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B Movie Heaven
Q (a.k.a. The Winged Serpent here in the UK) is a note perfect B movie, perhaps the blueprint that all low budget creature-features should work from. The film, from writer/ director Larry Cohen, is the best horror/ comedy/ exploitation hybrid this side of the '70's (pic was made in 1982). Everything works a treat. The film has many things going for it, not least an intelligent screenplay that is hysterically funny in parts. The cast are superb: in particular Moriarty's nervous hood and Carradine's no-nonsense, sarcastic detective. The film zips along at a cracking pace, like Lewis Teague's equally brilliant 'Alligator' (1980), not a frame of the film is wasted. Witty, gory, well-paced and populated by believable characters, Q works on almost every level. As unpretentious B Movies go, this one is a masterclass on how to get it right. Highly recomended.
Excellent film adaptation
I had high expectation for Daredevil. I hoped it would be a good film, and more than that I wanted it to be a good film. I was disappointed by Spider-Man, a film that felt childish and insincere. I hoped Daredevil would be gutsier, darker and more heart felt. The film surpassed all expectation. This is a comic book film for adults, probably the finest since 'The Crow'. Daredevil is terrific entertainment, but it is also a film of some depth (it is unafraid of emotion, without ever over doing it). The film's main plus is in it's straight faced delivery. This is sombre, haunting material; all pain and sadness. The action is lean and well handled, fantastic without becoming far-fetched (for the most part, anyhow). The cast are credible and deliver great performances. Affleck is subtle and convincing as Murdoch/ DD. This is one of his finest performances, he has created a real character here, as opposed to relying on his film star persona. Much of the film's success must go to Affleck. Garner is beautiful and suitably athletic. Farrell chews the scenery with a colourful, growling relish. David Keith makes the most of his screen time as Jack 'The Devil' Murdoch, it's good to see him back on the big screen. Credit to director Johnson for creating a realistic, downbeat film that will somehow pass for popcorn entertainment. This is brilliant big-screen fare; Marvel should be proud.
Vanilla Sky (2001)
Pretentious, unbelievably self-indulgent film that crawls at a snail's pace whilst going absolutely nowhere. A depressing, glossy, superficial waste of everybody's time and energy. Any film that wastes the talent of Jason Lee, Timothy Spall, Noah Taylor and Kurt Russell should be condemned to life in the bargain basket. Avoid.
Sorcerer is a unique, brutal, brilliant film burdened underneath a terrible, wholly unappropriate title. Watching this film, it is not only easy to see why the film was both a huge financial and commercial disaster, it is downright obvious. This is the most un-american/ hollywood/ commercial film backed by a major studio I have ever seen. It is a tough, gruelling 126 minutes that goes nowhere fast, yet holds you firm in its tight grip and beats you senseless throughout. I was exhausted when the film finally arrived at it's rather downbeat ending. The multi-national cast is faultless. Scheider is magnificent. This is an exceptionally demanding, difficult role and he hits it head on, creating an anti-hero who is very, very real: desperate, frightened and desructable. Taking this role, at the height of his fame, was either very brave or very stupid. I'm going with brave. His performance here is a million miles away from his work on Jaws and Jaws 2, yet equally compelling. The photography is in a league of it's own (I only wish the DVD came with an original 2:35:1 print, assuming there is one, as the current disc is presented in a 4:3 full frame), and the music from Tangerine Dream complements the vision perfectly. This is a brilliant piece of film making from the most daring decade of cinema, made by one of cinema's true unpredictable's. Tense, dazzling, dark and fresh, this is an underated film that deserves to be re-evaluated.
The Velocity of Gary (1998)
Moving and involving
Dan Ireland's film The Velocity of Gary* (*Not his real name)is both moving and involving, painting a honest depiction of unconventional love in an almost abstract, fantastical way. I tracked this film down (not an easy task here in the UK) as a loyal follower of the great Thomas Jane and was not disappointed when I finally got to watch it. Jane plays Gary, a hustler in New York who falls under the loving wing of Valentino, an adult film actor played by Vincent D' Onofrio. Both have an immediate attraction to one another (sexual? paternal, in Valentino's case?) but things are complicated by the presence of Valentino's shrieking girlfriend Mary Carmen (Salma Hayek). A brutal yet genuinely loving emotional triangle is formed, then tragedy strikes as Valentino is diagnosed with AIDS. Adapted by James Still from his own one man play, this is raw, passionate stuff, and not to everyone's taste. But to those who want to taste something a little different, I highly recommend the picture. Two factors keep the interest throughout: 1) Jane. His performance is honest, brave and utterly believable. He has to be the best working young actor in American film at this point in time. 2) The films original score by Peitor Angell is as moving as its source material. The films theme (though it only appears during the opening credits and during a festival some time later) is a beautiful piece of film composition. This is an intimate little flick which, whilst never exactly 'feel-good', highlights the gift of life and making the most of it.
Strong, atmostpheric film
I was one of the few people to see this film upon its (very short) UK theatrical release. I had followed the films troubled history and numerous title changes with great interest, being a loyal admirer of Stallone and this type of thriller. D-Tox (which I think is a great name for a movie, I was relieved to see the back of the alternative title- 'Eye See You') is far from perfect and has many flaws, but it is a damn sight better than a) it's two year hold up would suggest and b) the majority of films that recieve a wide theatrical release. It is tense, atmospheric, grim and has a look and feel all of its own. The first section of the film is a patchwork of other cop films, but once the film shifts location to the remote outpost clinic, things begin to get very nasty. The tone of the film is dark and claustrophobic, it reminded me very much of Alien 3 in both production design and feel. There is a strong sense of isolation and foreboding throughout the picture. The film has the feel of a dirty, unpolished thriller, yet it is marked by a series of graphic, disturbing death scenes that have the feel of an early seventies, low budget horror picture. To call it a slasher film would be a little glib, but it certainly has that set up (an adult slasher film?). The cast is strong: Robert Patrick, Tom Berenger, Polly Walker, Geoffrey Wright and Kris Kristofferson all provide solid contributions at various points but it is Stallone who holds the picture (and proceedings) together. How much longer will this talented actor be maligned by lazy hacks, his often solid body of work overlooked in favour of easy ridicule? Stallone is ageing, make no mistake. Dare I say it, here he looks almost old. But with age comes experience, and recently Stallone has begun to deliver more controlled, layered performances. Indeed, I think his best work is yet to come, hopefully over the next couple of years. In D-Tox he gives a mournful, stoic performance that matches the tone of the material he is working from. D-Tox is a good, gripping thriller that recieved bad press from people who have in all probability never even seen it. NOTE: The UK DVD contains deleted scenes. I only mention this as the final cut of the film has many loose ends; many characters fates are left undisclosed. Admirers of the film may want to check them out.
Tepid, Baby, Oh so very Tepid
I had read nothing but good reviews for this cable film. Digging deeper, I learned it was the first in a series of monster movies from a new production house, collectively known as 'Creature Features'. So far, so good. Throw into the mix effects guru Stan Winston (helmer of the brilliant 'Pumpkinhead' ) and the company's aim to pay affectionate homage to the great monster movies of the 1950's, and I was getting very excited. Oh dear. She-Creature was dire. I can't recall being so disappointed by a film in a long, long time. The film makers have confused a film being dark and foreboding with a film being dull and badly paced. This is a wet, crushingly boring film with little to recomend it. It has put me off watching the rest of the series in one single blow. The creature itself is the biggest disappointment, Winston's shoddiest since Leviathan (1989). This is a boring piece of film, make no mistake. The makers seem to have forgotten that the Sci-Fright films of the 50's were fun as well as atmospheric. This is a humourless affair all round, with no hero or likeable characters. The final insult is the DVD on which it comes: dreadful, 2 minute featurette, an inept trailer and one of the dullest commentary's I have ever heard. Avoid.
The greatest movie never released...
This is nothing short of brilliant. Mike Abbott plays Rex, top drug lord and business partner of another highly dangerous drug baron, Bill (played by Mark Watson). When Rex double crosses Bill during a deal at an airport, Bill vows revenge. Meanwhile, across town, Jack Barlow finds his family and friends being murdered one by one after his younger brother witnesses a raid on a liquor store. Bill offers Jack help, knowing that Rex is behind the carnage. At first Jack refuses, but as the corpses begin to pile up, he strikes a reluctant deal with Bill. Both men vow to bring Rex's empire down, although both for very different reasons...
Joseph Lai's production is a masterpiece of late 80's ninja fodder. The cast are nothing short of dynamic. Mike Abbott, as the charasmatic Rex, steals the show. Mean, tough yet handsome and seductive in his blue boiler suit and conditioned hair, Rex is the ultimate screen villian. This is a complex character, we as the audience know he is the villain of the piece and yet we can't help but cheer for him, such is the skill of Abbott as a performer. Mark Watson, too, portrays a man on the edge of good and evil, struggling to make the right decision. With his Sean Penn looks and his subtle line delivery, he is a perfect anti-hero. Ninja Knight Brothers of Blood also has a better than average screenplay for this sort of thing. When Rex tells his henchman Milo that "I've gotta protect my reputation" you believe him. Some of the scenes between Jack Barlow and his family are truly touching, also. But this is an action film, and on that front it delivers with a series of high concept set pieces. These include: a high-speed car chase with Jack Barlow clinging to a car for life, a punch out in a crowded market, a beach fight and a highly charged finale between Rex and Bill. The choreography is above-par and the voice work is spot on. Available on video in the UK on the Cine Ninja lable (sometimes under the title 'Platoon Warriors') this is rousing, engrossing stuff for the serious action fan. Enjoy.
Pure Cinematic Gold
Them! is, quite simply, dynamite. It is the finest of the 50's monster movies, and one of the finest sci-fi films ever. The films biggest asset is the realism. Director Douglas has somehow managed to make a film about giant, killer ants believable. Everything about this movie scores high. James Whitmore is terrific in the lead role, well supported by some great character acting. Priceless and very, VERY frightening.
Jaws 2 (1978)
Terrific Stand Alone Picture
Jaws 2 has many detractors. Usually it is hardcore fans of the original, sulking that their milestone picture has been ruined by a number of inferior sequels. Well, I am the hardest, biggest and most loyal of hardcore Jaws followers. And yes, Joe Alves' 3-D was bad, and Joseph Sargent's 1987 installment (The Revenge) is perhaps one of the worst films ever committed to celluloid. But Jaws 2, made in 1978, is a damn good film. Make that a great film. Ignored by most people who have never really watched it, Jeannot Schwartz's film is technically superb and has moments of real tension. This is a lot darker than Spielberg's original and for my money a little more frightening. The shark itself is not as realistic than 'Bruce', but still has more visual kick than a 1000 CGI shots could accomplish. The film has a dour, downbeat feel to it (almost depressing) and yes, the ending is a little hard to swallow. But as both a sequel and a stand alone film, Jaws 2 more than delivers. Scheider is back, the key to the whole film, and is magnificent. Brody is now more confident, more stoic, and still THE greatest everyman hero in cinema. The rest of the cast are terrific (Hamilton, Gary, Mascolo and a youthful Keith Gordon in particular), Williams delivers a more complex musical score and Schwartz does a great job of giving the film a fresh feel. Filming a sequel to any film is difficult. Filming a sequel to the greatest motion pictury ever is impossible. Shwartz pulls it off, and has never had any real credit for doing so. Jaws 2 is a satisfying thriller, and the second greatest shark movie ever.