Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Well here is a DVD I guaran-damn-tee you won't be able to find at the giant box store anytime soon. Released in 2005 it is already somewhat dated but the message is still one that doesn't seem to be getting through the thick skulls of the North American consumer. One of things which struck me most on my return to Halifax was the virtual death of retail in what was once a vibrant downtown core. Seems people found it easier and cheaper to hit the large chain stores in the industrial parks and that as they say is that. While very preachy and alarmist at times, Robert Greenwalds documentary protest drives this point home and as this is still happening to communities all over I'd have to admit perhaps his wasn't preachy or alarmist enough. The Asian footage is of particular import even if it does seem staged and my biggest complaint is the film fails to point the finger at the biggest culprit of all being of course the patrons of said chain. Should be required viewing in all schools.
The Lucky Ones
With the 4th of July celebrations approaching in America one may wish to try THE LUCKY ONES as an alternative to the run of the mill patriotic material. It's a quirky little films dealing with three very different soldiers returning from Iraq and the challenges they face when home. What makes it quirky is how it manages to be a comedy, a slight romace and a serious drama all at the same time and actually gets the job done. Slow for the first bit it builds the characters and story to a point where for once you care and this seems to be rather rare these days. Tim Robbins once again delivers a sound performance and young but now veteran Michael Pena shows signs of greatness to come though the real stand-out would be London, Ontario's Rachel McAdams. Her range here is all over the board and in the case of the role she is playing this is a good thing. While her star has been on connstant rise since MEAN GIRLS and RED EYE look for her to reach superstardom when SHERLOCK HOLMES and THE TIME TRAVELLER's WIFE are released later this year. This is the third feature from Neil Burger and while not quite up to the level of THE ILLUSIONIST both his directing and scripting style make this a truly unique look at America and in these troubled times no a bad one at that.
Monday, June 29, 2009
While this Lamberto Bava splatter fest is up there on my TOP 100 list I would be with guilty conscience if I were to recommend it to the layman. What little bit of plot there is merely sets the stage for a cast of the most dreaded stereotypes possibly to ever hit the screen, Bobby Rhodes as Tony the Pimp being the best of them all, to end up in a theatre where the title demons have their way! It has long been said an uncut version of this one would be released in North America, if so I've yet to come across it but one can only imagine the amount of gore there would be as it looks as pretty much the entire budget was spent on effects. While what I've written may give you the impression DEMONI is a bad film I should clearly point out it isn't. It just happens to be made in the Italian style of which the Bava family has made famous, that being the story is not always of import as long as the scares keep coming. Unlike THE EVIL DEAD I'm not too sure this would scare anybody anymore but it sure as shit will entertain the splat-heads and is alone worth watching to see Nicoletta Elmi.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
The Woman in Green
Number 11 of the 14 films pairing Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce has Sherlock Holmes investigating the murders of young women who have a finger removed. It was supposed to be young girls but the studio balked at the idea though evidence of this can be found in the maniacal blade man with the doll fetish. Darker in tone than many of the Holmes adventures this one also has the most stylish of film work. Henry Daniell, who was in a few of the Holmes films does duty as Moriarty here adding a nice sinister touch with his coolness. Hillary Brooke brings a sultry perversion to her femme fatale here but what stands out most in THE WOMAN IN GREEN is Nigel Bruce who gives his best portrayal of the bumbling Watson of the entire series.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Agnieszka Holland wrote and directed this interesting thriller supposedly based on a true story concerning a young boy who goes missing and then turns up years later to join his family. As a mystery it comes up a tad short but as a cinematic journey it is of great value. No doubt Holland puts much of herself in this script and the result is a confusing look at the many diffent roles members of a family can play. It's the type of picture, had it been made in North America, would no doubt be a complete failure, in the hands of Holland with this superb French cast it raises far above what one has come to expect from the genre. Subtitles may turn some off but well worth a viewing for the visual stylings alone.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Hear No Evil
Robert Greenwald is mostly known for his television and documentary work with drama standouts being XANADU and THE BURNING BED and his recent doc concerning WAL-MART is a must see. With HEAR NO EVIL we've seen everything before, or, in this case heard it. Deaf girl instead of blind one gets mixed up in a situation which has a bad cop instead of a run of the mill crook looking for a rare and valuable coin instead of not so rare but valuable drugs and a whole bunch of shit happens which was far more exciting in the previous films we've seen of this ilk. Marlee Matlin is fair in her role with D.B. Sweeney as the boyfriend and Martin Sheen doing what he does when he decides to fax in a performance. Interesting score from Graeme Revell but not much else. Sometimes known as DANGER SIGN which would be an apt description of this toothless "thriller".
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Certainly not a masterpiece but there are points of interest in this psychological slash horror thriller. Great to see Jamie Lee Curtis as the bad guy for a change just as it is to see her work with the legendary Vanessa Redgrave. For some reason both Peter Gallagher and Joanne Whalley always look like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights and here is no exception. A young Luke Edwards almost steals the show and we have cameos for Joss Ackland and Paul Guilfoyle and though the ending is predictable and rushed there are a few jumper moments and some great lighting to make this slightly better than the average turn on this theme. Speaking of theme, with a slight reworking of the script this could easily be made as an urban thriller with perhaps Rhianna in Jamie Lee's role and Lady Gaga in Whalley's....or vice versa...who cares.
I have to say right from the get go, if you don't shed a tear at the end of this one you don't have a fucking heart. What we often forget is just how great OLD YELLER is as a film and it stands out as truly one of the best live action features to come out of the Walt Disney studios. Superbly scripted, amazingly shot and acted to perfection with the cream of Disney's stable including Fess Parker, Chuck Connors and Dorothy McGuire this intense coming of age story is just as moving over fifty years later as it was when it first hit the screen. Odd bit of trivia, Spike, the Golden Lab who "plays" Old Yeller can be seen briefly in THE SHE CREATURE. Word is this is to digitally remastered once again and heres hoping they don't destroy the amazing colour.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Every bit as bad as you would expect a film based on a video game and directed by a man whose main foray is concert films. This being said, DOUBLE DRAGON is worth a look to see poor Robert Patrick is bad clothing and Alyssa Milano in even worse. Michael Berryman has an interesting bit part but you will need either a serious Big Gulp Slushee buzz or a bag of killer hyrdo to wade through this one.
At the best of times I have trouble recommending the work of Jim Jarmusch. There is a gritty hipster element to his work many average film viewers find less than satisfying an on this accord I fully understand. For my money I happen to enjoy his films though I will say BROKEN FLOWERS is even less filling than his other courses. Of course Bill Murray and the mainly female cast are fantastic with the stunning Alexis Dziena once again stealing the show. The concept is set up as such where the journey is certainly more important than the end which I gather is the whole point and it was a nice touch using Murray's real life son at the end of the film though not in a way many might have expected. When I make mention of the mostly female cast there isn't dead weight in the lot and oone scene in an airport terminal where everybody in the background just happen to be women is a stroke of genius. Not much more need be said here, like any Jarmusch film you will either like it or you won't, if you get it or not is of little import.
David Schmoeller garnered interest with 1979's TOURIST TRAP, a concept which has certainly been used to death in modern times. With CRAWLSPACE it looks as though he was trying to blend PEEPING TOM with Nazi medical films which no doubt is why he brough Klaus Kinski on board. Kinski is about the only thing of interest here though even he appears to be going through the motions as the wing nut psycho. Interesting earlier work from Talia Balsam of recent MAD MEN fame and marks the big screen debut of musical talent Tane McClure but other than Kinski there isn't much in this crawlspace.
I certainly feel no need to ramble on about this legal thriller. I'm not completely sure why Tilda Swinton took and Oscar while Tom Wilkinson didn't. As for the other nominations I can see why it lost Best Picture to NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN but I do think it's a toss as to if Clooney was better than Day-Lewis. My only complaint with MICHAEL CLAYTON is the end, while proper it seems forced and in a hurry which is in contrast to the pace by which the rest of the film works. Still, in a field oversaturated this manages to be fresh and engaging and ringing endorsement if ever one needs it.
Even though this is a Joel Coen directed feature it sadly doesn't come off any better than an average little romantic comedy with some serious star power. The combination of George Clooney as the wolverine divorce lawyer and Catherine Zeta-Jones as the money hungry sylph is a fine one but the presentation is such as one ends up feeling they've seen it all before. Geoffrey Rush and Cedric the Entertainer actually upstage the mentioned A-listers and Billy Bob Thornton has some fantastic moments especially in the predictable twist. Richard Jenkins once again gives a fab performance and great to see Bruce Campbell getting work in the big show. What stood out for me was the speech Clooney delivers at the lawyers convention, while slightly out of place as a set up for the big fall if you take it as a stand alone is is a heartfelt and moving piece of oration. Not bad but nothing special.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
It's always nice to get a pleasant surprise and this is exactly what WANTED turned out to be. For some reason I though it had that Shabia LaBeef dude in the lead so I put in on the back burner as far as priority viewing went. I don't have any real problem with Shia LeBeouf but I've never felt any urgency to run out opening day to see his work. As for Angelina Jolie, this looked to be simply another action role for her which she is great at, alas, same thing...no urgency. Turns out I'm the one worse off as this baby would have been a riot on the big screen, especially the sound for which WANTED grabbed two Oscar nods. Timur Bekmambetov of the WATCH series fame directs a fast paced yarn here which comes off as a hybrid blend of FIGHT CLUB, THE MATIX and THE SEVENTH SAMURI. Granted, WANTED doesn't hold a candle to the films mentioned but it does stand out as being far better than the average offerings in the genre of late. James McAvoy certainly has a future in the action world and word has it he's already on board for the sequel. Terrence Stamp always raises the bar and I'm not so sure we should be talking about Morgan Freeman at the moment. Special mention should be made of rapper turned actor Common who is staged to fill Mr. T's role in the upcoming THE A-TEAM film. Though his lines are limited he seems to make the switch without effort. Not classic but enough action and twists to make this a keeper.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
This endearing little tale of Diane Keaton as the hard walkin' business woman who "inherits" a kid manages to be better than average due to it's star power. Keaton is more than capable of carrying the picture on her own but when you add Sam Shepard to the mix you get something special. Harold Ramis as always provides some great dry wit and James Spader does slimeball better than anybody in the business. No intellectual workout here, just simple fun.
Don't Say a Word
There is an old saying along the lines of a movie is only as good as it's script and DON'T SAY A WORD is proof perfect of this adage. Fair enough cast with Michael Douglas being supported by the likes of Famke Janssen, Oliver Platt and Sean Bean turning in one of his bad guy roles and Brittany Murphy giving her best performance to date. No problem with Gary Fleder's directing style, no real problems with the movie other than it's nothing we haven't all seen before. Think of it as a made for TV kidnapping thriller with Hollywood stars. Another chance to show off our now famous lower Bay subway station.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Soulmates (Evil Lives)
There are bad films and there are BAD films and SOULMATES is certainly a BAD film. Take a character soap opera actor, Tristan Rogers, turnn him into an immortal who parades as a bad crime author all the while sucking the souls out of young large breasted nubiles to get that Oil of Olay look. There are enough of those large breast bouncing around in this one to somewhat keep the pervs happy but as a horror film it comes off as a limp noodle. The lovely Melissa Anne Moore makes an appearance but is killed off far too early and when the great-great granson of Tyrone Power is being passed off as a lead you know you are in trouble. Bit parts for Paul Bartel, Paul Ben-Victor and Dawn Wells may make it of interest to some but you would be far better off to find director Thunder Levin's second film MUTANT VAMPIRE ZOMBIES FROM THE 'HOOD!.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
File this one under "yet another weird Italian film where they try to do American style" in this case using a famous Frenchman to play Zorro! Throw in one of those stupid little pop songs as a theme and use it everytime the French Zorro shows up and you get where I'm going about this one. Not that this version isn't fun. Duccio Tessari, father of Fiorenza who we loved in PHENOMENA (CREEPERS), does a fair enough job with this choppy bit of fare and we have the famous Moustache as Sgt. Garcia for some interesting comic relief but all said it's along two hours even with Alain Delon in the lead.
While PROM NIGHT may not be the best in the wave of '80s slasher films it does remain near and dear to my heart. Surprisingly this has nothing to do with scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis being in the lead but rather the support and back crew involved. Director Paul Lynch, who we may as well wish a Happy Birthday to as he was born twenty years to the day earlier than I, while being born in the town of THE BEATLES has done a great deal of his work in Toronto, PROM NIGHT included, so he ranks in my books as one of own. He directed episodes for almost all of our great sci-fi shows as well as going down south for stints on everything from the news STAR TREKS to XENA. Robert Guza Jr. who gets his first writing credit here believe it or not is now the head writer on GENERAL HOSPITAL. Go through the crew involved on PROM NIGHT and most are working on local productions today. Mind you, this is no big shock, the film is only turning 30 with a remake proper in the pipeline. No shock but important because it tells you the quality level on this low budget feature is better than the numbers would lead you to think. There are some mighty tense moments in this one and some of the stingers will still make you jump. Some extra star talent in names like Leslie Nielsen, Robert A. Silverman and the great Antoinette Bower add to what promises to be a night to remember.
Monday, June 01, 2009
I can't say I was all that surprised IRON MAN was a box office hit nor was I taken aback by just how good it was. No. What shocked me was discovering Jon Favreau directed it. I don't mind him as an actor but I had absolutely no idea he was involved behind the scenes as much as was and still is. The idea of casting Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, never mind his then once again rising star power, seems natural and you almost swear he's not acting for most of the film. Nice to see Jeff Bridges having fun and really, if I had one complaint about IRON MAN it would be using Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury but hey, why not. Not quite up there with SPIDER-MAN or THE DARK NIGHT but well worth the time.
Though 1977 was a year filled with many memorable images two stand out more than most. One would be the now famous Farah Fawcett poster which everybody seemed to own and the other would be Jacqueline Bisset running around in that white wet t-shirt. Combined those two were responsible for agitating a many Moray eel around the world and either can elicit a similar response even today. As for THE DEEP, well, it hasn't aged as well as those memories but it is still an enjoyable little thriller. Much like Peter Benchley himself, the studio was trying to recapture the box office success of JAWS right down to once again using Robert Shaw. THE DEEP is certainly no JAWS but with a nice mystery and a fine cast it is good viewing. Nick Nolte, Louis Gossett and Eli Wallach all give fine performances and don't think for one second Bisset was just there for eye candy, she has some of the best scenes in the flick. Nice touch using the real life sons of Shaw and Wallach to stand in for youth related material and look for Benchley in a quick cameo. All of this and a John Barry score to go with it means one need not dive too far to dig THE DEEP.
Lord of Illusions
You can argue away as to which of the Clive Barker directed films is the best, I waver depending on the day between this and NIGHTBREED. I tend to feel LORD OF ILLUSIONS is the better picture on whole but the fact David Cronenberg plays a psycho in NIGHTBREED gives it a leg up. LORD OF ILLUSIONS to date is the last to be written and directed by Barker and it's a shame as he seemed to be getting the hang of it. Some have complained I don't bother to provide a story synopsis here, this would be due to the fact I feel many of my regulars have either seen the blurbed picture and if they haven't would rather discover it for themselves. For this reason I would tell you few who've not see this one and are interested to stay away from IMDB or other sites where the action can be spoiled for you. There are some twists in LORD OF ILLUSIONS you simply do not ruined. What I will say is it's one of Scott Bakula's best roles period. There was talk they would try and expand his character here to franchise format but it seems unlikely this many years later. Early role for Famke Janssen and once again the late Vincent Schiavelli pretty much has the best line in the whole movie.
"We're all looking for the B.B.D., the bigger, better deal" are the words myself and a select group of teenage walking hard-ons adopted as a summer mantra. I'm not sure we ever truly found the B.B.D. but much like the quest for the elusive grail the voyage was a fun one. One need not expect much of a plot from this piece intended for the Playboy station and found for some reason to be good enough for theatrical release. Some middle aged dudes spend a summer at the beach but find themselves unable to pull the B.B.D. so they hire a young studley to school them on then finer aspects of landing said B.B.D.. Wow, a plot.....who the fuck cares! This is all about an assortment of buxom beauties prancing about in various states of undress. This list would include the likes of Kristi Somers, Darcy DeMoss and Crystal Shaw and Kathleen Kinmont making their film debuts. HARDBODIES also marks the first credited acting role for our ol' boy Jason himself Kane Hodder and we see chick rockers VIXEN to boot. Easy to see why a film of this nature appealed so greatly to our young, impressionable, hash and beer laden horny little minds. Right there alongside GONE WITH THE WIND as one of the greatest movies ever made.