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Leigh L.

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56 reviews in total 
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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
The perils of the undomesticated scarecrow, 9 June 2005

If I'd only known that this was the third in a series when I picked it up, I might have held back until I'd had the chance to study the first two instalments in some depth and subsequently come into Scarecrow Gone Wild fully prepared to appreciate all it had to offer. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson from the whole Kickboxer 4 farce (who is this feckless boy-child? Where's Jean-Claude? Why is Tong Po half his previous size?) - but no. Ah well, not to worry - at the end of the day I can safely say its charms weren't entirely lost on me.

In spite of several dull stretches as the film tries to make the lives of its mouth-breathing teenage sickle-fodder seem deep and involving, SGW is ultimately brimming over with so many top-quality "what the..." moments that it's impossible not to have fun with the damn thing. The Scarecrow drives! The Scarecrow hits the waves! The Scarecrow inexplicably gains the power of electrocution! The Scarecrow's head appears to be made of cast iron when someone clouts him with a fire extinguisher! It's all good stuff. And I'd never even heard of Ken Shamrock before this, but now I think he should be in every film ever made (alongside Christopher Lambert and Steven Seagal).

What's particularly endearing about Scarecrow Gone Wild is that everybody involved plays it as if they've been told it's some kind of intense art-house drama, although we do get the occasional flash of momentary self-awareness (the "watch out for the homicidal scarecrow" line near the end comes to mind). All in all, definitely one to remember, and roll on 10,001 Scarecrows... I think.

Frankenfish (2004) (TV)
11 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
By all rights SHOULD be the worst film ever..., 15 February 2005

It's the name that does it. Not only does it fail to make sense in context, it just plain doesn't work. If they really wanted to go with some kind of Franken-animal they could have at least picked something that started with 'st', like... a stoat. Frankenstoat. Studios, are you listening?

Anyway. Against all odds Frankenfish is actually no worse a giant mutant creature romp than, say, Anaconda - I'd even go so far as to say it could have made a passable cinema release. Everything (with the standard exception of logic) is handled competently, from the acting to the effects, and the tiny bayou community setting of the whole thing actually feels quite novel. It's not even entirely predictable, I guarantee you won't see at least one of the deaths coming...

It's also a fine film for playing Name The Actor They *Really* Wanted. Robert Downey Jr. and Michael Wincott are lock-ins, while Anaconda veteran Jon Voight would have been a fine choice to play the hunter (who is, as it turns out, the most rubbish hunter in the world). Come to think of it, if they'd asked Jon Voight he'd probably have said yes - he usually does.

Overall, it's a surprisingly not-awful piece of work, which still manages to be entertaining despite its not-awfulness. I wouldn't say I'd recommend it, exactly, but you could do worse. Sci-Fighter, for instance. Now THAT's genuinely awful film-making (and as such comes highly recommended).

Saw (2004)
I bet his ankle's a bit 'saw', ha ha, 13 October 2004

Much as I wanted to see this film before its release (you don't get many 18-ratings to the pound these days), after finally getting the chance to do so I'm sad to say I've ended up firmly in the camp of the non-believers.

The overall setup and a few of the morbid situations are pretty interesting, but the direction is heavy-handed to the point of being insulting - and when the film tries to go into details it really stumbles, with pointless subplots, gratuitous filler material, bus-sized plot holes and some cringeworthy dialogue and delivery.

Speaking of which, it's been noted plenty of times already, but it really does bear repeating. Cary Elwes, one of the two focal characters, puts in a potentially career-destroying performance. I've always thought he was pretty good in films like The Princess Bride and Kiss The Girls, but in attempting such an emotionally meaty role for once, all he succeeds in doing is bringing his limitations into uncomfortably sharp relief. He's really not up to the job, and ultimately people started laughing during our showing too. Including us.

Worst of all, one of the scenes at the end, which was probably intended to be the most harrowing in the whole film, is totally undermined by the preceding comedy of Mr. Elwes' 'emoting'. And the thing is, he's supposed to be a nice enough bloke in real life - I'm sure he wouldn't have minded if someone had said "Cary, I realize you're the actor here and I don't want to tell you your job, but... YOU'RE RUINING THE FILM, YOU USELESS FOOL."

Ah well. Not a complete waste of time, but still very disappointing.

Ladyhawke (1985)
37 out of 55 people found the following review useful:
Do a little dance, make a little love, become a wolf tonight, 15 July 2004

It's funny - my two clearest memories of this film were off the mark in completely opposite ways. I remembered Matthew Broderick being deeply annoying; as it turns out he's just mildly irritating. And I remembered the soundtrack being bad; but good God, it's *appalling*. Whoever decided that a tragic, touching supernatural romance would be best accompanied by funky 70s synthesisers (I don't think they're fitting enough to even be classed as 80s) should be forced to eat their own afro. Yes, all of it. I can honestly say I have never heard a less appropriate musical score in my entire life. It's not that it's bad, exactly - it'd probably work pretty well if the lead character was, say, Shaft.

Still, when the crazy disco beats aren't violating the atmosphere, there's some good stuff going on. Richard Donner already had serious directing experience under his belt in 1985, and Ladyhawke is beautifully shot and paced with some gorgeous scenery to take in. There's just enough action (they give it some proper welly in those swordfights), John Wood provides a proper boo-hiss malicious villain, the dialogue never quite slips into melodrama despite teetering on the edge occasionally, and it's always a pleasure to watch Rutger Hauer in one of his few good roles before he degenerated into self-parody. (Well, if we're being honest it's a pleasure to watch him in his godawful recent stuff as well, but for different reasons.) Above all the film's got heart, which is more than you can say for 95% of the cack that Hollywood churns out, and it deserves some small credit for that at least.

B0xx0red!, 25 June 2004

Having not seen Kickboxer 2 or 3 (or even 5, despite the lure of the Dacascos factor), I thought for a minute I might be confused by the plot of Kickboxer 4. How foolish I was. There IS no plot to Kickboxer 4 beyond the initial setup, and as far as I can tell that leads on from previous instalments in the series about as fluidly as Friday the 13th Part III leads on from Legally Blonde 2.

Anyway, as you might expect Kickboxer 4 is a fine candidate for a bad film session, though it's hard to pin down any specific element as being the out-and-out worst: the acting, script, editing and of course make-up are all award-winningly bad, though at least the fight scenes are diverting (full marks to the overenthusiastic sound effects department) and for once the direction isn't so spasmodic that you suspect Albert Pyun's hand at work long before you've spotted his name in the credits.

Naturally I'm not saying it's good by any means. But it is funny, in its wanton disrespect for both the series it belongs to and simple common sense. Particularly loved Sloan's disguise (a pair of shades) as he cleverly infiltrated the fortress of the untouchable drug baron and demon martial artist who'd killed his brothers, kidnapped his wife, got him banged up in jail and been his obsessive arch-nemesis for years, yet couldn't work out who he was from six feet away. Also loved comparing this film's feeble climactic scuffle in the midst of a tea party on the lawn to the brutal broken glass brawl at the end of the original Kickboxer. It's the best kind of bad sequel there is: a kind of sad, desperate, hilarious spoof of itself. Genius.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
It can't really be called that... can it?, 19 March 2004

Whether it was blind ego or genuine good humour on Seagal's part that allowed this title to be attached to the barrel-shaped action star's latest film, we may never know, as I can't see any interviewers being willing to ask. It's even possible that he came up with it himself, as he's given a writing credit. Though to be honest, a cinematography, direction or casting credit would have been more impressive, as the 'plot' is by far the most hopeless thing about this otherwise surprisingly polished but cliche-ridden corpse-fest.

Then again, it's the script's occasional flashes of sheer madness that make it worth watching. From the random tomato/fish/cleaver death scene early on to the head-spinning ladyboy fight and descent into voodoo lunacy during the climax, it keeps you on your toes, at least. Never seems to bother Seagal, though, whose single expression (constipation) remains fixed in place whether he's frantically fending off gangs of swordsmen with his bare hands, displaying primal fatherly angst over the inevitable kidnapping of his daughter or getting frisky with a hero-worshipping Thai girl less than half his age. Yes, you read that right, and yes, you will feel personally violated when it happens.

The other redeeming feature of the film - apart from the unusually high quality of the direction and camerawork, which gets full mileage out of what must have been a pretty limp budget - is the use of body doubles, which is some of the most blatant ever committed to film and all the more entertaining for it. Seagal *does* actually get more action in this film than in his last three or four combined, but it's still hilarious when he suddenly breaks off from his usual shot-from-the-shoulders-up slappy-hand business to launch into an impromptu flying spin kick, shedding about a third of his body weight in the process.

As long as you're not expecting gritty realism, you'll probably enjoy this as much as any other DTV kickathon on the shelves at the moment, and certainly more than the last couple of brain cell killers that Seagal's put out. Unfortunately Seagal himself is more visibly the weak link in the chain than ever before, with his action chops paling in comparison to those of both his co-star and main adversary, and his acting chops paling in comparison to his fridge. The sight of Thailand's entire criminal underworld taking turns to fly thirty feet through the air and crash into an exploding crate would be far more entertaining if it wasn't an overweight man in his fifties dishing out the damage, especially one who still refuses to take a single scratch in return. Still, one thing you have to give him credit for is not teaming up with any poxy rappers in this one.

9 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Timecop 2: The Stupid Subtitle, 19 March 2004

All I can say is that I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner. Wonder how many they'll have time to churn out before Van Damme gets desperate enough to want to do one himself, gleefully shoving aside everything that came before and thus ruining the continuity of the series? (Not many, judging by Derailed.)

Hang on, though - continuity? Not one of Timecop 2's strong points, and at the end of the day the only reason Timecop 1 didn't contradict itself at every turn was because it kept the actual time travelling at a modest level. Timecop 2 ventures into Nazi Germany, the Wild West and various other places, ultimately making only the most halfhearted attempt to imagine (let alone visualise) the consequences of changes made to the timeflow. One of the characters mentions a mysterious war a couple of times. Someone else gets an eyepatch, then loses it again. Oooo! Change my pants.

Worse: it's boring. While small mercies are appreciated - such as Jason Scott Lee being given a new character rather than trying to be passed off in Van Damme's role (which wouldn't have surprised me) and being marginally more charismatic than the total nobody who starred in the TV series - they're not enough to save the film from inconsequentiality. Neither is Lee's hair, which remains rooted in the late 70s. You'd think he'd be able to do something about that at least, being a Timecop and everything.

Queuing up behind the leading man is the usual racially diverse but underused and pointless supporting cast, including a limp Thomas Ian Griffith as the baddie. Any and all attempts to make us sympathetic to Griffith's cause fail because of his fundamental Hollywood Baddieness compounding the gaping holes in the plot and reasoning: on one hand I suppose we should be grateful that the writers tried to ask 'meaningful' questions and stray from the standard good/evil action film templates, but on the other hand, if you can't do it properly then don't bother, because you'll end up with nowt but plot holes, mixed messages and viewers trying to stay awake just for the big fight at the end. Which isn't that good anyway, apart from the bit with the shirt. Tsk.

Blood Gnome (2004) (V)
11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
What, the title's not enough for you?, 28 November 2003

I can't imagine why anybody would NOT want to see a film with a name like Blood Gnome. However, be warned: while the title and cover might lead you to expect something along the lines of a cheap Critters/Ghoulies rip-off for the 21st century, it's actually more like a BDSM promotional film that just happens to have knee-high bloodthirsty goblins from another dimension scampering about in the background. I'm serious.

The other thing about Blood Gnome is that, while undeniably entertaining in a no-budget, student film kind of way, it doesn't have an ironic or self-aware bone in its body - as evidenced by the 'Making Of' documentary, which you soon realise is a minor gem in itself as the producer and director pour praise upon their stars' "marvellous performances", the lead actors (who come off like the slower cousins of Louis Theroux and Juliette Lewis) ramble on about sleep deprivation method acting, the 'effects' people show off their atrocious puppets which can't even stand up straight yet the film shows in badly-lit close-up every chance it gets...

See it only if you know what you're getting yourself into, and relish the prospect (i.e. if you firmly believe that Slugs is one of the best comedies of all time). Don't bother if you're looking for a genuine horror flick: the only thing that's remotely scary about Blood Gnome is the idea that it could really be someone's labour of love.

"Let's start a production company. What have you always wanted to make a film about?" "Bondage. Oh, and invisible vampire muppets."

7 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Cack Mask 2, more like, 28 April 2003

Brain-hurtingly awful action sequel from previously well-respected Hong Kong director Tsui Hark. What he thought he was playing at with this monstrosity is anyone's guess. I can only imagine that he rounded up the most clueless people he could find to consult on the matter of which red-hot global fads he should incorporate into his latest vision, and came out of that meeting with "wrestling" and "Power Rangers" scribbled on a Post-It note. Because that's basically what it is. The actual martial arts bits are pretty inconsequential - as is anything established in the original Black Mask, apparently.

While I personally reckon I've seen worse, I will always remember Black Mask 2 as being the film that plunged a hardy co-viewer into a fog of stress for an entire weekend and drove him to claim that "it was so bad it actually made me ill".

AKA Ladle 2 The Gravy, 28 April 2003

Jet Li fighting Mark Dacascos. That's JET LI FIGHTING MARK DACASCOS. Until the day that we see Jean Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren facing off against Steven Seagal and Don "The Dragon" Wilson in a puddle of oil within a ring of fire in the rain while barrels explode in the background, I'll take this as the ultimate face-smashing showdown that Hollywood currently has to offer.

It's just a shame about more or less everyone else involved (mainly scraped from the same casting barrel bottom occupied by Exit Wounds), particularly the dull-as-ditchwater DMX. Someone give the man a career in the straight-to-video market where we can more easily ignore him. But on the whole, as long as you know what you're getting yourself into, this is fantastic fun and probably the best Western showcase for Jet Li's sheer hard-as-nailsness so far.


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