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Doc says I'm better now, I'm free to roam in society again :-)
Me? Middle aged British punker who is heavily in love with anything punk related circa 1976 - 1982. Film fanatic who indulges in any genre of film but specialises in film-noir, westerns, war and big - bold - historical epics.
I like writing reviews, even having some published in British newspapers and I have received nice emails from people associated with films that I have reviewed. While my mantra here is quite simply lets be here to learn and share.
Stay Cool Peeps, See You On The Boards.
The Small Back Room (1949)
I must have a drink. Ask me to have a drink woman.
The Small Back Room (AKA: Hour of Glory) is directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, with both adapting the screenplay from the Nigel Balchin novel. It stars David Farrar, Kathleen Byron, Jack Hawkins, Leslie Banks and Michael Gough. Music is by Brian Easdale and cinematography by Christopher Challis.
As the Germans drop explosive booby-traps across coastline England, Sammy Rice (Farrar) will be tasked with learning the secret to disarming the deadly devices. But first he must beat his private battle with alcohol, his form of self medication due to the loss of one of his feet.
The Archers produce what is in essence a tale of redemption, it's a superbly mounted drama dripping with realism and infused with atmospheric black and white photography. It somewhat divided critics back on release, but that tended to be customary where Powell was concerned, who himself wasn't sure about the validity of this particular piece. Yet it finds Pressburger and himself on sure footings, returning to more grounded human dramatics, their willingness to explore the murky fallibility of mankind is a thing of bold and effective cinematic beauty.
The by-play between Farrar and Byron is sexually charged, but heart achingly poignant as well. The pic is at its best when these pair share scenes, the back drops to their troubled courting veering from vibrant (hope) to dour (despair), the latter always staged at Sammy's gloomy flat and the scene of a brilliantly filmed expressionistic nightmare that he suffers. Elsewhere various military types either stand tall or sit behind desks speaking in correct literary tones, their collective problem being that the pesky Germans have come up with a vile bomb tactic that needs addressing ASAP.
Can Sammy come through for not only the war effort, but also for his sanity? Watch and see, it's great film making across the board. 8/10
Carry on Spying (1964)
I expected you to be a man... or a woman.
The 9th in the Carry On series, and the last to be filmed in black and white, is one of the best. It finds the gang kind of biting the hand that feeds them, Pinewood. The home of James Bond was also the home of the Carry On mob, so with Peter Rogers, Gerald Thomas and Talbot Rothwell spying an opportunity to spoof 007, they did so, whilst also revelling in the chance for some film noir dalliances, notably The Third Man.
The cast is this time headed up by Kenneth Williams, Barbara Windsor (making her Carry On debut), Bernard Cribbins and Charles Hawtrey. They are four less than stellar operatives for British Intelligence tasked with retrieving a top secret formula that has been stolen by STENCH. During their mission they are helped by Carstairs (Jim Dale), and just who or what is the mysterious organisation known as SNOG? Are they friends or in league with the evil Dr. Crow?
Though dotted throughout with some written innuendo, "Spying" is still in touch with the more genial comedy that was evident in the early years - particularly the black and whites. This is good honest comedy, with visual exuberance and witty repartee the order of the day. Watching it now you find it holds up very well, sure it's a bit fruity and nutty, but a freshness exists here and it lets some damn fine actors loose to show their respective skills. It also looks terrific, the noir photography by Alan Hume sparkling.
A prime Carry On movie for those who prefer their Carry On's more knowingly jolly than the later bawdy entries. 9/10
Miss Congeniality (2000)
The last time I was this naked in public I was coming out of a uterus!
Miss Congeniality finds Sandra Bullock as FBI Agent Gracie Hart, who must go undercover in the Miss United States beauty pageant to prevent a psychopath from committing untold homicide.
The premise is simple, it's a Pygmalion/My Fair Lady scenario that transforms the rough and tough Gracie into a viable contestant for the pageant. Thus we have all the comedy that comes with her literally battling everyone, including her own opinions on pageants, as she is being asked to be something she doesn't believe is in her make up. The mystery of who the killer is who's on the loose is strong for a good portion of film, and even once it's known and drama takes centre stage, it's still hard to get the smile off of your face.
The jokes are plentiful, with Bullock finding chemistry with all of her co-stars. She's a very under valued comedy actress, and her ability to bond with an entire cast is marvellous to observe. Reference sexual tension with Benjamin Bratt, the jousting hostilities with Ernie Hudson, the way she bounces off of the other beautiful girls, and best of all the by-play with Michael Caine, who is playing a camp stylist and walks in to lift the laughter roof off the rafters in every scene he is in.
It doesn't push the boundaries of comedy, but it's thankfully a consistently funny piece of work, aided by a super cast on form who make a better comedy out of what the screenplay suggested it had any right to be. 7/10
Hollow Man (2000)
It's amazing what you can do... when you don't have to look at yourself in the mirror any more.
It was the film that convinced director Paul Verhoeven to leave Hollywood and take a break from film making. His reasoning being that any Hollywood director could have made Hollow Man, a big effects led movie that made a lot of cash at the box office. It's this that is the main problem with the picture, it lacks some of the director's bite and satirical savagery, even the souped up sex (natural or deviant) that often comes with his productions. Yet devoid of expectations of a Verhoeven masterpiece, and the crushing realisation that it basically wastes its potential and plays out as a haunted house stalk movie - it's a good energetic popcorner.
It quickly becomes obvious that we are entering special effects extravaganza, the opening credits are dynamite, sci-fi sexy, then the opening gambit sequence literally grabs us and a rodent by the throat. From here on in we are treated to grade "A" effects and some genius ways of exposing "the invisible" Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon) to us and the prey he soon comes to hunt. Unfortunately the whole cast performances are a much of a muchness, and playing a roll call of sci-fi stereotypes. All involved here have done much better work in their sleep, but they put the bums on theatre seats and ultimately this works as one of those movies designed to thrill and awe the senses - but not the brain. 6.5/10
The Last Days on Mars (2013)
Soporific Shocker in Shaky-Cam.
What is it with Mars based movies? It's a planet that has been in all our lives via press, geography, history and etc, yet when it comes to film it proves to be a subject too much too far for some film makers.
The makers here add a zombie slant to things, which in truth is just another excuse for a monsters on the loose plot. Only it's in shaky-cam this time, the hope obviously was to add realism to the preposterous story. On the page it clearly had potential to be a fun-packed thriller, the execution sadly not only wastes a grand cast list, but plays out as dull and introduces nothing remotely smart or interesting to the sci-fi and horror genres. 4/10
Oregon Passage (1957)
Black Eagle - Little Deer - Pounding Hearts.
Oregon Passage (AKA: Rio Bravo) is directed by Paul Landres and adapted to screenplay by Jack DeWitt from the novel written by Gordon D. Shirreffs. It stars John Ericson, Lola Albright, Toni Gerry, Edward Platt, Rachel Ames and H.M. Wynant. Music is by Paul Dunlap and CinemaScope photography is by Ellis Carter.
It's somewhat surprising that given the production value here that this is a little known Cavalry & Indians Oater. Of course the absence of "A" list male stars explains its rarity a touch, but still it deserves a look if not for the formulaic plotting, then for the production strengths.
Plot finds Ericson as Lt. Niles Ord in Oregon 1871, he's 1/16th Cherokee and has a grasp of the Indian situation! Holed up at the fort with a commanding officer who has a grudge (Platt), Ord and the rest of the soldiers operate in constant threat of attack from Black Eagle and his Shoshone warrior tribe. Meanwhile tricky matters of the heart produce internal war within the fort's boundaries.
Nothing for Western fans to get too excited about but it's a very well mounted picture. Platt is a Custer character just waiting to get comeuppance, his pigheadedness and repeated locking of horns with Ericson drives the story forward. Albright and Gerry are absolutely socko gorgeous, lit up in De Luxe colour and given written parts that may be familiar, but nonetheless are performed for good impact. It often gets draggy as it spends too much time inside the fort, the character interactions at times becoming extraneous, but action pops in from time to time and is competently staged and raises the pulses. The CinemaScope photography is most pleasing, Ellis Carter (The Incredible Shrinking Man) making use of the Deschutes National Forest locations. Dunlap's musical score is by the numbers for such a Western movie, though his various incorporation's of "Red River Valley" strike an impression, whilst the design of the fort - all sharpened timber - is also striking. Worth a viewing for the Oater of mind. 6/10
Port of New York (1949)
Port in a Storm.
Port of New York is directed by Laszlo Benedek and written by Eugene Ling. It stars Scott Brady, Richard Rober, Yul Brynner and K.T. Stevens. Music is by Sol Kaplan and cinematography by George Diskant.
Two federal agents work to crack a gang of murderous drug dealers who are operating out of the Port of New York.
The strengths here are obvious, Diskant's photography provides atmospheric dread, the location shooting of New York is superb, and the smoothly villainous portrayal by Brynner is on the money and sets him on the path to the "A" list. Pic is kinda semi-documentary in style, complete with narration of course, and it's often violent enough to keep one hooked to the end.
Minor film noir but not without merits. 6/10
There's a monster on the loose again!
Based on the novel "Slimer" written by Harry Adam Knight (AKA: John Brosnan), Proteus is just another low rent monsters on the loose picture. Plot has a bunch of drug smugglers initially thankful of finding an oil rig out at sea after their boat was wrecked by incompetence. But soon enough they realise they are not alone and floating out on a life raft may have been the better option.
So it's all nutty science gone wrong as a bunch of poor actors, headed by Craig Fairbrass with big muscles and a mullet, get involved in an Alien/The Thing amalgamation. Director Bob Keen ensures things are kept dark to hide the cheapness of it all, though some icky scenes keep the pic away from total damnation. But come the arrival of Proteus in its true form, you may find yourself laughing instead of being afraid. 3/10
Carry on Regardless (1961)
In safe hands.
A bunch of out of work folk are delighted when several positions come onto the market at the Helping Hands Agency...
As most reviews attest to, this fifth Carry On film barely has a plot to get your hands on. Pic basically takes the seven members of the agency through a series of vignettes, the jobs they are assigned to do ranging from chimp walking to modelling underwear!
Each slot allows for some amiable comedic opportunity, the best of which finds Joan Sims getting sloshed at a wine tasting function, Charles Hawtrey landing in a boxing match with a hulking brute, Kenneth Connor involved in a 39 Steps parody, and all of the workers pitched into chaos during an Ideal Homes Exhibition. Back at the Helping Hands office Sid James and his secretary Esma Cannon are flummoxed by the continuous appearance of Stanley Unwin talking his gobbledygook, which all leads to the big finale as the whole cast get to have a grand old time of things. While as usual there's fun to be had spotting the future stars of British TV and film who pop up in cameos.
Carry On Regardless finds the creators on safe and amiable ground. It's no high point of the series but it's good fun and lets some under valued comic actors work their respective charms. 7/10
Can you forgive the film makers their sins?
Once in a while there comes a time when a film lover has their patience snapped, that we can't surely accept in this instance that poetic license is OK as an excuse purely for Hollywood to make a piece of entertainment. U-571 pretty much rips up the history books for its own ends, something that would see even the film makers themselves bow their heads during the years that followed. However...
As a drama - cum - thriller, Jonathan Mostow's film is top end. There's some iffy acting in the support slots, but the production is still excellently put together. Suspense down below in the submarine is high anxiety, the tactics of war in the Atlantic superbly written, while the finale face off is edge of the seat gripping. It's these things that has let U-571 gain decent ratings on the main internet movie sites.
Taken as a piece of Hollywood guff, it's a rocking war movie, one that also sounds absolutely tremendous through home cinema systems. As long as you accept it as guff - regardless of your nationality, then there is a great time to be had. But just as with films like Braveheart, do familiarise yourselves with the facts afterwards. 6/10