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Real name: Scott LeBrun
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
Picasso Trigger (1988)
See it for the ladies.
Andy Sidaris follows his usual formula with this mix of action, gorgeous scenery, and even more gorgeous women. The story deals with the title character, an international criminal played by handsome John Aprea. He's gunned down outside an art gallery by the goons of a crazed associate, Miguel Ortiz (Rodrigo Obregon). Then a team of government operatives, including Travis Abilene (amiable hunk Steve Bond), Donna (the delectable Dona Speir), and Taryn (lovely Hope Marie Carlton) spend their time trying to eliminate Ortiz and his henchmen.
"Picasso Trigger" is fun, at least to a degree. It's never inspired, but it's reasonably rousing at times and even if the viewer is otherwise bored, they'll hopefully be preoccupied with ogling the female cast members. Naturally, they show off the goods when they get a chance. The acting is basically good enough for this sort of thing. The standout is veteran Aprea, who's a real smooth type. The gadgets designed by "Q" type character The Professor (Richard LePore) are cute, especially that killer crutch.
The material is played with a degree of humour, with some choice bits of dialogue here and there. Things get a little annoying in the final minutes, with one "ending" after another, but the movie is overall a good little diversion.
Six out of 10.
Terrore nello spazio (1965)
Essential viewing for Bava fans.
Master filmmaker Mario Bava is working at the peak of his abilities with this sinister sci-fi / horror flick that surely had to have influenced "Alien" just as much as "It! The Terror from Beyond Space". The story (the English language version was co-adapted by noted writer Ib Melchior, based on a tale by Renato Pestriniero) sees a group of astronauts investigating signals sent from a distant planet. They're forced to land, where a strange presence influences their minds and turns them against each other. Not only that, but these aliens are able to resurrect the bodies of the human dead.
As fans of Bava come to expect, everything is very stylishly done. The atmosphere is overwhelming, the fog machine works overtime, the sets are incredible, and the use of colour is impeccable. It does actually feel like these characters could be on another planet. There's a little bit of gore along the way to spice things up. Even the costumes are stylized; dig the ridiculous size of those collars! The eerie music is by Gino Marinuzzi Jr. Bava creates a palpable sense of doom and gloom, and the story builds to an effective twist ending.
The actors are all fine, with veteran Barry Sullivan ("The Bad and the Beautiful") assuming the role of the intrepid captain. Lovely ladies Norma Bengell and Evi Marandi play Sanya and Tiona, respectively. Angel Aranda plays the part of crew member Wess, and busy horror & exploitation star Ivan Rassimov ("The Man from the Deep River") has dual roles.
If you're an admirer of "Alien", then you really should check out this suspenseful little gem that preceded it.
Eight out of 10.
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
Intelligent and poignant.
Meticulous period recreation and superb rural atmosphere blend in this very good film, director Robert Altmans' follow-up to his big hit "MASH". A wonderful Warren Beatty stars in the title role of two bit gambler John McCabe, who gets the idea to open a saloon & whorehouse in the small mining town of Presbyterian Church. His business partner in this venture is a madam named Constance Miller (Julie Christie). Unfortunately, a much more powerful business tries to muscle its way into this now thriving territory. McCabe is too content with business as is to accept their offers, which only serves to get him into trouble.
"McCabe & Mrs. Miller" is a fine example of putting a fresh spin on the mythology of the Old West. It does indeed work as a precursor to the later TV series 'Deadwood'. Widescreen cinematography, by Vilmos Zsigmond, and production design, by Leon Ericksen, are first rate. The location shooting in wintry British Columbia, Canada, is another appreciable element. The theme of progress and of big business making life miserable for the independent operators is one that's still quite relevant today. The two main characters are extremely engaging, with Christie a delight in an Oscar nominated performance. Songs by Leonard Cohen are utilized throughout.
Altman works with another of his superb ensemble supporting casts: Rene Auberjonois, William Devane (who has just one scene, but makes it count), John Schuck, Bert Remsen, Shelley Duvall, Keith Carradine, Michael Murphy, and Hugh Millais. Familiar faces in smaller roles include Janet Wright, Wayne Robson, Jack Riley, Wayne Grace, and Don Francks.
The finale is incredibly tense and plays out without too much dialogue. Millais makes for a genuinely spooky antagonist.
All in all, this is a film well worth watching for fans of the cast, director, and genre.
Eight out of 10.
True Grit (1969)
A great vehicle for The Duke.
John Wayne shines here, in his Oscar-winning portrayal of a cantankerous, tough, hard- drinking, one-eyed federal marshal named "Rooster" Cogburn. Headstrong young Mattie Ross (an appealing Kim Darby) approaches him for help: find Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey), the no- good type who shot and killed her father, and bring Chaney back to face the hangman. Mattie requires Roosters' services because this killing is no longer a matter for the police as Chaney is now hiding in Indian territory, riding with the bandit Ned Pepper (Robert Duvall) and his gang. Mattie insists on tagging along with Rooster every step of the way, and also along for the ride is a stubborn Texas Ranger, La Boeuf (singer Glen Campbell).
The characters are surely a very compelling bunch, with Wayne dominating the screen in his inimitable style. Although they didn't really get along behind the camera, he and Darby work pretty well together on screen. Campbells' part comes across as not that likable to start, but he does endear himself more to the viewer as the story progresses. Based on the novel by Charles Portis, with a screenplay by Marguerite Roberts, the film is extremely well directed by Henry Hathaway, and gets a lot of juice from the sparks set by the two main characters. In addition, it's very effective in the realistic, even handed way that it treats the villainous Pepper. Duvall is superb in this low key performance where you won't see any "moustache twirling".
The always very reliable director of photography Lucien Ballard makes the film look just gorgeous, and Elmer Bernstein composed a wonderful score.
There's an absolutely delightful line-up of talent in supporting and character roles: Jeremy Slate, Dennis Hopper, Strother Martin (his scenes with Darby are very amusing), Ron Soble, John Fiedler, James Westerfield, John Doucette, Myron Healey, James McEachin, Jay Silverheels, and Hank Worden.
Ultimately, this is charming and poignant and Wayne makes the most out of the material, with Cogburn emerging as one of the most colourful parts of his career.
Nine out of 10.
The Dark (1979)
"Grey? Our mangler's a zombie!"
Director John "Bud" Cardos, who'd given us the superior "nature strikes back" thriller "Kingdom of the Spiders", proved up to the task of replacing original director Tobe Hooper on this mostly routine but basically entertaining sci-fi / horror tale. The original concept for the movie was that of a killer zombie, but after poor screenings, it was decided to make the killer an alien and add a bunch of cheese ball laser effects.
The story is that after the alien has savagely murdered his daughter, an author, Roy Warner (the amusingly cast William Devane), teams up with an ambitious TV newswoman, Zoe Owens (Cathy Lee Crosby) to track the monster down. The detectives on the case (Richard Jaeckel, Biff Elliot) can't seem to make any progress, but providing a substantial amount of assistance to Roy and Zoe is the psychic character De Renzy (Jacquelyn Hyde - now *there's* a name for you), who believes she knows who one of the aliens' victims will be.
The sci-fi element provides just the right touch here, generating a fair amount of chuckles when we start to see the creatures' modus operandi. John Arthur Morrill handles the slick Panavision photography, while Roger Kellaway supplies a score that's quite a hoot. It features some decidedly over the top "whispering". The special effects are fun, and the pacing adequate. The best part has to be the climactic action when the alien unleashes hell on the cops that are trying to take it down.
The actors are all good, particularly Jaeckel and Devane in his change of pace role. Keenan Wynn plays Crosby's boss, Casey Kasem is a pathologist, Vivian Blaine appears as a high society type, seven foot four inch John Bloom plays the titular murderer, and Warren J. Kemmerling is the typical police boss who demands that Jaeckel and Elliot produce some results. Look for the following people in bit parts: Vernon Washington ("Friday the 13th: A New Beginning") as a victim, Philip Michael Thomas of 'Miami Vice' fame as an outspoken youth, and none other than Paris Hiltons' mom Kathy Hilton as the requisite first person to die. Angelo Rossitto has an uncredited cameo as a news vendor.
If you're like this viewer and have a weakness for movies like this, you're sure to have a good time with it.
Seven out of 10.
Next of Kin (1989)
Some fun moments.
It's high concept time in this tale of the hill folk of Kentucky taking on the Chicago mob. Patrick Swayze plays Truman Gates, who's from the hills and now works as a Chicago cop. His baby brother Gerald (Bill Paxton), a driver for a vending company, is murdered in cold blood by hot tempered cretin Joey Rosselini (Adam Baldwin). Well, Trumans' people get wind of this and his reactionary brother Briar (Liam Neeson) vows that vengeance will be meted out. Truman actually wants to do things the legal way and haul Joey into a court, but naturally things just don't work out that way.
This may be far fetched and silly, but at least it's an entertaining story. One standout sequence has Briar escaping from the mob by hitching a ride on a train, and the climactic showdown when Trumans' family helps him take on a bunch of thugs is some pretty amusing stuff. (You gotta love the moment when Rhino (Valentino Cimo) finds some slithering friends waiting for him inside a bus.) It's all directed capably enough by John Irvin ("Ghost Story", "Raw Deal"), with efficient location filming and an enjoyable soundtrack.
Certainly the cast gives it some real interest. Neeson is a hoot as the older brother, but Paxton disappears a little too soon from the story. Swayze is okay, nothing more, as our hero, but he does handle himself well in fight scenes. There is one funny sequence where Truman and Briar tussle while handcuffed to each other. Helen Hunt has a rather thankless role as a typical Concerned Wife. Andreas Katsulas plays the mafia boss and none other than Ben Stiller plays his son. Michael J. Pollard is his usual nutty, amusing self as a motel owner. Del Close appears briefly, and Ted Levine has one big scene.
All things considered, this is all pretty routine and watchable. At least the redneck family aren't portrayed as one dimensional cartoon characters.
Seven out of 10.
The Last Stand (2013)
An acceptable return to form for Arnold.
In his first film vehicle since the end of his political career, action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as Ray Owens, a former big city cop who's chosen to live in relative peace and quiet as sheriff of the small border town of Sommerton Junction. However, his life and those of his deputies are going to get violently shaken up by a nasty drug kingpin, Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), who's busted out of custody and is making a headlong dash for Mexico, behind the wheel of a car designed to go extremely fast. Ray decides that he won't just sit idly by and let the bumbling feds, led by Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) run the show; he's going to defend his town and do his best to stop Cortez.
"The Last Stand" may test the patience of some members of its audience because it actually takes its time to really get rolling. But the action comes fast and furious, eventually. Things get pretty damn violent, but the overuse of digital gore takes one out of the action. Director Kim Jee-woon ("A Tale of Two Sisters", "The Good, The Bad, The Weird") does an impressive job of filling the frame with carnage. The script does acknowledge Arnolds' advancing age; he may not be quite as spry as he used to be, but his screen presence is still undeniable, and his character does have a tenacity that you have to admire. The other actors also get a chance to create some engaging characters for whom a viewer can root. Overall, this is just outlandish and silly enough to work as something of a throwback to the kind of corpse-filled entertainment that Arnold specialized in back in the 1980s. The subplots are dumb but don't get enough screen time that they hurt the basic story at all.
In addition to Whitaker and Noriega, other cast members doing their best to enliven the material include the consistently amusing Peter Stormare (Just WHAT kind of accent is he going for here?), the likable Luis Guzman, the mildly funny Johnny Knoxville as the main comedy relief character, and lovely ladies Jaimie Alexander and Genesis Rodriguez. It's a treat as it always is to see the veteran Harry Dean Stanton, who has an uncredited cameo as a cantankerous local farmer.
It is nice to see Arnold back doing what he does best, and "The Last Stand" is not as memorable as his vehicles of past decades, but it fills the time in an entertaining manner.
Seven out of 10.
Body Fever (1969)
A decent watch.
Co-writer / director Ray Dennis Steckler pays homage to film noir with this straight faced little drama. He also stars, as low rent private eye Charles Smith, hired by a man named Ferguson (Alan Smith) to locate his former secretary Carrie Erskine (played by the sexy Carolyn Brandt, who was at one time Mrs. Steckler), who absconded with $150,000 worth of heroin that Ferguson was holding for big cheese mobster Big Mack (Bernard Fein). Big Mack actually doesn't seem to care that much about the theft; he just wants Ferguson dead. And a lowlife bad guy associate of Carrie's, Frankie Roberts (Gary Kent), wants in on the action.
It's interesting to see Steckler, he of the notoriously limited budgets, actually take himself somewhat seriously. The result is a moderately entertaining movie, one with no real fireworks but a story that proves to be at least watchable. It comes up short in terms of exploitable elements - there's no gore and no nudity, and the few sex scenes that occur are done rather tastefully. The cast does some good work. Steckler is likable enough in the lead, and Ms. Brandt, who wears a Catwoman-like costume for the theft, is certainly easy on the eyes, as are the other ladies such as Dina Bryan as Charles's secretary Stella, Bret Zeller as drug addict Carol Hollister, and Pat Jackson as model Julie Richards. Fein and Kent are effective antagonists, and there are also roles for Ron Haydock as the slimy photographer and Coleman Francis (director of the classic "The Beast of Yucca Flats") as Charles's old friend.
B movie aficionados may find this to be a refreshing change of pace for Steckler as it keeps silliness to a minimum.
Five out of 10.
"We're gonna do this the Scanner way...I'm gonna suck your brain dry!"
Cameron Vale (played by artist Stephen Lack) is a derelict who, after a bizarre incident in a shopping mall, is rounded up by two goons who bring him to eminent doctor Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan). Paul reveals to Cameron the reality of his situation: Cameron is in fact a "Scanner", or a person with extraordinary telepathic abilities. Scanners can not only look into the minds of others, and manipulate them, but can also do very unpleasant things to human bodies. Paul recruits Cameron to help him track down Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside, in his breakthrough role), a rogue Scanner with plans for world domination.
The late, great Dick Smith was the special consultant to the makeup effects crew (Stephan Dupuis, Chris Walas, Tom Schwartz), and it's these effects that take center stage in this interesting and bleak thriller from Canadian legend David Cronenberg. The exploding head that everybody remembers so vividly actually occurs only about 13 and a half minutes into the show, so viewers don't have long to wait. Of course, as has been pointed out, how does one top something like that? Well, Cronenberg waits until the end to come up with a pretty good showdown between good Scanner and bad Scanner.
The pace is admittedly deliberate, but the ideas unfortunately don't feel completely fleshed out. Quite a bit of exposition is packed into the last act. The filming of this classic wasn't particularly enjoyable for Cronenberg as he *did* have to begin filming before his script was even finished, so he *was* unfortunately rushed. Still, his story is a damn entertaining and intense one.
Howard Shores' music score is wonderfully over the top and scary, and sets and locations do have a very sparse look. The acting is variable; McGoohan looks bored, as if he doesn't really want to be there, and Jennifer O'Neill, while beautiful, doesn't really add anything to the film. Lack gets a lot of flak for his performance, which I'll agree isn't a particularly dynamic one, but it does suit the character, a man who was a lonely fringe dweller for a long time until being awakened into a larger reality. (Cronenberg does make an effective parallel here to the way that real life people with mental issues get treated.) Former Cronenberg repertory player Robert A. Silverman is fun in another of his offbeat parts, and Lawrence Dane is excellent as security chief Braedon Keller, but it's Ironside who completely steals the show as the nasty villain.
While not without flaws, "Scanners" remains one of its directors' most memorable efforts to date.
Seven out of 10.
"I was just trying to eeease the tension..."
Combine a ridiculous story (actually, there's not very much of a "story"), stunningly terrible acting, lousy sound, endearingly tacky effects, and an omnipresent, overbearing music score, and you have the memorably bizarre and stupid micro budget oddity that is "Things". This movie just goes to show that Canadians can do this sort of thing just as "well" as anybody. It drags and meanders and is often just as tiresome as it is funny. But when it's over, it's the kind of Thing that you just don't forget.
Basically, an insane husband whose inability to give his wife a child led them to participate in an experiment that saw her give birth to the creatures of the title. Now a bunch of characters: Don Drake (played by co-writer / co-producer Barry J. Gillis), his brother Doug (Doug Bunston), and Fred (Bruce Roach) are about to experience a night of terror thanks to the machinations of the nefarious Dr. Lucas (Jan W. Pachul).
You'd swear these guys, including co-writer / co-producer / director Andrew Jordan, were just making up this absurdity as they went along; this plodding but amusing piece of work does have that feel. The so-called actors in this thing appear pretty amused themselves. (Lovely porn star Amber Lynn appears in a (clothed) part as a reporter. Overall, getting through "Things" is going to be a real endurance test for some people while others may well have a whale of a time. The filmmakers may not be the most technically proficient you'll ever see (to put it mildly), but they make up for that to a degree with gonzo enthusiasm. The splatter is absolutely delicious stuff for whatever budget they bad.
Shot on Super 8, this truly walks on the wild and wacky side of Canucksploitation.
Five out of 10.