Friday, November 30, 2007
I swear... it seems I spend more time these days with Al Pacino than I do with my closest mates! Really, everytime I turn around..there he is on my television screen. Not that I'm complaining..I think I enjoy watching Pacino more than I enjoy talking to most people anyway and in S1m0ne we see a tender side he doesn't often show in his roles. Andrew Nicol, who gave us such gems as GATTACA and THE TRUMAN SHOW, wrote and directed this one which is yet another of his examinations of the role and reality of celebrity and identity. What makes this one special is the fine blend of humor, heart and science fiction, it's a hard thing to do and he manages to pull it off. As I often do, I will give none of the story away as it's a rocket fueled one.....what I will say I have no idea why Vancouverite Rachel Roberts isn't doing more work these days because she is stunning here. Perfect date film and more than suitable for the whole family.
I always like to watch this around the Christmas holidays though for the life of me I'm not quite sure why. A very odd piece of work for this time of year to say the least, certainly a modern masterpiece with acting and direction of the highest quality.....when you have Anthony Hopkins spearheading Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham-Carter and Vanessa Redgrave what would you expect. Amazing adaptation of E.M. Forster's novel, in some ways it's amazing they could fit all of the elements into one film though this is one of the things James Ivory does best. This is not rental material, it's one you buy as repeated viewings are needed to absorb the many levels this presentation works on.
John Landis, the man who brought us AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON decides to return the favor by bring a vampire from France to America...Pittsburgh in fact which is no doubt a tip of the hat to my man Goerge A. Romero. Come to think of it, the whole flick is one ginat in-gag tip of the hat though it really should have been set in New Jersey because INNOCENT BLOOD plays out like a blood sucker episode of THE SOPRANOS and a lot of Tony's crew are to be seen here! The french vampire in question here is played by the fabulous Anne Parillaud who we all know and love from LA FEMME NIKITA. Anthony LaPaglia, who for some reason I always mistake for one of the neverending Baldwin brothers, provides the male lead and oddly enough in this case "the romantic interest" as the story is really about Parillaud and a vampire she makes by mistake wo just happens to be Robert Loggia in the funniest role he has ever taken. When I mentioned THE SOPRANOS I wasn't joking. Here we see see the likes of Tony Lip, Rocco Sisto, David Proval, Chazz Palminteri (who wasn't in THE SOPRANOS but bloody well should have been!) and Tony Sirico. As for horror related cameos, see if you can spot Forrest J Ackerman, Tom Savini, Dario Argento, Linnea Quigley as well as Sam Raimi, Angela Basset and Frank Oz...and we can't forget about Don Rickles who brings some great laughs here. Yet, what really makes INNOCENT BLOOD work here is top notch writing, a little too much of the lovey dovey aspect for my liking but hey, what do you do, and fine directing with great acting all around. This still remains one of those great films nobody saw...do yourself a favor and make sure you're not one of them!
Above the Law
Hard to imagine this is Steven Seagal's film debut as it seems to me like he has been around forever. Andrew Davis directs a straight forward martial arts action film here so there are really no surprises other than casting. Nice to see Pam Grier and Henry Silva get some screen time but really.....all ABOVE THE LAW does is set the mold that would typecast Seagal for years to come, cop accused of being bad who has to make things right.....thing is he does it better than most. Look for Sharon Stone in an early role.
Robert De Niro and Al Pacino meet for the first time on the big screen in this remake of Michael Mann's own film L.A. TAKEDOWN. Oddly enough I was never a fan of this film for some reason and was pleasantly surprised to see just how enjoyable it was on a recent viewing. All of Mann's trademarks are here, the music, the architecture, the eye for authenticity, the pacing....all here. De Niro and Pacino are exactly what you would expect them to be. The only big surprise is Ted Levine playing a good guy for a change. A young Natalie Portman has some scene stealing bits as well. Still, what it all boils down to is HEAT being a well choriographed wrestling match and hat's off to one actor (ain't naming names here) being big enough to take the fall. Well worth the near three hours you will spend watching it.
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
To this day I'm still amazed Sacha Baron Cohen got away with not only making this film but ever having it released as it is one of the most offensively gut splitting comedies and social commentaries you will ever encounter! For those of you not yet to see it, do so, if only once. For those of you that have...yes...most of it is genuine and on repeated viewings you can pretty much tell what was staged and what wasn't. For instance, there is no way in hell the Pamela Anderson scene could have been pulled off without her being in on it.....no way..Cohen would have been toasted by her personal security. Other scenarios are not so black and white and according to IMDB the police were called 91 times on Cohen during the shooting of this film. I'm not at all surprised and neither will you! What makes this heads and shoulders above your average crass fare is how Cohen assembles the whole thing. There is a story, there are set up scenes to make you feel for the character of Borat and they are AMAZINGLY effective! Also, while being as crude as can be it manages to hold an ugly mirror up to the face of North American society and trust me...what you see is not pleasant. As a side bar, the Kazakhstan language he and Azamat speak are actully Hebrew and Armenian respectively and should anybody know where a translated transcript exists please let me know as I'm told the in-jokes in this aspect of the film are hilarious in their own right. Watch it with a bucket near by because if it doesn't offend you to puke, you will laugh till you barf!
Is there really any sense getting into this one.....it's a remake of a Japanese classic and I remember being madder than hell when I walked out of the theatre back in the day. I can't quite recall what it was I so greatly disliked at that time but no doubt it would be along the same lines as the complaints I have today. This is a monster film.....and from this I want Godzilla smashing the shit out of cities and chomping the heads off of many.....and he has to step on a few folks as well...nothing better than a good monster stomp! What I don't want is friggin' subplots and the last thing I want to see is a fucking romantic interest...which I guess is why I don't direct these films because I would have had ol' 'Zilllie using both Maria Pitillo and Matthew Broderick as doggie biscuits! All of this aside I find I enjoy this remake more and more for the action it does deliver. Roland Emmerich knows how to deliver the goods when it comes to mass destruction and if you use the remote to fast forward the sappy shit you get some find knock 'em down and kick their asses mayhem. The scene with the apache copters chasing Godzilla in downtown Manhattan are utterly amazing and the film is worth a rental just for this sequence. Yes, it can appear slightly date even though the film is not yet ten years old but the blocking and pacing are pure genius. Worth a second look if you have nothing better to do and answer me this....do you not feel an odd tinge in your get whenever you see the twin towers in a flick?
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Often wrongly accused of being a poor man's rip-off of WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT one must understand COOL WORLD is a far different beast. Sure, there are similarities between the two but COOL WORLD is much more a slice for the adults. Like many films (how often do I have to say this?) I don't wish to give much of the story away as it's an enjoyable one and as such you will wish to see it unfold for yourself. What I will say is this is one of Ralph Bakshi's best films and if for nothing else is worth a watch just to see Brad Pitt running around calling folks a "wackadoo". Gabriel Byrne and Kim Bassinger raise to the challenge of a live action/animation crossover and comic junkies will love the homages Bakshi plays to some of comicdom and animation's best, especially Tex Avery. A good bit of fun action....just not for the kiddies.
From the crew who brought us the BASKETCASE films comes this...well....yet another take on the Frankenstein theme and if you thought Andy Warhol's "supposed" version was screwed wait till you feast your seeing orbs on this nasty little number. Low budget all around with some of the absolute worst dialogue you will ever hear and damn is it ever funny....and juicy as ol' Hell. There are boat loads of blood in this baby....I mean...the set up premise...aspiring Dr. Frankenstein wannabe loses his fiance to a FRIKIN' RUNAWAY INDUSTRIAL LAWN MOWER at her birthday party. Oh man oh man...it just doesn't get any better than that.....and the famous line "wanna date" that used to come out of the video box when you pressed the special button...classic stuff. The only real notables in this funk fest are Playmate Charlotte Helmkamp and Kathleen Gati who is still doing great television work to this day. Good clean fun just in time for the holidays!
The Mosquito Coast
I've often wondered if novelist Paul Theroux was hanging around with Daniel Quinn when he penned THE MOSQUITO COAST as there are certainly elements of ISHMAEL throughout and director Peter Weir does a bang up job illustrating them. This is the story of a tortured genuius who decides to check out on society as it were only to discover it is easier said than done and in the process he not only destroys himself but his family. It may seem simple on the surface, in actuality this is an extremely complex piece. Once again Harrison Ford is on top of his game as is the great Helen Mirren and once again we are reminded of what a tragedy it was to lose Rive Phoenix at such an early age. The amazing visuals are wonderfully complimented by the stirring Maurice Jarre score and look for Jason Alexander in his second big screen appearance....and while you're at it...take the time to read the book ya' lazy sod!
Let me get this off of my chest right away...I fucking hate this film...I mean....REALLY hate this film...like....with a fucking passion! It's not that it's partuclarly bad though Lance Henriksen gives one of his worst performances ever here to the point I think he might have been ill during production or something because he has NEVER turned in anything even remotely as bad as this. No...I hate POWDER for the same reason I can't friggin' stand THE BOY IN THE PLASTIC BUBBLE....it's one of those kiddie chick flicks where you have to listen to sobbing nubiles go on and fucking on about how poor little Powder had it......aw man...fucking shoot me now and get it over with. Still...as much as I hate this film (did I mention that) I will give props to Sean Patrick Flanery....he did an outstanding job and it isn't his fault that writer/director Victor Salva gave him such a lame character to work with. Speaking of Salva, the poor guy made more headlines for the wrong reasons with POWDER than he ever would have hoped. A convicted child molester being funded by Disney....oh....you just knew THAT was gonna cause a major grade-A shit-storm! I was a shareholder at the time (still am) and the fuss was right off the friggin' chart. Anyway, I don't wanna rake him over the coals for his past or for this film because in my eyes he redeemed himself with JEEPERS CREEPERS...so perhaps we should all take a deep breath and make like this was something that happened at last night's Christmas party and pretend it never happened!
The Bridge on the River Kwai
One of the finest films I have ever seen! Loosely based on true events in World War II this David Lean film walked away with seven Oscars a feat he would repeat five years later with LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. This is one of those films legends are made of, they didn't want David Lean to direct it, the didn't want Alec Guiness or William Holden to star in it and truth be told nobody was sure the film would even be a success. Also, one has to remember this was truly done the old fashioned way, not minutures or CGI...these were REAL SIZE sets with real bridges and trains blowing up! Yes, film making at it's finest and must be seen AT LEAST once...also...I guarandamntee you'll have that whistling marching song in your head for weeks afterwards!
Dreadfully, dreadfully stupid film about cyber terrorists made tolerable only because of the pretty shoulders of Sandra Bullock. Even the support from the usually entertaining Dennis Miller is weak and about the only remotely interesting about this film are the antiquated computers themselves. May be good if you catch it on Peachtree or whatever they call Turner these days on a hungover Sunday morning when you are playing hookey from mass or whatever it is they do on Sunday mornings in church these days...otherwise avoid as you would a basty computer virus.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Well, the idea was good enough for this baby to have been remade or outright ripped-off perhaps one too many times than it should have been. Still, a landmark in the history of science fiction/horror INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS will still surprise those who see it for the first time. For starters, it does not use cheap tricks and shock to makes it's points and score it's hits...it uses proper set up, strong character development and a pervaded atmosphere of paranoia and suspicion. Director Don Siegel, who would also direct other classics such as ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ and DIRTY HARRY always denied he was making any statement on the cold war against communism or the McCarthyism movement of the time, rather, he took the short story and had it adapted solely for the purpose of a drama. It really doesn't matter as INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS manages to capture the feeling of that era if it intended to or not. Kevin McCarthy is fabulous here and it was a nice touch that they reprised his role in the 1978 remake and it is also neat to see acclaimed director Sam Peckinpah as the meter reader and Bobby Clark of Star Trek Gorn fame in a small part. A classic for sure...just don't go into expecting the schlock...this one has more meat than you might think.
Andy Warhol's Frankenstein (Flesh for Frankenstein)
Another film where Andy Warhol stuck his name where it didn't belong FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN is still a great little spooky gorefest for those of that inclination. I strongly advise you keep checking your local rep theatre and try and catch this baby in the 3-D format as there is some great eyeball on a stick action to be had here. Shot at the same time as BLOOD FOR DRACULA and also using principal actors Udo Kier and Joe Dallesandro we also are treated to the talents of Monique van Vooren in this one. The story is disjointed at best but the style of acting or in some cases nonacting make this an extremely disturbing piece of work and some of the splat will make even a hardened vet cringe. Only for fans of the genre for sure unless it can be caught in 3-D in which it will entertain all.
Wanted: Dead or Alive
More than adequate little action/thriller vehicle for Rutger Hauer and certainly of interest to my fellow KISS fans as it has Gene Simmons playing an international terrorist. Interesting as sadi terrorist is called Malak Al Rahim and is supposed to be from the middle east but "malak" sounds pretty close to a Greek insult to me. We get some support work here from Robert Guillaume and Jerry Hardin, who is another one of those actors who seems to be in bloody damn near everything, once again turns in duty as a grizzled old copper. Good fast paced fun but really only for serious fans of the action genre.
Woody Allen is on of those hit and miss directors with me. I find his neurotic introspective style of humor and drama to be hard to watch at times, downright painful actually. Happily, MIGHTY APHRODITE isn`t one of those gut wrenching offerings of his those it certainly does have it`s moments. Fusing elements of Greek mythology in a backdrop to his modern day Manhattan action MIGHTY APHRODITE is one heck of alot heavier than you might be inclined to think and could always do with a second viewing or more. Despite the all-star cast which includes Allen himself of course, Mira Sorvino ends up being the real star and all but walks away with the film. As I often choose to do I will not give away any of the story elements as they should be disocvered on your own, I will say that Helena Bonham Carter should have been given more screen time to flush out her character but this is a minor complaint....MIGHTY APHRODITE should provide a good romp for all.
Of all the people I`ve met in my life Ewan McGregor still sticks out as one I`ve yet to and perhaps the one I`d most like to join at the pub for a couple of pints. SHALLOW GRAVE is one of his first films and his talent is very apparent here this giving us a promonition of the work that would lay ahead for him. Do not be fooled by the marketing hype for this one...SHALLOW GRAVE is in no way shape or form a comedy...it is a dark and twisted examination of the void we call the human soul and who better to explore that realm than director Danny Boyle. He would move on from here to give us such masterworks as TRAINSPOTTING and A LIFE LESS ORDINARY, both in which he would use McGregor again. Of course more recently he is known for 28 DAYS LATER which helped reinvent the zombie genre. With SHALLOW GRAVE the subject content is just as dark as you`d expect from him but there is a grittier edge. I will not divulge any of the story line though I will warn you it is not for the weak of heart or stomach. Certainly, it`s the type of film you won`t easily forget anytime soon after watching it.
Early film from Brad Pitt, JOHNNY SUEDE tells the story, and there ain`t really much of it, who wants to be just like his idol Ricky Nelson. Quirky to say the least, I enjoyed it but I suspect most will find it uneven, slef indulgent and perhaps simply boring. It was nice to see Nick Cave getting some screen time and it`s always a pleasure to Tina Louise but really JOHNNY SUEDE is best left to the Brad Pitt die-hards.
The Iron Giant
Wonderful animated adaptatation of the Ted Huges book THE IRON GIANT packs enough punch to delight viewers both young and old. The story of the fifty foot metal eating robot who falls to earth from the sky to be friended by the young Hogarth Hughes is a moralistic one with a message that seeps into the spirit rather than bash you over the head. Brad Bird who would go on to direct THE INCREDIBLES and RATATOUILLE assembles an amazing array of talent for his vocal work here using such Hollywood stars as Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr and Vin Diesel as the iron giant himself. Character actors M Emmet Walsh, Cloris Leachman and John Mahoney provide great suppport and we are even treated to some small bits of work from Jennifer Darling and true Disney veteran Frank Thomas. The animation could have been a little better for my money but the execution more than make up for it`s shortcomings making this one to be cherished by your family for years to come.
It's hard to call this a remake of the 1932 version as other than dealing with a criminal and sharing the title these beasts are two different animals completely. No need to say much on this one as we've all seen it and love it. Hell, it may have the most longevity of any film released in 1983 and that classic line "say hello to my little friend" can still be heard even today in the oddest of places. Al Pacino was perfect for this role and about the only complaint I have about SCARFACE is the Giorgio Moroder score...it's style dates this film which is a shame as the story is timeless. Michelle Pfeiffer is fantastic as always and listen for some interesting cameos from Richard Belzer and Dennis Franz.....and wouldn't you just love to see Brian De Palma's out-takes for the chainsaw scene???????
When Harry Met Sally
What can you say about a moder classic of the romace genre. Well, we can start with the Nora Ephron script...she is a master at this sort of material and it certainly shows here. It doesn't hurt to have veteran Rob Reiner at the helm and when you come down to Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan...well...they are perfection here. The restaurant ogasm scene is considered a classic of all time and for good reason. Odd to see Carrie Fisher in her role here though she is more than effective and we get some top notch support from Crystal sidekick Bruno Kirby as well. It's pretty straight forward stuff but if you have to sit through a chick flick you could do far worse.
Here is a fine example where I fall victim to my own preaching....when released I simply expected too much of THE STAND hence I wasn't happy with it in the least. On recent review however I find it to be a far better peice of work than I ever gave it credit for. Director MIck Garris has a history working with Stephen King material which might be why he was able to snag him to do the teleplay and considering the time of it's release it HAD to be done for television, there was just no way they could put it on the big screen in the pre-Peter Jackson LORD OF THE RINGS era. So, I guess it was the production values that got to me back in the day...looking at it now it is an acting driven piece of drama and there is where it excels. Gary Sinise leads this all-star cast which includes the likes of Ray Walston, Molly Ringwald, Ruby Dee, Rob Lowe, Laura San Giacomo, Matt Frewer, Miguel Ferrer, Ossie Davis and Jamey Sheridan as the evil Randall Flagg. I still have some problems with the casting of Frewer as TRASH CAN MAN, I just felt his performance was a little TOO over the top as it were. It was nice to see Bill Fagerbakke as Tom Cullen as he is usually heard in vocal work and not seen and using Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the role of the shouter was a brilliant touch. There are more than ample cameos here ranging from the likes of Kathy Bates and Ed Harris to directors Sam Raimi and John Landis as well as King himself and damned if the lovely Shawnee Smith of recent SAW fame doesn't steal every scene she is in. The ending scene in Las Vegas will no doubt still piss most people off but overall THE STAND is worth the effort and will entertain.
Monday, November 26, 2007
The Ruling Class
When you consider it was the enviroment of 1972 England this film was released in it's absolutely amazing anybody involved ever worked again especially Peter O'Toole. Strangely though, not only did O'Toole work again he received an Oscar nomination for his work here while director Peter Medak is still making films. The story is an odd one, O'Toole as the 14th Earl of Gurney thinks he's Jesus Christ, the family attempts to have him sent to the nut house but not before he is cured only to then think he is Jack the Ripper. Trust me, this little synopsis in now way covers all of the areas being explored here. It is a vicious and seething look at the upper crust of British society and it pissed so many people off at the time I'm stunned it even saw the light of day. It would be one of Alastair Sims last films and Nigel Green may or may not have committed suicide after filming stopped. May be slow for some and the musical numbers (why can't the fucking British make a damn satire without bleedin' song and dance ?!?!?!?) will annoy the hell out of many but an important film nonetheless and should be seen at least once.
Silly little techno drama suffers from two things...a seriously bad script and so surprisingly bad acting from Jamie Foxx. His overkill of the one-liners manages to undermine what little there was of a concept in this film. Still it will manage to entertain you for a couple of hours when you are to hung over to get up from the couch and put something better on and I shouldn't be too hard on it as it was mostly shot here in Toronto and employed a lot of my buddies....hell...I even have one of the gold brick props which doubles as a most awkward and unwieldly paperweight. Also, we to get to see Tia Texada who you might remember as being in FROM DUSK TILL DAWN and homegirl Jennifer Newman who really should get more film work. Sadly however we see none of the skill director Antoine Fuqua would use to make TRAINING DAY such a success.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
The Boy in the Plastic Bubble
I damn near threw the fucking TV out the window when I saw this one back in the day and to add insult to injury I had to endure all of the girlies at school boo-fucking-hooing over how bleedin' sad it was. Frankly ...I can't say I feel much different about it thrity someodd years later though there are some interesting elements to it. It does serve as an early example of the talents John Travolta would use to rocket him to stardom and also show the talents of director Randal Kleiser who would use Travolta again in GREASE. Scream queen P.J. Soles who worked with Travolta in CARRIE is also here as is Kelly Ward who would also show up in GREASE. Odd to see Ralph Bellamy here just as it is to see Robert Reed in a non BRADY BUNCH context and how in hell's name they snagged astronaut Buzz Aldrin for a cameo remains a mystery to me to this day. Typical seventies sappy pablum I do have to admit Glyniss O'Connor was smokin' hot in a bikini back then. Should be avoiding like a bamboo shoot up the eurethra unless you are trying to score some major chick points and you might be shocked to know this was an early scoring project for Mark Snow who would go on the write the now infamous X-FILES theme.
Here is a perfect example of why professional critics should be ignored...hell...most people should be ignored but that is another story. I didn't bother with 1408 for two reasons, one being the critics trashed to poor thing and the other being it's been awhile since we've had a good Stephen King film. I'm happy to report 1408 is in fact one super thrill charged ride and it's all King through and through. Wonderful blend of good old spook house action with surreal dream like sequences 1408 manages not only to scare but to be uniques in the process. Once again John Cusack shines as the paranormal cult writer about to face his worst dreams in room 1408. Samuel L. Jackson was perhaps miscast as the film may have been more authentic with only one Hollywood ace-face in the mix. Director Mikael Hafstrom, who earlier gave us DERAILED, manages to smack us in the face without overkill setting the viewer up for a wonderful twisiting knock out punch for a finale. Well worth the rental fee and definately not one to be watched alone and I guarentee you will never listen to The Carpenters in the same fashion again.
Simply superb bopic looking at the life of Claudel from her early days as a student of Rodin to her eventual spiral into the pools of madness. To say Isabella Adjani was stunning is this film would be a gross understatement, this is sheer perfection and when teamed with the legendary Gerard Depardieu the effect is mind-blowing. Director Bruno Nuytten, who fathered one of Adjani's children as did Daniel Day-Lewis has an eye for the female form making him one of the greatest directors of our time and when his art is coupled with the subject of sculpting the two become a match made in heaven, or hell depending on your view. Nominated for an Oscar not only as best foreign film but best actress in a leading role be sure to see it with subtitles as I've heard (though never seen) the dubbed version destroys the overall effect. A masterwork not to be missed by any serious film lover.
Another film I hated when it was first released and now look at fondly. Clive Barker wrote and directed this screen version of CABAL and I can't help but think it would have been better with somebody other than Craig Sheffer in the lead. He just looks too soap operish for my tastes and he did cut his chops in that field. Watching it now I can't help but feel like I'm viewing an episode of ANGEL or something as this guy looks just like a David Boreanaz type. Still NIGHTBREED does have some great creatures, a killer performance from David Cronenberg as a psycho killer shrink and enough splat to keep the gorehounds happy. Uneven at times but still entertaining even with the bad one-liners. Look for old Pinhead himself Doug Bradley as Lylesberg.
Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who
I have to admit I was skeptical about the release of a new documentary featuring The Who. In my mind THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT pretty much said what need to be and I couldn't have been more wrong. AMAZING JOURNEY takes us right from the beginning to the here and now and while we've always seen Pete Townshend being upfront and honest this marks the first time to my knowledge that we hear Roger Daltrey's true thoughts on the band's history. This looks at everything, warts and all and is one of the most sincere and fascinating rock doumentary you will ever come across.
Kull the Conqueror
This was orinally supposed to be an Arnie film but when he refused to reprise the role of CONAN the producers retooled the script to make use of another Robert E. Howard character KULL and throw HERCULES boy Kevin Sorbo into the lead. The results are mixed to say the least and truth be told KULL THE CONQUEROR is one god awful film...still...for the sword and fantasy geeks out there it will provide some entertainment. Tia Carrere is fun to watch as the lead baddie and the lovely Karina Lomabard....well....she is just simply fun to watch. We get a bit of work from world reknowned strong man Sven-Ole Thorsen and considering the budget the effects aren't THAT bad. This would mark the last film from John Nicolella who would die a year later from cancer. Fun for the die-hards....others can take an easy miss.
Lo chiamavano Trinita (They Call Me Trinity)
Now this in my mind is the true spaghetti western.....a grat laughable knock 'em down shoot 'em romp suitable for the whole family. Trerence Hill as Trinity with Bud Spencer as his brother Bambino have a wonderful on screen chemistry which is why they continue to work together to this day. Sadly, very few folks know of this 1970 cult classic and hopefully with it's recent DVD release that will change. Farley Granger offers up the bad guy actiion in this Enzo Barboni film and if good chuckles and bar room brawls are what you're looking for then this one will deliver in spades.
Sea of Love
Sometimes Al Pacino can be predictable and this is a problem when you consider SEA OF LOVE was released back in 1989. Now almost twenty years later I'm sad to report this film doesn't hold up as well as it shhould and Pacino is a big part of that. It's a case of "we've seen this from him before" and damned if we didn't have to see it again and again. Sure, the Richard Price script isn't that bad as an erotic mystery thriller goes and Harold Becker had enough directorial style to give the flick a nice feel but we still come back to Pacino overacting. Ellen Barkin does her best work here and Michael Rooker and John Goodman offer some great support but you know a film is in trouble when the best moment comes from a Samuel L. Jackson cameo.
You just know Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward had a blast making this spoofy homage to the cold war monster films of the Fifties. Really, sand worms in the desert are mutated by uranium and...well...you can figure the rest out on your own. Good tongue in cheek action thriller marks the film debut of country legend Reba McEntire and was sadly one of the last big screen roles for the late Bibi Besch. Fun for all and quite suitable for the kiddies as well!
Tashunga (North Star)
I've always been a big fan of Christopher Lambert but shit damn has that guy been in some bad films and TASHUNGA is certainly one of them. How bad? I remember watching this once and my ex walked in while Lambert delivered the line "do I look dead?" to which the ex quipped "no...but you certainly act like it". I'd say this is all you need to know about this one but it isn't. James "yes..I will act in ANYTHING if you pay me" Caan is here as are Burt Young and Catherine McCormack and...well...I guess the reason why is because somebody paid them otherwise I think they would have been inclined to stay home and cut their toenails. TASHUNGA does have a few things going for it however and that would be the visuals. Shot in Norway but supposed to be the Yukon (go bloody figure) there are landscapes to feat on, enough so that if you turn the sound off and put on some relaxing music you might actually enjoy this one.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
This is one of those films where most people are split..you either love it or you hate it. I would be in the love camp on this one and as most have seen it at least once I won't waste time going into the details on this one. Yes, Matt Damon and Jude Law are fantastic with Philip Seymour Hoffman not far behind, Gwyneth Paltrow is all but wasted here though the same can not be said of Cate Blanchett's minor role. I will also add that had anybody other than Anthony Minghella been in the director's seat this film would most likely have fallen flat on it's face. His eye for beauty and detail and his knack for subtle pacing give this picture the heart it needs to be effective and the results are truly rewarding to say the least. Another observation I might make is the time frame...if the story hadn't taken place in the Fifties it would not have worked and the viewer might do well to keep this in mind before using this modern era of CSI overkill to rip the plot to shreds, take it for what it is and see why it garnered 5 Oscar nods......thhey were well deserved.
Laurence Fishburne, before he went all leathery and Morpheus on us in THE MATRIX, did double duty as real life Harlem mobster Bumpy Johnson, once in THE COTTON CLUB and in an expanded role here in HOODLUM. He's supposed to be the star and to a certain degree he is yet he does have an ample amount of his thunder stolen by Tim Roth. Roth as Dutch Schultz is a wonder to behold here and though he's done finer work I'd argue none of it is as enjoyable as this. HOODLUM is not the greatest film you'll come across but the Roth performance more than makes up for any of it's flaws. We get a fine support role from Andy Garcia and the great Mike Starr and his brother Beau have a great gig as a couple of hitmen. Good, fast paced fun which should be enjoyed by most.
The Wicker Man
I've not yet seen the supposedly wretched remake with Nicholas Cage so there won't be any need to compare the two at this time. What I can say is THE WICKER MAN is one hell of a little strange film. Involving a group of modern day pagans on an island in Northern Scotland we follow the journey of a police constable in search of a missing girl. What he wanders into is both a shock to him and us the viewers. Some fine talent is on display here with Christopher Lee, Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland and Ingrid Pitt, all of them turning in some of their finest work. What makes THE WICKER MAN work though is atmosphere, it is truly one of the most alarming little numbers you will come across and while not to the taste of all and perhaps too slow for some of today's younger audiences it does warrant at least one viewing for historic reasons if nothing else.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
I`m not exactly sure where my head was in 2003 that I would have missed this wonderful piece of work but I did. In some ways this is a good thing as I always like a pleasant surprise and this is exactly what I got with THE COOLER. A cooler is a man who has such bad luck that it rubs off on others and myth would have it many casino owners employ them to fend of successful runs of the patrons. This is all I wish to share about the story as it is one of the finest I`ve seen in a good while. William H. Macy is perfect in this role, not that he isn`t always, but as the luckless Bernie Lootz he excels as does Alec Baldwin who received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of casino owner Shelly Kaplow. In both cases you would swear the roles were scripted with each in mind as they are their characters, seemless in execution and believable on all fronts. Maria Bello, who is perhaps one of the most underrated actresses in Hollywood more than holds up her end of the bargain and the chemistry between the three is so natural as to have you thinking you are watching a documentary rather than a studio drama. There is also some very important support work offered by the likes of Peterborough`s own Estella Warren and Ron Livingston and we even get cameos from scream queen Jewel Shepard and blue grass legend Doc Watson! What really makes this film work is direction and here Wayne Kramer is absolutely amazing. There are subtle touches he brings that will make you, should you be inclined, want to watch it again just to see the tricks he uses, small things like suit sizes on Lootz and his transforms throughout the film and transform he does. Really, why do us movie junkies honestly watch so many films......to instill a sense of hope within ourselves is certainly one of them and THE COOLER is all about just that...hope. For the lonely, single readers out there this film will help bolster this ideal....yes...it is brutal at times...so is life....but just like Bernie Lootz...all of us can have a change of luck.
I had the pleasure of seeing this one real time back in 1976 and to this day it still holds a special spot in my memory. One has to keep things in perspective, it would be a year later that STAR WARS would hit the big screen and change the way special effects would be viewed in sci-fi films and discarding 2001 we simply hadn't seen anything like LOGAN'S RUN yet. The fact us kids had to sneak in to see this restricted little number made it all the more special and I can remember many a discussion as to if we did or didn't actually catch a glimpse of Jenny Agutter's breast in the swim scene. Such is the joy of boyhood horniness and I still can't watch that particular scene without being jarred back to that era of my life. Sadly, for others LOGAN'S RUN will come off as a campy, decadent monument to the drugged and sexual excesses of the Seventies and that is a shame as the story is an interesting one. With a little bit of imagination it still provides a good ride and there are some interesting casting choices to marvel at. Michael York in the lead, Farrah Fawcett in what I believe was her big screen debut, Roscoe Lee Brown rolling about in a bright little robot suit and Peter Ustinov in what is perhaps his quirkiest roll ever. Jerry Goldsmith offers an interesting ``futuristic`` score which sound awfully familiar to the work of Wendy Williams. Still, LOGAN`S RUN is good fun and for those of you young enough not to have seen it you should. Again, don`t expect the level of special effects you are uused to by today`s standards, do it old school and use your imagination...the pay-off will be superb.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
You know, it shouldn't surprise me that Clint Eastwood knows how to make a great film....he's been directing them since 1971 which is something I hadn't realised till I took the time to look it up. So, by the time it came to directing this John Lee Hancock adaptation of the Joe Berendt novel he already had 25 plus years in the chair under his belt and man oh man does it show. MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF EVIL is one of those deceivingly simple films that manages to hide behind it's complexities. Chances are you already know this though, very few people of the movie addict ilk have not seen this modern gem so I'll simply state it is well worth a second or third look. John Cusack and Kevin Spacey are stunningly wonderful here, then again, when aren't they and Jude Law, though only seen briefly, brings his special "charms" to the mix with terrific results. Still, as much is this is the story of a writer and ultimately a murderer it is also the story of a place, said place being Savannah, Georgia which, or so I'm told, is presented in a very realistic fashion here down to it's gentile facade and it's supposedly seedy underbelly. Perfect film for almost any mood and again I say well in need of another viewing.
Monday, November 19, 2007
From Dusk Till Dawn
Robert Rodriguez really blew the door off of the church with the rabble rousing take on the whole vampire theme. Sadly, the only flaw is Quentin Tarantino who acting wise looks like a fish out of water next to the likes of George Clooney, Harvey Keitel and Juliette Lewis who all tackle their respective rolls with devilish glee. Speaking of glee, Salma Hayek burns up the cathode tube with her sultry portrayal of a dancing vampire queen. Tom Savini is great here and Cheech Marin is an absolute riot but what really makes FROM DUSK TILL DAWN is the imaginative script which Tarantino adapted from a Robert Kurtzman story. I swear, you haven't seen the likes of bloodsucking carnage the way it's done here. Fast paced action with great special effects and some seriously sexy splat FROM DUSK TO DAWN should be on every gore hound's shelf.
The Big Sleep
Oh man, it doesn't get any better than this baby. William Faulkner adapting the Raymond Chandler novel to perfection in what is one of the most faithful you will find. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacal smoking up the screen......over sixty years old and it's still sexier and grittier than most offerings these days....and dialogue...baby...this film has been ripped off so many times you could never count 'em all. Yup, it just doesn't get any better than this.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
People often forget just how over the top this film was when it was released just over twenty years ago.......in a lot of ways it's like PSYCHO...it wasn't graphic violence people were upset about, it was the way the movie presented murder in such a matter of fact straight forward fashion. HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER does just that and is based on the life of Henry Lee Lucas. This marks the big screen debut of Michael Rooker and I have to admit I am still surprised he was able to build a career after this gnarly number. Definately not for the faint of heart this film is a cold as they come and might be the closest you'll ever come to getting into the simple mind of a killing machine.
One of the things needed to raise a sporting movie to the next level is a tale that non-sport people will fall for and SEABISCUIT does that in spades. A beautiful tale about dreams in depression era America this movie has a lot more on it`s plate than horse racing, it is all that much more inspiring because it is true. Took seven Oscar nods for technical and script related work and surprisingly didn`t win a damn thing but it`s the acting where SEABISCUIT really shines. Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper and Tobey Maguire are just outstanding here and if you`ve been passing this one over because you just think it`s a flcik about a horse you are making a very big mistake......this is warm to warm your soul with on a cold winter night.
A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia
Amazingly enough, this made for television movie is a boatload better than most of the crap hitting the big screen these days. As the title states, this deals with the events after T.E. Lawrence left the middle east. Perhaps it could only be done as a television production because of the politics involved....this is in no way shape or form an action film, it is dialgue driven all of the way. When that dialogue is being delivered by the great Ralph Fiennes you just know you are in for something special. While historically acurate A DANGEROUS MAN will not to the taste of all, it is slow in pace and very cerebral in presentation. A young Alexander Siddig is trult amazing as Feisal and Nicholas Jone`s portrayal of Lord Dyson is absolutely bone chilling. Hard to track down but for fans of historical dramas well worth the effort.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Instead of copping out and using a totally different subject matter like they did with HALLOWEEN 3, the producers bring back Michael, this time by having him wake up from his catatonic state and escape whilst being transfered from one hospital to another. Standard fare suffers from extremely poor dialogue but does have Donald Pleasance back as Dr. Loomis and we get some fine moments with the beautiful Kathleen Kinmont, other than that this bad boy is for die hards only.
The Bride of Frankenstein
Again, like many of the films I`ve been blurbing this one has had literally tons written about it. Perhaps James Whale`s greatest film, this 1935 Universal classic still stands heads and shoulders over the other monster films of the day. Wonderful script with some great dark humor mixed with the scares it has visual stylings and stunning moments that easily stand the test of time. Well worth another look if you get the chance to catch it on late night television.
Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion
A good look at the tragic events of 1917, this made for television miniseries takes a few liberties. To my knowledge there never were any German spies involved in this sordid mess but this and other little liberties can be forgiven. Entertaining and well worth a look when it reairs on CBC.
Enemy at the Gates
Jean-Jaques Annaud followed SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET with the jaw-dropping fictional look at the battle for Stalingrad and the results are truly amazing. Jude Law has booked some fine work in his time but nowhere will you find him more dramatic than here. His portrayal of the Russian sniper Vassili Zaitsev is simply amazing and I am still quite shocked he didn`t receive an Oscar nomination for his work here. Ed Harris and Bob Hoskins are great as always and it`s wonderful to see Ron Perlman in a role not requiring a ton of makeup. Still, the real treat here is Rachel Weisz as Tania Chernova, she lends just the right air of sensuality and toughness to the character that it required making the presentation just that much more believable. As for believing, the one on one battle Vassili and Major Konig is believe to have never happened though rumors of it did circulate and the reunion between Vassili and Tania never took place with the reality being she never found out he was still alive until he had married. These small things aside ENEMY AT THE GATES is one taut little war thriller with action and visuals to more than satisfy the discerning viewer. A definate must-see!
The Lair of the White Worm
I tell ya, that Ken Russell must have had some serious shit happen in his childhood and no doubt some of it happened in church...I mean... how else would you explain the fucked up imagery in his work. Based on an obscure short story by Bram Stoker THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM is by no means a good film but it certainly does have it's charms and one of them is Amanda Donohoe running around in her little leather bondage outfit, another would be the big screen debut of Catherine Oxenberg. How the hell Hugh Grant ended up this little yarn about a giant snake worshiping cult is beyond me but he does add the mix. As a story, forget it, but a sexually surreal romp this Russell vision will deliver the goods.
Slagskampen (The Inside Man)
This odd little submarine spy thriller from 1984 fails in drastic fashion to achieve any momentum which is strange considering it was directed by Tom Clegg. Clegg, of course, is famous for his work on SPACE: 1999 and the MAJOR SHARPE series and one would expect a bit more from him here. May be of interest to Dennis Hopper fans but otherwise avoid.
Scary Movie 2
I've always been a fan of the Wayans family and here they give us some of their finest work. Sadly, SCARY MOVIE 2 could have been a hell of a lot better if they had nixed the characters of David Cross and Chris Elliott. Both have a grating style of humor I simply can't stomach and never has it been more apparent than here. Still, there are a great many laughs to be had in this one and the opening skit spoofing THE EXORCIST starring James Woods is worth the price of rental alone. Fan of this genre will well enjoy this baby.
Bladerunner-The Director's Cut
Well, here is yet another that we've all seen and much has been written on. About all I have to comment on is the fact Ridley Scott apparently had nothing to do with this "director's cut" which is friggin' odd considering it's his film...still, the new non-narrated version has a darker feel than the original and now for the 25th anniversary we get to see the film as Scott originally intended us to. It really doesn't matter which version of BLADERUNNER you get, it's still one of the greatest sci-fi films ever made.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
I'm not sure if the title was a nod to Leonard Cohen or not but I like it. Sadly, that's about all I like about this one. Uncle Nash still makes a bit of coin from this one as they used some FM songs from the TONIGHT album in the score, and Kane Hodder is great with his hockey mask here but the film is just plain stupid. No gore, no tit to speak of....just bad.....mind you...it did introduce Kelly Hu to the big screen but that's about it.
There is no doubt Alexander Payne is a man of talent, both as a writer and a director, but man do I ever have a problem with his films. I imagine this is because they always manage to find a way to rip my guts out and ABOUT SCMIDT is the worst of them. As we the viewer examine the torutured existence of the recents widowed and retired Warren R. Schmidt we are taken on a journey of utter lonliness and despair and unlike the characters in SIDEWAYS, Schmidt will have no happy ending. Jack Nicholson was given the Oscar nod for best actor and to this day I still don't understand why he didn't take it. Kathy Bates also had an Oscar tip here and rightfully so as she delivers some of her finest work. It's hard for me to recommend a film like this. Yes, the scripting is superb and the acting absolutely stellar but the simple fact remains....ABOUT SCHMIDT is an absolute bummer. If that's what you are in need of then this one will more than fill your plate.
In my mind the first still remains the best of this Wes Craven trilogy. From the opening scene with Drew Barrymore to the twist finale SCREAM is good old fashioned gorey fun. I always enjoy watching Matthew Lillard ham it up and Neve Campbell is perfect in her brooding sulky part. However, what really makes SCREAM work is the script and Kevin Williamson would follow this one up with the equally popular I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. A perfect little number for any fan of the slasher genre as this one doesn't take itself too seriously and stil manages to deliver a good shock or two.
Meet John Doe
It seems to be in vogue these days to knock the shit out of poor old Frank Capra. I still love his work and truly believe it is just as relevant now as it was back in it's day. With MEET JOHN DOE we find Capra addressing the issues of media manipulation and hope and even though it was released in 1941 the message still rings true in this modern day. Outstanding work from the late great Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, this one is considered a classic for good reason and is not to be missed.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
I've always had a soft spot for Christopher Lambert but even I'll admit he sure makes some stinkers. This isn't quite one of them but if it were not for director Stuart Gordon and some great supporting cast it could have been. The plot is of no import here....what is are the actors working with him. Jeffrey Combs in a pair of glasses that must have given him headaches if he had them on for any more than ten seconds, Kurtwood Smith playing another bad guy and Lincoln Kilpatrick as the bad ass with a heart. These are the guys who make FORTRESS watchable...that and a couple tabs of acid as a side wouldn't hurt and Gordon seems to have been taking a page from the Ken Russell book of film making.
Shakespeare in Love
I'm not entirelt sure how this one walked away with seven Oscars. I get Dame Judi and Tom Stoppard getting theirs but the others left me scratching my head. Truth be told, I've never been a big fan of this film and I'm not sure why. The acting was fine, the story compelling but it just never grabbed me. Alas, that is about all I have to say about that.
After seeing a film like UNDEAD you just bloody well know there is something in the water down under! This offbeat, and I do mean offbeat, homage to the zombie genre and is seriously strange film. Released in 2003 I've only recently bothered to watch the whole thing and I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps the acting put me off and I urge you not to make the same mistake. The splat is top notch and there is quite a good bit of it. The dialogue...well...let's just say it's unique and the story....damn...it is unique. I mean, we have a zombie film mixed in with a meteor storm and an alien invasion...the Spierig twins throw everything in here.
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILER SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
If for no other reason UNDEAD is worth watching for one of the final scene where some dude is riding his prop plane through the alien cloud and discoveres all of these zombies floating in the sky and goes plowing through them! It's one of the strangest things I've ever seen in a film!
As I said before....this is one odd bird but well worth a little look-see!
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILER SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
If for no other reason UNDEAD is worth watching for one of the final scene where some dude is riding his prop plane through the alien cloud and discoveres all of these zombies floating in the sky and goes plowing through them! It's one of the strangest things I've ever seen in a film!
As I said before....this is one odd bird but well worth a little look-see!
I've often found it hard to think of THE THING as a remake. John Carpenter simply took an old idea and made it his own and the result was perhaps his strongest film work ever. This is one tight, high tension, paranoid piece of work and twenty five years later it still manages to scare the crap out of people. The Rob Bottin effects sadly look dated in todays CGI laden world but for my money they maintain an organic quality integral to the atmosphere so pervasive here. Kurt Russell is his usual solid self and seeing Wilford Brimley as Dr. Blair is a special treat. One odd thing about THE THING is the score by Ennio Morricone. I found it odd because Carpenter likes to do his own work and though Morricone is credited I'd swear Carpenter composed it. Still a modern classic in my books, don;t bother watching it on regular television as all the tasty bits will be missing.
Here is one very, very bad and stupid piece of work and I of course just loved it! No, can't say I'd recommend it to anybody but this type of stupid humor grabs me the right way and I'll watch Alyson Hannigan in pretty much anything. Fellow BUFFY veteran Tom Lenk has a nice bit in the LORD OF THE RINGS gag and Tony Cox is always a pleasure to see. Speaking of Tony Cox, I had failed to realize he played an Ewok in RETURN OF THE JEDI. Ewok or not, it is BAD SANTA I will always best remember him from. Lowest common denominator action here but sometimes that's just what you need.
Feast of July
I'm usually all for a Merchant Ivory Production but I must confess FEAST OF JULY has always bored the living crap out of me. Sure, Embeth Davidtz of ARMY OF DARKENESS, THE HOLE, and THIR13EN GHOSTS fame is pleasant enough to watch in a serious romantic role and Ben Chaplin delivers some fine work but the script is tawdry and boring. As always with a Merchant Ivory film the visuals are a feat for the eyes but to be true it is the only feast to be found here.
Panic in the City
Interesting though dated little thriller involving some nasty "Ruskies" building an atomic bomb in L.A. and planning to cause some serious shit with it! Of note because it has a young pre EASY RIDER Dennis Hopper and Mike Farrell in it and is directed by Eddie Davis. Because Davis mostly worked in televison PANIC IN THE CITY comes off as a longer version of your standard cop show and will be if interest to fans of the genre from this period.
Evil Dead 2-Dead by Dawn
Man was I ever pissed when this came out twenty years ago! I had really hoped Sam Raimi was going to take that big fat budget and deliver us one serious mind-fucking piece of horror...instead he gave us one of the bloodiest comedies known to man. I've grown fonder of this film over the years now that I'm past my disappointment and it remains a wonderfuly fun romp. Raimi had the great quote on this one, "slime's no crime" talking about the censors constantly howling about his films and though there is lots of slime there are buckets of blood as well. I mean that in a very literal sense...buckets of blood. Bruce Campbell is totally out of control here and is a joy to watch. As I mentioned...good fun all around....just not scary.
One of those comic book adaptations that just didn't quite work Spawn is still not without it's bright spots, one in particular being John Leguizamo as Clown/Violator. His over the top performance is somewhat unique and without it this film would have been an utter disaster. Martin Sheen is all but wasted here but we do get some fine action from the lovely Melinda Clarke and Hollywood vocal master Frank Welker gets some good air time. The special effects are about as good as they could be considering the year but the script was just horrid and they should have let creator Todd McFarlane, who has a nice cameo as a street person, take a crack at it because he couldn't have done any worse. It really comes down to SPAWN being one for the die hards as I doubt it would interest too many others.
Never mind the music here, that is a given so let us focus on WOODSTOCK as a documentary. The fact director Michael Wadleigh was even able to make it is just astounding. With the size of the crowd, the conditions under which they had to shoot I am constantly blown away with his achievement here. His eye for detail and the way he splices crowd footage and interviews with the musical acts is masterful to say the least. One scene in particular sticks out in my mind and that is when he uses Jimi Hendrix solo as the backdrop for the scenes showing the end of the concert when those remaining look like they are walking off a battle field....it is a powerful image considering this was billed as three days of peace and music....simply genius this sequence was. It's an amazing slice of time and I'm shocked Wadleigh has only made one non-documentary film to date that happening to be WOLFEN. Another thing I've always been shocked about is the modern day Woodstock. I'll be the first to agree that the only things the two events had in common was the name, location and the mud, but to listen to the hippies yowl about the corporate angle on the new Woodstock was the biggest load of shit I've ever heard as it was the very crowd from the original Woodstock that BECAME the damn corporate suits sponsoring said event. In closing, Woodstock is required viewing and my only complaint against Wadleigh is he either didn't capture or chose not to include the footage of Pete Townshend kicking the late Abbie Hoffman from the stage...I would have loved to have seen that!
Wrestling Ernest Hemingway
Absolutely amazing film that nails the nature of lonliness in the golden years it remains in my top ten films of all time. The Steve Conrad script is simply a work of perfection and when you have the great Robert Duvall and Richard Harris in the leads you just know you are in for something special. Something special is what this is and if you're looking for a killer double-bill I'd pair this up with NOBODY'S FOOL with Paul Newman. Rounding out this tour de' force is Shirley MacLaine, Piper Laurie and Sandra Bullock, all of them totally stunning here. As for the story, I'll let you discover it for yourself though I do recommend having a box of Kleenex near by as this one will definately jerk a tear or two from you. I would almost go as far as to say this is Richard Harris at his finest and why this film didn't so much as receive an Oscar sniff is beyonf me.
Bloodstone: Subspecies II
Another silly flick from Ted Nicolaou where he finds lots of beautiful young women, gets them naked and throws beckets of blood all over them. The guy has to be a millionaire by now because he's made a couple of dozen films like this with more on the way and hey...more power to him. The FULL MOON line of films aren't to everybody's taste but they sure have their niche market and rightfully so. Clever script idea, innovative special effects and as always superior lighting make them an entertaining ride....depends what your cup of tea is.
Terry Gilliam delivers this early work of his with a little help from his Monty Python friends Michael Palin and Terry Jones and while some like to rip this baby apart I have always quite enjoyed it. It helps if you try not to look at it in the Python coontext and take it as the stand alone project it is. Elaborating on the Lewis Carrol poem. JABERWOCKY is not one for the kiddies because A; it will bore them to death and B; if they aren't already asleep there are some genuinely frightening scene of gore that will keep them up all night. Not Gillliam's greatest film but Palin, as always, is brilliant.
Stupid little film saved by an amazing cast and some serious acting. Forget the plot holes, and trust me, they are so big that had they been on the sub in the flick the damn thing would be at the bottom of the ocean. No, this is a leave your brain at the door action jobbie that should be just taken for what it is...an action thriller that just sop happens to involves a submarine. Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington provide perfect antagonists here, both are heroes and villains in their own right but it is the supporting cast that really add to the stew here. With the likes of Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, Steve Zahn and...oh look George Dzundza again, on board this boat actually floats. I still thing you'd be better off with DAS BOOT or THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER but if there is nothing else on the TV CRIMSON TIDE will more than adeqately entertain.
Todd Browning was still be pushed out of Hollywood for making FREAKS when he unleashed THE DEVIL-DOLL on the world. How he managed to snag Lionel Barrymore for the lead is still a mystery to me but he sure as hell delivers one great performance here. The plot is as crazy as they come.....a man framed by his business partners for fraud meets a scientist in jail who wants to shrink the entire population of the planet to ease the strain on food and energy resources. When they escape, the scientist demonstrates this shrinking technique then dies leaving his wife and Barrymore to carry on...thing is...Barrymore wants revenge not only for himself but for his daughter whose life has been ruined by the shame of her father and he intends to use the shrunken people to do it. Sounds ludicrous doesn't it? Thing is, because of scripting, direction and great acting this thing works and the special effects are quite convincing considering this was 1936. Not the easiest film to track down but not to be missed should you "trip" over it.
The Deer Hunter
While most of the focus during Veteran's Week is on those who survied World War II we shouldn't forget those who suffered through Vietnam. THE DEER HUNTER is one of the most poignant look at the effects on the people who were involved in that war as you will ever find and I'm often surprised at how few of the younger generation have heard of it let alone see it. Robert De Niro does some of his finest work here and once again is surrounded by a power house cast that includes Merryl Streep, John Savage, George Dzundza and the late John Cazale. Speaking of Dzundza, he is like James Fox to me these days. I am stunned at just how many films he did character jobs in.....I always thought of him as a television actor but I'm suddenly remembering just how strong his screen presence was. As much as this film is about De Niro's character it is equal in focus on Christopher Walken's shell shocked burn-out character Nick. Brutally honest and accurate look at the devastation wreaked on family and individuals THE DEER HUNTER is perfect viewing for this week and while very much a Seventies film it still possesses a serious recoil, one you won't ever forget.
Andy Warhol's Dracula
Yes, I'm more than well aware this has another title in Italian but it's too damn long to fit in the caption block and yes, I know Andy Warhol had nothing to do with the making of this film...still..it is best known by this title to most though I'm sure Factory regular and director Paul Morrissey is happy to have it now known as Andy Warhol PRESENTS Dracula. Udo Kier stars in this bizarre take on Stoker's classic and the results can be truly stomach churning for the weak of heart. The blood vomiting scenes can make even a hardened vet like myself a little queasy at times. Oddly enough, this was 1974 and now here in 2007 Kier is still playing vampire, arole well suited to him but I doubt any actor has played a blood sucker on more occasions than he. Roman Polanski has an amazing cameo in the bar scene which only adds to the craziness that resonates throughout this film. Some may fine it a bit slow, certainly offensive as the sexuality is brutal and overpowering at times. In some cases, the acting is horrid which is an asset here as it lends authenticity to the overall mood. Once subject to cult film status the work of Morrissey has been given a closer and far more serious look of late and you may wish to hunt this sucker down for an examination of your own.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Gods and Monsters
Simply stunning docudrama look at the life of director James Whale, the facts are twisted to also look at the nature of relationships and aging. Ian McKellen got the Oscar nod for his performance here and director Bill Condon actually walked away with one for his script. Brendan Fraser, who I'm constsantly surprised by these days, brings some fine skills to the table here and Lynn Redgrave is stellar. While set in the final days of Whales life GODS AND MONSTERS does span his life through flashbacks and dialogue but the real story seems to be one about life, of it beginning and ending. Watch carefully because there is far more going on here than meets the eye.
Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate)
A wonderful little film involving two of my favorite things....cooking and sex. This Mexican film does a wonderful job of presenting the rural culture and ideals of it's country as well as the universal power of denied love. Visually superb and wonderful in tone LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE is the perfect date film and I strongly recommend you try and catch it in the theatre as the impact of the landscapes is lost on a small screen.
Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl
This one is exactly what it says....a live performance of beloved bits from their television series. It's useful because it's the closest thing we'll ever have to seeing Python live. I mean, in this day of super group reunions I'm really surprised the Python gang haven't cashed in. Yes, I know Graham Chapman is dead, but so are a lot of other people. Perhaps the boys can't get Michael Palin to sit still long enough to arrange one what with him trapsing his ass all over the planet and such.
Good Will Hunting
I've said it before but I feel it needs repeating. Like many of the films I blurb much had already been said about GOOD WILL HUNTING. Alas, it popped up in the video pile which I'm slowly working out the door of my crowded apartment so I'll add my two cents worth. For starters, everybody should get the hell off of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's back. They came up with a killer script and acted it to a tee. Speaking of acting, Robin Williams well deserved the Oscar he received for his work here, you'll be hard pressed to find him in finer form. Minnie Driver is excellent to watch and I strongly advise you to catch her singing live if you get the chance. I was quite surprised at how engaging her musical work is. In closing, look at GOOD WILL HUNTING with an open mind and you will be in for a moving experience and be sure to check out JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK to see Damon and Affleck spoofing themselves...it's a riot.
Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace
I clearly remeber hating this when I first saw it and the reasons were many. I suppose the biggest one was that it made me feel old..as in...why am I not enjoying this like I should be. I'm now of the mind it was because the thing is seriously flawed. Characters with no purpose, action without purpose and special effects without purpose. Hell, the special effects are truly amazing but when you are going to spend that much money making something get a fucking script will ya! Still, on recent viewing I found it more enjoyable and this is perhaps because I expected nothing from it. Poor Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson took the most heat of anyone for their work here which is unfair as I'm of the mind they portrayed their jedi characters in the proper. Worth a look if you have nothing else on your plate but I'd still like to kill Jar Jar Binks and there is no way in fucking hell you'll ever sell me on Anakin growing up to get it on with Queen Padme...I mean really....talk about robbing the cradle!
Star Wars: Episode VI-Return of the Jedi
What the hell can I say about the STAR WARS universe that hasn't already been hammered to death by the geek world. Well, it's one of Mr. Yink's favorite films. This may have a lot to do with the Ewoks. I remeber hating them back in 1983 thinking they were simply put there for the kiddies. On recent viewing I actually found them to be quite charming and integral to the action. As for Mr. Yink, he loves them because they look like biped versions of him and really, when you look at an ewok they are nothing more than shi tzus on two legs. A little too much cheering in this "final" installment for my liking but still all around solid fun and hey...wouldn't it have been great if they had nabbed Marlon Brando to play Darth Vader in the unmasking scene...I mean...the guy they used sure as shit looked like Brando and wouldn't it have been great if either David Lynch or David Cronenberg had accepted the offer to direct?!?!?!?!
Here is a gritty little number from Walter Hill. Mickey Rourke really shines as the disfigured con who becomes involved in a botched job which ends him up in jail and ultimately with a new face. When he gets out he of course has to go looking for revenge, here the revenge being on Lance Henriksen and Ellen Barkin, both who are truly outstanding in their scum of the earth character roles. The real problem with JOHNNY HANDSOME is the love interest, it gets in the way of the action and adds absoltely nothing to the plot line in my humble opinion. It was also a waste Elizabeth McGovern's wonderful talents. Sadly, Forest Whitaker is all but wasted here as well but Morgan Freeman as the bad ass cop always on Handsom's tail is a real treat. You could do far worse than this odd baby.
The Remains of the Day
Simply amazing piece of work from James Ivory.....hell...it was nominated for eight Oscars and oddly didn't win a single one. As always Anthony Hopkins is just superb amd Emma Thompson more than matches his skill. The late Christopher Reeve brings some interesting chemistry to this tale of war time England and I suppose nobody should be surprised to see James Fox in the mix. The film really demands several viewings as it works on so many different levels. This is one worth buying as it gets better with each subsequent watch.
Bride of Re-Animator
Dr. West retuns in this gut busting sequel and the blood and laughs are exactly what you would expect. Brian Yuzna, who produced the first, steps into the director's chair this time out and he does a great job directing the chaos. Lots of blood, lots of great creatures at lots of Kathleen Kinmont who I gather would rather have everyone forget she was involved with this project.....not sure why because it's good bloody fun.
The Bogus Witch Project
Bloody stupid spoof film and about as funny as a swift kick to the balls but there is one little bit called THE WILLIE WITCH PROJECTS from the L.A. ghetto that is funny. Avoid, avoid, avoid....hell Pauly Shore is in it which should be enough to scare you off.
I've never quite figured out why the world likes to give Jerry Lewis a hard time. Hell, the guy was funny, an inovator and he still does an astounding amount of charitable work. Here in THE BELLBOY he is at his comedic best. Without Dean Martin to keep him in line he simply goes bezerk in this collection of sight gags some of them leaning towards actual surrealism. Well worth a look if for nothing else the gags involving Milton Berle.
The Final Cut
There are some films in which you end up scratching your head and wondering why the hell did they bother to make them. THE FINAL CUT is one of them! An uneven mix of rough bondage sex and explosions about the only good thing here is Amanda Plummer for the few minutes she's around and Sam Elliot looking all tough and broody...other than that you would be better giving this one a pass.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
The Theory of Flight
I had the fortune of cathing the gala opening of this one at the TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL years back and if somebody had told me director Paul Greenglass was going to be knocking audiences out in the future with his BOURNE films I would have called them mad. This film is simply that far away from his later work. Dealing with an emotional cripple who because of bad judgement and a twist of fate becomes involved with a dying cripple THE THEORY OF FLIGHT is one of the most truly touching and unique films you will ever see. In essence, it's a dysfunctional love story and it's brought to life by then real lovers Kenneth Branagh and Helena Bonham Carter. The chemistry between them is....uh...different but the message is a crystal clear one. Not an easy film to track down but bloody well worth the effort.
The Lord of the Rings
Before Peter Jackson blew our heads off with his epic films, artist/animator Ralph Bakshi tried to....only I think Bakshi was counting on his audience to be on some sort of illicit drug. It's not the worst film you'll ever seen but the truth is it lacks feeling and ends up being downright boring in some spots. Some notable voice work from John Hurt, Anthony Daniels and Felix Silla thhis version is worth a look and can always be counted on to put the kids sound asleep.
Odd little film that inspired a rather interesting television series....sadly...it could have been a heck of a lot better. I think the producers blew most of the budget nailing down the services of James (I'll act in anything if you pay me!) Caan, Mandy Patinkin and Terence (I too will act in anything if you pay me) Stamp and it's a good thing they did because the flik would have been utter crap if they haven't. There are some sci-fi elements with the whole aliens integrating with humans theme but what ALIEN NATION boils down to is an old fashioned buddy cop film. Patinkin, as always, is exceptional!
Monday, November 05, 2007
Released around the same time as JEEPERS CREEPERS this smart little jobbie somehow got lost in the shuffle. Not quite as unique as JEEPERS CREEPERS, JOY RIDE is not without it's own charms. Yes, it borrows heavily from THE CAR which ripped off DUEL which was written by Richard Mattheson who everybody rips off. Still, there is fresh blood in this old concept and part of what makes it so effective here is Hollywood's seemingly resident psycho Ted Levine. We never see him, only hear him over a CB radio and shit fuck damn if he isn't more scary disembodied. I mean no disrespect to Levine, on the contrary it is his "performance" here that takes JOY RIDE right off the edge of the cliff. Well worth looking for and most certainly a dark room is needed.
A Bridge Too Far
Considering this is Veteran's Week leading up to Remembrance Day you might wan't to keep your eyes on the local listings to see if this Richard Attenborough epic is airing. Simply a stunning over the top old style cast of thousands type deal which looks at a botched battle in World War II. The star power here is simply to vast to go into and a quick trip to IMDB will give you more reviews and information than you'll ever need. Still, my two cents is this is one hell of a brutal and honest look at war at it's worst. The facts are presented as they are without picking a side right or wrong. My biggest complaint oddly is the score....I found it to be just too pompy and it's weird as the composer actually took part in this battle. My other complaint is that Roger Moore had to bow out due to scheduling problems on a Bond film and it would have been great to see him work with Sean Connery. Also, hats off to Edward Fox....when he manages to steal the show from the likes of Robert Redford, Gene Hackman and Anthony Hopkins...well...that certainly says something.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
This bust a gut spoof from the Wayans boys is a real scream, in fact SCREAM was originally to be called SCARY MOVIE. Scream is just one of the teenie bopper slasher films parodied here and I cannot warn you enough just how crude some of the gags can get. No topic is off limits and damn everything you can think of is exploited including the lovely Carmen Electra and Shannon Elizabeth. By no mean high brow humor, SCARY MOVIE will tickle your funny bone...hell...you might even choke to death on it.
I'm of the mind that those who rip this sucker to shreds have their pin shaped heads firmly stuck so far up their ass they can see their own stomach. JEEPERS CREEPS was, when I first saw it, one of the hippest, fun and downright scary little numbers I'd seen and I'm happy to report it's even better on a second viewing. Victor Salva really makes up for making us suffer through POWDER with this one, fine acting with a nice little script filled with good jars and twists JEEPERS CREEPERS is definately one to treat your peepers to!
The Evil Dead
I guess you really had to be there back in the day when this Sam Raimi flick hit the theatres. It's easy now to laugh at the over-the-top ham acting and the buckets of blood special effects...still...back then in 1981 this baby did a supreme job scaring the living shit out of a teen nation. With old tapioaca face and giggle guts doing their thing THE EVIL DEAD had audiences scraming and laughing so damn hard many people actually did puke. It still holds up and a late night viewing whilst alone might still spook you. It's considered a modern horror classic for a reason ya know!
A Fistfull of Dollars
Clint Eastwood was already well on his way to becoming a star when this film hit the screens and after it did he would end up a household name. As great as Eastwood can be, this is him at his very rugged best. I was amazed at just how damn well this film holds up. Made in 1964 you could put this against any Western from the last couple of years and it would kick ass. Sergio Leone just masters it here and Eastwood may very well have been the Grandfather of the "one-liner". Don't let the term "spaghetti western" throw you off...A FISTFULL OF DOLLARS is an absolute must see......and if you want to read about it being a remake of Kurosawa's YOJIMBO you can look elsewhere.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Gene Hackman has made one serious bloody lot of excellent films but none quite touch THE CONVERSATION. He'll even tell you that as he considers it his favorite film he's been involved in. Francis Ford Coppola wrote and directed this slice of 1970's paranoia telling the story of a government bug man who stumbles on to something he wished he hadn't. Hackman is simply perfection in his role as this loner surveillance man bringing a sense of sorrow you'll not find anywhere else in his work. Cindy Williams and Teri Garr offer the female supports with John Cazale and Harrison Ford siging in on the male side. Slow moving for sure, which only adds to the characters, THE CONVERSATION must be seen at least once.
Like ROBOCOP this is a classic of it's time and it could be argued Arnold Scwarzenegger is stronger here than he was in THE TERMINATOR. In any case, don't go to this one looking for a serious plot...Arnie leads a badass military crew into the jungle where they encounter an alien hunter, Really, there isn't anything much else to it. Lot's of great one-liners, the big screen debut of Jesse "The Body" Ventura and great shoot 'em all to Hell special effects....and hey...does anybody else find it odd both Jesse and Arnold went into politics?
Dance of the Vampires (The Fearless Vampire Killers)
As far as horror spoofs go this one is right up there on the top of my list. Not quite as authentic or witty as YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, this Roman Polanski film relies more on the subtle and the absurd. Not just content to direct this one, he steps into the llead with the great character actor Jack MacGowran. Not only is their banter a brilliant treat we also have the late Sharon Tate to look at. Some of the younger audiences may find it a tad tedious and boring but for the more mature viewer this will stand out as a real gem.
Postino, Il (The Postman)
Don't make the mistake of confusing this Italian masterpiece with the Kevin Costner non-masterpiece. No doubt this will bore the shit out of most people but the romantic story is one of sheer delight and the acting is just about the best you can find. The fact it involves an old poet teaching the art of metaphor to a peasant postal worker endears it to my heart, I'm sure it will some of you as well.
This modern classic of action/sci-fi fun still packs a great little punch despite being slightly dated at times. This is the result of Paul Verhoeven directing a top notch cast. Even in a bloody robotic suit of armor he still has to act and with the likes of Kurtwood Smith and Ray Wise hamming up as bad guys there is simply too damn much fun to be had here. Well worth another view.
I don't care if they did make this movie simply to sell a bad board game, at least that's how the story goes. No, JUMANJI is good, clean action fun with a killer story line. Once again Robin Williams manages to amaze and with Kirsten Dunst and Bonnie Hunt providing support things only get better. My only complaint about JUMANJI rests with the primative CGI work. Sure, at the time it was cutting edge but it's really a shame this film didn't do better at the box office as that may have provided enough impetus for the studio to rework some of the CGI scenes. Really, a wonderful action filled ride for all ages.
Well, theis baby is often refered to as RAMBO IN SPACE and that pretty much sums it up. Yes, there is somewhat of a plot but when compared to the first film, most of the atmosphere is simply lost. I suppose this is the diference between Ridley Scott and James Cameron. Still, if you want a straight forward special effects laden shot up the ghoulie splat fest then ALIENS will more than satisfy your needs.
For some reason this BBC mini-series never caught on in North America which is really quite a shame. Based on the two Mervyn Peake novels GORMENGHAST and TITUS GROAN the story revolves around the Groan family but is actually more about the ambitions of a kitchen slug by the name of Steerpike. Surprisingly enough not a single one of my kitchen bitch friends have ever heard of this one. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is perfect in this role and is a fascinating watch. Also of great note is the interaction between the great Christopher Lee and Richard Griffiths of recent Harry Potter fame. It's always great to see Lee out but when pitted against Griffiths it becomes a truly special treat. Other Harry Potter stand-bys Fiona Shaw and Zoe Wanamaker also turn in some great work. Yes, it's a made for TV jobbie but the acting is so top notch you'll hardly ever notice. A great one for the older kids especially those who are into the NARNIA series.