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1426 reviews in total 
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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Not so magnificent anymore..., 22 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The big name cast is no longer available - due presumably to a vastly reduced budget, which also means that nothing remains of the epic sweep of the original Magnificent Seven. Chris, the leader of the seven, has been transformed from a striking, bald-headed, vaguely Eurasian looking man clad in black into an entirely ordinary blonde man portrayed by George Kennedy, one of those solid, dependable second-strings who never let you down but never surprised you either.

Instead of protecting a village from bandits, the new Seven are hired to free a politician, the leader of a peasant rebel movement, from unjust incarceration so that he can take his place at the head of a rebellion. They're an ordinary bunch, this seven. Monte Markham, whom we first meet at the end of the rope, has nothing to do and goes into battle wearing a bright orange shirt, so we all know what's going to happen to him; James Whitmore's the older Seven, a master knifes-man who isn't quite as successful at farming; Joe Don Baker's a disabled gunman who feels emasculated by his useless arm; someone else, whose name I don't know, has a nasty cough with not a bottle of Covonia in sight.

The story is determinedly routine, capturing none of the excitement of the original movie, but it does boast some memorable images: a group of peasants dragged to their deaths by a troop of soldiers riding their horses in circles, another group hanging from telegraph-poles, yet more peasants buried up to their heads in the sand, awaiting a trampling from their captor's horses. It's all designed to put the audience firmly on the side of the mercenaries, but Michael Ansara, one of the few bright spots as a dastardly Mexican army officer, manages to do that all on his own.

0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Disaster, 22 February 2012

Dear, oh dear. It's not difficult to see where the estimated $70,000,000 budget was spent on this action dud - the spectacular stunts are quite impressive, but couldn't they have done with just one less big kaboom and spent the money on a decent storyline instead? Because, let's face it, no matter how good the stunts are, when they're simply trotted out every couple of minutes with only the bare bones of a story in between, things get very dull very quickly. Banderas sleep-walks through his role, as if he was already somehow trying to disassociate himself from the movie as it was being filmed. Another member of the cast - who out of a superhuman generosity of spirit I'll refrain from naming - has only a limited number of lines to deliver but seems unable to understand the context in which they are supposed to be spoken so that his voice rises when it should fall, etc., and it becomes quite excruciating to listen to.

Changing Friends..., 21 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Big Lift takes place during the Berlin Airlift of the late 1940s, and was filmed on the streets of Berlin, which were still largely rubble-strewn wastelands even five years after the end of the war. The film is heavily propagandistic, calling on the American people to cut the Germans a little slack now the war was over. Messages about the Russkies are a little mixed: while they're obviously responsible for the blockade, the Russian spy in the movie is actually a highly likable chap who prevents one of our heroes from doing something he would undoubtedly later regret.

The story was actually more accessible than I expected, given that it was made when the events it depicted were still fresh in the general public's mind, and even manages to inject some decent humour throughout. The scene in which the aforementioned Russian spy cheerfully discloses to Monty Clift's US airman how the Russian spy system works is a minor classic. Paul Stewart plays Clift's friend, and between them the two airmen present opposite ends of the spectrum in relation to the allies attitudes towards the defeated German people. In the end, they kind of have a meeting of minds somewhere in the middle.

Priest (2011)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Comic Book Vampires, 21 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie adaptation of some popular graphic novel (which are comic books for grown-ups who would otherwise feel foolish buying comic books at their time of life) wasn't quite as bad as I thought it was going to be. That's not to say it's particularly good, because its not. The story creates this future in which the world is ruled by a kind of neo-Catholic religious order who have successfully colonised a breed of beast-like vampires, but then goes nowhere with it. Instead, the film chooses to be a semi-remake of The Searchers for much of the time before suddenly becoming distracted by Spaghetti Western sensibilities.

Bettany plays the titular priest, a bit of a maverick who defies his boss (Christopher Plummer - not God) to venture into the wasteland to find his niece after his brother and wife are killed by the aforementioned vampires, who are planning to recommence their war on humans. It turns out that the vampires are now led by one of his former comrades - whom he failed to save from a vampire attack - who was subsequently turned into a human-vampire hybrid by a vampire queen, which enables him to move around in daylight but also has him believing he's The Man With No Name.

There's plenty of action, lots of explosions and a few hundred vampires - all CGI, of course, and the film has a stylish look about it. But it lacks originality and fails to develop its characters beyond their comic book - sorry, Graphic Novel - roots. Its short running time serves as both a warning that it contains little of any value and as a relief that it will all soon be over.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Stealing the Stolen..., 21 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Renee Zellweger, as far removed from her Bridget Jones persona as it is possible to get, plays Starlene, the girlfriend of small-time robber Watty Watts (Gil Bellows). Watts never takes a loaded gun into a robbery, but his druggy partner Billy Mack isn't quite so careful and ends up shooting dead his girlfriend when she recognises him during a hold-up. Forced to go on the run after wounding an increasingly flaky Billy Mack, Watty and Starlene encounter a host of quirky characters during their flight.

It's sort of ironic, the way other reviewers accuse C. M. Talkington, the writer and director of this admittedly over-derivative lovers-on-the-run sub-genre, of ripping off Tarantino, given that the self-aggrandising Mr. T. has hardly had one original idea in his whole career. Tarantino's gift is injecting his own distinctive style into other people's scenarios and passing off the result as an homage. It's quite incredible to think this has been working for him for twenty years now with hardly any dent to his reputation…

Anyway, Love and a .45 is clearly inspired by the kind of thing Tarantino does, but it at least has its own unique style and an identity separate from QT's oeuvre. Despite all the violence, the film has a likability about it that is unexpected and possesses a manic energy that enables the audience to overlook some character inconsistencies. It's a cartoon-ish kind of world, inhabited by larger-than-life characters who thoughtlessly use violence as a handy device to get them what they need, and as such it's a world that couldn't survive for long outside the confines of a Hollywood movie, but while we're in it we are at least taken on an enjoyable ride and supplied with a vicarious thrill while remaining safely in front of our screens.

Fled (1996)
Bubble Gum Movie, 20 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As other reviewers have noted, the first half of this film is effectively a semi-remake of The Defiant Ones (without the racial overtones) as we see chained together computer hacker Stephen Baldwin and undercover cop Larry Fishburne flee from a chain gang. Their bid for freedom is complicated by the fact that Baldwin and his partner hacked into the computer system of a Mafia mobster who is now desperate to get his hands on the disk they have containing the information. The odd couple are aided in their escape by an accommodating Salma Hayek.

Fled is highly derivative of other action movies, but also has the kind of momentum that prevents you from disliking it too much. Just when you're starting to dwell on the pedestrian dialogue, the clichéd situation or the plot holes, another action set piece comes along and makes you forget them all for a while. The characters are also constantly referencing other movies throughout - a clue perhaps that the screenwriter Preston A. Whitmore has allowed himself to be influenced by too many of the films he has seen and liked while penning this opus.

Best viewed as bubble-gum for the brain when you're tired of thinking and just want to sit back and sink a couple of beers in front of the TV.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Cryptic., 20 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Liam Cunningham and David Wilmot, both of whom appear in director John Michael McDonagh's The Guard, appear in this cryptic little 11-minute short. Cunningham plays a sombre man haunted by ghosts whose presence in his home ultimately bring about his demise. It's short on plot and heavy on atmosphere, but it's a little impenetrable to be honest. Cunningham, who has one of those faces that seem vaguely familiar but elusively difficult to attach to anything you've seen, gives a decent performance, and there are some interesting minor characters, one of which is a local police officer who might well be a blueprint for The Guard's Gerry Boyle.

The Guard (2011)
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
I'm Irish. Sure, racism is part of my culture., 20 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Brendan Gleeson is Gerry Boyle, an ageing Irish cop. He's an unconventional Irish cop though, and is the embodiment of the conflicting capacity for good and bad in all of us in the way he thinks nothing of stealing drugs from the pockets of a dead joy-rider and playing sex games with hookers on his day off, while also appearing to be the only incorruptible cop on his West Irish force. His gruff nature also disguises a sharp intelligence which gives him an advantage over those who think they are above him. One of these people is Don Cheadle's FBI agent, a by-the-numbers suit who is shocked by Boyle's disrespect during his introductory briefing ('I'm Irish,' says Boyle in his defence. 'Sure, racism is part of my culture.')

The film appears to be a kind of requiem for a dying breed of tough, uncompromising men who yield to no-one, and subsequently earn the grudging respect of those around them irrespective of how badly they misbehave when they're not fighting the bad guys. In this film, the bad guys are a trio of philosophical drug smugglers, each of whom is fully aware of the character deficiencies that make them what they are. This kind of frank self-knowledge is something they share with Boyle, but the fact that they choose to embrace those deficiencies for their own gain sets them apart from the policeman.

Boyle is ultimately a likable character and Gleeson, with a curt and weary indifference that invites our empathy while side-stepping the mistakes that would have made his character a subject of pity, inhabits the role perfectly. Cheadle is the straight man, and gives an adequate performance that could really have been filled by anybody (although, of course, the producers have to keep one eye on the American market). Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong and David Wilmot also give memorable performances as the three drug smugglers who stray onto Boyle's patch.

Dad didn't think it through..., 17 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Jody Foster plays Rynn, a precocious, bright thirteen-year-old whose terminally ill father fixed it for her to live alone after his death without the knowledge of the authorities. It's a pretty flimsy premise, to be honest, and one which, in the real world would probably work for maybe half-a-week before everything started to unravel. It is this flaw at the core of the story that prevents this movie from being better than it could have been.

Rynn is aided in her deception by Mario (Scott Jacoby), another outsider, semi-crippled by polio who has withdrawn into a world of magic. Mario has a kindly uncle (songwriter Mort Shuman) whose concerns for Rynn keeps him coming around. Unfortunately for Rynn, she's also sparked the curiosity of her bitchy landlady (Alexis Smith) and borderline paedophile son (a creepy Martin Sheen).

It's Foster's performance that keeps you watching and helps the audience to overlook some of the more ludicrous aspects of the storyline (such as Mario fooling his uncle into believing he is actually Rynn's father). On the cusp of adulthood, the camera appears to invite admiration of her incipient sexuality (the fluffy blonde hair, blue eyes, lithe figure, the brief nude scene) while simultaneously condemning Sheen's character for doing the same. Whether this is a genuine attempt on the part of the director to turn our focus inwards while watching, or simply a product of a more cynical motivation remains open to question.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
For fans of trashy SF only., 17 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's always interesting to see some long-ago screenwriter's vision of their future which is now in our past. Invariably, they over-estimate the ways in which technology will transform our lives while simultaneously failing to consider the fact that computers may no longer comprise of massive plain grey panels fitted with a couple of randomly flashing lights. Queen of Blood is no different. It imagines a 1990 in which everyone dresses the same but no-one has a mobile communications device. In fact, the film is so cheaply made that it consists of only a handful of plain sets. Much of the impressive special effects are stolen uncredited from a couple of big budget Soviet movies - which is a bit akin to a hack writer like James Patterson inserting a few lengthy excerpts from Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment into one of his books when you think about it. The story is fairly ordinary, with a group of astronauts rescuing the eponymous queen from a crashed spaceship on Mars only to discover that she's a green-skinned blood-sucking vamp who looks a bit like Glenn Close. For such a cheap American-International movie, this boasts an impressive cast including John Saxon, Dennis Hopper and Basil Rathbone, approaching the end of his life and clearly on his uppers when it came to film roles. For fans of trashy sci-fi only.

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