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409 reviews in total 
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10.5 (2004) (TV)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Soulless disaster movie goes through the motions, 26 March 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Sound format: Dolby Digital

Once upon a time, US network television produced memorable, must-see miniseries' like ROOTS, FATAL VISION, HELTER SKELTER and THE ATLANTA CHILD MURDERS, movies with real grit and integrity. Nowadays, they produce rubbish like 10.5, an unmitigated disaster in every sense of the word, in which an earthquake in Seattle triggers a sequence of equally devastating tremors - each one worse than the last - which seismologist Kim Delaney believes will culminate in a massive, landscape-altering quake along the West Coast. Naturally, the l-o-n-g bits between disaster set-pieces (including the destruction of San Francisco and a spectacular climactic deluge) are populated with boring characters mouthing the usual soap opera clichés, while the scenes of destruction are as dramatic as they are scientifically unsound (ie. there's no such thing as a '10.5' earthquake; the Golden Gate Bridge was built to withstand even the most violent tremor, and will NOT collapse during seismic activity; nuclear explosions CANNOT seal faults in the earth's surface, etc.).

The script is utterly predictable throughout (virtually every character is divided from their loved ones, either geographically or emotionally, yet the quakes bring them together in the end and, yep, make them all better people as a consequence - puh-leeze!!), and Beau Bridges plays the President with such overstated 'fortitude' and 'compassion', he comes off looking like some godawful televangelist, and is just as convincing. Even worse, David Foreman's largely hand-held camera-work - a swirling mess of zooms and zip-pans, borrowed from TV's "NYPD Blue" and designed to convey a sense of realism where none exists - seems calculated to drive viewers up the wall. The much-heralded visual effects are only intermittently successful, and most of 'em look like what they are - CGI images (EARTHQUAKE, SAN FRANCISCO and THE BIG ONE: THE GREAT LOS ANGELES EARTHQUAKE contain much better depictions of widespread devastation). Appalling stuff, directed by John Lafia (CHILD'S PLAY 2 - 'nuff said), and promoted under the title 'Earthquake 10.5'.

6 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
They really don't make 'em like this anymore!!..., 22 May 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Mono

A world-weary LA cop (Charles Bronson) plants evidence on a young man (Gene Davis) suspected of the serial homicide of several beautiful women, but the plan backfires and Davis subsequently targets Bronson's grown-up daughter (Lisa Eilbacher)...

One of a series of gritty urban thrillers inspired by the success of DEATH WISH, J. Lee Thompson's 10 TO MIDNIGHT is a fair addition to this much-maligned subgenre. Bronson plays a well-meaning (though hopelessly misguided) cop desperate to apprehend a psychopath who strips naked before murdering his (primarily female) victims. The explanation for this glorious, gratuitous beefcake is that the killer avoids detection by washing the blood from his body before getting dressed again, though it's surely no accident that the actor playing the role is a grade-A stud of the highest order! Further, Davis' extensive nude scenes lead to a number of curious plot developments (because he was naked when he committed his crimes, Davis knows that Bronson must have planted blood on his clothes, but he can't use that as a defence without... well, you get the picture), though cinematographer Adam Greenberg (GHOST, RUSH HOUR, the "Terminator" series) turns visual cartwheels to avoid full frontal nudity (and a potential X rating).

Thompson - who gravitated towards Hollywood after forging a successful career in the UK, where he directed a number of popular mainstream entries like YIELD TO THE NIGHT and THE GUNS OF NAVARONE - takes enormous pleasure in foregrounding the more exploitable elements of William Roberts' lively screenplay, though an unpleasant sequence near the end of the film evokes queasy memories of Richard Speck's true-life killing spree in 1966, when several nurses were slaughtered in a Chicago townhouse in a fashion similar to the killings depicted here. For all its excesses, however, the movie is conservative in thought and deed, depicting the criminal justice system as a playground for the likes of Davis and his equally sleazy lawyer (a typically scene-stealing turn from Geoffrey Lewis). When Bronson confronts his nemesis during the inevitable climactic showdown, the audience is literally compelled - through dialogue and editing - to invite brutal retribution on Davis' irredeemable bad guy. It's cheap, manipulative and cynical, but it's also undeniably effective, and Bronson's closing line of dialogue is guaranteed to arouse guilty fascist impulses within even the most liberal viewers.

Davis is the spitting image of his actor brother Brad (the late and much lamented star of MIDNIGHT EXPRESS) and is quite effective in a difficult role, though his subsequent career appears to have gone nowhere, which is a shame. Co-star Andrew Stevens made a brief splash in movies like this one (including Brian DePalma's THE FURY) before becoming a producer on a wide range of Hollywood pictures (everything from 'erotic thrillers' such as NIGHT EYES to blockbusters like DRIVEN and BALLISTIC: ECKS VS. SEVER, etc.), and Lisa Eilbacher enjoyed a momentary spotlight on the big screen before returning to TV (where she had begun her career in the likes of "The Texas Wheelers" and "The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries") before fading from the business altogether. Word has it that the title 10 TO MIDNIGHT (a meaningless phrase) had been announced by Cannon for another film which ultimately failed to materialize, but someone obviously liked the sound of it and simply re-used it here! The 'TV version' is a laff riot, featuring alternate takes with Davis in black briefs. In the original, however, you get to see (almost) every inch of his fabulous, sculpted body. Drool, slobber...

Formula 17 (2004)
18 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Lively comedy-drama has its heart in the right place, 23 February 2005

FORMULA 17 (17 Sui De Tian Kong)

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Dolby Digital

Events conspire to frustrate the budding romance between a naive country boy (Tony Yang) searching for love in Taipei, and a local stud (Duncan Chow) notorious for his sexual conquests.

A smash hit in its native Taiwan, this breezy romantic comedy was the inaugural production of Three Dots Entertainment, an independent studio committed to the production of commercial genre movies, and was directed by first-timer Chen Yin-jung (aka DJ Chen), a 23 year old graduate of Yuan Ze University. To her credit, Chen tackles the film's subject matter head-on and refuses to cut away when the two guys at the center of Rady Fu's old-fashioned screenplay finally - inevitably - get it on. Yang and Chow maintain a respectful distance from one another at first, each afraid to make that crucial leap of faith, until Yang finally turns up on Chow's doorstep and sighs: "Let's stop pretending, it's tiring", leading to the film's central sex scene, a tasteful affair with lots of kissing and fumbling and raunchy good intentions. Much of the running time, however, is given over to various comic interludes involving Yang's newfound friends (Jin Qin, Dada Ji and Jimmy Yang), a trio of outrageous queens who insist on making a melodrama out of the tiniest crisis. Unfortunately, the comedy is forced and unfunny and a little too excessive at times, but the central love story yields its fair share of tender rewards.

As a vehicle for its ultra-sexy leading men, FORMULA 17 is hard to beat: Yang and Chow (the latter billed simply as 'Duncan') achieved teen idol status in popular Taiwanese TV dramas, where they both played wholly conventional roles. Here, Yang is a childlike innocent searching for True Love, and Chow is a beautiful playboy whose reputation belies his own desperate search for emotional fulfilment. Standout scenes include a comic episode in which Jin and co. set up Yang with a hunky prostitute (Yang Zhi-long) who turns up at Our Hero's apartment posing as a plumber, in a scenario lifted wholesale from countless porn videos; and an early sequence in which Yang and Chow bump into one another while standing at a busy crossroads, where their hesitant overtures are kindled by an elderly gent standing alongside them, who despairs of their reluctance to acknowledge a mutual attraction (this scene has a *very* gay conclusion!). Chen allows the pace to slacken during dialogue exchanges (the bulk of the movie!), which takes some of the fizz out of proceedings, but the film has a virtuous heart and builds to a joyous conclusion which - along with the cute guys and up-front sexuality - probably bolstered its commercial fortunes at the Taiwanese box-office. Production-wise, Chen makes the most of her limited resources, and she's well-served by Chen Huei-sheng's imaginative cinematography, and Zack Gu's designer-label art direction/costume design (leading to the movie's biggest laugh, when Yang pronounces 'Gucci' as 'juicy'!).

NB. Amusingly (or not, depending on your point of view), FORMULA 17 was banned in Singapore by the Films Appeals Committee for creating "an illusion of a homosexual utopia, where everyone, including passersby, is homosexual and no ills or problems are reflected... It conveys the message that homosexuality is normal, and a natural progression in society"! That same year, Singaporean authorities finally allowed the broadcast of popular TV dramedy "Sex and the City", gave the go-ahead for a small number of bars to open 24 hours a day, and partially legalized the sale and consumption of chewing gum...

(Mandarin and Cantonese dialogue)

2002 (2001)
4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
GHOST BUSTERS meets THE MATRIX, Hong Kong style!, 30 March 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Dolby Digital

A psychic cop (Nicholas Tse) who battles wayward ghosts for the Hong Kong police department is teamed with an eager rookie (Stephen Fung) destined to die and become his ghostly helper. But their plans are thwarted by a vengeful water spirit (Alex Fong), who emerges from the Other Side to destroy them both...

Long on spectacle and short on plot, Wilson Yip's half-hearted blockbuster contains a typical mixture of awkward comedy and heart-rending melodrama, assembled in piecemeal fashion by no less than four credited screenwriters (Vincent Kok, Gwok Ji-kin, Szeto Yam-kuen and Yip himself)! Fate and Destiny play an important role in the patchwork narrative, though such philosophical musings are quickly submerged beneath a tide of CGI effects and wire-fu combat sequences (choreographed by Poon Kin-gwan), including a remarkable fight between Tse and Fong in a swimming pool which rings the changes on an old formula, in no uncertain terms.

However, the film exists primarily as a vehicle for its leading men, both of whom are rendered beautiful by Poon Hang-sang's flattering camera-work and Stephen Tsang's 'Matrix'-style costumes, co-designed by Stephanie Wong. As with so many HK movies of this type, Tse and Fung are given a couple of lacklustre romantic interests (Danielle Graham and Rain Li), but Yip focuses primarily on the intense relationship between the film's male protagonists, and their mutual affection is invested with a fair degree of homoerotic pathos. Sam Lee and industry veteran Law Kar-ying are featured in supporting roles, while Yip himself cameos as a doctor.

(Cantonese dialogue)

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
High-concept horror has its faults and virtues, 29 April 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Dolby Digital

Survivors of a virus which turns infected victims into murderous zombie-like creatures struggle to stay alive amidst the chaos.

High-concept horror from TRAINSPOTTING director Danny Boyle and novelist-cum-screenwriter Alex Garland (THE BEACH), produced on a modest budget and filmed with digital video cameras (transferred to 35mm for theatrical exhibition). Cillian Murphy is the hapless hero, compelled to join forces with a motley band of survivors (including Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson and Noah Huntley) who run afoul of an Army encampment run by well-meaning - but deluded - military officer Christopher Eccleston, whose rash behavior unleashes a fresh wave of horror. Comparisons with the work of George A. Romero are inevitable, though the film's impact is blunted by rapid editing which curtails the violence and renders some of the action scenes incomprehensible in places. However, Boyle uses edgy visuals to keep the audience off-guard at all times, and the narrative builds to a satisfying conclusion. The opening sequence, in which Murphy stumbles through deserted London streets, is truly haunting.

7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Flimsy stuff, frantic but unfunny, 12 March 2005

"45 Minutes from Hollywood"

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Sound format: Silent

(Black and white - Short film)

A naive country boy (Glenn Tryon) arrives in Hollywood and gets mixed up in robbery and chaos at a posh hotel.

The first pairing of Laurel and Hardy in a Hal Roach comedy short, though neither of them appears in the same scene (Stan's footage has faded badly over the years). Top-billed Tryon does his best with the flimsy scenario, which substitutes frantic farce for genuine wit, as Our Hero is mistaken for a robber dressed in drag (yep, it's THAT kinda movie!) and chased hither and yon by house detective Ollie. The comedy is fast-paced and beautifully timed though not especially memorable, and the film survives as little more than a record of L&H's earliest pairing. Theda Bara and the Hal Roach Bathing Beauties make brief cameo appearances. Directed by Fred Guiol.

4 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Lesser effort from maestro Argento, 8 March 2005

FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET (Quattro Mosche di Velluto Grigio)

Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Techniscope)

Sound format: Mono

A rock drummer (Michael Brandon) is terrorized by a masked stranger who possesses incriminating photographs of an incident in which Brandon accidentally killed a man. Blackmail and murder ensue...

A step up from the convoluted machinations of THE CAT O'NINE TAILS (1970), FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET is little more than a dress rehearsal for the visual flourishes that would distinguish director Dario Argento's later work. The restless camera and flashy editing techniques which lift "Flies" out of its genre rut are mere indicators of the chaotic splendor to come, though here it's largely wasted on a flimsy narrative stretched almost to breaking point. Though reportedly unhappy with Brandon's casting (a role offered to any number of disparate actors, including Tony Musante, Terence Stamp, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Michael York and James Taylor!), Argento draws an effective performance from his leading man as the innocent protagonist caught up in events beyond his control, as a masked figure emerges from the shadows to eliminate anyone who stumbles on his/her identity. The resolution is ripe with Freudian excess, and concludes with a spectacular demise for the psychopathic villain, using state-of-the-art camera-work in typical Argento fashion.

As in his first two films, Argento includes a variety of eccentric supporting characters, often to distracting comic effect (eg. a running gag with Brandon's postman, culminating in what amounts to a criminal assault - played for laughs!), and while the horror set-pieces are often vividly realized - most notably, the scene in which Brandon's blackmailing maid (Marisa Fabbri) finds herself trapped in a lonely park with the killer, a sequence which refers backward to a similar scenario in Jacques Tourneur's THE LEOPARD MAN (1943) and forward to John Saxon's final sequence in Argento's TENEBRAE (1982) - the pace is labored and dull, especially during expository dialogue scenes.

Mimsy Farmer makes a fair impression as Brandon's nervous wife, while popular Italian character actor Bud Spencer (Carlo Pedersoli) plays Brandon's closest friend, a bad-tempered fisherman who helps him solve the unfolding mystery. Jean-Pierre Marielle camps it up as a gay private detective with a poor track record of catching criminals, a role which borders on caricature and ends ignobly (in a public lavatory, no less!). All in all, a minor entry in the director's filmography, elevated to mythic status by legal problems which have prevented its appearance on home video, and while the film exercises a gamut of stylistic concerns (Argento followed it with an unlikely detour into historical comedy, FIVE DAYS OF MILAN, before cutting loose with his giallo masterpiece DEEP RED), it amounts to little more than a footnote in horror history.

(English version)

A Call to Remember (1997) (TV)
5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Acting showcase for strong cast, 3 February 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Sound format: Stereo

1967: After rebuilding their lives in America, two Jewish holocaust survivors (Blythe Danner and Joe Mantegna) are forced to confront their dark past when fate plays a cruel trick...

Unusual drama from TV specialist Jack Bender (KILLING MR. GRIFFIN, "The David Cassidy Story", etc.) in which unhappy history has a tragic bearing on the present (in this case 1967, at a time when America had become embroiled in a war no less dangerous than the one in which Danner and Mantegna suffered their worst indignities). Danner takes center stage as the strong mother laid low by an appalling twist of fate, while teenage son David Lascher (TV's "Sabrina the Teenage Witch") represents the viewpoint of a generation untouched by their parents' experiences in occupied Europe. Mantegna is dignified in a crucial supporting role, and there's an early appearance by Kevin Zegers (TRANSAMERICA) as the younger sibling slowly waking to the full horror of Nazi war crimes.

12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
OK vehicle for Stan 'n' Ollie - and Peter Cushing!..., 8 February 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.37:1

Sound format: Mono

(Black and white)

Arriving in Oxford to improve their education, Stan and Ollie fall victim to a number of practical jokes by their fellow students, until a knock on the head transforms Stan into a brilliant scholar!

Originally released in two separate versions - a 42 minute print for the US market, and a 63 minute European edition - this patchwork parody of A YANK AT OXFORD (1938) arrived at the tail-end of a long collaboration between Laurel and Hardy and producer Hal Roach, which ended in 1940 following the production of SAPS AT SEA. The longer version of "Chump" includes an unrelated opening reel derived from a scenario in L&H's silent short FROM SOUP TO NUTS (1928), and while this material is only tenuously related to subsequent plot developments, there's still much to admire in the various set-pieces, including L&H as 'maid' and butler at a swank dinner party (Stan is told to serve the salad undressed!...), the famous maze sequence, and a show-stealing turn from Stan as alter ego 'Lord Paddington', an Oxford champion who excels at sports, addresses Ollie as 'Fatty', and is asked to advise Einstein on his theory of relativity! The movie is also notable for providing Peter Cushing with one of his earliest roles, alongside L&H stalwart Charlie Hall as a rabble-rousing student. Surprisingly, James Finlayson - another L&H regular - goes uncredited, despite playing a prominent role in the opening reel. Directed by comedy specialist Alfred Goulding, and co-written by silent star Harry Langdon.

After Jimmy (1996) (TV)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Sad little drama plays fair with audience expectations, 25 January 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Sound format: Mono

A middle-class family is devastated when the eldest son (Peter Facinelli) commits suicide for no apparent reason.

Sad little TV drama, an acting showcase for Meredith Baxter as the hard-working mom whose life is turned upside down by her son's unexpected death. Struggling to keep her family together in the midst of tragedy (husband Bruce Davison is a basket case, and the remaining children - Ryan Slater and Mae Whitman - are too young to grasp the enormity of the situation), she fails to grieve properly, leading to all manner of emotional complications. Director Glenn Jordan - an old hand at this sort of thing - makes the most of Judith Fein's routine script (co-written with Cynthia Saunders), which provides no conclusive explanation for the inexplicable sadness that drives Facinelli to desperate measures; the suicide sequence itself is a heartbreaker. See also Piers Haggard's SURVIVING (1985), which explores similar territory with greater dramatic success.

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