November 13th, 2010

FROM NOON TILL THREE (1976) **

Charles Bronson stars as a bank robber whose horse throws a shoe on the way to his latest robbery.  His gang proceeds without him while he hangs out with a foxy widow (played by Bronson’s real life wife, Jill Ireland) in her mansion.  At first she’s repulsed by him but eventually they have a torrid love affair.  When word comes that the gang has been caught, she persuades Bronson to leave their tryst to go help his buddies.  What follows is pretty convoluted and contrived, so I’ll skip right to the point.  Their love affair winds up being turned into a romance novel and Ireland becomes a local celebrity.  Bronson winds up in prison for a year and when he gets out, she doesn’t want anything to do with him because it will taint their “legend”.  Then things get even more depressing and tragic.

 

From Noon Till Three is a pretty good idea for a movie.  The problem is that the two leads are woefully miscast.  As much as I love Charlie B., he just isn’t a romantic leading man.  And I know they cast Ireland just because she was his wife, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have enough on-screen chemistry to make the characters believable.  Although I admit that the plot is a little hokey, I still think it could’ve worked had we really felt something for the characters.

 

Another misstep the movie makes is the ending.  With such a goofy premise, you’d think this is the sort of flick that would be headed towards a happy ending.  This isn’t the case though.  In fact, the ending is downright infuriating and makes you wish you’d skipped the movie altogether.  It’s a shame too because the opening scenes are rather engaging.  Once Bronson starts romancing Ireland though, it’s all downhill from there.

BELLY OF THE BEAST (2003) ***

Steven Seagal’s daughter gets kidnapped and he travels halfway around the world to Thailand to get her back.  Along the way he gets mixed-up with crazed archery nuts, Kung Fu transvestites, and voodoo witch doctors.  No, I’m not on any drugs.  That I know of.

 

Belly of the Beast is all over the place but the places it goes are pretty funny.  The action sequences are fairly well done (for a Direct to DVD era Seagal movie that is) and some of his Kung Fu maneuvers are flashier than usual.  For example, there is a good scene where Seagal gets ambushed by some sword slinging swashbucklers.  Seagal carefully watches one of the guy’s hand movements (in slow motion) until he gets his timing down and snatches the swords out of the guy’s hands.  Yeah, it’s not cinematically groundbreaking, but it’s a nice little moment.  I also liked the part when the villain shot an arrow at Seagal and he shot it down in mid-air with his gun.

 

But there is more here than just a handful of competent action sequences.  Belly of the Beast also has a number of quirky scenes.  Like when Seagal sneaks into a dude’s house and steals some documents out of his safe.  Before he leaves, he sneaks into the guy’s kitchen and steals a bottled water out of the fridge too.  That shit was great.

 

Then there are the moments of out-and-out hilarity.  There’s a great scene late in the picture when Seagal goes toe to toe with a transvestite henchman.  When the tranny reveals he’s actually a man, Steve-O quips, “I liked you much better as a bitch!”  Priceless.

 

Belly of the Beast also offers us a heaping helping of WTF insanity too.  The ending pretty much breaks the Goofy Meter.  Some mystical voodoo witch doctor puts a spell on Seagal while he’s dueling with the villain.  Luckily, Steve-O’s buddies back at the Shaolin Temple use the power of prayer to engage the witch doctor in a psychic battle of wits.

 

I don’t want to make Belly of the Beast sound like it’s some kind of cult classic or anything.  Although the flick has more than it’s fair share of memorably goofy ass moments, it still has a lot of the usual boring CIA plot stuff in there too.  And the movie does have a habit of bogging down whenever something kooky isn’t going on.

 

While it may suffer from some overall pacing problems and an out of whack tone, Belly of the Beast made me to raise an eyebrow in disbelief more than a few times; enough for a Three Stars recommendation.  It’s not exactly a return to form for Seagal, but it does earn the right to be mentioned in the same breath with Out of Reach as one of his nuttiest latter era films. 

 

Special Note:  I think I deserve a cookie for reviewing a Steven Seagal movie that has the word “Belly” in the title and not making some sort of pun about his weight.

MAD RON’S PREVUES FROM HELL (1987) ***

I love horror movie trailer compilations as much as the next guy and Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell could’ve been one of the all-time greats.  There are a lot of great trailers here.  Many of the trailers I’ve already seen a thousand times before (like I Drink Your Blood, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Last House on the Left, Color Me Blood Red, Night of the Living Dead, etc.) but they’re still great.  There are plenty of obscure trailers (Love Me Deadly, The Maniacs are Loose, Bloodeaters, Wildcat Women 3-D, etc.) that are fun too. 

 

If the flick had been nothing but horror and exploitation trailers, Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell would’ve been a classic.  The problem is that in between the trailers is a bunch of irritating scenes with this jackass ventriloquist and his zombie puppet.  These guys just aren’t funny at all.  Their jokes are sub-vaudeville in quality and I don’t even think a two-year old would laugh at them.  The scenes where some zombies enter the theater to watch the trailers work slightly better, but that’s not saying much (I liked the scene where they poured blood on their popcorn though). 

 

Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell runs about 85 minutes long.  Roughly 25 of those minutes are devoted to the ventriloquist making lame jokes.  That leaves about an hour’s worth of awesome trailers and that’s still good enough for Three Stars in my book.