Reviews

13 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
The Serpent (1973)
8/10
Enjoyable espionage thriller with a great international cast
23 November 2005
Finally I was able to see the thriller The Serpent on DVD under a new but poor title NIGHT TRAIN FROM MOSCOW (why this has been changed I don't know).

Any film that has Yul Brynner, Henry Fonda & Dirk Bogarde has to be worth watching but this is rarely shown on TV so I was pleased to find the recent Pathfinder DVD release. The film is very much in the trend of your typical spy drama from the sixties (see The Spy who came in from the Cold and The Quiller Memorandum) despite being made in 1973.

Brynner is Vlassov a valuable KGB agent who defects on the condition he supplies the CIA with information regarding Double Agents operating in the West. Question: Is he telling the truth or is he himself another carefully placed spy? It's up to CIA head Henry Fonda with the help of British Intelligence Representative Dirk Bogarde to determine this.

Phillipe Noiret, Farley Granger, Robert Alda (father of Alan) and Virna Lisi provide the support in an intriguing thriller. Although some of the plot twists are predictable and there's a lengthy absence of the 3 main protagonists in the second act, the pace is just right as opposed to other Bond alternative spy dramas where slow pacing and no action result in boredom.

Surprising therefore that The Serpent isn't more widely known as it's a gem of a thriller with a good ending.
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HOOLIGANS is the best of this genre so far
10 March 2005
First of all there hasn't been a good film about English Football Hooliganism. Both ID in 1995 and last years FOOTBALL FACTORY either failed to convince or just went down the familiar exploitative road of glamorising the buzz and thrill of violence.

HOOLIGANS as the title suggests depicts what these aforementioned films centre upon with the added value of having a story and characters you care about. There's no avoiding the cliché's as the ranks of these organised gang members are portrayed as gangsters.

Similar to BBC's Gary Oldman drama THE FIRM broadcast in 1986 it also show the characters as normal members of society, family men with respectable jobs. FOOTBALL FACTORY took the extreme and unconvincing scenario that these weekend animals are florist's during the week which might be amusing but the subject matter of organised territorial football hooliganism needs to be given a serious look at.

Fortunately HOOLIGANS portrays this more realistically, sure there's the stereo types in designer clothes (The Chavs) as we call them now where loyalty, respect, revenge, dignity and pride are what they live for, not the enjoyment of the actual sport. This simply acts as the excuse to fight in a traditional gang warfare environment. The prospect of West Ham's cup tie with Millwall brings joy to the faces of both sets of fans.

Casting Elijah Wood is a bold move, he looks like a Choirboy but this adds to the films main storyline of innocence corrupted. The acting is better than average, despite letting his cockney accent slip on occasions, Gang leader Charlie Hunnam shows a genuine mix of anger, aggression and compassion which holds the film together.

This won't win awards but it's refreshing to see a film finally tackling the subject matter that unfortunately has been a shameful factor of Britain's attitude towards football as we are constantly under threat of being disqualified from International tournaments due to the bad behaviour of soccer hooligans.
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A Triumph for 74 year old Director and Star......CLINT EASTWOOD
25 January 2005
Take a sports drama and litter it with every cliché in the book then let the great Clint Eastwood surprise the audience as he manages to deliver a highly satisfying, original, thought provoking film. Despite containing some of the most realistic fight sequences I've seen, this is not a film about boxing, it's about loneliness, redemption and achievement, something that brings together three characters played by Eastwood, Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman.

Eastwood displays his emotional side something he touched upon in UNFORGIVEN, IN THE LINE OF FIRE & BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, but here he excels in one of the most moving performance's of his career, he directs with pace and flair but never over indulges with style. He also composed the beautiful score, a talent many movie fans don't know about(he also wrote the theme alongside regular collaborator Lennie Niehaus for UNFORGIVEN).

Freeman is excellent (as usual) in a role not too dissimilar to that in SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and let's not forget the lovely MILLION DOLLAR BABY herself Hilary Swank, she gained an Oscar five years ago for BOYS DON'T CRY but never achieved star status...hopefully this movie will change that.

This is as good as mainstream Hollywood can get and Legend Eastwood doesn't need big budgets to please a Cinema audience and with his 75th birthday in May approaching he shows no signs of stopping.
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Kingsley Outstanding!....Again
15 March 2004
What starts as a misunderstanding develops into a drama, a crisis and eventually a tragedy. What a compelling drama this is, raising the issues of who is in the right and who is in the wrong. There is a moral in the tale (don't neglect opening your mail) but of course you have to see the movie to know why.

Jennifer Connelly is as good here as she was in Requiem for a Dream and A Beautiful Mind, Ben Kingsley performs on par with his unforgettable performance in Sexy Beast and Iranian born actress Shohreh Aghdashloo is also extremely impressive as Kingsley's wife (well deserved Oscar nominations).

This may be a downbeat drama but it's mature and thought provoking keeping it's subject matter down to earth even when the circumstances become extreme.

I like films that move you enough so that you think about them days later, House of and and Fog does just that.
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25th Hour (2002)
Spike Lee's best movie to date
21 June 2003
Did you think you'd ever care about a drug dealer? Someone making money from someone else's unfortunate addiction. Well when you cast Edward Norton in powerful movie like The 25th Hour anything can happen. Possibly the best actor of his generation he takes on the role superbly and is well supported from a more than reliable cast. Spike Lee manages to focus on character depth and the meaning of friendship and trust without hammering home too many racial or social issues that he tends to over indulge in previous films. It's the first film to show Ground Zero set during the aftermath of 9/11 and the impact of New Yorkers and the city they love or disgusted with(see the scene where Norton verbally and abusively addresses the hatred he has for every aspect of the big apple in front of the mirror). The anger he has is something we've all felt when you know that you've made a mistake in life and you wanna take it out on the whole world.

THE 25TH HOUR is a lengthy movie but I could have watched it for another hour at least. It's extremely thought provoking and is one that you feel like watching again shortly after first seeing it. So far one of the best movies released in the UK of 2003.
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The Mechanic (1972)
Bronson doing what he does best
21 October 2002
The early seventies was a great period for Bronson. Having already reached fifty and a string of classics under his belt as a support player in the sixties, the seventies was his decade. His ice cool tough guy image and immaculate physique made up for his rugged leading man looks and put him more in line ahead of the Redfords and the Newman's for gritty urban thrillers. In Basic terms Bronson could play a ruthless good guy, he had played his fair share of Indians and Mexican Bandits, but never was he better cast than when he portrayed Arthur Bishop, professional hitman for the Mob, The Mechanic.

With great locations, exciting outbursts of action and a surprise twist, this is seventies action entertainment at it's best and it was the period where Director Michael Winner's collaboration with Bronson proved to be his best work to date. They went on to make another great urban crime thriller THE STONE KILLER and then DEATH WISH, Bronson's most famous movie.

It's a shame that both Bronson and Winner's films and reputations went down hill in the eighties but perhaps age went against the seventies icon, as for Winner he returned to Britain and went back to making dire comedies.

But the seventies saw Bronson in many roles that would categorise him as typecast but perhaps he knew his limitations and knew he was never gonna be a romantic lead. Although his late wife, Jill Ireland may have disagreed, she appeared alongside him several times over the space of twenties years, check out a movie entitled FROM NOON TIL THREE, a romantic western that people didn't want to see.

Audiences want to see Bronson as tough, cool, calculated and deadly that's why THE MECHANIC is the perfect vehicle for the screen legend.
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Early Reed, early Winner, British classic
1 October 2002
Whenever you question the quality of both Michael Winner and the late Oliver Reed's films in recent years don't judge them until you go back to the sixties where they both started out.

Here is a very low budget and rarely seen little movie that shows both the potential of both star and director.

Made two years before Michael Caine's ALFIE, THE SYSTEM takes a look at similar themes, having a good time while you're young and pulling birds. It is of course seen through the eyes of the male perspective as Ollie and pals Andrew Ray, John Alderton and David Hemmings go on a sexual rampage in a seaside town of Britain.

Winner helped launch the career of Oliver Reed and they worked together again several times throughout the sixties but this early piece of nostalgic British cinema is worth a look especially if you were a teenager in the early sixties.
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Blood Work (2002)
Eastwood playing Eastwood
30 September 2002
As a big fan of Eastwood I'm glad he can still put out a leading role performance in a reasonably decent thriller despite his age (72 this year). He looked suitably rugged 10 years ago in his Oscar winning western UNFORGIVEN and here in BLOOD WORK he looks no different, nevertheless his roles since that great Western have been rather typecast, playing the retired or on the verge of retiring tough cop, secret service agent, thief or even astronaut.

Perhaps in the hands of another actor these characters may have been varied but Eastwood is Eastwood, the legendary movie star who we love or quite frankly insist on being the same. He's always tough and charming and gets the threatening one liners that have dated back to the Dirty Harry days.

So in his latest film he's back on IN THE LINE OF FIRE territory as an ex cop with a heart condition who tortures himself into coming back out of retirement (well he's sort of a part time P.I.) unofficially to hunt down the killer of a woman who after her untimely death donates her heart to Eastwood. This of course he finds out through the victims sister who persuades the already tormented cop turned private eye to investigate.

Well Eastwood turns into Sherlock Holmes remarkably piecing together clues that his younger generation of police officers working his precinct are too incompetent to even concieve. This is the most interesting aspect of the film and it's what keeps you watching, as the mystery unfolds into a bit of a whodunnit while Eastwood's past inevitably comes back to haunt him.

BLOOD WORK remains an enjoyable but formula thriller with cliched characters and Eastwood is given little support despite turns from Jeff Daniels and a rather wasted Angelica Huston. It lacks the pace and tension that IN THE LINE OF FIRE gave us but at least it doesn't go down the embarrassing route of THE ROOKIE more like an average Eastwood thriller that can be filed next to ABSOLUTE POWER and TRUE CRIME.
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A pleasing seventies thriller featuring ageing legend Lancaster
21 February 2002
Warning: Spoilers
This is rarely on TV in the UK so I was pleased to catch it one late night as I've been wanting to see it for some time. Burt Lancaster plays an ex cop and an ex con, paroled after a jail sentence for shooting his wife's lover. Taking up a job as Nightwatchman at a University he's soon putting his homicide detective skills back in action after the murder of student, Catherine (Daisy Duke) Bach. Although there's some good outbursts of action and some romance, this is quite a slowly paced thriller that turns out to be an old fashioned whodunnit with a selections of characters to keep you guessing. The outcome without giving too much away involves a blackmail conspiracy where it seems the whole town is involved. Lancaster looks weary but he's likeable as a modern day Sherlock Holmes character with the usual determination of American screen detectives, "once a cop, always a cop" he's told by best pal and fellow ex cop Cameron Mitchell who despite being initially out of touch outsmarts everyone. I love seventies films and I think despite not necessarily being a classic this movie should have more recognition.
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The Greatest War Adventure of all time
18 July 2001
This is one of the most entertaining action packed war films ever made with a tremendous cast playing unique characters. I first saw this film when I was about 8 year old and thought it was the best thing I'd seen on TV.

Lee Marvin heads the cast as an unorthadox, short on discipline rebellious Major during World War II whose given a suicidal mission by a bunch of Generals headed by the excellent Ernest Borgnine. He must take 12 convicts train them and take them on a mission behind enemy lines to destroy a large chateau and kill a large number of important German officers who'll be partying there that night.

The films explosive climax is fantastic as you know inevitably that not everyone will survive the mission and by now you've sort of chosen who your favourite characters are. The build up and the training scenes are also brilliant as you discover the backgrounds behind these violent criminals.

It's Marvin's show but John Cassavettes is superb as Victor Franco, in fact with a supporting cast featuring Robert Ryan, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, George Kennedy and Clint Walker you know you're in for a great ride, nobody is wasted.

There's a lot of humour mixed with quite serious issues...you sometimes forget that this band of jokers are killers with only one chance to survive a mission they are hardly trained for.

This classic is on par with The Great Escape and Where Eagles Dare, Three inferior TV movies were made in the mid eighties which basically take the same idea from the original but they are obviously no match.

It's available on video and DVD and every home should have a copy. Flawless.
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A lost underrated Moore performance
16 July 2001
Bed and Breakfast was made back in 1989 but only got a limited release in 1992, I haven't seen it on video or DVD but I managed to catch it on an afternoon on British TV.

It's one of the only Roger Moore films I hadn't seen, so it was a joy to see him here in his first post Bond film (he seemed to semi-retire after A View to a Kill). He's always had a knack of looking ten years younger than what he really was so he's well cast as a healthy tanned charming English gent(but of course)who enters the lives of 3 generations of women, a widow, Talia Shire, her mother in law, Colleen Dewhurst and daughter, Nina Siemasko, when he's washed ashore mysteriously.

We know that he's in some sort of trouble as there's a rather badly staged scene where he's being beaten up and thrown overboard a yacht, but to the three women, he a breath of fresh air to their individually frustrated lives. Claiming he has Amnesia to avoid explaining his situation the women welcome him into their coastal guest house where he begins to recieve free board and food if he agrees to be the man about the house and fix up the place.

This is quite a gentle small scale picture with good performances and it proves that Moore has got genuine charm rather than depending on his ultra smooth or sleazy Bond style approach. This is not Oscar worthy stuff but this forgotten little gem should be given more recognition and Moore should be considered a better actor than he usually is.

The fault of this movie lies though with the lack of thrills, it is obviously a romantic tale, but we don't seem to discover what Moore's character is really up to and the ending seems a little half hearted..
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The Pledge (I) (2001)
This is a non Hollywood formula character study
25 June 2001
This is, in time going to be an example of one of those love or loathe films perhaps even reaching cult status. Despite an all star cast, a reputable Film Star/Director and initially a rather familiar plot, most mainstream seeking cinema-goers will be disappointed in the outcome. On the other hand it's an achievement to follow the Sean Penn/Jack Nicholson collaboration, The Crossing Guard, their previous effort, Penn proving himself as an effective filmmaker and Nicholson proving that he is an actor and not just a movie megastar.

It's the emotion, the loneliness, the obsession and the ever righteous attitude of Nicholson's character that drives the movie along at a slow pace yet managing to remain enthralling. Aaron Ekhart, Benecio Del Toro, Robin Wright Penn and Sam Shepherd add support alongside a slightly wasted list of cameo appearances including Vanessa Redgrave, Helen Mirren, Harry Dean Stanton and Mickey Rourke. Like Nicholson in the movie, as a viewer you seek satisfaction as he becomes more determined to find the truth and catch the culprit of a brutally murdered young girl, he always seems to be on the right track but you often question his intelligence...was this guy really a retired homicide detective?

Like many controversial thrillers the climax of the movie, which I won't go into will be talked about whenever the film comes up in conversation...are we satisfied? has justice been done?

This is a thought provoking film, beautifully shot despite it's grim subject matter but it's a safe bet that it won't break box office records, but staying clear of Hollywood's Good Guys and Bad Guys clichés this film does offer alternative originality.
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A great mix of tense drama and comedy
8 June 2001
This was the last film I saw with Anthony Quinn before his recent death, his performance is similar to that of his most famous role, Zorba the Greek, but not quite as good. He is often over the top playing the dirty town drunk finding himself elected Mayor but you gradually find yourself loving him as his character bounces off the excellently cast Hardy Kruger as the leader of a German platoon who settle in the small Italian town of Santa Vittoria during World War II. As the film centres upon the hiding of one million bottles of wine from the Germans there is great mix of tense drama and comedy with a reliable supporting cast including a very young Giancarlo Giannini, more recently seen as the Italian detective in Hannibal. Enjoyable Sunday afternoon entertainment.
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