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Between British Glam Rock and Punk Rock, there was Pub Rock!, 27 August 2016

Trailblazers Of - as a series whole - has been very hit and miss, and why they didn't go in chronological genre order is some what baffling, but when they get an episode right they managed to hit the right musical notes, such as here.

Pub Rock was a very key splinter of music in the trajectory of British music. Bridging Glam Rock and Punk Rock, it was a scene that showed honest working class toil, electrical live performances, whilst respectfully embracing influences (Berry/Brown) from the past.

As usual much joy can be garnered from the clips we get of bands such as Dr. Feelgood, The Pirates, Eddie and the Hot Rods etc, but it's the narrative that soars here.

Tracing the musical roots right through to the record labels (god bless you Stiff Records) and the Public House venues that put on live shows of many future famous names, it's a fascinating musical lesson.

It's also great to just see names such as Brinsley Schwarz, Wreckless Eric, Ducks Deluxe, The Kursaal Flyers, The 101ers and Kilburn and the High Roads (fronted by one Ian Dury) get some just publicity.

A top doc that's well worth seeking out. 9/10

You got the curse?, 27 August 2016

Well we all thought Jason was dead, as he is here taken to the morgue after being mortally killed... But of course he revives and sets about establishing that he is in fact an indestructible killing machine. I wouldn't want to be living near Camp Crystal Lake right now...

In truth it's a good old 1980s slasher pic, but that doesn't necessarily make it worthy to anyone outside of the hardiest of hardest Friday13th franchise fans. The kills and gore quotient are high, bloody and gooey, with the kills not lacking for invention, but plot formula is tired and weary. Crispin Glover makes for something of a curio appearance in the piece, whilst a young Corey Feldman rocks up for a bit of Damien Thorn channelling.

Some series fans love it whilst others abhor it. Question is? We know it wasn't to be the final chapter after all, so how does it hold up against the others that would follow it down the bloody intestine strewn path? 5/10

Rage (2014)
Ooh look, it's another revenge thriller., 27 August 2016

Nicolas Cage stars as a reformed mobster who is forced to go back to his violent ways when his daughter is kidnapped by baddies.

It is what it is really, a Nic Cage starrer that does exactly what the plot synopsis suggests. Does it bring anything new to the revenge formula of genre film making? Absolutely not. But on reflection there are very few that have improved upon originals from as far back as Fritz Lang's Fury in 1936. Sure there is more blood now, more gruesome deaths to put bums on theatre seats, but the majority of them remain soulless, existing only for the point of existing. The market is there for those who either enjoy such genre splatters, or for those who like me just merely wanted a brainless pic to pass the time away with - which of course means leaving said brain at the door.

It's all very preposterous, even insulting at times, but this is actually no worse than some of the more praised revenge thrillers of recent times - but that just makes the point that ultimately the bar hasn't been set high for a considerable time now. So wake up film makers! Give us something new! 5/10

Just three cornetto's, give them to me!, 27 August 2016

Who's the helmet without a helmet?

Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright reconvene to close down the cornetto trilogy that had began with Sean of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Here we find Pegg as a card carrying alcoholic who coerces his old mates into undertaking a fabled drinking binge in their home town of New Haven. But things are not as they used to be...

This simply isn't on the same level as "Sean and Fuzz", but that doesn't remotely make it a duffer of a film. Weight of expectation was enormous, and rightly so, but although it doesn't carry the mighty comedic gold of the first two films, it has fun, cheek and emotion in abundance. In fact its biggest crime is not being the final film so many legions of fans were hoping for. If stripping back those expectations and original disappointments, then repeat viewings bring plentiful rewards.

Riffing on science fiction films, pic's story cunningly observes male behaviour, most notably the man-child effect and the refusal to let the past stay in the past, the pic begins in almost solemn fashion and ends in daring chaos. Along the way there's a whole host of sly visual gags to catch, whilst the caustic concerns for once vibrant towns brought down by soulless entertainment chains positively fizzles with poignant awareness.

No doubt about it, Wright and Pegg call their own shots, which is ultimately refreshing in an era of film making struggling to keep its head above the sequel and remake swamp. Choice dialogue, some of which is very British in street core, and some laugh out loud moments, off set the more juvenile moments filtered through the plot.

A super cast has been assembled, where series regulars either star or cameo to further emphasise the constant of the cornetto trilogy - that of film lovers making films for film lovers, with camaraderie of cast set in stone. The sound track choices sparkle, a mix of Brit-Pop, Madchester and era defining popsters (Old Red Eyes Is Back by The Beautiful South has never been so pertinently used). All baked in a superb period tinted pie.

There's something of an action overload, while some tonal shifts have understandably proved to be confusing to some. But this still showcases - in credit - the considerable talents of Messrs Wright, Pegg and Frost. Teen angst machismo, alcoholism and hidden passions clash with Invasion of the Body Snatchers! It shouldn't work, but it does! 8/10

Cat Prancing., 10 August 2016

Richard C. Sarafian directs and Eleanor Perry adapts the screenplay from Marilyn Durham's novel. It stars Burt Reynolds, Sarah Miles, Lee J. Cobb, Jack Warden, George Hamilton, Bo Hopkins, Robert Donner and Jay Silverheels. Music is by John Williams and cinematography (Panavision/Metrocolor) by Harry Stradling JR.

Train robbing outlaw starts to fall for a woman who inadvertently becomes a kidnapee.

The rumours and gossip behind the making of the film are far more interesting than the film itself. Miles was married to Robert Bolt (they would be married twice), and it is believed that Bolt had to do uncredited work on the script to make it better! This as Miles and Reynolds were having some fun after hours, while Miles' manager (David Whiting) died under suspicious circumstances during the production.

The production is, on a technical level, superb, the locations are outstandingly realised by Stradling's photography, while Williams shows his multi stranded genius by providing a number of different musical compositions throughout the pic. Sadly the film drags and come the midway point it just becomes dull.

It starts off promisingly, with a daring train robbery introducing us to a band of outlaws, led by Reynolds of course, who are interesting enough to keep us, well, interested. Yet this proves to be a false dawn as what looked like being a potent manhunt of the gang, with revenge flavoured seasoning and sexual tensions, quickly turns into a wet romance stretched out to nearly two hours run time. As Miles and Reynolds take center stage for the second half of film, you realise that Cobb and Warden have been criminally underused. Lead performances are OK, it's just that the narrative is uninteresting and poorly directed - though a pat on the back is warranted for the respectful writing of the American Indians.

It looks and musically sounds great, but really it's hard to recommend with confidence. 5/10

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
City of Angels? More Like City of Demons!, 7 August 2016

Curtis Hanson directs and co-adapts the screenplay with Brian Helgeland from legendary pulp novelist James Ellroy's novel. It stars Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito and David Strathairn. Music is by Jerry Goldsmith and cinematography by Dante Spinotti.

It's 1950s Los Angeles and three cops of very different morals and stature are about to be entwined in crime and corruption...

I admire you as a policeman, particularly your adherence to violence as a necessary adjunct to the job.

Tremendous film making. Hanson takes Ellroy's labyrinthine story and pumps it with period authenticity and seamless direction, the latter of which sees him garner superlative performances from the cast. This is the side of Los Angeles nobody wants to talk about, it's awash with corpses, hookers, seedy set-ups, violence, drugs, racism and corruption a go-go. And that's just involving the politicians, the press and the coppers!

Rollo Tomasi.

The absence of genuine heroes on show still further keeps "The City of Angels" covered in dark clouds, where even as the plot twists and turns, as the mysteries unravel and brutality unfurls, the final destination of the principal characters is never clear, thus there's a continuing edge of seat pulse beat about the pic. It's also sexy and dangerous, the dialogue sharper than a serpent's tooth, and while the ending is a little too cosy as opposed to original noir wave conventions, this is pure noir in all but black and white photography.

It won only two Academy Awards, Basinger for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and for Hanson and Hegeland for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published. Frankly it should have won a dozen or so, for it's one of the best films of the 90s. 10/10

Mr. Angry channels aggression nicely..., 7 August 2016

True Story. All my friends are golfers, however, it's not a sport for me. I played with them once after they continued to badger me about it, at a par 4 hole I used a putter instead of a driver to get onto the green, literally just whacked it straight and hard, I holed in 3, much to my friend's consternation!!

The purpose of that story is why I enjoyed Happy Gilmore so much, it takes fun pot shots at the sport whilst daftly proclaiming that any dude can play in his own style. This is an absolutely no brain movie of course, with a plot as daft as it sounds - a failed/angry ice-hockey player takes up golf to earn money to save his granny's house from being repossessed - and of course he becomes a cause célèbre to the golfing curates.

Sandler has and always will be an acquired comedy taste, making this very much one for his fans only. And truth be told this is basic Sandler where he's shouty and sweary, and he certainly improved on a filmic level from this point on. So what you gonna do? I laughed a lot, but you see I'm a Sandler fan (though there are some films of his I positively hate), it cheered me up and sometimes that's all I want from one of his movies. 7/10

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
I'm not into politics. I'm into survival., 7 August 2016

The Running Man is directed by Paul Michael Glaser and adapted from the Stephen King (as Richard Bachman) story by Steven E. de Souza. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Conchita Alonso, Richard Dawson, Yaphet Kotto, Jim Brown, Jesse Ventura, Erland van Lidth, Marvin J. McIntyre, Gus Rethwisch, Professor Toru Tanaka and Mick Fleetwood. Music is by Harold Faltermeyer and cinematography by Thomas Del Ruth.

It may be packed with cheese, but this is one great and astutely entertaining futuristic slice of sci-fi pie. Schwarzenegger becomes a reluctant contestant in the most popular TV show of the time, The Running Man. It's a sadistic show where convicts are thrust into a zonal world and have to avoid an array of stalking killers. Cue lots of outrageous violence, equally outrageous costumes, and of course with Arnold in the lead there's plenty of dialogue zingers. The caustic observation of how television programmes have evolved is potently portentous, and it's all played out to an industrial 80s score from Faltermeyer.

It helps if you know what you are going to get from it, because it's a typical Schwarzenegger movie of the era, thus it's very much one for his fans to lap up with glee. 7/10

There once was an ugly duckling..., 7 August 2016

The Rainmaker is directed by Joseph Anthony and written by N. Richard Nash. It stars Burt Lancaster, Katharine Hepburn, Wendell Corey, Lloyd Bridges, Cameron Prud'Homme and Earl Holliman. Music is by Alex North and VistaVision/Technicolor cinematography is by Charles Lang.

Starbuck (Lancaster) is a conman who arrives in the little town of Threepoint and promises to deliver the rain to end the town's crippling drought problem. More telling, perhaps, will be his impact on the Curry family...

N. Richard Nash wrote it as a television play and would then see it hit the Broadway stage, so he was the logical choice for screenplay duties here. The film very much feels like a play, with very pronounced acting and sharp dialogue, it's also - at just over two hours in length - far too long for a talky based production. Thirty minutes could quite easily have been shaved off here. There's also the contentious casting of the Oscar Nominated Hepburn, who in many people's eyes - myself included - is miscast and just doesn't sit right in the role, leaving it to Lancaster to bring the flight and breeze to light up the piece.

However, to enjoy the art of acting brings some rewards, it's also a pic of crafty humour and features a story of considerable humane substance. That one man, a scallywag, can have such a positive impact on a sterile backwater family, builds nicely to an ending that is a complete joy, a real smile raiser. It's also handsomely photographed by Lang, the colour lensing so smooth, and the production design, backed up by North's most appealing musical score, ensures you know that the makers cared about what they were doing. Relationships on set were initially rocky, but the principal stars would come to be friends and speak fondly of their time on the film. 6/10

Footnote: The material would also be turned into a musical titled 110 in the Shade.

The key is to follow the key!, 7 August 2016

The Long Arm is directed by Charles Frend and written by Janet Green and Robert Barr. It stars Jack Hawkins, John Stratton, Dorothy Alison and Michael Brooke. Music is by Gerard Schurmann and cinematography by Gordon Dines.

Detective-Superintendent Tom Halliday (Hawkins) heads up an investigation into a number of safe cracking robberies. Which in turn turns into a murder investigation.

Out of Ealing Studios, this is a little cracker of a police procedural detective mystery. The flow of the investigation is natural, not given over to wild implausibilities, and always the air of mystery is potent. On the outskirts of the investigation there's a running thread about how policemen's wives/girlfriends suffer in their own ways, their men are married to the force, and this is delicately handled by the makers. While the moments of wry levity are not misplaced. Production is spiffing, with a number of London locations vibrantly used and given a film noir sheen by Dines (The Blue Lamp), while Frend (Scott of the Antarctic) keeps it tight and interesting whilst getting grand perfs from the cast - notably a wonderfully regal Hawkins.

So if you are looking for an old time British policer that doesn't insult your intelligence, then you need look no further. 8/10

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