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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
Let there be ninjas.
Amiable sequel to the popular Cannon Group martial arts potboiler reunites Michael Dudikoff and Steve James as Army Rangers Armstrong and Jackson. They're recruited for a mission on a Caribbean island: find out who has been abducting various Marines. The trail leads to a nefarious drug kingpin (Gary Conway), his chief henchman (Mike Stone), and his army of genetically engineered ninjas.
The genetic tampering is an amusing hook, along with a tone that heavily stresses the tongue in cheek. If one were to take this seriously, it would indeed come off as a pretty bad action flick. But there's so much silliness - especially in terms of script and performance - on display that it's hard to believe that Cannon Group ninja movie specialist Sam Firstenberg, and screenwriters Conway and James Booth, didn't intend the movie to be at least partly comedic. That makes it pretty agreeable, if also largely forgettable.
Certainly one of the most entertaining elements is the chemistry between studs Dudikoff and James. The former is of course decidedly low key, the latter much more extroverted, and they do generate decent chemistry. The supporting cast features a fair amount of nondescript players, but Conway (known for 'Burke's Law', 'Land of the Giants', and for being the original Teenage Frankenstein) seems to be having some fun. Michelle Botes adds some enjoyable female eye candy, in the only substantial female role, and MA expert Stone is a reasonably striking villain, complete with facial scar.
Good fun overall, even if it won't be quite violent enough to suit some tastes.
Six out of 10.
Trick Baby (1972)
Stewart and Martin are a winning pair.
Based on the novel by Robert Beck (who uses the truly awesome pseudonym "Iceberg Slim"), this is a very fine crime drama, set and shot entirely in Philly. Mel Stewart ('Scarecrow and Mrs. King') and Kiel Martin ('Hill Street Blues') are engaging as a black veteran con artist and his supposedly half black protégé. They are generally successful at their trade, but they end up buying trouble for themselves when one of their marks turns out to be the uncle of a mob boss. (Naturally, the mobster wants revenge.) They also get mixed up with a crooked detective (Dallas Edward Hayes), and try for a hefty payday with a shady land development deal.
While at first glance, this might *seem* like blaxploitation, it isn't really. It's more of a modern urban predecessor to "The Sting" with an integrated cast. It's fundamentally an entertaining story, well told by co-screenwriter and director Larry Yust ("Homebodies"). It's violent, but not violent enough to turn off more squeamish viewers, and it's sexy without ever becoming overtly sleazy. It benefits a lot from the Philly location shooting, and the story keeps you hooked, wondering what will become of our anti-heroes. "Folks" (Martin) does worry that they are getting in over their heads, and urges "Blue" (Stewart) to try to leave the life. Blue, however, is much too enticed by the prospect of what waits for them inside a safety deposit box.
"Trick Baby" (the title refers to people such as Folks) has some very enjoyable dialogue, and solid atmosphere. At the heart of the film is the excellent chemistry between Stewart and Martin. Hayes is superb in support, and there's an appealing supporting performance by the sexy young Vernee Watson ('The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air') as Blues' much younger wife. Future 'Love Boat' bartender Ted Lange plays a pimp, and Thomas Anderson & Clebert Ford make the most out of their brief appearances. The music by James Bond is as delightful as any you'll hear in the blaxploitation genre.
Well worth a look for any lover of movies about con artists.
Eight out of 10.
Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Some decent monster madness in this one.
Not really connected to other "King Kong" films in terms of story or characters, this is a reboot for the new century, telling the familiar apes' story for a new generation. A bunch of dreamers / monster chasers led by Bill Randa (John Goodman) are accompanied by a military escort as they set out to explore a newfound South Pacific island. They'll find that the main occupant is an ENORMOUS gorilla (this may be the hugest Kong on record) - but there is absolutely no shortage of formidable creatures on the island. Leading the military is an officer (Samuel L. Jackson) who is a bitter warrior in need of a new enemy. Hired to guide this bunch of dummies is a British tracker named Conrad (Tom Hiddleston).
You do have to be pretty undemanding to get into "Kong: Skull Island". The script is rubbish, with far too many ridiculous characters and far too much awful dialogue. It's also in the mold of a lot of modern Hollywood product, with the filmmakers seemingly hellbent on making sure that their audience is not bored. To that end, there's quite a bit of good monster action, as Kong is joined by a spider with VERY tall legs, giant wildebeest type things, a giant fresh water squid, and a menagerie of lizard type animals dubbed "skull crawlers". The movie is never more entertaining than when it focuses on Kong and his battles with his fellow island dwellers.
As for these people who are foolish enough to invade Kongs' domain, who really cares? Some of the actors - Hiddleston, Goodman, the gorgeous Brie Larson - manage to survive with some dignity intact. John C. Reilly adds a fair amount of the comedy relief with his role as a soldier who's been stuck on the island since the second World War. Jackson actually delivers a performance instead of just being a personality, but his character is one of the most absurd.
This does benefit from some lovely Hawaiian scenery, effectively shot in widescreen. And the CGI is actually some of the best that this viewer has seen; it doesn't look overly cartoonish. Kong is performed capably through the motion capture technique by Terry Notary and Toby Kebbell (the latter also plays the soldier Jack Chapman).
This viewer can understand why some people would be unimpressed, but was able to take the bad with the good, and have a reasonably fun time with this.
The use of all the rock songs got to be annoying. I didn't need *that* many reminders that this story takes place in 1973.
Six out of 10.
Let your pleasure be your guide.
Anne Parillaud stars in the title role, a dangerous street punk who shoots a cop during a botched pharmacy robbery. She ends up saved from her execution by a typically shadowy government organization, because a character named Bob (Tcheky Karyo) has seen potential in her. She's groomed to be an assassin, and eventually adapts to this new life of hers. Adding to her newfound happiness is a romance with a nice guy supermarket cashier, Marco (Jean-Hugues Anglade).
"La Femme Nikita" may surprise you if you're seeing it for the first time. Having spawned an American remake ("Point of No Return") and a cable TV series, one might think it were wall to wall action. But it's not. It's actually got quite a bit of humanity, working as a straight drama (for the most part) with interludes of intrigue. It benefits from engaging characters; as Nikita blossoms, the character becomes more and more appealing. Anglade is a likable, worthy love interest, adding to the good vibes.
That doesn't mean, however, that there's no action at all. One set piece in a restaurant will capture the viewers' attention, as things go from bad to worse and Nikita gets caught in a shootout. There is some potent violence to enjoy, and giving the proceedings a real shot in the arm is the late-in- the-game appearance of ever-cool Jean Reno, who plays an unhinged "cleaner" named Victor.
The sexy Parillaud is convincing every step of the way. The excellent Karyo does a compelling job as this unlikely new sort of "father figure" in her life. Film legend Jeanne Moreau adds a great touch of class as Amande, who coaches Nikita on how to bring out her femininity.
The breakthrough film for its writer / director, Luc Besson, "Nikita" might be too slow and quiet for some tastes, but it does have style. Besson would later re-team with Reno for his American debut, "Leon the Professional".
Seven out of 10.
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
...And if you do not listen, then the Hell with you!
Robert E. Howards' pulp hero got envisioned for the big screen in a majestic way, with this initial starring vehicle for champion weightlifter and future action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger. Its extremely impressive production values, and vivid storytelling, make it absolutely tops for its genre, and indeed superior to many of the imitative sword and sorcery epics that it spawned. Conan is orphaned as a boy when evil cult leader Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) and his minions slaughter the people of Conans' village, including Conans' parents (played by Nadiuska and the legendary movie tough guy William Smith). The film charts Conans' odyssey from young slave to pit fighter to thief to avenging hero, giving him some faithful companions in the form of Valeria (Sandahl Bergman), Subotai (surfer Gerry Lopez), and the Wizard (Mako, who also serves as narrator).
With a screenplay credited to director John Milius and Oliver Stone, "Conan the Barbarian" is grand in its scope. Excellent location shooting (entirely in Spain) helps a great deal in creating the atmosphere, along with eye popping production design by Ron Cobb and cinematography by Duke Callaghan. Unlike some of its imitators, "Conan the Barbarian" is definitely a fantasy feature for adults, with a fair amount of female skin bared and some effectively nasty violence. Milius keeps optical effects to a minimum, and employs some enjoyable practically done effects along the way. The action scenes are nicely executed. But soaring above a lot of the other assets is the grandiose score composed by Basil Poledouris. It is simply perfect for the material.
Arnold is of course an ideal choice for the title role. His physical prowess, and physique, are on full display. The supporting cast is also up to the task. Jones is a wonderfully odious, yet charismatic, villain. Bergman is not much of an actress, but she too shows off an effective athleticism. Lopez (who is actually dubbed by actor Sab Shimono) is engaging, and Mako a hoot as he so often was. Smith is seen much too briefly, but Max von Sydow makes the most of his limited screen time, relishing a rare opportunity to ham it up. Arnolds' weightlifting associates Franco Columbu & Sven-Ole Thorsen, and football player Ben Davidson, play assorted heavies. Cassandra Gava makes a memorable appearance as a witch. Expatriate actor Jack Taylor, a familiar face to fans of European horror and exploitation, has a cameo as a priest.
If one is looking to delve into this genre, they simply can't do better than this.
Nine out of 10.
Cutter's Way (1981)
John Heards' finest hour.
This adaptation of the Newton Thornburg novel "Cutter and Bone" stars Jeff Bridges, John Heard, and Lisa Eichhorn in its principal roles. It's a sad, cynical story of friendship and loss, in a post- Vietnam, post-Watergate America. Bridges is Richard Bone, an unambitious but likable young stud currently earning a living as a yacht salesman. Heard is his friend Alex Cutter, a bitter, confrontational, and disabled veteran. And Eichhorn is Maureen, the despairing alcoholic whom they both love. One night, when his car breaks down in an alley, Richard sees a man disposing of a body. That man just might be filthy rich J.J. Cord (Stephen Elliott), and Alex relentlessly prods Richard into doing something with this knowledge.
"Cutter's Way" is more of a character study than anything else, taking a blunt, unflinching look at our three flawed protagonists. Cutter bemoans the lack of "heroes" in the world, and doesn't approve of the way that Bone avoids commitments. Maureen doesn't get much love or affection from her husband Cutter, and finds herself drawn to the more easygoing Bone. All three of the leads are impressive, especially Eichhorn. But it's often Heard that steals the show; his Cutter is a force of nature much of the time, although the character is not without humanity.
Czech-born director Ivan Passer gives us a film that is noticeably low key and slowly paced, so it won't appeal to all tastes. The main draw really is the acting, although it's commendable that the story isn't patently predictable. It's up to us to decide if Cord really is guilty of the crime.
The offbeat music score by Jack Nitzsche (reminiscent of his music for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" at times) and the gorgeous photography of various Santa Barbara locations are a big plus. Also among the supporting cast are Ann Dusenberry, Arthur Rosenberg, and Nina van Pallandt; look for Billy Drago in a bit as a garbageman.
Fairly compelling stuff, with some truly sobering moments.
Seven out of 10.
Sci-fi with humour and heart.
It's a year of the future in which mankind actually draws an energy source from the moon. Currently they have a person stationed alone on the lunar surface: astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell). His companion is a robotic intelligence named "Gerty", voiced by Kevin Spacey. He tries his best to keep his sanity, while his three year tour is just about over. One day, a vehicular accident leads Sam to make some stunning discoveries. He's not really so alone.
"Moon" marks an interesting, and emotionally involving, filmmaking effort for story author / director Duncan Jones (the son of music legend David Bowie), screenwriter Nathan Parker, and others. It tells a small scale story, and a rather intimate one, with Rockwell often the only human performer seen on screen. It's quiet, and thoughtful; it doesn't indulge in action set pieces or anything to do with aliens. It deals with issues of paranoia, human identity, loneliness, and an individuals' right to exist. Overall, it's quite satisfying, with top notch visuals functioning as icing on the cake. The music score by Clint Mansell is quite wonderful. Without spoiling too much, this viewer will say that he greatly appreciated the various twists in the plot.
Rockwell remains a very watchable and valuable actor, and he is one of the greatest assets that this film can boast. If you're going to have your story basically focus on one person, you need an actor who can fully engage the audiences' sympathies, and Rockwell succeeds admirably.
If you're a sci-fi fan, and want to see something that doesn't involve alien invasions or space battles or the like, this one comes highly recommended.
Eight out of 10.
10 Rillington Place (1971)
Fascinating; very good entertainment.
If you basically only know Lord Richard Attenborough from the "Jurassic Park" films where he played filthy rich entrepreneur John Hammond, you owe it to yourself to check out past performances such as this one here. He offers a textbook lesson in subtle but pervasive creepiness, playing real life British serial killer John Christie. In the post WWII years in London, Christie rents out a flat to a struggling young couple, Timothy and Beryl Evans (John Hurt and lovely Judy Geeson). He offers to perform a certain service for them, which proves to be extremely fateful for this unfortunate man and woman.
The great American filmmaker Richard Fleischer brings a masterful level of realism and authenticity to this based-on-true-crimes story. (His other films in this genre, "Compulsion" and "The Boston Strangler", are also well worth seeking out.) It's sedately paced, so it's not for people with short attention spans, but the rewards for sticking with it are substantial. You do come to be invested in these characters, and care about some of them. It would be impossible not to take pity on Timothy, or for that matter, Christies' wife Ethel (Pat Heywood), who realizes that she *didn't* know the man whom she married all that well. Lord Richard is very impressive; delivering a performance that truly gets under a persons' skin. He's such an unflappable, practiced liar that he always comes off more convincing than the harried Timothy. If you're not familiar with the real story, you keep watching and wondering if he's ever going to get caught.
Geeson is very appealing, and the young Hurt does earn the audiences' sympathies, given the way that Timothy just plays right into our villains' hands. You can understand Timothy getting righteously upset when he realizes that he's been lying to cover up for a character who is revealed to be quite dubious in the first place.
This is an excellent star trio being showcased here. But the supporting cast also features some top notch players such as Heywood, Andre Morell as a judge, Robert Hardy and Geoffrey Chater as opposing attorneys, sexy Isobel Black as Alice, Gabrielle Daye and Jimmy Gardner as the Lynches, and Sam Kydd as a furniture dealer.
Production design, cinematography, and location work are all first rate, and John Dankworth supplies a solid music score that is used sparingly.
This one is not to be missed.
10 out of 10.
"Just give'r" is a good motto for life.
"Fubar" is a 100% Canadian mockumentary from writer / director Michael Dowse ("It's All Gone, Pete Tong", "Goon") that delivers some modest chuckles, but works because it ultimately cares about its characters. Paul Spence and David Lawrence play Dean and Terry, two 20 something goof balls who are decidedly unambitious in life. A documentary filmmaker named Farrel (Gordon Skilling) sets out to record their day to day activities, as they live the life of those party animals known as "head bangers".
Not really to be mistaken for a rock 'n' roll movie (although the soundtrack *is* ace); music doesn't play that big a part in the story that unfolds. At first, Dowses' film is mildly amusing as it shows us the tomfoolery to which Dean and Terry are prone. It's got a funny enough script, with liberal use of profanity - especially F-bombs. Things do take a sober turn when it is discovered that Dean has testicular cancer, and he's forced to take the matter seriously. He and Terry then confront ideas of life and death, even as they entertain themselves with such things as a camping trip.
The no-name cast is quite engaging, especially Spence. Skilling is a hoot as the uptight, seemingly humourless director. Incidentally, the guy in the role of Deans' doctor was Dowses' physician in real life, and he's basically playing himself. A number of the supporting players did actually mistake "Fubar" for a serious doc on the life of the "common man" in Canada.
Overall, a likable, offbeat effort. It does bear the mark of a low budget, but it does have some charm that more than makes up for that.
Seven out of 10.
Das Frauenhaus (1977)
Torture, seduction, dance...it's all in a day's work.
Martine Flety plays the title character, the owner / proprietor of an adults only club in swinging Paris. There are plenty of attractions on the main floor, but in the basement is where things really happen. Rita and her bevy of babes imprison various men, torturing them and stimulating them to the point of madness. It's all in the name of extracting money and information out of these hapless chumps. Little does Rita know that Interpol is taking a keen interest in what goes on in her club.
Jesus "Jess" Franco strikes again with another exercise in stylish sleaze. Viewers will be pleased to note that there is lots of female nudity (in fact, one of the very first shots shows some full frontal) and a little bit of sex. (There is some male nudity as well.) But what makes this stand out a little from the many trash epics that Franco made in the 1970s is the fact that he's melding exploitation with the espionage genre, with a touch of 70s era psychedelia. The visual approach is quite striking, as Franco and his crew go with some gorgeous gold and pink colour schemes. The music by Walter Baumgartner is quite groovy, to boot.
The performances are generally amusing from all concerned. Luscious brunette Sarah Strasberg was a particular favourite for this viewer, as she plays the role of a heavy named Franchesa. Dagmar Burger is appealing as an entertainer named "Sun". Eric Falk is a hoot as a "boxer" targeted by Rita and her minions. And Flety is quite watchable in the lead.
You add a funny fight scene, and a VERY funny death scene, to the proceedings, and it amounts to a pretty good time for exploitation fanatics.
Seven out of 10.