Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Don McKellar no only did justice to the Jose Saramago novel with his screenplay he managed to turn in one of his best performances to date as well. BLINDNESS is a special film and certainly one of the best of 2008 in my books and though not a horror film as such it was probably the scariest I saw as well. The idea of a virus turning the world blind is an interesting one and it opens the dorr to explore all kinds of subjects. Of course blind activist groups around the world were pissed as hell about the vehicle but we shan't worry ourselves with that here. Julianne Moore is at her very best here and it's ahsame the Academy will no doubt overlook her work on this one. I had a problem at first with the casting of Danny Glover at first but he works into the character just fine. Some may find Maury Chaykin's role stereotypical but I suspect this was the intention of director Fernando Meirelles as the heart of the movie deals with this very topic, preconceived notions and what happens to them when we can't see! Many feel the rape scene was not needed and I can see their point but I'm of the opinion it serves an important purpose in the plot development. Haunting in both visuals and feeling BLINDNESS is not a film easily forgotten.

The Wrestler

This Darren Aronofsky film has been one of the most anticipated in film circles forever now and strangely opened Christmas day on one screen only here in Toronto. This might have explained why the screening I caught actually had people STANDING at the back to catch it which leads me to this little bit of advice.....if you are a "serious" film head by all means catch it in this fashion, if you know even the slightest thing about professional wrestling wait for the crowds to die down as I swear you'll want wan't to jam a jumbo sized pop and popcorn down the throats of the elitist peckerweeds twittering around you. I fall under both categories so let me speak to the snobs first and get it out of the way. Aronofsky has done a great job with this and he presents this story in a truthful, gritty and honest way....for the most part. I have a major problem with the father/daughter element. It't real enough but the way Aronofsky presents it's comes off as forced and cliched. The interaction with Marisa Tomei is perfect until we get ot the climax and there we have the same problem as mentioned with the daughter....forced and cliched. It should be noted Tomei actuallly has the most challenging role here and her work in pole dancing class sure payed off and I don't say this from the pervert perspective, I say this in critic of her acting. She nailed the role bang on and speaking of bang on let's talk about Mickey Rourke. This is not the great rebirth of his acting life the critics will have you believe. I've siad it before and I will say it again, he never went anywhere, on the otherhand he is fucking perfect for the role...but is it a stretch for him? Yes and no. We all know of his "real life" boxing career and I would go as far as to say THE WRESTLER is really just a remake of HOMEBOY but dealing with the ballet of violence. He certainly takes his method acting style to extremes, he did train, the wrestling is all his as is the blood, in fact, I gather the only thing not real in this film is one very prominent scar which I'll let you discover for yourself, trust me, you'll know it when you see it. As for the drama, it's a very open performance, so much so you don't think he's acting hence why som many people compare this to his personal history and the connection is certainly a valid one. There is only one scene where you see vintage Rourke acting and it involves a fight between he and Tomei which will make you literally go "aha...there's the Mickey I was waiting for". All in all it's a solid piece of work and I'm happy to say Aronofsky ends it properly which had me a bit concerned waiting for it.
Now, to the wrestling itself.
Sadly fans will be split on this one. The style and technique is standard and legit til we get to the hardcore match. It's a great display but it's too over the top and Aronofsky shouldn't have done it this way. The rest of the film is so real it's should have kept it that way and said match sticks out like a staple to the forehead! Good visuals, but not real. The other aspect fans will be upset about is in my mind one of the film's will not recognize the wrestlers. Most will now Ernest "The Cat" Miller but he's in the main event so that's fine, and there is a quick cameo from Ron "The Truth" Killings but only true die-hard will know of Necro Butcher and the rest of the CZW ensemble. Johnny Valiant makes a brief appearance in one of the most heart wrenching scenes in the film but even the most seasoned vet will have a hard time picking him out! As for who the "wrestler" is styled on....well...that is open for debate. I don;t see the Mick Foley aspect many are on about other than the overinflated hardcore far as character goes Rourke is closer to The Ultimate Warriror, sans face paint, in style which will tell most fans all they need to know about the wrestling level. As for the character itself, anybody familiar with the BEYOND THE MAT documentary will have a bloody hard time keeping Jake "The Snake" Roberts out of mind!
As for the peckerweeds I mentioned earlier, they kept laughing at all of the wrong parts, serious back stage incidents and the audience was howling, and then you of course have to listen to this limp dicked shits pontificate on all they supposedly know about wrestling which is why you'll want to hoof them in their nonexistent cubes!
To sum it all up, THE WRESTLER is not a masterpiece but it is one mighty damn fine film and you'll love all of the old 80's metal for sure!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Die Hard 2

It's Christmas again and Bruce Willis returns as John McClane to blow thing up real good only this time the action takes place at an airport and is directed by Renny Harlin who doesn't do a bad job of all follwing up the original. No need to go over details on this one other than to mention the scene in the helicopter when Willis blasts away in the ejector seat is one of the coolest ever put in an action film!


Thirty years later this Richard Donner films perfectly demonstrates how a good script and fine acting will beat out an overwrought CGI spectacle any day! While it would be easy to look back and mock this version for it's truly "comic book" ending or one of the greatest goof-ups in movie history that being Marlon Brando's famous Rolex appearance it would be very wrong. The film is solidly presented, spiritedly acted and hold up amazingly well even in the special effects department which greatly surprised me on a recent viewing. The casting of the late and tragic Christopher Reeve was a smart one by Donner who was being hounded by many for the part though I do thing he could have done a tad better than Margot Kidder as Louis Lane. Nice touch bringing Kirk Alyn and Noel Neill from the 1948 version in for work and even though Valerie Perrine doesn't say much she sure looked good. A great fantasy superhero film done the old fashioned way which is why it will probably still work thirty years from now as well!

The Pope of Greenwich Village

With all of the hype Mickey Rourke is getting for THE WRESTLER it never hurts to go back a take a peek at some of the classics. In my mind he never went away but that is another story! Here he teams with Eric Roberts in what then and now is a cult favorite. It's not the greatest of a movie, director Michael Cimino being given his pink slip half way through and replaced by Stuart Rosenberg in one of his final directorial stints, but it makes up for it's failings with great dialogue. This is one of those pictures everybody was quoting one-liners from back in the day and every now and then somebody will still zing me with one. As great as Rourke is here it's a Roberts picture all the way and he dominates every scene he appears in. Speaking of appearances, we have a young Daryl Hannah in dance tights, and lingerie and if that's not worth the price of admission I don't know what is. Burt Young has a fabulous death scene as Bed Bug Eddie and the late Kenneth McMillan does a great job as the aging safe cracker trying to stash a nest egg for his family. It's a story about hard nosed losers who refuse to give up and while dated visually the message it still valid in these current hard times.

The Miniver Story

One can't blame Hollywood for trying to cash in on the success of MRS. MINIVER with this sequel released eight years later. It's an odd piece of work examining the life of Garson's character after World War II and ventures into the realm of film noire at times. Nice touch having Walter Pidgeon present the tale in past tense. Peter Finch has some fine moments and this would mark the film debut of James Fox. Nowhere close to the original but fine it you double them up for an afternoon viewing.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mrs. Miniver

This 1942 gem, winner of six Oscars, has been the subject of many a film study just like so many other films I blurb here and once again I'm repeating myself. Rather than tell you how great the picture is or how happy Winston Churchill was about it let me share these peronal thoughts. Let's start with Greer Garson, who still holds the Oscar record for her 5 1/2 minute speech when she accepted her award for Best Actress. Those who know me know of my life long obsession with the signatures of the famous, I obtained Garson's in an old autograph album never realizing Greer was in fact female so you can imagine my shock to discover this when I first saw MRS. MINIVER. Hey, these things happen to the best of us! Second thought has to do with Saint John, New Brunswick's own Walter Pidgeon who I had only seen in FORBIDDEN PLANET and VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. To watch him deliver his Oscar nominated performance here was amazing, I had no clue he was an actor of that caliber. Outstanding film which will bore the young and restless but thrill those who can sit still long enough to enjoy it.


Here is one of those films people just love to hate and there are many reasons why, none of the particularly valid! Did it rip off THE RING which happened to an Americanized version of RINGU....kind of. Does the story meander all over the place like a poorly thought out subway line.....kind of. Are the acting talents of Stephen Dorff and Rea along with Natascha McElhone pretty much wasted...not entirely! See, they give this stylish bit of horror just enough kick to make it work and if you watch it in the fashion you would and Italian or Asian horror offering it willl knock your teeth out. Great visuals, amazing sound and some genuine jump out of your seat moments make this far better than most would have you believe. Always great to Udo Kier, amazingly enough NOT as a vampire and Siobhan Flynn and Emma Campbell are always welcome in any film as far as I'm concerned. While the script is a but jumbled, OK, it really doesn't hold together at all, there are some clever in-jokes and references....just don't bog yourself down in the holes.

The Day After Tomorrow

In light of the weather we've been having here in North America for the last week, especially Canada where it has been a bitch's cauldron of snow, sleet, hail, you name it and colder than a witch's tit to boot, I can't imagine this will be high on the list of holiday viewing for many but let's have a quick look at it just the same. For starters, forget the science of it, Roland Emmerich makes big spectacle pictures and if he had honestly tried to do this in an acurate sense it would be longer than a James Michener novel! No, he sticks to what he does best and delivers the action and it's important you leave your logic at the door because if you do THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW is one hell of a yarn. Dennis Quaid always makes a good hero and Jake Gyllenhaal can deliver some of the most ludicrous dialogue and still make you believe it!. You'll have to keep your eyes open if you want to catch his then girlfriend Kirsten Dunst's cameo and you have to love Canadian Kenneth Welsh doing his best Dick Cheney in his role as V.P. of the States. Always nice to see Sheila McCarthy getting work in the big pics but they could have put Ian Holm to better use. Overall, warm up the hot cocoa and let the picture do it's work....though you might want to wait for the next heat wave before you do.

Big Meat Eater

Ok, here we have an offering which would have made Ed Wood proud....a musical starring an Abdullah the Butcher look-a-like (the late Clarence "Big" Miller) working in a butcher shop where aliens are collecting radioactive leftovers as fuel for their spaceship and believe it or not this is just the start of the weirdness. Hard to imagine there was a budget to speak of for this independant but what it lacks in polish it more than makes up for in imagination. Must be seen at least once to be believed.

Shoot to Kill

When you consider this was released in 1988 it's easy to see why DIE HARD blew the eyes and minds of so many. I swear, this Roger Spottieswoode (TERROR TRAIN) film looks like it was made in 1970 which is not to say it's a bad film. On the contrary, due to some fair acting from Sidney Poitier and Tom Berenger with a half decent script SHOOT TO KILL turns out to be a great little atmospheric thriller. The idea of a big city cop having to chase a killer crossborder into the mountains of British Columbia is a nice take and throwing said killer in with a party of holiday fishermen being guided by Kirstie Alley is surprisingly effective especially when you cast a group of actors known for playing bad guys prior to this. The gimmick will keep your interest as you try to guess which one is the big bad! The ending is a tad weak but this is not uncommon in these sort of films, just the same, SHOOT TO KILL is worth staying up for if it hits your late night rotation.

Die Hard

As you may have noticed I'm trying to blast out all of the Christmas films in my collection, not that I have any real beef with the holiday, just need the space for all of the bad American remakes of Asian horror films in my apartment! It's been 20 years now since John McTiernan unleashed this pyrotechnic shoot 'em all back to Bethlehem mother of all Christmas action flicks and while some of the sappy banter is found to be lagging the stunts and spectacle still more than hold up. Bruce Willis was already a star when this one broke but DIE HARD turned him inot a true household name and it also introduced Alan Rickman to the big screens. This is a no brainer exercise here, if the women don't want to watch Bruce with hair run about mugging to the camera and popping one-liners they can get busy making the holiday bird or what-have-you and leave you in relative "peace" with your egg nog!

Bob the Butler

Here's a fun one to consider.....Tom Green makes a film for kids! Yes, that Tom Green, he of fresh roadkill and some of the crudest jokes on the planet. Oddly enough, this romantic comedy for the family manages to work showing a lighter and more sensitive side of Green while showcasing Brooke Shields in what may be considered a dramatic role. There are a few laughs, enough of a story to keep things interesting, some fine support from Simon Callow and a great cameo from Hiro Kanagawa. Not Oscar fare for sure but enough here to entertain.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


One would think with all of the buzz Kirsten Dunst has received since SPIDER-MAN super-stardom more would be aware of this Canadian independant. It's a strange piece of work to say the least, wavering back and forth between Italian style reality of the likes seen in an Argento or a Bava picture and fairy tale like dreamworlds involving youth and the sea. Lynn Redgrave is in magnificent form here and while the plotting may confuse some on first viewing it would serve you well to hunt down this obscure and enchanting little gem. Shame we haven't seen more work from Sheri Elwood.


Even when you have two then and now considered greats of the acting world it still takes a miracle to adapt what really is a two person play to the big screen and even then you need a director with some serious chops to pull it off. SLEUTH is such a combination bringing Laurence Olivier head to head with Michael Caine what would sadly be Joseph L. Mankiewicz's last stint in the director's chair. The writing is tight, the pacing may be a bit slow for this A.D. laden generation but there is no dispute the acting is pure schooling and this is required viewing for anybody wanting to be involved in any aspect of film. Caine would later play in another film version of SLEUTH, as well as the remake of an earlier Mankiewicz picture THE QUIET AMERICAN, but the 1972 version is by far the one to see, especially for the brief but brilliant thespian talents of Alec Cawthorne in his only big screen role.

Ocean's Eleven

Heavily promoted back in 1960 as the best robbery film ever it was pretty much received as an excuse for Frank Sinatra to bring his Rat Packers to Vegas for a good time. History is kind to it in a nostalgic way. The acting is not any of their best though Shirley MacLaine has one of the best cameos ever. Great title credits and a now vintage score make this one for those who long for those days long gone and though the film is not the greatest it does have one hell of a classy ending scene. Studios managed to tack a Christmas theme to the beginning hence why it is usually in rotation at this time of year.


Even in 1994 when they decided to release a film based on a video game you knew you were in for trouble. A few interesting twist in the premise make this above average but you can pretty easily see the start of Edward Furlong's downward spiral beginning in this sucker. Frank Langella does one of his better Christopher Lee impersonations here adding a bit of flavor but in the end it comes down to our protagonist "The Trickster" looking like a bad Lux Interior knockoff....come to think of it.....he would have worked great WITHOUT MAKEUP in that role. Worth a peak if you have nothing better to do.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Army of Darkness

After EVIL DEAD 2-DEAD BY DAWN it was easy to see where Sam Raimi was heading with this project and in ARMY OF DARKNESS he sure manages to deliver the goods. Forget this being a horror film, it is pure slap-stick fun with bucket loads of gory laughs. Bruce Campbell cements his throne as ruler of modern ham in this piece which is jam packed with nods, homages and in-jokes and I find it interesting they manage to use the "Klattu, Barada, Nikto" line when the recent remake of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL to my mind did not. Could have done with seeing a bit more of Bridget Fonda and Patricia Tallman but you take what you can get and after seeing ARMY OF DARKNESS you will understand why this was so readily able to be adapted into a musical.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Day the Earth Stood Still

This would be the "remake", the one that just stole thirty some odd million from the pockets of unsuspecting movie goers world wide.......and here is what I thought about it...
friggin' dreadfully, awfully fucking horrid!
and that would be the good things I have to say.
I'm not going to blame director Scott Derrickson, no, he is a major fan of the original and you can see he is doing his best to capture the feel of the 50's sci-fi blockbusters...even manages to do it in some spots.
I'm not going to blame the actors, it's not their fault. Keeanu Reeves actually deserves an Oscar nod for his performance as he was perfectly cast and if they had given him some proper bloody dialogue to work with it would stand out as the best role of his career. Jennifer Connelly is rather believable in her role.....for about twenty minutes and then the script fails her. Kathy Bates, miscast BEYOND conception and while John Cleese is a welcome breath of fresh air in this stale clunker there is really no reason for him to be there.
Then we have poor Jaden Smith.........ohhhhhhhh....poor poor Jaden. Daddy had best get this kid a new agent because if he ends up in another travesty like this his acting day will be over before they even begin. The kid can act, I think we are all aware of this, but he is given a character which A) shouldn't be there and B) the entire audience would have applauded greatly if Gort had fired a laser full of those nano-robot jobbies up the ass of within the first half hour! I honestly feel for the kid as the child character in the original was pivotal and in this version has been reduced to a Hollywood prerequisite and it is Hollywood I blame for this sacrilege.
The bankers in Hollywood are obsessed with remakes because they make money and if people keep putting their bums in the theatre seats we will keep getting more of these films. I understand the business side of this....what I don't understand is why this business ass marketing fucks have to go an meddle with the creative side of things. The script just MIGHT have actually worked if it wasn't obsessed with revolving around product placements, some so obvious, such as the McDonald's scene, you just want's to get up and walk out of the theatre.
Here we have a picture updating the original anti-war message to that of an enviromental one and we are inundated throughout with BLATANT advertising making any sincerity this flick tried to muster completely moot.
Then, we have the CGI, so friggin' what. Yeah, the destruction of Giant's Stadium scene was cool but it served to purpose and hardly makes the film worth scouting out an Imax theatre for.
Gort, for the ten minutes or so we see this now biological robot, is cool and some are crediting him with saying the now famous line uttered by Klaatu in the first, "Klaatu Barada Nikto"....really?!?!?!?!??!?!?!! Well, I heard some garbled electronic mess come out of Gort's "mouth" and it sure as shit didn't sound like no "Klaatu Barada Nikto" to me!
Oh, the problems are so rampant with this one, and I might add I heard some chick on NBC this morning chirp "I liked it!" which only cemented my opinion morning television is populated completely with vacuous talking heads, but I can sum my thoughts on this remake with one statement.......
The remake of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL was so bad even the Wilhelm Scream didn't want to be in it!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Reptile

This Hammer film was released the year I was born but it wasn't until I was ten when I would come across it and to say it changed my life would be a severe understatement, in fact, this film perhaps did more damage to me than any other I've ever encountered. For starters we have picture itself which deals with the sultry Jaqueline Pearce, who still looks stunning I might add, turning into a friggin' big ass snake creature when some Indian dude starts playing the ol' ju-ju flute and I ain't talkin' about no trouser piccolo either! Of course said big ass snake creature then goes running about biting poor dudes on the neck which causes them to go all bug-eyes and frothing at the mouth and shit can see where I'm going with this and needless to say these unfortunate saps who get bitten die a horrid and painful death and sure as hell don't look pretty doing it and then old Jackie Pearce goes unsnake like and has a good night's sleep. Now, you don't have to be Sigmund fucking Freud to figure out what this did to did to my prepubescent mind and though it would be a few years before I would start chasing big busted Hammer type chickies and frothing at the mouth whilst doing so you can bet your sweet ass it didn't take me long to discover most of them DO turn into big ass biting snake thingies who will leave you to a painful demise. Oh, did I write that out loud? This is of course was all in my head but as teenage dating is stressful and precarious enough at best you can just well imagine what it's like when you have Roy Ashton's fried egg reptile bitch lumbering in the back of your skull!
To make matters even worse, as I was leaving the matinee, part of a triple feature at the Oxford Theatre in Halifax for those of you who MIGHT have been there, IF YOU LEAVE ME NOW by Chicago was playing on the radio at the popcorn stand where some amply breasted young nubile was working away which caused a mental schism I've yet to shake being anytime I hear that damn song all I can picture is a young busty blond in a repulsive brown striped concession counter uniform turning into the snake bitch from the REPTILE film !
I'm 42 and I still can't shake this problem which is so bad I couldn't even look Peter Cetera in the eye when I met him several years back!
As for the film itself, despite the damage it has done, it remains my favorite of ALL the Hammer productions and still delivers as a atmospheric Gothic thriller....just a shame old Sherlock Holmes wasn't there to sort the mess out before I had to see the snake bitch and be mentally screwed forever!

Star Trek TOS: The Enterprise Incident

The second episode from the third and final season (you should know that!) of the original series manages to pack quite a bit into an hour! We have Captain Kirk going from insane to dead to Romulan and back again all the while Spock plays double agent, Joanne Linville does her very best to "bring sexy back" to the role of Romulan Commander, Bones tries not to overact and the Federation ends up stealing a cloaking device to boot. Amazingly it all works when you consider how quickly all of this has to unfold. The real story with this one has to be props department who raped the Nomad probe and the Sargon globe (come know the episodes) to build the cloaking device and some idiot stepped on the Romulan battle cruiser model so, oh shit, have the buggers buying Klingon sense crying over broken Romulans as they say. Good action with some fun laughs thrown in make this a great one!

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's A Wonderful Life

Ok, time for Christmas (yes...I said CHRISTmas!) classics and next to A CHRISTMAS CAROL you just don't get any more classic than IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE and we won't count the Grinch here! This 1946 masterpiece, while a showcase of it's age is a timeless tale bordering on the likes of Shakespeare and it's hard to imagine James Stewart almost didn't take the role as he was just back from World War II and plum tuckered out. Speaking of not taking it's a stunner the Academy snubbed him, Capra and the picture itself at the Oscars making it second only to THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION in non wins. The script, the visuals, the acting, the technical triumphs, and the perserverance....all add up to make this a wonderful film indeed and for those of you who've not bothered to watch it....make this your year!

Who Am I This Time?

This is an odd little piece in that there is an hour long version which ran on the AMERICAN PLAYHOUSE series and the there is a full ninety minute version floating around in Argentina. I've not seen the long one which is a shame as I imagine it cleans up some of the small problems with the televised one. Jonathan Demme directs Christopher Walken and Susan Sarandon in this quirky piece adapted from a Kurt Vonnegut Jr. short story and sure presents what can only be described as a a work about acting for actors and as such this will only appeal to a select audience. Sarandon is her usual great self but the true display here is Walken in, and this says quite a bit, one of the strangest roles I've ever seen him him.....a lonely hardware store clerk who acts in the local stage club. The romance which blossoms between our two leads comes across poorly in the short version hence why I suspect the longer one flushes the characterization out properly. Well worth a peek for fans of any involved but not for all.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


The buzz back in the day for this collaboration between George A. Romero and Stephen King had all of us groovy ghoulies chomping at the proverbial bit and when it finally hit the screen we weren't disappointed! Now just a little over 25 years later it comes off as being dated only by the fashion of the day. The fact it is inspired and presented in the style of the old E.C. comics works to it's advantage and while it "goes for the gross-out" as King would say rather than the big scare it still provides great entertainment with it's creepy segments. Ed Harris has a small part which is notable and King's son Joe makes his only on-screen appearance to date. The late Viveca Lindfors and E.G. Marshall both give memorable performances and special effects master Tom Savini gives a great cameo as a garbage man. Still great fun after all of these years.

Yellow Submarine

I must confess to never having been a fan of this animated feature based on the music of The Beatles but upon a recent gawking I must say it it is better than I had thought. The script, partly provided by Erich Segal of LOVE STORY fame is more complex than I had credited it, the animation style not nearly as primitive as I recalled an overall the film far more enjoyable than I had remembered. Sure, somebody was dipping into the old acid pot while this was being conceptualized but these were the late Sixties and that is to be expected. Not just a period piece and worth a closer look.


I continue to be shocked at the number of people I come across who refuse to watch this film simply because it is about what they think to be a talking pig. This is of course wrong, all of the animals in fact talk, only between themselves. James Cromwell, in the role of his life, as Farmer Hoggett barely says anything mostly because of Magda Szubanski as Mrs. Hoggett so it's a good thing the animals do talk! Point is BABE is an instant classic and I'd bet dollars to donuts it will be loved many years from now in the same fashion we love THE WIZARD OF OZ. I've not pleasure myself with reading Dick King-Smith's novel by George Miller's script is excellence on display as is the who project. The character of Babe will melt even the most jaded heart and Christine Cavanaugh does a splended job in voicing him. Other vocal highlights are Hugo Weaving as Rex and Danny Mann will have you in stitches as Ferdinand the Duck, as will the three singing mice. Of course they had to toss a Christmas theme in there for marketing reasons but it does add a nice touch making this perfect holiday viewing material. Easily makes my TOP TWENTY best films of all time!

Thursday, December 11, 2008


It is grossly unfair to compare this Hollywoodized sequel from James Cameron to the original vision as presented by Ridley Scott seven years earlier. Yes, Sigourney Weaver is back with her cat but all of the atmosphere present before has been replaced with good old American "can-do" blow the shit out of everything bravado. Yes, it is a good film and of course we have a whole boat load of new xenomorphs to shoot at but again. it is nothing compared to the first. Bill Paxton proveds excellent comic relief and Lance Henriksen makes a mighty fine "android" but I gather the highlight of the film, other than the amazing special effects, is when Paul Reiser gets it which I gather many of us would like to see in real life!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Black Stallion

This amazing adaptaton of Walter Farley's novel is one of those rare instances where all ages and genre lovers will be pleased. This is the debut film from Carrol Ballard and if he never made another it wouldn't have mattered as this one is close to perfection. The casting of Kelly Reno, who grew up on a cattle ranch and has been riding horses since he could walk, is an absolute godsend. His interactions with not only the horse but Mickey Rooney are truly magical. Hoyt Axton and Teri Garr add necessary support but the true star here is of course the Arabian stallion Cass Ole who we also saw in ANIMAL HOUSE. Amazing score done by Carmine Coppola, grandfather of Francis Ford who went to film school with Ballard and produced and presents this film. Both visually and emotionally stunning, THE BLACK STALLION is an experience you will never forget.

Forbidden Planet

Never mind the business about this sci-fi classic being loosely based on THE TEMPEST, this is just a great ol' yarn which still does the job a half a century later. Sadly it's slated to be remade and one can only hope they don't do what I'm afraid they've already done with THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. Sure, Robby the Robot looks pretty silly by today's standards but back in the day he was the cat's ass! This film so influenced STAR TREK creator Gene Roddenbery took the number of the Enterprise from the time when the C57D entered orbit of Altair IV, 17:01! Great to see now funny man Leslie Nielsen play the straight face and Earl Holliman gives great comic relief as the cook. Though the effects are dated they still have a wonderful look and if you watch carefully you may notice Alta's (the lovely Anne Francis) garden is that of the Munchkin village in THE WIZARD OF OZ. Required viewing for sure.

Super Size Me

My problems with the documentary are largely personal the first being I can't look at Morgan Spurlock without thinking about Jim Rose and his circus sideshow and the second would be along the lines of the opposite of Oprah's "aha" in "duh...what the hell do you think is going to friggin' happen if you live off of McDonald's only for a month?!?!?!??!?! My thoughts aside this is, sadly, an important piece of work....important that for some reason people just aren't getting it through their collective fat heads that fast food is not healthy. There are some truly terrifying moments in SUPER SIZE ME, especially the scene with that now skinny idiot from the Subway commercials and the students listening to will just sit there scratching your head in awe. Spurlock not only delivers an important message here, he entertainswhile doing so making SUPER SIZE ME a fun piece to watch. I gather he wrote a book after this and I'm told he divulges the practice of American beef producers buying the corpses put down cats and dogs which are then ground in with the feed for the cows and this would have been a juicy little bit for the film but unfortunately it's not there. This should be a no-brainer but for folks wishing more information on the ill effects of the fast food industry grab a copy of the book, not the film, FAST FOOD NATION by Eric Schlosser which is damn near scary enough to make a vegetarian out of the staunchest of carnivores.

Highlander 2: Renegade Version-Director's Cut

Why would Sean Connery be in such a wretched piece of work?!?!?!?....because Christopher Lambert demanded his character be in this dreadful sequel and he walked away with 3.5 million bucks for his trouble! Still doesn't explain how Connery ended up in FIRST KNIGHT but that's a whole different story. This "renegade" version is an attempt by director Russel Mulcahy to fix the mess the studio made of his work and released as HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING and truth be told it doesn't make one hell of a lot of difference. Acting.....subpar even with Connery on screen. Effects....Mickey Mouse at best and the script.....oh my gawd...the script.....what little there is of it is just fucking horrid. Truth be told I think we'd be more entertained if they had released this as a short called HIGHLANDER II: HOW MANY FINGERS AM I HOLDING UP and Lambert had one chopped to the bone and then went and nearly hacked poor Michael Ironside's thumb off! Oh.....and Virginia Madsen...she can hardly act on the best of days for some reason (though she did deserve her Oscar nomination for the work she did in SIDEWAYS) and here she manages to reach new lows. Bad, just simply bad, and should be avoided no matter which version you come across.

All the Pretty Horses

Billy Bob Thornton does an killer job directing this adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's now famous novel. McCarthy is the key factor to who will love or hate this piece of work. His style of story telling is similar to that of Hemmingway thus the pacing may turn some off. Matt Damon and Henry Thomas have the necessary chemistry to pull this one off though I can't help but wonder what ALL THE PRETTY HORSES would have been like if Redford and Newman were young enough to have shot it. Great scenery and perhaps Penelope Cruz was miscast but she does provide an interesting catalyst for Damon's John Grady Cole character to bounce off of. Nice to see Sam Shepard on screen for a bit and look for the only cameo to date of Daniel Lanois who Thornton had used to score his earlier film SLING BLADE.

The Fly

Funny to think David Cronenberg almost didn't direct this remake as he was supposed to be filming TOTAL RECALL. That went to the winds and now THE FLY stands right up there with THE THING as being not only a great remake but a better one. All of the themes Cronenberg is famous for exploring are blended together in one pot with this one and the effect is stunning. Some of Jeff Goldblum's best work to date and despite being once again dated as Cronenberg's work seems to be it does still deliver in the scare department. Look for the great George Chuvalo in the now famous arm wrestling scene.


As troubled epics go CLEOPATRA would have to be the granmother of them all. Sickness, budget woes, strikes, contract problems, you name it, they all unfolded in this one. When you consider tow hours of the film are missing it's amazing the thing turned out as well as it did. It walked away with four Oscars for it's technical achievments and is also notable as the beginning of the tumultous love affair between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, who sure is sporting one hell of a serious rack in those two hundred thousand dollars worth of costumes she wore! Should be braved at least once if for nothing else the amazing spectacle of it all.

The Avengers

Hard to say why the public and critics alike ripped this film a new one as it were because it manages to capture the spirit of the television series to a tee, the script even borrowing from several episodes of the original. Ralph Fiennes does an excellent John Steed and while Uma Thurman is no Diana Rigg she does great justice to the Emma Peel character. I can understand the reservations of some as to the casting of Sean Connery as the villain here but he seems to be having a hoot with the role so I have no personal onjections. As for the continuity problems and plot oversights this no doubt has much to do with Warner Studios taking the axe to half of the bloody film and I'm curious to see if a proper director's cut will ever make it to DVD as the film did so poorly at the box office they simply may not bother. Speaking of poorly, Montreal born Jeremiah Chechik seems to have been relegated to the world of TV directing because of this film which is a shame as the man does fine work. Taken for what it is THE AVENGERS is a fun bit of camp as it should be. Nice homage to BLADERUNNER in the chess scene and "look" for Patrick Macnee in an interesting cameo.

New Nightmare

Lucky number seven was not the case with this attempt by Wes Craven to transfuse new life into the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series. In the case we see Craven using the "film within a film" technique as it would seem Freddy is trying to break out of the land of make-believe to the real world. Some key figures are back from the first film, shame they couldn't have convinced Johhny Depp to pop in for a cameo, including of course Robert Englund who is fun to watch switch in and out of "character" but overall this feature, despite being clever in concept, comes across as tired and lacking guts.....and it is lacking guts. I mean, I know about the whole rating concept but why do they continue to make slasher films and skimp out on the just kind of defeats the purpose. All in all, this is one for the fans and will at least entertain for a couple of hours.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Right Stuff

Philip Kaufman adapted and directed Tom Wolfe's book with a title as fictitious as most of the depictions here concerning the X test pilots and original Mercury 7 astronauts but then again who's going to let a little bit of historical accuracy get in the way of making an entertaining film and THE RIGHT STUFF is all of that. Never mind the fact the phrase itself, according to the legendary Chuck Yeager didn't exist, this film is shows the guts these men had as humanity attempted to push the envelope of space. The cast is amazing, especially Sam Shepard as Yeager and in watching him it struck me we may have a new Shepard in Viggo Mortensen. Just all around perfect film making which does all of the right things without forgetting about the little touches which raise a film from the average to the profound. Nice touch using Levon Helm as the narrator and look for a cameo from Yeager himself as a bartender.

Frisson des vampires, Le (Thrill of the Vampires)

You sometimes get the feeling director Jean Rollin can't make up his mind as to if he wants to make a horror film or a kinky skin any case you usually end up with both. The whole gambit is run in this one as a newly wed couple are subjected to the whims of a group of vampiric sexual deviants. While some of the scenes are quite graphic, especially when you compare them to the North American offerings of the late 60's, early 70's it's hard to take them in a serious fashion as the acting, setting and in most cases the translated dialogue are so camp you can't help but laugh. For those with a taste for this sort of fetish it's a must.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Dead

I know this was the last film John Huston would direct and yes I know he's directing his daughter Anjelica here and by God it is a beautifully shot piece of work but damned if I don't drink with enough Irish people on a weekly basis to know bloody well any well natured gathering is going to turn into a friggin' maudlin nightmare. I find James Joyce to be tedious at best and sadly I find this adaptation of DUBLINERS to be even worse. May be to the taste of many so please find a more subjective opinion elsewhere.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

Final installments of horror series are much like farewell tours are to rock bands, you never know what's going to happen with the franchise as it were. This one was left with a zinger alluding to JASON V.S. FREDDY which due to scripting problems was put on hold and we ended up with JASON X. Hell, you, been there so throw the big guy in the hockey mask's ass up in space and let him have at it! Kane Hodder is all over this film, as Jason, a security guard and considering he is the one working Freddy's glove at the end we could in a sense say he's the first to play both roles. It's not a great film and despite the fact it was marketed as 'the creator of the first returns to bring you the last" all Sean Cunningham did was produce the damn thing. There are all kinds of industry in-jokes and cameos such as the Necromicon from EVIL DEAD and Fluffy's crate from CREEPSHOW making cameo prop appearances. Nice to see some known names for a change, Erin Gray is rather wasted but Steven Williams is put to good use and Rusty Schwimmer is an absolute gas! Alas, this Friday the 13th really needed more gore, I mean, what's the point without it!


Here's an interesting thought about LADYHAWKE....load the damn thing to the computer and go all digital and get rid of the damn bloody score! I had a rather heated argument with some idiot convinced it was done by Vangelis, it isn't... Andrew Powell did this one (never did another!) and it is as out of place here as a pork roast would be at a Bat Mitzvah! We see (and hear!) this happen all of the time but NOT in a Richard Donner film. I should point out Powell's work is not bad as such but it belongs in a Seventies porno flick rather than this fantasy love adventure. Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer are givens here but the real surprise is Matthew Broderick who gives both a serious and funny performance here. Nice to see him get to work with a veteran such a the Leo McKern and I'm still waiting for him to deliver "that" performance of his life which I'm pretty sure wasn't in FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF! Not Donner's best film but still enjoyable if you can get past the music.

The Brood

These days I am constantly surprised at just how dated the early films of David Cronenberg seem to me. Granted, THE BROOD is about to hit 30 (with a supposed remake in the works) but there are other films from the late 70's which seem to be more current in the visual department. Dating aside, THE BROOD holds up as a film due to Oliver Reed and Samantha Eggar, both overacting at times but it works with the story. The big finale with Eggar and Art Hindle still packs an emotional kick despite the limited special effects. Haunting score from Howard Shore in only his second big screen project and his first of many with Cronenberg. Nice touch bringing Felix Sila of Cousin Itt and Twiki fame as one of the creatures and as always it's great to look at, in this case a Toronto past, through Cronenberg's lens.

Sympathy for the Devil

You will have to be one hell of a serious, and I do mean ONE HELL OF A Rolling Stones fan to sit through this disjointed mess of a film and I use the term film loosely. Whatever genius Jean-Luc Godard possessed was certainly on vacation when he put together this assortment of nonsensical politcal imagery all somewhat tied in with the Stones recording their famous song from which the title is taken. The footage of them in the studio alone is useful in a historical perspective but even this will bore the average person and the other bits will drive you to utter distraction. Worth a peek once as long as the fast forward button is close at hand.


Here is yet another of those you either love it or hate it type propositions and throw me in the "love it" camp. I was having a coversation with one of my cyber-geek buds the other day about this John Boorman film and he was frothing at the mouth with hatred towards it, then again his idea of a "real" science fiction film is STAR WARS so you can tell right now he doesn't know his head from his ass but this nails the problem with ZARDOZ smack dab right on the head. You have to use your brain to enjoy this one, it's not all there on a nice little McDonald's silver platter complete with a fucking Happy Meal Sean Connery action figure on the side. Yes, it can come off as being the product of a wild acid trip but this would have more to do with Boorman's styling and the 70's presentation. There is a linear story and it's nowhere near as convoluted as some would have you believe. Yes, Connery is running around in some pretty funky costumes, again probably more to do with budget restrictions than actual design concepts. Charlotte Rampling, sadly, does not run around in said funky costumes but certainly makes her presence known. Marks the big screen debut of Niall Buggy who seems to have notched out a living playing various priests over the years. For fans of LOGAN'S RUN, ZARDOZ will be dearly loved though I wouldn't double feature them...unless of course you have "special supplies".

License to Kill

The Timothy Dalton Bond offerings show the direction they were trying to take the franchise. now realized with the Daniel Craig installments. It would be Dalton's last kick at that can but what a kick it is. Gritty in execution, this one heavily borrows from the book LIVE AND LET DIE and it was a nice touch to bring David Hedison back to reprise his role as Felix Leiter which he also played in the original film. As to be expected there are some great stunts and effects here but LICENSE TO KILL relies more on characters than cheap pops. Wayne Newton is precious as the slimey evangelist Professor Joe and any film having Carey Lowell ruinning around in wet lingerie is going to get my thumbs up. If it weren't for a cameo in BIG TOP PEE-WEE this would mark the movie debut of Benicio Del Toro and you have to love Robert Davi as the head bad guy. Also of note is the original video release of LICENCE TO KILL. The late 80`s marked the intoduction of commercial before movies both in the theatre and on video which was met with cries of protest overall. To counteract this response big business simply made better spots and this one features John Cleese, who would later replace the late Desmond Llewelyn as Q, doing a Bond related skit for SCHWEPPES tonic water which is bloody amazing making a search for the video well worth it.

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

I love to watch Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow play dumb, they are so good at it and look fantastic in the process. ROMY AND MICHELE'S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION is one of those guilty, laugh out loud pleasures and marks David Mirkin's feature film debut. He and the author of the play this film is adapted from, Robin Schiff, have an impressive list of writing and production credits to their respective names and it would seem the two managed to put it all together in one of the funiest films of 1997. Jeneane Garofalo has some excellent lines in this one, almost stealing the film at times but in the end it comes down to the brilliant work of Sorvino and Kudrow, both smarter than hell, who look to be having an utter blast doing the vacuous blonde thing. Great fun indeed!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Above average ensemble piece from Barry Levinson. Bruce Willis delivers his standard schtick, bit of effort from Billy Bob Thornton and another outstanding performance from the chameleon Cate Blanchett. What makes it above average is the script and the ending is great FOR A CHANGE! The whole love triangle thing is slightly fresher here than we've seen in other presentations but, other than some great cussing, this is a wait to catch on late night TV number.

The Full Monty

This was all the rave when it hit the screens in 1997 and I'm sure we all think fondly of it, sadly, THE FULL MONTY is a product of it's time and it's best before date has expired. You would think in this time of mass lay-offs and money woes this tale would still be relevant but somehow it's spirit remains locked back in the late 90's. Robert Carlyle, Mark Addy and Tom Wilkinson are still pleasurable to watch and the presentation remains fair but this by no mean achieves the rank of modern classic some wish to afford it.

Surviving Christmas

2004 certainly was the year of bashing Christmas it would seem as there were at least half a dozen cynical films concerning the matter released that year. While SURVIVING CHRISTMAS is not the best of them I certainly found lots to enjoy in it. People love to hate Ben Affleck which is probably because he gets some of the finest ladies in Hollywood but his ability to play the pretty boy spoiled asshole works to a tee here. Christina Applegate is somewhat effective as the love interest though I much preferred her counterpoint, HOUSE M.D.`s stunning Jennifer Morrison who we will soon see as Captain Kirk`s mother, YES....MOTHER (who the hell casted this?!?!?!?!?) in the new STAR TREK. These thing all make it a standard seasonal comedy...what makes SURVIVING CHRISTMAS above average is the fact it was shot with an unfinished script hence much improv was needed and this allowed Catherine O'Hara and James Gandolfini to save what could have been a horrid mess. Gandolfini is just fucking funny as hell in this one and the scene with Udo Kier (one of my faves!) and O'Hara are a riot. OF course they had to tack a happy ending to the thing but their are enough mean spirited laughs here to satisfy even the most jaded grinch!

The Bounty

One can argue all they want about which version is best of this famous tale, we need not bother with that here, but most agree this is the most acurate depiction of the events as they are known surrounding William Bligh and his mutinous crew. Said Bligh is played to absolute perfection by Anthony Hopkins and here is the strength of THE BOUNTY...the cast. With the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis and Liam Neeson, then not yet household names, and a young Mel Gibson we are witness to a display of superior acting all around including the great Laurence Olivier in one of his final roles. The cinematography is stunning and Roger Donaldson directing style is amazingly well suited for the material. If there is any fault to be found with THE BOUNTY it would be with the score, provided by Vangelis who composed some of his finest work yet sadly it's electronic execution seems out of place in such an organic enviroment. Had the music been taken note for note and performed by an orchestra it would have elevated THE BOUNTY from mere good to absolute brilliance. Despite it's small problems this version is more than holds it's own.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Royal Tenenbaums

I've watched this film at least a half a dozen times and I still don't like it. Sure, well written, fine work from an all-star cast but it just doesn't do anything for me.

The Longest Yard

Adam Sandler starts this remake out in a somewhat comedic fashion and then shifts the gears into a somewhat serious mode. THE LONGEST YARD by all counts should seriously suck but it doesn't! Faithful in spirit and execution the the original it serves it's purpose in entertaining you for a couple of hours at this is the whole point. Sandler is more than adequate but the real gem here is a returning Burt Reynolds who I swear just gets cooler and cooler with each passing year. One of the rather recent offerings where Chris Rock is not dreadful and be sure to keep your eyes open as there are cameos out the ying yang including Ed Lauter who like Reynolds was in the original and you can't miss Dalip Singh, better known to the world as The Great Kali, in his film debut.

The Straight Story

While some would argue in favor of THE ELEPHANT MAN as being Lynch's best and most accessible piece of work I'd have to put my shoulder behind THE STRAIGHT STORY. This somewhat fantastic depitction of the true events surrounding a man's cross state journey via lawnmower to see his estranged brother is a touching one to begin with but when you throw the veteran talents of the late Richard Farnsworth under the direction of Lynch into the mix you have the makings of genius. Farnsworth, in is final and most certainly definitive role, more than deserved his Oscar nomination and much like what should and likely will happen with Heath Ledger this year the nod was not one of sympathy. Sissy Spacek commands amazing attention in what is only a small support role and the entire cast, as is often the case with a Lynch film, is meticulously thought out and placed. While Lynch plays this one "straight" as it were there are scenes, in particular the sequences involving the deer, which are abosolute showcases of his signature style. One to be watched uninterupted and bright eyed as the pacing is liable to knock you out if you happen to be bushed.