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Rollerball (1975) Review


Good
Norman Jewison had a bomb in 1975 with Rollerball, a futuristic tale (set in 2018) in an era when war, poverty, nationality, and even individuality have been snuffed out. To appease the masses, a sport called rollerball has been devised -- a more brutal roller derby with motorcycles thrown in for good mix.

It's hardly 1984, but Jewison's dystopia has its moments, namely when rollerball champ Jonathan E. (James Caan) is skating around the course, thrashing his opponents into ground beef. When he squares off against evil corporate honcho Bartholomew (John Houseman, unforgettably uncomfortable in "the future"), the scenes are priceless.

Continue reading: Rollerball (1975) Review

Ragtime Review


Good
The late 1970s and early 1980s were heavy times for cinema. This was the era of the majestic miniseries: Roots, Rich Man Poor Man, The Thorn Birds, Shogun. Why, if your film couldn't stretch over at least four hours, it probably wasn't worth telling.

The miniseries mentality reached into the theatrical world as well. And so Milos Forman ended up with Ragtime, a sprawling book about American life in the early 1900s, filled with stories of racism, sudden upward mobility, abandonment, psychosis, and of course that good old ragtime music. The result is a film that sprawls well over two hours yet can't ever decide where the best story lies. Is it a tale of a murderous husband who avenges the harsh treatment of his former-chorus girl wife? The story of an abandoned black baby who winds up in the arms of a wealthy white family? No, Ragtime eventually focuses on a black piano player (Howard E. Rollins Jr.) who rises through the ranks of the ragtime scene, only to find bitter racism and resentment waiting for him on the other side. He ultimately winds up holed up in a library with one of the characters from another story in the film. Some of this is based on real events, most is not.

Continue reading: Ragtime Review

Amityville II: The Possession Review


Bad
At least Amityville II: The Possession has some basis in fact. This is -- on the surface -- the story of how the DeFeo family (here the Montellis) got murdered one night at 112 Ocean Avenue on Long Island, New York. (The subsequent events are the subject of the original Amityville Horror.)

In real life, the eldest son of the DeFeo family murdered six of his family members in their sleep while they slumbered in their beds. In Amityville II, the family structure is about the same -- and they all get the business -- but little else remains intact. Here we have a tale about a rough and tumble kid named Sonny (Jack Magner), who hates his father, romances his sister (Diane Franklin, best known as Better Off Dead's Monique), and gets possessed by demons who live in a secret room in the basement.

Continue reading: Amityville II: The Possession Review

Roots Review


Excellent
When you think of epic mini-series, what comes to mind? Rich Man, Poor Man? Shogun? More likely than not, it's Roots, the based-on-a-true story tale that spooled over 12 hours and six nights, the story of "an American family," albeit one that began captured in Africa in 1750, then sold into slavery in the U.S. colonies.

Roots begins with Kunta Kinte, emerging from childhood and undergoing warrior training in his tribal homeland. The slavers arrive soon enough, and after a harrowing three-month ride back across the Atlantic, Kunta is sold, becomes Toby under his new master, attempts repeated escapes, and eventually accepts his fate as he settles down with a wife and child. The Revolutionary War comes and goes, and Toby's daughter Kizzy is sold, becoming the mother of her new master's son, known as Chicken George. Chicken George in turn is sent to England to pay off a gambling debt. When he returns home after 14 years, he is a free man. The Civil War arrives, and the rest of the slaves are freed. Soon enough the family faces the perils of vehement racism and the KKK, and Chicken George finally leads his family to safety in a new settlement.

Continue reading: Roots Review

Shaft (1971) Review


Excellent
He's one bad-ass mutha -- shut yo mouth! Shaft is, was, and will forever remain the definitive blaxpoitation film, utterly and without question. From the Isaac Hayes composed and performed soundtrack (and Oscar winning, mind you) to Richard Roundtree as the titular bad-ass to the crazy plot (Shaft takes down "Bumpy" and his black crime mob), Shaft is nothing short of a classic. Be sure to see it with a date.

The Ninth Configuration Review


Very Good
Decidedly weird, The Ninth Configuration is a slow burn of a thriller that gives us Stacy Keach in a dead-on performance as a marine psychiatrist brought in to do his doctoring in a (what else) converted, remote castle in the Pacific Northwest. Namely, he interacts with NASA astronaut-gone-nuts Scott Wilson (equally good, if not better), until it starts to surface that Keach's character may not be altogether there himself. It's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by way of Jacob's Ladder. Written and directed by William Peter Blatty (The Exorcist). Very capable, though it flounders considerably in the final act. Still worth checking out, though.

Rollerball (1975) Review


Good
Norman Jewison had a bomb in 1975 with Rollerball, a futuristic tale (set in 2018) in an era when war, poverty, nationality, and even individuality have been snuffed out. To appease the masses, a sport called rollerball has been devised -- a more brutal roller derby with motorcycles thrown in for good mix.

It's hardly 1984, but Jewison's dystopia has its moments, namely when rollerball champ Jonathan E. (James Caan) is skating around the course, thrashing his opponents into ground beef. When he squares off against evil corporate honcho Bartholomew (John Houseman, unforgettably uncomfortable in "the future"), the scenes are priceless.

Continue reading: Rollerball (1975) Review

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Dev Patel Is A Lost Boy In Touching True Story Drama 'Lion'

Dev Patel Is A Lost Boy In Touching True Story Drama 'Lion'

There's already an Oscars buzz surrounding this movie.

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