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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.
I know cats who'd take out whole zipcodes for that kind of cheese.
Remakes do work occasionally, case in point Shaft, John Singleton's update of the 1971 Blacksploitation movie that starred Richard Roundtree as the title character. Roundtree gets a part in this one as well, playing the uncle of Samuel L. Jackson's title character, John Shaft.
It's the perfect role for Jackson, lashings of cool and menace, on his bulky shoulders dose the film easily rest. Plot finds Shaft turning in his badge after the law proves useless to let racist murderer Walter Wade Junior (Christian Bale a sneering villain but awesome looking in a tux) out on the streets. Shaft vows to bring Wade to justice, by any means necessary. Though he also has other things on his plate, namely Latino drug lord Peoples Hernandez (Jeffrey Wright a riot) and some less than honourable police officers.
The screenplay is a little trite, but as an action movie, one with the coolness and sparky humour, it really hits the required spots of those just after such easy minded fare. The support cast is a roll call of sound performers with the likes of Vanessa Williams, Dan Hedaya and Toni Collette fronting up, while the awesome ebullience of Busta Rhymes is very infectious.
Isaac Hayes gloriously famous theme tune is still in place, pumped up by composer David Arnold, which ensures the feel of the original isn't lost, and Donald E. Thorin's photography is pin sharp and in turns gorgeous (night shots) and streetwise gritty. Shaft, the 2000 version, still bad-ass and sadly under appreciated. 7/10
High Fidelity (2000)
What came first - the music or the misery?
High Fidelity is directed by Stephen Frears and adapted to screenplay by D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack and Scott Rosenberg from the Nick Hornby novel. It stars Cusack, Jack Black, Iben Hjejle and Todd Louiso. Music is by Howard Shore and Cinematography by Seamus McGarvey.
Record store owner and compulsive list-compiler Rob Gordon (Cusack), embark's upon a what does it all mean mission when his latest girlfriend leaves him.
Cusack and Pink take Hornby's hugely popular novel and redirect it to Chicago, with joyous results. High Fidelity is a tale of human love and a love of music, a sort of battle of the sexes with a soundtrack of masculine life. Rob's voyage of self discovery is highly amusing, the trials and tribulations of relationships bringing out a number of scenes and scenarios that ring true, not just tickling the funny bones, but also tugging the heart and cradling the brain.
Away from the doomed love angles it's the music threads that literally strike the chords. Rob and his two co-workers Barry (Black) & Dick (Louiso) worship music and continually indulge in making top 5 lists whilst bickering with sarcastic glee in the process. All three actors are superb, a trio of odd balls bouncing off of one and other with a zest that's infectious, though it's decidedly Cusack's show. A perpetual miserablist who addresses us the audience at frequent intervals, Rob in Cusack's hands garners sympathy, pity and laughs in equal measure.
In the support slots is a ream of talent well in on the joke, beauties like Catherine Zeta-Jones (dropping F-Bombs like they are going out of fashion), Lisa Bonet & Joelle Carter are complimented by the comic skills of Joan Cusack, while Hjejle turns in a wily and womanly performance as the girlfriend who kicks starts Rob's search for meaning. Elsewhere the sight of Tim Robbins as a new age hippy type - with a black belt in martial arts - is so much fun it reminds of what a good comic actor he can be as well.
As with Grosse Point Blank, another Cusack/Pink production, sound tracking is everything, and naturally given the setting of the story there is an abundance of classic tunes to delight in. All told it's a special movie, for all sexes and for all music lovers, but especially for anyone who has had relationship problems. Now what did come first, the music or the misery? Priceless. 9/10
In the quiet words of the Virgin Mary... come again?
Snatch seems to be one of those spunky British gangster films that critics are divided on, yet it's loved by the target audience. Guy Ritchie has done a Sam Raimi, he has remade the first film that put him on the cinematic map. Where Raimi remade The Evil Dead, and just called it Evil Dead II, Ritchie cheekily tries to get away with remaking Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and calling it Snatch. Sure the circumstances in plotting are different, and there's a big American star brought in to beef things up for the global market, but it's the same movie and without doubt it's lazy film making. But it still - like Evil Dead II - Rocks!
Snatch in story terms is concerned with a big diamond that stitches together a number of threads involving the London underworld. Some rough and tough Romany types join in the fun, headed by a purposely illegible Brad Pitt, while Dennis Farina, Benicio Del Toro and Rade Serbedzija add more cosmopolitan meat to the crooks and gangster stew. The British cement holding the building up comes in the twin forms of Jason Statham and Stephen Graham, with Vinnie Jones once again turning up to frighten the masses. Everything from bare knuckle fighting to bumbled robberies - to dog fighting and shifty arcade empires - are here, with Ritchie writing characterisations that positively boom off of the screen.
As with "Lock-Stock", the beauty is in the way violence and humour are deftly blended. Scenes are often bloody but also bloody funny, a pearl of dialogue is never far away from a perilous situation. The comic tone is more close to the knuckle here, Ritchie having fun toying with ethnic and machismo stereotypes, while he brings his bag of visual tricks before it got boring. The narrative is deliciously complex, but much credit to Ritchie for the way he pulls all the threads neatly together in a whirl of scene splicing and cocky literary assuredness.
So it's "Lock-Stock 2" then! No bad thing if you happen to be a fan of that sort of wide boy malarkey. If you don't like it? Then jog on sunshine. 8/10
A Woman's Secret (1949)
She had a voice with hormones.
A Woman's Secret is directed by Nicholas Ray and adapted to screenplay by Herman J. Mankiewicz from the novel "Mortgage on Life" written by Vicki Baum. It stars Maureen O'Hara, Melvyn Douglas, Gloria Grahame, Victor Jory and Jay C. Flippen. Music is by Friedrich Hollaender and cinematography by George E. Diskant.
When young singer Susan Caldwell (Grahame) is shot, Marian Washburn (O'Hara) takes the blame and is promptly charged. But something isn't right and those closest to Marian decide to dig a little deeper...
If the Lord wanted you to have a bullet in you - you would have been born with one!
A big mix of noir/mystery/melodrama conventions here as this RKO production ultimately holds its head just above water. The major problem that brings frustration is that the resolution just renders the whole story as sort of pointless, it does at times feel like they made it up as they went along, a jumbled collections of ideas.
On the plus side there are some choice characterisations, a flashback structure and decent tech credits on show. Story is packed with angry lawyers, sarcastic coppers and sultry dames. Some of the dialogue spouted is noir gold, particularly when coming from the mouth of Flippen's (stealing the film but sadly under used) grizzled copper, while Ray and Diskant know their noir visuals as they tone down the contrasts and utilise closed in space for the more serious scenes in the story.
Grahame is full of sexual and world wise innocence, teasing away like a good un', Jory gives a show of fidgety anger, while Douglas gets the tongue in cheek role and works well as a romantic prop feeding off of O'Hara's (actually under written considering it's the lead) more sternly sexy performance. This is not essential noir for the the noir lovers, and certainly not prime stuff from noir legend Nicholas Ray. Yet it's better than its maligned reputation suggests. But only just mind you... 6/10
Streets of Laredo (1949)
The Boys From Company D - Frontier Battalion.
Streets of Laredo is directed by Leslie Fenton and adapted to screenplay by Charles Marquis Warren from a Louis Stevens and Elizabeth Hill story. It stars William Holden, Macdonald Carey, William Bendix and Mona Freeman. Music is by Victor Young and cinematography by Ray Rennahan.
For fans of traditional Westerns this is as solid as a Brick Adobe Structure. A remake of The Texas Rangers (1936) of sorts, plot finds Holden, Bendix and Carey as three bad boys who get divided by circumstance, love and conscious. Two of them wind up in the Texas Rangers - the famed frontier law enforcement battalion - the other stays on the wrong side of the law. All roads lead to the day of reckoning...
The production is the usual mixed bag of superlative location photography (Simi Valley/Gallup) and crude back projection so often seen in the 40s and 50s Oater releases, with Rennahan's Technicolor photography a treat for the eyes. Performances are assured because the three principal guy actors are given characterisations that suits them - Holden tough emotional anti-hero - Bendix a lovable and dopey toughie - Carey sly bad boy. Freeman is lovely but it's a dressage character, while Alfonso Bedoya is on hand for some stereotypical bandido villainy.
At 90 minutes in length it feels a bit padded out until the two guys actually join the Rangers, so some patience is required during the first half. However, there is plenty of Western movie action within the story, some turns in plotting to grab the heart strings and a pleasing array of costumes and musical accompaniments to keep the senses perky. All told, it's just a thoroughly enjoyable Oater regardless of if you have happened to have seen the original version. 7/10
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