11/23/2014

ORIGINAL BAD NEWS BEARS ARCHIVE INTERVIEWS: PART ONE

Double Hitter Archive Interviews from the classic original THE BAD NEWS BEARS
Poster Art
A guy named Mike was the webmaster of a BAD NEWS BEARS site that is... no longer. Before social networks, this was the place for fans of the original BAD NEWS BEARS franchise to check out interviews, pictures and general information. The site covered all three films also including BREAKING TRAINING and GO TO JAPAN.

We have teamed up with Mike to resurrect his interviews in two parts, beginning with the first movie, THE BAD NEWS BEARS, the best kid sports movie ever made. And with a beer guzzling Walter Matthau reluctantly coaching foul-mouthed misfits led by a chain-smoking Jackie Earle Haley, the film is equally geared for grownups.

Further down is an interview with the first Engleberg, Gary Lee Cavagnaro, but we'll start with Mike's interview with David Pollock, who, before Tatum O'Neal's Amanda took over as the strongarm ringer, was the nervous left-handed pitcher for the team, Rudi Stein... And David, unlike Gary, also appeared in, and shares about, both sequels.

MIKE'S INTERVIEW WITH DAVID POLLOCK ("RUDI STEIN")

David Pollock
What were some of your best memories from shooting the Bears movies? Some of your worst?

As Rudi Stein
Fortunately, most my memories of the movie are good ones. Just being around the set each day was a joy.

I remember arriving the first day of filming at 6 a.m. because I didn't want to miss anything. There was a constant parade of celebrity guests on the set. Ryan O'Neal was there frequently visiting Tatum. Burt Lancaster stopped by to see how his son's script was coming to  life. Jack Lemmon stopped by to visit Walter and took some of the boys down  to the Baskin Robbins at Devonshire and Mason (it's still there) for ice scream. Steve Garvey came by one day to meet us. Bill Bixby came to rehearsals one day to visit Brandon Cruz who starred with him in the Courtship of Eddie's Father series.

Third Bears Movie
One morning while we were filming in Japan, a group of us got on the elevator in Hotel Okura and found ourselves face-to-face with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. We had a short, polite conversation. It turned out later this was their "lost" period, but we knew where they were!

When Breaking Training came out in 1977, we all went on a publicity tour. We started in New York City by signing autographs at Macy's then playing  softball in Central Park with the Broadway cast of Annie. Jackie Haley and I snuck away one night to see a new movie called the Rocky Horror Picture Show playing in Greenwich Village. We all then split up and went in small groups to different cities.

Probably my worst memory is the filming of the Japan movie. It was no surprise to us that the movie didn't turn out well. It was not a happy set. I think most of us were actually working under an option that included a fourth movie where we were to go to Cuba. After Japan, though, Paramount wisely decided to leave it at that.

Rudi Stein on Poster
Why did some of the members not appear in The Bad News Bears go to Japan?

By the third movie, there were only five of us left from the original movie and Jeff Starr from the second movie. We were never told why some of us made it and others didn't.  Sometimes it just had to do with the way the script was written. That's the reason Scott Firestone was given for not being in Breaking Training (he was crushed).

It was my understanding that Chris  Barnes' family had become increasingly uncomfortable with the profanity and behavior represented in the movies and were pressing for rights that Michael  Ritchie wasn't prepared to extend.

I haven't talked to Chris since Breaking Training so I can't say for sure what the issues were. I did miss working with him on the Japan movie, but that definitely was the one to miss.

Quinn Smith, Alfred Lutter and Jaime Escobedo also were missing from the Japan movie for reasons unknown to me. I saw Alfred and Jaime at the photo session for TV Guide, but that issue never came up. We were having too much fun talking about our good memories.

A unique team sponsor
Did any of the members of the Bears become friends and hang out during the shoot? After the shoot?

I actually ended up living with Brett Marx and his family for over a year after Breaking Training.

I have also heard stories of the other guys getting together in smaller groups years afterward, but I was off busy raising my family. The TV Guide shoot was the first time in 24 years that I had seen Erin, Alfred, Scott, and Jaime.

What was a typical day like on the set of the 1st movie? The 2nd movie?

A typical day for any movie is waiting for long periods of time between scenes while shots are being set up. And then you aren't in all the shots, so there is plenty of socializing time. During the school year, we were required to have four hours of supervised study each day. We actually had set teachers to make sure of this.

Walter Matthau
Did you or any of the Bears attend Walter Matthau's funeral?

I saw Walter at a restaurant around 1992 and he not only remembered me but rattled off the names of most of the boys in the movie. I know that George Gonzales in particular stayed close to Walter over the years. His funeral was a private affair and I don't know if any of us were there. I wasn't.

How much of the movie was scripted and how much input did any of you have on your lines?

We stayed very true to the script, but the script kept being rewritten as we filmed. By the end of each movie, our scripts looked like a rainbow from the side with all the different colored revision pages. During the scene where Amanda takes over as pitcher I thought it would be funny for Rudi to say "But I can pitch!" Michael Ritchie was not amused by my creativity (and that didn't make it into the movie).

A colorful Rudi Stein
The Rudi Card
What was school like for you when Bears were the hot movies? 

I was in my freshman year at Montclair High School after the first movie came out. I heard later that I was more of a celebrity than I knew at the time. What I did remember was that I had some really choice roles in our school plays that year. By the time I was in my Sophomore year at Beverly Hills High, I was pretty much nobody and couldn't even get on the stage crew. I felt totally lost and my grades went into the tank. In fact, the school refused to renew my work permit and I almost didn't get to go to Japan.

I actually had to take the high school proficiency exam and graduate early to honor my contract with Paramount. The irony is that today I am friends with the superintendent of Beverly Hills Unified School District, but I  haven't even told her that story.

2nd Place Champs
Were there any scenes that were shot for the movies that didn't make it to the film?

We actually filmed an alternate ending to the original movies in which the Bears won the championship. The fear was that audiences might be upset with the ending, so they wanted to have an alternate just in case. As it turns out, that wasn't necessary. I can't imagine it ending that way now.

What was your favorite of the 3 movies and why?

My favorite was clearly the first movie. The script by Bill Lancaster was a  classic. I remember reading it cover to cover in one sitting. It read like a novel. And the interaction of the group of us was pretty amazing. We were able to capture some of that magic again in the second movie, but it was  totally lost by the time we arrived in Japan.

What are your thoughts on the TV show? Did any of the movie 'Bears' ever mention it?

We never discussed the TV series and none of us participated in it (that I know of). By the third movie, I was shaving real close in the morning trying to play a 12-year-old at 16.

Tanner Boyle rides the fence
Do you ever see any of the members of the Bears? Do you remain friendly with any of them?

We haven't stayed as close as I would have hoped. We all went on to lead our different lives with only sporadic contact in between.  It was great seeing Erin, Scott, Alfred and Jaime for the TV Guide shoot. We actually missed George because they took his picture the next day and cropped him into the group shot.

David & Chris
What happened to Chris Barnes?

From the information I have received from informed sources, he doesn't want to talk about the movies or his time there.

Was this always the case? Do you have any memories about Chris that you'd like to share?

I haven't spoken to Chris, so I can't really provide any insight here. My understanding is that he felt stereotyped by the Tanner Boyle role and purposely distanced himself from it. Scott Firestone has stayed in touch with him. I'll see if I can get him to answer this question.

Was there any tension between any of the cast members?

If there was, I was oblivious to it. We were pretty happy campers. Things were tense in Japan, but that had more to do with the adults involved, not us.
Tatum O'Neal as Amanda

Did any of the Bears have a crush on Tatum? DETAILS!!

I wasn't really close to Tatum, but I did hear that some of the other guys were invited over to her house once during the movie. You'll have to get them to divulge any details.

What were the auditions like for the Bears? Did you audition for Rudi, or was it a general type of reading before the kids were casted ? Were any notable actors at the time turned away for roles?

What I remember wasn't a reading, it was actually a baseball game on the backlot of Paramount Studios. They were looking for a zit-faced kid with glasses that couldn't pitch. I was a natural! I don't know of any notable actors being turned away.

Do you remember any bloopers that stand out in your mind for one reason or another?

When we met for the TV Guide shoot, we discussed how it was so difficult for Walter to get through the scene with me when he asked me to go get hit by the ball. He kept cracking up because of the looks I was giving him and we had to keep retaking the scene.

One time when I was pitching the ball, it was hit back and struck me in the ankle. I grabbed my ankle and hopped around on one foot. That wasn't planned but it made it into the movie.

Second Bears Flick
In Breaking Training, how did the people get into the stands? Was it rented and everyone was an extra or was it during a game?

Actually, we had the Astrodome to ourselves for a full week. Between scenes we would explore the tunnels and backrooms of the place. It was pretty amazing. We actually put an ad in the paper for extras when we needed large crowd shots.

BREAKING credit sequence
As I recall, we needed about 1,000 extras one day and had 3,000 people show up. When we started turning people away, there was a mini-riot outside that require police intervention. There were some tense moments inside the dome while all this was going on around us.

Was Jackie Earle Haley really old enough to drive the van? What happened to the van after the movie?

I believe Jackie had just turned 16 when we were filming Breaking Training. He actually was driving the van, but a studio driver was always hunched down beside him just in case. There were actually two identical vans. I don't know what happened to them. I haven't seen them on eBay yet!

Did they let you guys keep the uniforms? If so, do you still have them?

I still have parts of my uniform, but for the life of me I don't know what happened to the jersey. I don't know if we were actually "allowed" to keep the uniforms. Some of us just ended up with them. The wardrobe department always had more than one set of everything.

Poolside Martini Mixer
Did you realize when you were shooting the Bears that it was going to be such a success?

I had absolutly no idea. I don't know that anyone could have predicted. It was a very modest production even by the standards back then. I think it cost around $3 million to make the first movie. It pulled in over $50 million in its first run in theaters during the summer of 1976.

Why was the role of Mike Engleberg played by Jeffrey Louis Starr in the second film and not Gary Lee Cavagnaro?

That's a good question. I never got a good answer to that.

How has your role in the Bad News Bears affected you in your life as David Pollock?

I think it has been more of a novelty than anything else. There are people I have known for many years that never had any idea I was in the movie. But it is extremely rare that someone finds out and doesn't know about the movie. I remember someone in the mailroom where I work reciting Rudi Stein lines to me that I had even forgotten. 

Given a painful order, again
What do you think you took away from the Bears experience that you will most cherish?

What I cherish the most is having been part of something that has contributed to American cultural history. It is something I will always be proud of. Even though we don't see much of each other, I know that the cast members share a special bond that will last all our lives.

Comparing the Bears to other kid's sport comedy-dramas what do you think the Bears legacy will be and what is its place in film history?

The legacy is showing kids as they really are and how their lives can fall prey to the egos of the adults around them. It had been copied since (the Mighty Ducks come to mind for some strange reason) but never replicated.

Recent Pollock
If you could say one thing to the fans of the Bad News Bears after all of these years, what would it be?

Thank you for appreciating what we were portraying in the movie. There was a moral in the story that struck home for many people. I think youth sports today are more inclusive and about more than just winning.

Any last thoughts that you'd like to share that might interest Bears fans?

I'll offer this bit of trivia: In the original script, my character was Lefty Stein. During rehersals I pointed out to Michael Ritchie that I was actually right-handed and pitched bad enough with that arm. Walter Matthau  actually came up with the name Rudi and it stuck.

MIKE'S INTERVIEW WITH GARY LEE CAVAGNARO ("ENGLEBERG")

Gary Lee Cavagnaro
What were some of your best memories from shooting the Bears movie?

Obviously the best memories revolve around the wonderful people. Lunch with Walter and Jack Lemon was a highpoint as was Michael Ritchie coming to work one morning wearing a Gary Lee Cavagnaro Fan Club Shirt.

My Birthday they dressed me up to do the scene behind the plate with Walter where I pick up the ball in a huff and fling it into his car windshield by accident. When I turned to throw the ball, they (Michael, Stanley Jaffe and John Alonzo) threw pies in my face.

Original Engleberg
How did you get the role of Engleberg and what time frame (year, month) were the auditions and the shooting of the film?

I attended a "Cattle Call" at the Kim Dawson Agency that was advertised on the radio. As they were filming Logan's Run in Dallas that summer, everyone assumed the auditions were for that film. I was called back two days later to meet Michael and Stanley and was told they would be in touch.

A week later, while my family was on vacation in Austin, we got a call on a Friday night saying that I should be in LA the next Monday. We rehearsed for a week and then started filming.

Brett Marx, Gary Lee Cavagnaro & David Pollock
Did any of the members of the Bears become friends and hang out during the shoot?

Sure, I spent the night with Brett several times. David S. and his family stayed in the same apartment complex as we did and Chris Barnes and his brothers were always spending the night with David or I.

What was a typical day like on the set of the movie? 

Long... 8-10 hours at the field or in the trailer (school) with our teacher. It was a big movie production and between Tatum and her dad and Water and his friends, there were always lots of Stars around.

Why did you appear in the first movie and not the others? Did you have a contract for the others? Do you regret not being a part of the Breaking Training and BNB In Japan movies? 

To make a long story short, I lost 50 lbs. and grew 8". They asked me to come back for B.T., but they would not write my weight loss into the script. They wanted me to gain all the weight back and I said no thanks. While I'm sorry I didn't get to see the guys, I am happy that I had the opportunity to do the original. 

Jackie Earle Haley
Did you spend any time with Jackie Earle Haley or Tatum? Were they seen as different from the other kids because they were more of the stars? 

Sure, we all spent time together. In fact, I did a commercial for the movie "Bingo Long Traveling All Stars and Motor Kings" with Jackie about a year after our movie came out. Tatum was a little standoffish early on, but that didn't last more than a few days. 

We were all just a bunch playing make believe. We all fit into that mold and Walter and Vic and the other adults did us all a favor by treating us as kids, not little adults.

Jeffrey Louis Starr
What are your thoughts on how Jeffrey Louis Starr played Engleberg in the sequels? Would you have done anything differently? 

I really have no thoughts on the subject. I am sure he played it the way they asked him to. Unfortunately for him, I don't believe the scripts or casts of the two later movies were nearly as strong as the Original. 

Did you do any other movies/TV shows after the appearance in the Bad News Bears? Do people now recognize you from the films? 

Yes, I did a movie called Drive-In immediately after BNB, and another called Crises at Central High a few years later. I did several commercials as well, but as I got older, I became involved with sports and really had no time for acting. 

I actually had a part offered to me for Jaws 2 that I turned down because it was in the middle of football season. After that, the Agents quit getting calls.

Chris Tanner & Walter Matthau
What was your favorite of the 3 Bears movies and why?  

The Original… Best Script, best cast and a fresh idea.

What was/is your relationship with Chris Barnes (Tanner Boyle)? Do you know of any reason why he prefers not to talk about his time as one of the Bears?

Chris was my best friend during the filming. In fact, he came to Dallas and stayed with me for 7-10 days after the release of the movie. We went to see it together and everyone in the theater recognized us. After a while, we just lost contact with each other. 

In upstate NY a couple of years ago I was told by a friend that Chris went to prep school in that area. I really don't know why he has chosen to take the path he has regarding talking to people, but I'm sure he has a good reason. If he ever reads this, I hope he will contact me and let me know where he is.

Do you ever see any of the members of the Bears? Do you remain friendly with any of them? 

No, I haven't seen anyone in a long time. I think Scott's visit about 15 years ago was the last time I saw anyone. I have spoken to David P. and David S. recently. I like to think we all remain friends.

"...And now a Girl?"
Do you remember any bloopers that stand out in your mind for one reason or another? 

Tatum had a heck of a time with her line "let him go Buttermaker, I'll chew his ears off and spit them back in is face.” If you listen to the movie, you will hear she never did get it right. 

The funniest blooper actually made it into the movie. When Ahmad gets hit in the groin with a baseball and Vic says get a stretcher, you can here someone, I think it was Chris, say "a stretcher for his balls?"

What are your thoughts on the TV show? Did any of the movie 'Bears' ever mention it? 

Horrible! No, we never discussed it with each other. It was a cute movie, maybe two, but not three and certainly not enough material for a TV Show.

A toast to the Bears
If you could do the movie over and were in charge, would the Bears win the championship in the end? 

NO WAY! I realy don't believe that the movie would have been remembered at all if we had won. I was at the world premiere with Michael at the USA Film Festival at SMU.

I sat there and watched the film and everyone saw it building toward the ending of us winning. When we lost, you could feel the stunned silence of the crowd. When Lupus made his speech people actually cheered. 

No, the ending is what made the movie. It was real world. It said that no matter how hard you work, sometimes you come up short. And it said that that was ok too.

Break between Practice
What do you think you took away from the Bears experience that you will most cherish? 

The experience was unbelievable. The people I met were wonderful. But, what I think about is that I had the opportunity to leave behind a legacy for my family. I watch the show with my kids, and someday they will watch it with their children and grand children.

Like my kids, it will live after I am long gone. It is quite something when you think about it and I am honored to have had the opportunity.

Comparing the Bears to other kid's sports films, what do you think the Bears legacy will be and what is its place in film history?

The Mighty Ducks, Major League, Sand Lot and all of the other sports movies dealing with a bunch of misfits coming together and achieving things that they, nor anyone else thought they could, all owe something to BNB. It was the first, an original. I believe it will be a classic forever.

If you could say one thing to the fans of the Bad News Bears after all of these years, what would it be? 

Thank you for your support of the Movie(s). It is the fans who have kept the film alive and not sitting on a shelf in Paramount Studios collecting dust.

Engleberg snacks out
Has there been any recent talk about a Bears reunion? Would you do it? 

I travel quite a bit and have spoken to David P. about some of us getting together when I am in the L.A. area. There never seems to be enough time though. I would love to get together with everyone and our families.

How has your role in the Bad news Bears affected you in your life as Gary? 

The most immediate effect was that it was during the filming that a doctor told me what was going to happen to me if I didn't lose weight. I did and have never looked back. It certainly has been a door opener for me when people learn of my past, though I must say, I prefer not to discuss it unless someone asks me about my experience. It helped me with my confidence and self-esteem and, like I said earlier along with my children, it assures me that I will leave some sort of legacy when I am gone.

Vic Morrow, Joyce Van Patten & WM
Any last thoughts that you'd like to share that might interest Bears fans?

Everyone talks about the way we were able to "act". The reality was, we were a bunch of kids who were told "pretend that your parents are not there and act like you would normally under that circumstance.”

We were all just being ourselves.You weren't watching Tanner and Engleberg and Toby and Reggie. It was Chris, Gary, David and Scott.

I can't say enough good things about the Adults on the set. Walter was, next to my own father, the finest man I ever knew. He was kind, tolerant, funny and just a genuine good guy.

Vic Morrow was the same. I was horribly upset when he died in the accident on the set of TWILIGHT ZONE. He was a fine man and really deserves a lot of credit for the way he dealt with a bunch of loud kids one summer in the San Fernando Valley.

I have gone back to the field we filmed at several times. It's still there, although the fence has been taken down now and the vacant farm land on two sides is now filled with Zero Lot line homes. Occasionally, when I go, I'll get out and walk the field. If I listen closely, I can almost here the chant "a busted bat and a long fly ball... and any day now Derocher will call.”

Thank you for the chance to let people know about my wonderful summer of 1975!
Original Interviews by Mike, former webmaster of the Bad News Bears site
Editing, Photos & Overall Presentation by James M. Tate

11/21/2014

REVIEW OF THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1

year: 2014 rating: ***1/2
Once again, Woody Harrelson receives most of the giggles, but it was nice hearing the late Philip Seymour Hoffman get the first real laugh…

When Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen erupts with angry passion about her captive soulmate, Peeta... who spends most of the film being filmed far away from the underground compound where the rebellion resides... Hoffman’s Plutarch Heavensbee points at Katniss and shouts something like “That’s it” with genuine heartfelt emotion: for now they’ve found the perfect commercial girl for propaganda…

Propos, for short, are broadcasts to inform districts that still aren't aware of President Snow’s villainy, thus catapulting the masses into hopeful revolution. To explain the backstory would be a waste of time: if you haven’t seen THE HUNGER GAMES or CATCHING FIRE, maybe you should. And despite being a means to an end, this is the most fulfilling episode for a reason...

A posthumous Hoffman
From covert operations to code breaking to air raids to city ruins to dams being blown to bits, MOCKINGJAY PART 1 is a bonafide 100% good old fashion war movie. Taking a while to get rolling, the pace is intentionally slow until, as Katniss finds true motivation in battle, the action scenes occur but never without reason. 

Winning an Oscar isn’t the only proof of Jennifer Lawrence’s talent as an actress... The fact she pulls off being a terrible one during the first of several propos auditions is something that takes an experienced performer to achieve… Check out an intentionally monotone Julianne Moore in one BOOGIE NIGHTS scene and you’ll get the idea...

Speaking of whom, Moore is cast as the underground leader bringing the eclectic lot together. And the only real downer is exactly what the teenage target audience needs most… Romance!

During weepy moments where Katniss has second thoughts while brooding over Peeta, grownup viewers may wish they’d leave Romeo and Juliet for the last (upcoming) installment... Which, gladly enough, is the case here... And not without a strange last-minute twist that could blast PART 2 into melodrama overdrive. But that's another bridge to cross. Let's hope it doesn't go too far!

11/19/2014

LEFTOVER REVIEWS: BIG HERO 6, BEYOND THE LIGHTS & ROSEWATER

year: 2014 rating: ***
BIG HERO 6: It’s about time to be annoyed with TJ Miller… Even more limited than Owen Wilson in the surfer drawl persona, he lethargically voices an annoying character piggybacking onto an otherwise exciting plotline that could have done far better without him…

The setup is extremely intelligent, perhaps too much for the target audience… A young reluctant genius has created a magnet style substance that attracts a lot of smaller pieces building into the host within seconds... or something. 

Unlike many animated features, the main villain isn’t predictable. During a convention of teen scientists you might have another culprit in mind. By the time the real heavy rears his formidable and downright spooky head – a demonic looking kabuki masked monstrosity that grows from the kid’s invention – it’s time for the real hero, an inflatable medical robot with morals and an endearing inclination against violence, to take the reigns, where, sadly, BH6 winds up a standard ensemble with a gang of souped-up hipsters… including the aforementioned Miller… dumbing down an epic INCREDIBLES potential: had there been more structure and way less distractions, this Pretty Good could have been Really Great. 

year: 2014 rating: **
BEYOND THE LIGHTS: In THE BODYGUARD, a romantic thriller originally planned for power couple Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw, it made a lot more sense when, years later, real life singer Whitney Houston, with musical talent and fame already built-in, was protected by everyman Kevin Costner. And now we have another BODYGUARD... this one not so ambitious.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Noni is a music star yet we only see proof during an awards ceremony – she’s part of a lusty video that seems more of a parody than the real thing…

And later that night, on the drunken verge of leaping from a hotel patio, she's protected by a muscular cop… Like Leo to Kate in TITANIC, Nate Parker's Kaz, with an even duller persona than our melancholy starlet, saves the day. In Tom Hanks’ LARRY CROWNE, supporting actress Mbatha-Raw had more spirited energy than anyone else on board. Now, in a leading role, she's merely sleepwalking.

The romance between famous singer and down-to-earth cop, with Obama inspired dreams on becoming a politician with fatherly advice from Danny Glover, lacks genuine passion. And Noni and her pushy stage mom's bickering means little compared to the love story mainline – yet even a “chick flick” audience might be disappointed since neither character has very much to lose. 

2014 rating: ***
ROSEWATER: First time director Jon Stewart creates an idealistic setting in Iran where, according to a group of young men hoping for change during the 2009 election, their once great country can be great again… And they unrealistically speak English, which shouldn’t be held against any Americanized Foreign-based film: it happens all the time.

THE DAILY SHOW host is also the writer, adapting a true story of journalist Maziar Bahari, a Canadian/Iranian visiting his mother in Iran while covering the election.  

Half the movie, as Bahari records the turbulent fallout, is fitfully edgy and suspenseful. Then Bahari, accused of being a spy and thrown into prison, is inflicted with strange mental torture from an antagonistic captor who winds up the supporting role: morphing from pseudo documentary to murky stage play.

Between hectic interrogations, Bahari hallucinates his dead father and sister, two revolutionaries jailed in the past, providing more flesh to a somewhat bland lead role. Ironically enough, it’s when Stewart injects his signature dry wit that most of the tension is lost, blunting sporadic scenes of harsh physical torture. Yet for the most part, Jon makes solitary confinement an interesting place… for a little while.

11/16/2014

RICK SPRINGFIELD, CYLON RAIDERS & THE LATE GLEN A. LARSON

Created by Glen A. Larson
Before Rick Springfield coveted Jessie’s Girl, his character Zac, along with Richard Hatch as Captain Apollo, ran into some really bad interstellar luck… 

Rick and Dick
Apollo and his little brother were on a routine patrol when a fleet of Cylon Raiders, breaking a peace treaty that would end a thousand yearlong war, attacked from behind a docking station…

Zac's tragic death began a series both groundbreaking and unoriginal: The latter because the dogfights in space resembled the previous year’s blockbuster STAR WARS, and the broken ground was all its own – halfway through the first and only season, the formidable Cylons were too expensive to film: as stories became less centered on glorious battles, the initially popular show was falling through the cracks… Even some faithful hardcore fans were losing interest. 

A blasting Cylon
But the three-part pilot episode is something to marvel. Actually, it’s a two-hour plus movie later broken into a pilot. The main difference being the human traitor Baltar gets beheaded in one, and is spared for the watered-down TV epic titled SAGA OF A STAR WORLD.

For a generation of young outer space junkies needing a fix between STAR WARS and what would soon be THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, Glen A. Larson (who recently passed away) created a series centering on the titular Battlestar Galactica, a sole vessel after a Pearl Harbor style surprise attack destroys every other Battlestar in the vast fleet. Commander Adama, played by BONANZA patriarch Lorne Green, was the only veteran warrior who didn’t trust the Cylons. After which his mission is to seek out a distant planet known as Earth (let's forget GALACTICA 1980, a different show entirely)! 

Lt. Starbuck
STAR WARS similarities didn’t end with special effects. In the Han Solo role is Dirk Benedict as Lt. Starbuck, a cocky, gambling womanizer who's also a hotshot pilot. Flaky and unreliable on “the ground”, he’s ultra dependable during any Viper Vs Raider dogfight. His partner-in-crime, Boomer, provides a bridge between Starbuck and the polar opposite Apollo, our very own Luke Skywalker but with more experience and responsibility up front.

Captain Appolo & Friend
“Why do the girls always go for the bad guy or the naughty guy?” Richard Hatch griped in a Cult Film Freak Interview. “I think writers love to write for deliciously bad characters or flawed characters, and when a character is kind of the, you know, good guy, they’re not as interested." But every main player was flanked by a sidekick: Adama had an ultra-serious Commander Tigh while Starbuck's two lovely ladies had each other to compete with. 

The BATTLESTAR GALACTICA movie, unlike some of the less daring latter episodes, catapulted a firestorm of laserblasting battles, suspenseful intrigue, a dash of romance, pulpy banter and best of all, geek-lusted hotties like Jane Seymour and Maren Jensen, and is highly recommended for even those who prefer the progressed 2004 reboot series, which, during its popular four-season run, served up a hotbed of political intrigue and steamy serialized melodrama, way more modern and realistic than the 70's science-fantasy that yours truly appreciates, and prefers.

But let’s all say thanks to Glen A. Larson: for fans of either the old or new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, if it weren’t for him, there’d be nothing but empty space!
REST IN PEACE GLEN A. LARSON 1937-2014

11/15/2014

ROGER CORMAN WOMEN IN PRISON EXPLOITATION THREESOME

1971 ***1/2
BIG DOLL HOUSE: This is the first Roger Corman produced/Jack Hill written and directed women-in-prison venture shot in the Philippines, and it's pretty great stuff. Although beware to all Pam Grier fanatics, she's not the main star... but as a bullying rogue within a cramped cell of sexy vixens including Judy Brown (the new girl), Roberta Collins (the tough girl) and Brooke Mills (the addict), she holds her own just fine.

It's survival of the fittest: including mud wrestling, shower massages, torture racks, and chicks wielding big machine guns. Sid Haig, as a con-man who ultimately helps the girls plan their escape, adds to a somewhat bizarre canvas that, at times, is a little too weird for its own good yet remains a groundbreaking classic: All about those gorgeous sweaty babes and their eclectic personalities clashing inside, and then fighting outside, the hot caged hell they eventually must escape from.

1971 ***1/2
WOMEN IN CAGES: Not directed by Jack Hill but once again produced by Roger Corman and starring Judy Brown, Roberta Collins and Pam Grier returning from the BIG DOLL HOUSE to an even more gritty, cut-throat and slickly energetic women-in-prison flick, shedding some of the comedy and subplots of the wonderfully bizarre Jack Hill original which, though groundbreaking, is sometimes hindered by peripheral distractions.

Jennifer Gan, set up by her mobster boyfriend and thrown into a cutthroat Philippians prison, is up against the other sexy convicts, one hired to kill her... but her main rival is Pam Grier, brilliantly cast as the sadistic head guard and given more free reign here. Roberta Collins is her usual tough self while Judy Brown, the passive newbie in DOLL HOUSE, plays the experienced leader in this lean, mean exploitation experience where gorgeous girls are locked up and fight to get out alive.

1973 ***1/2
THE BIG BIRD CAGE: Jack Hill, who began the exploitation women-in-prison (shot in the Philippines) era with BIG DOLL HOUSE, after many other directors jumped on the band wagon, made a comedy-adventure using stock actors Pam Grier and Sig Haig as revolutionaries breaking into a work camp: to flee female convicts for their cause.

The prison itself consists of a few huts and one giant outdoor bamboo sugar mill, which includes a human-powered slave wheel. This contraption, designed by Jack Hill's father, is primal and, in its own right, formidable. And two leads are terrific, both together and apart; especially Haig, hilariously feigning gay to "seduce" a chunky guard (Vic Diaz) while the exterior locations are amazing, especially the rice paddies built within hillsides (and the mountains where the cast had to hike to their daily shoots). Meanwhile, the women in the prison itself are an eclectic lot of beautiful vixens, providing the essential though somewhat superfluous base on this unique take on the genre, distinguishing THE BIG BIRD CAGE from any other women in prison flick, most likely Jack Hill's intention.

1997 **1/2
FUGITIVE RAGE: Having absolutely nothing to do with the above Roger Cormen women in prison flicks, we'll throw this in for bad measure: And if corny dialogue were cheese, this straight-to-video doozy is a mouse with stomach cancer. But it's still fun watching tough girl Wendy Schumacher kick tons of ass.

Put in stir for shooting a mob boss in a courtroom, but not killing him. Right off the bat, she has a kung fu battle with Calista Carradine (David's daughter, witnessed by other inmates including personal friend and KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE dancer Donna Gordon). She's then sent to a suburban safe house, where she bonds, then has sex with, a fed who looks straight out of central casting. While the hammy main villain, recooping from the gun shot, awaits closure in his mansion along with the only known actor, Ross Hagan as his bodyguard who, it turns out, is more in charge than anyone realized. This leads to a nifty shootout as our heroine, rescuing her kidnapped prison friend, takes down everyone in her path: Dumb fun, and lots of both.
CLICK THE HOTTIES TO BUY THE WOMEN IN CAGES CORMAN COLLECTION

11/14/2014

JIM CARREY & JEFF DANIELS IN DUMB AND DUMBER TO

year: 2014 rating: **1/2
Must a comedy be extremely funny to be worthwhile? If not, then DUMB AND DUMBER TO could have something going for it after all.

Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are back as Lloyd and Harry, and one looks a lot older… The other has a tougher time contorting into any wacky position like the good young days. And that forces the Farrelly Brothers to make up for lost time with a creative story. 

As already covered in the trailers, Carrey’s Lloyd, hospitalized for the last two decades, has played a super long joke on Harry...

A strange way to begin a sequel, and yet, if one of the boys weren’t "comatose," too much would have happened in the meantime to not make their second journey seem like a smooth continuation from the original: a road movie with everything thrown into the pot...

And this mild adventure begins with a tease of yet another highway trip where anything is possible, but the duo only make it far enough to serve the basic plot: Harry has a bad liver and needs to get a transplant, and his estranged daughter, adopted by a brilliant scientist with a nefarious trophy wife, is about to give a speech to save mankind and… well… perhaps it's not so simple!

McGuffin plot devices don't really matter since the potential humor relies on Lloyd and Harry being dumber than their surroundings, and still coming out ahead. So putting them inside a convention of young rocket scientists makes perfect sense… Although, throughout the breezy hit-and-miss romp, there's nothing to LOL at this time around, but (start from beginning)

11/11/2014

GOTTA BRAND NEW BAGFUL OF ARCHIVE BLAXPLOITATION

1973 ***1/2
BLACK CAESAR: Begins much like GOODFELLAS would years later: showing a shoeshine errand boy working for the mob... Then as Tommy Gibbs grows up, becoming Fred Williamson, his rep excels from hit man to head honcho in flowing style and motion, thanks to writer/director Larry Cohen who, as usual, needs little money for big effect.

But it's halfway through, after a relative's sudden death, that the film snags with melodramatic repose, somewhat reviving itself when Gibbs, wounded, goes after his lifelong enemy: not an easy task for our surprisingly vulnerable hero played by Williamson, whose performance excels his usual tough guy womanizing bravado, especially during an intense reunion with his estranged father. And last but not least, James Brown's soulful soundtrack is like a character in itself.

1974 ***
WILLIE DYNAMITE: Beyond the funky storytelling theme song, filling us in on the pimp who has everything: girls, money, fancy clothes, a great ride, and lots of bread... there's a deep film about real people: one a pimp named Willie Dynamite, the other a social worker, and former prostitute, Cora (the late Diana Sands), trying to save Willie's main girl.

It's not until the very end that Cora's stubborn drive and ultimate goal, which felt melodramatic and overdone during most of the picture, becomes completely clear. Although it's a bit confusing as to why everyone else, including cops and fellow pimps, strive so hard for Willie's downfall. Ironically enough, with a movie with such a gloriously vivid title, it's this man's possible redemption that matters more than those shiny threads.

1975 **1/2
BUCKTOWN: Fred Williamson visits a small town to bury his brother and sell off his dive bar. Turns out brother didn't die naturally, and Bucktown's run by a gaggle of racist white cops... are there any other kind in Blaxploitation!

Williamson calls in his best friend, city thug Thalmus Rasulala, and along with three goons (including Carl Weathers and Roger E. Mosely) they save the town... only to take it over, making things even worse. And so now Williamson, along with sexy Pam Grier, have a big fight on their hands: and it's a personal battle in this semi solid fare with bouts of good action, but can be frustratingly sluggish when the bullets aren't flying.

1983 ***
THE BIG SCORE: Not to be confused with SHAFT'S BIG SCORE, this Afro Noir is a crime drama with a deliberately slow pace: thus when the action happens, it matters.

Fred Williamson writes, directs and stars as an undercover cop framed for stealing heist money and even his fellow officers (John Saxon, Richard Roundtree) question his innocence. So he goes about proving himself, infiltrating the mob run by Joe Spinell and psychotic henchman Bruce Glover, in this mellow vehicle that builds suspense nicely, never going overboard except a few occasions when thugs get literally blown to bits. But that's always welcome... and reminds us of the 70's blaxploitation genre that this BIG SCORE attempts to reignite.

1974 ***1/2
BLACK SAMSON: The ghetto's answer to Bufford Pussar, the lawman from the WALKING TALL films, this isn't an actual sheriff but a fictional bar owner fitfully named Samson, played by mellow giant Rockne Tarkington.

Big Sam owns a lion and wields a big stick while running his tavern and also the entire block/neighborhood that he won't give up to vicious mobster William Smith, whose scene-stealing and downright unrelenting performance elevates this already near-excellent blaxploitation to even greater heights: leading to a giant vs giant battle on a boulevard that's demolished to Biblical proportions.

1982 ***
THE NEW BARBARIANS: In a post-apocalyptic 2019, the world's a desert with plastic steel-feigning armored cars and motorcycles driven by nomads known as "Templars," hunting down the few survivors with laser guns or blades extended from vehicles BEN HUR style.

Calling this a bad movie is pointless, and it's a futuristic exploitation with one blaxploitation element, mentioned soon: BARBARIANS is very low-budget and the acting isn't great, but director Enzio G. Castellari keeps the action rolling from start to finish. Giancarlo Prete makes for a good Mad Maxian hero, keeping a solid scowl and swatting baddies like bugs. Throw in... drum roll please... Fred Williamson as a bow-wielding maverick keeping Prete alive from the sidelines, a tough and sexy damsel, two bickering villains, and the promise of a lost civilization: and this Z-movie will hold your interest... and then some.

1973 **1/2
CLEOPATRA JONES: With limitless villainous potential, the always-watchable and interesting Shelley Winters, as a lesbian mobster bitch chewing scenery while chewing out her minions, isn't on screen enough: making the plight of Cleopatra Jones, a tall, black, badass and beautiful Special Agent, a bit too breezy.

Although there's decent action, including a fantastic car chase in a sewer wash/ditch, one of the first of its kind, and topnotch talent like Bernie Casey, Antonio Fargas, Michael Warren and Cult Film Freak favorite heavy Paul Koslo, our slender heroine needs more "flesh": perhaps a backstory on how she became what the baddies fear, giving the audience something deeper to root for.

1974 rating: ***
FOXY BROWN: While there are some classic lines, one spoken by Foxy Brown's trouble-making brother played by Antonio Fargas: "That's my sister, baby, and she's a whole lotta woman." Or Pam Grier, about to take on a rival, claiming, "I've got my blackbelt in barstools", this is a somewhat sub-par collaboration of writer/director Jack Hill and leading lady Pam Grier, dwelling too much on Foxy's frustration and not enough kickass action.

The villains seem out of a daytime soap, while our heroine's reason for payback... her boyfriend, who just got a miraculously banal face-altering surgery you only see in movies, is killed by a lethal syndicate... doesn't equal the far superior COFFY, which made better use of Pam Grier, Sid Haig, and everything else the blaxploitation genre depends on: including pushers, hookers, bad whities, and sweet revenge.

Yet despite the flaws, blaxploitation auteur Jack Hill seems cozy in his low budget element, remaining more on cruise control than overdrive. The opening credits alone, turning a strutting infrared silhouette of Grier into a female James Bond type, is worth the watch. Just don't take any of it seriously, or expect the second half to equal the buildup.

year: 1973 rating: ****
COFFY: Ah yes, the crowning achievement of revenge-driven blaxploitation has Pam Grier taking out anyone involved in drug dealing after her younger sister's hospitalized for "bad heroin." This provides a platform where everything's possible, giving our sexy heroine free reign to seek and destroy.

Sid Haig adds vitality as a tough hit man who meets his match with Grier, who's just as vulnerable as lethal, especially since her dream man, a climbing politician, might not be what, and who, he seems. While the usual blaxploitation elements, including battling naked chicks and pimp's bright clothing, are used within the story, never seeming campy or gratuitous. And the soundtrack's filler-funk is incredible, so much that Quentin Tarantino "borrowed" it for his own masterpiece starring Pam Grier and featuring Sid Haig... JACKIE BROWN!

year: 1974 rating: *1/2
SAVAGE SISTERS: Most low-budget exploitation films shot in the Philippines aren't perfect, but are still entertaining. This one, despite Gloria Hendry's cool performance as a tough army sergeant teamed-up with two white revolutionary babes trying to overthrow a villainous dictator, is, alas... pointless fodder.

The pacing's slow and there's too much banter about what's about to happen, and little actually does. The editing seems victim of the same machetes used by the bag guys...

Speaking of which, even BIG BIRD CAGE alumni Sid Haig and Vic Diaz, as goofy yet treacherous banditos, can't revive this ninety-minute slug trail, but both try really hard and are fun to watch nonetheless: especially if a plot doesn't matter and scantily clad gorgeous chicks with guns is what you're looking for... SAVAGE SISTERS will do. Just turn off the sound and open your eyes wide!

1974 rating: ***1/2
THREE TOUGH GUYS: The actual title is TOUGH GUYS and was then changed to THREE TOUGH GUYS after Fred Williamson, who plays a small but important role as the villain, gained popularity and the title song mentions TWO TOUGH GUYS, being that the film centers mainly on imported Italian star Lino Ventura as a renegade, revenge-seeking, ten-speed riding priest who teams with rogue cop Isaac Hayes.

The strange pair hop from arcade to bar to empty warehouse beating up baddies or getting beat up, kidnapped, or both. Lightweight find-the-killer plot blends neatly with sporadic, swift-paced action occurring between unimportant bouts of dubbed, but somewhat involving, dialogue. And fans of Hayes the composer: if you want some superb instrumental music, check out Isaac's DOUBLE FEATURE: TRUCK TURNER AND THREE TOUGH GUYS, both albums full of soulful/jazzy/funky/rocking orchestrations far superior than the generic versions within either film.
CLICK THIS LINK FOR ANOTHER BIG BAGFUL OF BLAXPLOITATION FLICKS

LINKWITHIN

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

CLICK TO LINKS TO READ THE POPULAR REVIEWS

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

BEFORE YOU LEAVE CHECK OUT MORE CULT FILM FREAK MOVIE REVIEWS