The Oscars came, the Oscars went and as usual they had very little bearing on my viewing choices for the month. As a matter of fact this time around they had zero effect on my decisions. Now that’s not to say I don’t want to catch a title or two but as the years have drifted by I’m less interested in the outcome and have very little rooting interest as I don’t actually see very many new releases right out of the gate. I’m usually playing catch up in a couple years.

On to what I did see this month, both of a more recent vintage of which I’m making a concerted effort to catch up on this year and a recap of those spotlighted for the month.

Francis the Talking Mule – Brando the Weiner Dog’s Pick of the Month

Soldier of Fortune – Clark Gable meets Susan Hayward and sparks fly

Oceans 8   (2017)

A twist to the Clooney series that casts Sandra Bullock as a member of the Ocean family who is herself a career thief. Joining Sandra in her idea for an ingenious jewel heist is Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter and even Elliott Gold turns up briefly after being carried over from the Clooney adventures. I found this one to be fun and engaging. Isn’t that what a popcorn movie is supposed to be?

No Escape – Ray Liotta finds himself on an island prison not unlike Papillon but with a futuristic twist

War Drums – Lex Barker foolishness somewhat saved by the presence of Ben Johnson

Any Given Sunday   (1999)

I’m no football fan but in the spirit of the Super Bowl I wanted to revisit Oliver Stone’s film that the NFL wouldn’t endorse starring Al Pacino in a surprisingly low key performance as a coach leading his team to their own league’s championship. Great cast and plenty of drama and exciting footage on the field captured here. Jim Brown, Cameron Diaz, James Woods, Charlton Heston, Dennis Quaid, Jamie Foxx, Ann-Margret, LL Cool J, Aaron Eckhart….. etc. Yes the cast alone makes it worth a look.

A Joan Collins Triple Treat – a Joan Collins triple treat.

Timbuktu – Vic Mature once again plays the hero

Death Wish   (2018)

Well everybody has been asking me if I’d seen the new take on Death Wish and what I thought of Bruce Willis versus Charles Bronson. Hey I like Bruce as much as the next guy but let’s not start comparing the two cause Bruce is gonna come out the loser. Anyway I enjoyed the film overall and I suppose that’s all that really matters. NOW, a few things. One is I was never happy with the casting of Bruce because he’s over the hill. Even though he did just fine in the end. I would much rather have seen a younger star like a Ryan Reynolds or a Ryan Gosling. Now you could argue Charlie wasn’t a youngster either but he was just entering his prime box office years. I like Bruce being a doctor as that worked fine but I really liked the fact that Charlie was a conscientious objector in the Michael Winner edition. Bruce also jumped into the violence and gore too quick (but then it’s directed by Eli Roth) as opposed to Charlie easing into his night time job with a sock and a roll of quarters. Lastly when all is said and done, the Bronson film was one of those iconic 70’s game changers whereas this one will be all but forgotten in short order and we can all go back to focusing on Bruce’s next installment of Die Hard. I could go on as a self proclaimed Bronson specialist but won’t. Just don’t get me started on that trumped up Mechanic remake and it’s subsequent sequel.

Horror of Dracula   (1958)

Reasons? First up because I picked up this encyclopedia sized book (984 pages) on the studio I never get enough of and secondly, because it’s the best damned Dracula movie ever made and thirdly because it’s got Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and fourthly, because I can watch whatever the hell I want when I want.

You’ll Like My Mother – A nice little gem of a thriller.

The Unholy Four   (1970)

Turned up on blu ray from Kino Lorber so I gave this spaghetti western a shot thanks to the participation of Woody Strode. It’s a complicated plot of amnesia and mixed up identities carved out with a dash of Yojimbo for good measure. And don’t forget the bloodshed and torture one will regularly find in these overseas efforts. Truthfully? Kind of forgettable.

The Mini-Skirt Mob – Biker babes and Harry Dean Stanton

Shaft   (1971)

Umpteenth viewing of this classic but was the first for number one and two sons (Ethan and Kirk) so I sat in to watch with them. For the record, they dug it. You dig?

A Common Man   (2013)

Sir Ben Kinglsey stars as a bomber who has placed five bombs around a city that’s under the command of a police inspector played by Ben Cross. There is a neat twist to this whole exercise that I did see coming but I liked the central idea. Sadly the film fails in it’s delivery and is also dubbed poorly. Not sure if Cross lost something in the translation but I didn’t think he was up to the challenge and comes off weak and amateurish at best. Can’t recommend it though I do think it’s a missed opportunity. Big budget with Ben vs. a Sam Jackson and we got something.

Legend of the Werewolf – Peter Cushing is all we need to know

Most Wanted  (1997)

Better than I expected action story of an ex-military specialist played by Keenan Ivory Wayans caught up in a political assassination as the fall guy. Wayans is good, as are the costars Robert Culp, Eric Roberts and Paul Sorvino. The film so-so but it’s Jon Voight hamming it up as a General who is pulling the strings that makes this whole military exercise worth checking out. Love it when an actor of his caliber can grab the movie and run with it as a bad guy. On the other hand……

Convict Cowboy   (1995)

This time around Voight underplays his role of a lifer on the inside who doubles as an aging rodeo champ on the prison circuit. When a young rider played by Kyle Chandler finds himself incarcerated and assigned to Voight’s stables, he wants to be riding the rodeos alongside his idol. Honest film and again, Voight at the top of his game with Ben Gazzara and Marcia Gay Harden also turning up. Cable flick and another that’s worth a look.

The Death Kiss – Nice thirties mystery with Bela Lugosi and David Manners

Eastern Condors   (1987)

Sammo Hung action fest that’s a little bit of The Dirty Dozen crossed up with The Deer Hunter and pretty much any other Vietnam war flick you can name. It’ll do in a pinch when looking for something a bit different provided you can handle the atrocious dubbing on the North American release I picked up.

Hawk the Slayer – Hamming it up with Jack Palance is always a fun endeavor

Target Zero – Early chance to see the likes of Charles Bronson and Chuck Connors in smaller roles

The Legend of Tarzan   (2016)

CGI aside of which I am a harsh critic at times, I liked this new version of the Tarzan legend. For me it had the adventure and heart of the old series of titles featuring Weissmuller and Scott among others. Sam Jackson joins our title character played by Alexander Skarsgard who does the role justice. The pair are out to ruin the plans of our baddie, Christoph Waltz who once again adds flavor to a film with his eccentric brand of villainy. A nice surprise. 

Operation : Daybreak – Anton Diffring as the demonic Nazi, Reinhard Heydrich

Conspiracy   (2001)

Following the Anton Diffring film I decided to revisit this terrifying film that is far better than most any horror film despite the absence of blood, guts or any sort of jump scares. Kenneth Branagh is chillingly brilliant in his performance as Nazi Reinhard Heydrich. The story within is based on fact and takes place in the course of a couple hours. Branagh along with other well known Nazi figures played by the likes of Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth are seated at a table discussing just how they intend to rid the world of Jews. Cold and calculating but a fascinating film. 

Ministry of Vengeance – John Schneider turns into a gun toting Rambo with a minister’s collar to match.

Closed out the month watching the 4th and 5th instalments in the Phantasm franchise. No big deal but I do like Reggie Bannister in these films and who wouldn’t? 

He’s just a bald headed aging ice cream vendor with a gun.