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Nelle pieghe della carne (1970)
Truly Awful Giallo Movie That Doesn't Deserve It's Popular Reputation
I'll keep this review short, having just wasted the best part of £15 on this "accomplished Giallo" movie.
Quite simply, the film stinks! This is no more a Giallo, than any of Alfred Hitchcock's films are! IN THE FOLDS OF THE FLESH has been routinely acclaimed and labelled as being a fascinating and innovative mystery drama, in the Gialli-vein. I can assure you, it is not. The premise of the convoluted and inane plot, follows a semi-incestuous family, who may or may not be killing people who may or may not be attempting to blackmail them all. Oh, and one other member of the family may be mentally-challenged/confused! If you love true Gialli, from the likes of Argento, Bava, Fulci, then simply ignore this film, if you are tempted to purchase or rent it. The acting is mediocre at best. The dubbing is reasonable, but clearly little effort's been put into making it fit with any of the cast or their characters' lip-movements. The direction is shoddy, and the photography is full of slap-dash edits/cuts and flashy zoom in's/out's that do the film no justice whatsoever, except to make it "groovy".
Don't be fooled by the text on the back of the disc, that promises lots of seedy and controversial moments. This film is very tame. The decapitations are hammy, and unbelievably fake, that even Herschell G Lewis and Ed Wood, would turn up their noses at them. The incest, is vaguely provocative and contentious, but it goes nowhere fast. And there's almost no gore, no mystery, no tension, nothing of interest to keep you viewing.
This is just a badly made film, made by a bad director, with a cast that really doesn't care or have a clue about the film. Although the 2008 "Severin" Region 1 DVD release is bare-bones, it's still not worth buying. Yes, the film is uncut and uncensored, but to be honest, anyone over the age of 15 is likely to have seen much more appalling, violent or contentious material in your average action-movie. (This makes THE DARK KNIGHT look like DIE HARD in terms of violent or adult material!) The print is relatively nice looking, but there are a couple of moments, when the screen goes black for a second, where the original 35mm print is clearly damaged or faulty. Other negative damage is also noticeable, at the very start of the movie, and through most reel-change points. The end of the movie has about 60 seconds of blank footage remaining, where other credits could be inserted for foreign-language prints. Sadly, on a DVD, this is bad quality control, and "Severin" should be more careful in future for this error.
The only extra, is a whacky trailer, which does the film no favours, but it won't exactly deter you either.
The cod-Freudian psychology is worthless, and whoever made this film, must have taken substantial amounts of LSD, because it's clearly a film that will be enjoyed more by viewers under-the-influence of alternative substances, than anyone who sits through this stone-cold-sober as I did. No amount of talent can save this movie, only because the movie has no clue about what it's trying to be, where it's gone or where it's going. It's an incoherent mess! Bizarre doesn't even come close to how whacked-out this film is.
Ultimately, no one is going to be able to improve this film, so a bare-bones disc is probably all we should be expecting, But to release it as a full-price title, is very cheeky. Only buy this film if you absolutely have to own every Giallo movie ever made! Otherwise, bypass it and look for something with more intelligence, whit and sophistication. There are plenty of worthy titles and directors out there. This, though, is not one of them!
Indiana Jones And The Abysmal Sequel
Oh my God! What a shocking and utterly awful sequel this movie is! I had reasonable expectations from the preview screening I went too last night, at my local cinema, but boy, was I disappointed.
Firstly, there's little coherent plot. Yes, I know Indy has to return the Crystal Skull to its final resting place, but for 124 minutes, this does not maketh a movie.
Secondly, whilst the film has an interesting start, it soon falters, and goes rapidly downhill (in more ways than one, I might add) about 20-minutes in. This should be a great movie: it's got Indy back on the big screen, but with Marcus Brody (actor Denholm Elliot) and Jones, Senior (Sean Connery) out of the picture, there's few characters to care enough about, and with such a sorry excuse for a plot, all that is left is a series of extended action scenes, loosely strung together, that are neither overly exciting, nor particularly well-executed.
Which brings me onto the bug-bear that is CGI! The Indiana Jones series has never relied upon nor needed CGI effects. Okay, granted, that technology wasn't available to Spielberg and Co at the time, of the original Trilogy, so why use it now? Most of the CGI effects simply do not work. They look fake, simply because they are fake. Gone are the extraordinarily out-of-this-world animated effects ala the finale of "Raiders...". No longer are stunt crew needed, because everything and everyone can now be modified inside a computer. And therein lies one of the films issues: just because CGI can be used, doesn't mean it should be used! The scenes involving the deadly Red Ants; the death-by-rocket-engine of some Russian soldiers, and the discovery of the actual Skull's mystical powers at the start of the movie, are all executed by CGI, and they look hideous! It's not that the effects are bad, because they aren't. However, they don't fit in, alongside the historical nature of the Indiana Jones series. The blend is akin to oil and water. It simply doesn't work.
As far as the acting goes, Ford is competent, but his age and vocal abilities are no longer what they need to be, which is a shame, because I can't think of anyone else who could (or should) ever take the role over. Cate Blanchett as the villain, is reasonable, but never really makes her character evil enough to warrant our caring whether she kills Indy or not. As for John Hurt and Ray Winstone, two of the greatest British actors of recent years, are criminally wasted, in roles that neither suit nor are worth filling by their talent. Hurt's is the worst of all. At times, he is merely there as a token gesture, and in all honesty, the role could have been taken on by a hundred other actors, even no-name ones.
With regards to Shia LaBeouf, he is shockingly inept, devoid of any characterisation, and is simply a joke in this film. And a poor one, at that. One of the worst acting roles I've ever seen, with no redeeming features whatsoever. If he is to be a future big screen star, he needs to start learning how to act. Simply going through the motions, with as many facial expressions as a Botoxed-corpse, will not get you far.
And now, we come to the great Marion Ravenwood, aka actress Karen Allen. What happened to the old Marion?! Her feistyness seems to have been diluted, and all we get here, is a slightly angry woman. I can't say too much, as I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but her return is not a cause for celebration. Her interaction with LaBeouf's character, is not convincing on an emotional level, and is ultimately wasted in the film, because she is underused.
Lastly, I have to express my utter disappointment, at what should be a good movie. it soon becomes apparent, that the film is going nowhere fast, and it will dawn on all of you, that what you are seeing on screen is simply unbelievable! The stunts and action scenes are drawn out, to the point that they are simply by-the-numbers. As for stretching credibility, this film does that a lot. And I mean A LOT! The die-hard fans may be able to forgive Spielberg's lacklustre script and direction, but even by fantastical adventure movie standards, this movie pushes too far the realms of plausibility, so that it is nothing more than an expensive and overlong joke. If you can make it through to the stunning "revelation" about the origins and necessity of the Crystal Skull without your jaw dropping to the floor, then you really have no sense of cinematic decency! Simply put, this is a very bad Indiana Jones film - probably the worst of the series. It's an inept Spielberg movie, and may harm his future career. Even as a standalone action film, it's dire. This is not worth wasting your time on at a cinema. Wait for a DVD release instead.
Spectacularly awful.... in every way imaginable. How can someone so good at directing, fail so miserably on one of the most beloved franchises in cinema history? Do not even bother with Indy V, please!
Parumu no ki (2002)
I bought this DVD purely on the spur of the moment, having not heard anything about it. Having sat down to watch it, it's certainly an intriguing and surreal film, which is worth a viewing, if you fancy something out of the ordinary.
The story, is essentially a fantastical retelling of the Pinocchio fable. A boy robot is desperate to become human, but has to join a group of aliens, humans and other robots to rescue the soul of the robot boy's mother, whilst trying to outwit a second band of aliens who are prepared to do anything to stop him from his goal.
This is not your usual type of anime. In fact, it's almost pseudo-anime: the vast majority of artwork is undertaken by a Korean animation team, and is quite dissimilar to regular anime art. There are still characters with large, friendly eyes, but the backgrounds aren't as detailed as in some recent works like "Akira", "Ghost In The Shell" and "Perfect Blue". Having said that, the film is well animated, and the use of CGI is limited but credible, rather than overpowering.
But, with that all said and done, this is a movie that is aimed at people with a good attention span, and an audience willing to give the film the time it needs to breathe. The story is leisurely-paced for sure, but if you let it lead you down its path, you should grow to like it.
As you watch the film, you will notice many nods to other works and artists, including "Akira", Rin Taro, "Metropolis" (the anime), Osamu Tezuka and many, many more. Don't let this put you off, because whilst this could be seen as Nakamura being unoriginal, the combination of recognisable works actually helps the film, rather than hinders it.
The UK DVD release from ADV Films is superb, with both an English-dubbed and English-subtitled version, both in 2.00:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. Occasionally, the subtitles can go a little too fast, or get a tad confusing, but on the whole, it is a great effort. If you are willing to devote the time to this film, and don't come expecting lots of big action set-pieces, then you may be pleasurably surprised.
One word of caution though: although predominantly a film suitable for children, there are some scenes of bloody violence that may not be appropriate, or deemed a little too dark and mature in tone for them to cope with.
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
A film that goes completely off the scale!
Sometimes you come across a film, that goes so completely off the scale, that you can't imagine how on earth it came into existence. This, is just such a film. Described as "The most powerful film ever made.", and "Awe inspiring", "The Passion Of The Christ" is probably one of the most desperately terrible movies I've ever seen. Nothing can prepare you for quite how unbelievably powerless, futile, desperate and tragic this movie is. Everything about it is bad. Firstly, there is absolutely no story whatsoever. More to the point, there is no point to the story! Jesus is forced to be punished for being the Messiah. He's tortured. He's crucified. That's it! Period!
Bearing in mind, that I viewed this film way after all the controversy, I can't really see what all the fuss was about. It's not powerful in any way, shape or form. There's no emotion in the movie. In fact, parts of this film are so unintentionally funny, that you could have sworn you were watching a badly portrayed rendition of a Christmas Pageant, performed by kindergarten children. The script is devoid of everything: from intelligence and tenderness, to profundity and wisdom. Not once do you hear anything of any value. Even some of Jesus' famous quotes are ruined, and churned up into bog-standard Hollywood cliché. One of the best (worst?) is during the crucifixion itself. Jesus screams out, to his Father: "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do!" I'm sorry, but that's just taking the Mickey.
The acting is devoid of everything. There's no characterisation. You can't root for anyone, because they're all so damn worthless, and even the bad guys, come across like naff-1930's villains in a bad Z-grade action film.
From someone of Mel Gibson's stature, I can't imagine how on earth this film got funded and produced, or why he was so keen to get the public to view this travesty. Not since Jerry Bruckheimer's latest flick, have I seen such utter BS arrive on the screen, greeted like it was the arrival of the Queen of Sheba herself.
For two whole, excruciating hours, we watch Jesus bleed. And bleed. And bleed. And bleed some more. Oh yes, and then he bleeds again! All the time, you're thinking to yourself: "I've got some cleaning I could be doing here, or there's those odd socks I need to pair-up again." You're doing everything except giving a damn about the film or its characters.
Jim Caviezel's performance is mediocre, at best. After a while, all the blood begins to look less like life oozing out of every pore, and more like someone's drizzled two gallons of Cadbury's chocolate over the poor buggers torso and head! Monica Belluci barely gets a look-in, and the script - which is performed completely in Aramaic, with English subtitles - is ruined, by containing more wood than your average timbermill.
If you're looking for a religious experience, don't bother with this waste of celluloid. Rent or purchase Scorsese's "The Last Temptation Of Christ" instead. Not only is it in English, it crams more into its 2 hours 40 minutes, than this does in the entire duration. Not only that, but it makes sense, is more contentious, and above all, actually enjoyable for a non-religious audience too. Oh, and there's a hell of a lot more plot to digest as well.
"The Passion Of The Christ" could well be the worst film I've ever paid to view! So much sewage, and yet so little to entertain. A disaster so gigantic, it makes the idea of injecting liquid nitrogen through your eyeballs, a fantastically fun and worthy way to pass time!
Chronic piece of shock cinema!
So numerous people walked out in Cannes. And, the film has courted controversy everywhere it has played. Such a shame then, that the man behind "Carne" and "Seul Contre Tous" has created the most chronically vacuous piece of cinema I've seen in a long time.
Yes, the film is controversial, but there are films already in existence much worse than this one.
I won't bother with the plot, as most of you will already know about it. The film is told in reverse, ala "Memento", but it's a depressing, vapid and totally butt-numbing movie, that you really couldn't care less.
The main problem, is not the scene of rape, or the man having his face bashed in with a fire-extinguisher. It's the fact that throughout the entire ordeal, you never care about any of the characters! Not once, do you feel sympathy or empathy with them! As such, the nine-minute rape of Monica Belluci's character "Alex", is neither titillating, erotic or even painful to watch. It's just dull and exhausting. At no point do you think "Is this what a rape might look like in real-life? Oh god, that's awful!". You actually think: "Poor Monica Belluci having to act out such garbage, for the sake of shocking the audience. Come on, get a move on, please!"
The scene of extreme violence in the nightclub, involving a man's face being beaten to a bloody pulp, is filmed in such dark and unviewable surroundings, that what little gore you do get to see, is practically no worse than in any Peter Jackson horror flick. The only horrors in the entire film, are the sound effects of a man's arm being broken, and his nose breaking under the fire-extinguisher.
Other than that, the acting is below par for all concerned. The story is pointless. The dialogue is banal, and the highlight is the ending piece of music - a piece of Beethoven, to be exact. For me, the most offensive thing about this film, is not the rape, but the unrepentant and blatantly outrageous homophobia. The entire 20 minute opening, is just full of inflammatory and offensive anti-gay language. As such, I can only think that Noe is doing to gays, what Tarantino does to blacks. Both Belluci and Cassel are wasted in this yawn-inducing film, and it's a shame that the two who appeared in the superb "Brotherhood Of The Wolf" (aka "Le Pacte Des Loups") have to meet again, in this septic-tank of a movie!
If anything, I'd rather the British Board Of Film Classification banned or censored this film, than the far more intelligent, controversial and thought-provoking film "Baise-Moi". Sadly, it has not been the case. Don't bother with this movie, as it's all to do with hype! Watch Noe's other works instead! If you see this film, make sure you don't mind wasting 95 minutes of your life!
The Rats (2002)
Superbly creepy horror flick!
This film has only just come out to rent (December 2002), here in the UK, and I am so glad I rented it. Normally, most certificate 12 horror films are usually awful, but this may well be the only exception to the rule.
Despite only having two well-known stars, in Vincent Spano and Madchen Amick, the film crafts an amazingly gripping and shocking atmosphere - something that is rare for TV movies - that will scare the pants off of you.
The best part is the sheer intensity of the rats, which are surprisingly made up of CGI and animatronic effects. Although looking at the film, they actually appear incredibly realistic, to the point that you really feel for the two leads when they are under attack. The rats are really malevolent, and will freak you out in a big way, especially when they bare their teeth, and start to attack the humans.
What is a superbly creepy horror flick, was only let down by the fact that it wasn't filmed in widescreen, but that is a very minor problem. I would highly recommend this film, as it delivers some excellent scares, and a good standard of acting, not normally found in TV films. The standout moments, are the ending, and the rat attack in the swimming pool, near the start of the film.
Thoroughly nasty, with some neat gore effects, and will do for rats, what "Jaws" did for sharks, and "Arachnophobia" did for spiders! Brilliant! Definitely one of the best horror films in a while! A sleeper hit worth the rental fee!
Birthday Girl (2001)
A total waste of time and effort!
This film's trailer interested me enough to warrant renting the DVD. However, the resulting movie is absolutely dire! Admittedly, this is not the worst film ever made, or the worst film this year, but it came damn close!
The main issue is the film not knowing what it wants to be: comedy, adult drama, thriller, teen-porn? The story is interesting, as it deals with the pitfalls of mail-order brides, but the film is a mess. What starts out as a mildly interesting "comedy" (a word I use in the loosest possible terms), then goes totally in reverse, and degenerates into a very dark and distasteful misogynistic thriller. Nicole Kidman should know better, and Ben Chaplin is wasted! As are Matthieu Kassovitz and Vincent Cassel, whom I can only presume did this for the money.
This is a bad film in pretty much every single aspect. It's not funny, it's almost so sexist that you could almost forgive Benny Hill for everything he did, and the dramatic elements are just downright nasty. A film to be avoided, unless you absolutely have to see Kidman or Chaplin in every one of their films!
28 Days Later... (2002)
Good, but flawed!
"28 Days Later" is an Ebola-virus type thriller, not too dissimilar to the UK TV mini-series "CHIMERA". Set in a post-apocalyptic, semi-futuristic time, we follow two survivors as they travel through London, to locate other people who may still be virus-free.
The film is good, but flawed. The first third of the film is exceptional, without a doubt: the sheer terror and brutality of what happens when Man tries playing at God! It's graphic, uncompromising, and not-at-all for the squeamish or sensitive! If you think a horror movie won't make you jump, be prepared! The final third, is also very good. However, the middle third, and the "ending" are pretty terrible.
The main problems, are down to the lack of empathy and feelings we have when the hero's meet-up with a gang of army officers, led by Brit-actor Christopher Eccleston. The men are essentially parodies of all the worst aspects of masculinity: the propensity for violence; the need to see women only as sexual objects; the laddishness. Yet, we don't really care if they make it out alive or not. Eccleston's performance is okay, but not his best, which is a real shame. His upper-class accent doesn't fit with the "Squaddie" character he portrays. A shame, especially when he is Manchester born and bred, and the Army squad are camped in Manchester.
As for the "ending", it really negates the film as a whole, and I suspect that 20th Century Fox may have demanded or forced the creators of this movie to tack it on, despite their protests. Even if that isn't the case, the ending ruins everything you've just watched in the preceeding two hours.
Ultimately, the virus isn't explained enough. We're told it was created, it exists, and has now escaped, but little else. As such, the nature of the way it can/cannot infect others, is left for audiences to accept unquestioningly.
As a horror film, it's good. As a British horror film, it's a real shocker. But as a complete movie, it's let down by the saggy middle part. Some trimming of this section, would have made a really tight, and raw movie. Maybe, reducing the running time to 100 minutes, perhaps. Whilst by no means a long film, as it stands, some of you may well come-out of the auditorium, feeling a little frustrated at how the film pans out. A good attempt, but not the "finest British horror film ever made".
Le pacte des loups (2001)
Another classic French drama!
This is the kind of superb drama that only the French can do. Along the likes of "La Reine Margot", "Cyrano De Bergerac" and "The Crimson Rivers", there is now "Brotherhood Of The Wolf".
All I can say, is that the intelligently written historical drama, is a wonderful blend of history, myth, fantasy and horror. Good acting, beautiful scenery, and a plot that never goes where you expect it.
I would highly recommend this movie, but avoid the English dubbed version, which is possibly one of the worst ever committed to a foreign-language film!
And, if like me, you loved the haunting End Credits song, it's called "Once" by Felicia Sorenson! Truly sublime!
Beware of this film.
For some reason, this film's reviewers always fall into three categories: those who hated the film, and vilify it completely; those who liked it, or understood its message, and those who hated the film, vilified it, and then went on to vilify those who liked it, stating that we are somehow sick in the head. Well, I am certainly not sick in the head. Nor am I somehow pro-rape!
This film is shocking, twisted, nihilistic, brutal, uncompromising, and brilliant. Yes, it's grainy, and the acting is only adequate at best, but for sheer rawness, it can't be bettered. The plot is well-known, so I won't repeat it here. Despite the very, very explicit content, I genuinely believed that the film said something, both about sexualised violence as entertainment, and as s critique on French society.
If you want to be titilated, or turned-on, then this is NOT the film for you. Nor is it a film for the shockable. Even those of you with strong stomachs, may still find some of what you see, very bleak and distressing. Despite this, I think that that is exactly what makes the film so good. If the violence and sex weren't depicted so unrestrained and graphically, then this would be no different to any number of cheap, Hollywood, direct-to-video pot-boilers. As such, it would be repugnant and very offensive to women. But it isn't. This is a film that will make you think about who you are, why you are watching this film, and what you want out of life. It will also make intelligent men squirm with horror, and think about the way they treat women in society.
The two lead women do not discriminate against their victims. Male, female, young, or old: it doesn't matter to them. And these two women, are just every day, run-of-the-mill people. People you or I could cross paths with, at any time.
Like "Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer", the film is only rubbish to those who don't understand it, or don't want to understand it. It is only erotic to those who get turned-on by the slightest sight of nudity. It should only be banned, by those who don't approve of the way the women treat the men. But for viewers who look beyond the seedy, hardcore pornographic sequences, will see a shocking statement being made. Whether you choose to see that statement, is another matter.
Superb drama, and a real one-of-a-kind experience, that no real fan of intelligent, sophisticated foreign film should miss.