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1990: I guerrieri del Bronx (1982)
My Greatest Teenage Joy (after 2000AD comic)
Enzo G Castellari, I salute you.
I first saw this movie in my local youth club in 1983 when a VCR was still a luxury and around a dozen sweaty teenagers would gather in Bertie Road YC on a damp Monday evening to be entertained by whatever Mr Butler had rented from the petty cash for our amusement.
From the opening montage of myriad nasty, pointy things and exquisitely made up "warriors" we were hooked and the first brawl of 5 riders whupping the arses of 10 silly skaters our attention was riveted to the screen like Trash's jeans to his thighs. (Seeing the "Ben Hur axle blade things" flip down to hamstring the two skaters and Trash elbow a bloke in the face with his sooo cool fashion accessory were the hight points for me).
This movie is undoubtedly flawed. Atrocious choreography, risible dubbing and more holes than a popular brand of cheese. BUT....
Enzo and pals obviously had so much fun making this film that you can forgive them their trespasses. Any movie that has a birthday party being interrupted by Vic Morrow, clad in leather and conducting a slaughter of street gangs by baddies on horses, armed with flamethrowers...well, what can I say? I have loved this movie and its sequel for nearly 25 years now, well not warming to Enzo's other work particularly (anyone seen Warriors of the Wasteland? It's Mad Max 2 in a quarry!). I own the two VHS versions from the shop that the Bertie Road youth club hired from and have met Enzo twice in the last few years in Rome (nice fella).
Check out my website dedicated to the two greatest movies about the Bronx (although not in the opinion of the mayor of Manhattan methinks).
One of life's guilty pleasures.
Dr Who with meat
Superb in absolutely every way.
There was always something I couldn't quite put my finger on about why, as good as Dr Who is, it gets on my tits occasionally. After one episode of Torchwood it's as as clear as Cpt. Jack Harness' pearly white smile: Dr Who is for kids and therefore people don't always act the way human beings would really react due to pre-watershed prudishness. Torchwood goes out late, so Russell T Davies finally gets to burn his bar. Plot holes that any lesser show would have left yawning open like Sarah Jane's frightened gob are neatly and hilariously filled with throwaway lines (e.g. 'how did you know THAT used to be a body?' or 'but how come no one ever falls down the hole?'). Further we have none of the Genre Blindness prevalent in most sci-fi (even Dr Who itself, I mean come on Ursula you are a bit wet but Peter Kay begs for mercy and you give him the benefit of the doubt?!!), which is most evident in the wonderful pizza delivery scene.
The things that push this series beyond the fringe are its gleeful exuberance and sheer joy of portraying what life would be like in Dr Who's universe after Rose has gone to bed with her teddy at 9pm. So we have shagging in nightclub toilets, death by orgasm, masturbating voyeuristic bouncers and 3 bi-sexual leads(and what other show that's spun off from a kid's matinée fave, features two women going at it against a cell wall?).
Finally sci-fi for the open minded.
Real Crime: Love You to Death (2004)
Absorbing documentary about New Zealand student John Tanner who strangled his girlfriend Rachel in a lover's tiff and hid her body under the floorboards of her Oxford student house while coldly lying to police about their final time together and even appearing on Crimewatch UK appealing for help finding her.
I was at University in 1991 when this was in the news and the case was all the more unsettling as her distraught flat mates were walking over her corpse for 2 weeks before the police smelled a rat and arrested Tanner. Female students I knew at the time were particularly freaked out by the incident.
When arrested Tanner stated that he had had to "destroy that which I loved most" and his icy, calculating manner was witnessed on TV when he participated in reenactments of their final hours together and appealed to the public at a press conference.
Noah Huntley of 28 Days Later plays Tanner which is miscasting as Tanner was an ugly b***ard and Huntley isn't but he does a good job of portraying Tanner as a paranoid and very jealous boyfriend in the dramatised accounts of the doomed relationship intercut with interviews and footage of the real John taken at the time.
Footnote: Huntley is a bigger bloke than I realised and it's now fairly clear why Selena wasn't taking any chances over the scratched arm.
The Office (2001)
Utter and pure unadulterated genius
The Christmas Specials have just finished and ashamed as I am to admit it I got so engrossed in this I actually shed a tear at the finale. Fearing the Shark Jump on these, Ricky Gervais has (thankfully) once again proved that this is a show of unrivalled quality and his decision to quit now will posthumously be considered an honourable one as the show couldn't possible have sustained the momentum after this.
I cannot sing this show's praises highly enough.
Pure pleasure and the fact that they manage to leave us with hope for the characters without resorting to the loathsome script bending of the likes of Friends or The Golden Girls is refreshing in the extreme.
Perfect end to a wonderful show.
Sopranos fans should NOT be allowed to write ITV1dramas!
An utterly dire attempt to "do" The Sopranos in London's East End. It's a shame that a clutch of such good actors wasted their efforts on this bag of spew.
I loathe British soaps and wanted to avoid this as it starred Martin Kemp, virtually recreating his role from Eastenders, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt and for about the first 45 minutes it was pretty good. The Cutler family are gangsters, feared and respected in their "manor" and fiercely loyal to each other. Extorting protection money from local businesses they set their sights on a new restaurant that has a 2 year waiting list for a table.
The casual threats made by the Cutler family to Rory McLeod owner of the restaurant are wonderfully underplayed. The Cutler's want a cut of the business and with silky charm and strategic violence get their way. The plot then Jumps the Shark (rare to do it in the first episode!) when the returned prodigal son casually murders the resturant manager during an argument over using his mobile phone.
The reactions of the Cutler family to the crisis are understandable and coldly efficient but it's the lack of conscience on anybody's part to what happened that is wholly unrealistic. These are not Made Men, they are a family and even Joey's disgust is only over Dave's lack of self-control NOT any regret that he murdered a man for no good reason. If Christopher from The Sopranos had killed someone in a public place over virtually nothing, Tony would have slapped him around and removed him from any position of responsibility in the family until he could prove he could keep his cool. Dave not only isn't castigated by his father for putting the family at risk but in episode 3 is made manager of the resturant.
This was the first aspect to fly in the face of good reason, as was the ease with which the chief family nasty infiltrates the hospital in order to silence Liam.
Second BIG black mark was in episode two after Ted decides to let a man keep most of the money he owes the Cutlers even though the guy had to rob a post office in order to pay up on time. The Cutlers are guests at the man's daughter's wedding where he gets drunk and throws the money in Ted's face, upset that his efforts were pointless. Err... hello! These people could kill you for not paying them back, the money was theirs to decide what to do with and they LET you keep it, you had to prove you could come through.
My biggest hang up with this show was that with such fine talent on show they could have paid a little more care to keeping the story in the realms of reality.
I gave up afte 2 episodes so do let me know if all this was sorted out later on.
A real shame, this could have been great.
*Minor Spoilers* ----------------
Arguments with my girlfriend over watching this or Tears of the Sun proved that I was in the right as Blackball is wonderful.
The opening scenes, switching between a filthy council estate in Torquay and an elitist Lawn Bowls club as the protagonists James Cromwell and Paul Kaye take impossible shots, sets up the characters just as well as the "getting dressed" bit as the start of Terminator 1.
While Cromwell is oily, ancient charm in his immaculate blazer, effectively seducing a wannabe female bowls club member with his patronising but gentle superiority, Kaye is to Lawn Bowls what Bill Paxton's Severen in Near Dark is to vampires.
Cromwell is a driving test examiner who lives in the part of town where people have minds as narrow as the creases on their trousers. Kaye is a decorator, working for his granddad and refusing to take his skill to higher levels through reverse snobbery over entering the official club and the fact that the only people he considers his equals live and play in Australia. Then his pal Johnny "The Blimp" Vegas lets it be known that the Australian champions are coming to England in 4 weeks.
To play for England you have to be County Champion and while Starkey effortlessly beats Speight's 23 year run as champion, Speight's hurtful and childish comments as he reluctantly hands over the trophy later see Starkey stripped of the title and banned for 15 years from the sport for scrawling "Speight is a tosser" on the club merchandise.
To further push Speight's temper over his neatly preened edge, Starkey trashes the tournament banquet in revenge and later falls in love with his daughter (Alice Evans).
As the championship looms the various parties have to try different tactics to find the correct path in life.
Differences, fights, too much fame too soon, the requisite cliff hangers are all here but it's how they are pulled off that makes this charming and a real treat. Many times I guffawed out loud and there's some original elements and knowing self-parody amongst the laughs.
Vince Vaughan is perfectly cast as the hyperactive, manipulative and cruel agent that sees dollar signs in Starkey's "bad boy" antics. Paul Kaye is an enigma he plays this part with the same high-octane, ferocious energy as Gary Oldman (before he went shit). Alice Evans is fine, nothing special while Johnny Vegas plays himself as Kaye's best friend (and he plays himself better than anyone else could). Special note to Bernard Cribbins who could have an equity card from English Grandads Are Us. His turn as the kind-hearted but cantankerous Mutley is well placed.
This is currently only showing once per day at my local flea pit so I fear that the movie hasn't pulled in the punters which is a real shame as it is equally as good as The Full Monty.
Guaranteed to snap you out of a wet Sunday depression.
Awful, just awful
This dirge only lasted one series and it's blatantly obvious why.
With production values to rival Triangle and acting on a par with Grange Hill (that's post Tucker and Benny) PLUS that nauseating electronic twiddly music score that sounds like Bruno from Fame with indigestion this is scraping BENEATH the barrel.
And what was supposed to be so endearing about that fat special with the finger puppets?
Day of the Dead (1985)
Wanna learn how to shoot?
Rotten in parts but the general claustrophobic atmosphere and at times almost unbearable tension make this a minor masterpiece.
In an unspecified era, at least a year from Night of the Living Dead, a hastily chosen and rapidly crumbling unit of scientists and soldiers stationed in an underground silo are carrying out the now pointless task of capturing and studying zombies. Pointless because they have had no radio contact with the outside world for months and even if they find a "cure" there is noone to report to.
The soldiers have the most dangerous task, capturing, coralling and later removing live specimens for dissection and when Miguel loses control of a ghoul due to exhaustion this begins a chain of events that culminate in the living dead overruning the mines.
First the bad: The shouting and bickering amongst the characters tends to get on your tits after a bit. We are meant to perceive that their claustrophobic environment and the futility of their task is making them a bit miffed but simply yelling out lines like "I SAID SHUT UP!" for a great chunk of the movie does nothing but irritate.
The continuity is quite often perplexing coupled with some gaping maws in the logic. For example as soon as the elevator thuds to a halt at the movie's climax there are zombies everywhere. It is only on repeat viewings that you realise this is because the corral was also left open, yet we only see the most fleeting glimpse of this. Secondly, Rhodes managed to make it to safety in a golf cart trundling along at 5 miles per hour to a door about 100 metres away yet his soldiers seem content to run about in every direction as an excuse for getting killed. And finally, what the hell happened to Miguel once the elevator descended? No sign of him once he pushes the button and this is one thing that really annoyed me.
Some of the plot smacks of Thomas Harris-syndrome. In an effort to wrap things up on time we have at least 3 characters act out of character. While Rhodes was a b**tard it is never apparent that he would commit cold-blooded murder (he chooses not to on 2 occasions), let alone the terrifying and prolonged demise he had planned for Sarah and Bill. Similarly his constant ranting about his "men" coupled with his obviously horrified reaction at the contents of Logan's freezer (Pilato's best scene in the movie) does not tally with his detached abandonment of the same "men" at the movie'e climax. And finally, are we meant to assume that Miguel was so crazy that he chose to die in a protracted and agonising fashion that was precisely what he spent most of the movie gibbering in fear of.
However, Howard Sherman is perfect as trained zombie Bub and even evokes sympathy from the audience. Phillip Kellams gives his all in his final scene ("don't let this happen to me") and Gary Klar is convincing as the brutal thug Steel.
Despite the sometime lousy acting (exceptions going to Lori, Richard and Howard) the atmosphere present in the caves is wonderfully played, claustrophobic and sweaty with the constant threat of death hanging in the shadows.
The final scenes of the soldiers fleeing in terror through zombie infested caves, with nowhere to go grabs you by the throat and the payoff is some of the goriest and cruelest deaths ever suffered by Romero's victims.
As has been documented many times before, this was NOT the movie Romero wanted to make. His obvious passion for the undead is underlined by this fact however as he appears to have let this movie slide as if to say "See what you made me do".
Like 28 Days Later this movie has enough scenes of genius to make you forget that some of it is lacking.
Hopefully the Anchor Bay DVD out August 19th will set the record straight.
Not only jumped the shark but kicked it in the face.
Knowing the pants reviews this film had been getting and the fact it's a 12A did not bode well, but I had Sunday off and thought what the hell.
As a stand alone movie this probably would have been more entertaining. As a sequel to two of the definitive movies of the last 20 years it's a bit of a stinker that manages to waft away the stench a few times but still has the smelly cloud hanging over it by the end.
The most irritating thing is when good ideas are taken apart for sequels in the hands of by-the-numbers producers/ script writers et al who take the icing from a glorious cake but fail to realise that you need some marzipan and bit of fruit there too.
Prime example is the original Police Academy which was ruined by 7 poxy sequels that patronised the audience and took small pieces known to make us chuckle and did them to death. Great TV series have followed this sorry road with Men Behaving Badly, Drop the Dead Donkey, Miami Vice and even the excellent "V" hurtling down this road with the latter indulging in later episodes having lots of face peeling and lower jaw-detaching, hamster gobbling close ups to distract from the lack of good story.
While starting off excellently with the absolutely gorgeous TX appearing naked in Beverly Hills it sets the scene well, particuarly with John Connor's maudlin narration about how he has to live as a "ghost" for fear of being found by Skynet. However expectations wilt the moment that Arnie chances upon a Ladies' Night Bar to retrieve his clothes. The biker's bar in T2 was pushing it but the violence and ruthlessness of the scene plus the fact that it was NOT played for laughs meant that this could be overlooked. The scene where we knew the water skis were sailing over Bruce was when the Elton John shades came out. Bad enough that they contrived to give him his leather jacket in such a messy and shamelessly self-mocking fashion but to then say "Hey lads, we KNOW!" with a totally uneccessary and pointless additional piss-take ruined the last vestiges of credibility this had.
You don't laugh AT the Terminator. You don't make fun of him. He's not something to snicker at behind your medium-sized diet Cokes. A similar scene was done with more charm and in the space of 5 seconds in the opening credits of the A-Team. And while we're on the subject...the violence in this for the most part comes across as very A-Team-ish with cars crunched, entire building's destroyed and people thrown into heavy objects without suffering more than a sore head. Arnie's leather seems so stand up remarkably well too, sporting only a couple of nicks and tears after facing more punishment than Tyson's bonse after the Lewis fight.
Despite this, some scenes are VERY violent for a 12A. One can only assume that the BBFC's Quentin Thomas is the polar opposite of the rancid James Ferman.
The story fails to make sense a few times. If Arnie kills the future John Connor in 2032 AFTER the victory against the machines then how does that fit in? Similarly it is all a little too convenient that John Connor already knows Kate Brewster considering he's permanently on the move and why did John Connor choose as his future lieutenants a bunch of spotty herberts from high school.
The much lauded Good Terminator/ Bad Terminator aspect is awful and lasts all of 3 minutes. Rather than having him become the killer from part one for a while he simply has a tantrum and beats up a perfectly good car.
This whole thing smacks of lack of thinking and the desire to prop up the career of the future candidate for Governor of California. While Kristianna Loken is equally as good in her role as Robert Patrick was and, despite being 9 years away from his free bus pass, Arnie still rocks there is a lack of any consistent flame here even if the spark is good and strong a few times (firing a machine gun while carrying a coffin on one shoulder just looks so cool).
The one stand out moment is the downbeat and depressing ending. The otherwise excellent 28 Days Later was ruined by a falsely upbeat conclusion and I admire the film makers for going the whole hog with this.
Not good. The closest comparison I can make is that this is to T1 and 2 what Robocop 3 was to its forefathers.
Feed the Kitty (1952)
A cure for living in London in winter.
*Warning: Minor Spoilers*
I managed to track this down in Italy (where it's called "A Kitten for a Friend") and finally off Ebay in English.
There's something so wonderfully sweet and pure about this cartoon that it can bring me out of any type of bad mood.
From the opening shot of the kitten peering out the discarded can everything is just perfect. The range of expressions that Mark Anthony shows clearly illustrates the utter genius of Chuck Jones and the see saw of emotions that he can elicit in 7 or 8 minutes.
Most compelling of all is that you can go from laughing hysterically at Mark Anthony's ineffectual barking at Pussyfoot to choking up as he cries outside the house to relief when he and the kitten are reunited.
Favourite bit is when the dog's lower jaw hits the kitten as he gawps in wonder at what his mistress is saying.
I cannot sing the praises of this cartoon highly enough. My girlfriend thinks it's bizarre that I have this nestling between copies of Day of the Dead and Bronx Warriors.