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Sunday Matinee: Yes, Madam!

After the 1970s there were several big movies that featured bad ass woman action lead roles. 1979’s Alien with Sigourney Weaver which needs no introduction and 1980’s Gloria with Gena Rowlands as a woman trying to save a kid from the mob. There was also a lot of bad action movies. She, Sheena and Red Sonja just to name a couple.

Today’s Sunday Matinee is 1985’s Yes, Madam a Hong Kong action film starring Michelle Yeoh – in what was her first starring role.
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Sunday Matinee: Lady Snowblood

A woman gives birth to a baby girl while in prison in the late 1800 Japan. The woman dies after the birth but before she dies she wants her daughter Yuki to continue her plan of vengeance.

Yuki (Meiko Kaji) grows up learning how to fight and kill. She needs to kill three more people. Before she was born her mother and her mother’s husband were attacked by a group of four people. The husband was killed and the mother was raped. The mother tracked down one of the four and murdered him which is why she was in prison. While in prison she purposely got pregnant by one of the guards so she could have a child to finish seeking vengeance.
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Sunday Matinee: Coffy

Pam Grier had co-starred in several women in prison movies and a few blaxploitation films before getting the lead role of 1973’s Coffy.

Blaxploitation films had exploded in popularity and American International Pictures had lost the rights to make Cleopatra Jones – which Warner Bros. made and released in the same year. American International Pictures being American International Pictures quickly raced and made Coffy to beat Cleopatra Jones in theatres.
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Sunday Matinee: The Big Doll House

Women in prison movies started becoming be in the late 1960s with films like 99 Women. Naturally Roger Corman’s low budget exploitation film company New World Pictures started making them in the early 1970s starting with The Big Doll House in 1971.

Directed by Jack Hill the movie was shot in the Philippines. Judy Brown stars as Collier a woman sent to prison for the murder of her husband. Once in prison she meets Alcott and Bodine (Roberta Collins and Pat Woodell). She also meets Grear (Pam Grier – in her first big screen role). Gear is a prison bully and lesbian who has her eyes set on Collier after her current girlfriend bores her. Meanwhile the sadistic female guards and warden Miss Dietrich (Christiane Schmidtmer) like to torture the prisoners.
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Sunday Matinee: Come Drink With Me

Marital arts in movies have been around on the screen since the early days of film. But the massive international popularity of them wouldn’t really begin until the 1960s. In 1966 The Shaw Brothers Studio produced a movie called Come Drink with Me which would kick start a massive onslaught of martial art movies.

Come Drink with Me starred actress Cheng Pei-pei in the lead role as Golden Swallow a bad ass martial artist who is out to try and save her brother who has been kidnapped by a bandits have allied themselves with an evil monastery lead Abbot Liao Kung (Yeung Chi-hing). On her journeys she is helped by Drunken Cat aka Fan Da-pei (Yueh Hua), a former member of the same martial art master that trained Abbot Liao Kung.
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REVIEW: (Groan), Lucy

Oh, Lucy! was the first movie I saw in last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. I remember thinking “what a pointless oddity. I’m positive I will never hear of this movie again.” And here we are.

Produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, Oh Lucy! is not the film you would expect from the Anchorman duo. Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima), a lonely middle-age woman living in Tokyo, rediscovers her joie de vivre when by chance lands in an English class with John (Josh Harnett, don’t ask). The expat’s teaching technique consists in giving the student a blond wig and an American identity, “Lucy”. (Seriously, people have problems with Isle of Dogs and not with this?)

Unbeknownst to John, the class triggers a tectonic shift inside Setsuko. She loosens up, quits her job and decides to actively pursue the English professor. John has gone back to America, you say? No problem! She has a passport.

There are a couple of additional complications (John is dating Setsuko’s niece; Setsuko and her sister can’t stand each other) that give the film a whiff of screwball comedy, but Oh Lucy! never takes off: Harnett is no one’s idea of comedic performer and Shinobu Terajima embodies too much pathos to come across as funny.

The film is more effective while in Japan. The moment the action moves to Los Angeles and the “fish out of water” cliché kicks in, Oh Lucy! loses its charm. The tonal inconsistency is jarring: This is a comedy that opens with someone launching himself in front of a train, and clearly there is something wrong with Setsuko that is never addressed.

If nothing else, Terajima’s performance keeps the film watchable, but the low stakes and even lower production values hurt the overall experience. The message -the connections you make in the world may save you in the end- is a sweet one, if about as pat as they come. One and a half planets (out of five).

Oh Lucy! opens this Friday 13th at the Roxy Theatre.

Sunday Matinee: Tiger of the Seven Seas

Gianna Maria Canale stars as Consuelo who is the daughter of the notorious pirate called Tiger. Tiger has decided to retire and decides to hold a contest to see who will take over his command. The contest comes down to William (Anthony Steel) and Consuelo. Consuelo wins but then her father is murdered in the night.
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Sunday Matinee: Anne Of The Indies

This 1951 action adventure swashbuckler stars Jean Peters as Captain Anne Providence, a notorious pirate who sails the sevens seas. Intended to be loosely based on Anne Bonny the movie took several liberties and eventual became its on thing.

Anne and her crew have just seized a British ship and she meets Captain Pierre François LaRochelle (Louis Jourdan) whom she spares and lets him join her crew. Anne starts to fall in love with Pierre and takes him to meet her mentor Blackbeard (Thomas Gomez).
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Sunday Matinee: Johnny Guitar

There are a few westerns in the 1940s and 50s which had strong female roles. 1945’s Along Came Jones featured Gary Cooper as easy going Jones who is mistaken for a bad guy except unlike the bad guy Cooper can’t shoot very well. Fortunately Loretta Young can.

There was also Ann Savage in Renegade Girl (1946), several adaptations on the life of Annie Oakley, first in 1935 with Barbara Stanwyck in Annie Oakley and then a musical with the same name in 1950 with Betty Hutton. There were also several Belle Starr films, the first was a silent in 19287 called Court Martial. Gene Tierney played her in Belle Starr (1941) and Isabel Jewell played Starr in Badman’s Territory and Daughter of Belle Starr (both 1946), and Jane Russell was Starr in Montana Belle (1952).
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Almost Ready, Player One

The #604Stacks.

It’s Juno weekend in Vancouver. For those who think music died with Bowie and Prince, the event doesn’t carry much weight (three weeks ago, I didn’t know what a “Hedley” was. Now I’m trying to forget), but at least the side attractions are quite fun.

Chief among them are the #604Stacks, the low-income housing featured in Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg’s latest movie based on the Ernest Cline best-seller. The stacks are shipping containers -not unlike Brazil favelas- that symbolize the widespread poverty and overpopulation that may characterize the planet in 2045. From this environment emerges Wade, a teen gamer who goes on an epic journey -both virtual and in real life- to become a hero for a disheartened population.

The #604Stacks are a full scale recreation of the aforementioned housing in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Three of the containers are accessible to the public. The first one is filled with classic arcade games: “Centipede”, “Ms. Pac Man”, “Donkey Kong” and the sort. Worth mentioning, the Oasis, the virtual reality universe where Wade spends most of his time, is peppered with 80’s references, and knowledge of the decade’s pop culture and electronic games is indispensable to thrive.

The second container is a duplicate of Wade’s residence (it doubles as rewards area). The third one houses a VR game inspired by the film. “Rise of the Gunters” pits Wade and friends against the corporate agents who want to control the Oasis. I did poorly at “Gunters”, but crushed “Centipede”. Hours and hours of Atari 2600 practice pay off.

#604Stacks its open to the public Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th, 12 to 9pm.

Ready Player One opens next March 29th everywhere.