Reviews written by registered user
|223 reviews in total|
In my view, writing comments on current releases is fairly pointless as
they'll disappear into all the noise, but the MAD MAX franchise is one
I'm particularly passionate about, so allow me to attempt at some
degree of objectivity while writing this glowing review. I'm a
curmudgeon when it comes to action and sci fi movies. In my view, stunt
work is much less impressive when half or more of it is accomplished
via green-screen and rendered human beings. Science Fiction relies on
visual stimulus and often massive destruction effects (miniatures,
matte painting, and stop motion) to add to the constructed universe and
entertainment factor, now diluted so much by the knowledge that rooms
full of outsourced nerds in Canada, India, New Zealand and China are
clicking pixels around until everything is absolutely "perfect". So in
my view, making an action and stunt-heavy science fiction film in this
day and age is an uphill battle to impress a weary action fan such as
this, but this film did the best job it could.
Was it perfect? No. There were issues with pacing, inconsistent character development, some awkward CGI (yes especially in terms of CGI humans for stunt work), and Hardy's performance and characterization not quite up to snuff. I was also put off by some distractingly gimmicky 3D shots like a steering wheel floating in the screen after an explosion.
Perfectly imperfect? Almost. If this film had brought back a haggard 60+ Mel Gibson finding HIS redemption and otherwise been the same I would have given it a 9. I absolutely love how The Toecutter from the original MAD MAX returns here as Immortem Joe, showing that geriatric villains can be just as threatening as any other. With each successive MAX film there has been more and more of a feminist approach to the presentation of tough women dominating men. In this film, they go a bit over the top with it, but not to the point where it's utterly unbelievable a la HUNGER GAMES where a scrawny woman has no problem defeating a muscle-bound man in a fistfight without even taking breaking a sweat. Refreshingly, a lot of the female characters are put in just as much peril and take just as much unceremonious damage and fatalities as their male counterparts. All things being equal, it's great fun and something new, though at the end of the day I can't see a lot here in this blighted dystopian landscape that would attract a lot of female viewers.
Reasonably entertaining? Of course. This film is loaded with a lot of carnage, stunt work, and visual stimulus including some delicious really wasteful and global-warming-contributing gasoline explosions of a like not seen since the 90's. The color palette is beautiful, the women gorgeous to look at, and some of the production design for the vehicles and sets some of the most creative of the steam-punk genre seen since BLADE RUNNER. A few moments really had me at the edge of my seat, such as the overlapping battling across multiple vehicles near the end. I only wish there was more of this.
What would I have changed? Max didn't need all those ghost voices following him around through the film, and could have used some character development outside of that. He could have played a more central role in driving the plot forward. The ending needed more of an impact or crazy crescendo to build up to. I'd have added another element such as a time factor on closing the pass, another tribe emerging, or a bigger explosion or mega-car-pileup to close things with. It's difficult not to feel a bit disappointed that things end on a whimper. Movies don't know how to end these days. Also, much like GRAVITY, this film suffers from protagonists living through things that would have killed anyone in real life. There's no way any human being would have lived through a couple of these high speed crashes (especially with one's neck chained to one of such vehicles), so I'd have ironically toned some of the danger down a tad to increase this universe's realism/tension level.
I get the feeling that an unrated release will be on its way. I'm picking this movie apart, but aside from what I mentioned, it gets so much right. It's got a crazy bald guy playing a flame-throwing guitar while wearing bright red 1800's pajamas for God's sake. It's one for the boys, but also one for anyone needing a modern big screen action fix.
I have a certain degree of fascination with the life of Franco
Fantasia. In addition to service in the Italian military during
numerous conflicts and having bit parts in B-movies over the course of
the following 5 decades, he made a great career for himself serving as
a technical, military, and weapon adviser on almost every notable film
made in Southern Europe. In this film he plays the Governor General
following and advising a character who must have been a colleague of
his in his military days, a quite menacing portrayal of General Rodolfo
Graziano by the infamous unstable drunkard Oliver Reed.
I count this among the many interesting aspects of the story of this film's production, along with the cooperation of the Italian armed forces (with subsequent banning in Italy for "dishonor to the Italian Military") and film industry (nice to see many Cinecitta B-movie veterans like Stefano Patrizi, Adolfo Lastretti, Tom Felleghy, etc. sharing scenes with big Hollywood talent such as Rod Steiger and John Gielgud) and the conspicuous involvement of the Qaddafi regime in funding this film. Director Moustapha Akkad had quite a storied career himself, being the only director daring enough to bring the story of the origins of Islam to the Western World with his previous film THE MESSAGE as well as play a central role in establishing John Carpenter and financing the HALLOWEEN franchise. All these elements feel like they couldn't possibly share the same space, but here they do and the results are surprisingly captivating in a way hearkening back to the best works of David Lean.
To Western audiences, this film tells the otherwise cinematically untold story of a completely untaught war, that is the pacification of Libya by the Italian Army between World Wars 1 and 2. It meant the first large- scale use of concentration camps, modern technology including tanks, planes, and poison gas against completely overmatched rebels, and nearly genocidal repression of the existing Libyan population. Films like this need to be shown in schools to give history a life and faces to the facts and to make sure that these atrocities are properly learned from in future Western dealings with the Middle East. I personally applaud Moustapha Akkad and everything he stood for in trying to bridge the gap between cultures, and find it supremely tragic that it proved to be his eventual undoing. This film being such a financial failure trashed his directorial ambitions until 25 years later when he was killed in Jordan by terrorists while location scouting for a new and quite sadly unmade historical epic to focus on Saladin.
Akkad loved the testosterone-laden approach to cinema, and here approaches historical cinema with all the enthusiasm of a small boy playing with thousands of army men in a giant sandbox. Unusually for historical epics, this film focuses very heavily on battles and little on personal drama and relationships, making it quite accessible for ADD Westerners such as myself and is authentic enough to history, pouring millions into tanks, uniforms, sets, etc. to the point that history buffs will get a kick out of it. Anthony Quinn really solidly displays some of his finest late-career talent in the role of Omar Mukhtar, the aging leader of the Senussi rebellion in Libya but unfortunately he's surrounded by a lot of poor casting choices for his fellow Libyans. Almost all are played by Europeans (Robert Brown, Andew Keir, John Gielgud, etc.) in bad makeup with the exception of criminally underused Takis Emmanuel.
I personally prefer Akkad's directing style over David Lean in terms of action scenes and the adequate level of coverage. Two major highlights: the attack on an Italian caravan in the mountains and following artillery barrage (destroying much of the Libyan landscape) as well as the Italian assault on Kufra. Both scenes contain some surprisingly large level of production values including thousands of uniformed extras and no shortage of carnage, pyrotechnics, breathtaking special effects, and stuntwork. While there's maybe a few battles too many and the film suffers from overlength, it never sags and manages to impressively play both sides of the conflict in a fairly objective manner.
This is not a perfect film, but among the historical epic category, a LION OF THE DESERT wins out as a top-shelf favorite film which accomplishes everything it sets out to do.
Seagal's first four films undoubtedly constitute his best work as far
as his fans are concerned. This DIE HARD clone set on a Battleship wins
mass appeal based on its premise alone and cements its stature as "Best
Seagal Movie" with very strongly directed and acted scenes involving
the villains. There's a wonderful little cat 'n mouse feel to the film
and even manages to stay interesting during the scenes in between the
action with Seagal stalking the ship's lonely corridors and various
rooms, encountering various obstacles along the way.
However, there were a few worrying trends beginning to surface when this film was made. Most obviously was Seagal's weight, which was starting to become a bit of a distraction by this film and even more-so with each concurrent film following this (aside from his commendable attempt to trim down for EXIT WOUNDS). This would be the first film of many to feature his image on the cover heavily digitally doctored to reduce his double-chin.
Additionally this is the first Seagal movie to introduce him working with a team of lackies responsible for doing a lot of his dirty work, presumably as a way to make his one-man-army routine have some semblance of realism. Okay, well MARKED FOR DEATH had some of this too, but they were at least interesting characters. Unfortunately though, they also serve to steal attention and screen time away from our hero, villains, and quality kills to the point where (as in all his modern films) Seagal is barely even in the thing.
Now, Seagal never was the most approachable or friendly-looking guy but this film is the first time the villains are much more charming and compelling than he is. Given that Jones and Busey are charismatic actors, their characters are actually interesting and off-kilter while Seagal is just an even more one-dimensional version of himself, with all kinds of the shoehorned-in CIA and Special Forces ego-trip background motifs that have been with him since is first film. The entire movie I was rooting for them to just shoot him and felt a little sad with each terrorist fatality. It introduces the bumbling and annoying sidekick, epitomized by Ms. Eleniak who is utterly useless in this film aside from as comic relief and the all-too-brief birthday cake scene. Seagal unforgivably makes her change in the very next scene, adding to the unlike-ability of his character.
UNDER SIEGE is a fun film, possibly the most fun of all DIE HARD's clones. It's got its share of disappointments though and plenty of brilliant villains whose IQ decreases by 100 points whenever they get a chance to kill the hero. At one point, one of them even dies twice if you watch closely, possibly another nod to a Seagal earlier work regarding a villain in MARKED FOR DEATH. We have the success of UNDER SIEGE to thank for the existence of Seagal's insane tour de force in the legendarily awful ON DEADLY GROUND, which was financed to secure his appearance in this film's inevitable sequel.
While there's a lot absent in this movie that I usually take for
granted in war movies (namely any infantry combat scenes), I really
must applaud this effort on a few fronts.
For one, there is absolutely zero obvious CGI or visual effects in the film. We get to see lots of real vintage tanks including T34/85s, T34/86's, a Panzer IV, and mobile artillery doing what they do best. The loving attention to authentic tank combat reminds me a lot of the other quite recent Finnish film TALI IHANTALA 1944 which similarly failed otherwise to really make a splash.
There's a lot of good scope to the film, especially in terms of costume and sound design. Nothing looks cheap and the anachronisms are kept to an absolute minimum. It's a classically impressive Russian World War 2 adventure in many respects and looks almost like something Sergei Bondarchuk would do were he still been alive. Nicely, the structure is unconventional and it tackles a lot of philosophical areas of interest including mankind's fascination and relationship with warfare and destruction.
Storywise, it's really nothing new for people who haven't seen THE WHITE BUFFALO or THE CAR. I never would have ever imagined I'd ever see a combination of those two films in a war setting, but lo and behold this curiosity. At its core is a loose retelling of "Moby Dick" involving an obsessive quest by a mentally handicapped individual to destroy a mysterious antagonist, here a Tiger Tank that seemingly appears and disappears at will to wreak all kinds of havoc on the Soviet lines.
The biggest complaint here though beyond lack of action or originality is the poor attempt at mocking up a Tiger Tank. However at times from certain angles it works well enough if you squint, but almost unforgivable that the centerpiece of the film is so underwhelmingly realized.
All in all, I'd recommend viewing for the realistic tank combat scenes and lack of CGI. Had it not been for this film, I would be tempted to say that they don't make them like this anymore.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As former film student, I really hate trashing student / hobbyist
filmmaker adventure films as it's all to memorable the sheer effort of
logistics that it takes to put something like this together, especially
when it involves shooting overseas. However this one just got under my
Easily the best / most interesting thing about this very low budgeted film is the location work in the Philippines. Throughout the film we catch glimpses of both rural and city life as well as some refreshing revisiting of that same jungle seen in so many action and war movies of the 70's and 80's. Now with the heyday of International/Filipino co- productions and cheap exploitation movies far behind us, the next generation of filmmakers is stepping in. Of course the sensibilities of these filmmakers, using their youthful enthusiasm to create "artistic" pieces, are quite different from the old ones who did copycat remake action classics such as FIREBACK, COP GAME, and COMMANDER. Unfortunately though, this film makes it quite evident that attempted artistry and originality doesn't positively impact watchability, especially if done on the cheap.
At first glimpse one would think this was a kids movie, not one necessarily made FOR children, but BY children as it's just so sloppy and loopy. The main group of characters consist of teenagers and a gung-ho couple 20-somethings on some vague quest to find some... thing (?)... in the Filipino jungles while avoiding a kidnapper/biker gang who just happen to assume that they're after some money. That's about all I could piece together. It sounds and feels innocent and lighthearted enough to earn a PG-rating until it suddenly delves into drug/alcohol abuse, a nasty attempted rape/murder scene, and then later a certain character shot bloodily & blindingly albeit non-fatally in the head and then having to continue about her business.
The story (which veers into scifi late in the film) and tone manage to somehow stay beyond incomprehensible, yet childishly inconsistent and inane at the same time. None of the main characters are likable or fleshed out in the slightest and the shoehorned-in romance between two of the tag-along local teens is just embarrassingly awkward. Some performances (especially those done by the locals in their native language) are quite believable but a lot from the inexperienced leads we spend the most time with are either flat or overly theatrical. The action scenes are killed by the hesitance of the filmmakers to actually show us any "money" shots. While at least they attempt ambitious stunts including a car chase / fight with bikers climbing onto a bus, it's maddening that so much of the fighting, injuries (several people are supposedly crushed by a roof caving in an obviously empty house) and bike crashes are merely implied off-screen for obviously budgetary reasons.
What's most curious to me about film is how much the barely-there plot parallels Ruggero Deodato's much more entertaining RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS only with most everything of interest stripped away. The film follows a group of disparate individuals on a quest to a lost island, avoiding violent bikers, and even culminates similarly with a hypnotic encounter with some lost / alien civilization. Personally I wish they'd just gone to the effort and found a print of RAIDERS and given it an official DVD release instead of producing this film. It would have saved us the addition of one more underfunded half-baked indie trashterpiece on the evergrowing pile. The makers could certainly make a much better living as location scouts for future Filipino action classics, should the genre ever happen to miraculously resuscitate itself.
Much noise has been made of the film's weaknesses including the
decision to base it around Robert Mitchum as a tired and drunk war
correspondent and Peter Falk as his barely coherent partying murderer
friend. The historical details begin with some promise but as the film
goes on they get glossed over in favor of various Hollywood World War
II movie clichés. In my opinion this film stumbles out of the gate on
the wrong foot with a tonally off opening credits sequence feature
bizarre animated titles and an upbeat love song (when there's no love
and barely any females to speak of in the movie!), and it never really
The film just barely delivers on its title and shows us none of the actual battle of Anzio but some of the landings and an inaccurate version of the Battle of Cisterna in which 767 Rangers were surrounded and wiped out. Otherwise, the film is just another dull "trapped behind enemy lines" type movie with a lot of antiwar gum-flapping dialog about the uselessness of war.
There is, however, some attractive scenery of the Italian countryside on display and a few quality war scenes at play. Wolfgang Preiss really shines in his brief scenes as Kesselring and one wishes we could have had more of him. Action-wise we're treated to two one-sided massacres; one of American rangers at Cisterna (led by a dubbed Venantino Venantini) followed by the main heroic squad mowing down several clueless Germans in a farmhouse. The only surprises really come during a tense sniper battle which for me was the highlight of the film. This wasn't quite the Dmytryk of the classic era, but he still had some good work left in him.
It feels like a major missed opportunity that the film never gives us any major combat with both sides putting up a spirited fight. It may be for that very reason why the nearly-unanimous response among war movie fans to this film over the years has been that of utter disappointment.
I find it very fitting that Sean Young was in both this film and BLADE
RUNNER as the love interest of the protagonist. This film has a lot in
common with the other grim futuristic science fiction film especially
in terms of deadeningly slow pace given life by a choice cast and some
of the most visionary and creative production design seen up to the
Films are only as interesting as their antagonists, and Lynch's DUNE does an excellent job setting those up. The Harkonnens are wonderfully nasty and amoral beings living in a cold and sterile industrial hell- planet with smoke stacks, cables, and cubicles as far as the eye can see. The Imperial planet is austere in a Victorian sense and the Spacing Guild presented in such a ghastly and grotesquely inhuman fashion that they're as interesting as they are stomach-churning. All three of these villainous factions give the film the life that it has.
Unfortunately, the good guys are quite one-dimensional and dull in comparison. Kyle McLachlan doesn't really get to do much with his part, other than slowly become more obsessive, powerful, and unlikable as the film progresses. Ms. Young gets to do even less and maybe has 3 or 4 lines. You know you're in trouble when a narrator has to tell us, "Paul and Chani's love grew" because the film gives us no other indication of this. I believe that's where the film fails, is in giving any depth to its main characters or any believability or humanity to their character arcs. This may have been the result of numerous cuts made to the film based on an already quite abridged script. A lot of the narrative failings fall on the shoulders of director Lynch however, as he is so unable to "show" what is going on that he relies on characters' inner monologues to "tell" us what is going on, and much of the time quite unnecessarily.
Despite its great failings and bizarre combination of confusion and slowness, DUNE has well-realized otherworldly atmosphere aided immeasurably by the costuming department who went all-out in creating a visual style for the film that has never been equaled since. It's a truly unique mixture of styles and various steam-punk / H.R. Geiger influence on display. Historically, this film represents a major crossroads of some of the best special effects people working at the time, with makeup artist Giannetto De Rossi, mechanical effectsman Carlo Rambaldi, explosive engineer Kit West, and miniature set guru Emilio Ruiz all combining forces for the only time in all of cinema. The results are a mixed bag for sure, but on the occasions in which this film works, it's utterly amazing.
This low budget art film has a few very hilarious moments, some
surprisingly great acting, and is just weird enough to maintain viewer
interest in where things are going. However, the film suffers from
leaden pacing, obtuse plot, and grating sound design.
A 30-something playwright and his wife attempt to cast and put together a musical focused on the end of the world, but matters become complicated once they bring in some demonic producers (played by the actual director and producer of the film), start cheating on each other, and lose their sense of reality. Perhaps the real apocalypse starts too loom as well? It's difficult to tell - this isn't the kind of film that delineates between the story's reality and the characters' hallucinations.
In many respects it owes a lot to David Lynch and David Cronenberg, recycling a lot of "plot" (if you can call it that) elements from MULHOLLAND DRIVE including a focus on a small box, a subplot involving entertainers putting together a production, and a befuddled protagonist succumbing to a lesbian seduction. Also things seem vaguely centered around the concept of parasitic worms which spread corruption through oral contact, echoing SHIVERS, though nothing is really spelled out. What keeps things somewhat original though is a focus around the oncoming end times, but this element is largely undone by how it's portrayed, reminding me of the old Star Trek episode "The Alternative Factor" in which the universe winks out periodically and everyone gets disoriented. In this film, the apocalypse is realized (annoyingly) by frequent clouding of the picture accompanied by a sound negatively comparable to nails on the chalkboard, causing characters to fall ill or simply drop dead. If being exposed to audio/visual nuisances and confusion is your sort of thing, look no further, because there is a lot of that this film.
Even if the film doesn't feel completely original, it's largely saved by terrific and convincing work from most of the cast who look like they're having a ball. Strangely enough, despite WAY DOWN IN CHINATOWN's shortcomings, it actually manages to be more accessible, interesting, and successfully surreal than most of its inspiration David Lynch's recent and more expensive work.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Easily the least of the loose Sinbad trilogy, (and possibly of all
Harryhausen's color films) this fantasy film remains a lot more fun
than most modern CGI-laden big-budget equivalents but still one can't
help but feel disappointed that they couldn't do better with what they
Something feels very off and uncertain about this film, as though it was thrown into production too quickly without really thinking things through. The casting feels largely quite awkward with Patrick Wayne as a bland lead (I even thought so as a child) and Jane Seymour as a nearly as bland love interest only redeemed somewhat by her beauty and unrelentingly revealing clothing. Margaret Whiting makes for a colorful yet very campy villain and the always reliable Patrick Troughton is undermined largely by having to play a very inconsistent character. Everyone else in the cast is instantly forgettable.
One of the single weakest and most awkward key scenes in the film is where Sinbad and his crew try to convince Troughton (as a Greek Philosopher "Melanthius") to come with them. Instead of any of them really saying or doing anything to change his mind, he seems to convince himself by tinkering with an old invention that never plays into anything later in the film at all. This really isn't a Sinbad movie; it's a Melanthius movie. Sinbad just plays his chauffeur and bodyguard. Another major script failing is the inconsistent level of knowledge given to Melanthius - he seems at first to guide the group based only on vague legends and intuition, but the further along they go, the more he seems to just know everything about everything.
But who comes to Harryhausen movies expecting the best in storytelling and great performances? They come for the stop-motion creatures and fights, which here is done quite well and plentifully. One of the more impressive (though narratively pointless) sequences is a battle with a giant walrus containing some excellent blending of practical and visual effects (how did they get those real snowballs to connect with the stop- motion creature?). A fascinating vaguely antagonistic robotic minotaur rows its way through the movie, but is criminally underused before he gets to do anything cool. The other creatures such as a giant bee, a baboon, and a troglodyte, though well done and realistic, are just not nearly as interesting and feel like a waste of time that could have gone into animating cooler things. Oh yeah, there's also a very satisfying (though poorly set up) battle with a saber-tooth cat near the end.
Unfortunately the visual effects department got so carried away and relied so much on budget-friendly models and compositing in lieu of actual sets and locations that it's difficult to really buy into anything. Much of the blue-screening is quite distracting and terrible even by the standards of the time it was made. Just look at the whole scene at Petra and it's quite obvious that most of the actual cast didn't make it there opting instead to just shoot their close-ups in a studio. It fuels the film's quite bizarre tone which helps in some scenes and hurts others.
The inconsistency and weirdness isn't helped by the TV-like direction of established actor Sam Wanamaker. His slow and campy style contrasts so sharply with the serious and exciting monster scenes that it starts to feel like there's two different movies here. However there's so much apparent apathy and laziness on display across all departments involved that I can't put all the blame on him. SINBAD EYE OF THE TIGER in many ways though holds up as a fun fantasy movie which children and nostalgic adults will love, but unlike most of its peers from the day just doesn't hold up.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I could easily devote an entire review to Bernard Herrmann's musical
score or Ray Harryhausen's stop motion, as without either, this film
would not be even remotely as effective. Harryhausen's stop-motion is
nothing short of miraculous, given the technology available at the time
and the fact that he did everything entirely on his own. There's a lot
of films that I've watched purely to marvel at the stop-motion effects
such as ROBOT JOX, PUPPETMASTER, etc. which still barely deliver enough
to satisfy. 7TH VOYAGE still left me hungry to see more giant monster
action at the end, but overall is quite satisfying in delivering the
What makes the goods so good in this case? Well it has to do with Harryhausen's attention to detail and his infusion of personality upon all his creations. While we have a living skeleton, a dragon, a snake- woman, and a few giant birds, the most interesting by far is the cyclops who is both a terrifying presence while strangely still human enough to convey a level of innocence and sympathy. It's a pathos on par with the original Willis O'Brien creation of KING KONG. His entrance in the film is built up so well that, as a very young and impressionable child, it had me terrified yet basically in love with all things Harryhausen from the first frame he appears in.
The highlight for me these days is the flawless sequence in which Sinbad manages to blind the cyclops with a torch and lure him toward a cliff ledge. I love how accurately the animation conveys his anger, sadness, frustration, and attempts to improvise via feeling his way around with his arms in the air out in front of him. Also notice how furious and confused the cyclops behaves when he gets attacked by a rabble of drunken sailors, especially when he inspects, connects the dots over, and throws down the spear that was stuck in his back. I could go on and on.
No, the film is not quite perfect of course. There's some roughness to the production values, some campy acting, mismatched locations, anachronisms, and a lot of stock-footage. Also as an adult I can't help but notice the massive plot hole where the magician kills a sailor in order to steal the magic lamp, but somehow in the tussle completely forgets to pocket what he's been obsessively chasing after for the entire movie! However, as far as a practically timeless film conveying a sense of pure fantasy and, spectacle, and wonder that children and adults alike will love and appreciate, you'll be hard pressed to find better.
Schneer and Harryhausen followed this up 15 years later with THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD with a whole new cast and darker tone. It's arguably a much better and complex film, but this is the Sinbad movie with the bigger and more memorable monsters.
|Page 1 of 23:||          |