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There’s a moment in Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation — Tom Cruise career-saver, franchise Mvp and the summer's best non-Imperator Furiosa action blockbuster — where the CIA director refers to the film's relentless hero as "the living manifestation of destiny." As a government official talking about an unpredictable agent, the line is patently (if knowingly) ridiculous. As Alec Baldwin talking about Tom Cruise, the dialogue sounds right on the money. That phrase could be dropped into the first sentence of his biography and nobody would think twice.
When the superstar first stepped »
Whether you’re all for 3D, or have reserved a special place in hell for those awkward glasses, it would seem that it is here to stay. Long before it turned into the latest service fee added onto the bill of your movie going experience, 3D was a fun (and new) twist for film lovers. And with House of Wax (1953), Warner Bros. created not only the first color major studio 3D film, but one of the finest horror films of the 50’s, period.
Released in April of ’53, House of Wax was a pricey venture (1 million Us to produce), but one that Warner Bros. was willing to bank on after the smash 3D success of Bwana Devil (1952), an independent production. By this point, the major studios were desperate to get people back to the movies, as that new and nasty little box called television halved theatre attendance. What they achieved with »
- Scott Drebit
A pacy grace envelopes Kabir Khan’s new political thriller. You can almost smell the tension in the air. If Bajrangi Bhaijaan was a agreeable gentle cup of lemon tea Phantom is a the bracing percolating morning cup of coffee that makes you jump out of your bed and seize the day.
Kabir’s second film in six weeks after the epic success of Bajrangi Bhaijaan takes an aggressive what-if stand against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. It does so with a cool candour that makes for a bracing jolting wake-up call for the two nations at a proxy war rattling sabres across the barbed fence.
Phantom works on a simple premise. You give us 26/11. We take revenge. As simple as that. In many ways the very talented Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub playing a raw Raw agent (no, I am not stammering) represents the voice of the nation. His inexperience among veterans who plot »
- Subhash K Jha
The 1955 prison drama Big House U.S.A. is a gritty but forgotten crime tale about a desperate group of loathsome men played by an amazing cast of manly B-movie bad guys. Lon Chaney and Charles Bronson act alongside Broderick Crawford, Ralph Meeker, and William Talman. They’re all villains who meet cruel but deserved ends and Big House U.S.A. is one of the most mean spirited prison escape/kidnap caper thriller ever made (and I mean that as a good thing).
Big House U.S.A.’s story begins with an asthmatic rich kid getting lost while attending a “mountain ranger” summer camp (locations filmed at Colorado’s Royal Gorge Park). Shady hiker Jerry Barker (Ralph Meeker) discovers the boy and pretends to help him, but really has decided to hold him for a half million dollar ransom and locks him in a forest lookout tower. The »
- Tom Stockman
In recent years there has been a real boom in documentaries surrounding popular culture. Films such as Electric Boogaloo, Video Nasties, The Search for Weng Weng and Adjust Your Tracking have captured the zeitgeist of fans across the globe, and in turn inspired more people to create their own documentaries about pop culture subjects that matter to them…
But not all these documentaries see the same success. Having been on something of a documentary kick lately, I thought I’d break down the ten of the best little-known, or better yet little-discussed, pop-culture documentaries from the many, many examples I have been watching. So here they are and, for once, they’re in order:
There’s a good reason this film is at the top of my list. This is the documentary that kicked off my exploration of pop culture documentaries (eventually ending up at compliling this list) and, »
- Phil Wheat
Famed producer Howard W. Koch directed a dozen or so motion pictures himself over the course of an illustrious career. None of his own directorial efforts would reach the prolific heights as items he produced (The Manchurian Candidate; The Odd Couple, etc.) and often seemed to be the types of B grade fare dumped into double feature matinees. His sophomore effort, Big House, U.S.A. promises to have all the makings of a hard boiled noir, headlined by a gnarly group of cinematic toughs and racing across events like kidnapping, murder, and prison escape to a grand shootout with breakneck speed. Unfortunately, this plays out like a wooden procedural cobbling together themes already overused by the time it was made.
Jerry Barker (Ralph Meeker) stumbles upon a helpless asthmatic boy lost in the woods of Colorado’s Royal George National Park. He’s aware the boy is the son of a very rich man, »
- Nicholas Bell
Kung Fu Killer starring Donny Yen, is the story of vicious killer Feng, who is going round Hong Kong killing top martial arts exponents, leaving a secret weapon called the Moonshadow as his calling card. When convicted killer and kung fu expert, Xia, hears of this, he offers to help the police catch the killer, in return for his freedom. Despite their misgivings, the police release the former police martial arts instructor into their custody. With his help, they realize from the chronological order of the victims that the killer is targeting his victims, all the top masters in their martial arts style, following a martial code of training. When Xia also disappears after a close encounter with Feng, they suspect the worse: that the two are accomplices and Feng was the bait to help spring Xia from jail. But Xia has actually gone back to his home in Foshan »
- Tom Stockman
Lila & Eve is a film about mourning posing as a film about revenge. If you tried really hard, you could imagine it as yet another contemporary riff on Death Wish. And, to be fair, Viola Davis could probably do a hell of a job as a Charles Bronson–like angel of vengeance. But despite the trappings of violence and retribution and inner-city despair, this is not that movie.Davis plays Lila, a mother grieving the death of her older son, Stephon (Aml Ameen) in a drive-by shooting near a local drug corner. When she joins a support group for the parents of murdered children, she meets Eve (Jennifer Lopez), a confident, elegant, tough-talking mother who gives voice to Lila’s own frustrations with the police and the other institutions around them. The cop investigating Stephon’s death (Shea Whigham) is helpless, a creature of procedure and habit. When Lila visits the police station, »
- Bilge Ebiri
Rome – Versatile Italian director and screenwriter Sergio Sollima, who gained international cult status with a trio of groundbreaking spaghetti Westerns comprising Lee Van Cleef-starrer “The Big Gundown,” but was best known in Italy for exotic Indian pirate miniseries “Sandokan,” died on Wednesday in Rome. He was 94.
During the course of a five-decade career Sollima worked masterfully in a multitude of genres, retaining a signature style often infused with socio-political overtones.
Sollima’s work spanned from screenwriter on sword and sandals epics, among which “Goliath Against the Giants” toplining Brad Harris, to directing so-called Eurospy pics that tried to capitalize on the Bond craze, such as “Agent 3s3: Passport to Hell,” followed by his spaghetti Westerns, packed with a political punch, then fast-paced crimers, including New Orleans-set “Violent City,” toplining Charles Bronson. And finally smash hit TV skein “Sandokan,” with current Bollywood superstar Kabir Bedi.
Born in Rome in »
- Nick Vivarelli
Not as well-known stateside as other Spaghetti Western Sergios such as Leone and Corbucci, but the passing of director Sergio Sollima is notable to cult film fans. His The Big Gundown (1966) with Lee Van Cleef and Face To Face (1967) are considered classics of the sub-genre but in my book his masterpiece is the gritty 1970 crime thriller Violent City, a film that made it all the way to #3 on my list of ‘Top Ten Charles Bronson Movies’ (read the list Here)
In Violent City, produced in Italy with some New Orleans exteriors, Sollima, working from a script by future art-house helmer Lina Wertmüller, directed Charles Bronson just as he was exiting his career as a character actor and phasing into his role as a megastar. Violent City found Bronson a vengeance-minded hit-man after a former flame (Jill Ireland at her sexiest) and her mob boss boyfriend (Telly Savalas) who’d conspired to send him to prison. »
- Tom Stockman
The Strongest Man is a dry, dead-pan comedy about a Cuban man in Miami called Beef, played by Robert Lorie. Beef works in construction, but is known by friends and coworkers for being exceptionally strong. Beef is a good-sized man, but his natural strength goes far beyond the limits of any man I’ve ever met. Ultimately, this is a relatively insignificant fact about Beef, as his one love and passion in life is his gold-painted BMX bike, which he rides proudly like a child when not working construction or hanging art for a local rich white woman named Mrs. Rosen, played by Lisa Banes.
Beef’s best friend and coworker is the son of Korean immigrants and a seemingly talented yet underachieving man called Conan, played by Paul Chamberlain. The two spend most of their time together, often having peculiarly philosophical conversations in English, while Beef’s thoughts narrate the film in Spanish. »
- Travis Keune
Impressive visuals and Leone-style showdowns are no substitute for character development in Pablo Fendrik’s jungle western
Writer-director Pablo Fendrik’s “Mesopotamic western” is heavy on atmosphere, light on plot – a revenge narrative with an eco-friendly twist. Gael García Bernal is Kaí, a Pale Rider (think Charles Bronson meets Mowgli) who emerges from the Argentinian jungle to save Alice Braga’s kidnapped Vania after machete-wielding mercenaries pillage her home. At one with nature (the “manimal” analogy is overworked), Kía helps Vania to turn the tables on these beasts, climaxing in a cod-Leone showdown replete with mission bell sound effects and Straw Dogs-style homemade mantraps.
While the visuals are arresting and the locations haunting, Fendrik’s portentous fable lacks much in the way of credible character development – a viny romance between Kaí and Vania seems more a strategic addition than an organic thread. Some crunchy action adds blood but not meat. »
- Mark Kermode, Observer film critic
Wisconson-based regional filmmaker Bill Rebane’s no-budget wonder ($300k to be exact) The Giant Spider Invasion was a hilariously cheesy 1975 throwback to the giant-monster flicks of the 50s, a trend then enjoying a revival with films like Empire Of The Ants and Food Of The Gods. This outrageous mix of giant monster motifs and backwoods sleaze plays like a hybrid of Tarantula and The Blob with its mixture of giant spiders and falling meteors. I saw The Giant Spider Invasion at the long-shuttered Ellisville Cinema in West St. Louis County (on a double bill with the David Niven vampire comedy Old Dracula). I recall the poster in the lobby which featured a gargantuan spider bearing down on a group of terrified people. In the air above the mega-arachnid was three helicopters and lying crumpled at the spider’s legs were burning cars as spotlights filled the sky. One of the »
- Tom Stockman
Taking a dark detour from the blue-sky environs of “Burn Notice,” USA and showrunner Matt Nix reunite on “Complications,” a dreary drama about a suburban ER doctor who, Hitchcock style, is drawn into a web of gang warfare and violence. Jason O’Mara stars as the emotionally scarred physician, with the series deriving its title from the escalating consequences that arise due to a single impulsive act. Problematic in its depiction of dark-skinned bad guys, the 10-episode season (the entirety of which was made available) conjures its share of tension, but feels increasingly strained, until it’s finally clear the patient can’t be saved.
In his note to critics, Nix cited a personal experience with being victimized by crime, but the show uses that basic idea to take off in a different and more dramatic direction, about an ordinary guy — albeit one quietly at his wit’s end — being thrust into extraordinary circumstances. »
- Brian Lowry
By Lee Pfeiffer
Cinema Retro mourns the loss of our friend, actor Richard Johnson, who has passed away at age 87. Johnson was a classically trained actor, having attended Rada and was also one of the founding members of the Royal Shakespeare Company. His acting career was interrupted by service in the Royal Navy during WWII but Johnson resumed his profession at the end of the war. He alternated between playing small parts in feature films and leading roles in stage productions. In 1959, he got his first significant screen role starring with Frank Sinatra and young Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson in the WWII film "Never So Few". He was initially offered the role of James Bond but turned down the opportunity. He later told Cinema Retro that he had no regrets because »
- email@example.com (Cinema Retro)
In the 70s Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus's reign at Cannon Films produced some of the shlockiest B-movies to (dis)grace the screen. Andrew Pulver remembers some old favourites (Enter the Ninja, Invasion USA, The Last American Virgin) and explains why Mark Hartley's documentary about the studio that gave early breaks to Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson is worth your time this week. Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is out in the UK now Continue reading »
- Andrew Pulver and Henry Barnes
Much like the Orion Pictures logo that recently resurfaced and excited Generation Nostalgia™, you probably know the Cannon Films emblem, may remember their films and might even fetishize their library. But unlike Orion, which gave cineastes nine Woody Allen movies, unimpeachable genre classics like “RoboCop,” “The Terminator” and four Best Picture Oscar winners (“Platoon” among them), Cannon’s independent outsider brand was immediately defined by its lack of quality, good taste and sense. A schlock ‘em, sock ‘em house of shameless low-rent, Z-grade movies, the rogue and independent Cannon broke through the mainstream film market in the 1980s with its rash of no-budget exploitation pictures that even Roger Corman would be appalled by. Starting with Charles Bronson's "Death Wish II" (and its subsequent sequels), through "highlights" like Tobe Hooper's “Lifeforce," “American Ninja” and “Breakin’,” Cannon delighted B-movie genre heads with their »
- Rodrigo Perez
A camping trip for newlyweds Mike and Wit takes an unexpected turn when they are joined by Mike’s brother, Sean, a former marine. When their tent is stolen overnight and they are left without food or water, the brothers turn on each other. A random act of violence becomes a game of cat and mouse. A weekend in the woods becomes survival of the fittest. A young couple must survive their failing marriage. An Iraq veteran must survive his violent past. And Wit must outsmart the predators hunting their prey.
Right off the bat, the first thing that strikes you about Preservation is the soundtrack. From the opening tune, the soundtrack is very reminiscent of early the work of John Carpenter – very much synth driven with that slightly off-key, off-kilter »
- Phil Wheat
Today is Vincent Price’s 104th Birthday! Price was born here in St. Louis on this date in 1911 and is the most iconic movie star to hail from our city. Price, who died October 25th 1993, was also a gourmand, author, stage actor, speaker, world-class art collector, raconteur, and all-around Renaissance man. Vincent Price was simply one of the most remarkable people of the 20th Century. Four years ago we had the opportunity to celebrate his 100th birthday and St. Louis was the place to do it. I teamed up with Cinema St. Louis to present Vincentennial, The Vincent Price 100th Birthday Celebration, an event that lasted through much of the Spring of 2011. The following year Vincentennial won two coveted Rondo Awards, one for “Best Fan Event” and a second for myself as “Monster Kid of the Year” for directing the event. The Rondo Awards are prestigious Fan Awards given out »
- Tom Stockman
It's fitting that Clint Eastwood and John Wayne both have the same birthday week. (Wayne, who died in 1979, was born May 26, 1907, while Eastwood turns 85 on May 31). After all, these two all-American actors' careers span the history of that most American of movie genres, the western.
Both iconic actors were top box office draws for decades, both seldom stretched from their familiar personas, and both played macho, conservative cowboy heroes who let their firearms do most of the talking. Each represented one of two very different strains of western, the traditional and the revisionist.
As a birthday present to Hollywood's biggest heroes of the Wild West, here are the top 57 westerns you need to see.
57. 'Meek's Cutoff' (2010)
Indie filmmaker Kelly Reichardt and her frequent leading lady, Michelle Williams, are the talents behind this sparse, docudrama about an 1845 wagon train whose Oregon Trail journey goes horribly awry. It's an intense »
- Gary Susman
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