Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Revenant (2009)

The Revenant is one of the many movies that I've had on my shelf for some time and just not taken the time to watch before now. Once I buy films any sense of urgency disappears. I own it, I can watch it whenever I like. Which, unfortunately, often leaves me with a hell of a big backlog of stuff that I really should watch. Thankfully, friends (both online and offline) tend to prod at me until I watch titles that they highly recommend and this was the case with The Revenant. Not for the first time, and surely not for the last, I am glad that I took the advice of others and finally got around to watching this one.

Bart (David Anders) is on active duty in the military when he's unfortunately killed by death-dealing enemy bullets of death. His funeral takes place and then his loved ones, including his best friend Joey (played by Chris Wylde), try to deal with the loss in their own particular ways. The grief process can take a long time and take many strange turns but Joey finds things extra complicated when Bart turns up on his doorstep, apparently having left his grave and somehow come back to life. It's all very confusing, and quite disturbing, but doesn't take long for Joey to go with the flow and try to convince Bart of the best ways to use "the dark gift".

Written and directed by Kerry Prior, this is a whole lot of fun that mixes in some decent blood and gore with a bit of pondering on the very essence of good and evil. A cross between a vampire, zombie and vigilante movie, there are also numerous nods to beloved classics and at least one scene featuring a decapitated head that was the best decapitated head scene I can recall having seen since Re-Animator.

The acting from the two leads is fine, not the best I've seen in the genre but far, far better than a thousand other low-budget films you could pick up from your nearest movie store. David Anders is likeable, despite the potential danger that his character brings with him, while Chris Wylde is entertaining enough before his personality take a bit of a downward, darker turn in the last half hour or so. Louise Griffiths is quite lovely and Jacy King plays a character who could have been potentially annoying but ends up simply trying to convince others to use common sense.

It's perfectly paced, running at about 110 minutes but with plenty packed in there, and full of energy and I can't imagine any horror fan taking a major dislike to this one. Just damn good fun.

7/10

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Revenant-DVD/dp/B005NVMMDE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1341092164&sr=8-1



Thursday, 28 June 2012

It's almost over but nowhere near the end.

So, once again, I come to the end of my time at the EIFF for another year. Some time in the videotheque and a screening of Brave tomorrow and I'm all done. Work, and a semblance of normality, calls.

But it doesn't end there.

As of this moment, I still have about a dozen reviews to write up and get on Flickfeast and there are already ten or so due to appear. After that happens I get to do a bit of pimping and hope that those responsible for my favourite movies maybe notice my little bit of praise and help me in my pimpage.

And those favourites are:

Tabu - just sheer quality from beginning to end.

Unconditional - you won't ever be able to predict where this movie is going. It's very dark in places and very, very good.

Dragon - Donnie Yen does it again, legend that he is.

Berberian Sound Studio - a bit of a headfuck, but in a good way. I loved it.

V/H/S - inconsistent but nearly brilliant.

Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal - it may have an amusing title but it's also damn good.

NFA - strong stuff and well worth seeing.

The Imposter - fact is stranger than fiction once again.

Grabbers - aliens kept at bay by a high blood alcohol level? Brilliant.

Once I am done with all of these I can then settle back into my standard routine of movies, movies and movies and the EIFF always reminds me of just how much I love so many different types of movies so even as things settle back to my version of normality I know that the rest of the year will be full of films - good, bad and ugly - that I will enjoy writing about, even if I won't enjoy every viewing.




Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Blockbusted?

I like Blockbuster, I do. I know that liking them is irrational and that they do quite a lot to make themselves unpopular but a) I used to work for them and enjoy my free rentals each week and b) I know that a lot of the staff working for the company started, as I did, with a naive idea that if they loved movies then they would enjoy working for the company and could spread their love of movies to others. Some staff still try and you can tell, as you can with any business, which employees genuinely know and/or care about their product.

It's strange to see how many big businesses seem to lose their focus as they grow and grow, even while the situation almost demands that they remove blinkers and get with the program. I'm only using Blockbuster as an example here, from what little I know and to illustrate my point with a recent personal experience.


Here's what little I know (or think I know) about the company at the moment. It's in major financial trouble, I believe, and this has led to some major restructuring and the closure of many stores. I'm not sure if they ever did enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy or not but they are certainly like so many other businesses around nowadays in the way that they need to make every £1 of profit count.


Here's how not to help yourself make money.


I walked into my local Blockbuster the other week and asked the following: "Oh, did you guys get any retail copies of The Muppets on Bluray?"


The guy working in store that day was someone I'd spoken to before and he's a decent lad but he doesn't have the passion and banter that his colleague has. Sorry to say it, he's a less effective salesman in his role because he always seems to be wanting to be elsewhere. Anyway, on this particular occasion he turned to me and said "Oh mate, with releases like that nowadays, unless they're the BIG titles, you have to put a deposit down to make sure they get ordered in or it's just not going to happen". This was said with a wry grin and a whole "we're men of the world" air of complicity that kinda hid the meaning of his words until I left the store.


"Ah," said I, "so I doubt you'll be getting Carnage in either."


"No," said the sales assistant, "that one we could maybe special order in for you but we're only getting a few rental copies of it in and no retail due."


"Okay then, cheers."


And I left. Or, to be more exact, I left and immediately texted my wife that it would be much appreciated if she could pick up a copy of The Muppets on Bluray while she also bought a bit of shopping at the big Sainsbury's along the road from us.


THEN, feeling a bit guilty for so quickly and easily turning "traitor" I started to realise what I'd just been told. The lad working for a company in financial trouble had told me that I was wrong, as a consumer, to expect them to have in stock a title that I thought would sell pretty well. That was the way of their world and a £2 deposit would be required for whenever I thought ahead next time.


Hmmmmm. Actually, as brattish and spoilt as it may make me sound, we live in a consumer-powered society and if I want something at the best price I will tend to shop online. If I want something as a little treat for myself I will tend to stick it in the shopping trolley while I buy groceries. And if I want to help my local Blockbuster and buy a new movie there then I will go in and see if it's in stock. If it's not in stock then it's their loss and I will go to buy it elsewhere. That's entirely my choice. Of course, Blockbuster (and, indeed, any store selling goods) can't possibly have everything in stock that people may or may not want to buy. But when they don't have something in that I wanted to buy then that's not my fault, at all. Nope. The onus is with them to have goods to sell me.


This is not, despite how it may seem, a moan about Blockbuster. I still like them and have fond memories of working for the company and recommending movies to people who took a genuine interest in finding some gems. This is just my own little rambling about how I was genuinely astonished to find such complacency nowadays in an environment which really does put all of the power into the hands of the consumer. If you're never complacent with people then you should always do well, in my opinion. Life doesn't always work out that way but it should and I hope that, for anyone out there giving 100% in whatever the role is, it does.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

A Fistful Of Fingers (1995)

The first feature (just) from Edgar Wright sees the man perhaps biting off a little bit more than he can chew in this Western spoof filmed in and around his hometown.

The story? "No-name" (Graham Low) travels in search of The Squint (Oli van der Vijver) for reasons that we don't know but that we hope will become clear by the end of the movie. That's it. Along the way, "No-name" meets up with Running Sore (Martin Curtis) but any actual development of the plot only serves the set-up and delivery of more gags.

Okay, so it may not be up there with many of the later outings from Wright in his professional career but his first big-screen outing as writer and director remains a surprisingly enjoyable experience that shows a lot of love and care far outweighing the meagre budget and resources.

The Western clich├ęs are adhered to, or subverted, with glee (my favourite being the saloon that gets noisy and lively when a stranger enters and then becomes paused when he leaves again) and while they may not be the biggest or most sophisticated gags in the world I'd have to give props to Wright for the sheer wealth of comedy that he tries to cram in there. I was smiling a lot and one or two moments still managed to make me laugh out loud - a woodland gunfight being one of the best.

The actors, and accents, are pretty bad but they all go along with the nonsense and deserve points for simply doing their bit to help the movie get made. Jeremy Beadle and Nicola Stapleton are the only two faces I recognised from elsewhere, with the former popping up to provide a great gag if you remember Beadle's About. Oh, and Mr. Wright himself appears on screen briefly but I'm sure he doesn't put this appearance at the top of his C.V.

The self-deprecating director often points out the many flaws in this film and uses it to cite examples of what not to do with your low-budget first feature but I'd say that he's being a bit too hard on himself. This stands up as a daft little film that remains a bit of fun for those who get to see it.

6/10

It's a very, very tricky movie to track down but here's an optimistic link anyway

http://www.amazon.co.uk/A-Fistful-Fingers-VHS/dp/B00004CT72/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340563145&sr=8-1 



Saturday, 23 June 2012

Going To Pieces: The Rise And Fall Of The Slasher Film (2006)

Far from the definitive overview that the praise claims on the DVD cover, this documentary is still a pretty entertaining primer for a subgenre often frowned upon by movie lovers. If horror is a genre barely tolerated by some who seek to dismiss it whenever possible then the slasher film is the subgenre often most easily held up as an example of all that is wrong with "those types of movies". Of course, the movies that fall under this classification are as varied in quality as movies from any other subgenre and this documentary at least shows off the variety available to audiences.

Based on the book of the same name (which I've heard great things about but, sadly, never read), this is one of many documentary features that seems to be very much "damned if they do, damned if they don't". The subgenres and the springboards for discussion are just too deep and full of potential to be quickly skimmed over. Of course, the usual suspects are here (the tentpole movies from John Carpenter, Wes Craven and Sean S. Cunningham) but there are also a few notable titles missing. Black Christmas was probably the main one that I found conspicuous in its absence. I think that it did appear briefly onscreen but I don't recall too much discussion about it and I felt a bit cheated to be hearing so much about Halloween without the Bob Clark movie being given due respect. Strangely enough, I've never been the biggest fan of Black Christmas while Halloween has long been one of my favourite horror movies of all time so I can only imagine how disappointed real fans of the film will be.

Then we have the fact that everything discussed is discussed in so much detail (in terms of plot points and twists) that you can't help wondering just who would get the most from it. Beginners will have far too many movies ruined for them while fans who have already seen a large portion of the movies mentioned will feel that not enough films are given due attention. Translation = "damned if they do, damned if they don't".

It's a nice collection of clips and reminiscences about the slasher movie subgenre but nothing essential for those who already know their Crystal Lakes from their Elm Streets.

6/10

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Going-Pieces-DVD-John-Carpenter/dp/B000PMLDPO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1339949552&sr=8-1

Friday, 22 June 2012

EIFF 2012: The story so far.

Well, it's a few days into the full flow of the festival and I am already remembering how tiring it is to see everything I want to see, write up full reviews, tweet away and add FB updates (as well as a blog post or five).

In true EIFF fashion, I have already been reminded of a few things that I seem to forget each year.

1) The quieter the movie, the louder my stomach. Just ask the poor guy sitting beside me while we all watched Fred.

2) Cinema staff may be there to facilitate the needs of those attending screenings but that doesn't mean that manners have to be left outside the cinema.

3) There AREN'T enough hours in the day.

4) The best French cinema nowadays remains a great experience but the lesser outings feel like parodies of the movies that were first shown late at night on Channel 4 two or three decades ago.

5) Many critics seem to feel that if something is made to be enjoyed by a lot of people, or is lightweight fun, then it's not really worth their time but might make for an acceptable filler in between a schedule full of "worthier" movies.

6) There ISN'T enough coffee in the day.

7) I love being kept so busy and being allowed to view so many different films for free. Absolutely LOVE it. Yes, there are bad movies as well as good ones but that's the chance you take when you schedule two weeks worth of eclectic viewings.

8) People who are late into screenings or who leave early always make me more mistrustful of the festival coverage - do these people still write reviews or are they just there for their personal enjoyment and well within their rights to see as much or as little as they want to?

9) Nobody will ever believe you when you tell them what a great time you're having BUT that it is also hard work. Nobody, with the possible exception of other reviewers.

10) I'm quite a fast typist nowadays but could always do with trying to be even faster.

It's all true, folks, it's all true.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Let's talk about sex.



The other evening I turned to my wife and I said the following, bizarre, sentence. "No, I'm not going to bother with A Wet Dream On Elm Street or The Human Sexipede as they are just full-on hardcore porn with nothing worth actually reviewing in them".
My wife laughed and said that I just gave her another reminder of why she loved me. I was the type of guy who DIDN'T watch porn, even when given the choice.

That's not strictly true and I wanted to take a moment to address the issue here. This blog, and most of my reviews at Flickfeast and on IMDb, covers almost every form of movie. You may dislike some of those films but I won't shy away from the likes of A Serbian Film or Slaughtered Vomit Dolls, to name just two of the more extreme examples. I think movies can entertain, can make us happy, can make us think, can scare us, can arouse us, can make us cry and can do many, many things. They can also push at the boundaries, sometimes being rejected by people and sometimes rearranging those boundaries thanks to some skill and good timing. A lot of those boundaries, nowadays and in the past, seem to want to keep us all away from sex. Why? It's NOT unhealthy to enjoy sex and an open attitude to sex. Indeed, my own interpretation of A Serbian Film was to view it as a warning that complete repression is just as bad as complete freedom. I have viewed, and occasionally still view, pornography. Of course, if asked while out and about in polite society most of us deny such things but we know it goes on. Behind closed doors. In privacy. Sometimes with a selection of moist towelettes. Or not. That last part was a joke. Honest, mum.

Yet the world of the adult movie, in the context of both the"skin flick" and the horror movie, has often helped to keep money coming in when other types of entertainment have failed. Which is why I will often make space and time here for something either as culturally impactful as Deep Throat or as cheap and cheerful as Cleavagefield. I really didn't enjoy sitting through An Erotic Werewolf In London (yeah, yeah, I know that you're rolling your eyes in disbelief now) but I wanted to see just how much parody would make up the final product - pretty much none, as it turned out - and also think that the filmography of Erin Brown AKA Misty Mundae is now of some significance to fans who have seen her move into the horror genre.

If I thought I could bring anything extra to the table, or if I had any specialist knowledge of the subject, then I would include the movies that I dismissed the other day. But I don't. So this post is just to reassure everyone that while I use my movie viewing and reviewing habit as an excuse to watch I just don't have the time or energy to watch pornography. Hopefully, you will still find the odd title reviewed here that many offend you (including the sensual but sick Singapore Sling - highly recommended) but I won't ever just talk about something that has sex and nothing more to it.*

Stay sexy, people.

*Fans of pornography will argue that some of it can be crafted with skill and artistry, I am speaking in a very general manner.

Oh, you might want to avoid this blog whenever I finally start to make my way through my Russ Meyer boxset though.




Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Timecop (1994)

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, Jean-Claude Van Damme was one of the top action movie stars. He'd done his time (there was the early role in a porn movie and then the film in which most of us saw him as the villain - No Retreat, No Surrender) and then low budget action flicks like Kickboxer and, a movie that remains one of his very best, Bloodsport set him on a fast track to superstardom that may not have remained at full strength but has certainly kept him in a career of high kicks and any excuse to do the splits. Watched nowadays, the better movies featuring JCVD in a leading role remain slick and enjoyable slices of entertainment. With plenty of high kicks and excuses for him to do the splits. But it's his adventures mixing sci-fi in with the action that seem to have stood the test of time the best. Universal Soldier is absolutely superb (thanks, in no small part, to an absolutely brilliant performance from Dolph Lundgren) but Timecop remains a very fun watch, despite its many flaws.

The story is based on the Dark Horse comic series and Van Damme plays Walker, a man who we see at the start of the movie having his life pretty much torn apart. We then skip forward a number of years to see that Walker is, funnily enough, a "timecop". Time travel has been invented but it needs to be closely monitored at all times and nothing should be done to change the past. Those who engage in such deeds (making themselves rich or trying to kill figures from the past, etc) are tracked down and severely punished. Bruce McGill plays the abrupt captain of the division who is also a friend to Walker, Gloria Reubens plays an agent ordered to tag along with our hero after his partner gets a bit too greedy and Ron Silver gives another entertaining performance as McComb, a Senator who has the Presidency in his sights and might just break the laws to get it. There's also Mia Sara looking a bit doe-eyed and being an extra motivational factor for our hero. And did I mention that Van Damme does some high kicks and even the splits?

Peter Hyams directs things with his usual skill. He's no major artist, in my opinion, but I've always found him to be a very dependable craftsman who often makes solid entertainment. The performances are better than average for a JCVD movie, with special mentions going to the great McGill and the fun Silver, but it's the script that really helps this one stay surprisingly sharp and fresh. Information is interspersed throughout the action in a way that never feels too forced or obtrusive, the premise may be full of paradox potential but also does a great job of blending in the smart stuff without making anything too difficult to follow.

The action scenes are well done and will please action fans while the sci-fi stuff is handled competently enough to please those after a bit of time travel fun. There's no doubt that it will have the more eagle-eyed viewers tutting in disapproval as the end credits roll and the plot holes stand out but the film never claims to be a serious look at the nature of time travel. It's an action-packed sci-fi thriller in which JCVD does some high kicks and has a few excuses to do the splits. Though I might have mentioned that already.

7/10

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Timecop-Blu-ray-Region-Free/dp/B003IHVKSI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340140214&sr=8-1



Tuesday, 19 June 2012

More EIFF 2012.

I am trying to be prepared this year, trying to not let this blog get covered and dust and a thin sheen of neglect while I busy myself with the big event in my movie calendar, the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

As this post is being written ahead of time I have no idea just how EIFF 2012 will pan out for me this year but I know that, as I have done for the past two years, I will do my best to see as many movies as possible and to get the reviews up on Flickfeast ASAP. It's a win-win situation for everyone involved. I get to see LOTS of movies for free, the website gets some extra traffic (hopefully) and those involved with the festival get added exposure from us. Hey, we may be a small fish in a big pond but we keep swimming.

It's all too easy to fall in love with a movie or two and to be swept along with the celebrities and the premieres but the main thing to remember is also the main thing that's easiest to forget - the festival works because of so many people making a concerted effort at every level. Those making the films, those selecting the films, those showing the films, those spreading the word on the films, etc, etc. Every year I remember to thank the wonderful staff at The Filmhouse and Cameo cinema who put up with the crowds and the unsociable hours every festival and this year will be no different.

Everyone who knows me knows that when I go to the cinema I like to get "a bit of bang for my buck", as I often put it, but I also do my damnedest to remind people that the smaller cinemas are often the places to go to see something that you just won't get at your local multiplex. The fact that they're often staffed by people with a genuine love of cinema is a huge bonus. Supporting your local cinema really does show them that they're doing the right thing and that not everyone and their uncle wants to rush along to see Harry Potter And The Twilight Of The Transformers (in RealD 3D with smell-o-vision).

Do I go along to these smaller cinemas as often as I should? No, no I don't. But when I do go along I never resent handing my money over (especially at my annual horror overdose that goes by the name of Dead By Dawn) and I always speak highly of these Edinburgh institutions when anyone asks me about them. I hope you have somewhere similiar in your local area. And I really hope that you, even just occasionally, pop along and spend some of your hard earned cash there.


Monday, 18 June 2012

EIFF 2012.

It's here.
It's begun.
YES! I have managed to get along to see Jaws on the big screen (mega mega happy dance) but of equal importance is the fact that I have just picked up my goodie bag and press pass for EIFF 2012.
For anyone interested I will provide the following two links.
EIFF 2010
and
EIFF 2011.
If you liked ANY of those ramblings then I assure you that there are some goodies coming up on Flickfeast over the next couple of weeks, including Killer Joe, a film about a psychic octopus, V/H/S (which I will be doing my damnedest to see), Grabbers and much, much more.
I hope that anyone who has stumbled onto my bloggy nonsense will look forward to the coverage and I aim, as ever, to just see as much (in terms of both quantity AND variety) as possible.
Now, I think it's time to swagger around town like a complete twat with my branded bag of freebies. Ahhhh, such a hard life.


Sunday, 17 June 2012

I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle (1990)

Obviously not a film for everyone, I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle is for those who wanted to see the cast of UK TV show "Boon" in a bad horror movie or who wanted to see a movie about a possessed motorbike or who wanted to see . . . . . . Neil Morrissey attacked by a lively turd in a random nightmare sequence. It has all of these things and more. None of them make for a great viewing experience.

The story is nothing to dwell on, what with it being fully described in the title of the movie, so let's move quickly past that.

The acting is okay if you enjoy acting performances that look as if they belong in some 80s British comedy drama series full of more bad puns and lame moments than anything else. Neil Morrissey is the leading man and he's so-so, if nothing special. He's certainly better than anyone else on screen, with the possible exception of Anthony Daniels in a rare non-C3PO role. Supposed to be a lovable loser trying to find out exactly what's wrong with his new purchase, Morrissey is believably dim but not really as endearing as his "cheeky chappie" could be.

The effects are about as varied as you can get with some of the stuff here being quite enjoyably gory but other stuff looking as if someone knocked it up in their workshed with a load of red paint and sticky back plastic (which, in all likelihood, is probably what happened). The bike itself is a nice looking machine and gains some nice design "upgrades" as the movie progresses. Director Dirk Campbell also does a good job of blocking scenes tightly enough to show the bike moving, apparently, without anyone on board.

The biggest problem with the film, although there are many minor failings to choose from, is that it's simply too preposterous to enjoy fully. The central premise is not just stupid but also stupidly executed. It's as if we're expected to buy into the fact that this bike can get everywhere and sneak up on people every night when the bike is there, reminding you that . . . . . . . . IT'S A BIKE! I must also make a special point of mentioning the Hell's Angels here that are about as scary as the Hell's Grannies depicted by Monty Python. Fans of the great, quaint UK horror Psychomania will enjoy seeing this bunch of tame "tough bikers". And, considering the film was released in 1990, it's strange to think that it may have seemed dated as soon as it came out. Perhaps people can argue that it's done that way deliberately, a homage to the decidedly British horrors of yesteryear. I'm not buying that one.

With Michael Elphick also hamming things up and a bunch of people who were never really (or should never have been) bound for anything more than TV work, the movie just about works it's way to an average rating with it's exuberance and sense of self-belief (not to mention the surprisingly enjoyable, generic soundtrack) but it just has far too much to work against with the onslaught of poor, groansome gags, the silliness of the whole scenario and the complete lack of tension throughout. UK horror has seen much worse entries in the genre but it's also seen MUCH better.

4/10

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bought-Vampire-Motorcycle-DVD/dp/B000B64VS0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1339931241&sr=8-1

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Jaws (1975)

Jaws is returning to cinema screens for a limited run this year and I implore you to do what you can to see it on the big screen. It is, and always will be, the best blockbuster ever made and a masterpiece in modern cinema. Says me, anyway. When the spruced up Bluray is released later in the year I will buy it ASAP and enjoy rewatching it all over again (apparently the upgrade is absolutely superb).

But once again I come to hit a brick wall, how to review my all-time favourite movies while not covering all the old ground that has already been covered so many times. Released in the year that I was born, I feel like Jaws has always been a part of my life. I remember how I laughed when I saw it shown on TV after a weather report from Michael Fish (Fish and then shark, hahaha, see?) and then how shaken up I was two hours later. It terrified me and I loved the thrill of the experience.

People have already praised the performances (Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and the mighty Robert Shaw - that U.S.S. Indianapolis speech is, for me, up there with the Top 10 cinematic monologues of all time). People have also already praised the direction, obviously, what with it being the movie that sent Spielberg's career stratospheric after he cut his teeth on some fine earlier outings, including the magnificent Duel. Is there anything that people haven't praised here? The brilliant John Williams score, the technical failings and problems that led to decisions being made that would inevitably improve the film, THAT opening sequence, the fact that it's one of the few films to actually improve upon the book it was based on.

Nope, I have nothing new to add. Oh, for anyone just coming out of a 200-year coma, the film is about a great white shark terrorising the island of Amity and doing it inconveniently close to a holiday weekend when beach-combing visitors usually bring the cash that the small community needs to survive and thrive. Did I say great white shark? I meant GREAT BIG great white shark. The local chief of police, a marine biologist and a local fisherman band together to try and catch the beast before more people die.

After first seeing Jaws I did not even want to dip a toe in the waters of Portobello and anyone who knows that area near Edinburgh will know that I was more likely to be terrorised by a dirty needle or a used prophylactic than a great white shark but that's how much the movie impacted on my psyche and, indeed, on the entire psyche of popular culture since it's release. To this day, you cannot hear that minimalistic cello piece without thinking that a fin will soon be chasing after you. And, rambling as I have, I think that last paragraph contains all the personal and wider view of the movie that I feel should always be taken into consideration by those who try to wave it aside as an unspectacular, shallow thrill-ride.

10/10

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jaws-Blu-ray-Digital-Copy-Schneider/dp/B003AQCZK4

Friday, 15 June 2012

The Sword And The Rose (1953)

A Disney swashbuckler with little swash or buckle, The Sword And The Rose somehow remains a good adventure yarn that takes a number of liberties with some historical figures.

It is the reign of Henry VIII (James Robertson Justice) and he is determined to send his sister, Princess Mary Tudor (Glynis Johns), to wed Louis XII (Jean Mercure). But Princess Mary Tudor has other plans, she is headstrong anyway and this is made worse when she falls for Charles Brandon (Richard Todd). Of course, any plans that the good lady has to be with Charles, a common man, places them both in severe jeopardy and the situation is worsened by the scheming of the smitten Duke Of Buckingham (Michael Gough).

Directed by Ken Annakin, with a screenplay by Lawrence Edward Watkin based on the novel "When Knighthood Was In Flower" by Charles Major, there's a lot here to enjoy even if nothing stands out as truly great.

The biggest bonus for the film comes from the performances. Todd is a fine hero and Johns is both beautiful and sassy. James Robertson Justice is highly entertaining as Henry VIII and Michael Gough makes a great, scheming villain.

It also runs for a brisk 92 minutes and so never outstays its welcome. As an outright adventure it may not have quite enough energy or derring-do but as an entertaining tale that mixes romance, comedy, treachery and some grand feats I'd have to say that this edges ahead of the similiar treatment that director and writer gave to the Robin Hood story. It's a mix of tunics, tights, technicolor and even one or two amusingly risque (for the time) moments that will keep you entertained for the duration.

Oh, one last thing, the scene in which Glynis Johns tries to pass herself off as a boy in order to stay close to Richard Todd is, surely, one of the most unconvincing attempts by a woman to appear as a man and also an inspiration for the great use of the character "Bob" in a number of Blackadder episodes. Watch the movie and tell me I'm wrong.

7/10

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rose-1953-region-Richard-Directed-Annakin/dp/788588385X/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1339755907&sr=1-1


Thursday, 14 June 2012

25th Hour (2002)

Directed by Spike Lee, and written by David Benioff (developing the screenplay from his own novel), 25th Hour is a superb piece of work that gives some great material to some great actors and then sits back to let everyone enjoy the results.

The story revolves around Monty (Ed Norton), a drug dealer who has been busted and is enjoying his last night with friends before heading to prison to do his time. He tries to relax in the company of his girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson) and then goes out for a meal with his father (Brian Cox) before meeting up with Jacob (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Frank (Barry Pepper), his two best friends. The whole evening is tainted, however, by an element of mistrust and a desire to find out just who ratted on Monty.

This is, quite simply, a quality movie that you should sit back and let wash over you. Great acting, a great script (there are two standout moments that are so brilliant you may well want to rewatch them as soon as they're finished), plenty of food for thought that is never forcefed to the audience and some nice visual flourishes here and there all add up to something almost perfect. In fact, the only thing really holding it back from being a perfect movie is the fact that a number of scenes really feel a bit pointless (including the two that I think are the best in the movie). They're NOT pointless, and I think that everything in this movie comes together to make a whole experience much more than the sum of its parts, but it's easy to view them that way.

Norton is great in the lead role, believably smart and cool, but the supporting cast sees a number of people knocking it out of the park. Philip Seymour Hoffman gives the effortlessly great performance that he's given in almost every movie that he's been a part of, as does Brian Cox, while Barry Pepper is so good that I can't help but wonder, every time I see him doing such great work, why he hasn't had bigger roles in the past decade or so. Rosario Dawson is as lovely as ever and Anna Paquin (playing a free-spirited student that Jacob fancies, while he knows that he shouldn't) is a fizzing bundle of youthful energy and passion.

I've not seen enough Spike Lee movies, sadly, to judge this film in comparison to his highly-regarded earlier works (yes, yes, I will aim to rectify that situation ASAP), but 25th Hour is almost as good as Inside Man and shows a director who has matured over the years while never losing that interest in questioning the status quo and provoking a reaction.

8/10

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-25th-Hour-Edward-Norton/dp/B0000TZ7GS



Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Horse In The Gray Flannel Suit (1968)

Dean Jones stars once again in a light and amusing live action Disney movie, this time playing advertising executive Fred Bolton. Fred has two big problems in his life. His boss (Fred Clark) gives him just 24 hours to come up with a great new advertising campaign for Aspercel and his daughter (Ellen Janov) desperately wants a horse. Amazingly, Fred thinks that he can solve both problems at once by buying a horse for his daughter, naming it "Aspercel" and seeing that name spread far and wide as the horse wins tournament after tournament. No pressure then. Hopefully, trainer Suzie Clemens (Diane Baker) can help because Fred really wants to do well and keep his job. Mind you, he also wants his daughter to be happy above all else and when he's told of just how the pressure is affecting her by her young would-be suitor (Kurt Russell) he has to reconsider his entire plan.

Directed by Norman Tokar and written by Louis Pelletier (based on the book by Eric Hatch), The Horse In The Gray Flannel Suit may be a little too bland and twee for modern audiences but it still has enough going for it to make it worth a watch. The performances are all decent and the big finale makes you genuinely tense along with the characters who are waiting to see what their fate will be.

Dean Jones has always struck me as James Stewart with less watchability but he carved himself quite a comfortable little niche as Disney's leading reckless adult for a while, his performance here is just as good as any other that he gave. Diane Baker is very good as the horse trainer who grows closer and closer to the family, Ellen Janov is likeable enough as the daughter who suddenly finds her dream coming true, with a catch, and Kurt Russell doesn't have a whole lot of screentime but does well in his supporting role. Fred Clark is also very good as the demanding boss while Lurene Tuttle tags along as Aunt Martha and Lloyd Bochner comes along to cause some tension as Archer Madison, another horse trainer and a former boyfriend of Miss Clemens.

The whole thing is silly but no less enjoyable for it. Many of the scenes featuring lead characters on horseback make use of unconvincing stunt doubles but that just, somehow, adds to the charm. The movie isn't a Disney Classic (no matter what they put all over the DVD cover) but it remains a pleasant enough time-waster that you might still find capable of amusing the kids for a couple of hours.

6/10

http://www.amazon.com/Horse-Gray-Flannel-Russell-Collection/dp/B00007GZZV



Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Jack And The Beanstalk (1952)

Bookended by some scenes that show Abbott & Costello getting themselves a babysitting job, this colourful movie puts our comedy duo into the old fairytale. The basic story is the same, though there's the added presence of a captured princess (Shaye Cogan) and prince (James Alexander). The giant (Buddy Baer) is still a fearsome presence, all fee-fi-fo-fum and willing to eat small people he has to hand, but there's also a rather tall woman (Dorothy Ford) willing to help Bud and Lou escape his clutches.

If you seek out this movie because you're a big fan of A & C then you're likely to be disappointed but if you fancy seeing a version of Jack & The Beanstalk that happens to feature A & C then you may enjoy yourself. It sounds obvious but it's important to emphasise the point - this is the fairytale with our leads shoehorned in as opposed to a vehicle for our leads with the fairytale storyline added as an afterthought.

There are less laughs than usual, a few bland songs and a sad lack of any magic in the material, written by Nathaniel Curtis and directed by Jean Yarbrough. The supporting cast don't add any sparkle either, although Shaye Cogan is a pleasant onscreen presence and Dorothy Ford does well with what she's given.

More of a curio than anything else, I can't really think of anyone I'd particularly recommend this film to. There are better versions of the fairytale out there (okay, maybe the best one that springs to my mind has Mickey Mouse and company in it but it's still fine entertainment) and almost every other Abbott & Costello movie has better comedy material for the boys to work with.

One of their weakest outings, this just goes to show how good A & C were onscreen when allowed to play versions of themselves (or, rather, the entertainment personas that they'd perfected over the years) and how quickly the charm disappeared when they were slotted into material that just didn't fit right around them. The film still has enough to make it a pleasant time-waster but it's not something that you would go out of your way to watch or rewatch.

5/10

The film is available to view, free and legally, here - http://archive.org/details/jack_and_the_beanstalk_ipod


Monday, 11 June 2012

The Ward (2010)

AKA an excuse to post lots of pictures of Amber Heard. I strive to provide good reviews and interesting writing here on my blog but I'm as weak as most men when it comes to the lovely Miss Heard.

Amber Heard - so hot that these curtains just spontaneously combusted. With the help of some matches.
Of course, The Ward isn't just about Amber Heard, although she takes the lead role and is the focus of almost every scene. More importantly for horror fans, this film was a return to movieland from director John Carpenter. A return to directing features after quite a long hiatus and, to some, a return to form. Personally, I'm one of those who suspect that the positive reception given to the movie by the fans is based more upon a sense of relief that the thing wasn't awful as opposed to the movie being all that great. Because it's not.

Gratuitous Amber Heard shower pic? Don't mind if I do.
Don't get me wrong, the movie is enjoyable enough from start to finish. It's got some great atmosphere, decent performances and most of the scares are well executed but the whole thing is actually quite a fumbled piece of sleight of hand. Watch it once and you'll enjoy it as a bit of fun but repeat viewings show up a number of glaring flaws and massive plot holes. That doesn't stop the movie from being a decent horror (if we horror fans were to pick apart every flaw and plot hole then we'd be left with only one or two movies to watch, surely) but it does stop it from being up there with the past glories that Carpenter has given audiences.

Kristen the protector

The story is all about Kristen (Amber Heard), a young woman who is found by the police as she watches a house burning down. To be more precise, she watches the house burn down that she set fire to. Why? Who is this young woman and what has she been through? Hopefully, she will find answers while under the care of Dr. Stringer (Jared Harris). That's if she can keep her temper under control and play nice with the other inhabitants of the ward. Oh, avoiding the dangerous spirit trying to kill people would also be a good thing.

The girls were about to go for a picnic and then realised that they were a few sandwiches short.
There are good performances from all involved here (Amber Heard is particularly good but Jared Harris is also excellent). The main girls in the ward are played by Mamie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker, Laura-Leigh and Lyndsy Fonseca and they all do fine, even if I can't bring myself to actually enjoy any performance from Panabaker - who, to my mind, seems to be one of those starlets thrust upon us just because someone has deemed it her time to be classed as a "star", god forbid that people reach such a position by having actual talent and personality.

The script is okay when it comes to individual snippets of dialogue but the plotting and overall construction of the movie are where the big flaws appear. Thankfully, it does enough to keep viewers interested and involved throughout and it's just a shame that everything couldn't have been tightened up slightly.

A haunting score accompanies the visuals and the direction from Carpenter is promising, we can only hope that he comes back soon with material worthy of his talent. The scares, whether they are simple jump scares or moments that build up a feeling of dread, are expertly crafted and these reassuring moments elevate the movie to just above average.

If you were waiting for something like a return to form from John Carpenter after his past few movies (the poorly received Vampires and Ghosts Of Mars, in particular) then this may well be something that you like more than I did. It's certainly better than those other movies in terms of acting quality and the translation of the material but it just doesn't do enough to make up for the fact that the plot elements are tired and have been used in a number of superior films.

6/10


http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Ward-Blu-ray-Region-Free/dp/B004MW57J6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1339421784&sr=8-1

 
             

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Cronos (1993)

A smart and stylish take on the vampire mythos from writer/director Guillermo del Toro, Cronos is one of the best modern vampire movies to offer someone who claims that the subgenre is overcrowded and tired. Everything can be given a fresh coat of paint, it just takes someone to come along with the right brush strokes.

The cronos device was created many years ago by an alchemist who hoped to give himself some kind of eternal life. With the help of an unusual insect at the heart of the device and some interesting and complex internal mechanisms it would seem that the alchemist succeeded. But eternal life is only ever guaranteed if you avoid every misfortune possible, which the alchemist doesn't manage to do. The cronos device falls into the hands of Jesus Gris (Federico Luppi), a man who doesn't realise what power it has. He soon starts to put the pieces together, however, when he sees the device in action and when he is visited by someone (Angel de la Guardia, played by Ron Perlman) trying to persuade him to hand it over. Angel doesn't even want it for his own use, he's been tasked to get the device by his uncle (Claudio Brook), but he takes his responsibilities seriously when it has a chance of affecting how good an inheritance he can get. Meanwhile, Jesus starts to realise just how much of a blessing and a curse the cronos device can be.

Cronos is, to me, one of the best vampire movies of the 1990s and certainly an intelligent and interesting take on the material. It's surely no small coincidence that an insect lies at the heart of the proceedings here and that del Toro's first big Hollywood movie was the cockroach-infested Mimic. The man certainly finds bugs interesting and has made good use of them onscreen a number of times. Perhaps it's their design and aesthetics, perhaps it's how alien they seem, perhaps it's just the reaction they often provoke - whatever the reason, Cronos is a great chance for the man to use bugs in horror in a new and unusual way. It's also another movie that shows yet again why the traits of men and insects shouldn't be mixed up. We might be in territory that seems a million miles away from The Fly but the two movies are quite closely related once you start to see the themes being explored and the nature of the horror on display.

The script mixes everything quite wonderfully, balancing genuine moments of warmth and humanity with some over the top outbursts as the cronos device affects the lives of those who know all about it. There's also a great streak of macabre humour that makes the darker moments more palatable, leaving audiences free to think more about the choices being offered to people as opposed to just taking everything as it's shown.

We know now just what a great visionary director Guillermo del Toro is but people who caught Cronos back in the 90s could already see the potential for greatness there. I'm lucky enough to count myself as one of those fans who discovered a real gem (and I'm sure there are many other horror fans who were bowled over at the time) but his writing and direction are really helped by superb performances from everyone involved. Federico Luppi is so good in the lead role that he keeps you on his side from start to finish, despite some horrible and degrading moments that show just how the device is changing him. Perlman is also very good, as much a victim of his uncle as he is an occasional bully to others. Claudio Brook, Tamara Shanath and Margarita Isabel are also fantastic, fleshing out a small cast that you genuinely warm to and grow to care for.

Cronos won't necessarily barge its way to the top of your favourite movie list but it's the kind of quality, thoughtful, unique horror movie that should (I hope) be remembered and appreciated for many years to come. And it's essential viewing for fans of vampire movies.

8/10

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cronos-Special-Guillermo-del-Toro/dp/B004EMS0YI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1339342807&sr=8-1


Saturday, 9 June 2012

Lost In Space (1998)


When I was a young lad I became a big fan of Lost In Space, a TV show that was given a Sunday morning/afternoon timeslot on British TV and made for perfect viewing on a lazy day. The show may have been from a previous generation but when it was repeated in the 1980s it was just as entertaining and enjoyable (I always did prefer it to the other show that usurped its timeslot, Land Of The Giants). So when I heard that they were making a movie version of the show in the late 1990s, with a cast including Gary Oldman, William Hurt and Heather Graham, I was pretty damn excited.

I'm not sure if the movie was considered a flop when it was released in cinemas but it certainly didn't live up to expectations, in both a financial sense and in the treatment of the material that the fans wanted to see. I didn't get to see the movie in the cinema but I bought it on video and enjoyed it for what it was. In fact, I spent years defending the movie against those who claimed it was complete rubbish. Sadly, after a gap of many years, I have now revisited the film and found that I was wrong for many years. It IS rubbish. It's dull, it's cheesy and it takes a great TV show and makes it into nothing more than a visual FX showcase with numerous videogame moments taking up time that could have been given over to the few really interesting aspects of the plot.

The plot is summed up by the title and is, essentially, the same as it was in the TV show. The Robinson family (William Hurt as the father, Mimi Rogers as the mother, Lacey Chabert and Heather Graham as the daughters and Jack Johnson as young Will) head off into space and get a bit lost. They also have a stowaway on board in the shape of the devious and cowardly Dr. Zachary Smith (Gary Oldman), a large robot that could be a major asset or a major threat and a brave pilot (Matt LeBlanc) who isn't at all happy about being given what he sees as a babysitting gig. There are some decent special effects throughout, some dangerous space spiders and a third act that has the potential to be exciting and interesting before throwing away all potential in a mess of dull cliches that we've seen a hundred times before.

But when the end credits roll we get this fantastic tune from Apollo Four Forty. Which turns out to be one of the few highlights of the movie.



It's frustratingly easy to see the many small ways in which Lost In Space flounders and becomes a big mess. William Hurt does very well, as usual, and Gary Oldman is a delight whenever he's onscreen (playing the best character of the lot, so wonderfully played by Jonathan Harris in the TV show) but most of the other cast members are ill-served by the script. Heather Graham shines as she usually does, though even she is stuck with a number of super-lame moments, and Jared Harris does quite well with his small amount of screentime but Lacey Chabert is just annoying 95% of the time, Mimi Rogers is pretty much just there for the sake of being there and young Jack Johnson tries his best but is stuck with playing Will Robinson, who always struck me as a bit too much of a smartass to be a likeable kid. The least said about Matt LeBlanc the better, sadly, as he gets all of the worst lines and delivers them with no conviction or gusto.

Director Stephen Hopkins tries to distract you with pretty visuals but it's not enough when none of the action sequences excite, the chemistry between the characters fails to fizz and the whole thing starts to feel more and more pointless as it goes on. Akiva Goldsman, given the scripting duties, can get a lot of the blame but he's not left on his own. So many wrong decisions are made here - from the choice of plot to go with to the casting to the lack of intelligence or wit or style - that it's only fair to blame everyone equally. Apart from maybe Hurt and Goldman.

There are a few moments that entertain, and it's nice to see cameos from some of the original cast members and to hear that familiar robotic voice exclaiming "danger, Will Robinson", but there's just no way that this film does enough to warrant even an average rating in the grand scheme of things.

4/10

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Space-Blu-ray-Region-Free/dp/B003IHVKRE



Friday, 8 June 2012

Rise And Fall Of Idi Amin (1981)

While it's really nothing more than a slice of exploitation dressed up as a history lesson, there's something undeniably impressive about this bold and horrifying look at the rule of Idi Amin (played by Joseph Olita). In fact, as much as you may find this laughable, the brutality on display here and the self-delusion of Amin sits easily alongside the depiction of events in The Last King Of Scotland. Of course, that movie had big names involved and a bit more good taste but maybe when it comes to looking at figures such as Idi Amin there's a case to be made for not softening the edges and for using some shock tactics to help hammer the message home.

The script by Wade Huie and direction by Sharad Patel both do a pretty good job of sketching out the state of a nation ruled over by a tyrant and a madman. Joseph Olita may not be the best actor for the role but his delivery and erratic style somehow fits brilliantly with the ever-changing whims and extravagant lies that his character lets loose with almost every breath he takes. His performance is definitely the focus of the whole movie, of course, but the other actors all do well as they support or oppose the madness.

There's a lot here that will turn your stomach - bullying, rape, mass murder, false imprisonment, torture, a horrific abuse of power and much, much more - and the pill isn't sugar-coated so a strong reaction is to be expected but, like many fine horror movies (and, whether you agree or not, I easily class this as a horror movie), the film takes a long, hard look at a part of our world history and the darker side of human nature. We may not like what we see but we shouldn't forget it all either.

Rise And Fall Of Idi Amin may not be a factually accurate record of events but it's a surprisingly decent, and eye-opening, starting point and does more than enough to encourage people to investigate further into this whole horrific chapter, looking at just how Amin got to his position and what major scars he left on the psyche of Uganda. Which makes the movie a success, tasteful or not.

7/10

Pricey, pricey, I hope this gets a better release at some point.
http://www.amazon.com/Amin-The-Rise-And-Fall/dp/B0001JX9J4



Thursday, 7 June 2012

Comin' Round The Mountain (1951)

While this is an enjoyable enough effort from Abbott & Costello it also feels like a bit of a step backwards. There is definitely some decent comedy here and there throughout the movie but you also get plenty of recycled gags (which should come as no surprise to anyone who has more than a passing knowledge of the A & C  filmography) and a few songs as well. Okay, the songs are quite entertaining but they still take up time that could have been given over to numerous comedy routines.

The plot is a riff on the old Hatfield-McCoy feud that happened in the latter part of the nineteenth century. It comes to light that Lou, playing Wilbur Smith, is a long lost relation of the McCoy family and his return should be enough to prompt the matriarch of the family to reveal the whereabouts of some family treasure. Bud, as Al Stewart, will go along for a share of the loot and singer Dorothy McCoy (played by Dorothy Shay) may soon regret ever informing Lou of his feisty family tree.

All of the usual suspects are in attendance behind the camera. Charles Lamont directs once more and the script includes contributions from Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo and John Grant. But it's the cast that lifts the whole film from something potentially dull and below average to a solid slice of comedy. Bud and Lou are their usual selves and Dorothy Shay is a sassy lass but the supporting players are even more enjoyable - Ida Moore is great as Granny McCoy, Shaye Cogan is still very cute despite being a bit of a tomboy character, Glenn Strange makes his second appearance beside our comedy leads (albeit this time without the heavy make up required to play Frankenstein's monster) and Margaret Hamilton has a bit of fun with her reputation as the most well-known witch in cinema history.

When I started writing this review I was going to give the movie a 6/10 rating at most but the more I think about it, the more I realise that this is a very enjoyable piece of entertainment. I still have misgivings about the songs and the amount of recycled gags but I can't deny that I was smiling and laughing from start to finish. Which is why it ends up getting a 7.

7/10

http://www.amazon.com/Costello-Foreign-Frankenstein-Invisible-Mountain/dp/B00023P4O2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338933506&sr=8-1



Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies (2012)

I really tossed and turned while considering just how to rate this one. No, no, no, if you came here to read about Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter then you have been fooled once again by those cunning marketing folks over at The Asylum. THAT Abraham Lincoln movie is due out very soon but, as usual, The Asylum make up for their lack of originality by getting their movies out there faster and cheaper. I also have the sneaking suspicion that either their movies are getting more enjoyable or that my brain has just given up and started to enjoy micro-holidays while I watch them.

What do I need to tell you about the film that isn't already spelled out for you there in the title? Not a lot, really. Abraham Lincoln (Bill Oberst Jr) is the presidential figure that you know about from history but what you won't have been aware of is just how he had to do his best to save America from a nasty zombie epidemic. Thankfully, he was pretty happy with sharp, hand-held, weaponry.

Directed by Richard Schenkman (who also wrote the screenplay based on a story idea by Karl T. Hirsch and J. Lauren Proctor based on *ahem* something that clearly inspired them), Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies features many of the usual flaws that movies from The Asylum have. The score is quite bland for most of the runtime - there are a couple of nice moments here and there but a lot of the music just reminds you of something that you'd hear in the background of an advert for some new eco-friendly, gluten-free, hemp-based cheese . . . . . . or something. The acting from most of the supporting players is pretty bad but the edge is taken off the pain by just how good Bill Oberst Jr. is in the lead role. There are also a few good turns elsewhere - Baby Norman is very good as Mary Owens, Canon Kuipers is an enjoyably courageous young Teddy Roosevelt and Christopher Marrone has fun as Pat Garrett. Historical accuracy may not be to the fore but at least the movie doesn't disappoint with the fun factor.

Some moments are very good, very good indeed (including an excellent little punchline to end everything), but you also have the inevitable moments that will make you want to scream at the screen. People who seem to wander backwards slowly, either facing death by zombie with a distinct lack of urgency or allowing death by zombie to sneak up right behind them. There's also some drawn out obstinancy and ignorance that beggars belief, considering what the characters can see happening around them.

The special effects are surprisingly decent throughout and purists will enjoy the fact that these zombies a) don't run and b) require a serious head trauma to be negated as a threat. This enjoyment may, however, be tempered by the fact that these zombies sometimes sleep. Yes, I said sleep. It's a minor detail that's not overused in the film but you have been warned.

All in all, this is as much fun as you should expect it to be, thanks in no small part to a fantastic central performance and an entertaining central premise copied stolen cribbed derived from other works.

6/10


http://www.amazon.com/Abraham-Lincoln-vs-Zombies-Blu-ray/dp/B007BS38LW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338931775&sr=8-1



Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The New York Ripper (1982)

Lucio Fulci has given horror fans plenty to choose from over the years, some of it great and some of it not so great. Personally, I'll always be a fan of his ever since I fell in love with the mist-laden atmosphere of City Of The Living Dead AKA Gates Of Hell. Then I saw The Beyond. Well, I though that the man could do no wrong. Then I saw The House By The Cemetery. If you're reading this and you're a fan of The House By The Cemetery then don't get yourself in a rage just now, I believe my first and only viewing of the movie was a butchered VHS release back in the early 90s so I'm definitely going to revisit it now that it's been given a shiny overhaul. But that viewing did show me that Fulci wasn't perfect and as I got to know more and more horror fans around the world I quickly learned that opinions of the man ranged from horror maestro to past master who lost his way to misogynistic hack. Despite the misses mixed in with the hits, I still like to think of him as a real master of the genre.

Which brings us to The New York Ripper, not necessarily a masterpiece of a film but certainly one of the more, deservedly, notorious titles to be affected by the big Video Nasty nonsense in the 1980s and even beyond. It's a very, very nasty movie, there's no denying it, with some horrific violence towards women and a real atmosphere of sleaze. Yet I'd also have to say that it's an enjoyable, unflinching horror that's part time capsule, part psychobabble and all Euroschlock. Directed by Fulci, who also helped to write the thing, it's not up there with his very best work (already mentioned above) but it's very good.

One of many movies made at this time showing New York inhabited by a bunch of Italian actors, there's no point in discussing the quality of the performances or dialogue here. Let's face it, these factors are not the best things that the movie has to offer.

The slim plot revolves around a killer who targets women and kills them in brutal and specific ways. The killer seems to resent the fact that the victims ARE women and will often mutilate their breast or vaginal area (one scene involving a broken bottle was still strong enough to make me flinch thirty years after the movie was initially released). Lt. Fred Williams (Jack Hedley) is the man determined to catch this killer, a determination strengthened by mocking phone calls in which the killer talks in a duck-like manner. And when Fay Majors (Almanta Keller) attracts the attention of the killer how long does she have left to live?

There's every chance that this might offend you, it's certainly not the kind of horror movie to put on if you're trying to win over a newcomer to the genre, but you have to admire Fulci for going as far as he does. The rest of the movie may not be up to much but the death scenes are uncomfortable and well realised while the taunting of the police by the strange voice of the killer works fairly well.

If you want to pick apart this movie then it's all too easy (the bad dialogue, the poor supporting characters, etc) but if you're willing to overlook the lack of polish on the surface then you'll see a harsh and violent thriller/horror that really lives up to its title.

7/10

The region-free Bluray is available here -
http://www.amazon.com/The-New-York-Ripper-Blu-ray/dp/B002E01MI8




Monday, 4 June 2012

Normal service will resume soon.

Oh yes, today I watched The New York Ripper and I'm certainly looking forward to that one but, strangely enough, the major blog development that has happened in my absence is that people have somehow been clicking on links and going to Amazon through this amazing portal which has, in turn, been sending me pennies. Pennies make pounds so I'm as astounded as I am grateful to you all for that turn of events.
Here's a brief recap of what I saw last week and what will be appearing here or over at Flickfeast.

Prometheus - The biggie. My review is here.
The Descendants - George Clooney was great, the movie was good.
John Carter - Surprisingly good sci-fi adventure that didn't deserve to flop as hard as it did.
Piranha 3DD - Nope, it just didn't work. 4/10 max.

Anyway, I hope to return this evening with my review of that notorius Fulci slasher. Then I need to get back into first gear for this week (Kurt Russell returns, another A & C movie and much more).

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Jubilant diamond jubilee?

I still have no time just now for movie viewing/reviewing but it just struck me as I walked home today and saw Union Jacks flying and people enjoying an excuse to have some wine and nibbles streets away from the beggars and the Big Issue sellers and the job centres and those with many problems on their plate (as opposed to some Mr. Kipling cakes and daintily sliced sandwiches) . . . . . . . . . . . . . has everyone suddenly lost their mind and just been brainwashed into enjoying this "Diamond Jubilee" with no thought of protest or what a smack in the face it is?

Employment figures are high, money is being stretched further and further, the government seems to shows itself up as more and more corrupt every single day in the news (news that, ironically, has shown that it can lower itself to the government's level) and a year or so after the big uproar that included riots in England and the 99% trying to make themselves heard we are laughingly encouraged to celebrate the long reign of someone who wasn't elected to their position, who sucks more and more money from taxpayers than any benefit fraudster and who has done nothing bit be born into privilege.

Now I don't hate the Queen, she's always struck me as a very nice woman doing her duty for the country and trying to move with rapid and turbulent times. But I don't love her either. With 2012 seeing this event and the Olympics here in the UK it seems to me to be a case of the higher uppers latching on to anything that can give an excuse for a distracting celebration. Careful now, I'm pretty sure that's why America started the first Gulf War.