the 400 blows. 1959. francois truffaut’s iconic semi-autobiographical tale of a boy who, neglected by his apathetic parents, resorts to minor crimes. very similar to frank whaley’s writing and directorial debut, joe the king. 1999.
murmur of the heart. 1971. writer/director louis malle’s awkward celebration of the oedipal complex concerns a young boy’s taboo relationship with his mum, with whom he becomes irritated when he discovers her running around with men while they’re staying at a health resort.
butterflies are free. 1972. simple film based on the play of the same name benefits from great casting. a young blind man tries to convince his mother to quit coddling him. he gets his first apartment and falls in love with his carefree neighbor, a young aspiring actress. many great one-liners from edward albert and eileen eckhart. with goldie hawn (during her glory days).
the wrong box. 1963. a hilarious british comedy. when joint owners of a trust fund all face idiotic deaths, the surviving two men’s sons plot to defraud the other out of their share of the money, but the plans are often inadvertently foiled. with michael caine, dudley moore and sir john mills.
summer city. 1977. a scrap budget is to blame for this disappointing aussie film. mismarketed as a thriller starring mel gibson (who makes his film debut), the campy music and stock scenery instead models a mentos commercial. four friends travel to the shore, but one who treats himself to a one night stand faces the wrath of her crazy father. see the IMDb commentary by the film’s producer and apologetic director.
up in smoke. 1978. the first and best of the cheech and chong weedsploitation comedies is almost entirely improvised. pedro, anthony and their mariachi band are en route to compete in a battle of the bands and meanwhile, going to great lengths to score some smoke and inadvertently foiling the idiotic narcs on their trail. with cheech marin, tommy chong and stacey keach at their best. look for harry dean stanton in the deleted scenes. followed by nice dreams (1981) where, cheech and chong, having developed a successful weed vending business, are trailed once more by idiot cops. with paul rubens and stacey keach.
panic in needle park. 1971. an intense, but tragic story of a young heroine addict and small-time hustler who befriends a young homless woman. great performance by al pacino. with kitty winn and raul julia.
over the edge. 1979. based on a true story, teens in a new colorado housing development get into mischief when the money-conscious adults fail to construct anything to entertain the kids. but several clashes with the police and parents soon lead to a smashing uprising. with joey kramer. film debut of matt dillon.
cool hand luke. 1967. “sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand.” a great film. like randle macmurphy in one flew over the cuckoo’s nest authority decides a wrestless free-spirit like luke, serving time in a souther jail for busting up parking meters while drunk one night, requires reforming. with paul newman and george kennedy.
network. 1976. “i’m as mad as hell and i’m not going to take it anymore!” a brilliant classic from writer paddy chayefsky and director sideny lumet has unfortunately become a familiar reality. an aging network executive wearily competes with new blood who are loyal to the company’s bottom line, which includes promoting a show hosted by a raving former reporter who began boosting ratings when he threatened suicide on air after being fired from the network news. some unrealistic dialog, but loads of great argument and excellent performances. with peter finch, william holden, faye dunaway, robert duvall and ned beatty.
the prisoners of second avenue. 1975. a terrific neil simon dramedy. an unemployed ad executive suffering a nervous breakdown spawned by the endless nuisances of city life, wages a personal war, which his wife tries to snap him out of. with jack lemmon and anne bancroft. (look for f. murray abraham, m. emmett walsh and sylvester stalone in bit parts). serves as a better alternative to another jack lemmon drama adapted from a play: save the tiger (1973).
the mad max trilogy. 1979 – 1985. (mad max, road warrior and mad max: beyond thunderdome). the first of george miller’s post-apocalyptic action trilogy begins with max pursuing a vicious desert gang that murders his family. in the sequel, max protects an isolated commune from a gang trying to steal their gasoline supply. and in the third, max’s troubles begin when he makes a deal with the sleazy leader of “bartertown” to kill the technological mastermind’s bodyguard in exchange for re-supplying his stolen equipment. with mel gibson and tina turner. the ‘transparency now’ website contains an excellent essay analysis of the film. www.transparencynow.com/maxintro.htm
a boy and his dog. 1975. a young man and his talking dog wander in search of food and women in 2024. the DVD thankfully adds much needed audio improvement. with don johnson and jason robards.
logan’s run. 1976. in logan’s world, people who turn thirty have an illusory option of life renewal. those who flee are runners and logan’s hired to kill them. now approaching thirty himself, logan is recruited by an underground movement plotting to escape their oppressive existence. ripped off years later for the island (2006) and the kiddie version, solarbabies (1986).
fahrenheit 451. 1966. “first we burn the books to ashes. then we burn the ashes.” francois truffaut’s adaptation of ray bradbury’s classic novel centers on guy montag, an obedient fireman who celebrates burning books as necessary to keep people from becoming disruptive, but is then encouraged to question the laws he enforces after befriending a schoolteacher. with okar werner and julie christie.
the president’s analyst. 1967. a psychiatrist hired to be the president’s analyst is the subject of much paranoia when he mistakenly becomes the target of international spies. with james coburn and william daniels.
dog day afternoon. 1975. sidney lumet’s hilarious and tragic dramedy was partly ripped off for director barry levinson’s bandits (2002). two novice crooks, in need of money to pay for one’s sex change operation, decide to rob a bank by acting first and thinking later. with al pacino, the late john cazale, chris sarandon and charles durning.
take the money and run. 1969. woody allen’s second feature film director credits is a flashback mockumentary centering on a young, consistently inept petty criminal. loaded with running gags. with janet margolin.
fury. 1936. when a traveler, mistakenly arraigned for a kidnapping and then nearly killed by an angry mob trying to burn down the jail fakes his won death and wallows in quiet revenge when the mob is brought up on charges. despite an unrealistic finale, but it’s nice work from social critic director, fritz lang. with spencer tracy and sylvia sidney.
12 angry men. 1954. director sidney lumet’s fantastic commentary of changing social attitudes takes the simple form of one juror trying to convince eleven others that the case of a young mexican man deserves serious deliberation. an excellent cast featuring henry fonda, edward g. robinson, jack wardon, jack klugman and lee j. cobb. remade for TV in 1997 and parodied in jury duty (1995) an unemployed slacker takes advantage of his jury duty notice when his mother hitches up her mobile home and drives off with her boyfriend to get married. lucky enough to sit on the lengthy murder trial of “drive-thru killer” carl wayne bishop, he seeks to prolong the trial as long as possible while taking up residence in a posh penthouse hotel. with pauly shore, tia carrerra and stanley tucci.
the producers. 1968. written and directed by mel brooks. two producers scheming to keep up money made on a theatrical flop unwittingly create a successful production. dick shawn is hilarious as the play’s leading man. with gene wilder and zero mostel.
the last embrace. 1979. director johnathan demme’s thriller is constructed on scenes resembling those of hitchcock movies. following his wife’s accidental death in a miscalculated sting operation, an agent begins investigating why his employers suddenly want him dead. with roy scheider, janet margolin, john glover and christopher macdonald.
duel. 1977. made-for-TV cat-and-mouse thriller that marks director steven spielberg’s feature film debut. a city slicker passing through deserted highways of the west coast on a business trip becomes the target of a violent truck driver he cut-off. unable to convince others of his dilemma, he must defend himself alone. very simple, but effective. with dennis weaver.
murder by death. 1976. “conversation is like television on honeymoon… unnecessary!” excellent neil simon comedy spoofs paperback detetives and the agatha christie novel appallingly named ‘ten little niggers’ (but later, popularly referred to as ‘ten little indians’). famous slueths are invited to a mansion for a game of whodunnit: each of them will be killed off and the winner is the one to solve the mystery. featuring an excellent cast of comics: truman capote, peter sellers, peter falk, james cromwell and eileen brennan. simlar to clue (1986). based on the parker brothers board game, blackmailed guests at a mansion team up to solve an open-ended mystery when the mansion owner and staff turn up dead. includes three audience-tested endings. with time curry, madeline kahn, lee ving and christopher lloyd. also similar to …and then there were none (1945). adapted from the novel, residents with tainted histories are invited to an isolated mansion for the weekend. one by one, the guests are being killed while the helpless survivors scramble to learn the idenity of the killer.
the apartment. 1960. a wonderful romantic comedy from director billy wilder. a guy who usually lets his coworkers take advantage of his generosity and hospitality changes his attitude when a female coworker he likes attempts suicide in his apartment after his married boss ends their affair. with jack lemmon, shirley maclaine and fred macmurray. repeated for the obscure 80s teen comedy, paradise motel (1984) (hormone-raging teens convince the new kid in town to let them use his parent’s motel to entertain their one night stands) and billy wilder’s irma la douce (1963) (an ex-cop falls for a prostitute. by day he poses as her wealthy client and by the night, takes a job to afford keeping up the charade. with jack lemmon and shirley maclaine).
alice doesn’t live here anymore. 1974. director martin scorcese’s drama is similar to tumbleweeds (1999) and anywhere but here (1999), the newly widowed alice tests her threshhold for perserverance when she takes to the road with her eleven-year old son, trying to find work and begin a singing career. with ellen burstyn, harvey keitel and kris kristofferson.
breaking away. 1979. wonderful comedy filmed in bloomington, indiana centers on four friends from a working class midwestern town appear to have few options after high school. dennis christopher–in one of the few roles where he doesn’t play a complete weirdo–is main character dave stohler, who’s passion for bicycle racing gives he and his friends an opportunity to prove their worth to the college snobs. with dennis quaid, daniel stern, jackie earl haley and paul dooley (who might have been the model for that’s 70 show father, red foreman).
bad news bears. 1976. the over-used cliche of the misfit team made a bit respectable. a washed up minor league baseball player coaches a little league team that exhibits zip talent until he recruits his ex-girlfriend’s daughter and the neighborhood delinquent. with walter matthau, tatum o’neal and jackie early haley. great comedy also followed by two disasterous sequels the bad news bears: breaking in training (1977), the bad news bears go to japan (1978), a short-lived 1979 TV series starring jack warden, and a 2005 remake directed by richard linklater and starring billy bob thorton.
skateboard: the movie. 1978. a time capsule of a skateboard movie. a washed up businessman in need of cash to settle a large debt sponsors an amateur co-ed skate team. tony alva, who has a supporting role, should have been given the lead rather than leif garret.
free wheelin’ 1977. flowery skate documentary reads like a third grade composition as teenage peralta’s girlfriend narrates his love for skateboard. though it is valuable in explaining differences in “style,” something that seems lost in translation to modern skateboarding. with tom sims and former z-boy skater, paul constantineau.
the endless summer. 1966. bruce brown’s classic surf documentary follows pro surfers mike hynson and robert august as they chase the summer around the world. followed by the endless summer 2 (1994) nearly thirty years later, this time with emphasis on international recognition of the sport, this time with pro surfer pat o’connell and longboard champ “wingnut” weaver. some choreographed comedy and shameless product placement by sunkist, but lots of great scenery, introduction to many pros, old and new, and a decent soundtrack. similar to step into liquid (2003). bruce brown’s son, dana brown, continues his father’s legacy with a glorious global surfing documentary focusing on the flexible definition of “the perfect wave.” includes one of the earlier explorations of big wave surfing and foilboarding.
big wednesday. 1979. three friends share rights-of-passage experiences which culminate with the ocean swells. tends to get boring at parts, but maintains a steady cult following nonetheless. with gary busey and jan michael vincent.
california dreaming. 1979. keep your finger on the fast-forward button. a mid-westerner passing through a california beach town peddling his deceased brother’s jazz records stays a while and annoys everyone with his new-to-civilization personality. not even the few surf scenes are worth it. with dennis christopher, seymour cassel and tanya roberts.
the fury. 1978. fairly good sci-fi thriller and featured in the horror-montage, terror in the aisles (1984). a young female psychic assists the father of a young psychic who was kidnapped years earlier and held for an experiment that made him dangerously hostile. with amy irving, kirk douglas and john cassavettes.