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Essex Boys (2000)
Competent, but nothing special
It shouldn't have mattered, but it did. Every time I saw Tom Wilkinson, I thought "Gerald Cooper" (_Full Monty_), not "John Dyke". Just couldn't take him seriously as a hard man. Similarly, Sean Bean, who I normally find very entertaining, was only lukewarm in his portrayal of the psychotic gangster.
I really wanted to like _Essex Boys_, being a big fan of gangster cinema, but it just didn't do it for me. Nothing stands out as particularly bad, but equally nothing stands out as particularly fresh or original either. It seems fairly standard for British crime films to be less manic and slower-paced than their American counterparts, but _Essex Boys_, for whatever reason, didn't have that spark that makes an interesting and memorable film.
Tale of the Mummy (1998)
_Talos_ is excruciatingly slow-paced. For a film that is supposedly horror, this is the kiss of death. The special effects are in general rather poor, and for a large portion of the far-too-long running time we are treating to the spectacle of people being chased and killed by demonic rags that look remarkably like moving toilet paper.
The Waterdance (1992)
Complex, powerful, moving
_Waterdance_ explores a wide variety of aspects of the life of the spinally injured artfully. From the petty torments of faulty fluorescent lights flashing overhead to sexuality, masculinity and depression, the experience of disability is laid open.
The diversity of the central characters themselves underscores the complexity of the material examined - Joel, the writer, Raymond, the black man with a murky past, and Bloss, the racist biker. At first, these men are united by nothing other than the nature of their injuries, but retain their competitive spirit. Over time, shared experience, both good and bad, brings them together as friends to support one another.
Most obvious of the transformations is that experienced by Joel, who initially distances himself from his fellow patients with sunglasses, headphones and curtains. As he comes to accept the changes that disablement has made to his life, Joel discards these props and begins to involve himself in the struggles of the men with whom he shares the ward.
The dance referred to in the title is a reference to this daily struggle to keep one's head above water; to give up the dance is to reject life. _Waterdance_ is a moving and powerful film on many levels, and I do not hesitate to recommend it.
Vampyros Lesbos (1971)
Slow, plodding and dull
Usually, what you're looking for in a horror movie is horror. _Vampyros Lesbos_ fails to deliver in a big way.
The soundtrack is intrusive and jarringly mismatched to the action, such as it is, and each character appears to have selected at the outset the expression that he or she is to wear for the remainder of the film.
In essence, there is very little here to recommend, or to salvage the film from interminable boredom and chronic confusion. Abrupt editing does nothing to aid comprehension; frequent recourse to gratuitous lesbian erotica, similarly, adds nothing to the film as a whole.
Vacant Possession (1995)
More questions than answers
_Vacant Possession_ explores some fairly common ground as the death of a mother brings a daughter home to Sydney, where the old family home begins to bring old wounds more and more to life. Initially, the flashback sequences are well defined, but as the story unfolds they become more and more seamlessly blended with the present.
There is little here that hasn't been covered numerous times in other films, although it is possible to read the film as a metaphor for the history of white Australia. Ultimately, however, _Vacant Possession_ leaves more questions unanswered than answered.
La nuit des traquées (1980)
Aimless and unsatisfying
Amnesiac women who remove their clothes at the drop of a hat (or a blouse?) are about the only stand-out points in a film that is otherwise slow and aimless. Although the basic premise of the story offers a wealth of possibilities, they are never developed to any satisfying degree, and exposition is almost non-existent. A large proportion of the film is mere wanderings through the corridors of a multi-storied clinic/hospital. The overall effect is bleak and sterile, a la THX-1138.
Kondom des Grauens (1996)
If warped humour is your thing, this is for you
-Kondom des Grauens- is an odd beast. Although at times outlandish to the point of absurdity, it is always played pretty much straight. The wonderfully gruff and sleazy Detective Luigi Macaroni is a great parody of every hard-boiled detective ever portrayed. Overall it's worth at least a look, although definitely not everyone's cup of tea. It sits nicely somewhere between -Bad Taste- and -Eat and Run-.
De onfatsoenlijke vrouw (1991)
Sex, danger and eroticism - a heady brew
_The Indecent Woman_ draws out several themes, among them the tension between the desire to loosen restraints and the fear of losing control. Emilia, the central character, muses at one point that "fantasies are so contradictory", which captures the mood of the film perfectly. The potential for an individual to lose him or herself in desire is a key issue as the story unwinds.
There are several much more explicit scenes, but keep an eye out for the "shadow foreplay" sequence, which is perhaps the most tense and erotic sequence in the film. Later, the shadows resurface, this time as a threat, mirroring the progressive change in the relationship between Emilia and Leon.
Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
Very male piece of cinema
"What is this, some kind of masculine power trip?"
The girl who chooses to ride with the two young car fanatics in their rambling across the United States sums up this film perfectly.
No need for intimacy here, no need for names or anything but a good fast car and a stretch of blacktop to race on. This is a very masculine film about a very masculine subculture.
Like the three central characters, the plot is aimless and seems to drift like a beer can on the waves. The race to Washington, which seems at first to be of overriding importance, seems to peter out as the movie progresses; the issue never seems to be decided. There's some fairly obvious derivations from such road and drifter movies as _The Wild One_, but for a film about road racing there's precious little tension or excitement here.
The Craft (1996)
Lots of eye candy, but not much else
Given the scope offered by the subject material, _The Craft_ was disappointingly unimaginative, although the uses the young witches put their powers to are probably a fair representation of the ends a teenager might find for magic. Apart from a few glamour spells, petty revenges and several spectacular temper tantrums, none of the four young ladies stretches her powers to any great extent.
There are some subtle and interesting undertones relating to female subjectivity and relationships (most of the male characters being either cardboard cut-outs and/or pawns for the females), but on the whole _The Craft_ falls rather flat.