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493 reviews in total 
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Curtains (1983)
Draw the "Curtains" of a mishmash of a thriller/slasher, 19 August 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Two styles collide; one has a bit more style and flair (with emphasis on mood, lighting and camera angles etc.) while the other treats the material as a straight ahead stalk and slash flick. That's the mishmash that is "Curtains" and while it's a recipe for disaster somehow the film works quite well.

Several aspiring actresses (and a seasoned one) gather at a remote country house (in icy winter, no less) and subject themselves to auditions by an eccentric director (Vernon) for an upcoming feature film. Someone among them is a killer and the actresses disappear one by one.

What started out as an ambitious Hitchcockian thriller (by an ambitious first time director) was quickly shelved by the film's producer in favor of more slasher film elements that were popular at the time. Even though most viewers don't know what exactly was filmed originally and what was added on later; there is a striking difference in tone throughout the film and the climax, in particular, seems like an afterthought (although it's a thrilling sequence) where there's an extended chase scene in such different surroundings than all that's preceded it.

There are some plot elements that appear only to be discarded completely early on (the creepy doll, for instance) and a character played by Michael Wincott must have remained mostly on the cutting room floor as his part is practically non-existent. The beginning; with Samantha Eggar as a seasoned film star voluntarily submitting herself to an asylum for research, is a nifty starting point which doesn't lead anywhere and is resolved rather clumsily once the actresses at the secluded country house storyline has begun. This feels rather disjointed and is definitely the work of two colliding directors.

With all that said; "Curtains" is really an OK thriller and it's overall weird vibe propels it through it's rough spots. It's very well acted, not only by pro's Vernon and Eggar but Lynne Griffin and Lesleh Donaldson turn in fine work as well. The look of the film is splendid and there's an absolute stunner of a scene where the killer slowly approaches a victim on ice skates on a frozen lake which culminates in a very nasty and inventive kill scene; the stuff slasher fans eat up with delight. Also I think the "hag" mask the killer dons is quite unsettling and creepy as hell.

A complete and utter mishmash but a treat for slasher fans who'll definitely be the ones giving this film a fair shot to begin with anyway. Highly recommended for that lot.

Plus; I thought it was a nice touch to credit the main character Jonathan Stryker (the name of John Vernon's character) as the director since neither wanted the credit.

Long lost horror flick gets a new lease on life, 4 August 2014

This ultra rare-completely-forgotten horror flick has been brought back from the dead. Good news? Yes; well mostly.

Quite similar to "The Burning"; a group of young people head into the woods where a crazed maniac is lurking about and soon they're in danger. Not only similar to "The Burning" but countless other slashers in and around that era. Where "The Final Terror" fails is in it's lack of body count, inventive kills, gratuitous gore and the required dose of t&a for this kind of flick. It's been noted that it's a slasher film in denial; it wanted to cash in on that trend but take things in a slightly different direction. In short; not gory and trashy enough for the slasher crowd and not sophisticated enough for serious thriller admirers.

That said; there's a lot to admire in "The Final Terror". It's wonderfully atmospheric, has decent acting and at least two good seat- jumpers. It builds tension quite nicely and is gorgeously photographed; utilizing the woods scenario to maximum effect. The main villain is pretty creepy and the few scenes that feature him are well played out.

The film clocks in at a mere 82 minutes so it doesn't get long-winded. It's only real problem is that viewers most likely to give this one a shot are slasher enthusiasts who come in expecting a little more of what the film is purposely denying them. It didn't find an audience in it's initial run but here's hoping that modern slasher fans will appreciate it a bit more.

Palance and Landau give added weight to mediocre horror flick, 3 August 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Without Warning" is one of those horror flicks that for years you'd heard about but was practically unobtainable. The HD era has been especially ripe for many obscure horror titles and recently this little film has gotten a new lease on life. And for us horror geeks - it's a must see.

It's not very good. Though it has a number of things going for it. It's a nifty idea that predates "Predator" by a few years that has an alien visitor coming to earth to hunt humans and collect their bodies as trophies. The flying disks it uses to subdue it's prey look both incredibly fake but once they grabbed hold - it's pretty icky and the effects department shines. It's just that the film is fatally slow moving and has so many lulls and director Greydon Clark can't milk those scenes with any degree of tension. It picks up for the finale and it ends on a high note thankfully.

The film gets a huge plus for it's cast; or at least Martin Landau and Jack Palance. Often times when big names appear in low budget slashers you have what amounts to little more than a cameo but these old pro's have ample screen time and invest in their roles. Palance, in particular, is effective as a hunter who goes after the alien. Both these guys overact to a degree (Landau more so) but their presence elevates the material and gives a much needed added class to the proceedings.

Minor spoiler -

"CSI Miami" star David Caruso has a small part here but thankfully he's dispatched of soon - another thing in the film's favor :)

End of Spoiler

"Without Warning" will appeal to fans of the genre (be it horror, sci-fi or both) as long as it's low budget origins and hectic shooting schedule (less than three weeks) are taken into account. I found it entertaining as such but it needed some pruning as the lulls were too many and tension free.

Film gets a five but Landau and Palance bring it up a star.

Atmospheric thriller with some unforgettable images, 12 June 2014

A restorer is called to a small village in Italy to repair a fresco detailing the murder of St. Sebastian. He slowly becomes obsessed with finding out the truth about the deceased painter and unravels a horrifying secret that's far from buried in the past.

A fairly slow moving but tremendously atmospheric thriller set in a hypnotic landscape of decay and beauty in the Italian countryside. The mystery is involving and well written and director Pupi Avati stages a few unforgettable images of cruelty and genuine madness. The pace is deliberate and the mood of the flick is completely captivating; I doubt seriously that thriller lovers will get bored.

Lino Capolicchio and Francesa Marciano are likable leads and do well but most performances in Italian "giallo's" suffer due to the language dubbing. The film is preferable in Italian with English subs. That said; some performers here are somewhat stiff and unconvincing but that's a regular trademark in these "giallo's", as most fans know from the start.

"The House of the Laughing Windows" is one of the best thrillers associated with the genre and it rivals the best works of Argento, Bava and Fulci.

Highly recommended.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Fun flick, 29 May 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I went into this pretty blank; hadn't even seen the trailer - just the tag line "Live-Die-Repeat" and already I thought of "Groundhog Day". Little did I imagine that this would, in fact, be somewhat of a kindred spirit to that comedy gem.

When all is said and done; "Edge of Tomorrow" is pretty entertaining and doesn't take itself all too seriously. Tom Cruise is in fine form and reminded me, at least, how likable a performer he can be. There are of course a number of action packed set pieces that look good and the special effects are top notch. There is at least one heartfelt moment midway through that I thought was well played out but the film pretty much steers away from sentimentality.

The supporting cast is good; Emily Blunt is a good match for Cruise and Bill Paxton is always fun as an army officer.

Minor spoiler alert.

I felt it lost a bit of steam towards the end but nothing detrimental as to ruining the whole experience. It's capped off with a "what the..." type of ending but it's not too mind bending and really is in good flow with the overall tone of the film.

End of minor spoiler.

"Edge of Tomorrow" was just plain fun and I recommend it.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Better than it's reputation suggests, 24 January 2014

Perhaps I was in a very forgiving frame of mind but "Harum Scarum" went down pretty well. Widely regarded as one of the King's worst offenders and he was disappointed with the results as he thought (before reading the finished script) that this would be a welcome change of pace from his established formula.

The scenery is a breath of fresh air (though we all know it's MGM's back lot for the most part) and the film has a bit more of a plot than usual; although it's very clumsily handled. The comedy bits are fairly lackluster and the action is rather stiff but the film moves along well with few to no lulls. Elvis has a strong presence but he really doesn't strain himself too much and he receives little support from his fellow co-stars; though Billy Barty (most memorable as J.J. MacKuen from "Foul Play") does induce a few chuckles without a line of dialog.

The songs range from pedestrian to very good ("Kismet" and "So Close (Yet So Far) From Paradise") and the girls, as almost always is the case with Presley films, are quite the eye candy.

"Harum Scarum" is not good but it's breezy enough entertainment for fans of Elvis that's not quite as bad as it's reputation suggests. I'd choose this over "Stay Away, Joe" any day of the week.

6 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Know what you're in for, 30 December 2013

The further adventures of Ron Burgundy and his fellow news teammates yields quite a few laugh-out-laud gags and more than a few head scratches. I guess this is one of those films that depends heavily on knowing what you're in for. The first one was a big indicator and I had a hell of a good time with this.

I liked many of the jabs at modern news reporting and ratings and others that range from synergies to the chicken industry. Many quite good and to the point. Then there are those moments you're embarrassed to laugh at (the one with Paul Rudd's "Ladykiller" friends, for example) and will definitely offend more than a few. And this is, naturally, all done in the most over the top manner possible.

For some reason the bits with Steve Carell and Kirsten Wiig fell a bit flat for me but overall I completely enjoyed the film's excessiveness. Will Ferrell owns this role and everyone else gives it a fun go.

Get yourself in the right frame of mind and most likely you'll enjoy it.

Maniac Cop (1988)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Good central premise but as a whole falls short, 15 December 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There's something very unsettling about the simple fact that a symbol of justice turns out to be the very thing you should be afraid of. Nicely captured in the opening minutes of "Maniac Cop" when a victim of a couple of muggers runs to a police officer only to be met with a swift and brutal death. The film, written by Larry Cohen, capitalizes on this well enough for the first fifteen minutes or so before it becomes an uneasy mixture of a suspense/slasher/horror flick that really should be more entertaining than it turns out to be.

Most know the plot; a former cop, Matt Cordell (Z'Dar), returns from the dead to exact vengeance on those who wronged him and a lot of innocent people as well. Detective McRae (Atkins) investigates what seem to be murders committed by a man in blue; and he doesn't believe that fellow cop Jack Forrest (Campbell) is responsible although most everyone on the force suspect him after his wife is discovered dead.

The cast is right on the money; genre vets Tom Atkins, Richard Roundtree and William Smith all turn in decent performances but Bruce Campbell (who most of the time I love) and Laurene Landon are remarkably stilted and unconvincing. The violence is obviously toned down as this could have been really bloody and the action sequences are well staged with a knockout scene to close out the film.

The mystery here and it's unfolding leaves a lot to be desired as I feel Cohen could have made more of Cordell's character and McRae discovers things all too easily. He looks to be a little more interested in making a social statement concerning fear of the uniform of safety and justice and mixing it with some old school horror and splatter (on the light side) because that's what sells. Lustic seems more content with staging action sequences and catching the seedier look of the city (as with his earlier "Maniac") than driving home this point. "Maniac Cop" is never really suspenseful, it's not bloody enough to satisfy gore hounds and Campbell and Landon really sink the final act as they take center stage for the showdown.

Having said that; the film did grow on me a little with repeat viewing and it's central premise of a cop committing senseless murders on unsuspecting citizens is quite unnerving. Atkins delivers a fine performance and the action scenes are quite good. I still feel it should have been better and, based on numerous reviews I've read, the sequel actually delivered in spades what this movie fell short of. I'll be checking that out before too long.

For fans of Atkins, Smith or Roundtree; "Maniac Cop" comes recommended as long as you keep your expectations in check. As for Campbell; he's always a welcome presence but he's not very good here.

Still terrific, 6 November 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Just caught a 3D screening of "Jurassic Park" a while ago and it's still a very entertaining slice of popcorn fare; in fact it's the Steven Spielberg us movie aficionados knew and loved.

The 3D effects look good and it was certainly fun to experience the film this way. The ground breaking visual effects (some 20 years ago; man how time flies!) still hold up extremely well.

As for the film; the 3D doesn't make it better but it doesn't detract anything from it either. Compared to today's big budget summer flicks "Jurassic Park" would undoubtedly be considered fairly slow moving but it builds momentum very well and climaxes in a number of knock out suspense sequences.

It's fun to look back at the cast 20 years back; Jeff Goldblum is fun here and you can easily see how his fledgling career got second wind with his performance here; Sam Neill demonstrates why he could have been a possible successor for Roger Moore as James Bond and Laura Dern was quite the eye candy in 1993. And now we know that Wayne Knight didn't die a nasty death; he simply went into hiding and found work as a postal worker in New York :)

"Jurassic Park 3D" was a fun night at the movies. Spielberg really knew how to make great adventure flicks and his old movies hold up really well.

10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
A Perfect Tribute to a Larger than Life Musician, 22 July 2013

Wow! I haven't had this good a time at the movies for some time.

Usually when I post reviews I mull things over for quite a while but I wanted to put my two cents in while this is ultra fresh. What a great tribute to The Boss. The people who live, breathe and identify with Springsteen's music get the spotlight and showcase in the best possible way why we, the fans, like the man so much.

The stories they tell range from funny to really touching to downright hilarious on occasion. The way Springsteen connects with his audience is really special and it's displayed through some well chosen clips from relatively recent shows. The rare footage from live shows from way back-when is also a real treat for the die-hard fans.

I identified with a lot of the people and most likely every viewer will find something they related to as well. I'm a Springsteen nut so, to me, this was a perfect night at the movies. 10 out of 10.

As an added bonus there was a six song show/compilation from the Hyde Park concert last year (knockout performances of "Shackled and Drawn" and "We are Alive") that concluded with the Beatles songs "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Twist and Shout" with Paul McCartney. Seeing it in a theater with the sound yanked up way high is the next best thing to actually being at a Springsteen concert.

And that "Epilogue" was fun too. Seeing those fans meet the man and how gracious Springsteen seems to be; well it was a great ending to a fantastic film and show.

If anyone has ever wondered what the big deal with Springsteen is...well; "Springsteen and I" is the response I would give.

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