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Best inverted cow film of the decade
This is a dark, grim tale about the horrors of DNA experimentation on a muddy, hyper-realistic farm in Ireland. Interestingly, most of the stomach churning scenes come from things that happen thousands of times a day, either the difficult birth of a calf or the bolt-gun killing of cows. Makes me pleased I didn't become a cow farmer or an abatoirrist (if these are the correct terms).
I enjoyed it, thought a little too dark at times - darkness is fine, but you've got to see a little of what is going on to be scared.
************** Spoiler **********************
The ending was predicable from the moment a sex scene was included, I bet they shot an ending showing a face with gnashing teeth, and decided it was a bit too clichéd.
Fun and funny
Jocky Giles and I saw this on the plane out to America for a working summer, and we spent a lot of time in Montauk bars reliving the great moments from this film (and the book 'Money'). "I think I put in the hours" still gets the occasional outing, whilst Tom Tuttle from Tacoma Washington still enters my head whenever I see John Candy on TV, or even hear two T's together. I really hope Tom Hanks doesn't dislike this film whilst it goes a bit chase-sequency at the end (as does Splash) the first half has so many gems in it to forgive the rest.
Just as Hugh Grant is funniest and most watchable when he's a foul-mouthed cad, it would be good if Tom Hanks played a misanthropic but funny middle-aged man rather than just Tom, nice-but-dull. Give Bill Murray a run, or at least an audition, for his money. And if a film is going to be taken off his CV please, the nauseating, unbearable Forrest Gump.
Last line to Tim Thomerson. "This is Mike. Mike's my knife"
The Wisher (2002)
This film looks good, I enjoyed Liane Balaban as Mary, and all is perfectly fine for most of the film, but......
*********** Many and Serious Spoilers ***********
From the beginning, this film seems geared up for the supernatural, so that the final revelation (it was Shane in a costume all the time) makes a nonsense of all that has gone before....
Okay. I'll buy the tree spelling MARY at the start it was Shane in a tree hanging down some paper cut-outs to make a shadow, for some reason (well, he is mad). And I'll allow his unlikely plan to kill her dad - go to an intersection miles from her home, hope he's coming, and driving at speed, jump in front of the car, avoid being killed,and cause a fatal crash. He performs a similar trick later with the two girls, after presumably pressing his ear against the car window, on tenterhooks for Mary's next wish, smarting after failing to give her a winning lottery ticket or a blue gobstopper in the shop (he may have missed those wishes, although with his bionic ears that would be surprising). And I'll even allow his ability to wander around in full Wisher garb, in the background on a television report, dodging from tree to tree on the school lawn populated by hundreds of kids, outside cafes, to only be noticed by Mary and much, much more but why, oh why, and please somebody involved with the film or the script contact me, did the movie downloaded at the end have footage of the nutcase-only-thinks-he's-the-wisher approaching the house and attacking Mary on the lawn. Please it's disturbing me that this could get passed the script stage, and that people do not seem to have noticed it.
I shall have to go through the DVD with my finger on the still button, looking for a frame or two craftily inserted, and designed to render the audience insensible to the incoherent plot. A lazy scriptwriter's dream.
Marvellous Manticore munches marines. Menacingly.
After ten o'clock, I like nothing better than making a cup of tea and watching a horror / horror thriller I save The Straight Story etc. for the afternoon or early evening. This film filled the spot well, and despite obviously not having the budget of Independence Day (most evident in the look of the town streets, and the CGI of the Manticore running and jumping), the film looked good, and the Manticore in close-up was detailed, and would scare me if it walked round the sofa. The acting was good, although the reporter jumped a little too quickly from scared out of her wits in a little room, to chasing off after the beast to follow the story (a film cliché, as somebody has mentioned), and her facing a soldier's gun and agreeing to sit down was the low point of the acting and script.
I have to say, I have enough trouble making out anything on those little screens on video cameras, so the final effort at destruction relied heavily on the Manticore both looking at the tiny screen and not Chakotay's finely chiselled head, and having superb eyesight to "recognize" its twin. Would the Manticore turn to stone if it drank from a lake (if it drinks), and is this why, like vampires, there were no mirrors in its lair? In the how good it is / budget ratio, this film is ten times better than, say, Godzilla.
A Line in the Sand (2004)
Complete and utter b*******s
********* SPOILERS **************
An assassin, who has successfully eluded the CIA for twenty years, enters Britain like the man from milk tray, rather than with a false passport. He approaches a heavily-guarded, monitored house like an accountant on a paintball mission, tries to kill his target by shooting blindly through walls, and limps back to the woods. Meanwhile, the highly-trained British armed police are fussing over a pot-noodle.
A lone eagle circles, the assassin meditates cross-legged on a hilltop, the music goes all spiritual - is the writer trying to draw a mystic veil across the bonkers plot? Such as why the Secret Service don't follow the man they know is buying supplies for him in Streatham High Street, or venture more than 5 yards away from Frank's house in the search.
The central romance goes something like this :
Gavin/Frank.......Hello. What's your name?
Meryl...................Meryl. What's yours?
Gavin/Frank.......I can't tell you anything about my past.
Meryl...................Will you move in tonight?
Meryl...................I thought I knew him, but I never really did at all.
Only more abrupt.
The villagers then besiege Kemp's house, in a belated coup to steer the film away from the nonsense and towards Straw Dogs. Alas, it is too late. Ross Kemp makes a rousing speech, and they shuffle off home embarrassed at their behaviour (as well they should be).
To finish on a positive note, the clichéd, and much repeated dialogue (almost as though the programme was designed to go out in 30 installments) required great courage on the part of the actors, and they, at least, should be commended.
'Pimpernel' Smith (1941)
Low-key and funny
Good wartime propaganda film, with Leslie Howard updating his Scarlet Pimpernel role to Germany just pre-war, and playing it just about perfectly - less foppish than Sir Percy and the better for it; why did the Pimpernel have to behave as quite such a pratt in normal society?
The Nazis are not treated as a bunch of baby-spearing psychopaths here, partly because they're played by a group of gentle English character actors, and partly because Francis L. Sullivan as General von Graum is too rounded and too amusing a personality. Before the elusive Pimpernel starts to obsess him, he spends most of his time reading PG Wodehouse, Lewis Carroll et el to get British Humour, which he vainly dismisses a myth and indeed will forbid its mention when he takes charge of London. Only at the end does he play more to type, delivering a paean to the glory of violence, which I don't think was an explicit part of the Nazi's ideology, but I don't think they'll sue.
I thought the Professor / Pimpernel's group of archaeology students too tally-ho, too old, too boring, but Mary Morris as a novice, but intuitive, Gestapo agent was beautiful in a very Ingrid Bergman way; the passing of the Professor's love for a statue of Aphrodite was believable under her watery gaze.
Look out for the old `they've gone out by the fire escape' trick, when in fact they've stayed in the room. The script-writer shame-facedly apologises for this ancient ruse by having Howard saying `It's an old trick, but it often seems to work'.
And the 3 metre escape at the end, in a puff of smoke, is hilarious. Forget Bond villains General von Graum's `Why don't you stand there by that two-foot high gate, yes, it is the Swiss border, and have a cigarette' takes the all-time biscuit.
A Better Way to Die (2000)
Very good action / road movie
I personally thought this was much better than just an action film to satisfy the gun -hungry. It has the plot of a road movie, where the hero gets into one scrape after another, off which the writer / director can hang a plethora of quirky characters (the one-armed Flash, Karmic Hitman Andre Braugher) and incidents (an escape down a just-used dunny, a Carrie-like re-appearance), and with, as the ultimate goal, a reconciliation with his ex-girlfriend, the utterly gorgeous Natasha Henstridge. The driving force of this odyssey is the search for missing FBI agent Harry, in this case James and not Lime.
There is a certain dream-like quality to the whole film, similar, say, to `After Hours', and particularly Point Blank. In fact, at times I thought perhaps he was actually shot at the start, and the subsequent events were thoughts paralleling the path of the bullet through his brain. There is a Twilight Zone based on an Ambrose Bierce short story that does exactly that (during a hanging). Thus, a better way to die than the reality of being shot in an alley - being dispatched at the end of a spiraling sequence of events leading to an inevitable showdown. It doesn't look like the sort of film where the director was made to change the ending, but I'd have preferred him shot at the end, to complete the circle. A shame Flash died quite so quickly, as well.
Exit Wounds (2001)
Cardboard Dirty Harry
Steven Seagal plays a rogue cop, who just can't help taking on crime when and where he finds it, frustrating the authorities as he goes along, despite clearly saving lives and catching, or killing, the criminals. This is not new territory, but Seagal brings a blandness to it that is quite striking. The one-liners that plummet from his lips towards the end make Arnie look like Woody Allen. You could argue he's being dead-pan, but to be that you have to have another expression. This he wears when stuck in a burning van, when taking a voltage-gun to the stomach, and I dare say, if the budding romance had continued.....no, I don't want to think about it.
DMX looked good, although why did Seagal have so much trouble fighting him after dispatching 5 huge bouncers in a nightclub? Anthony Anderson was good value, and if you stay to watch his discussion with Tom Arnold during the end credits, you'll pick up a great tip on personal hygiene. Or does everyone do that?
Having said all that, you do get what it says on the tin; lots of action, fighting, explosions, and an examination of moral certainty. Well, maybe less of the last..
Cold and detached, missed a chance for some fun
Miles Creighton, ten years after his sudden death, thaws unexpectedly from cryogenic stasis and is returned to the living, in mind and body but, according to the film's presumption, missing his soul. As his behaviour slides from the obnoxious to the abominable, a family friend, the Reverend Penny, ponders the whereabouts of Miles' better third, and experiences a crisis of faith. Good or evil, altruism or selfishness, existentialism or abstinence - these are the dilemmas given to us in the exchanges between the Reverend and the Sociopath.
This film is as detached, cold and humourless as its protagonist, but does provide a few shocks, and the acting is fine. I thought a chance for a droll swipe at Corporate America (or wherever) was missed, in that his employees noticed so quickly how appalling his new policies were - this was the Eighties, after all, and the lack of a soul was considered a prerequisite for success in some quarters. Gordon Gecko himself might have taken a dose of the liquid nitrogen, if he thought it would give him an edge.
Although, unsurprisingly, the metaphysical questions posed by this film are not answered, it did make me think twice about the rent on Uncle Vern.
Target Earth (1998)
Bad guy much more fun than our 'hero'
Aliens plan to take over the world, by gradually activating implants in people at various levels of society (inserted, as we all know, during the multitude of 3-day abductions that have been visited on America's Mid-West since the 1950's science fiction boom). One man, a police detective, can save the world, but is so dull that the alien invasion becomes a more and more attractive prospect as the film goes on.
The opening scene has the location typed out at the bottom-left of the screen, showing clearly its lineage from "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" via the X-Files. Don't expect a moment of tension, except perhaps the decision on when to have your next cup of tea, but worth a watch if the alternative is ironing a shirt for the next morning. It is, however, slightly redeemed by the bald, stary-eyed, Hank Williams-loving baddie, who has the few lines in the film worth putting in something better.