This is yet-another inspirational sports movie with a slight fantasy twist, which gives its main character, financially-troubled family man Scott Murphy (Brian Presley), a chance to go back to his high school championship game (when he suffered a career-ending injury) for a re-do. Yeah, lots of the usual questions are raised about what’s truly important in life, making it more difficult for Murphy to decide to take the plunge.
For a movie that essentially went straight to video, “Touchback” isn’t bad, although you’ve likely seen it done better before. In fact, it will definitely remind you of a lot of other movies, such as “It’s Wonderful Life,” “Field of Dreams” and (insert any other ‘inspirational’ football movie title here).
Still, for a movie which offers absolutely no surprises, it’s well-acted, particularly by co-star Kurt Russell, playing Murphy’s old coach. He’s good as usual, though after doing so many sports movies during his career, he can probably perform this role in his sleep.
I don’t know if “Touchback” is worth owning (I doubt I‘d ever watch it more than once), but it’s certainly worth a few hours of your time as a rental.
Special Features: Audio commentary by by Writer/director Don Handfield & Brian Presley; Making of “Touchback” featurette.
Like most horror franchises that take a decent premise and milk it to death, each “Halloween” sequel has gotten progressively worse. “Halloween 5” continues this downward spiral. Continue reading
Part of this may be because, at this point, a lot of the greatest episodes have already shown up in previous boxed sets. Another problem may be that, as a longtime fan of the series, I’d much-rather start collecting sets of entire seasons as opposed to four randomly-assembled episodes, especially since what constitutes a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ episode is so highly subjective.
But without trying to sound too jingoistic, the main reason Volume 24 isn’t as strong is because all four episodes in the collection skewer low budget foreign films (two from Japan, one from Russia, one from Italy). I do not have anything against low budget foreign films per se, but most of them don’t really need the MST3K treatment. Most are funny enough on their own. I always thought, as an American series, MST3K was at its best when attacking movies born from the same culture as its primary audience. Maybe it’s just me, but the MST3K episodes covering foreign films are never as fun.
That being said, this set isn’t without its merits. As usual, there are some funny quips and comments throughout each episode (though fewer and further between). What ultimately makes Volume 24 worth checking out, however, are the bonus features. Included are two shorts, one of which, A Date With Your Family, is arguably the best MST3K short they’ve ever done (and one I’d been longing to have in my DVD collection). For those of you who miss TV’s Frank, an update on his life is included, as well as a feature on Sandy Frank (the guy responsible for importing Fugitive Alien and Fugitive Alien 2, the two Japanese features).
In addition, the Shout! Factory sets are packaged with more creativity and care than the ones Rhino released. I still think all of the MST3K sets are needlessly spread-out over four discs, but at least we get some fun original artwork in the form of faux posters featuring Crow and Tom Servo.
Die hard fans will likely enjoy this set, but I have to think most of them, at this point, would prefer it if Shout! Factory went back to the beginning and started trucking-out full season boxed sets, which would allow Misties to revisit old episodes on their own terms.
Extras include 4 mini posters, 3 MST Hour Wraps, an interview with Sandy Frank, an intro to “Fugitive Alien” by August Rangone, a “Samson Vs. The Vampire Women” TV spot, a featurette titled “Lucha Gringo: K Gordon Murray Meets Santo” and an interview with Frank Conniff in “Life After MST3K: Frank Conniff.”
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This show is yet another example that television animation aimed at kids is better now than it ever was when I was younger. I know a lot of older folks look back at their childhoods and fondly remember the cartoon shows they grew up with. But really, have you watched them lately? They are absolutely awful…condescending and heavy-handed, with piss poor animation and very little real creativity. Thundaar the Barbarian? Muppet Babies? Speed Buggy? Superfriends? Tell me I’m wrong.
Adventure Time, which appears on Cartoon Network, may not always be as laugh-out-loud funny as, say, Regular Show (my vote for the best cartoon since Spongebob Squarepants), but there’s a hell of a lot of imagination at work here. The stories are engaging, the two lead characters (Finn & Jake) are charming and likeable, and the overall art design reflects the work of folks not content to simply crank out childish junk.
And, like the best shows on Nickelodeon, Disney Channel or Cartoon Network, there’s a level of sophisticated, subversive humor in Adventure Time that, while perhaps lost on little kids, has earned the show a deserved cult following.
I am a huge fan of the original Law & Order, as well as the first spin-off Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. It took me awhile to warm up to SVU, but by seasons two and three it grew to become, in my humble opinion, the better of the two shows…edgier, darker and about as unflinching as network TV ever got. And both shows lend themselves perfectly to marathon viewings sessions, making the DVD box sets well-worth the money.
The second spin-off Law & Order: Criminal Intent, while a fine show, simply isn’t as compulsively watchable. It’s well-made, has a terrific cast and good writing, especially in the earlier seasons when Vincent D’Onofrio unleashed his inner-Columbo every single week as Detective Goren. He was always a quirky actor who shined brightest when playing eccentrics, and it’s almost as if the Dick Wolf created Criminal Intent with D’Onofrio in-mind, and it’s the only series in the franchise primarily driven by one character.
This approach is a double-edged sword, though. While Goren is a great character, whose knowledge of even the most mundane facts (I’d hate to play Trivial Pursuit against this guy) plays a huge role in solving cases, he is the only interesting character. Everyone else leaves about as much an impression as Elvis’ back-up band. But part of the appeal of L&O has always been in its ensemble casts, making Criminal Intent an addition to the franchise in name only.
Later seasons, including this one, tried to shake things up by bringing in other characters, lifting the burden of carrying the show from D’Onofrio’s shoulders. Hence, Chris Noth (from the original L&O) returns as detective Logan with a new partner, Megan Wheeler. So some episodes feature these two trying to solve the weekly case instead of Gowen and Eames. The problem is that Logan (although compelling in the original L&O as sort of a hothead), isn’t as interesting anymore. In fact, sometimes it feels like he isn’t the same character. I think it was a mistake to sometimes shift the focus away from Gowen.
Cast notwithstanding, this seventh season boxed set is hit-or-miss. Some episodes knock it out of the park, and are just as riveting as the best of L&O or SVU. Others are simply aren’t all that interesting. For most long-running series, a drop in consistency is to be expected. The first two shows raised the bar so high, and remained great for so long, that I guess it was inevitable that the Law of Diminished Returns would eventually rear its ugly head.
Still, Criminal Intent is a decent show in its own right, and the episodes featuring D’Onofrio are the superior ones in this set. I still think, however, it has little in common with any other series in the franchise.
The man was never responsible for anything resembling art, but he did manage to accidentally churn out a few films which could be considered underground classics. Unlike fellow schlockmeisters of the era, namely William Castle and Samuel Z. Arkoff, Roger Corman never aspired to be anything more than he was…a purveyor of cheap, fun, low-brow entertainment.
But what’s ultimately amazing about Corman is the lengthy list of other actors, writers and directors whom he gave their first shots in the movie business. It reads like a who’s-who of Hollywood big shots: Jack Nicholson, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme, Martin Scorcese, Peter Bogdonovich, Robert DeNiro, John Sayles, Ron Howard, Pam Grier, Joe Dante, Bruce Dern…the list goes on and on, and a good number of them are featured in this loving tribute to the man who allowed them to eventually become household names.
“Corman’s World” is a fast-paced documentary which concisely chronicles Corman’s nearly 50 year career in a mere 90 minutes, featuring dozens interviews and film clips which offer no apologies for what some cinema snobs might deem a dubious career. Corman himself is also interviewed, and shown overseeing his latest production, “Dinoshark,” for the SyFy Channel.
Whether one likes Corman’s brand of cinema schlock, after seeing this fun and informative retrospective, you can’t help being somewhat in awe of what the man has accomplished.
Special Messages to Roger
Of course, we all know it established Gary Oldman as arguably one of the greatest character actors of all time (who else could be totally convincing as Sid Vicious, Lee Harvey Oswald and Commissioner Gordon in just one career?). And, for awhile, it convinced legions that Alex Cox was a new generation filmmaker to be reckoned with, adding a punk aesthetic with which to connect with a younger audience. While Cox’s career sort of fizzled (and really, wasn’t his best film “Repo Man?” I mean, come on!), Oldman is the sole reason to revisit “Sid and Nancy” at this point. I mean, the guy disappears into his roles. Throughout the film, he are totally convinced he is the troubled Sex Pistols’ replacement bassist (that’s right…Sid never appeared on the only proper Sex Pistols’ album).
Yet, at good as Oldman is (as well as co-star Chloe Webb, equally good as Sid’s partner-in-crime/victim Nancy Spungen), “Sid and Nancy” is not the type of film one is likely to find entertaining. We watch in wonder, and sometimes revulsion at the action on the screen, and the movie itself is often an excruciating ordeal. In fact, it may be the rock music version of “Schindler’s List.”
This is one of those films that you may admire, which isn’t the same as saying you enjoyed it.
For the Love of Punk
Sure, Angie Dickenson was hot. Okay, really hot, as displayed in this season two set in a retro sort of way. In addition, her sense of smarts portrayed in this horribly-dated 70’s relic does rank it above the T&A jiggle of later TV dreck like “Charlie’s Angels,” which wouldn’t have existed without this show coming first.
Still, this program is far from classic, and the individual episodes suffer from rote writing and direction. Despite her obvious visual assets, sexy Dickenson alone isn’t enough to lift this potboiler-of-a-program beyond mere nostalgic value to those who may have pined for her before she floored everyone in “Dressed to Kill.”
“Police Woman” is simply further evidence that nearly all of the cop shows that were popular in the 70s have not aged well. Some became retro-cool on cable, or through theatrical remakes, but so far, this isn’t one of them. If you have fond memories of this show, it’s probably because you haven’t sat and actually watched an episode in 30 years.
Rebecca may not be one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most infamous films, but it is arguably one of the more important ones in his long career. It was his first American film, and his work earned him the first of six Oscar nominations for Best Director. He didn’t win, though. In fact, it is still unfathomable that the man many consider to be one of the greatest directors of all time never won an directorial Oscar himself.
The movie itself won the 1940 Best Picture Oscar, the only one of Hitch’s 50+ films to do so. Did it deserve such an award? Arguably not, since both The Philadelphia Story and The Grapes of Wrath, released the same year, were far better pictures. Still, the movie is somewhat of a milestone. Without its critical accolades, who knows if Hitch would have been given the opportunity to helm such later classics as Notorious, north by Northwest, Vertigo or Psycho?
The movie itself isn’t bad at all. In fact, it’s extremely enjoyable and worth multiple viewings, especially for Hitchcock fans. This story of a newlywed woman being haunted by her obsessive husband’s previous wife is a good one, and definitely worthy of the Hitchcock treatment. I just don’t think it ranks right up there with his greatest achievements. Then again, I still champion Rope as his best film, a movie hardly anyone seems to appreciate as much as I do.
Commentary by critic Richard Schickel
Music & effects track
The Gothic World of Daphne Du Maurier
Making of Rebecca