Category: Movies

“The Specialist” (1994) starring Sylvester Stallone & Sharon Stone / Z-View

The Specialist (1994)

Director: Luis Llosa

Screenplay: Alexandra Seros based on THE SPECIALIST novels by John Shirley

Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, James Woods, Rod Steiger, Eric Roberts, Mario Ernesto Sánchez, Emilio Estefan Jr. and Tony Munafo.

Tagline: The government taught him to kill. Now he’s using his skills to help a woman seek revenge against the Miami underworld.

The Plot…

May Munro (Stone) wants revenge.  When May was a young girl, hidden in a closet, she witnessed Thomas Leon (Roberts) brutally murder her mother and father.  Leon is the son of Joe Leon (Steiger), a notorious organized crime boss.  To get close enough to kill him will be impossible.  So may seduces Ray Quick (Stallone) to do it.  Quick is an ex-CIA demolition expert.  Although reluctant at first, Quick can’t resist May’s charms.  What Quick doesn’t know is that May is playing him… or is she?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Reportedly at one point David Fincher was set direct.  Stallone was on board with Fincher at the helm, but the studio balked due to the box office of Alien 3.

In 1993, The L.A. Times reported that The Specialist was the best unproduced thriller script in Hollywood according to a poll of agents, producers and studio executives.

Sharon Stone plays a character much younger than she was at the time of filming.  Stone was supposed to have witnessed Eric Roberts kill her parents when she was a child.  Roberts is just two years older than Stone.

Sly Stallone wrote the scene where Eric Roberts threatens him with a knife.  He wrote the scene since otherwise they had no scenes together.

The cat that Stallone adopts in the film also would go on to appear in Assassins, another Stallone movie.

It’s no secret that I’m a Stallone fan, so keep in mind your mileage may vary.

The Specialist (1994) rates 4 of 5 stars.

“Murder Company” starring William Moseley & Kelsey Grammer – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

Who doesn’t love WWII movie?  Here we have the poster and trailer for Murder Company.

In the midst of the D-Day invasion, a group of US soldiers are given orders to smuggle a member of the French resistance behind enemy lines to assassinate a high-value Nazi target.

The film is directed by Shane Dax Taylor from a screenplay by Jesse Mittelstadt.

William Moseley, Pooch Hall, Gilles Marini, Joe Anderson, and Kelsey Grammer star.

Murder Company opens in select theaters, digital and On Demand on July 5, 2024.

“Plan 9 From Outer Space” (1957) written & directed by Ed Wood Jr., featuring Bela Lugosi / Z-View

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1957)

Director: Edward D. Wood Jr.

Screenplay:  Edward D. Wood Jr.

Stars: Gregory Walcott, Tom Keene, Tor Johnson, Lyle Talbot, Conrad Brooks, Maila Nurmi, Bela Lugosi, Edward D. Wood Jr. and Criswell.

Tagline: Unspeakable Horrors From Outer Space Paralyze The Living And Resurrect The Dead!

The Plot…

Aliens are worried that humans will produce a doomsday bomb that could destroy the universe.  To stop them, the aliens put into motion Plan 9.  They resurrect the recent dead.  Humans will be so horrified that they will follow the aliens’ directives.  If not, the aliens will use the zombies to destroy them!

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Plan 9 From Outer Space is Bela Lugosi’s last film.  Ed Wood and Lugosi were friends.  They had filmed snippets of scenes for an Ed Wood movie in development.  Bela Lugosi died and Ed Wood decided to incorporate these clips into Plan 9.  Wood also used the fact that Plan 9 would be Lugosi’s last film to induce some of the actors to join the project.

It’s funny to note that scenes featuring Lugosi’s character not played by Lugosi were completed by Wood’s wife’s chiropractor.  He was much taller and looked nothing like Bela Lugosi.  So Ed Wood told him to hunch over and always keep the cape in front of his face.  Problem solved.

The film was made on a miniscule budget.  Tor Johnson’s home was used as a location.  Johnson’s son was a San Fernando Police officer.  They got use of the police car and uniforms through him.  The alien’s flying saucer was adapted from a popular UFO model kit.  Bela Lugosi supplied his own cape (from playing Dracula on stage). The gravestones were made of cardboard or styrofoam and can be seen wiggling when actors brushed against them.

Harry Thomas did the make-up for Plan 9.  He become upset and asked his name be removed from the credits.  Thomas wanted the aliens to have elongated chins using appliances he would make, cat’s eye lenses (special contacts) and green hair (wigs). Ed Wood said that those ideas would be too expensive.  Ironically, the year before Henry Thomas worked on Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments which was the most expensive movie ever made to that time.

Plan 9 From Outer Space gained popularity after being named The Worst Film Ever Made.  It is a bad film, but far from the worst ever made.  The low budget, bad script, Lugosi stand-in, wooden performances, outlandish idea for a movie and more make for a humorous viewing, especially with friends.

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1957) rates 2 of 5 stars.

“The Green Slime” (1968) starring Robert Horton, Luciana Paluzzi & Richard Jaeckel / Z-View

The Green Slime (1968)

Director: Kinji Fukasaku

Screenplay: William (Bill) Finger, Tom Rowe, Charles Sinclair, story by Ivan Reiner

Stars: Robert Horton, Luciana Paluzzi, Richard Jaeckel.

Tagline: The Green Slime are coming!!

The Plot…

Commander Jack Rankin (Horton) and Commander Vince Elliott (Jaeckel) are sent on a suicide mission to destroy a giant asteroid headed for earth.  Although successful, one of the crew members accidentally carries a green slime substance back to the space station.

Soon the green slime transforms into monstrous beings that multiply and kill members of the crew!  If the green slime monsters get back to earth it could be the end of humanity.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Robert Horton, Luciana Paluzzi and Richard Jaeckel were the stars attached.  The rest of the cast consisted mainly of amateur and semi-professional actors.  Many of the monsters were played by school aged children.

Bill Finger, the co-creator of Batman, is one of the screenwriters of The Green Slime.

The Green Slime was the first film featured on featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

The Green Slime (1968) rates 2 of 5 stars.

“Violent City” aka “The Family” (1970) starring Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas & Jill Ireland / Z-View

Violent City (1970)

Director: Sergio Sollima

Screenplay: Sauro Scavolini, Gianfranco Galligarich, Lina Wertmüller, Sergio Sollima, story by Dino Maiuri, Massimo De Rita

Stars: Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, Jill Ireland and Michel Constantin.

Tagline: CHARLES BRONSON: A murderer whose love for a woman was VIOLENT. TELLY SAVALAS: A man who owns both the woman and the CITY.

The Plot…

Jeff Heston (Bronson) is a hitman who was ambushed and left for dead.  Heston believes he was set up by a former boss.  Now healed and ready for revenge… Heston discovers the person who set him up may have been his lover!

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Violent City received a second release in the U.S. but retitled as The Family in an effort to cash in on The Godfather‘s success.

Jon Voight and Sharon Tate were considered for the leads.  At the time Charles Bronson was a bigger star in Europe and just becoming a leading man in the United States.  Bronson agreed to star on the condition that his wife, Jill Ireland would co-star.

Violent City (1970) rates 2 of 5 stars.

“Westworld” (1973) written & directed by Michael Crichton, starring Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin & James Brolin / Z-View

Westworld (1973)

Director: Michael Crichton

Screenplay: Michael Crichton

Stars: Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, James Brolin, Norman Bartold, Alan Oppenheimer, Linda Gaye Scott, Steve Franken, Michael T. Mikler, Terry Wilson, Majel Barrett, Anne Randall, Charles Seel and Dick Van Patten.

Tagline: Boy, have we got a vacation for you…

The Plot…

In the near future those that can afford it go to an adult theme park named Delos.  Delos is divided into three separate sections: West World, Medieval World and Roman World.  Each world is designed to replicate the eras of their name.  Robots almost indistinguishable from humans populate each world.  Guest interact and act out their greatest fantasies.  Want to be a bank robber in the old west?  Overthrow a king?  Partake in Roman orgies?  You can do all these things and more.

Repeat visitor John Blane (Brolin) and his buddy, first timer Peter Martin (Benjamin) are visiting West World. They’re having a blast.  Until things start to go wrong… very wrong.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

I saw West World when it was first released in 1973.  I was 15 and loved it.  I’ve re-watched it many times over the years and still love it. I thought that James Brolin would be the last man standing.  I was so shocked when it turned out I was wrong.

Years after West World Michael Crichton created another amusement park that goes sideways with his novel (and later a film) Jurassic Park.

The film is set in the near future… 1983.

Silent film star, Harold Lloyd’s estate was used for Roman World filming and is listed in the credits!

Alan Oppenheimer plays one of the technicians in charge of the robots.  Oppenheimer in the following year will play Dr. Rudy Wells, in a similar role on The Six Million Dollar Man.

As the robots begin to malfunction and the problem spreads from robot to robot we get one of the first instances of computer viruses!

Yul Brynner’s character dresses almost exactly as the character he played in The Magnificent Seven.

Westworld (1973) rates 5 of 5 stars.

RIP: Roger Corman

Roger Corman,  the award-winning writer, actor, director and producer died on May 9, 2024.  Mr. Corman was 98.

After graduating high school Roger Corman went to Stanford University.  While in the program, Mr. Corman decided he didn’t want to be an engineer.  He enlisted in the Navy and served two years.  He then went back to Stanford to complete his degree.  Mr. Corman’s career as an engineer lasted less than a week.  He quit and got a job in the 20th Century Fox mailroom.

From the mailroom, Roger Corman took various jobs to learn as much as he could about filmmaking.  He sold his first script and worked on the film as an associate producer.  Mr. Corman formed his own production company and raised money to produce his first film.  He never looked back.

Over the course of his career Roger Corman worked as an actor (46 credits), director (56 credits) and producer (493 credits).  He is noted for hiring young, untested talents such as Jack Nicholson, Sly Stallone, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, Jonathan Demme, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich and others.  Roger Corman won an Honorary Academy Award in 2010.

Roger Corman’s writing resume includes: The Gunfighter (uncredited script consultant); Highway Dragnet (story); The Fast and the Furious (1954) (story); The Little Shop of Horrors (co-writer uncredited); The Terror (uncredited); Frankenstein Unbound (screenplay); Black Scorpion (creator – 22 episodes).

Some of Roger Corman’s acting appearances include: Monster from the Ocean Floor; Highway Dragnet; Day the World Ended; The Crybaby Killer; The Wasp Woman; Battle of Blood Island; Blood Bath; The Godfather Part II; Cannonball; The Howling; Swing Shift; Lords of the Deep; The Silence of the Lambs; Philadelphia; Apollo 13; Beverly Hills 90210; Scream 3; The Manchurian Candidate (2004); Dinoshark; Sharktopus and Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader.

Roger Corman’s directing resume includes: Five Guns West; The Beast with a Million Eyes; Day the World Ended; It Conquered the World; Attack of the Crab Monsters; Not of This Earth; The Undead; Rock All Night; Carnival Night; Machine-Gun Kelly; I, Mobster; A Bucket of Blood; House of Usher; The Little Shop of Horrors; The Pit and the Pendulum; The Premature Burial; The Intruder; Tales of Terror; Tower of London; The Raven; The Terror; X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes; The Haunted Palace; The Masque of the Red Death; The Tomb of Legeia; The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre; The Trip; Bloody Mama; Deathsport; Battle Beyond the Stars and Frankenstein Unbound.

Roger Corman’s producing credits include: Highway Dragnet; Monster from the Ocean Floor; The Fast and the Furious; The Beast with a Million Eyes; Day the World Ended; It Conquered the World; Attack of the Crab Monsters; Machine-Gun Kelly; I, Mobster; The Wasp Woman; Bucket of Blood; House of Usher; The Little Shop of Horrors; The Pit and the Pendulum; The Premature Burial; The Intruder; Tales of Terror; The Raven; X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes; Dementia 13; The Haunted Palace; The Masque of the Red Death; The Tomb of Ligeia; Ride in the Whirlwind; The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre; The Trip; Targets; Pit Stop; Bloody Mama; Boxcar Bertha; Amarcord; Cockfighter; Big Bad Mama; Capone; Death Race 2000; The Romantic Englishwoman; The Story of Adele H; Nashville Girl; Eat My Dust; Jackson County Jail; Cannonball; Grand Theft Auto; I Never Promised You a Rose Garden; A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich; Deathsport; Piranha; Saint Jack; The Lady in Red; Breaker Morant; Battle Beyond the Stars; Shogun Assassin; Space Raiders; Deathstalker; Stripped to Kill; Big Bad Mama II; Bloodfist II; Frankenstein Unbound; Dead Space; Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight; Kyko; Black Scorpion (22 episodes); Marlene Dietrich: Her Own Song; Rage and Discipline; Saurian and Death Race (2008).

I admire Roger Corman’s talent and tenacity.  He was able to be successful as a writer, director, actor and producer.  The length of his career is amazing.  He worked with legends such as Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Vincent Price.  He gave starts to the careers of Sly Stallone, Jack Nicholson and James Cameron to name three.  There were many more.  I always thought it was cool that Mr. Corman was known best for his low budget films, yet we would see him turn up acting in movies like The Godfather Part II, The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia and Apollo 13.  

I don’t know that we’ll ever see another career to match Roger Corman’s.

Out thoughts and prayers go out to Roger Corman’s family, friends and fans.

“The Big Knife” (1955) directed by Robert Aldrich, starring Jack Palance, Ida Lupino, Wendell Corey, Jean Hagen, Rod Steiger & Shelley Winters / Z-View

The Big Knife (1955)

Director: Robert Aldrich

Screenplay: James Poe based on The Big Knife by Clifford Odets

Stars: Jack Palance, Ida Lupino, Wendell Corey, Jean Hagen, Rod Steiger, Everett Sloane, Wesley Addy, Paul Langton, Nick Dennis, Bill Walker, Shelley Winters, Robert Emhardt, Michael Fox, Strother Martin and Richard Boone (narrator)

Tagline: A journey to the dark heart of Hollywood.

The Plot…

Charlie Castle (Palance) is a famous movie star.  Charlie has all of the benefits of being on top.  He’s rich, has a upscale home, a lovely wife and young son.  From all appearances Charlie is on top of the world.

Appearances can be deceiving.

Charlie’s contract is up and he’s being pressured by studio owner, Stanley Hoff (Steiger) to sign a long-term deal.  Hoff has the power to make or break stars, and he uses it without discretion.  Charlie wants out.  Tired of Charlie’s career coming before his family, his wife Marion (Lupino) says she will leave him if he re-signs.

But Charlie has a dark secret that would cost him everything if it came out… and Stanley Hoff will tell the world if Charlie doesn’t sign the contract today.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Because of the unflattering look at Hollywood several studios turned down the film.  Director Robert Aldrich’s company made the movie.  After the film’s release Aldrich had trouble getting more directing jobs.  He made a couple of films in Europe before returning to the US.

Many thought that Steiger’s character was a take-off of Harry Cohen (Columbia’s studio head).  Cohen reportedly thought so as well and was offended.  According to director Aldrich, Steiger’s character had characteristics from Cohen as well as other studio heads.  Examples include: crying to get a star to sign (Louis B. Mayer) and wearing a hearing aide (Howard Hughes).

Clifford Odets play The Big Knife ran for over 100 performances, was directed by Lee Strasberg, and starred John Garfield as Charles Castle.  Garfield was scheduled to star, but died before the film was made.  Shelley Winters dedicated her performance to John Garfield.

The Big Knife (1955) rates 4 of 5 stars.

“Training Day” (2001) directed by Antoine Fuqua, screenplay by David Ayer, starring Denzel Washington & Ethan Hawke / Z-View

Training Day (2001)

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Screenplay: David Ayer

Stars: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Tom Berenger, Harris Yulin, Raymond J. Barry, Cliff Curtis, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Macy Gray, Eva Mendes, Nick Chinlund, Jaime Gomez, Raymond Cruz, Noel Gugliemi, Samantha Esteban, David Ayer, Peter Greene and Terry Crews.

Tagline: The only thing more dangerous than the line being crossed, is the cop who will cross it.

The Plot…

It’s L.A. police officer Jake Hoyt’s (Hawke) training day.  Hoyt has been teamed with the highly decorated narcotics Detective Alonzo Harris (Washington).  Hoyt badly wants the promotion.  He’s about to discover that Detective Harris is a cop who will cross any lines to make a bust.  Very quickly Harris makes it clear that is the expectation for Hoyt if he is to get promoted to the team.

Hoyt is hesitant at first, but is slowly seduced by Detective Harris’ reputation, charisma and results. As the shift continues, Hoyt learns something that puts his life at risk.  What do you do when your partner/mentor is worse than the gangbangers you’re after?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Both of Training Days leads were nominated for Academy Awards with one winning…

  • Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role – Denzel Washington (winner)
  • Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role nominee – Ethan Hawke

Ethan Hawke had more screen time than Denzel Washington, yet was nominated for an Academy Award in the Supporting Role category.

Training Day was originally set up to be directed by Davis Guggenheim, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Matt Damon.

Actors reportedly considered for Jake Hoyt included Tobey Maguire, Eminem, Paul Walker, Freddy Prinze Jr., Ryan Phillippe, Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg and Scott Speedman.

Antoine Fuqua filmed in real gang locations. Real gang members from Rollin’ 60 Crips, PJ Watts Crips, and B. P. Stones (a Bloods set) appear on-screen.

The coffee shop where Washington and Hawke first meet has been used in several movies including Se7en, Gone in 60 Seconds, Ghost World, and Catch Me If You Can.

Lights Out (2024) rates 5 of 5 stars.

“Gangnam Zombie” (2023) / Z-View

Gangnam Zombie (2023)

Director: Lee Soo-seong

Screenplay: Choe Seung

Stars: Ji Il-joo, Park Ji-yeon.

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

Young podcasters and shoppers in an upscale mall in Gangnam fight for their lives during a zombie uprising!

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

If I make it through the entire movie, I usually am able to justify a two star rating.  Not this one.

Gangnam Zombie (2023) rates 1 of 5 stars.

“Lights Out” (2024) starring Frank Grillo, Mekhi Phifer, Jaime King & Dermot Mulroney / Z-View

Lights Out (2024)

Director: Christian Sesma

Screenplay: Chad Law, Garry Charles, story by Brandon Burrows

Stars: Frank Grillo, Mekhi Phifer, Jaime King, Dermot Mulroney, Scott Adkins, Amaury Nolasco, Kevin Gage, Jessica Medina and Donald Cerrone .

Tagline: They started the wrong fight.

The Plot…

Michael ‘Duffy’ Duffield (Grillo) is a drifter.  He’s also ex-military who suffers from PTSD.  After observing Duffy take apart several guys in a bar fight, Max Bomer (Phifer) sees easy money in his future.  Bomer tells Duffy about an underground fight circuit where big money is wagered.  Hesitant at first, Duffy agrees.

Soon Duffy and Bomer on the wrong side of gangster, Sage Parker (Mulroney) and the leader of the criminal gang, Detective Ellen Ridway (King).  With criminals and crooked cops after them, what chance do Duffy and Bomer have?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Lights Out is fairly by-the-numbers action, but the cast of Frank Grillo, Mekhi Phifer, Jaime King and Dermot Mulroney add to it’s watchability.

Lights Out (2024) rates 3 of 5 stars.