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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Bigger doesn't mean better., 24 May 2015

I've been a big supporter of writer/director Tom Six and his taboo-busting Human Centipede films since the beginning: I rated the first film 8/10, and gave the jaw-droppingly twisted sequel 9/10. The only reason I didn't give Part Two full marks was because I believed that Six still had a few tricks up his sleeve and would probably surpass himself with his third film.

As it happens, I was wrong.

As far as the controversial content is concerned, the film delivers numerous scenes that live up to Six's notorious reputation, kicking off with some sexual abuse, before proceeding to serve up such sordid treats as the torture of a prisoner with pans of boiling water, a nauseating castration scene, the insertion of a gun barrel into a man's stoma, the consumption of human testicles and dried clitorises, some wound-rape and coma-rape, and, of course, the creation of not just the biggest human centipede yet, but also a human caterpillar, the surgical process for both depicted in graphic detail.

But while the film doesn't wimp out on the deviancy, it does suffer from two major problems that make it a very unsatisfying experience overall. The first is the prison setting, which is so implausible that it renders the whole movie utterly ridiculous. The first two films, while unlikely, were at least vaguely plausible: it was possible to believe that a raving lunatic might try to stitch a few folks ass-to-mouth out of curiosity, but the notion that the head of a large correctional facility could do the same, with the co-operation of his staff, is absurd in the extreme and seriously detracts from the film's overall effectiveness as a shocker. Even when viewed as a black comedy, it's still a dumb premise.

The second issue I have is with Dieter Laser (the actor who played Dr. Heiter in the first film): his performance as sadistic warden Bill Boss is hugely irritating, the guy drawing out every single syllable at the top of his voice to the point where I would have liked to have seen HIS mouth sewn to someone's ass just to shut him up. Laurence Harvey (bug-eyed star of the second film) is also crap, but at least he's not quite as annoying. Both guys are out-acted by porn-star Bree Olson, who is also a whole lot easier on the eyes.

If the subtitle 'Final Sequence' is to be believed, this film sees an end to the Human Centipede series; it's a hugely disappointing way to wrap things up. Let's hope that Six's next film sees the director back on form: we need something to flush away any memories of this rather obnoxious mess.

Leone overdoes it., 23 May 2015

A nasty railroad magnate hires some bad, bad men—led by evil gunslinger Frank (Henry Fonda)—to ensure that nothing gets in the way of business. Mysterious stranger Harmonica (Charles Bronson) and bandit Cheyenne (Jason Robards) do their best to stop the baddies in their tracks. Beautiful widow Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale) gives the men something else to think about other than shooting each other.

There are those who consider Once Upon A Time In The West to be director Sergio Leone's magnum opus: with a magnificent cast, and contributions from some of Italian cinema's greatest names (the script is by Leone, Dario Argento and Bernardo Bertolucci, the cinematography is by Tonino Delli Colli, and the score is, of course, by Ennio Morricone), the film certainly has an excellent pedigree.

However, while it does boast solid performances and is often very impressive to look at (the widescreen cinematography is terrific), the film suffers from a severe case of over-indulgence, Leone taking his trademark themes and visual touches to the nth degree, the exaggerated style ultimately getting in the way of the storytelling. The director's signature moves are so excessive and drawn out that Once Upon A Time In The West proves hard to get through without dozing off at least once.

Watch if you want to waste several minutes of your life as Jack Elam tries to blow a fly off his face, or to hear Charles Bronson repeatedly playing the same few notes on his harmonica, but give it a miss if you're looking for something even remotely as cool as any of Leone's Eastwood movies.

Found (2012/III)
I'm so glad I found this film., 20 May 2015

Having recently watched and thoroughly enjoyed retro-slasher Headless (2015), I immediately sought out Found (2012), where Headless began life as a 'film-within-a-film'. Like Headless, Found revolves around a psychotic killer twisted by his upbringing, but the two films couldn't be more different in style: where Headless is an all out exercise in depravity and splatter, with as much in-your-face deviancy and gore as possible, Found takes a more thoughtful and believable approach to its horror, although it proves no less shocking in the end. If anything, the fact that it all takes place in a very real world makes it even more disturbing than Headless's cartoonish excess.

The film starts with young horror movie fan Marty (Gavin Brown) declaring "My brother keeps a human head in his closet": as opening gambits go, it's a corker, immediately setting the tone—one of brooding menace, slow-burn tension, and macabre horror within a seemingly normal suburban setting. We watch as Marty sneaks into his brother Steve's bedroom to look at a series of severed heads; the boy studies them with a mixture of fear and fascination, too young to fully comprehend the gravity of the situation, unsure of what course of action to take. Marty tells no-one of his discovery—that his brother is a serial killer—frightened of what might happen if Steve (Ethan Philbeck) ever found out.

Of course, Steve does eventually realise that his brother knows his ghastly secret, and what follows is a gradual descent into hell, culminating in a final bloody image guaranteed to sear itself into the mind and remain there for quite some time. The film also resonated with me both as a parent and a horror fan: Steve's psychosis is the result of failed parenting—his father's bigotry, his mother's apathy, and an over exposure to violent imagery at a young age. It's made me think long and hard about how I speak to my kids, how much attention I pay to what they are doing, and what level of on-screen violence I expose them to. One thing's for sure, they're not watching August Underground's Mordum for at least a few more years.

8.5/10, rounded up to 9 for IMDb.

Headless (2015/I)
Extremely gory throwback slasher fun., 18 May 2015

Headless began life as a fictional film within a film: an obscure late-70s slasher featured in 2012 indie horror Found. Now, as the result of a successful crowd funding campaign, it has been turned into a movie in its own right—a gloriously demented, retro-styled gore-fest that holds nothing back in its depiction of a mentally deranged and extremely vicious, mask-wearing, machete-wielding killer at work.

Director Arthur Cullipher starts as he means to go on: before the opening credits are over, he's already shown us a disgustingly gruesome decapitation, his antagonist (Shane Beasley) proceeding to scoop out and eat an eyeball, before boning the severed head in the neck—the killer's preferred modus-operandi. And so it continues, with numerous nubile young women meeting the same grisly fate, the wholesale slaughter interspersed by freaky hallucinatory scenes and disturbing memories from the killer's childhood, when he was caged like an animal by his mother (Emily Solt McGee) and tormented by his sister (Olivia Arnold/Jessica Schroeder).

It is through one of these flashbacks that we see how the sadistic sister made the mistake of unlocking the door to her sibling's prison; unsurprisingly, the lad seizes this opportunity to rid himself of both his tormentors, and, accompanied by his imaginary friend, a small boy with a skull-head, sets out on a long and bloody path of murder, one that ultimately leads to a roller rink where he targets the employees, including pretty waitress Jess Hardy (Kelsey Carlisle). Will Jess's decapitated and defiled head be added to The Killer's collection, or can she turn the tables on the sicko?

From the outset, Headless does well to capture the atmosphere of a genuine 70s slasher, with a gritty lo-fi look, great attention to period detail, and authentic sounding music. The film also delivers plenty of impressive old-school practical effects, although the level of depravity on display is far greater than anything I have ever seen in a genuine slasher from the purported era—even the most extreme examples. Not that I'm complaining: it's the mean-spirited violence and general deviancy that makes this such a blast…

How could any self-respecting gore-hound/sleaze-fan not have a good time with the following: horror hottie Haley Jay Madison getting a machete up the holiest of holies, before having her breast sliced off, and losing both of her legs to the madman; The Killer using a pretty hitch-hiker's head to get his rocks off on a pile of dismembered corpses; the twisted sister quenching her caged brother's thirst by urinating on him; the mother feeding her son a freshly severed rabbit's head; Jess's waster of a boyfriend having his junk cut off; The Killer doing his special routine on his own mother (including boffing her bonce!); and roller skate-wearing waitress Betsy (Ellie Church) doing the dirty with her sleazy boss before being chased topless across the roller rink by the killer. Trust me when I say that it's ALL done in the worst possible taste.

My only complaint with the film—and it's a small one—is that the whole ritual of decapitation, eye removal, and head-humping eventually becomes a little too repetitive. I know it's The Killer's signature (and a unmistakable one at that), but I'd liked to have seen him switch things up a bit. After all, variety is the spice of life—even for a criminally insane mass murderer with a creepy skull-headed boy for a best friend.

Teen Wolf (1985)
With great power comes great fur., 17 May 2015

In Teen Wolf, Michael J. Fox unexpectedly changes from an average teenager into a suave werewolf; having already made the transformation from TV star to movie star a month earlier with Back To The Future, the young actor puts in an effortlessly charismatic turn that goes a long way to making this otherwise corny and predictable teen fantasy a reasonable amount of fun.

Fox plays dweebish high-school basketball player Scott, such a loser that he can't even see that his extremely cute longtime friend Boof (Susan Ursitti) has the serious hots for him; instead, he pines after slutty head-cheerleader Pamela (Lorie Griffin), which brings him to blows with her boyfriend Mick, his rival on the basketball court.

Scott's luck changes, however, when he discovers that he is a werewolf: as his alter ego, Teen Wolf, he is confident, talented and popular, scoring the hoops, scoring with the ladies, and scorching up the dance-floor. But for Scott to be truly happy, he must be content with who he really is under the fur—and so when his basketball team makes the championship finals, Scott leads the way while Teen Wolf takes a back seat, much to the surprise of his loyal fans.

Teen Wolf could definitely have benefited from a few more solid laughs, but with an engaging central performance from Fox, likable supporting characters, lots of 80s atmosphere, and a general good-natured approach, the film has a charm about it that is almost impossible not to like. It's a feel-good movie—nothing more, nothing less—and as such, it does its job well.

A serviceable sequel., 16 May 2015

A red-eye flight from Los Angeles is instructed to make an emergency landing at the nearest airport after a sudden outbreak of a deadly rabies-like virus that causes uncontrollable rage and violence. On finding the door to the terminal locked, the crew and passengers make their way to the baggage area, where they discover that all exits have been barred: the airport is under quarantine. Now they must fight for survival as the infected hunt them down and the authorities try to contain the virus using any measures necessary.

The bad news is that Quarantine 2 does absolutely nothing new within the infected/zombie genre: the plot is unexceptional, as are the majority of the scares, most of which rely on loud noises to achieve their desired effect (rather predictably, the infected shriek like banshees when they attack!).

The good news is that, although you won't be hard-pressed to guess how things will play out, there is still quite a lot of fun to be had with this by-the-numbers sequel, which delivers at least one genuinely effective 'crap your pants' moment, a few solid performances, and a modicum of gore (although the most squeamish scene involves someone injecting themselves in the eye).

The REALLY good news is that, for the most part, Q2 does away with the tired found-footage/hand-held video style of the first film, meaning that you can enjoy this film without the annoyance of too much wobbly-cam.

6 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Welcome back, Max., 14 May 2015

It's been thirty years since I left the cinema feeling more than a little let down by the kiddie friendly, Hollywood-ised action of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome; could this long-awaited reboot from the series' original creator George Miller make up for three decades of disappointment? You betcha!

One certainly can't accuse Miller of playing it safe with his fourth Mad Max outing: Fury Road is an exercise in absolute excess from start to finish. The outrageous plot opens with Max (Tom Hardy, taking over the iconic role from Mad Mel) being captured by a clan of desert warriors ruled over by ruthless tyrant Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, Toecutter from the original Mad Max), who keeps order in his citadel by controlling its supply of water (and breast milk!). The helpless Max is used as a 'blood bank' by sickly war-boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult), before finding himself strapped to the front of Nux's vehicle, part of the huge convoy that takes off in pursuit after rebellious one-armed rig-driver Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who has betrayed Joe by making off with several of his wives, having promised to escort them to a promised land of green.

After the chase enters a massive electrical sandstorm, during which Nux crashes his car, Max finds himself free once again; teaming up with Furiosa, he helps to drive the rig to safety, but on reaching their destination, Max and Furiosa realise that their only hope for survival is to turn back and face the enemy head on. Up to this point, the action had been impressive, but what follows is absolutely breath-taking—a mind-boggling mêlée of sheer madness and mayhem, with more mashed metal and massive explosions than all three previous Mad Max films put together, times ten. Quite how Miller managed to capture some of the scenes of car-nage without killing anyone in the process is hard to imagine, such is the incredible level of vehicular destruction on display.

The previous Mad Max movies—even Thunderdome—excelled when it came to production design, and Fury Road is the most imaginative yet, with its wonderful citadel full of man-powered machinery, and, of course, its cavalcade of absurd post-apocalyptic vehicles (love, love, love the The Cars That Ate Paris-inspired buggies covered in metal spikes). The attention to detail here is superb, with far too much to take in in just one viewing (I've only just finished watching it and I already want to see it again). The insane characters also go a long way to making this film the hugely entertaining experience that it is: Slit, a war-boy with a Joker-style smile; Rictus Erectus, the dim musclebound son of Immortan Joe; The Doof Warrior, a guitar playing gimp stood astride a bank of loudspeakers on wheels; and a strange deformed dwarf, another of Joe's sons, who watches the world through a telescope from the safety of the citadel.

Finally, the 3D: usually, I can take or leave the gimmick of a third dimension, but here it really added to my enjoyment, Miller milking the process for all its worth. I suggest watching Fury Road in 3D if only for the shot of the steering wheel flying into the foreground: I felt like I could reach out and catch it—a lasting souvenir from one of the most spectacular movies of the millennium so far.

We want Warwick!, 12 May 2015

I've yet to catch several of Warwick Davies' Leprechaun movies, but I imagine that they're not all that dissimilar to the ones that I have seen: light-hearted horrors with the diminutive star spouting cheesy one-liners as he offs his victims in creative ways.

Leprechaun: Origins, a reboot of the series without Davies in the lead role, does things differently, eschewing the tongue-in-cheek style in favour of straight-forward horror, with a more animalistic creature (played by wrestler Dylan Postl) that utters nothing but guttural growls as it tears apart its victims. With this vastly different approach, director Zach Lipovsky has managed to strip away all of the charm that made the earlier movies such fun, delivering a bland, unmemorable, mess of clichés and uninspired movie-making techniques guaranteed to bore longtime fans of the series and newcomers alike. Nice one, Zach!

Origins' predictable plot sees a group of dumb American backpackers visiting a remote Irish village where they run into trouble with the locals, who try to sacrifice them to the vicious leprechaun that has been terrorising the area. The majority of the script has the backpackers menaced by both the creature and the devious villagers, until only one remains (the prettiest girl, if you hadn't already guessed). The direction is as unimaginative as the writing, Lipovsky employing annoying wobbly camera-work, irritating rapid editing, and gimmicky Predator-style thermal vision, while dark cinematography and deliberately out-of-focus shots help to disguise the shoddy nature of the film's generic monster.

The disappointing gore includes a split-second axe to the face and a poorly lit spine-ripping, while gratuitous T&A is limited to hot final girl Sophie (Stephanie Bennett) briefly stripping to her undies—none of which adequately compensates for the sheer tedium of the storytelling and total lack of fresh ideas.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
More of the same from the director of Leprechaun., 10 May 2015

Director Mark Jones attempts to replicate the success of his 1993 light-hearted horror hit Leprechaun with yet another tongue-in-cheek effort featuring an ugly, ancient, diminutive, wise-cracking fairytale villain; instead of 'I need me gold?', it's 'I want the baby John', wicked goblin Rumplestiltskin being more concerned with collecting the soul of an infant than in gathering up the shiny yellow stuff.

Jones opens his film in the 1400s, somewhere in Europe, with Rumplestiltskin (Max Grodénchik) being pursued by angry villagers who are a little upset about his baby-stealing ways. As punishment, the pointy-eared chap is turned into a stone figurine and thrown into the sea. Cut to the present, and the hideous statuette is now on sale in a dusty old antiques shop in Los Angeles, where it catches the eye of recently bereaved cop's wife Shelley (Kim Johnston Ulrich); clearly doing alright on her widow's pension, Shelley buys the ugly effigy, but comes to regret her decision after she makes a wish whilst holding her new purchase: Rumplestiltskin, revived by Shelley's tears, makes her dream come true (granting her a brief reunion with her dead husband), but wants her baby son John in payment for services rendered.

Rumplestilitskin is a reasonably entertaining slice of mid-90s trash: the script is suitably silly, the pacing reasonably fast, the gore good 'n' cheesy, and the dialogue delightfully daft ("F**keth me!"), with dumb but fun highlights including Rumpel going all Easy Rider on a Harley, and a desert buggy versus truck highway chase scene between Rumpel and unlikely hero Max (Tommy Blaze) that ends with a surprisingly decent crash/explosion. Essentially, it's a Leprechaun movie in all but name, and should prove passable entertainment for any fan of Warwick Davies' long-running franchise.

That said, if I were forced to choose between Leprechaun and Rumplestiltskin, I'd have to go with the cheeky Oirish chappie's first outing, partly because Davies makes for a more memorable monster than Grodénchik, but mostly because Davies' co-star was a young Jennifer Aniston. Kim Johnston Ulrich is pretty, but she's no Aniston (although, unlike the Friends star, she does provide some welcome nudity).

Lovelace (2013)
Close, but no Alsatians., 8 May 2015

Amanda Seyfried stars in this biopic of infamous porn-star Linda Lovelace, who became a household name in the seventies after displaying a remarkable talent for fellatio in hardcore skin-flick Deep Throat. The first half of Lovelace charts Linda's pre-porn years, her marriage to titty-bar owner Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), the making of Deep Throat and her consequent rise to porn super-stardom, with Linda apparently lapping up the limelight and happily promoting her work; the second half reveals the supposed pain behind the porn, retelling matters according to Lovelace's best-seller Ordeal, in which she claims to have entered the adult industry against her will, having been forced to do so at gunpoint by her sleaze-bag husband.

Linda Lovelace's assertion that she performed in Deep Throat under duress has long been the subject of conjecture, with feminist 'Women Against Porn' movement attempting to prove her case via polygraph test (which she apparently passed), and several of Linda's co-workers damning her stories by stating that she was more than happy in her line of work. The makers of Lovelace play it safe by opting for the politically correct route, adhering to Lovelace's version of events, taking a few liberties with the facts (Linda didn't leave the adult industry immediately after Deep Throat, as is suggested here), whilst happily glossing over the most unsavoury aspects of her past (there's absolutely no mention of the 8mm stag-loops in which she performed with a four-legged friend).

This cautious approach is not all that surprising—this is, after all, a Hollywood movie and a sympathetic stance makes the subject matter more palatable for mainstream audiences—but I do feel that a more balanced and honest approach would have resulted in a more satisfying experience overall.

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