Thursday, February 28, 2019

February Quick Picks and Pans

The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) In this thriller with a paranormal twist, photographer Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway), known for her controversial photos, watches as her models are killed off one by one. The twist is that she sees their deaths before they occur, through the eyes of the killer. The exceptional cast includes Tommy Lee Jones as a sympathetic police detective, Brad Dourif as a chauffeur, Rene Auberjonois as her temperamental manager, and Raul Julia as Laura’s deadbeat ex-husband Michael. Irvin Kershner (working from a John Carpenter co-penned script) keeps things suspenseful until the end.

Rating: ***½. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Amazon Prime

Tales from the Hood (1995) Why did I wait so long to see this? Director/co-writer/co-star Rusty Cundieff serves up four macabre stories in his Amicus-style portmanteau film. Three hoods searching for a drug stash in a funeral home meet the creepy proprietor, Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III), who spins a series of tales about bigoted cops, child abuse, a racist political candidate, and gang violence. The best segments involve a young boy dealing with a monster in his house and a political candidate who must face the demons of the past (in the guise of a vengeful doll). It’s funny, surprisingly touching, and just as socially relevant as when it was originally released.  

Rating: ***½ . Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Shudder

The Death Kiss (1932) Bela Lugosi stars (in an underwritten role) as film producer Joseph Steiner in this comic whodunit (based on a novel by Madelon St. Dennis). An actor is fatally shot on a movie set, and everyone is a potential suspect. David Manners plays Franklyn Drew, a professional mystery writer turned amateur sleuth. He teams up with a dimwitted studio cop (Vince Barnett) and tests the patience of a jaded police detective (John Wray). As Drew gets closer to uncovering the killer, it becomes apparent that he might become the next victim. Meanwhile, he courts starlet/suspect Marcia Lane (Adrienne Ames), while trying to prove her innocence.  

The Death Kiss is lightweight and breezy, filled with a dash of romance, suspense and copious amounts of hit-and-miss humor. Manners is quite charming as Drew, and it’s nice to see Lugosi not playing a bad guy for once. Watch for some cool hand-colored scenes (burning film in a projector, yellow flashlights).

Rating: ***½. Available on Blu-ray, DVD, Amazon Prime and Kanopy

Enthiran (The Robot) (2010) High-powered action goes hand-in-hand with lively musical interludes in director/co-writer Shankar’s Tamil language sci-fi/romantic comedy/musical. It’s a silly, captivating blend that’s equal parts Terminator and Bollywood. After 10 years of labor, Dr. Vaseegaran (Rajinikanth) invents Chitti, an android that learns to feel emotions. Things go a bit too far when Chitti (also played by Rajinikanth) has the hots for the inventor’s fiancée, Sana (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan). To complicate matters, the inventor’s mentor has evil intentions for the android, implanting a new chip in Chitti. Things get out of hand when the android becomes a rogue killing machine and kidnaps Sana. Can the inventor stop the mad robot before it’s too late? Tune in to find out. Arguably, Enthiran outstays its welcome with its nearly three-hour length, but then again, how else could you fit all the funky song and dance numbers?

Rating: ***. Available on DVD and Amazon Prime