute, on a train, on a helicopter, from a truck to motorcycles, etc.) that it is easy to suspend disbelief.

I really enjoyed Carter, but was in the right frame of mind for an all out action film.  I hope we get a sequel.

Carter earns 4 of 5 stars.

RIP: Olivia Newton-John

Olivia Newton-John, singer and actress, passed away yesterday after a long battle with cancer.  Ms. Newton-John was 73.

When she was just 14, Olivia Newton-John began singing professionally in small coffee shops.  Not long after she began  appearing on Australian television shows.  In 1965 she won a talent contest and the following year traveled to Great Britain where she recorded her first single, “Till You Say You’ll Be Mine”.  In 1971, Ms. Newton-John’s first solo album, If Not For You was released.  This was the first of 26 albums she would release over the course of her long career.

The mid-70s was a sweet spot for Olivia Newton-John.  She had ten number one singles including:  “I Honestly Love You” (1974); “Have You Never Been Mellow” (1975); “Please Mr. Please” (1975); “Something Better to Do” (1975);  “Let It Shine”/”He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” (1976); “Come on Over” (1976) and “Don’t Stop Believin'” (1976) .

In 1978, Ms. Newton-John co-starred with John Travolta in Grease which became the number one movie of the year.  The Grease soundtrack also went to number one and spawned three singles.  In 1980, Olivia Newton-John co-starred in the cult favorite Xanadu with Gene Kelly and Michael Beck.  Ms. Newton-John easily transitioned to making music videos (a relatively new art form at the time) and had one of the most popular with her “Physical” release.  For the rest of her career, Ms. Newton-John easily transitioned from acting to singing as she took on projects that interested her.  She was also an activist who supported environmental and animal causes as well as cancer research.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Olivia Newton-John’s family, friends and fans.

“JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass” (2021) / Z-View

JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass (2021)

Director:  Ibrahim Hamdan, Oliver Stone

Starring: John F. Kennedy, Walter Cronkite, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jacqueline Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Oliver Stone, Whoopi Goldberg (narration) and Donald Sutherland (narration)

Tagline:  None

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Ibrahim Hamdan and Oliver Stone look at documents and findings declassified by the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 that bring into question the finding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  If you’re at all interested in the conspiracy theories behind the assassination of President Kennedy, then JFK Revisited is worth a watch!

JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass earns 4 of 5 stars.

RIP: Clu Gulager

Clu Gulager passed away last night from natural causes.  He was 93 years old.

After a two year stint in the US Marine Corp, Mr. Gulager attended Northeastern State University in Oklahoma.  He later transferred to Baylor University where he graduated.

Mr. Gulager’s career began with guest appearance on the television series Omnibus.  He would continue with tv guest appearances until he landed a co-starring role as Billy the Kid in The Tall Man series which ran for 75 episodes.  Mr. Gulager’s first feature film appearance was a co-starring role in The Killers with Lee Marvin.  Mr. Gulager spent the rest of his career alternating between television and feature film roles.

Television appearances included: Wanted Dead or Alive; Have Gun – Will Travel; The Untouchables; Alfred Hitchcock Presents; Wagon Train; The Alfred Hitchcock Hour; Dr. Kildare; The Name of the Game; The F.B.I.; The Glass House (movie); Medical Center; Bonanza; Mannix; The Wonderful World of Disney; Kung Fu; Ironside; McCloud; Cannon; The Streets of San Francisco; Police Story; Hawaii 5-0; Knight Rider; Magnum PI; The Fall Guy; and Walker, Texas Ranger.

Some Clu Gulager’s feature films include: The Killers; The Last Picture Show; McQ; Shaft; Get Christie Love; A Force of One; The Return of the Living Dead; A Nightmare on Elm Street 2; The Hidden; I’m Gonna Git You Sucka; Vic and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

I am a Clu Gulager fan.  He would pop up in many, many of the television shows I watched as a kid.  Mr. Gulager also co-starred in The Glass House a television movie that was ahead of it’s time for the portrayal of life in a prison.  Clu Gulager also starred in Vic, a short directed by Sage Stallone.  Mr. Gulager continued to appear in television shows and movies throughout his career making everything that he appeared in better.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Clu Gulager’s family, friends and fans.

“Ida Red” (2021) starring Josh Hartnett and Frank Grillo / Z-View

Ida Red (2021)

Director:  John Swab

Screenplay by:  John Swab

Starring:  Josh Hartnett, Frank Grillo, Melissa Leo, Sofia Hublitz, William Forsythe, Deborah Ann Woll, George Carroll, Mark Boone Junior and Nicholas Cirillo

Tagline:  Crime runs in the family

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Ida “Red” Walker (Leo) is the head of her family since her husband was killed in the robbery that put her behind bars.  Red’s two grown sons, Wyatt (Harnett) and Dallas (Grillo) continue to commit crimes under mom’s direction.

When Red learns that she has terminal cancer she makes it her (and her sons’) goal to get her out.  She has a two-pronged plan: 1) Pay off the head of the parole board and 2) commit a dangerous heist that will get them enough money to get the family out of the law’s reach.  Wyatt and Dallas agree to the plan despite the fact that they’re under the watchful eye of FBI Special Agent Lawrence Twilley (Forsythe) and a local cop who has a connection to the family!

Ida Red is a well written, well directed low budget crime film.  It boasts an excellent cast.  Frank Grillo steals every scene (especially memorable is his dance that will bring back memories of Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs).  Sofia Hublitz has a subplot that shows the pull of being in a crime family (and a nice plot twist to boot).  It’s nice seeing William Forsythe back in action and I always enjoy it when Mark Boone Junior shows up.

Ida Red earns 4 of 5 stars.

“Dead Zone” starring Michael Jai White and Jeff Fahey – The Trailer is Here!

Ok, it’s not Stephen King’s Dead Zone, but this Dead Zone does star Michael Jai White and Jeff Fahey.  And it does have soldiers going into a town full of what look like zombies and other creatures.  So, yeah, I’ll check it out.

To stop the collapse of humanity, an elite team of soldiers must descend on a radiation-poisoned town and perform the ultimate stealth mission using high-tech armor and weapons.

CAST: Michael Jai White, Chad Michael Collins, Jeff Fahey

DIRECTOR: Hank Braxtan

“The Satan Bug” (1965) / Z-View

The Satan Bug (1965)

Director:  John Sturges

Screenplay by:  James Clavell and Edward Anhalt based on The Satan Bug novel by Alistair MacLean

Starring:  George Maharis, Richard Basehart, Anne Francis, Dana Andrews, Frank Sutton, Edward Asner, Simon Oakland, John Anderson and James Hong

Tagline:  The price for uncovering the secret of the satan bug comes high – YOUR LIFE!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

When a newly developed virus known as The Satan Bug is stolen from a research lab, Lee Barrett (Maharis), a former intelligence agent is brought back to track down the thieves before the bug is released to kill everyone in Los Angeles.

The Satan Bug story was ahead of it’s time.  The idea of a lab-created virus that gets loose seems commonplace today, but in 1965, this was first rate science fiction!

The cast consists of several familiar faces from popular television shows of the era.  George Maharis was the co-star of Route 66.  Richard Basehart starred on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.  Anne Francis was the star of Honey West.  Frank Sutton would soon play Sgt. Carter on Gomer Pyle.  Ed Asner would go on to play Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Lou Grant spin-off series.   If you’re a child of the era, it adds a bit of charm to The Satan Bug, but if you’re not of the right age, the cast won’t give you the same joy.

The Satan Bug has a great plot, but there’s more talk than action.  Then when the action comes, it doesn’t live up to the expectation.  For these reasons The Satan Bug earns 2 of 5 stars.

“The Gray Man” (2022) Starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans / Z-View

The Gray Man (2022)

Director:  Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Screenplay by:  Joe Russo, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Starring:  Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thornton and Alfre Woodard

Tagline:  None

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

A man known as Six (Gosling) is a CIA assassin.  When a mission goes sideways, Six gains information about corruption within the CIA.  A team led by Lloyd Hansen (Evans), a sociopathic mercenary is then sent to kill Six.

The Gray Man is a fast paced action thriller that is fun while you’re watching it, but doesn’t have much substance to stick with you later.  Chris Evans steals the show as the crazy ex-CIA hitman.  It’s always good to see Billy Bob Thornton and Alfre Woodard.

The Gray Man earns 3 of 5 stars.

“Death Pursuit” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

Death Pursuit has the look of an old-school action film and I’m always ready for that!

Death Pursuit is a full-throttle action thriller boasting jaw-dropping stunts and featuring action superstar Vinnie Jones.

A Thief (James Clayton) who only looks out for number one, finally pulls off his long-gestating heist: the robbery of psychotic crime lord, Temple (Vinnie Jones). The plan goes off without a hitch until he discovers a stowaway in his getaway car – Temple’s wife, Mia along with Temple’s elite assassin, the deadly and mysterious man known simply as The Frenchman, hot on their heels. The Thief is torn between disappearing with the money or taking a risky detour to help Mia escape her husband’s abusive grasp. But with Temple, The Frenchman, and their deadly convoy of goons in pursuit, they quickly discover the only way to get out alive is to drive out.

Texas Carnival (1949) / Z-View

Texas Carnival (1949)

Director:  Charles Walters

Screenplay by:  Dorothy Kingsley, George Wells (story)

Starring:  Esther Williams, Red Skelton, Howard Keel, Ann Miller, Keenan Wynn, Paula Raymond,
Tom Tully
and Glenn Strange

Tagline:  FOR THE MILLIONS WHO LOVED “THE GREAT CARUSO” AND “SHOW BOAT” ANOTHER BIG MGM MUSICAL!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Cornie Quinell (Skelton) and his partner, Debbie Telford (Williams) run the dunk tank at the Texas carnival.  When Cornie sees a drunk man (Wynn) being taken advantage of by two of the carnies, Cornie comes to his rescue.  It turns out the drunk is Dan Sabinas, a rich cattleman.  Dan tries to give Cornie several thousand dollars for his help.  Cornie refuses the cash.  The Dan tries to give him his car.  Again Cornie refuses and instead gets drunken Dan into a cab to take him home.  As the cab leaves, Dan invites Cornie to visit the hotel he’s staying in.

Cornie and Debbie drive Dan’s car to the hotel where Cornie is mistaken for the rich cattleman.  Because of Dan’s invite they stay in his hotel suite waiting for Dan to arrive. Cornie meets Sunshine Jackson and a mutual attraction develops, meanwhile Debbie and Dan’s foreman, Slim Shelby (Keel) begin to hit it off.  Cornie ends up loosing $17,000 in a high stakes poker game meant for Dan.

When Dan arrives, he’s sobered up and doesn’t remember meeting Cornie! Cornie has a plan though…

Texas Carnival rates 3 of 5 stars.

“Neptune’s Daughter” (1949) / Z-View

Neptune’s Daughter (1949)

Director:  Edward Buzzell

Screenplay by:  Dorothy Kingsley, Ray Singer (additional dialogue), Dick Chevillat (additional dialogue)

Starring:  Esther Williams, Red Skelton Ricardo Montalban, Betty Garrett, Keenan Wynn, Xavier Cugat, Mike Mazurki and Mel Blanc

Tagline:  With a Great Cast of Stars! Bathing Beauties! Songs and Spectacle!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

It’s a case of mistaken identity when Betty Barrett (Garrett) falls for Jack Spratt (Skelton) thinking he is super-suave, Jose O’Rourke (Montalban).  When Betty’s sister, Eve (Williams) finds out that the Latin lover has her sister in his sights, she steps in only to find herself falling for the real Jose O’Rourke!

Meanwhile, gangsters plan to kidnap O’Rourke who is in town for a polo match. They figure to make a bundle with the star player out.  Of course there’s that little problem of mistaken identity…

Red Skelton has some funny scenes.  “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” gets a new meaning when Williams & Montalban followed by Garrett and Skelton perform it.  Mike Mazurki is great as the dumb thug and Keenan Wynn makes every movie better.

Neptune’s Daughter rates 3 of 5 stars.

RIP: Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols passed away last night from natural causes.  She was 89 years old.

Although best known for her role as Nyota Uhura on the original Star Trek television series, Ms. Nichols first became famous for her role in the play Kicks and Co.  This led to roles in a Chicago production of Carmen Jones and later a New York production of Porgy and Bess.  Nichelle Nichols also did singing and modeling jobs.

Prior to her groundbreaking role on Star Trek, Ms. Nichols began getting roles on television (The Lieutenant; CBS Repertoire Workshop; Payton Place; Tarzan) and theatrical films (Made in Paris; Mister Buddwing; Doctor, You’ve Got to be Kidding).  With her role on Star Trek, Nichelle Nichols became one of the first African-American women to be featured in such a prominent co-starring role on a television series.

When she was offered a role on Broadway, Ms. Nichols planned to leave the series.  However Martin Luther King, Jr. convinced her by saying, “…you cannot, you cannot (leave the show)…for the first time on television, we will be seen as we should be seen every day, as intelligent, quality, beautiful, people.”   Not only did Nichelle Nichols stay for the entire series, she voiced Nyota Uhura on Star Trek: The Animated Series, and returned for the Star Trek feature films (Star Trek; The Motion Picture; Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; Star Trek III: The Search for Spock; Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; Star Trek V: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country).

When Star Trek the series ended, and when she wasn’t making Star Trek feature films, Nichelle Nichols continued to act on television and feature films, worked with NASA to recruit minority and females, released two albums and did voice work for animation! Talk about multi-talented!

My first exposure to Nichelle Nichols was her role on Star Trek.  I can remember the controversy when she and William Shatner had one of the first interracial kisses on television.  I was just a kid, but thought, “What’s the big deal?  She’s a beautiful, smart women.  Kirk would be a fool not to kiss her.”  By all accounts Nichelle Nichols was as beautiful a person inside as out.  I’ve never heard a bad story about her.  Fans love her and rightly so.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Nichelle Nichols family, friends and fans.