Category: Z-View

“The Descent” (2005) written & directed by Neil Marshall / Z-View

The Descent (2005)

Director: Neil Marshall

Screenplay:  Neil Marshall

Stars: Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza and Saskia Mulder.

Tagline: Face Your Deepest Fear

The Plot…

A group of six women get together for an annual adventure.  This year they’ve decided to explore unmapped caves in the Appalachian Mountains.  The women quickly find they are, pardon the expression, in over their heads. A narrow passage collapses, one of the women is badly injured… and the group is targeted by creatures living deep within the caves.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Kudos to Neil Marshall for writing and directing this gem.  The film is filled with action, characterization, and scares.  Marshall knows when to give us a brief second to catch our breath before the next danger.  If you’re not claustrophobic or afraid of the dark, you may be after viewing this film.  The creatures are realistic and frightening.

The Descent (2005) rates 4 of 5 stars.

“Razorback” (1984) / Z-View

Razorback (1984)

Director: Russell Mulcahy

Screenplay:  Everett De Roche based on Razorback by Peter Brennan

Stars: Gregory Harrison, Arkie Whiteley

Tagline: No nightmare will prepare you for it…

The Plot…

When his wife is killed covering a story, Carl Winters (Harrison) travels to the Australian outback to find the cause.  Soon Winters is caught up in the hunt for a giant Razorback that has been terrorizing the area for years.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

I had wanted to see Razorback for years because it was directed by Russell Mulcahy.  I’m a huge fan of Mulcahy’s direction of Highlander.  Sadly, Razorback fell waaaay short of my expectations.

Razorback just didn’t resonate with me at all.  I didn’t care much for the characters. The story had several dead spots.  The way the Razorback was killed came off as just plain silly.  Of course your mileage may vary.

Razorback (1984) rates 1 of 5 stars.

“Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” (2004) starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law & Angelina Jolie / Z-View

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

Director: Kerry Conran

Screenplay:  Kerry Conran

Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law,  Angelina Jolie and Giovanni Ribisi.

Tagline: The world will tremble.

The Plot…

The year is 1939.  Ace reporter Polly Perkins (Paltrow) is investigating the disappearance of five prominent scientists.  During a secret meeting with one of her sources the city comes under attack by giant flying robots! Soon Sky Captain arrives to assist with the defense of the city.  Reports come in from around the world of similar attacks.

Polly meets with Sky Captain and convinces him to allow her to assist with his investigation into the source of the robots.  Soon they will be involved in an adventure to save the world!

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Kerry Conran, the writer/director created Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow as a love letter to the comics, films and serials that he grew up loving.  He perfectly captured the feel of these adventures from his youth.  Most of the sets were computer generated using blue screens.

I saw Sky Captain during its initial release and rated it 4 of 5 stars.  I recently rewatched the film and have revised my rating to 3 of 5.  My feeling this time was the film was a little long, but it could be that I knew the story.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) rates 3 of 5 stars.

“Alien: Resurrection” (1997) starring Sigourney Weaver & Winona Ryder / Z-View

Alien: Resurrection (1997)

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Screenplay:  Joss Whedon based on characters created by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett

Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Dominique Pinon, Ron Perlman, Gary Dourdan, Michael Wincott, Kim Flowers, Dan Hedaya, J.E. Freeman, Brad Dourif, Raymond Cruz and Leland Orser.

Tagline: Witness the resurrection.

The Plot…

Over two hundred years have passed since the events of Alien 3.  On a remote space station military scientists are using DNA from Ellen Ripley (Weaver) to create clone hosts for Xenomorphs.  The current clone, Ripley 8 (Weaver), due to the melding with the alien embryos has increased strength, reflexes and acidic blood.

A group of mercenaries arrives at the space station with cargo for the military.  Soon after two adult Xenomorphs escape.  It then becomes a battle for survival as more adult aliens are released throughout the ship!

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

I am a huge fan of Alien Resurrection mainly due to the unique characters and actors playing them.  The mercenary crew could be stars of their own movie(s)!  I would love to see some of their adventures.  The mercenary crew consists of…

  • Annalee Call (Ryder) – the newest member of the team.  She’s hiding a secret that will be revealed.
  • Dom Vriess (Pinion) – the mechanic. He’s a paraplegic with a motorized wheelchair (that also has secrets)!
  • Ron Johner (Perlman) – a battle scarred warrior with a bad attitude and short temper.
  • Gary Christie (Dourdan) – the second-in-command who exudes cool.
  • Frank Elgyn (Wincott) – the leader.  He’s cynical and willing to do questionable things to make a buck, but is committed to his team.
  • Sabra Hillard (Flowers) – the co-pilot of the mercenary ship and Elgyn’s woman.

In addition, we have…

  • General Martin Perez (Hedaya) – the commanding officer of the space station.
  • Dr. Jonathan Gediman (Dourif) – one of the scientists experimenting with the adult aliens.  He should know  better than to poke the bear.
  • Vincent DiStephano (Cruz) – one of the space station soldiers who joins the mercenaries in an effort to survive.
  • Larry Purvis (Orser) – a civilian who joins the mercenaries.  Purvis carries a deadly secret.

There is also a subplot which involves Weaver and Ryder.  For me that takes a backseat to the  the characters — the military, mercenaries and civilians in a battle against the aliens on a spaceship heading towards Earth! There are so many fun scenes –

  • The mercenaries entering the ship under military guard.
  • Johner (Perlman) flirting with Ripley 8 (Weaver) and being put in his place.
  • Johner’s (Perlman) interactions with Dom Vriess (Pinion).
  • Dr. Jonathan Gediman (Dourif) as he realizes the adult aliens have outsmarted him.
  • The long shot of a grenade bouncing down a walkway to drop into an escape pod just as an alien does the same.
  • The underwater escape and the discovery that the aliens are following! Plus Gary Christie (Dourdan) and  Dom Vriess’ (Pinion) solution to Dom being unable to swim!

Many people have complained about Ripley 8’s relationship to the aliens as well as the look of the Xenomorph Queen.  I understand the complaints and would agree that these are the weakest parts of the movie.  Still, the things I love about the film far outweigh these concerns.  Alien Resurrection is one that I have watched and enjoyed multiple times.

Alien: Resurrection (1997) rates 4 of 5 stars.

“Along Came a Spider” starring Morgan Freeman / Z-View

Along Came a Spider (2001)

Director: Lee Tamahori

Screenplay:  Marc Moss based on  Along Came a Spider by James Patterson

Stars: Morgan Freeman, Michael Wincott, Monica Potter, Anton Yelchin, Jay O. Sanders, Michael Moriarty,
Penelope Ann Miller
and Christopher Shyer.

Tagline: A tangled web of danger and deceit…

The Plot…

When a senator’s daughter is kidnapped, the kidnapper contacts retired Detective and author, Alex Cross (Freeman).  The abductor wants to become famous by taunting the police with the hope that Cross will write a book about the case. Not all is as it seems…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Morgan Freeman and a twist ending are the highlights of this one.

Along Came a Spider (2001) rates 3 of 5 stars.

“The Silence of the Lambs” (1991) starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins / Z-View

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Director: Jonathan Demme

Screenplay: Ted Tally based on The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

Stars: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Anthony Heald, Frankie Faison, Don Brockett, Stuart Rudin, Ted Levine, Roger Corman, Charles Napier and Chris Isaac.

Tagline: Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Brilliant. Cunning. Psychotic. In his mind lies the clue to a ruthless killer. – Clarice Starling, FBI. Brilliant. Vulnerable. Alone. She must trust him to stop the killer.

The Plot…

A serial killer the press calls Buffalo Bill is murdering women.  He then skins them and leaves their bodies in water without any clues. The FBI investigation is at a standstill.

Clarice Starling (Foster), an FBI agent still in training, is personally selected to interview Dr. Hannibal Lector (Hopkins).  Lector, known as Hannibal the Cannibal, is a serial killer with a genius IQ. He murdered and ate his victims.  Now held in a maximum security prison for the criminally insane, Lector may be the only one with insight on catching Buffalo Bill.

But can Lector be trusted?  The clock is ticking…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

The Silence of the Lambs is an excellent adaptation of Thomas Harris’ best-selling novel.  It is rightully considered one of the finest movies ever made.

The Silence of the Lambs collected Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director (Jonathan Demme), Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally).

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) rates 5 of 5 stars.

“Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed” (2023) / Z-View

Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed (2023)

Director: Stephen Kijak

Rock Hudson
, Lee Garlington, Armistead Maupin, Piper Laurie, Illeana Douglas and  Linda Evans.

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed explores the double life led by Rock Hudson who was Hollywood’s top leading man for years.  Women desired him and men wanted to be like him.  What the world at large didn’t know: Rock Hudson was gay.  The studios worked to keep his secret and Hudson played along (to an extent). Of course the secret could no longer be hidden once Rock Hudson became the first star to die from AIDS.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

I was surprised about how so many people were aware that Rock Hudson was gay, but the secret never got out to the public. Hudson was promiscuous, didn’t shy away from going to gay bars, parties, etc. but the secret held.

I’m old enough to remember when the “Rock Hudson and Jim Nabors are getting married” rumor went viral.  My mother and her best friend didn’t believe that Rock Hudson was gay… although they wouldn’t be surprised about Jim Nabors.

I also remember the tons of stories about Rock Hudson having AIDS. The rumors are true! Plus the controversary of Hudson kissing Linda Evans in a scene despite knowing he had the virus.

Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed (2023) rates 4 of 5 stars.

“The Celluloid Closet” (1996) / Z-View

The Celluloid Closet (1996)

Director: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman

Screenplay: Vito Russo, Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, Sharon Wood, Armistead Maupin

Stars: Lily Tomlin, Tony Curtis, Armistead Maupin, Whoopi Goldberg, Harvey Fierstein, Gore Vidal, Farley Granger and Shirley MacLaine.

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

The Celluloid Closet explores how the film industry, from the silent era to the mid-1990s dealt with members of the LGBT community on screen and behind the scenes.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

It’s interesting to see how the on screen portrayal of this community has changed (or not) in the last almost 100 years.  I also enjoyed the movie scenes that were so obvious if you knew what to look for, but went over the heads of most folks (including me).

The Celluloid Closet (1996) rates 3 of 5 stars.

“The Lost Boys” (1987) starring Jason Patric & Kiefer Sutherland / Z-View

The Lost Boys (1987)

Director: Joel Schumacher

Screenplay: Janice Fischer, Jeffrey Boam, James Jeremias from a story by Janice Fischer, James Jeremias

Stars: Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Dianne Wiest, Barnard Hughes, Edward Herrmann, Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz, Corey Feldman, Jamison Newlander and Alex Winter.

Tagline: Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire.

The Plot…

Lucy (Wiest) and her two teenage sons, Michael (Patric) and Sam (Haim) move to the small, beachside town of Santa Clara, California.  At night the boys like to hang out at the amusement park/arcade on the beach.  That’s where Michael meets Star (Gertz).  There’s a definite attraction between the two, which only infuriates David (Sutherland), the leader of a small motorcycle gang.  Meanwhile Sam has met two brothers, Edgar (Feldman) and Alan (Newlander) who are convinced Santa Clara is the home of a vampire coven.

They’re not wrong.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

You’d be hard pressed to find a more 80s movie than The Lost Boys.  From the cast to the way the movie is shot, The Lost Boys screams mid-1980s.  This is my favorite Joel Schumacher film.  For a movie that seems to want to be scary, there’s just a bit too much humor for my taste.

The Lost Boys (1987) rates 3 of 5 stars.

“Fiend Without a Face” (1958) / Z-View

Fiend Without a Face (1958)

Director: Arthur Crabtree

Screenplay: Herbert J. Leder

Stars: Marshall Thompson, Terry Kilburn, Michael Balfour, Kim Parker and Peter Madden.

Tagline: New Horrors! Mad Science Spawns Evil Fiends! …Taking form before your horrified eyes!

The Plot…

When locals begin getting murdered around a new US Airforce base, the locals think the military has some involvement.  This prompts Major Cummings (Thompson) to begin an investigation.  As the bodies pile up, evidence points to an unimaginable horror.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

I saw this when I was much younger and didn’t care for it, but on a recent re-watch I enjoyed it much more.

Fiend Without a Face (1958) rates 3 of 5 stars.

“The Rock” (1996) starring Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage & Ed Harris / Z-View

The Rock (1996)

Director: Michael Bay

Screenplay: David Weisberg, Douglas S. Cook, Mark Rosner from a story by David Weisberg, Douglas S. Cook

Stars: Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris, John Spencer, David Morse, William Forsythe, Michael Biehn, Vanessa Marcil, John C. McGinley, Gregory Sporleder, Tony Todd, Bokeem Woodbine, Greg Collins, Brendan Kelly, Steve Harris, Danny Nucci and Claire Forlani.

Tagline: Alcatraz. Only one man has ever broken out. Now five million lives depend on two men breaking in.

The Plot…

Brigadier General Francis Hummel (Harris) and a squad of mercenaries have taken control of Alcatraz Island.  They hold the tourists and tour guides hostage.  Hummel has given the government a timeline to pay $100 million which he will distribute to his mercenaries and the families of soldiers who died under his watch.  If he is not paid he has threatened to launch a VX rocket into San Francisco.

John Patrick Mason (Connery) is the only man to ever escape Alcatraz island.  Mason knows all the passageways and tunnels on the island by heart.  He has been held in solitary confinement for the last 30 years for stealing government secrets.  The military and FBI believe that Mason can covertly lead a US Navy Seal team onto the island.  The Seals will then take down Hummel’s mercenaries. Dr. Stanley Goodspeed (Cage), the FBI’s top chemical weapons expert will disarm the rockets.  Of the many problems with this plan is that Mason may not be interested in helping the country that kept him prisoner for half his life without the benefit of a trial and Goodspeed has no field experience.

The clock is ticking…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

The Rock is Michael Bay’s best film.  Bay uses his signature quick cuts to keep the movie moving.  He is also surrounded by an excellent cast from the leads down.  Standouts include Connery, Cage, Harris, Spencer, Morse, and Biehn.  You’ll see familiar faces (McGinley, Todd, Woodbine) in smaller roles.

The Rock is one of those films where everything comes together to create the perfect movie experience.

The Rock (1996) rates 5 of 5 stars.

“Love to Love You Donna Summer” / Z-View

Love to Love You, Donna Summer (2023)

Director: Brooklyn Sudano, Roger Ross Williams

Stars: Donna Summer, Michael McKean, Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Johnny Carson, Jimmie ‘JJ’ Walker, Quincy Jones, Arsenio Hall, Merv Griffin, Dionne Warwick, Giorgio Moroder, Janis Joplin and Tom Snyder.

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

Explores the life and career of Donna Summer using extensive home video recordings and behind the scenes footage of concerts and television appearances.  Co-Directed by Donna Summer’s daughter Brooklyn Sudano.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

If you only know Donna Summer as the “Queen of Disco” (and she was), you’re missing out on a lot of her story.

Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” is one song that I remember exactly where I was when I first heard it.  I was in Camelot Records (remember those?) and the song came on over the sound system.  It definitely got a reaction.

Love to Love You, Donna Summer (2023) rates 3 of 5 stars.

“The Friends of Eddie Coyle” (1973) starring Robert Mitchum / Z-View

The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)

Director: Peter Yates

Screenplay: Paul Monash based on The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins

Stars: Robert Mitchum, Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, Steven Keats, Alex Rocco, Joe Santos, Mitchell Ryan, Carolyn Pickman, James Tolkan and Jack Kehoe.

Tagline: It’s a grubby, violent, dangerous world. But it’s the only world they know. And they’re the only friends Eddie has.

The Plot…

Eddie Coyle (Mitchum) is a low-level criminal.  He was convicted of a truck hijacking and is waiting sentencing.  In an effort to get his conviction cleared, Coyle is secretly working as an informant for an ATF agent.  At the same time Coyle is dealing guns to a crew of robbers who have knocked off a couple of banks and look to take down more soon.  As the cops close in on the bank robbers, the time draws near for Coyle’s sentencing.  He’s going to have to make some moves to get out clean…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

This is such a great 1970s cast for a crime film.  Great source material as well.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) rates 3 of 5 stars.

“Old Henry” (2021) starring Tim Blake Nelson & Stephen Dorff / Z-View

Old Henry (2021)

Director: Potsy Ponciroli

Screenplay: Potsy Ponciroli

Stars: Tim Blake Nelson, Scott Haze, Gavin Lewis, Trace Adkins, Stephen Dorff, Richard Speight Jr., Max Arciniega, Brad Carter and Kent Shelton.

Tagline: You can’t bury the past.

The Plot…

Henry (Nelson) is a widower raising his teenage son on a remote farm in the west.  One day, on the outskirts of his farm, Henry finds Curry (Haze), a badly wounded man with a satchel of cash. Henry brings Curry back to the farm.  Curry claims to be a Sheriff on the run from the three robbers who stole the cash. Curry says that when the robbers show up they will claim to be Deputies, but they’re not.

Soon three men ride up.  They claim to be officers of the law who have tracked an outlaw to the farm.  They demand that Henry turn the outlaw and bag of cash over to them.

Henry has a decision to make.  No one is as they seem… including Henry.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Old Henry is a complete joy.  It’s a throwback western of the best kind.  I love the twists in the plot and how our allegiances shift as the movie progresses.  The ultimate reveal at the end is unexpected but completely right.

Stephen Dorff is, as always. excellent.  Tim Blake Nelson shines as Old Henry.

Old Henry (2021) rates 5 of 5 stars.

“The Salton Sea” (2002) starring Val Kilmer and Vincent D’Onofrio / Z-View

The Salton Sea (2002)

Director: D.J. Caruso

Screenplay: Tony Gayton

Stars: Val Kilmer, Vincent D’Onofrio, Adam Goldberg, Luis Guzmán, Doug Hutchison, Anthony LaPaglia, Peter Sarsgaard, BD Wong, R. Lee Ermey, Meat Loaf and Danny Trejo.

Tagline: If You’re Looking For The Truth, You’ve Come To The Wrong Place.

The Plot…

Danny Parker (Kilmer) survived a tragic incident and now runs with drug addicts and criminals.  But all is not as it seems.  As the tagline says, “If you’re looking for truth, you’ve come to the wrong place.”

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

When I first watched The Salton Sea, I was almost ready to tap out when Val Kilmer does something (I won’t give it away) that told me, not all is as it seems.  I had gone in to the film cold and wasn’t aware of the tagline or the plot.  I love the twists and reveals throughout The Salton Sea.

D.J. Caruso has assembled a great cast.  The standout though is Vincent D’Onofrio as Pooh-Bear, a noseless, crazy drug dealer.  D’Onofrio, as he is apt to do, owns every scene he’s in.

On my initial viewing of The Salton Sea, I rated it 5 of 5 stars.  I recently rewatched The Salton Sea and it could be because I knew the plot twists/reveals that I dropped the rating to 4 of 5 stars (which is, of course still really good).

The Salton Sea (2002) rates 4 of 5 stars.