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For most genre fans, it doesn’t get much better than Cannon Films. A staple in action, horror and complete insanity, the studio that dominated the 1980’s were put down by bigger studios, frowned upon by most mainstream critics, and completely adored by genre fans. Led by Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, the fledgling company put out more films per year than most of the other studios, with everything from Masters Of The Universe, Cobra, The Last American Virgin, Lifeforce and hundreds of other varying films that were all across the genre board before shutting down in 1994. Machete Maidens Unleashed/Not Quite Hollywood director Mark Hartley uses the rise and fall of the studios and its two leaders as his subject in Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films, a film that focuses more on the notorious past of the studio and less on what did go right. »
- Jerry Smith
For fans of trashy, low-budget action films, Cannon Films defined the 1980s. The company was revitalized, after a decade-long rocky start, by director Menahem Golan and producer Yoram Globus, Israeli cousins now seen by many as the dollar-store precursor to the Weinstein brothers. As tasteless as they were unscrupulous, Golan and Globus are responsible for a flood of Charles Bronson, Chuck Norris, and Jean-Claude Van Damme films, not to mention cheapy ninja-sploitation films, eccentric art-house films (including Jean-Luc Godard's King Lear and John Cassavetes's Love Streams), and, uh, Lou Ferrigno as Hercules. This week, Warner Brothers collected a ten-film DVD/Blu-Ray box set to coincide with and bolster the release of Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, director Mark Hartley's funny, informative documentary. In the spirit of Hartley's inclusive doc, we present a list of the ten most Cannon-y moments included in the box set. »
- Simon Abrams
By Lee Pfeiffer
The good news is that Timeless Video is releasing multiple films in one DVD package. The bad news is that one of these releases, although featuring two highly-watchable leading men, presents two stinkers. Love and Bullets is a 1979 Charles Bronson starrer that Roger Ebert appropriately described at the time as "an assemblyline potboiler". The film initially showed promise. Originally titled Love and Bullets, Charlie, the movie had John Huston as its director. However, Huston left after "creative differences" about the concept of the story and its execution on screen. The absurdity of losing a director as esteemed as Huston might have been understandable if the resulting flick wasn't such a mess. However, one suspects that, whatever the conceptual vision Huston had for the movie may have been, it must have been superior to what ultimately emerged. Stuart Rosenberg, the competent director of Cool Hand Luke took over »
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Cinema Retro)
Tonight, Tom Hardy walks the red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival in support of Legend before it hits theatres everywhere on October 9. In the London-set thriller, Hardy does double duty as identical twin gangsters, Ronald and Reginald Kray.
In celebration of Hardy’s upcoming thirty-eighth birthday and to get ahead of the curve before Legend drops, let’s catch up on some of the bulky Brit’s greatest roles – from Nicolas Winding Refn’s Charles Bronson to, of course, Christopher Nolan’s Bane.
Does your favourite Tom Hardy movie make our must-see list?
It takes a certain amount of dedication and self-sacrifice to believably portray the most violent prisoner in Britain's history and Hardy proved he was up for the challenge in every scene of Nicolas Winding Refn's brutal, innovative and punishing Bronson. As a wannabe criminal who was sentenced to seven years in prison for »
- Cineplex Entertainment
“Kids these days,” sighs the lead character in “Mr. Six,” sounding like the grizzled hero in a late-career Clint Eastwood movie. Now well into his fifties, the neighborhood peacekeeper — played with stoical cool by China’s most popular film director, Feng Xiaogang — realizes just how little Beijing’s younger generation respects the old ways after confronting the gangsters who snatched his son. Constructed as the long, inward-gazing buildup to an epic showdown on a frozen lake, Guan Hu’s genre-subverting drama could just as easily be an elegy for a disappearing style of filmmaking — one that acknowledges the country’s obsession with flashy, street-racing culture, while determined to make a more substantive impact on a box office dominated by “Furious 7.”
Though executed with the professional heft of a big-studio production — which indeed it is, backed by Sino heavyweight Huayi Brothers — “Mr. Six” deliberately withholds many of the sensational payoffs »
- Peter Debruge
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
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)
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