Monday, February 28, 2011

MeepFlix: February 2011

This Month's viewings on Netflix Instant, DVD, VHS, Hulu & Cable:

Author! Author! (1982) Dir. Arthur Hiller ***
Tin Cup (1996) Dir. Ron Shelton ***
Scenes From The Goldmine (1987) Dir. Marc Rocco ***1/2
Piranha (2010) Dir. Alexandre Aja *** 
Barney's Version (2010) Dir. Richard J. Lewis ***
Citizen's Band (1977) Dir. Jonathan Demme ***
Russkies (1987) Dir. Rick Rosenthal **1/2
Bobbie Jo And The Outlaw (1976) Dir. Mark L. Lester **1/2
A Boy And His Dog (1975) Dir. L.Q. Jones ***
The Hard Way (1991) Dir. John Badham ***
High Risk (1981) Dir. Stewart Raffill ***
Nothing Sacred (1937) Dir. William Wellman ***1/2
Rich In Love (1992) Dir. Bruce Beresford ***
At First Sight (AKA: Two Guys Talkin' About Girls) Dir. Steven Pearl **1/2
The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987) Dir. Rodney Amateau **
Star 80 (1983) Dir. Bob Fosse ***1/2
Twelve (2009) Dir. Joel Schumacher *1/2
3:15 The Moment Of Truth (1986) Dir. Larry Gross ***
Starting Over (1978) Dir. Alan Pakula ***1/2
City Heat (1984) Dir. Richard Benjamin **1/2
Sparkle (1976) Dir. Sam O' Steen ***

Death Proof (2007) Dir. Quentin Tarantino ****
Burlesque (2010) Dir. Steven Antin ***
How To Beat The High Cost Of Living (1980) Dir. Robert Scheerer **1/2
The Four Seasons (1981) Dir. Alan Alda ***1/2
Police Academy 3: Back In Training (1986) Dir. Jerry Paris ***
The Holiday (2006) Dir. Nancy Meyers ***
Pretty Woman (1990) Dir. Garry Marshall ***1/2
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) Dir. Nicholas Stoller ***1/2
Dreamcatcher (2003) Dir. Lawrence Kasdan ***
Puppet Master (1989) Dir. David Schmoeller ***
Puppet Master II (1991) Dir. Dave Allen **
Chain Letter (2010) Dir. Deon Taylor *
The Banger Sisters (2002) Dir. Bob Dolman ***
Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol (1987) Dir. Jim Drake **1/2
Sticky Fingers (1988) Dir. Catlin Adams **1/2
10 To Midnight (1983) Dir. J. Lee Thompson ***
Firefox (1982) Dir. Clint Eastwood **1/2
127 Hours (2010) Dir. Danny Boyle ***
Love And Other Drugs (2010) Dir. Edward Zwick ***
Orphan (2009) Dir. Jaume Collet-Serra ***1/2
My Soul To Take (2010) Dir. Wes Craven ***1/2
Listen (1996) Dir. Gavin Wilding **1/2
Southern Comfort (1981) Dir. Walter Hill ****
The Thing Called Love (1993) Dir. Peter Bogdanovich ***1/2
Death Race 2 (2011) Dir.  Roel Reine **
Burke And Hare (2010) Dir. John Landis ***
Tamara Drewe (2010) Dir. Stephen Frears ***
Beverly Hills Cop (1984) Dir. Martin Brest ****
Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) Dir. Tony Scott **1/2
The First Time (1982) Dir. Noel Nosseck **1/2


**** excellent
***1/2 very good
*** recommended
**1/2 not bad
** not so hot
*1/2 skip it, buddy
* don't even think about it, mister

Heroes Of Blaxploitation: Ossie Davis

Day Twenty-eight:

A month of Blaxploitation has come to a close. Why not end it with the man who basically started it all?

Ossie Davis (1917-2005) is not immediately synonymous with the world of Blaxploitation. Ossie has the distinction of not only being one of the most respected Black actors of all time, but also the occasional filmmaker, poet, playwright activist and general great human being. His acting career spanned over seven decades, and along with wife Ruby Dee, he avoided the typecast of most black actors of the time, and escaped with a great dignity and pride.

Ossie Davis The Filmmaker began with the movie that helped kick-start the Blaxploitation genre, even before Melvin Van Peebles' Sweet Sweetback or Gordon Parks' Shaft. Cotton Comes To Harlem (1970) will go down on my record as one of the very first and best of the Blaxploitation genre. A great, entertaining film with excellent music. A must if you haven't seen it.

Up next for Ossie was Kongi's Harvest (1970) and then the Blaxploitation films Black Girl (1972) and another movie I recommend from the genre: Gordon's War (1973) starring Paul Winfield in the title role.

As a Director, Ossie would go on to make 2 more films:  Cool Red (AKA: Countdown At Kusini) (1976) and the little known Crown Dick (1987) which was made for Television. As a writer, Ossie worked on such projects for television as: Gone Are The Days (1963), Purlie (1981) and For Us The Living: The Medgar Evers Story (1983). And of course as an actor had a wonderful, flouring career in many types of roles. I especially enjoyed his parts in Slaves (1969), Teacher, Teacher (1969),  The Sheriff (1971), Let's Do It Again (1975), Avenging Angel (1985), Do The Right Thing (1989), his funny and moving performance in the great Don Coscarelli film Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) and his brief role in the Blaxploitation call-back Baadasssss! (2003).

Ossie Davis was god.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Heroes Of Blaxploitation: Melvin Van Peebles

Day Twenty-seven:

Melvin Van Peebles (b.1932) was a real badass! Starting out as a cable car driver, Melvin drew from his experiences driving around and started writing and taking photographs. That eventually morphed into a book, and soon he was encouraged to take the next step to Filmmaking. He made a couple of shorts and tried to get some work in Hollywood. That didn't really work out but he did find some acclaim in France and was taken under the wing by the artistic community there. While in France he translated English language magazines into French, wrote plays, novels and even put out albums.

Melvin made his first feature length film in Paris with The Story Of A Three-Day Pass (1968), getting the attention of American critics who thought he was the next great French auteur. Soon he got his first studio film, and made the groundbreaking film Watermelon Man (1970). A picture about racism that manages to entertain as well as be thought provoking. It was Melvin's next film that really help to define the genre... Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song! (1971) the seminal Blaxploitation picture which Melvin wrote, starred, directed and composed the music for.

With SWEET, Melvin broke the rules. Because he was a man who liked to do it all, Melvin ran into trouble trying to find those who were willing to finance such risky projects. He didn't direct all that much in his career, but he did make a few more films... Don't Play Us Cheap (1973), Indentity Crisis (1989) which starred his son Mario, Bellyful (2000) and recently Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha (2008).

And as a writer: Just An Old Sweet Song (1976), Greased Lightning (1977), The Sophisticated Gents (1981) Panther (1995) which was based on his own novel and directed by son Mario (who made his own version of Melvin's story about the making of SWEET with the film Badasssss! from 2003). Melvin also wrote and produced the documentary Classified X (1998).

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Heroes Of Blaxploitation: Thalmus Rasulala, James Iglehart & Rockne Tarkington

Day Twenty-six:

A spotlight on three lesser known Blaxploitation heroes. These three guys may not be household names, but we love them all the same.

Thalmus Rasulala (1939-1991) Had the most prolific career of the three, especially in the world of Blaxploitation. Some of his credits include: Cool Breeze (1972), Blacula (1972), Willie Dynamite (1974), Cornbread, Earl And Me (1975), Bucktown (1975), Friday Foster (1975) and Adios Amigo (1976)

All great films. Throughout the 70's he starred in some above average genre films like Mr. Ricco (1975) and The Last Hard Men (1976) but also made many memorable appearance on TV in projects like The Autobiography Of Miss Jane Pittman (1974), Last Hours Before Morning (1975), Roots (1977), What's Happening!! (1976-77) and several more. He worked for the rest of his career pretty steadily in TV and sadly died in 1991 of a heart attack.

James Iglehart had a small career, but starred in a string of cult films and left an indelible impression. He was in Russ Meyer's Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970)
as well as Meyer's underrated and decidedly not very sexy The Seven Minutes (1971). He also had a role in the Roger Corman biker flick  Angels Hard As They Come (1971) and a starring role of his own in Savage! (1973). A blaxploitation flick that has one of my favorite trailers in the genre.

James also had the leading role in the Blaxploitation/Kung-fu flick Bamboo Gods And Men (1974) and the Cirio H. Santiago helmed Death Force (AKA: Fighting Mad) (1978). Another of my favorite films in the genre that time seems to have forgotten.

Rockne Tarkington Is probably not best known for his work in Blaxploitation as he's had a successful and lasting career in all sorts of roles and genres, appearing in such things like the Tarzan TV series from the 60s, The Banana Splits Adventure Hour Kids Show as well as The Great White Hope (1970). At 6'5 Rockne is a bear of a man and often used his proportions to his advantage in a lot of action and tough guy roles.

Rockne starred in Melinda (1972) with Calvin Lockhart, Rosalind Cash and the gorgeous Vonetta McGee, then landed a starring role of his own in Black Samson (1974)... And who else could have played that role but he? Next up was the ultra rare Blaxploitation film Black Starlet (1974) which co-starred Juanita Brown. During that time Rockne also appeared in such films as Beware! The Blob (1972), Trained to Kill: USA (AKA: The No Mercy Man) (1973) Code Name Zebra (1976), The Great Gundown (1977) as well as countless other roles in film & TV... I know I am a fan of his "Too Mean Malone" 7 episode arc on Matt Houston back in the 80s!

Dude has a lion!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Heroes Of Blaxploitation: Marki Bey

Day Twenty-five:

Marki Bey (b.1946) is one of our heroes with the distinction of having a very small career in film, but a very every effective one. She started it off with a bang with her very first film role: Hal Ashby's The Landlord (1970). A wonderful film about a white guy (Beau Bridges) who lives off his rich parents' and buys a tenement in an inner city neighborhood (Park Slope - when it wasn't filled with yuppies) and starts to bond with some of the tenants and begins a romance with Marki. If you haven't seen The Landlord, you must. It's available on DVD from MGM and Amazon.

Marki's breathtaking beauty and attitude to spare was put to great use in The Landlord as well as a series of films in the early to mid-70s. They include: The Class Of '74 (AKA: Gabriella, Gabriella) (1972), the proto-slasher film The Rommates (1973), Super Dude (AKA: Hangup) (1974) and most of all, the leading role in the Blaxploitation/Zombie film, Sugar Hill (1974). Another great film you should really check out if you haven't. There's a ton of unique atmosphere to be found in that one and Marki is wonderful in the Pam Grier-esque leading role. Plus she looks dy-no-mite in a pantsuit.

Marki Bey appeared in several TV shows throughout the 70's and sadly hung up her acting hat as the decade came to it's close.

Marki Bey at an AFI  screening of The Landlord from a couple years back. 
Still lookin' great!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Meep Pic Of The Week: Kaboom (2011)

An IFC Films Release in Association with Wild Bunch
Original Theatrical Release Date: January 26th, 2011 
Also available on Video On Demand

Gregg Araki's Kaboom is a sexed up look at a college kid named Smith (Thomas Dekker) who finds himself in lust for his hunky surfer roommate as well as a cute no-nonsese chick (Juno Temple) who takes a shine to his nice, somewhat timid demeanor. Smith starts receiving messages about an impending apocalypse, which soon leads to run-ins with masked psychos and visions of a redhead in mortal danger.

The center of the film is the relationship between Smith and his best friend Stella (Hayley Bennett of Joe Dante's The Hole). These two friends have a comraderie that reminds me of a John Hughes flick (think Some Kind Of Wonderful) but without either haboring the pangs of love for one another. Stella has her own issues to deal with as she's in a relationship with a crazy clingy witch (French actress Roxane Mesquida) ... yet another chick who Smith has had strange dreams about.

 Smith and the women in his life listen in when he gets a booty call 
from some beach dude.

Also starring is Kelly Lynch as Smith's mom. But the kind of mom who has been hiding a deep dark secret about his past (hello nod to A Nightmare On Elm Street... which ironically was recently remade and Thomas Dekker had a role in) And then there's Araki regular James Duval. This time playing "The Messiah", a stoner who knows all too much.

Araki's film is filled with his usual end-of-the world impending sense of doom (Those of us who lived through the Nuclear 80's know that feeling all too well) but also his usual allusions to wacky 80's film antics, crack attention to set design and art direction as well as his great use of music are also on hand. There's much more of a balance found in this film than probably some of his others. Like say, the enjoyable but over-the-top The Doom Generation.

Gregg Araki's new film has a great sense of humor about itself, and it's nice to see a director who's been working for the last 20 years explore his themes and tropes and just having a good time. It shows up there on the screen.

3 and a half stars.

Here's an interesting interview with the director over at AV Club:,50620/

Heroes Of Blaxploitation: Sid Haig

Day Twenty-four:

The very talented Sid Haig (b.1939) has had the great fortune of having a wonderful and lasting acting career that has been spanning over five decades.

Though he worked a lot throughout the 60's, it wasn't until Jack Hill's Spider Baby (1968) and Sid's outlandish role and performance when we really took note of him. Soon Sid was working on some high profile genre films like the Joe Namath & Ann Margaret biker flick C.C. And Company (1970) as well as George Lucas' THX 1138 (1971).

Sid continued his great partnership with Jack Hill and made the film Pit Stop (1969) together as well as the awesome women in prison double feature of The Big Doll House (1971) and The Big Bird Cage (1972) with Pam Grier. Sid also appeared in the cult flicks Trained To Kill: USA (AKA: The No Mercy Man) (1973), Wonder Women (1973) and Emperor Of The North (1973) with Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin.

Sid starred in a string of blaxploitation films in the early to mid-70's with bang-up roles in the Blaxploitation favorites: Black Mama, White Mama (1973), The Jack Hill directed Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974) as well as Savage Sisters (1974).  Haig worked a lot more through the 70's, mostly in genre films like Beyond Atlantis (1973), The Woman Hunt (1973), The Don Is Dead (1973), Busting (1974) and later a starring role on the TV series Jason Of Star Command (1978-81) co-starring Blaxploitation amazon queen Tamara Dobson.

Sid Haig worked dexterously over the years in film and TV but quit Film & TV acting in the early 90's after being fed up with the meager "baddie" roles he was being given. Eventually he was lured back by Quentin Tarantino with a role in Jackie Brown (1997) as a judge opposite his frequent co-star Pam Grier. While Sid's focus was on the theater group he ran, he eventually returned to films after being cajoled back with a prime role by Rob Zombie for the film House Of A Thousand Corpses (2003). They two have had a successful partnership since which led to films like The Devil's Rejects (2005), The Halloween Remake (2007) and other projects.

Though I'm not the biggest Rob Zombie movie fan in the world, at least he has the good sense to cast wonderful actors like Sid Haig which helped give him the career resurgence he so rightfully deserves. Sid has been getting a lot of work since, and it's a real pleasure to see him back on the screen where he belongs.

Sid and Pam, rolling around in the mud!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Heroes Of Blaxploitation: Calvin Lockhart

Day Twenty-three:

The great Caribbean born actor Calvin Lockhart (1934-2007) had the distinction of being the first Black actor to play lead roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Throughout his career, Calvin tackled all sorts of roles, and won widespread acclaim for many of them. He was a well respected actor as well as a man.

For fans of Black Cinema, he's probably best remembered for a string of Blaxploitation and genre films he made in the 70's...

Halls Of Anger (1970)
Cotton Comes To Harlem (1970)
Melinda (1972)
The African Deal (AKA: Carnal Contact) (1973)

The Beast Must Die (1974)
Honeybaby, Honeybaby (1974)
Uptown Saturday Night (1974)
Let's Do It Again (1975) - Where Calvin played the gangster character "Biggie Smalls" - The inspiration for the Notorious B.I.G.!
The Baron (1977)

Among many of Calvin's other roles (he also appeared in a lot of TV) are films like: The Anthony Mann spy film A Dandy In Aspic (1968), The cult flick Myra Breckinridge (1970), Eddie Murphy's last really satisfying comedy Coming To America (1988), Predator 2 (1990) and David Lynch's Wild At Heart (1990) & Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me (1992)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Heroes Of Blaxploitation: Jamaa Fanaka & Leon Isaac Kennedy

Day Twenty-two:

The great team of Jamaa Fanaka & Leon Isaac Kennedy!

Director Jamaa Fanaka (b.1942) had a small but effective career in black action with the films: Welcome Home Brother Charles (1975), Black Sisters' Revenge (AKA: Emma Mae) (1976) and his very successful partnership with Leon Isaac Kennedy and the highly profitable Penitentiary series: Penitentiary (1979), Penitentiary II (1982) and Penitentiary III (1987). His last film to date was the 'Crack' action flick Street Wars from 1992.

Leon Isaac Kennedy (b.1949) was a successful DJ known as "Leon The Lover" he became a successful actor and producer and now he's found a new success as a minister with his own ministry in Los Angeles. Leon's film credits include: The Blaxploitation films Mean Johnny Barrows (1976), as a producer on Big Time (1977), the star and hero of Fighting Mad (AKA: Death Force) (1978) and the Penitentiary Film Series (1979-87).

Leon also starred, produced and wrote the black remake of Body And Soul (1980) with his wife, the sexy Jayne Kennedy. He also appeared in the films Lone Wolf McQuade (1983) with good old Chuck Norris, The slasher flick Too Scared To Scream (1985), the awesomely 80's gang movie Knights Of The City (1986), Hollywood Vice Squad (1986) and Skeleton Coast (1988) co-starring Oliver Reed.

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