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Birthdate: September 25
I bid you...velcome.
I'm a shameless movie fanatic who especially favours the following genres:
Favourite directors include:
George A. Romero
The Wild One (1953)
Has earned its place in film history.
Here we have THE original biker cinema classic that predated "Easy Rider" by a good decade and a half. Marlon Brando, all swaggering cool, delivers an iconic performance as Johnny, leader of the B.R.M.C. (Black Rebels Motorcycle Club). Johnny and friends come to a small town to raise some Hell; he becomes quite taken with local girl Kathie Bleeker (Mary Murphy), and she with him.
Although Johnny is no innocent, and does have a role to play in the events that get out of hand, it becomes clear that he's also not the Devil that hostile and intolerant citizens make him out to be.
"The Wild One" does firmly date itself in some ways. The dialogue is very much of the time, and the antics of these biker clubs are not as scuzzy as some people might like to see. This is not a biker film for those people who enjoy the exploitative low budget pictures that came out in the wake of "Easy Rider". After a while, it becomes clear that there's not that much of a story here, as a lot of mayhem and destruction takes up the running time. But then, this is just as much of a character study as it is a motorcycle movie.
Our main character is something of an enigma. While ostensibly a rebel in outright defiance of every accepted societal norm, he's also a guy who's really not that sure of himself, a guy still in search of an identity. Scenes late in the film with Johnny and Kathie are the real standouts.
The excellent cast also includes Robert Keith as Kathie's dad, a surprisingly laid back lawman who doesn't seem to be that cut out for his job, and who is willing to give our gang some amount of leeway. Lee Marvin steals his scenes as rival gang leader Chino. It's also fun to see people like Timothy Carey, Alvy Moore, Jerry Paris, and Bruno VeSota in small, uncredited roles.
Nicely shot (by Hal Mohr) and scored (by Leith Stevens), "The Wild One" does merit a viewing for film buffs.
Seven out of 10.
La figlia di Frankenstein (1971)
Not all that bad.
1970s spin on the old Frankenstein tale co-stars Joseph Cotten as the dedicated Dr. F, assisted in his experiments by Charles Marshall (Paul Muller). His daughter Tania (Rosalba Neri) returns home, after having become a surgeon, and she's determined to help him as well. When his monstrous creation (Peter Whiteman) kills him, her bright idea is to create another creature to eliminate the first one.
The lovely Ms. Neri is the main reason to watch this New World production. As produced & directed by Roger Corman regular Mel Welles (Mr. Mushnik in "The Little Shop of Horrors"), it's not the liveliest or most lightning paced film of this kind that one will ever see. Still, even though there's nothing really special about it, it *is* watchable enough. It is admirable that New World would want to create a (mostly) traditional Gothic type of horror film, albeit one that's spiced up with occasional flashes of nudity. (For those who are interested, Ms. Neri fully disrobes at one point.) The monster, quite frankly, is utterly laughable, and is made to wear a pretty silly makeup job.
Cotten is passable as a not-TOO-mad Dr. Frankenstein. Muller is fine in support, as is Mickey Hargitay as a police inspector named Harris. Fans of Italian exploitation will recognize the prolific Joshua Sinclair in the small role of John. But it's Ms. Neri (who was dubbed by Linda Gary) who will command most of your attention.
Production design, cinematography, and costumes are all adequately done.
Be prepared, however, for a very abrupt ending.
Six out of 10.
Offers some fun for bad movie lovers.
This all sounds so comfortingly familiar. A young boy (Justin Greer) is locked in a closet so his mom (Mary Mendez) - obviously no candidate for mother of the year - can get it on, in peace, with her lover (Michael Shanahan). Very shortly afterwards, the mom and the lover get it with the title weapon. Fast forward ten years later, and one of the most obnoxious groups of young adults that you'll ever see makes it to the very same house for some hard partying. After we're made to watch a great deal of their tomfoolery, our psycho killer makes their appearance, once again putting a sledgehammer to good use.
An early credit for "Deadly Prey" director David A. Prior, this stars Davids' hunky brother Ted in the role of Chuck, one of these merry morons. The acting from Ted and all others concerned is exactly as amateurish as one would expect it to be, but that doesn't mean it isn't entertaining. John Eastman hams it up the most. Overall, "Sledgehammer" is nothing special, and it may not appeal to slasher fanatics across the board because one, there's no nudity, and two, it's really not that gory until the big finish. All of that said, it's reasonably enjoyable in typical bad movie fashion.
The main problem is that David A. Prior goes out of his way to pad the running time. "Sledgehammer" only runs about 85 minutes, but several minutes easily could have been cut out without affecting the movie. Still, this may add to the appeal for some in the audience. The inane antics of our intended victims go on for quite a long time, so if one is not amused by these characters right off the bat, just imagine having to put up with them for over 40 minutes or so.
The gore might not be that much, but it's fun in a predictably tacky way.
"Blood Cult" may get erroneously credited as the first shot on video regional horror flick, but this one predates it by a few years.
Six out of 10.
The Babadook (2014)
This decent if somewhat over praised modern psychological horror film stars Essie Davis as Amelia. Amelia is a single mother raising six year old Samuel (Noah Wiseman) by herself because the husband / father died while trying to transport Amelia to the hospital in the first place. Now Samuel is acting very strangely, insisting that he's interacting with the terrifying spectral beast of the title. His troubling (to say the least) behaviour leads her to start really losing her mind, which has already been in a fragile state ever since hubby's death.
This viewer found it a little too hard to care that much about these main characters, and the basic story is rather average. Yes, writer / director Jennifer Kent does deserve some credit, for choosing to go a mostly traditional route in terms of horror. She creates a mood, and an atmosphere, and some genre fans will be pleased to note that, for the most part, she eschews the use of excessive gore. She's also smart to keep her villain shadowy and vague and barely seen; while this approach might not appeal to some horror devotees, this viewer thinks that, often, the less he knows about the antagonist, the better. Lastly, Kent never allows special effects to overtake any drama, keeping them to a minimum.
The performance from leading lady Davis certainly reveals a deep sense of commitment. Granted, her histrionics come off as a little much, but she absolutely does not phone this performance in. She gives it her all. Little Wiseman is pretty impressive, and appealing through it all.
Overall, a good watch, not a great one.
Six out of 10.
The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
Oh ho ho, cracking job, Aardman!
Zany, delightful, appealing horror spoof chronicling the feature length adventures of Wallace (voice of Peter Sallis), our beloved cheese obsessed gadget creator, and his faithful dog Gromit. Here, Wallace & Gromit operate a company called Anti-Pesto, which disposes of pests such as rabbits in humane ways. Seeking to curb the destructive nature of rabbits, Wallace tries out his new mind control invention. You guessed it: he creates a monster, but not in the way that you might think.
The uniquely British humour of this upbeat, energetic animated feature is in full bloom. These characters are completely endearing and played to the hilt by a peerless cast. Sallis is wonderful as the voices of both Wallace and Hutch. Helena Bonham Carter voices a potential love interest for Wallace, the regal Lady Tottington who wants to rid her land of critters without harming them. Ralph Fiennes is hilarious as Victor Quartermaine, the obnoxious jerk who thinks *he's* going to marry Lady Tottington. And of course there's the lovable Gromit, who's at his most priceless reacting to other characters, particularly Wallace, as he rolls his eyes, does a facepalm, and shakes his head.
Top notch clay animation and deliciously goofy character designs combine in this superior bit of entertainment that can appeal to both older and younger viewers.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I fancy a bit of cheese...
Eight out of 10.
A robust, large scale, and diverting Western.
Co-writer, producer and director Lawrence Kasdan did his part in keeping the Western genre alive with "Silverado". It may not be innovative, but that may well have been the point, as Kasdan aims to pay tribute to a beloved movie genre that dated all the way back to the silent era. Admittedly, this one came along when the Western was going through a bit of a dry spell, which made it all the more welcome.
Four very engaging stars - Kevin Kline as Paden, Scott Glenn as Emmett, Danny Glover as Mal, Kevin Costner as Jake - are an interesting combo, as these characters, united by circumstance, eventually band together to fight against the injustices occurring in the town of Silverado. More than once, they prove their worth, in a story (written by Kasdan and his brother Mark) that is fairly episodic.
"Silverado" is extremely well shot, by John Bailey, in widescreen. It gets the look of a classic Western just right. It hooks you right away with an opening moment of quiet suddenly interrupted by a gunfight, and promises a substantial amount of entertainment to come when we're introduced to the tough and resilient Emmett and get a load of the majestic New Mexico locations. Admittedly, this doesn't work quite as well when you start to think about it too much, so it's better to just go with the flow and appreciate all that Kasdan and his cast & crew have packed into this presentation. Certainly, it would be hard not to get roused by that stirring and wonderful music score composed by Bruce Broughton.
There's a lot of acting talent to go around here, but giving things a curious quality is some unexpected casting. Linda Hunt? Jeff Goldblum? JOHN CLEESE? Rosanna Arquette is fairly appealing if somewhat aloof as the gal who catches both Klines' and Glenns' eyes. Jeff Fahey makes his film debut as scruffy psycho Tyree. Lovely ladies Amanda Wyss and Lynn Whitfield play local girl Phoebe and Mals' sister respectively. Recognizable character players in the cast include Marvin J. McIntyre, Sheb Wooley, James Gammon, Ray Baker, Joe Seneca, Earl Hindman, Jim Haynie, Richard Jenkins (also making his film debut), Pepe Serna, Ted White, and an uncredited Brion James as Hobart, the wagon master. The real standout for this viewer is Brian Dennehy, who never overplays his role as villainous sheriff Cobb, instead suffusing the character with a good deal of charm.
The pacing rarely slows down, and the action scenes are first rate. Especially good is a scene involving a stampede.
While lacking the overall impact for this viewer to consider it great, it's still pretty fun while it lasts.
Seven out of 10.
I Saw What You Did (1965)
When phone pranks go very, very wrong.
This fairly well made and entertaining William Castle shocker stars Andi Garrett and Sara Lane as Libby and Kit, two teenage girls who hang out at Libby's isolated country home when Libby's parents go on an overnight trip. Kids being kids, their idea of entertainment is picking random names out of the phone book and pestering the people with prank calls. Their worst mistake is when they dial up Steve Marak (John Ireland), and utter the memorable lines, "I saw what you did, and I know who you are." As fate would have it, Marak has just murdered his wife! While Marak spends his time covering up his crime, fending off the advances of his oversexed neighbour Amy Nelson (Joan Crawford), and desperately trying to get back in touch with the so-called "witnesses", the girls buy themselves more trouble by casing Steve's joint.
This isn't as enjoyable overall as this viewer would have liked. Castle isn't able to derive *that* much tension from the set-up, and the phone hijinks go on for a little too long. He also tries to balance a playful approach in the scenes with the girls with a more serious tone in the scenes with Ireland. The music score by Van Alexander is no help; sometimes it's just too jaunty.
Fortunately, the scenario gets more gripping as it plays out, and Castle finally delivers a decent suspense finale at the Mannering family homestead. Another major asset is extremely stark and atmospheric black & white cinematography by Joseph F. Biroc. The performances are solid from all concerned. Garrett and Lane create two reasonably engaging and upbeat characters. Ireland is fun as a stone cold psycho, and Crawford is effective as the woman who yearns to be with him. Leif Erickson, Patricia Breslin, John Archer, John Crawford, and Tom Hatten comprise the supporting cast, with Joyce Meadows contributing a brief cameo as the murder victim. The actual scene of her being killed is an obvious "Psycho" riff, but amusing.
Worth a look for thriller fans.
Remade for TV in 1988.
Seven out of 10.
Red State (2011)
Didn't hold up too well on a rewatch.
Three horny high school students - Travis (Michael Angarano), Billy-Ray (Nicholas Braun), and Jarod (Kyle Gallner) answer an online ad, thinking that they're going to get to score with an older woman. Instead, they fall victim to the machinations of fundamentalist religious whack job Abin Cooper (Michael Parks). Soon, in the outside world, the ATF gets wind of the situation, and descends on the Cooper compound. Typical bureaucratic bungling leads to an untenable business where everyone has to be considered expendable.
Give Kevin Smith some credit for tackling material far outside his comfort zone. In the early going, this treads on fairly familiar ground as Cooper and flock - clearly inspired by the Westboro Baptist Church, except much more violent - attempts to cleanse the world of sinners such as homosexuals, or these unlucky, lowly teenagers. So at first this kind of plays like your standard torture movie fare. In this segment of the film, things are at least somewhat compelling, thanks largely to a magnetic Parks. He sure does get an awful lot of screen time, but the truth is, he gives the best performance in this thing.
Then Smith loses his way, trying to turn "Red State" from something topical and remotely believable into a hyper kinetic, over the top action movie, complete with ridiculously stylized editing and camera work. Be prepared, also, for lots of digital splatter as one dumb, dumb character after another is riddled with bullets.
The penultimate sequence with John Goodman as a weary ATF agent goes on too long and is clearly some attempt by Smith to comment on bureaucracy in action. Ultimately, "Red State" doesn't begin in a particularly strong way, but the ending is much weaker.
One major problem is that it's much too hard to care about *anybody* in this thing. Very few characters elicit much in the way of sympathy.
A very fine cast does the best that it can; Kevin Pollak, Melissa Leo, Anna Gunn, and Stephen Root also appear.
Parks sings a number of the standards here and proves that he's a pretty decent singer as well.
Six out of 10.
There's nothing else quite like this.
Filmmaker John Boormans' follow-up to "Deliverance" is admittedly not to all tastes. Boorman, who also produced and wrote the film, gives us a one of a kind experience that, ultimately, is better seen than described. Words like "weird" and "provocative" come to mind when viewing it, because it's full of ideas.
It depicts a world of the future (the year 2293, to be exact) where a sly master intelligence, Zardoz, has contrived a way to keep unruly lower classes in line. One of the lower class people is an "exterminator", Zed (Sean Connery), whose job is to kill, period. One day Zed decides to seek truth, and hitches a ride in a great stone head, where he's transported to a "vortex", or environment, where the bored upper class, a group of immortal intellectuals, don't know what to make of him. He shakes up their world as much as they shake up his.
The most striking element of "Zardoz" is the visual approach. Filmed on location in Ireland, it takes us from one surreal set piece to another, with deliberately stylized dialogue. The cast plays the material with very straight faces. Connery looks fairly embarrassed, and considering the fact that his costume partly consists of a red diaper, one can hardly blame him. (He wasn't too happy about having to wear a wedding dress, either.) Charlotte Rampling, Sara Kestelman, John Alderton, Sally Anne Newton, and Niall Buggy co-star; of this group of actors, Buggy does manage to inject some humour into the proceedings.
This is sedately paced and short on action, but it's compelling in its own offbeat way, provided one is able to stick with the story. While it's not likely to be very appealing to a mainstream audience, it's not something easily forgotten for devotees of cult cinema.
Seven out of 10.
A bloody good time.
Co-writer and director Christopher Smith puts a rather fresh and funny spin on the standard slasher formula with this irreverent horror comedy. The employees of a multinational weapons manufacturer named Palisade travel to the Eastern European woods for a "team building" retreat. They get on each others' nerves for a while, but this will not turn out to be their biggest worry. What happens is that a very stealthy and extremely sadistic killer is going to target them, and arrange for them to meet nasty ends.
Give Smith and his co-writer James Moran some credit for playing around with the conventions of slasher cinema without resorting to self-referential dialogue. The set-up is certainly a topical one, and the filmmakers do work in digs at corporate culture as well as this genre. The characters may grate on the nerves of some viewers. "Severance" does fall into that familiar trap of "dumb people doing dumb things", but at least not all of the characters are hopeless. Laura Harris plays Maggie as a resilient person who keeps a cool head in an emergency.
Genre lovers will be pleased with a respectable amount of splatter, and it must be said that these particular woods - "Severance" was filmed in Hungary and The Isle of Man - possess some decent atmosphere. The performances are generally capable. Danny Dyer is the principal supplier of comedy relief as the immature Steve. Toby Stephens is fun in the role of Harris. The filmmakers also work in a brief and very amusing way to contrive some nudity.
Ultimately, this is rather predictable and the ending isn't all that great, but this is still pretty enjoyable while it lasts.
Seven out of 10.