Sunday, 30 September 2012

Elvis (1979)

Even as we hurtle forward through time and the 20th century recedes further and further behind us, I am happy to think that there are still many, many people familiar with the work and the sheer star power of Elvis Presley. Personally, I think of him as the single greatest and most iconic solo entertainer of the last century though I am sure that many others disagree and would put forward their own choices.

A TV movie based on the life of Elvis would seem to be a bit redundant. Fans already seem to know everything about him and his life has been picked apart and dissected ever since his premature death in 1977. But this movie was released in 1979. The details of Elvis Presley's life may have been known to many but there was still a certain element of mystery to the man, a mixture of facts with anecdotes with legends with gossip. I don't know exactly how accurate this movie is but it covers a lot of ground and shows Elvis as a great man who also had his share of personal demons (haunted by the stillbirth of his twin brother, always striving to do right by his beloved mother, hugely talented and yet plagued by insecurity).

The film begins with Elvis (played brilliantly by Kurt Russell) waiting to go onstage for his now rightly famous concert at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. He's been out of the spotlight for some time and he's very, very nervous. While wondering just how he will get on, he begins to think back over his life and viewers are taken along on a journey that shows how a young boy from Tupelo, Mississippi, eventually became the king of rock 'n' roll.

This movie, originally a TV movie shown in the USA that was then given a theatrical release in other areas, is important for a number of reasons. The main reason being that it was the first film to pair up Kurt Russell with director John Carpenter (who actually makes a cameo appearance in the movie as the camera moves through a casino setting in the first 5 minutes or so). The two men would go on to make a number of better films, a few of which I'd call solid classics actually, but this is a very good start to their working relationship.  It's also important because Carpenter was given a directorial gig and he delivered, in spades. He might have then gone on to work predominantly with material that wasn't as crowdpleasing but his work attitude has always been just as dependable.

Writer Anthony Lawrence does a great job of picking out moments to focus on while sketching the bigger picture around Elvis but both he and Carpenter are helped massively by a fantastic cast and, of course, the great selection of Elvis songs to use throughout the movie. Russell is, as I have already mentioned, brilliant in the lead role. Shelley Winters is also very good as his mother, probably the biggest single influence in his entire life (well, not counting the wealth of traditional music that he absorbed and incorporated into his work). Season Hubley is very good as young Priscilla, Robert Gray is great as the ever-reliable Red and Charles Cyphers and Pat Hingle both do great as, respectively, Sam Phillips and Colonel Tom Parker. Bing Russell, father of Kurt, plays the father of Elvis and does a fine job while Ed Begley Jr, Joe Mantegna and many others fill out the big supporting cast.

It's not quite the best TV movie ever that I remember it being from my youth but Elvis holds up as a superior biopic that manages to entertain and inform from start to finish.


Saturday, 29 September 2012

Urban Explorers (2011)

Four cool young people are taken by one other cool young person to explore passageways underneath Berlin. It's something cool to do and they will get a chance to see things that few other people will ever get to see. Unfortunately for them, what with this being a horror movie plot, the stuff they end up getting to see is very hazardous to their health and it's not long until blood, pain and death occupies the passageways with them.

Director Andy Fetscher and writer Martin Thau have taken a familiar premise and mixed in a number of other . . . . . . . . familiar elements. If you're after originality then look elsewhere but if you are after a bit of nastiness and by-the-numbers plotting for this particular subgenre then this will keep you mildly entertained for an hour and a half (and there is one VERY nasty moment that impressed me though it happens after an hour or so of nothing all that exciting). A few early scenes show potential but forget about those because that potential is never realised, with the movie going down, ironically enough, a tried and tested route.

The actors are okay but it's hard to judge their performances based on such stale, weak material. Nathalie Kelley and Nick Eversman have the most screentime but they're not especially likeable. Mind you, neither are the characters played by Max Riemelt, Catherine de Lean or Brenda Koo either. Klaus Stiglmeier is supposed to be someone you're wary of anyway so he fares slightly better.

Tourists in jeopardy, that's the core of this film. It's a premise that can be, and has been, used well in movies over the years - more recently in horrors such as Hostel and Turistas AKA Paradise Lost. The underground setting is also an important factor and, again, it's been used many times, with the likes of Death Line and Creep springing to mind. Sadly, in terms of the central premise and the setting, the film doesn't manage to be as good as any of the other titles that I've just mentioned and the fact that it's so derivative of some, or even all, of them makes it inevitable that unfair comparisons are made while watching the thing.

Is it a bad film? No, not really, but I can't honestly say that it's a good film either. It lands slap bang in the mid-range and that's a big disappointment, considering the potential that it had.


Friday, 28 September 2012

Amityville: Dollhouse (1996)

Wow. Another in the long, long line of movies that have used the Amityville name to make some easy money, this is another surprising film due to the fact that it doesn't completely stink. It's not a great film but it's still far from the worst in the series and actually has some decent ideas and individual moments stifled by some weak acting and a sub-par screenplay by Joshua Michael Stern.

As if you didn't realise it, this film centres on a dollhouse that is a miniature of that infamous Amityville home (why the hell would anyone want to make such a thing? Ahaaaaaa, wait and see, wait and see). The dollhouse ends up in the care of a little girl (Rachel Duncan) who quickly starts to notice that something isn't quite right. Meanwhile, the family unit around her gets more and more strained as her father (Robin Thomas) tries to maintain domestic harmony with his wife (Starr Andreef), tries to get on with his stepson (Jarrett Lennon) and tries to keep his own son (Allen Cutler) in line.

Directed by Steve White, Amityville: Dollhouse is nonsense, as most of the later entries in this overlong series are, but it's entertaining nonsense. I mentioned the weak acting already so I won't put the boot in there, nobody is unwatchable but nobody is that good either, but that's overshadowed by a plot that throws in demons, killer insects, that sly and spooky dollhouse and even a zombie. Yes, a zombie.

Many people may think that I'm being too generous to the film by even giving it an average rating but it deserves it. The good stuff and the bad stuff keep popping up in equal measure. There are some half-decent special effects and everything is played pretty straight down the line, despite how preposterous all of the supposed horror elements are.

Of course, the other glaring flaw with these films is just how unconnected to The Amityville Horror they actually are and perhaps that's something to consider when watching each instalment of the franchise. If you don't actually view them as franchise instalments then they can be judged, for better or worse, as individual films that try to scare and entertain viewers. Most of the movies aren't even scary but at least a few of them are still entertaining.


Thursday, 27 September 2012

Boyz N The Hood (1991)

An absolutely fantastic directorial debut from John Singleton (who also wrote the film), Boyz N The Hood holds up to this day as a great movie about people trying to break a cycle of violence and hate. Despite what you may think, if you've never seen the film, this is a movie with some major negative moments that pushes hard to convey a message of positivity. It doesn't glorify or glamourise any of the lifestyle choices that it shows other than one that can see people living happily beside one another.

Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as Tre Styles, a young man who has been brought up for a number of years by his father, Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburne). Furious, despite the name, is a peaceful man who wants to see African Americans opening their eyes to the problems around them and making everything better. He is well aware of the statistics and he wants those numbers to change, especially when it comes to the life that his son will lead. Tre has a few close friends who seem to be on very different paths. Ricky (Morris Chestnut) actually has a chance to do well thanks to a scholarship opportunity but he's also already a daddy at a very young age so it's not going to be easy. Ricky has a brother called Darren AKA Doughboy. Doughboy is an angry young man, happy to waste most of his time relaxing with friends but also quick to reach for a gun if there is any sign of trouble.

I could, indeed maybe should, just wrap up this review now by saying that the movie oozes quality from almost every scene and deserves to be viewed at least once by anyone who loves great acting but everyone should know by now that I like the sound of my own voice (or the font of my own text - is that the blogging equivalent?) so I'll say a little bit more about the movie.

The main thing going against it is predictability. In a lot of ways the film feels fresh and different, especially in the way that Laurence Fishburne brings up Cuba Gooding Jr, but the main beats of the story are so obvious that you can spot them at least half an hour in advance. That doesn't make the movie horrible or unwatchable but it is something that's worth mentioning. There aren't any major surprises here.

Thankfully, the rest of the film works so well that you don't care. It remains the best directorial outing from John Singleton, who announced himself to the world with an astonishingly accomplished debut. It also remains some of the best acting work from the collected actors onscreen. Laurence Fishburne has given a number of great performances over the years but this is certainly up there with his very best. Cuba Gooding Jr. is superb and he's well matched by the different styles of Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, Regi Green and Dedrick D. Gobert. Angela Bassett has a small, but important, role and so does Regina King while Nia Long plays the most prominent female character and makes herself into someone effectively adorable.

Although there are many ways in which Boyz N The Hood is exactly what you expect it to be there are a number of other ways in which it's completely removed from the preconceptions that viewers may have. Treat yourself by watching it soon if you haven't seen it already.


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Multiplicity (1996)

Harold Ramis is a director who I can happily say has provided me with a lot of laughs. In fact, Groundhog Day is one of my favourite comedies of all time. The high concept and great lead performance from Bill Murray even managed to distract me from the fact that the female lead was played by one of my least favourite actresses ever, Andie MacDowell. In a similiar way, Multiplicity is a high concept movie with a great lead performance from Michael Keaton that manages to distract me from the fact that the female lead is played by one of my least favourite actresses ever, Andie MacDowell.

That's not the end of the common ground that both movies share. Both films show what can happen when someone is given much more time on their hands and both films, ultimately, try to convey the message that it doesn't matter how much time you have, what matters is how you use it.

Michael Keaton plays Doug Kinney, a busy man who is struggling to do well at work and keep his boss (Richard Masur) happy while also getting to spend time with his family and keep his wife (Andie MacDowell) happy. Fortunately, after a stressful incident at a site he's working on, Doug is given the chance of a miracle by Dr. Leeds (Harry Yulin). That miracle comes in the shape of . . . . . . . . . . . Doug. Well, Doug number two, to be exact. A clone. An extra Doug means that the original Doug should be able to spend more time with the family, relax occasionally and generally get more done. That's the theory anyway. In reality, things start getting more and more complicated. Maybe a third Doug could take the pressure off slightly. And a fourth?

There are a number of factors here that you can all too easily complain about. Andie MacDowell for one. The script, written by Chris Miller, Lowell Ganz, Mary Hale and Babaloo Mandel, is sharper than a lot of people give it credit for but there are also a few untidy loose ends and a number of developments that make holding your suspension of disbelief harder with every minute that goes by.

So it's a good thing that Ramis, who directs with his usual bright and breezy touch, has a good cast in place for many of the supporting roles - Yulin, Masur, John de Lancie, Eugene Levy, Brian Doyle-Murray - and then tops everything off with yet another great performance from the consistently brilliant Michael Keaton. In fact, Keaton gives four great performances, playing each Doug in the different way required to show exactly who they are. Clone number one is a more macho Doug, clone number two is a more sensitive and caring Doug in touch with his feminine side and clone number three is . . . . . . . . . . . well . . . . . . . . . he's not quite right. Keaton gets to have a blast playing all of the characters and it's a tour de force of acting that lifts the whole movie from something good to something very good and, to me, almost great.


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Jersey Shore Shark Attack (2012)

When Jersey Shore Shark Attack begins it doesn't take long to show that it was destined to be shown on the Syfy Channel. Bad special effects are shown from the opening moments and a parade of annoying characters soon reassure the viewer that this isn't going to be anything worth watching for more than a few chuckles while braincells are destroyed. But for those who have seen as many of these movies as I have, and I still don't know why I keep doing it to myself beyond sadomasochism, I must say that the special effects here are BAD, even for this kind of movie. I thought I'd seen a number of horrible CG sharks. These may be the very worst.

I am proud to admit that I've never seen Jersey Shore. Ever. As long as I have breath in my body I will do my utmost to make sure things stay that way. However, I know a little bit about it and like to think that this movie starts off with a style befitting of the show. The main characters are given their freeze-framed introductions, dramas are established within minutes and everyone is quite shallow and annoying. Then some poor CG sharks start eating people.

The main plotline, sharks aside, revolves around a temporary hitch in the relationship of Nooki (played by Melissa Molinaro) and TC (Jeremy Luke) and a rivalry between our heroes and some upper-class twits. It's nothing that other people should actually care about but, then again, neither are any of the plotlines that I've heard about from people discussing Jersey Shore. People that I then make my excuses to and leave. For the purpose of a film riffing off the TV show, it suffices.

As amazing as it seems, four people wrote this film with the main screenplay credits going to Michael Ciminera and Richard Gnolfo. To be fair to those involved in the writing process, it's actually quite amusing in many places but just not amusing enough to detract from the horrible special effects and the fact that the whole thing was brought into being in the first place.

Director John Shepphird puts some great actors in minor roles but that's really the only good thing that he does. Well, okay, he gets the camera pointing the right way most of the time but, as is often the case with these kinds of movies, continuity and style go out of the window fairly quickly (or aren't seen at all, in the case of the latter). He hits the beats required for this type of nonsense but he never really does anything to raise it up a notch.

The real shame about the movie not rising up at all is the waste of the cast. The leads are passable but they are playing Jersey Shore people so I didn't really warm to them. The supporting cast, however, includes people such as Tony Sirico (known to so many after his wonderful turn playing Paulie in The Sopranos), William Atherton, a fleeting appearance from Paul Sorvino and an enjoyable camoe from Joey Fatone.

Give this film a watch when you're after a few laughs and some awful CGI and it will deliver but don't be surprised if you find yourself feeling guilty afterwards because you didn't go with a better option.


Monday, 24 September 2012

Corman's World: Exploits Of A Hollywood Rebel (2011)

It's hard to think of anyone more influential on the current creme de la creme of Hollywood than Roger Corman. He gave a helping hand to youngsters such as Joe Dante, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich, John Sayles, Jonathan Demme, Jack Nicholson and many, many more and most of his older b-movies are still viewed by fans with great affection today.

This documentary doesn't really tell you anything new but it does clarify just how great and important in the grand scheme of things the unassuming Mr. Corman really is. It's arguably the case that without this man we wouldn't have half of the movies that we now consider modern classics.

A simple format that works well, this mixes in talking head moments from the past and the present with a number of great clips from the extensive filmography attached to Corman's name, this reminds all movie fans of the radical ideas and movements that have sprung up to push cinema forward. The documentary is, as you would expect, most appealing to fans of exploitation cinema but others should check it out to remind themselves of the humble roots many acclaimed artists grew from.

Director Alex Stapleton moves nice and smoothly through Corman's life, from his very first movies through to his current ongoing relationship with the Syfy Channel, and there are a wealth of soundbites and anecdotes to both entertain and also reveal the warm and giving nature of the man at the centre of the attention.

This may not be quite as much fun as some other recent documentaries focusing on b-movies and exploitation fare (I'm thinking, mainly, of the two superb outings from Mark Hartley that we've had - Not Quite Hollywood and Machete Maidens Unleashed) but it's still essential viewing for those, like myself, who have grown up with a love for the movies of AIP and New World Pictures. A love that tends to grow exponentially in relation to the output of colour-by-numbers mainstream blockbuster movies we get year on year.


Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Deadly Tower (1975)

I'm well aware of the fact that I've not seen every Kurt Russell movie ever made (some of them are just nigh-on impossible to get hold of nowadays) but I'll never know how the hell I went so long without hearing about this one. The Deadly Tower is a movie made after lots of Disney fare and features quite an astounding performance from the boy who had been known to so many up to that point as Dexter Riley. It would be a brave move for any actor to make in this day and age so back in 1975 I don't know how the hell Russell had the bottle to go for it. But go for it, he did.

The movie is based on a true story and Kurt plays Charles Whitman, a young man who has decided that he's had enough and that the world ain't a great place to be. Being a nice young psychopath, he decides to help put a lot of other people out of their misery by shooting them dead from the top of a university building. Yes, you read that right. Dexter Riley became a sniper, picking off any innocent people that he could see through his rifle sight. The police are unprepared for this kind of killing spree, the movie was based on a horrific real-life incident that has been credited as a major factor leading to the development of SWAT teams, but do their best to deal with the situation. In fact, young Ramiro Martinez (Richard Yniguez) may end up having more good luck combined with courage than any of his superior officers (played by a great cast of actors including John Forsythe and Clifton James).

Ned Beatty also has a sizeable role in this unflinching and tense thriller and he's just one of the many reasons to seek it out. The script by William Douglas Lansford, from a story that he co-wrote with Antonio Calderon, mixes in the expected melodrama but also keeps things impressively free of sensationalism for most of the runtime. This very bad thing just happens. The direction by Jerry Jameson operates in the same manner and it helps that all of the main actors are excellent.

Characters are established quickly and effectively and everyone who appears onscreen does a great job. It's a film that shows a lot of restraint but also piles on the horror of the situation throughout every main scene just by calmly showing things in a way that feels very, unnervingly, realistic. A hard movie to track down nowadays but I assure you that it's most definitely worth it.


Saturday, 22 September 2012

Adam Chaplin (2011)

Written and directed by Emanuele De Santi (who also plays the lead character), Adam Chaplin is another one of those films that I just don't understand the love for. It has gore by the bucketload and plenty of energy but the premise of the whole thing is far too slim and the visual style veers between inventive and impressive to downright messy.

Adam is after the men who killed his wife. He's so desperate to find them and exact revenge that he allows himself to be guided by a demon. This dehumanises Adam but also allows him to destroy the corrupt cops of Heaven Valley, the fictional setting for the movie, while making his way to the big boss man (Denny, played by Christian Riva) and his two sons, Ben and Derek (played, respectively, by Paolo Luciani and Giulio De Santi). Those people were responsible for the death of his wife and those people will pay with their lives.

It's a shame that Adam Chaplin could give audiences nothing more than plentiful bloodshed and over the top gore because the thin story that is eked out throughout the runtime is a good one that could easily have had more and more detail added to it. Even the setting itself, Heaven Valley, could have been explored further, which would have made the film feel more like an actual film. De Santi doesn't do a terrible job as director but there's room for a lot of improvement.

As it stands, this is nothing more than a number of FX moments linked by a rambling narrative strand that continually forgets to provide any context for the unfolding action.That doesn't mean that it can't be fun. There are a number of moments that are deliriously entertaining, with blood gushing everywhere in an over the top style reminiscent of those early Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson movies that many horror fans (including myself) still hold dear. Lots of people seem to be happy with this aspect of the film and, indeed, don't even mention any of the numerous shortcomings when recommending it to others so maybe I'm just not seeing something that everyone else is.

The acting by all concerned is just fine. Emanuele De Santi is good in the lead role, Christian Riva has fun playing the main villain and Giulio De Santi, Paolo Luciani, Alessandro Gramanti, Monica Munoz and Valeria Sannino do a good enough job.

I wouldn't say that the script was non-existent but this is definitely a film with very little dialogue. It's more about the style and the gore with dialogue either sketching out a few details or being spoken by characters who seem to think that the words have great meaning and resonance when they don't.

It's a messy film, in more ways than one, but definitely worth a watch if you're a fan of excessive gore.


Friday, 21 September 2012

Hybrid (2010)

Killer cars. They've appeared in movies before and they're often a lot of fun. Sometimes they're driven by a killer driver and sometimes they're just evil machines that can drive themselves around. Personally, I think that Christine remains at the top of the pile in this particular subgenre so that's the movie that newcomers have to get close to. I won't beat around the bush here, Hybrid doesn't come close enough. It's not terrible but it stays just below average throughout.

The basic premise is a good one - a killer car. Only this isn't actually a car. It's something else, something that can imitate numerous vehicles in a way that helps it to catch food. And when I say food I mean people. After a bit of a smash up the car ends up in a garage and it's not long until those working in the garage start to realise that something is up. Unfortunately, by the time the full extent of the danger that they're in hits them it's too late for them to leave. They are, in fact, trapped.

Well, when I say that they're trapped I actually mean that the audience is supposed to believe that they're trapped. Being in a big, multi-level garage doesn't exactly help to make the movie claustrophobic and tense. It's not even an underground garage like the one in the enjoyable P2. And then there's the fact that the reason everyone is trapped inside is because the boss man (Oded Fehr) is a big asshole, the kind of guy who gets his emergency exits welded shut to stop break-ins.

Fairly capably directed by Eric Valette, Hybrid suffers most of all from a pretty weak script by Benjamin Carr being handled by a fairly weak cast. Not everyone is bad, mind you, but Fehr is stuck with such a bad character that it's impossible to warm to him (which is fine and dandy sometimes but just doesn't work for this movie) and Ryan Kennedy is sadly underused. The lead actress, Shannon Beckner playing Tilda, just isn't very good. I'm sorry to say it, she may be a lovely person in real life, but she simply doesn't cut it in this role. She puts up with too much crap from others, making her hard to like, and then when she finally becomes assertive and develops into the potential heroine of the piece . . . . . . . . . it's not only unbelievable but it's also a case of too little too late.

There are some good ideas here though. That enjoyable premise is fun and the fact that the car isn't really a car allows for some successful "car sneaking up on someone" scenes that usually irritate me so much (yep, despite my ability to suspend disbelief for most things I have some pet peeves and "the superquiet vehicle that nobody notices until it screeches and/or makes an impact" is one of them). It's a shame that there wasn't much else in the movie to make it worthwhile, one or two decent moments aside. Even the CGI disappoints when it is needed most.

With a bit of tweaking here and there and some more money available, this could have been a very enjoyable film. As it stands, it's stuck just below average but the director is someone to keep an eye on (as fans of his 2002 film, Malefique, already knew).


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Some top notch TV.

My stock answer to people who ask me what my favourite TV shows are tends to be "I don't watch TV."
That's actually not true. I watch a fair bit of TV, I just happen to watch the shows when I get the boxsets so that I know I will actually see every episode. I have no time or inclination to watch soap operas, I'm not a big sports nut and if anyone tries to get me to talk about some talented member of the public with the X Factor who can cook while dancing on ice then I have been known to threaten them with bodily harm.
But I DO watch a fair bit of TV and this little blog entry is my time and space to recommend my favourite shows to others. I have started writing individual episode reviews alongside my movie reviews here on IMDb for anyone interested.

There are a lot of shows that I won't name here despite my love for them. Shows that I've either still not seen enough episodes of or that are still ongoing and remain at the centre of arguments between fans who think that the quality dipped some time ago (yes, that's why I'm not recommending The Simpsons here although I absolutely love it and haven't noticed any dip in quality from the few newer episodes that I've seen). I also don't want to look like a Steve Coogan obsessive - just check out pretty much everything that he's ever done (a lot of it is in this great value set). And the superb Dead Set feels more like a movie even though it IS a TV special.

Hilarious moments from Family Guy all blur into one but I only ever seem to catch moments as opposed to entire episodes, Robot Chicken is brilliant from the little I have seen of it and American Dad is something that comes highly recommended by people who know what I like.

Then we have the latest batch of enjoyable TV shows that have proven to be highly entertaining but have yet to show how they hold up further down the line. I've really enjoyed Grimm but it took a while to get going and I'll be very interested to see how the second season goes.

Anyway, enough of the foreplay. Here are 10 brilliant TV shows that remind you of just how good TV can be, complete with links to boxsets/DVDs/Blu-rays on the off chance that I remind someone about a TV show they keep forgetting to add to their collection.

10) Ultraviolet - Far too few people know of this one and that's a real shame. It came along when UK TV was nothing but police dramas, hospital shows and soap operas and then disappeared all too quickly after one season.

9) American Horror Story - I may be just blinkered here but I can't think of a major TV show from recent years as twisted as this one. Brilliant from start to finish and each season is a standalone storyline.

8) Prison Break - Okay, so each season stretched credibility even further and this was yet another show affected by the writer's strike that hit so many TV shows (Heroes being another show that I enjoyed that was scuppered by that damn strike - it was almost listed here)

7) Lost - Love it or hate it, this was one of the biggest televisual EVENTS of the 21st century. Personally, I found it almost as irritating as it was entertaining but that never stopped me from wanting to find out the answers to some of the mysteries while more and more mysteries were piled on.

6) The X-Files - It's not a show that everyone loves but if you DO love it, as I did, then you want to see every single episode. The mix of standalone stories and the overarching grand conspiracy made for superior TV entertainment. It's most probably the best thing ever to be inspired by Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

5) The Walking Dead - Lots of people will tell you that it was all downhill in the second season of The Walking Dead and that they didn't want just a soap opera with the odd zombie wandering around. I disagree with all of those people. Considering the limitations of television, this is about as great as it could be. Admittedly, the second season saw some flaws coming to the fore (especially in the first half of the season) but it remained a show I would never want to miss an episode of.

4) Tales From The Crypt - Even many of the lesser episodes had some great star cameos and a sense of fun. This show is probably the last horror project to really capture the spirit of the E.C. comics.

3) The Sopranos - It took me a while to get to this but when I finally did I was able to see straight away why so many others love it. Classic.

2) 24 - The power of Bauer. 'nuff said.

1) The Twilight Zone - Timeless, imaginative, brilliant. Treat yourself to the gorgeous season one Blu-ray set and see what you think. If you're not a fan then . . . . . we may never be able to talk to one another. And if you love The Twilight Zone you may also want to check out The Outer Limits.

Honourable mentions to the classics (both older and modern) such as Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, Father Ted, Red Dwarf, The Young Ones, Only Fools & Horses, Porridge, Seinfeld, The Office and The Thick Of It. And, of course, the creations of Joss Whedon. I STILL haven't seen Angel yet but I was a big fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and everyone and their brother loves Firefly apart from anyone who could have contributed to the viewing figures when it was being shown the first time around.

And that's it. I apologise for the excess of titles but the article quickly mutated into an excuse for me to list many of my favourite shows. And I almost forgot to mention the superb Garth Marenghi's DARKPLACE.

Super Shark (2011)

It's not surprising that Super Shark is a bad film. It's directed by Fred Olen Ray (who also co-wrote the thing with Clyde McCoy and Antonio Olivas). It has the word shark in the title. After the word super. And the biggest name in the cast is John Schneider. Now I like John Schneider in most of his movie appearances but an A-list headliner he ain't.

I'll try to contain my giggles while I attempt to explain "the plot". You see, there's this shark and it can even jump onto land and do other super stuff, which makes it a Super Shark. The shark is responsible for destroying an oil rig and that brings Oceanic Investigator Kat Carmichael (played by Sarah Lieving) onto the scene. She hires a boat captained by a local man named Chuck (played by Tim Abell) and the two soon realise that something wasn't quite legitimate about the drilling in the area. Kat questions company man Wade (played by Schneider) about his business practices but while it quickly becomes clear that Wade has something to hide it also becomes clear that there's something potentially damaging in the sea. Is it pollution? That may be what some people are thinking until Super Shark pops his fin up to say hello.

Knowing that this would be a bad film, I was hoping to at least find it one of the many "so bad that it's good" movies I have enjoyed so much over the years. A lot of films from The Asylum come under that category and Fred Olen Ray has made one or two good films over the years. Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers isn't for everyone but I was damn glad when I finally got to see it, and Evil Toons is, well, ummmm, well actually it's pretty bad but showcases a few fantastic scream queens.

Sadly, however, this is just a bad movie that doesn't even do enough to allow viewers to laugh at its ineptitude. I gave the thing an extra point because of an amusing, and completely gratuitous, bikini babes competition but there isn't enough good stuff to make up for the horrible CGI (the shark looks like it has just escaped from the 1980s Jaws arcade game), the poor script, the poor acting (Schneider still gets a pass but he's the only one), the unappealing cast of characters and the sloppy execution of every moment that features the shark.

It's bad. The fact that there's a groovy theme tune and that the makers of the movie clearly wanted to replicate something along the lines of Sharktopus doesn't make it any better. Well, okay, I admit that it DOES make it a little bit better but I'm still reining in my generosity for this one.


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Amityville: A New Generation (1993)

I don't know if I am just getting easier to please after enduring the awful fourth and fifth movies in this franchise or whether things genuinely picked up slightly in the early 90s but this is another Amityville movie that I actually quite enjoyed. In fact, it was pretty good and I'd even consider rewatching it.

Directed by John Murlowski, and written by Christopher DeFaria and Antonio Toro (who also wrote the instalment before this one), Amityville: A New Generation once again uses the plot device of an object from the old house ending up elsewhere and causing a lot of trouble. This time it's a mirror.

Ross Partridge plays Keyes, a young photographer who ends up being given the evil mirror by a homeless man that he photographs. Of course, he doesn't know that it's an evil mirror. It's just a mirror with a strange, ornate frame. Perhaps a number of bizarre deaths that occur to those in contact should raise suspicions but, of course, it still takes a while for Keyes to realise the truth, a truth that reveals how Keyes coming to own the mirror was more than just random chance.

It's standard nonsense, really, but it benefits from some good pacing between each of the set-pieces, a finale that is as loony as it is surprisingly interesting and a cast full of genre movie favourites - David Naughton has a decent role, Robert Rusler plays an asshole, Richard Roundtree is good to see but doesn't get much screentime, Terry O'Quinn is the man investigating the strange circumstances and Lin Shaye puts in another of her small but memorable roles in this kind of fare.

The death scenes are decent and the ridiculous plot developments are teased out in a way that makes them a bit easier to swallow. Take a moment to think about it all, however, and it quickly becomes apparent just how silly it all is. Thankfully, that doesn't need to happen until the end credits roll because Murlowski keeps things moving along nicely from start to finish. There's some fleeting nudity, decent effects, a flashback or two and a recurring surreal nightmare for the main character. Which makes it hard to hate.


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Bad Ass (2012)

Danny Trejo is a badass. You know it, I know it, everyone has been well aware of it for years now. But in this movie he IS Bad Ass. He gets his own theme tune and everything, which makes it all impossible to deny.

Springboarding from a real incident (shown here on YouTube), Bad Ass is all about Frank Vega (played by Trejo), a man who hasn't had much luck since the days that he spent serving his country in the war. Time and opportunities kept slipping away from him until he was an old man without much in his life. But all of that changes when he retaliates against two thugs on a bus and the whole incident is recorded by witnesses and uploaded online. Frank becomes a hero though he doesn't think of himself as a hero. He just wants to get on with his life and be left in peace. But it's not long before more violence occurs in his life and he has to continue being a badass while others are left to clear up the mess.

I, and many other movie fans that I know of, think Danny Trejo is great so I'm happy to see him getting more lead roles than ever before. His biggest role might always be Machete but films like this one are good enough to keep fans happy, even if they aren't actually great.

Directed by Craig Moss (who also pitched in here and there to tweak the screenplay by Elliot Tishman), the movie is an easy sell to anyone who has enjoyed films such as Walking Tall, Urban Justice, Death Wish and Harry Brown. The fact that it has Trejo in the lead role and a supporting cast that includes Charles S. Dutton, Ron Perlman, Richard Riehle in a small role and Craig Sheffer in a blink-and-miss-him cameo also helps. Joyful Drake and young John Duffy may not be as well known but they're likeable enough in their roles.

Sadly, other aspects of the movie are quite poor. The action isn't too bad but the script is weak, and laughably bad in places, and the actual plot is a bit cheesy and ridiculous (e.g. the moment in which Frank Vega easily finds some evidence missed by police). Then we have the way in which Frank gets to know his neighbour, Amber Lamps (Drake, playing a character actually named as a nod to the way in which the word "ambulance" was said by the asswhipped idiot in the original, real life event). It's just unbelievable even if it allows for a number of nice domestic scenes showing a softer side of the character, and a softer side of Trejo.

So it's unbelievable at times, cheesy and ridiculous and has a very weak script. Despite those flaws, I still can't help rating the movie above average because Trejo is just so enjoyable in the lead role.


Monday, 17 September 2012

Monster Brawl (2011)

Guys love monsters. Guys also love wrestling. So what could be better than a movie about monsters wrestling? That's the concept of Monster Brawl and that's all you need to know about it. Written and directed by Jesse T. Cook, it really does keep things that simple.

The movie is shot/shown in the style of a wrestling special. A couple of commentators (played by Dave Foley and Art Hindle) are on hand to talk to viewers while monsters square off against each other. It's not non-stop fighting, however, as there are also backstories to be told and statistics to be reeled off. Jimmy Hart appears in the role of . . . . . . . . . Jimmy Hart and he's very annoying in between each wrestling match, though he's also accompanied by a couple of pretty women so every cloud has a silver lining, I suppose. There's also the gravelly voice of Lance Henriksen introducing opponents, announcing special moves and declaring the winner in a style very reminiscent of many old beat 'em up videogames.

Wrestling fans may be kept happy enough to see Kevin Nash in a supporting role but monster fans will want to know who is getting in the ring. Well, that would be Frankenstein (who they admit at one point should be called Frankenstein's Monster), Cyclops, Witch Bitch, Swamp Gut, The Mummy, The Werewolf, Zombie Man and Lady Vampire. A decent selection, I think you'll agree.

Monster Brawl IS fun, it is. You should know from the title exactly what you're getting and you get just that. It's just a shame that there's really nothing more to it. The script has a few funny lines here and there but more would have been welcome. The fighting action is amusing enough the first time around but soon gets tiresome after that. Having said that, perhaps any fan of wrestling (which I am most definitely not) will be able to derive more pleasure from this. It's a standard competition set-up, a kind of Top Trumps with physical abilities being used as opposed to just measured against one another in statistical form.

Add a point to my rating if you're a huge wrestling fan, subtract two points if you're not a huge fan of monsters of any kind and take the score down even lower if you're a cineaste who only likes to watch the worthwhile classics.


Sunday, 16 September 2012

Charley And The Angel (1973)

Fred MacMurray takes the lead role in this fairly amusing Disney movie that sees him playing Charley Appleby, a man who is visited by an angel (Harry Morgan) and told that his number is up. This, of course, comes as a surprise to Charley and he immediately starts to worry about getting things in order for his family and trying to make up for lost time. His two young boys treat the father of their neighbouring friend more like their own father, his daughter (Kathleen Cody) is at the age when most of her thoughts revolve around boys (one in the shape of Ed Begley Jr. and one in the shape of Kurt Russell) and his wife (Cloris Leachman) is just used to getting on with things on her own while Charlie works hard and spends his spare time fretting and not being all that much fun. Thankfully, before Charlie has to shuffle off the mortal coil he gets a bit of breathing space, literally, as the angel designated to collect him figures out just why he hasn't died YET and when the exact moment will occur.

Based on the book "The Golden Evenings Of Summer" by Will Stanton (the screenplay was then written by Roswell Rogers) and directed by Vincent McEveety, Charley And The Angel is reminiscent of many other movies about people getting one last chance to change their priorities and put things right in their life. It's also fairly enjoyable after a bit of a lethargic start. In fact, things quickly pick up as soon as Harry Morgan appears and starts having fun in the role of the angel. There's plenty of standard domestic drama but there's also a fun plot strand that sees the two young Appleby boys unwittingly helping some criminals to move large quantities of alcohol.

The cast all do a grand job. MacMurray has given a number of better performances in his career but he's perfectly fine here as the father and husband who is suddenly faced with the realisation of how much he has unwittingly disappointed his loved ones. Cloris Leachman is excellent as the loving wife who starts to worry about her husband's changed personality. Kathleen Cody is bright and bubbly and Begley Jr. and Russell are good enough as the boys vying for her affection. Then we have Harry Morgan, also known as the great Harry Morgan. He's great. I've never seen him be anything less than great but he has a lot of fun here as the playful angel who takes a liking to Charley.

There are others onscreen and they all do well, especially Vincent Van Patten and Scott Kolden as the two youngest Appleby children. The script isn't crammed full of great lines and it's not that sharp but it does enough to keep you interested in the characters and to keep you watching to the very end. Everyone gets a chance to develop nicely after that faltering opening act and there are enough moments of mild amusement to make this worth at least one watch during a rainy afternoon when you have nothing else to hand. Faint praise, I know, but at least it's praise.


Saturday, 15 September 2012

Amitville: It's About Time (1992)

AKA Amityville 1992: It's About Time.

Well, brace yourself for some very surprising news because this Amityville sequel is almost, ALMOST, an entertaining movie. Compared to the two crap movies that preceded it, it's a veritable masterpiece.

It's based on the same source material as the earlier, horrible movie about the evil escaping the famous Amityville home in the guise of a lamp but this time evil escapes the famous Amityville home in the guise of a clock. Not much better, you might be thinking, and it's a fair assumption. However, this time around there is no attempt to show the demonic force physically inhabitng the household object. Instead, we have a mixture of evil taking over a household while some time trickery is used to keep people on their toes.

Stephen Macht plays Jacob Sterling, a man who unwittingly brings a piece of Amityville horror into his home when he brings a large clock back from one of his many work trips. Things quickly start to become quite strange for Jacob, as well as for his son, Rusty (Damon Martin), and his daughter, Lisa (Megan Ward). When Jacob is savagely attacked by a neighbourhood dog he has to rest up at home and enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend, Andrea (Shawn Weatherly), which adds further tension.

I'm not going to try and tell anyone that this is a great movie. Because it's not. But I will try to tell people that this is a good movie. It has lots going against it, the actors aren't the best in the world and the script by Christopher DeFaria and Antonio Toro isn't that interesting, but director Tony Randel also paces everything perfectly and includes that savage dog attack, a transition from plain Jane to sexy siren for Megan Ward and one or two decent moments of gory fun.

None of the leads - Macht, Martin, Ward, Weatherly - are unbearably bad, it's just that they're not all that great either. Jonathan Penner and Nita Talbot do a bit worse because they're given some more outrageous moments but this is compensated for by a very brief cameo from the great Dick Miller.

So, basically, this is far from the worst movie with the Amityville name attached to it. Which isn't saying a lot, I know, but it's not a bad little chiller.


Friday, 14 September 2012

The Birth Of A Nation (1915)

Also known as - Film number three in that 1001 Movies To See Before You Die list. Getting there, slowly but surely.

For anyone interested, it's also available to watch here for free.

It appears on many lists, from lists that contain the movies that you must see to lists of the greatest movies of all time to lists of the most controversial movies ever made. Yes, it would seem that The Birth Of A Nation is the film that must make any selection of movies being chosen to represent the art and development of cinema. There's a very good reason for that. The technical work on display and the sheer scope of the thing is so impressive that the film is regarded as the birth of modern cinema as we know it.

Sadly, the technical accomplishment of the movie has always been overshadowed by the major racism of the content. The film skims over the American Civil War, the assassination of Lincoln and a number of other key moments en route to explaining the birth of the Ku Klux Klan and then showing them as white do-gooders trying to right many wrongs after seeing racial equality go too far and suffering at the hands of their black neighbours and peers.

Mind you, considering that it's based on a book called "The Clansman" by Thomas Dixon (with elements of another novel he wrote entitled "The Leopard's Spots") then I don't think anyone could be all that surprised by the final result.

Directed by D. W. Griffith, the other main point to tell you about the movie is that it's quite dull. It's less lively and energetic than earlier efforts because the sprawling nature of the material and the scale of the story is put over to the audience in a number of set-pieces that often lack context and/or any excitement. And almost every scene is prefaced by the title card telling you what you're about to see. I was reminded of my first time reading "The Coral Island" when I was a young lad. I loved it when I first read it and I still love it now but it was the first time that I'd ever read something that gave a small description of events beneath each chapter heading. Notes can be welcome as a precursor to the main event but there were times in The Birth Of A Nation when the title card simply described the scene being shown immediately after it.

Lillian Gish and Mae Marsh are the main starlets onscreen but Ralph Lewis looks like a black and white Mickey Rourke in his role as Hon. Austin Stoneman, which makes for unintended amusement, and George Siegmann plays the scheming Silas Lynch.

I'm sure many people will roll their eyes at my rating of this movie and accuse me of being a heathen who cannot appreciate the landmarks of cinema. Well, I can appreciate the landmarks of cinema. That's why I watched this one and why I have gone for, in my view, a rating that exactly reflects my views of the good and bad aspects of the film.


Thursday, 13 September 2012

Dolemite (1975)

Dolemite is an awful film. It's irredeemably bad in oh so many ways. But if you can view movies as "so bad it's good" then this one goes to the top of the pile. It's so atrocious that it's life-affirmingly brilliant. I can't remember the last time that I laughed so hard and so often at a movie not billed as an outright comedy. This is THE movie to see if you've enjoyed films such as Pootie Tang and the magnificent Black Dynamite. This is where those movies drew a lot of their inspiration from.

The plot revolves around the awesome and badass and sexy and silver-tongued Dolemite (played by Rudy Ray Moore). Dolemite starts the movie in prison on a major drug charge but he is released, thanks to the unflagging support of Queen Bee (Lady Reed), on the condition that he finds out just who set him up and then takes down the drug lords that have been taking his neighbourhood on a downward journey. There are crooked cops to deal with and boss man Willie Green (D'Urville Martin, who also directed the movie) needs to be shown that his business is no longer welcome everywhere.

That's the very basic description of the plot and the movie. I haven't even mentioned the kung fu strippers, the fact that Dolemite loves to use the word "motherfuckers" in every sentence that he can, the groovy character named Creeper who has such a small but oh so memorable role, the boom mike appearing onscreen more than some of the supporting players and fight scenes that show people missing their intended targets by some distance before the intended targets still throw themselves backwards anyway.

The acting is pretty bad from everyone involved. Rudy Ray Moore does a decent job just by being such a larger than life character and D'Urville Martin, to be fair, isn't all that bad as Willie Green but most of the other players (or should that be . . . . playas?) range from the slightly uncomfortable onscreen to the outright bizarre (with the most bizarre being Vainus Rackstraw, who plays Creeper).

The screenplay by Jerry Jones, helped to fruition by Rudy Ray Moore, is often as hilarious as the acting. This is a BAD movie but it's brilliantly bad. There are mistakes in almost every scene and a lot of the material feels as if it's been thrown into the mix at random but all that matters is that you are allowing yourself the pleasure of spending some time with DOLEMITE, motherfucker! That makes everything worthwhile.


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Iron Sky (2012)

If you have an interest in movies that are a little removed from the mainstream, if you love b-movies and horror and sci-fi films as I do or if you just keep up to date with any release that quickly builds up a fervent fanbase then you will have heard of Iron Sky. If the name doesn't ring a bell then you may have heard it dismissively described as "that mad film about moon Nazis".

What you may be unaware of is just how well Iron Sky mixes the ridiculous and the dumb with a healthy dollop of smarts and satire. It is, in many ways, stupid and it knows it. Yet it also knows just how to wring the most laughs from the concept while also delivering some fun action moments and poking fun at world politics and the global leadership assumed by America in a way that would please Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

The plot is deceptively simple. We can go back to the phrase "that mad film about moon Nazis". When a couple of astronauts land on the moon and have a look around they find a whole bunch of Nazis living quite happily there while they prepare for the day when they will return to Earth as an invading force. The Nazis are quite shocked that one of the astronauts is black (James Washington, played by Christopher Kirby) and don't realise quite how much has changed in their absence. Mr. Washington has actually been sent to the moon by a female president (played by Stephanie Paul) who has used the slogan "Black to the moon? Yes we can" and that same president is about to get a big surprise thanks to the mission. A surprise that she may be able to spin to her advantage, thanks to the help of her assistant Vivian Wagner (Peta Sergeant).

Iron Sky is also well known to many people today because of the fact that it used crowdfunding to get more than 10% of the required budget. This may lead viewers to expect an amusing movie that can't help looking cheap but nothing could be further from the truth. Considering the relatively low budget, every penny has been wisely spent and almost every frame looks gorgeous. The plentiful visual effects are nicely stylised and very, VERY well done.

Thankfully, the fact that the special effects actually LOOK special doesn't mean that the cast members were a secondary concern. From Kirby as the traumatised astronaut to Paul as the president to Sergeant as her assistant and Gotz Otto and Julia Dietze as the two main Nazis who initiate contact with Earth - everyone does a great job, playing it relatively straight but keeping the tone of every moment just right. There's also a small role for Udo Kier. As well as giving decent performances, I have to mention that Peta Sergeant and Julia Dietze also have the advantage of being very attractive to look at. As I'm sure Gotz Otto is, from the female perspective. Why do I have to mention that? Well, it's just to forewarn any red-blooded males who are about to watch the film that they may want to try to contain their excitement while viewing a woman onscreen who is, don't forget, wearing a Nazi uniform.

Timo Vuorensola is the director and he also wrote the movie, albeit with a bit of help from others including those who came up with the original concept in the first place, so he can accept most of the deserved praise. The film could have easily gone too far one way or the other. It's ridiculous and yet grounds everything in a reality created for the movie that stops it all getting far too ridiculous. It comments on world politics and, indeed, the world of "spin" but does so without bringing things to a grinding halt. It has a bit of everything in the mix but never feels like it has simply tried to cram in too much.

If you already suspect that you might enjoy this movie then I'm pretty sure that you will. It delivers exactly what you'd expect it to deliver, and then puts a little extra on top for good measure. I'll be buying this one to add to my collection ASAP.


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Limelight (2012)

Okay, okay, I have to start this review with a bit of context. I first heard about The Limelight yesterday when I received an email from writer and co-director (and star) Glen Maney wondering if I'd be interested in reviewing the film. I am always very appreciative of such offers and like to do my best when it comes to smaller films that need to build up exposure and a portfolio of reviews so I created a window in my schedule yesterday and watched the film as soon as I could. When the movie ended I realised that I hadn't liked it, bar one or two scenes (that I will mention later). What to do next? Glen had been very pleasant and informative and gracious in his email so I already liked him and didn't want to hurt his feelings but I also didn't want to be dishonest in my review. I considered just not reviewing the movie and telling Glen that I was too busy but then I thought that if I became known as someone who only ever gave good reviews to things I'd been asked to watch then that was just about as bad as being dishonest in my opinions. I considered emailing Glen initially, of course, and discussing my problems with the movie but then I worried that such a conversation may lead to compromise and dilute what I had to say. So, in the end, I decided just to do what I usually do - write the review. When it's done I will email the link to Glen and I hope that he takes my one opinion as just that, my one opinion. The fact that he got the movie made is still something he can be happy with.

So let's get to the review. Glen Maney plays Gary Shand, a struggling stand-up comedian who isn't really having a good time of it. His ex-wife (Andrea Williamson) is considering taking the teenage kids with her when she moves to Wales with her new fella, his manager (Ricky Grover) gives him no money but plenty of abuse and the other comic that he often seems to be sharing gig time with (Sean Bollinger, played by Patrick Monahan) seems to be using all of his material. Nope, things aren't going well for Gary at all. And they're about to get worse as he heads toward rock bottom while striving to reach the very top.

The life of a comedian has been used as the basis for black comedies for years now. I'm sure there were plenty that came before Punchline (including the Charlie Chaplin film called . . . . . Limelight) but that's just one example. My personal favourite is the sublime Funny Bones, while Crying With Laughter is also a very good effort.

In this movie, sadly, the comedy isn't all that effective and neither is the drama, mainly because it's too over the top and you never really feel bad for Gary. There ARE moments when it's sad to see the situation he is in but you either can't help thinking that he put himself there (with the way he tolerates his bullying manager and the way he keeps spending money he doesn't really have on alcohol) or that everything is handled a bit too lightly. Anyone who has been in dire financial trouble, or even temporarily homeless, will agree.

Maney isn't great in the lead role, sorry Glen, so he's obviously more comfortable on stage as a comedian than he is as an actor. Ricky Grover has more acting experience and shows it although he's stuck with a character so irritating and nasty that he can't really show any range or hint at motivation. Patrick Monahan gets a big shrug from me, I think he won some talent show here in the UK and people who know my opinion of the TV talent shows can extrapolate my opinion of Patrick. Andrea Williamson is sort of okay as the ex-wife while Sonya Roseman falters, but looks lovely doing so, as Sara Meo, a potential love interest. Thankfully, along come the barmen to brighten up the movie. Mark Monero, who Eastenders fans will recognise, is decent as a caring barman who tries to offer Gary some advice but Craig Campbell is a hilarious scene-stealer as Chuck, the new barman who takes over and gives Gary some very different advice. He's the kind of guy who doesn't tolerate people playing dominoes aggressively. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly.

But what of the technical side? Well, with Glen co-directing with John Robson and this being the kind of movie that repeats a lot of names in the end credits it would be easy to just criticise the movie and not take into account the low budget. However, even with a low budget I would have liked some of the following aspects to be better - the audio mix (it may be tricky to do on a low budget but a well crafted audio track is one of the best ways to elevate a small movie) and the camerawork. Does that seem like everything? Well, it certainly feels like it at times. The lighting levels in between shots could have been matched, sets and locations could have been opened up slightly and given some better design (many scenes set in a single room feel isolated from the world, despite audio cues, etc) and almost every shot could have been tweaked in some way.

There's a part of me that thinks that Glen just wanted to get the movie made any way he could and that might have been the case. If you only have so much time and money then you settle for what you have. I just think that a bit more investment could have paid dividends. The man knows the world of comedians better than I ever will so perhaps more of this is absolutely on the nose than I suspect but there's a fine line between showing something real and insightful to audiences and showing something cinematically real and insightful. The main thing that he does get right is the overall character arc as things actually do end up building to a decent punchline, ironically enough. It's just a shame there wasn't some judicious editing and ruthless rewriting going on to ensure a better movie surrounding that character arc.

I hope that this review isn't taken as mean-spirited or unconstructive and I wish Glen all the best for the future. Others appear to have enjoyed the film but scouring a few of the IMDb reviews does raise some suspicions. If you want to make your own mind up, however, then the link below will give you a few options.


Monday, 10 September 2012

The Four Musketeers (1974)

A star-studded cast, many of them returning to reprise their roles from The Three Musketeers, have a lot of fun in this swashbuckling romp that still provides decent entertainment today even if it has lost some of its magic. I remember liking this a lot more when I saw it some years ago but I can't guarantee that I have not confused it with the other films or just blended all of the movies (the two mentioned and also The Return Of The Musketeers) in to one big Musketeering party.

The plot is all about the musketeers, the scheming Milady, other schemers scheming and nations teetering on the brink of war. The details are unimportant, really, as this is more about a bunch of talented people having fun onscreen.

Director Richard  Lester once again works with a script by the talented George Macdonald Fraser (who has fun with the characters from the original Alexandre Dumas novel) and the emphasis is once again on big laughs, high drama and great stunts as opposed to historical accuracy and genuine tension.

And what of that all-star cast? The musketeers themselves are played by Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain, Frank Finlay and Michael York. Raquel Welch is the lovely Constance while Faye Dunaway is the beautiful and dangerous Milady. Christopher Lee is Rochefort and Charlton Heston has fun in the role of Cardinal Richelieu. There are also small roles for Simon Ward, Roy Kinnear, Geraldine Chaplin and Sybil Danning.

It's never dull but all involved have something better tucked away in their filmography, even if it's just one of the other Musketeer movies. Mind you, this is still a solid choice to brighten up your day when you're stuck indoors and the weather outside is miserable. It's almost like being reminded of how you could be as a child - boisterous, apparently indestructible and always ready to cut down enemies with rapier wit and an actual . . . . . . . . rapier (albeit a plastic one from the toyshop). I don't consider that a terrible thing.


Sunday, 9 September 2012

Bleading Lady AKA Star Vehicle (2010)

I like Ryan Nicholson. I like him a lot. His movies aren't for the easily offended, by any means, but he makes insane horror movies that make up for their ultra-low budgets by throwing plenty of gore around and usually a fair bit of nudity too.

Which is why I'm surprised that Bleading Lady didn't really entertain me as much as his other works. It has some bloodshed in there, and some nudity, but it feels surprisingly tame when compared to the likes of Gutterballs and Hanger.

The plot concerns Donald Cardini (played by Nicholson regular, Dan Ellis), a man charged with driving actors and crew to and from the set of a low-budget horror movie. It's not the best job in the world but Donald takes pride in it. It also has perks, with the biggest one being his chance to meet scream queen Riversa Red (Sindy Faraguna). Riversa soon warms to Donald, much to the chagrin of her director (Luke, played by Nathan Durec). 

There's more to the movie than just that, of course. Throw a stalker into the mix, plenty of amusing observations about creating good horror like they used to make 'em, a bit of unrequited love and a few deaths and you're closer to the full picture.

Dan Ellis is as good as he always is in Ryan Nicholson's movies while Sindy Faraguna is easy to like as the scream queen at a bit of a slump in her career. Nathan Durec is amusing enough as the cocky young director and further support comes from Nick Windebank, Mike Li, Erindera Farga and a few others.

I hope that he doesn't mind me saying this but I always strive to be as honest as possible here - scripts have never been Ryan Nicholson's forte. His scripts certainly aren't the worst to be written in the horror genre but they are often the weakest element of his movies. This proves to be more problematic here when there just isn't enough of the insane violence and bloodshed to make up for it. Maybe I have been desensitised after seeing so many movies of late that have tried their utmost to churn stomachs or maybe this just is a lighter movie from Nicholson. If it's the latter then I applaud him for giving it a go and stretching himself a little bit. The comedy that's referential and reverential of the horror genre works well in places but needs a bit of fine-tuning here and there to make the blend of the whole movie just right.

Despite the fact that I didn't love this movie, I'm still fully behind Nicholson and everything that he sets out to do. His heart is a strong, blood-filled, independence one and that ensures that each of his movies are also that way. Do check out Bleading Lady AKA Star Vehicle, you might like it a bit more than I did.


Bleading Lady IS available at and some of the other usual places but I encourage any potential buyers to go to the Plotdigger Films website and order direct -

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Red Mist AKA Freakdog (2008)

You might know of Paddy Breathnach already if you note down the names of people involved with movies that you disliked because a LOT of people disliked Shrooms.  I only ended up giving it a generous 5/10 after a rewatch allowed me to enjoy individual elements while my anger abated. Red Mist AKA Freakdog is a slight improvement over Shrooms but it only just provides a better viewing experience, mainly thanks to the echoes of Patrick. The main thing dragging it down is . . . . . . . . . . . well, I'll get to that shortly.

Andrew Lee Potts plays Kenneth, a shy and stuttering hospital worker who likes to look at corpses and cut himself. He's not a well man and doesn't have the best social skills but that doesn't stop him from trying to get close to Catherine (Arielle Kebbel), a young woman learning her craft at the hospital. When Catherine is out one evening with a group of her colleagues (played by Alex Wyndham, Katie McGrath, Sarah Carter and Martin Compston) things take a turn for the worse when Kenneth approaches the group and is brutally rebuffed. He then tells them that he has footage on his phone of one of them sneaking drugs from the pharmacy, drugs that they have been using for recreational purposes. The group then decide to let Kenneth join in with their fun but only so that they can spike his drink and teach him a lesson. As is often the case, things go wrong and Kenneth ends up in a coma. Catherine feels incredibly guilty but her colleagues just want everything to be over so that they can get on with their lives. In an attempt to help out, Catherine visits the comatose Kenneth and starts to secretly administer some experimental drugs that she hopes may help his condition. That's when people start acting as if they're possessed while trying to kill everyone who helped put Kenneth where he is. Could Kenneth be reaching out from his hospital bed? Is it the experimental drug?

The idea may not be an original one but it's not bad. The screenplay by Spence Wright covers familiar ground and it sits very much at the mid-point of quality when it comes to this type of fare. Breathnach does okay with the direction, though it would have been nice to see things getting a bit nastier during the death scenes, and the cast features those already mentioned plus Stephen Dillane and MyAnna Buring (I'll admit it, I like to watch the lovely Miss Buring in anything, so sue me).

BUT, and it is a big but (so big that Sir Mix-A-Lot himself may pop along to admire it), everything in the film from the acting to the unfolding plot to the dialogue exchanges between characters is undone by one huge mis-step. For some reason, those involved decided to try and make the whole thing appear as if it was set in America. Not in any convincing way, you understand, as that would take too much effort and care. Oh no, this movie being set in America means that we get a horrible mix of accents from the poor actors onscreen, a few establishing shots of somewhere that we're supposed to accept is America and then . . . . . . . . . . . well, that's it. There's not really anything else to help convince viewers that they're watching a movie set in the USA. It's as if Paddy Breathnach and Spence Wright watched Slaughter High and thought "well, we can make something as bad as that". Yet I still love Slaughter High to this day, it has a goofy charm to it and feels like those involved actually did their best with what they had. This movie misses that, which is why it also ends up with a generous 5/10 and why I am now wondering whether or not I should stop being so easily pleased.


Friday, 7 September 2012

Random recommendation time.

First thing is first, this is the main page I use as a "portal" for the search engine to find. So anyone looking for a particular title just has to look at the top left corner of the screen. See that search box. Type in whatever you're after and I hope something comes up that you're looking for.

Now for the random recommendations.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don't like to use the words underrated and overrated. Things are just . . . . . rated and it all usually evens out. Having said that, I have been thinking more and more about a few movies that I think more people should be aware of so I'm adding an extra blog post today to recommend some films. Hopefully, you've already heard of most of them but if you haven't then please do check them out.

Enemy Territory - It's not the best way to view it but it may be the only way to see it at the moment, if you type in Enemy Territory 1987 while on YouTube you will be rewarded with a movie that features roles for Tony Todd, Jan Michael Vincent and Ray Parker Jr. Yes, the guy who sang the theme song for Ghostbusters. And it's reviewed here.

Cohen & Tate - Roy Scheider and Adam Baldwin star in this fantastic thriller/black comedy about two hitmen being played off one another by a kid. I hope a better disc comes out at some point but at least this is available in the meantime. Reviewed here.

Drive - No, not THAT one. I'm on about THIS one. Kickass action with one fight scene so enjoyable that it was "homaged" in Blade II. Drive is reviewed here.

King Of The Hill - AKA The Steven Soderbergh movie that nobody ever mentions. I loved it when I saw it years ago and I'd like to see it again soon. Mayhaps I will buy this DVD.

The Music Of Chance - One of those wonderful little films that I first saw many, many years ago late at night on either Channel 4 or BBC 2 before we all had a gazillion channels to choose from PLUS DVDs PLUS LoveFilm Instant, etc. A gambler loses a bet and has to build a wall but there's so much more to it than just that. James Spader stars in it and it's brilliant. Take a chance on the DVD.

The Hill - A powerful drama from Sidney Lumet that stars Sean Connery and looks at certain aspects of military life, this is a film that will be loved by anyone who enjoys great drama. And it's available here.

Trojan Eddie - Just look at that cast. Now buy the film and enjoy it, you can thank me later.

Restless Natives - I still consider this essential viewing for anyone living in, or a fan of, Edinburgh. Here is my review. It's a tale of robbery in the Highlands, it features a great mix of drama and comedy and there's an absolutely fantastic soundtrack from the great Big Country. Buy it.

King Of The Ants - This is what happens when you match director Stuart Gordon up with the darker writings of Charlie Higson (now best known for his comedy work and stories about a young James Bond). It's disturbing and it's brilliant. And it's easily available here.

The Baby - Also known to a number of people as "what the fuck did I just watch????". I won't even explain it but it's certainly not for everyone. It is, however, superb and completely mad, as far as I'm concerned. Make a risky purchase here.

And that's it. I know that people who browse my blog can be as film-obsessed as I am but I hope that there is maybe one title amongst that lot that you've never heard of before. If so then do check it out. And get back to me with your take on it, good or bad.

Quite a few of these movies, and more, feature in this here book written by this here idiot.

The UK version can be bought here -

And American folks can buy it here -

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.