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George's Island (1989)
Worth a look...if you can find it.
Never officially released on DVD, there may be a region 0 out somewhere, George's Island was played to death on HBO when I was kid. It's the story of an outcast, George, with a kooky grandfather and a teacher who thinks he would be better off in foster care. And, there is that little bit about the treasure of Captain Kidd, on George's Island, that is protected by the ghosts of pirates. It may seem from it's synopsis like just another vapid kid's flick, but it manages to surprise with low budget charm and by not going where you might think it would. There isn't much pirate stuff in it, if that is what you are looking for, and the treasure is more of a lark than anything else. Ian Bannen, Braveheart, and Maury Chaykin, My Cousin Vinny, provide low watt star power. George's Island will never be a classic, but it is a decent movie that is far more enjoyable than a lot of the tripe made for younger audiences.
P.S. eBay usually has a couple of VHS copies up, most of the time.
Not very tasty.
George Washington was a cannibal! That is about all this has to offer in the joke category. The man you thought was a patriot just wanted to eat virgins. Once you get past the easy laugh, there isn't much to enjoy. Dull conspiracy, some hiding, and looking for allies. It all ends in a showdown where the baddies explain everything you always wanted to know about cannibalism, but where to afraid to ask before being slaughtered for the freaks that they are. It's all fairly mild and unimpressive and I would have left it at that had it not involved good old George. He may not be today's idea of a perfect man, but if you are going to come at him, it should at least be a little more complex than bad teeth and cherry jokes.
Not so much.
There is only one good reason to like this movie and that is the always watchable Liam Neeson. Like what he did with the abysmal Phantom Menace, Neeson makes this viewable. I could easily see this with someone else, Jean Claude Van Damme, in the lead as a direct to tape feature. When you look at Taken in that way, it deflates like a popped balloon. It all feels like warmed up Bourne leftovers. The worst part may be the condescending human trafficking angle which reminds me of stuff like Brokedown Palace or Fear. This movie could find it's way onto Lifetime for a heavy rotation. The best scene is in the trailer, when his daughter is kidnapped and Liam's character throws down the gauntlet. For that one moment, the movie is alive and you are taken with it.
Truth be told.
There is a fascinating story in the life of Domino Harvey that would make a great movie. There was a desire to be dominant and a need for everyone to realize that she was strong, a true Leo. She seemed to be spending so much time "having fun", that she lost sight of herself, destroyed herself. She became what she was running away from. Ironically, Tony Scott spends so much time trying to shock us with lap dances and severed arms that we never get to know her, which probably would have suited Domino just fine. Scott tells you at the beginning that this is a true story, sort of, and Domino states that she just wants to have fun. The movie gets lost between those two needs, telling the truth and having fun, two things that rarely go hand in hand. To me the most telling part is one of the details. When the Hollywood suit wants to make a star out of Domino, they want to move Ed, the guy who has done this for a living, out of the center of the poster to put Domino there. They refuse, because it's just not true. But, look at the main page for the movie Domino and who is in the center. Like almost all of Tony Scott's work, having fun is way more important than telling the truth. Sadly, it ain't even that fun. Domino plays like some strange melding of Natural Born Killers, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and The Usual Suspects and all the fancy camera tricks in the world won't make that exciting.
Bella Loves Jenna (2004)
The loving of the title takes place early on in this stinker and is a huge let down. Jenna Jameson, playing a cannibal with the ability to, ahem, raise the dead, reanimates Belladonna and treats her with a mild tongue bath. She may have raised the dead, but she didn't do much for me. Actually, Belladonna is far better in this. Why she isn't the biggest name in porn is beyond me, she'll do anything and is ridiculously pose able. You'll see that in the best scene of the film where she contorts for head. And that brings me to the worst part of the film, the best scene features some fugly guy in pigtails watching while pleasing himself. Throughout the film he either does that or rides around on a tricycle ringing a bell. I'm sure that he is supposed to represent the child side of Jenna's personality desperately trying to escape as this is, after all, a high minded film. All in all, with guys doing Colonel Klink impressions, a speculum inspection by scarface, and that random "twilight zone" guy, this is best left in the bizarre end of the wasted opportunities category.
The film is split into seven pieces, each one showing a different aspect of witchdom as it relates to The Middle Ages. There is a lot to like: level headed descriptions of faith's structure of the universe, paintings and motion models of hell and and it's disciples as imagined, and scenes of the revelry and torture of suspected witches. Benjamin Christensen, the director, even shows up as the devil, decked out in horns, hair, and a wagging tongue. The only flaw is the ending, where witches are compared to "modern" women with dementia. But the peculiar ending can't mar the rest of the film that holds up well as a portrait of man's inhumanity to woman, it just shows that even a smart man had his head in the devil kissing position.
30 Days of Night (2007)
113 Minutes of Despair.
I envy the victims in this film, at least they went easy. Yeah, it's another vampire movie with the same old standards that you have been watching for the better part of a century. Actually there are a few twists, thrown in from zombie movies. I command you to watch Nosferatu, Dracula, Martin, and Near Dark. Then try to call this great. I'd rather watch the credits of any those films. And, the first person to mention The Lost Boys loses an eye. As for TDoN, Josh Hartnett and company hide in the dark for a long time, some die, and it ends. Mercifully. Having said that, I have little doubt that the comic is, if fact, awesome. There is an appearance by the ever popular person who gets someone killed, played by an old man with Alzheimer's, Ben Foster as The Lonely One confederate, and...the pudgy guy from The Constant Gardener as the leader? This belongs in a triple feature with The League of Extraordinary Gentleman and something like Steel or that Captain America movie.
Roadside Prophets (1992)
It's another one of those collections of weirdos movies which seem to be the modus operandi of independent filmmakers. The best cameo belongs to John Cusack who plays Casper, the friendly pirate. He believes that there should be "free food for everyone." Yeah man, like, yeah. John Doe, everyman in name and features, takes an annoying dead guy's ashes to the homespun casino where everybody knew his name and they were glad he spent his money. It takes him the better part of the film to find it. He asks many, including Timothy Leary, who couldn't help him either, and finally dumps his remains in the desert. If, like me, you were perusing the oeuvre of Jennifer Balgobin, you may be interested to know that after an amusingly spastic exotic dance, she reveals her right nipple. Nice, but not worth having to listen to Abbe Wool's hippie logic or Adam Horowitz's every word. Best enjoyed by those who lived, and liked, the 60's or those who think that Easy Rider is a classic.
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
One of John Carpenter's few comedies.
Imagine a movie that makes a hero out of a man so dense that he can't keep up in most conversations and is useless in a fight. That is Kurt Russell's Jack Burton, played with a slight John Wayne impersonation and a massive superiority complex. Most of the heavy lifting is done by "sidekick" Dennis Dunn as the high flying Wang Chi and Victor Wong as the mysterious Egg Shen. James Wong is fantastic as both the ten foot tall roadblock and the little basket case on wheels, Lo Pan, who kidnaps Wang's girl and Jack's partner in sexual tension. What passes for a plot, which is just an excuse for fights and silliness, has the two of them storming Lo Pan's castle for their damsels, several times, until they it right. The only sad thing is that this marked the beginning of the end of Carpenter's hot streak. People, including those in the studio, didn't get this movie and he had more then enough of their talk. If some don't love it, they just have poor reflexes.
P.S. The commentary by Russell and Carpenter is classic. Two old friends shooting the breeze, reminiscing about a movie they loved making. As a matter of fact, the commentaries from The Thing and Escape From New York are a blast too.
Masters of Horror: Sick Girl (2006)
This episode had me up until the ending where the bug impregnates the two girls and they are just fine with being shot up with insect splooge and the fact that the bug was sent by one of their fathers. So, apparently, if you are disappointed in your daughters lifestyle choice, it's OK to rape her via insect and get her pregnant with world dominating bugs. Right... The episode makes more sense when you find out that Ida Teeter was originally Ira Teeter and that Roger Corman was to direct. Then, it's just a father who doesn't like his son's choice of mate so he sends his curse of the conquering womb, which is still creepy, but much less offensive. Praise should be given to Erin Brown aka Misty Mundae aka Pale Rider, who shows more acting ability than she is given credit for. Her best scenes are early on when she is being wispy, or misty, in love and the amusing roomy scenes with Angela Bettis. The single greatest shot has to be when she is shown naked as one of the fairies that she likes to draw. As to Bettis, she is given a lot credit, but she is really annoying in this and her almost butch delivery of lines like, "slap my skin honey bee," is painful to hear. Worth a look if you like anyone involved, but not the pinnacle of Masters of Horror.