Jesus Revolution

Normally, a film like this would be attended only by the faithful who have accepted the story as part of their own belief system. I can’t say that I share that faith, the evangelical movement that is depicted here passed me by, way back in the early seventies when I was just reaching my teen years. I was vividly aware of the “Jesus People” who roamed the streets sharing the good news that they wanted all to share. It was a compelling emotional movement that could perform miracles. I saw one example for myself. A neighbor that I knew as Fred, about the same age as me, was entrapped by a fascination with Nazi ideology.  He actually wore a swastika armband and brownshirt to school on occasion. Somewhere along his way, he became a convert to a different cause, and the adolescent dalliance with the horrible trappings of Nazism ended and a far more healthy relationship started. I have no idea what happened to him subsequently, but at school we sometimes called him Reverend Fred, because he was now one of the Jesus Freaks that had become so well known.

I did not know the history of this movement, but I had heard a couple of the names before. I did know there was a connection between the hippies and the Jesus people and this story clarifies it pretty effectively. My main reason for seeing the film was the presence of Kelsey Grammer as Pastor Chuck Smith. I have been a fan of his since his long time playing Frasier Crane on television. He has apparently made several of these faith based films, serving as a producer as well as acting in them. I thought his performance in this film was quite authentic. In the early stages of the story, he is understandably a skeptic, but the scenes where he and the street preacher Lonnie Frisbee, begin to connect were very well done. Later in the film, when Smith has doubts about the form of Frisbee’s evangelism, it is subtle nonverbal acting that allows Grammer to stay true to the character that has been created by him earlier in the film.

The actor who plays Lonnie Frisbee has starred in a series of crowdfunded television episodes that are delivered not in seasons but as they are completed. Johnathan Roumie portrays Jesus in “The Chosen”, but in this film he is a hippie adopting the supposed appearance of Christ, to better connect with the congregations he hopes to develop. Frisbee was by all accounts a very charismatic minister, and Roumie taps into that sort of personal projection very effectively. As I said, the early scenes between him and Kelsy Grammer are very strong. The dialogue is compelling but the sincerity of the voices is just the extra element that makes things work as well as they do. There are dark elements to Frisbee’s background that are only hinted at in this story, in large part because the true subject of the movie is Greg Laurie. 

Laurie is an evangelical author and the pastor of the Harvest Christian Fellowship, which is in essence, the heir to the Jesus Revolution of the title. He is also one of the screenwriters, so what we are seeing is an autobiographical film. If you have an open mind and are interested in how someone can come to their faith, this is a very good story to start with. As a conflicted high school student, Greg falls in with the hippies and the anti-social drug culture of the times. He is the embodiment of the type of soul that Frisbee has been talking with Pastor Smith about. Someone who seeks meaning through the counter-culture but can find that meaning through the Christian faith. Joel Courtney is playing the young adult version of Laurie, and it is his journey that forms the spine of the story, especially in the second half of the film. When I looked him up, I found that he had played the lead in one of my favorite films from a decade ago, “Super 8“. Movements are not usually created by a single individual, but they are shaped by individuals and sometimes directed into other channels. You don’t hear much these days about “Jesus Freaks” but clearly the roots of that movement have flowered into a culture that produces works like this film and helps structure the lives of the followers. 

The movie is conventionally told. It is shot in a professional manner and it looks like a well budgeted feature from a modern studio. The direction is efficient without any stylistic indulgences, which does help keep the focus on the story. I am not familiar with the Christian rock songs that are frequently used, but I was impressed with how well they merged with the pop songs from the era that also populate the film. As an outsider looking in, I felt I got a good sense of what had happened and how why the movement succeeded in creating a strong Christian community. Others may want to delve into issues of ministry and the conflicts that exist among the faithful, I simply was interested in the story of the movement, and I felt satisfied with the description I was given. 


Adam Driver is a rising star who has already been nominated for an Academy Award twice.  He has worked with Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee and Ridley Scott. His name is probably thrown into the mix anytime someone has a film project that requires a modern type leading man. So it is no surprise that he would be cast in this science fiction mashup that relies on the central character to hold a film together. The surprise is that he can’t quite do it alone. As almost everyone in the film business will tell you, the script is where it all starts. Casting can cover a lot of issues but it can’t replace a good script.

“65” is a simple adventure story, with two concepts powering it. First, it takes place in the past, although a futuristic past for planet Earth. Second, it is a parental redemption vehicle that wills us to identify with a grieving father as a surrogate, who is thrust into a circumstance to force him into action. Unfortunately, in spite of these fairly strong ideas, the script does nothing original for them. A stranded space jockey has to navigate a treacherous environment, to save himself and a young girl. That’s it, that is the entire depth of the story. Except for the fact they the two speak different languages, there are no dramatic twists, no memorable sequences of humor or developing warmth, all there is is the next action beat. 

When you are running away from dinosaurs, that should be plenty interesting for those only seeking an action film. There are a couple of sequences where it works, the best one is in an undergrounds series of crevices’ which allow some darkness and claustrophobia to enhance the moments, but mostly we get jump scares and cliches. The journey the two survivors of the crash are undertaking is relatively short, and it is to get to an escape vehicle that somehow managed to remain functional after the crash and the severe abuse it goes through at the climax of the picture.  The script adds a ticking countdown by turning this into another mashup, this time between Jurassic Park and Armageddon.   

The budget was sufficient to make the dinosaurs look real and the space craft to looks functional. There are little pieces of technology in the story but nothing that we have not seen before. The weapons are derivative of  a hundred other space operas and keep everything on a simple level. The prehistoric environment is the closest thing that the story comes up with that adds anything to the drama. Tar pits and geysers are about as creative as it gets. Those things make the journey only slightly more interesting, but I’m not sure there is a big improvement over the same concepts in films like “The Lost World”, “At the Earth’s Core”, and “The Land that Time Forgot”.  

If you are not too discriminating, you can get 90 minutes of mild entertainment out of “65”. You can also get the same amount of entertainment out of watching a couple of episodes of “CSI” or “Law and Order”.  They are perfectly fine, but not something you would leave the house for. That’s the same for this movie. Why would you leave the house for this? I can’t give you an answer except that the popcorn at the theater is probably better than what you can make at home. 

Scream VI (2023)

So far, I have not been disappointed with any of the “Scream” films. They are a great amalgam of horror, film tropes, meta analysis and comedy. The fact that these have managed to sustain themselves for twenty-five plus years is impressive. Watching each new version is also an opportunity to peek into the development process of the franchise because they put their thinking right in the script and invite everyone to appreciate and laugh at it. The movies have managed to stay this side of parody but to also enjoy some of the clear cutting that parody allows. 

The previous iteration of the films was a “requel” , a term I’d not heard before but is a perfect sniglet for the type of film we are seeing. These are not reboots where the series is starting over, and the two most recent films are not direct sequels to the original four films. What we are getting is an integration of new characters with the old (legacy) characters, and a new scenario that ties back to the previous story lines but usually in a circuitous manner. In this case, we need a link to the original series of murders and the deaths in the previous film. When the resolution comes, the tie in is just adequate enough to satisfy the desire for this universe of killings to all be interrelated. 

One way that the film subverts itself is in the opening. There is the traditional phone exchange and then a gruesome murder, but the the identity of the killer appears to be revealed. Will we be looking at this story with a completely different perspective for the remaining time? I won’t spoil things for you but I will say that the traditions of the tropes are respected, even as they are being mocked. I found that sequence very clever and enjoyable. The new cast, which may be referred to as the “core four”, then gets the front and center attention we are expecting. Jasmin Savoy Brown as Mindy, again gets to pontificate on the traditional tropes of a horror film, but then expand on the convoluted explanations that her character provided before. Everyone questions their role on the story, and people who are in on the joke (that’s you and me) get to laugh at the obviousness of some of the points and the cleverness with which we then get thrown off of the trail, and finally the realization that the film has stuck to it’s stated “rules” after all. 

Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega are back as the main characters of the Carpenter sisters. Big Sister Sam is trying to cope with and manage her heritage still and the trauma she has undergone. Younger sister Tara is trying to sublimate the trauma, and that forms the early conflict in the story. Once the more active pursuit of Ghostface starts however, those sibling issues get shunted aside for the horror tropes we are looking for. Courtney Cox returns as Gale Weathers, and there is a little contentiousness because of events that supposedly happened between the two films, but that goes away pretty quickly as well. 

I’m not ashamed to say that in most of the previous films, my first time through, I was fooled by the tricks and taken in by assumptions which lead to my surprise at the reveal. This was the first of the films where I saw what was going to happen, at least in part, before the final reel. In trying to play fair, the screenwriters gave one character a piece of dialogue which is a tell. If you are looking for it, you will probably see it as well. Everything won’t be explained, but you can connect the dots rapidly as the conclusion plays out. I don’t consider this a flaw in the film, just a moment of clarity that comes from having seen this form of story subterfuge play out before. 

David Arquette is missed but only because his character was well beloved. Mason Gooding as the fourth corner of the “core four”, clearly looks like he will be taking over many of the tropes that Deputy Dewey had in the previous films. There is a callback moment near the end which make me laugh really hard. Some characters just are too resilient. If you stick it out through the credits, there is one more joke and good laugh to be had, but be warned, it will be at your expense. 

KAMAD Throwback Thursdays 1975 “French Connection II”

Throwback Thursday #TBT

Throwback Thursday on the KAMAD site will be a regular occurrence in the next year. As a motivational project, to make sure I am working on something, even in a week where I don’t see a new film in a theater, I am going to post on movies from 1975. Along with 1984, this is one of my favorite years for movies and it is full of bittersweet memories as well. 1975 was my Senior Year in High School and my Freshman Year in College. The greatest film of the last 60 years came out in 1975, as well as dozens of great and not so great cinematic endeavors. Most of the films in this weekly series will have been seen in a theater in 1975, but there are several that I only caught up with later. I hope you all enjoy. 

French Connection II

After the huge success of “The French Connection”, someone figured there must be money to be made by doing a sequel, after all it worked for “The Godfather”. The original story in the French Connection was based on a non-fiction book about a huge drug bust. Obviously it was built up and goosed to make it more dramatic and exciting than watching guys watch cars for three nights in a row. The car chase in The French Connection is an elaboration that was not part of the real story. For French Connection II, they had to invent a whole new plot.

Popeye Doyle was a larger than life character that could be the focus of a new story and Gene Hackman had already won an Academy Award for playing him. The idea of a fish out of water plot, featuring a hard boiled detective from NYC, tring to maneuver the ways of French law enforcement was a good place to start. Probably the most memorable images of the film contain Hackman, wandering around Marseilles in his Hawaiian shirt and suit, with the pork pie hat on his head. The image in itself just screams “ugly American”.  In essence, that is what turns his character into a lure for the criminal organization headed by the character referred to as Frog 1 in the original film. When Alain Charnier spots Popeye in his hometown of operations, it triggers a reaction which the French Police and the NYC Brass had hoped for. The problem is that Popete was not in on the ploy and he becomes a pawn in the game, and one that is captured relatively easily. 

The main justification from a dramatic point of view for the film to exist, is to give Hackman some tasty scenes to chew on and let us relive the character. The interviews with suspects are of course compounded by the fact that Doyle does not speak French and his threats are not processed by the suspects or the interpreters very well. When he repeats the question from the first film,   “if he ever picked his feet in Poughkeepsie”, it does not resonate at all with the others and Doyle starts steaming like a kettle getting ready to boil over. Before that can happen however, the big plot twist comes up. After being taken by the criminals, he is tortured and questioned by being strung out on the heroin he is in pursuit of. This is the sequence that probably encouraged Hackman to reprise his role, because he gets to play high, beaten, frustrated and wrung out through the addiction and Cold Turkey that follows. He is very good in those scenes. 

Laying the groundwork for dozens of police procedurals over the next half century, there are several footchases in the film. There is usually a slight twist to them, such as the suspect is really a police informer, or there is a shootout rather than a suspect being tackled at the end. There is no chase as exciting as the one in the original, but there are a couple of solid action bits that help make up for that. Doyle, discovering the location where he was held and tortured, engages in some police sanctioned arson. I don’t know that it was believable, but it was satisfying to see him take some vengeance in this fashion. When the police discover the unloading of the blisters filled with heroin off of the ship in the dry dock. There is a shootout and an exciting sequence with water flowing down on the cops in a very dangerous circumstance.  The shootouts are staged adequately, but there are an awful lot of them, which makes the film feel a little more artificial that the original. Director John Frankenheimer was very good at action scenes and you will see that in many of his other films. 

The contentious relationship between Dole and his French counterpart Barthélémy, ended up working pretty well although it was oversold in the early part of the film. Ed Lauter is in the movie, as a U.S. General, tied in with Charnier, but outside of a couple of conversations, that plotline goes nowhere. Lauter is the only other American in the film and he feels like a weak red herring for us, which is too bad because I like him as a character actor very much but he gets nothing to do here. There is an interesting interlude during Doyle’s captivity with an Old Woman, which has a different payoff than you might expect, so there are a few good character moments in the film, but it is a much more action driven movie than I remembered.

Speaking of memory, I can’t quite recall the circumstances under which I saw this. When I looked at the release date of May 21, I immediately assumed I saw the movie with my two friends Dan Hasegawa and Art Franz. Art was scheduled to go into the army at the end of June, and we saw several films together before he headed off to bootcamp. Dan and I were both going to U.S.C. in the Fall, and we might have gone together after Art reported for duty. Forty Eight years later I’m afraid I’m fuzzy on the details. The movie was a moderate success and I recall liking it quite well, but not thinking it lived up to it’s predecessor. That’s also the way I feel about it now. 

Casablanca Fathom Event (2023) Revisit

I have written about this movie before, but as you can see from all the “Jaws” and “Lawrence of Arabia” posts, I don’t necessarily feel sated by one entry on a film. “Casablanca” may be one of the most important films in my love of movies. The main character is my namesake, and the circumstances under which I first fell under it’s spell, tell a traditional story of a movie fanatics love affair. 

Eleven years ago, there was a 70th Anniversary screening by Fathom Events, You can read my comments on that occasion here:

70th Anniversary Casablanca Screening 

My opinion on the film has not changed at all, the movie is still perfection. The Sunday Night show that we went to was three quarters full, which is good, but the audience was elderly, which is less so. That comes from someone who just reached the Social Security milestone, so it was noticeable. This is a program that is designed to sell the release of the film on a 4K format, which probably means little to most of the fans who came out, but maybe it will help bring in some younger viewers so that the near Universal respect that this film is held in will continue. 

There has been a Social Media prompt the last couple of weeks, listing a series of items to answer, you know: “Movie that I Hate”, “Movie that I find overrated”,  “Movie that I can watch over and over again”. Several of my on-line friends played along and the one item that stood out to me was that at least three of them answered “Movie I should have seen but haven’t”; CASABLANCA.

Far be it for me to chastise people for having a blind spot, believe me I have plenty. I am just surprised because this is such an accessible film Unlike some foreign language cinema masterpiece, or a dense metaphysical dive into existentialism, “Casablanca” is emotionally engaging, easy to dive into and a pleasure rather than a chore. I hope that all of you who have not caught up to it will do so soon. 

The love story at the center of the film, features a broken romance, a love triangle and the complications of the Nazi threat to the world. All of those get a satisfying resolution at the end, at least from a moral perspective. Everyone lives up to their duty and faith in the face of horror. My favorite elements of the film however, repeatedly involve Claude Rains as Captain Renault. His presenting self is as a neutral in regard to others and the politics of the war. He cynically accuses Rick of being a sentimentalist underneath his gruff exterior. Renault, is among the least moral characters in Casablanca, engaging in corruption and exploiting women through his power to grant an exit visa. Yet he is also the most charming and insightful of characters, and every time he and Rick engage in verbal by-play, it is music to my ears. 

So many films have good stories and dialogue that services the story, but it feels mannered and manufactured. Every line in this movie feels organic to the characters that are being presented. Sascha playfully flirts with Rick’s current girl Yvonne, but it is not heavy handed and full of double entendres, instead it is light, fun and reflective of his personality. Peter Lorre’s Ugarte is slimy with a sense of neediness that makes us sympathize with him in spite of his obvious faults. Carl is suitably felicitous as Bogarts major domo of the Café American, and he is a human being who reflects our own concerns about the characters in the main story. I will leave Ferrari, Strasser, Sam, Lazlo and so many others to another time, let’s just say they are all perfectly cast and deliver performances that make the script sing.

The esteem I have for this movie can also be read in my birthday list from two years ago:

Top 10 List for my Birthday #6 

Till we meet again, we will always have Paris. 

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) Revisit

I did a pretty extensive write up of this film back in 2014 on the 30 Years On Project, which covered films from 1984. We are just a year short of a 40th Anniversary for “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, but the screening was this last weekend so I’m not going to wait another year. 

Most of my previous comments are still true in regard to my opinion of the film. The practical effects are the thing that make this movie so compelling. The sequence where Tina is attacked, while she is in bed with her boyfriend, continues to be pretty horrifying. We think one way to deal with nightmares is to have someone with us, but Wes Craven doesn’t give us that out. The brutal sequence happens in spite of the fact that physically capable Rod is right there. He is powerless as Tina is ripped open, flung around the room and snuffed out by the invisible nightmare she is having. The movement on the ceiling, the long cuts to her abdomen, and the volume of blood, make a terrific horror sequence. 

The same is true of the attack on Glenn played by Johnny Depp. I criticized his performance in the first half of the movie, but it is not any more problematic than the rest of the cast, and everyone does seem to do better once the character of Freddy is established as the villain. I suppose it is silly to knock a film like this for overkill, so I won’t complain, but the amount of blood that poor Glen gives up is impressive. 

If the film has any element to it that does not hold up, it is the musical score which marks it as a product of it’s time. Composer Charles Bernstein has the synthesizer do so much of the heavy lifting in the picture, that the music feels like an 80s cliché right out of the box. There were a few eerie moments, but way to often, the volume key and the hold key on the electronic instruments just happen too obviously. 

Wes Craven created a masterpiece with this film. I frankly have not seen any of the follow ups, but I think I am going to remedy that soon.   

30 Years On:1984 A Great Year for Movies-A Nightmare on Elm Street

KAMAD Throwback Thursdays 1975 “Diamonds”

Throwback Thursday #TBT

Throwback Thursday on the KAMAD site will be a regular occurrence in the next year. As a motivational project, to make sure I am working on something, even in a week where I don’t see a new film in a theater, I am going to post on movies from 1975. Along with 1984, this is one of my favorite years for movies and it is full of bittersweet memories as well. 1975 was my Senior Year in High School and my Freshman Year in College. The greatest film of the last 60 years came out in 1975, as well as dozens of great and not so great cinematic endeavors. Most of the films in this weekly series will have been seen in a theater in 1975, but there are several that I only caught up with later. I hope you all enjoy. 


The trailer here represents one of the issues with selecting this film for the TBT project. The movie is not commercially available so no one seems to have cared to find and post the trailer for the film. What you see above is a fan created promo, obviously done on free software since the watermark is all over the video. I had never heard of this movie before checking a list of 1975 films on IMDB. When I saw that Robert Shaw and Richard Roundtree were the stars, I was enthusiastic about including it on the project. The problem is that it is not really available. No streaming services were offering it, it never had a DVD release, and the only home media that was available was a VHS tape for sale on ebay. 

So I made my purchase and dug out the VHS player that my wife had used in her classroom, it also has a DVD player, and hooked it all up. It turns out I could have watched a bootlegged copy on You Tube. In the long run, a You Tube viewing will be my last resort for these lost films. I still prefer physical media, even if it is an antiquated format. 

Before I talk about the film itself, there are a couple of interesting points. First of all, the film was also marketed as “Diamond Shaft”. That is the cover title on my ebay acquisition and the art work there pretty well explains why the title switch. Richard Roundtree was best known as the actor who portrayed Shaft in the movies. The character of John Shaft is nowhere in this film, and Roundtree does not ever hold a gun in his hand in the movie. Another alternate title was “Ace of Diamonds”, which I think would have worked better, but back in 1975, no one asked my opinion.

This is a heist picture and it has some interesting elements to it. Robert Shaw for example, plays twins. He is both Charles and Earl Hodgson. Earl is a security expert who designs protection for large businesses. Charles is a diamond merchant. An early scene establishes the competitive nature of the two brothers, they are both blackbelts and they spar with one another. Charles has tricked his way into having a social evening with Sally, played by Barbara Hersey who was going by Barbara Seagull at the time. Sally is the girlfriend of recently released prisoner Archie, the professional thief played by Roundtree. It is a convoluted sequence designed to bring all of them together but also to potentially drive a wedge between Sally and Archie. Charles has some agenda that we are not yet privy to.

“Diamonds” was written and directed by Menahem Golan, who was yet to partner with his cousin Yoram Globus, to form Cannon Films, but they did have a history of making films in Israel, which is exactly where this movie is mostly shot. The rest of the cast are Israeli actors who I did not recognize, but they were all pretty good. Oh there is one other American actor in the cast, Shelly Winters appears as a widow visiting the Holy land, but her role is completely superfluous to the story. At best she is comic relief, but if you took her out of the film completely, it would not have changed a thing about the plot.

The three act structure is very clear in the plotting. The opening section is the recruitment phase, which largely takes place in London. When they arrive in Israel, things get more complex as the plan is being laid out for us and there is a substantial amount of police attention paid to Archie because he is a known criminal. I enjoyed seeing the Israeli locations and seeing all the people in the squares and marketplaces. This elaborate set up contains a lot of cat and mouse playing between the thieves and the police who have them under surveillance. There are also a couple of red herrings thrown in, to baffle the police and us. 

I am usually of the opinion that we as an audience should be in on as many details of the planning as possible, without giving away any surprises. There were a couple of technical elements in the execution of the theft which would have been more dramatic if we had seen them coming. However, the casing of the security vault and it’s procedures was shown pretty effectively. Charles has some insider information that could have been laid out to his partners, but it was not of critical importance. I do think though that Shaw’s character needed to have a little more development as a personality. The interactions between him, Archie and Sally, after the opening section in London, are pretty dry. There is a suggestion of some tension but none of it is very dramatic.

When we get to the heist itself, the parts we see were well staged. As is required in a plot featuring a crime like this, there are some complications, but the main variable is the cooperation of a representative of the security vault. His motivation to provide information is a result of threat and duress, but when he overcomes that, he is so tentative about approaching the authorities that the extra time feels like a dramatic cheat. Robert Shaw was on the other end of an elaborate con game in “The Sting”, so it is kind of fun when the tables are turned on the cops and his partners at the climax of the film. “The Thomas Crown Affair” seems to have also been something of an inspiration for the story turns here. 

“Diamonds” or “Diamond Shaft” if you prefer, is not an essential film. Shaw was better in “The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3” the year before. The film is however interesting enough for fans of heist films and Robert Shaw. Roundtree and Seagull(Hersey) have little opportunity to shine because character development is not a goal of the screenwriter/director. This is a movie that is all about the crime, and it is only moderately interesting in spite of the tricks that get played.