Sunday, November 30, 2008
You know you are in trouble when the scariest part of a movie is a zinger involving a ghouled out Cabbage Patch doll as is the case with ONE MISSED CALL. In all fairness, this Americanized version of the Japanese CHAKUSHIN ARI is one of the few to do it in the Asian style. There is no blood here and the spooks depend on timing and atmosphere.....problem is there hardly are any. How Ray Wise and Margaret Cho ended up in this horror show is beyond me but hell.....a paycheque earned is one not missed....not like this film, which is what you should do.
Considered by many to be Ken Russell's definitive work THE DEVILS is one of those films you don't dare take lightly. Many film schools students have done their thesis on this adaptation of Aldous Huxley's THE DEVILS OF LOUDON so as is often the case I feel no need to go heavy on the details. Somewhat based on true events this is yet another swipe by Russell at the Catholic church and organzied religion in general, The RC's were so pissed about this the film was banned in many countries and lead stars Vanessa Redgrave and Oliver Reed threatened with imprisonment should they show up in Italy. As it is, the late Reed was of the mind this was his finest performance and from an acting standpoint I'm apt to agree with the great man though my heart still leans towards THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF. The sets and imagery here are truly mind numbing as is the content itself making THE DEVILS a great counter-ballance to the sentimental pap we will be feeding ourselves in the weeks ahead as we embark on celebrating the birth of a figure greatly misused over the ages.
Jack Frost 2: The Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman
With a title like this what would you expect....the mutated remains of a serial killer turn into a rampaging snowman....AGAIN...only this time on a tropical island down friggin' South! I swear...I don't make this stuff. Every bit as bad as you would expect it do be and totally useless without some herbal assistance. Fans of the late Christopher Allport will be scratching their collective heads wondering how he ended up the star of this mess though I strongly doubt anybody on set had a straight face throughout shooting. This is one best left from under the tree, better yet, throw it in the microwave and hit defrost.
With the Christmas season upon us and these, how shall we say, dark economic times ahead, it would do well to take a second look at this old classic TRADING PLACES. I'm sure the story is well known to you....on a bet two brothers destroy the life of an affluent commodities trader while bringing a street person in to the life of high finance. Eddie Murphy, in only his second feature film role, and Dan Aykroyd bang out some fine work here and with the help of a stellar support cast under the direction of John Landis TRADING PLACES more than easily stands the weathers of time. It is one case where tagging the whole Christmas aspect to the project actually works and I was stunned on a recent viewing to see just how much Billy Bob Thronton lifted from Aykroyd's presentation as a drunken St. Nick for his role in BAD SANTA. The pervert in me would be remiss if I didn't Jamie Lee Curtis seems to enjoy flashing the audience in this one but yet again ups the game with her on screen work and be sure to keep your eyes open for the great Bo Diddley in a fantastic cameo.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
I am unable to properly put in words just how great I think this John Cameron Mitchell masterpiece and I do mean masterpiece! I would have loved to have caught the original play and this cross between QUADROPHENIA and THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW works amazing on the screen. Phenomenal dialogue, amazing cinematography, outstanding performances and songs to match HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH will simply knock your socks off. Mind you, anybody with a homophobic bone in their body will go running to the hills in a heartbeat but for those of you made with stronger mettle this should but on the top of your list of must finds. Michael Pitt delivers some of his best work, Andrea Martin has a stellar part and look for Sook-Yin Lee in a small part.
It's hard to take a pot shot at Edward James Olmos directorial film debut especially when it deals with a cause so close to his heart. He spends weeks and weeks lecturing about the dangers of gangs to kids all over the States and of course AMERICAN ME deals with just that. It is an uneven piece of work, Olmos miscast himself in the lead and the voice-over seems contrived still it is an honest piece of work and hence worth viewing. It was of interest to me to see it open with the Zoot Suit riots as this is how THE BLACK DAHLIA, which I just watched recently, starts off. The tags of "Mexican Godfather" are well deserved but when you get right down to it crime life is universal and there are many Asian films of which the same can be said. The biggest problem I had with AMERICAN ME was the use of the same phrases over and over and this may well be my ignorance as Olmos' character makes a big deal of being able to read and write so perhaps in real life things are in fact this way. Despite it's faults AMERICAN ME carries a powerful message and should be seen at least once.
People who don't understand the filmed version of THE SAINT are in need of serious treatment. The TV series was a fun little cat and mouse take on the whole English spy craze and Phillip Noyce's big screen take delivers just that. Val Kilmer looks to be having a blast with the role and I'm very glad Ralph Fiennes turned this down as I feel he was much better suited for THE AVENGERS. Yes, the story is a silly one but that is the whole point as is well displayed when Kilmer does his best Jerry Lewis impersonation. Elisabeth Shue is about as believable here as Mickey Mouse is but who cares, she looks great doing it and Rade Serbedzija is a wonderful pleasure as the bad guy. Take the thinking cap off, enjoy the ride and listen carefully for the original Saint Roger Moore's cameo at the end.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
The Impossible Kid
It is hard to explain the appeal of Weng Weng, the late little man from the Philippeans who captured the hearts of a generation. With THE IMPOSSIBLE KID we see Agent 00 of Interpol return to thwart evil and these film simply must be seen to be understood. Are they good? No, but they continue to grow in cult stature as the years go by and it's so sad Weng Weng never lived to see it. I strongly suggest you check out the mini biography written by Andrew Leavold for www.imdb.com as the story is a strange and tragic one to say the least. As for the Agent 00 films, stick with FOR Y'UR HEIGHT ONLY as it is still the best of the series.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Quantum of Solace
Any debate as to Daniel Craig owning the Bond role can be pretty much put to rest with this one. Fast forwardm in your face, blow 'em up, shoot 'em, stab 'em, kill bloody everything action is what QUANTUM OF SOLACE is all about. No Q or child like gadgets, no remorse, hell, Bond doesn't even bother to bang the main chick in this one so determined and hell bent of vision is he. No, this is great stuff and those who are knocking it are more than bloody welcome to stay home with their friggin' SEX IN THE CITY and microwaved popcorn. Yes, there is a story and even a current issue or two but this offering must be looked at as two things, an action film which just so happens to be part of the Bond franchise and an integral character reinvention or vision which was long overdue to bring the series back to life and I have to tell you...Craig just fuckin' looks great doing it. If I had any complaint with this one it would have to be the new theme song which is possibly the worst ever. Well worth the money to see this on the big screen.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Invasion from the Inner Earth
I can usually find some aspect of enjoyment in even the worst of films but this Bill Rebane stinker is soooooooooooooooooo fucking bad about the only positive thing I can find to say is it makes a good cure for insomnia....aside from that you could use the video to prop up the coffee table or a book shelf.
Meng long guo jiang (Return of the Dragon)
The most popular of Bruce Lee's films next only to ENTER THE DRAGON. Interesting a many levels, it features Chuck Norris in his first credited screen appearance and it was the last time a scene would be shot in the actual Colosseum in Rome. Some fine fight scenes of course but what stands out the most is Lee's sense of humor and you can certainly see the influence this had of Jackie Chan.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
The Public Eye
Every now and then an actor or actress turns up in my rotation I've never quite paid attention to. In this case is would be Barbara Hershey who seems to be in quite a few of my recently viewed pictures. Here in THE PUBLIC EYE, a story loosely based of the life of news photographer Arthur "Weegee" Fellig whose works actually appear throughout the film, you never quite figure if Hershey is the femme fatale or not and this is one of the charms of this movie, everything is not balck and white but rather shades of grey. Joe Pesci plays an atypical character here and it's a shame they tried to market it as a comedic mystery as it is quite a serious piece of work. Like Hershey, another name which seems everywhere to me these days is Mark Isham who once again delivers an amazing score to compliment this 40's dark drama. Good for late night relaxation.
Hannah and Her Sisters
1986 must have been a slow year in the eyes of the Academy as I have no idea why this took two of the three Oscars it garnered. Yes, Michael Caine deserved his, hell, he desrved one years before so I won't complain about that but one for Woody Allen's script and Dianne Wiest? Really, Dame Maggie should have grabbed it for her work in A ROOM WITH A VIEW and when you put the script up against Oliver Stone's PLATOON or Hanif Kureishi's MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE....well...perhaps I'm splitting hairs but I just didn't think Allen deserved it for this one. HANNAH AND HER SISTERS is a heart breakingly funny piece of neurotic work for sure and this is Woody's bread and butter so fans of his work will not be let down. For myself it was a disjointed bummer though I was more than happy to see my Montreal buds THE 39 STEPS in it even though Chris Barry, God bless him, never shut up when the damn flick took it's Oscars! While I did enjoy Allen's search for religion and meaning which was bloody hilarious I couldn't help but feel an incestuous horripilation when watching the real life characters interact. Maureen O'Sullivan working with daughter Mia Farrow working with four of her children one of which Woody would later leave her for. Yes, can't help it but that little bit of New York weirdness rather creeped me out. Look for Julia Louis-Dreyfus in her second film appearance and ask yourself if Max Von Sydow is acting or not.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
The Black Dahlia
Critics and public alike seemed to take great pleasure in hating this Brian De Palma film based on the James Ellroy novel. I happened to quite enjoy it though I will admit it's hard to figure where the hell De Palma was trying to go with it. Is it a drama, a murder mystery, a hard boiled crime story, a romance or a bleedin' comedy. Well, it could damn well be all of them which may be the reason so many people hated it. I honestly couldn't tell if Scarlett Johansson was acting down or simply couldn't but she sure did mighty perty in that white cashmere sweater. Hilary Swank delivers what may be her sexiest performance to date and home girl Mia Kirshner was a great choice to play Elizabeth Short but it really falls on the shoulders of Josh Hartnett to carry this picture and job he more than adequately does. Aaron Eckhart does his best as well but somehow the character is not believable and this is the ultimate problem with THE BLACK DAHLIA.....you come with the expectation of a true murder flick and you get something like a Mickey Spillane story directed by David Lynch. De Palma once again rips of Hitchcock all over the place, at times even ripping HIMSELF ripping Hitchcock off and while it may bug the shit out of some I personally loved every second of it.....and the whole "dinner" sequence is about as bizarre as anything to be found on film. Thought I wouldn't put it alongside THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE I will say this scene alone is worth the price of rental and in five minutes the ensemble of John Kavanagh, Fiona Shaw and Rachel Miner hijack the whole project. Good ol' Mike Starr has some great moments in this one and it's a pleasure to see him playing a good guy for a change. To sum it all up, THE BLACK DAHLIA will be a love it or hate it proposition but I strongly doubt it will leave you inbetween.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Let's get this over with right away...EVENT HORIZON is not a good film......this however doesn't mean it isn't an enjoyable piece of work. In fact EVENT HORIZON is one hell of a fine little spookhouse ride if you just sit back and let it do it's job. Forget that it borrows heavily from SOLARIS and HELLRAISER, seeming at times as if somebody took the two films and mashed them together, forget the bad science and forget the horrid script, director Paul W.S. Anderson wanted to give us a haunted house in space and he pulled it off. Sam Neill once again manages to keep a straight face in this situation and Lawrence Fishburn looked like he was kind of prepping for THE MATRIX. Joely Richardson, Kathleen Quinlan and the entire cast do their very best to keep things believable and the fact the manage to do it is to be commended, A special mention must be made of Richard T. Jones. He is stuck with that dreadful part of comic relief but he is used sparingly enough and so properly he pretty much walks away as the most memorable character in the who film which is a rare occurance. There is some great splat here but again it is nothing we've not seen before, same for the big "boo" moments but there are worse ways to waste a couple fo hours and fans of both the horror and sci fi genre will walk away from this one content.
Mort Ransen's film version of the Sheldon Currie story THE GLACE BAY MINER'S MUSEUM should be considered by now required viewing form any good Maritimer and despite a few little historical glitches manages to portray aspects of the Cape Breton lifestyle from that period. I will say it is odd for Helena Bonham Carter's best work to also be her worst. Her dialect here is truly wretched and I found it odd that Kenneth Welsh is the only one who managed to get it right. Granted, there were and are still many accents to be found in the region especially as so many traveled to the mines for work. Kate Nelligan comes damn close but it is Welsh who nails it, Speaking of Welsh, he pretty much steals the film with one scene which though seeming fantastical and comic serves to better express the coastal demeanor better than any other aspect of this film. Aside form the accent problem, Bonham Carter serves up some of her best work to date and though Clive Russel brings a fine performance he somehow seems wrong for the role. Not the easiest film to track down but well worth the effort.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
While Obama was well on his his merry way to making history last night I was was watching this dramatization of the horrific massacre of Rosewood of 1923. It was January when a group of whites, the majority members of the Ku Klux Klan burned this community of blacks in Levy County, Florida pretty much to the ground and killing well over half of it's 35o someodd residents. The official figure was of course never this high but the many survivors who testified 70 years later, most children at the time, in the restitution hearing attest to this fact. Now 85 years later we have the first African American President of the United States and when you see a docudrama such as ROSEWOOD you can certainly see what an amazing accomplishment this is. Granted, ROSEWOOD is an extremely flawed film but still manages to succeed despite itself. While the majority of the story is true they chose to throw Ving Rhames in there as a war vet and while his character adds some nice drama (good performance too!) it really serves no purpose. John Voight, Don Cheadle and Michael Rooker carry the weight of this piece though special mention must be made of Esther Rolle in one of her last film apperances and Bruce McGill who plays one of the dumbest, mean ass racists you'll ever see. My biggest complaint with ROSEWOOD lies with the direction and while John Singleton paces the film correctly it is simply presented in too clean a fashion as if we were watching something made in the 30's or 40's on a stage lot and this detracts from what ROSEWOOD could have been. Still, it is a stroy worth seeing and most certainly remembering if for no other reason than to show just how much American has changed in just under a hundred years.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
When you think of Ed Harris making his directorial debut with POLLOCK the choice to adapt Robert B. Parker's APPALOOSA for the screen seems an odd one. Thankfully the decision was a good one. Like POLLLOCK, Harris once again stars in his own film and this is what makes APPALOOSA so special...Harris is Virgil Cole...through and through. In many interviews when this ran at the Toronto Film Festival, Harris was adament about the authenticity of this film, the cast had to look like they belonged in their cowboy hats, the sets had to look like they belonged in the old West and here is an added bonus to this one...the pacing is such that you feel you are there....everything moves slowly. Viggo Mortensen is no surprise here and truth be told neither is Jeremy Irons. Much was made of him taking the role of the bad guy in a Western but the character is such it's not a far stretch from many he's played. Sadly the weak link here is Renee Zellweger and it isn't at all because of her acting skills...no.......she works hard and well, problem is she looks wrong for the part. Still, APPALOOSA is faithful to Parker's printed vision and while the ending may seem a bit off to some be aware it is the set up for a second part which with any luck Harris will also direct though I must say it would be interesting to see if Mortensen himself could pull it off. One last thought on this one, if at all possible see it on the big screen as Harris blocks many of the shots in such a way as to exibit the space of the West which will no doubt be lost on even the largest of home theatre systems.
Monday, November 03, 2008
I certainly taken my share of pokes at this film over the years so it may surprise some to see what I'm about to write........GHOST is a mighty fine little film. Sure, we love to take the piss out of Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore but both have proven their talents time and time again and here you will find them on top of their game not to mention Whoopi Goldberg is genuinely funny in this one. The acting aside, what makes GHOST special is the cleverness of the writing and it manages to pull off being a love story, murder mystery and a blooody comedy all in the same package. My biggest complaint would be with the "dark guides" but I can understand why Jerry Zucker would keep it tame as this is afterall a chick flick. I'll forgive him for that but I'll never forgive him for FIRST NIGHT which may very well be the worst film I've ever seen. A special mention must be made of the late Vincent Schiavelli who as the crazed subway spook has some of the best lines in the film. Even the dreaded pottery wheel scene holds up quite well but it all still comes down to the writing which well explains why GHOST took two Oscars in that department. For the guys out there, as far as the loathed chick flick goes you could do one hell of a lot worse.
This film version of the famous illustrated adult magazine was received with mixed reactions back in the day and sadly time has been none to kind to it either. I am of the "not happy with it" camp though I must say I found it interesting on as recent viewing. Director Gerald Potterton's choice to use almost half od the SCTV cast for vocal work will be entertaining to some though I must say I was madder than a hornet he used the late John Candy in the role of Richard Corben's DEN segment. The mostly silent adaptation of Moebius' TAARNA is the most effective rendition here which only drives home just how uneven HEAVY METAL was making it come across as an off month issue of the mag itself. The animation style is extremely limited here making it a prime candidate for an updated take soon.
I often wonder how much the studio messed with this Thomas Carter film and the Hollywood ending would be the main reason why. A fair look at the youth of Germany during World War II and how some protested the Nazi movement, in this particular case with the use of swing music and dance halls. We once again receive a great performance from Christian Bale as well as HOUSE star Robert Sean Leonard but sadly the script at times seems so forced SWING KIDS never manages to ring authentic. Kenneth Branagh and Barbara Hershey add some extra weight to the acting calibre but all is ulitmately lost with the "swing hiel" ending.
This 1986 cult classic with Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert was responsible for a number of sequels and a long lived television series and I'm happy to say it holds up very well with time. This tale of the highlander immortal has no doubt been seen by all reading here so I can't imagine there is much to be said except perhaps the director's cut should be seen after the original version if at all possible. While said director's cut does fill in a few missing reference pieces I've always felt the original where Lambert is at the wrestling match, Fabulous Freebirds by the way, works better when we do not yet know he is immortaland the effect is ruined when we see the flashbacks to 1500's Scotland meshed with the current day. HIGHLANDER also stands out as Clancy Brown's greatest work and he shockingly well suited for the part as the evil Kurgan. Good sword slashing, head chopping fun to be had by all with this one.
Alex Winter of BILL & TED fame and Tom Stern spun this demented bit of crude comedy from their MTV show and you certainly can tell! By far this is not for the PC sensitive crowd and as low brow as the humor may be it is mighty damn funny! The greatest thing about FREAKED is the number of celebrities they managed to round up to take the piss out of from Mr. T to Brooke Shields. Keane Reeves was paid a cool million for his bit as a dog boy which is stunning when you consider it was an uncredited part! On the surface it looks to be just a stupid toilet bowl piece of work but if you dig deeper you will find some comedic bits of genius at play here.