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The Hound of London (1993)
This, "Hound," should be stuffed.
After watching this film, which is adapted from a stage play, I can only assume it was originally an amateur dramatics production. And, based on the performances on display here, that the original cast was carried over too.
It is a truly lacklustre piece of film-making involving Patrick MacNee (miscast as Holmes and playing it somewhere between a misguided comedy turn and a brain-addled old fart who seems to think he has wandered into the wrong film but isn't quite sure) investigating a baffling (and I use the word ironically) murder which has taken place in a theatre, and which also involves Holmes' old paramour, Irene Adler (a woman Holmes looks at in an effort to project longing and deep love but which instead comes across as seeming as though he can't quite put a name to her face).
He is assisted in his investigations by a Watson who looks a lot like the character Ted from, "The Fast Show," and who seems to have an unhealthy interest in Miss Adler herself, and an Inspector Lestrade who is so dim he makes an extinguished candle look bright and is there in a woeful attempt at comedy relief.
The makers have made no effort to expand the piece from the original stage play (and, judging by the look of the film, this was down to a lack of budget as much as anything else) and this is made even more evident by the fact that 90% of the action takes place in a theatre, on the stage itself. Such circumstances are not helped by the fact that when anyone does leave (there's a lot of, "You stay here and you come with me!" business) we always remain with the characters on stage, never following those who depart (which, naturally, leads to a lot of, "Well, while I was away I...," exposition that slows the whole thing down even more).
Matters are further hindered by the performances. Obviously, they haven't been given the greatest script or direction to work from, but as a whole the performances are pretty dire and they really do come across as a bad amateur dramatic society (though they are obviously trying their best). All of which only serves to underline how poor MacNee's performance is. As I said before, he is badly miscast as Holmes (he barely makes a decent Watson on the occasions he has played him) and really does seem to just be vacantly wandering in and out of the action mentally, sometimes in the middle of a scene.
He, and the rest of the cast, are not helped by a script that is throwing out intricate references to the actual stories one minute and a terrible bit of slapstick the next. Or a creaking, "twist," that, rather than shows Holmes' skills as a detective, instead shows him up as a bit of an idiot (the, "reveal," of a certain character springs to mind, wherein he basically removes his glasses, to which Holmes dramatically declares the man's name before the character explains how he has had, "facial reconstruction," begging the questions A) Why the disguise then? and B) How did Holmes recognise him?) The tone is all over the place and the best thing you can say about it is that it's all over relatively quickly as the whole thing barely stretches out past the hour mark.
Crackerjack 2 (1997)
A film so bad it makes, "Crackerjack," look awesome.
There's a reason Judge Reinhold didn't go on to a career as the next Bruce Willis, and this is a blatant example as to why. A truly dreadful, poorly made, poorly scripted, poorly acted effort all round.
However, we do learn a few things:-
1) Whispering all your lines in an attempt to sound menacing does NOT make you appear menacing if you happen to be Judge Reinhold.
2) Judge Reinhold should not strike martial arts poses in the middle of fight scenes.
3) Judge Reinhold should not do this, or anything for that matter but especially fight scenes, in his underpants.
Those going in to see, "Knowing," on the premise that it seems like an intriguing idea for a thriller, as I did, should ready themselves for a disappointment.
What the trailers that grabbed my attention with their set-up of a code from the past that predicts every single tragedy of the future falling into the hands of Cage's son neglected to mention was a HUGELY important plot line that merely serves to undermine the rest of the movie to an immense degree.
One would assume that the filmmakers did this in attempt to not give away the ending and what they obviously see as their, "twist." However, as a viewer, and after an initially good start, all it did once it reared its ugly head was to make me immediately realise what was actually going on and to think, as my heart sank, "Oh no, we're not going with that old chestnut, are we?!" Ultimately leaving me feeling cheated out of the type movie I was expecting and leaving me with a wet fish of a film filled with overtly religious twaddle that the filmmakers seemed determined to beat me over the head with.
It's a pity as there are some terrific sequences in the movie, including the one continuous shot of the plane crash that is a superb piece of film-making. Plus, as I said, the initial premise it a very good one that would seem to make a cracking movie. Unfortunately, "Knowing," isn't it.
Direct Contact (2009)
More like, "Avoid Contact"
A few things you should know about, "Direct Contact.":- 1) It is not very good at all. In fact, it's pretty dire. Don't believe all this stuff about it being, "action packed," as half of those sequences come from other movies anyway and are badly edited in.
2) It's badly made. The continuity in this film is all over the place, partly due to scenes from other films being shoe-horned in. I lost count of the number of times gun miraculously change from one make to another as characters walk through scenes. We get a helicopter hovering in a bright, cloudless sky that is in a snow storm any time there is a close-up, cars that rocket back and forth in condition during chases, and, best of all, a motorcycle chase that goes from sunny day, to ice covered road in the middle of nowhere, to sunny day in the middle of town in three, continuous cuts.
3) It's badly written and makes no sense whatsoever. The dialogue is like something a teenager who's seen too many bad action movies would churn out. The plot manages to be non-existent yet totally unfathomable at the same time (why hire Dolph to kidnap the girl when you have the general and his entire army guarding her in your pocket?) and it contains one of the worst excuses for a love scene ever committed to film. They literally go from not giving a stuff about each other to doing it in five seconds flat.
4) It's badly acted. It's saying something when Michael Pare puts in the best performance in the movie. Dolph lumbers around like he's only half-interested in what's going on and, at times, his movement is so laboured I was wondering if he was injured. By far and away though, the worst is, "Uncle Trent." He is so bad as to be hilarious and has the immortal (misread) line of, "What if he goes A.O.L?" A.O.L.??? 5) The director really does have something against roadside cafes. I counted no less than three that were trashed in three separate car chases. He does however love showing the same wall being hit with bullets and showing great gouts of blood erupt in slow motion from people when they are shot.
Not as bad as DTV Seagal.... but not by much!
"Demons?" Well it does feel like a journey into Hell.....
I honestly don't know what stuns me more, the cliché-riddled ineptness of this show or the fact that it took three people to create it (or four if you count Joss Whedon.... and you should. If I was him I'd be seriously be considering legal action....). I mean, how many people does it take to watch, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," then attempt to recreate it for a British audience? The creators will no doubt argue about the, "uniqueness," of their show and how it provides something, "different," for todays television audience. I would say it shows ITV's desperation to grab any part of the, "Doctor Who," type audience from the BBC that they'll commission dreadful knock-offs like this rather than something genuinely original and exciting.
So, instead of a young, wholesome, stereo-typical (at first glance) American girl living in the U.S. who turns out to be the last Slayer and must battle vampires, demons, werewolves and various other, "evil entities," with the help of some friends and a British mentor with an encyclopedic knowledge of all things demonic, using cool martial arts skills and assorted strange and ancient weapons/spells, etc we get a young, wholesome, stereo-typical British BOY living in the U.K. who turns out to be the last Van Helsing and must battle vampires, demons, werewolves and various other, "evil entities," with the help of some friends and an American mentor with an encyclopedic knowledge of all things demonic, using cool martial arts skills and assorted strange and ancient weapons and spells. Totally different.
Whereas, "Buffy," had Joss Whedon's wry, clever, original, funny ideas behind it this has Philip Glennister doing an American accent and a blind girl whose medium-type abilities seem to give her a real leg up when it comes to negotiating stairs at high speed.
Watching it, it seems as though any kind of original idea had the same effect on the writers as a crucifix does on Dracula. Rather than come up with a single original thought they seem to have sat there, watched every action movie and TV show from 1997 and gone, "Ohhhhh! That's cool! Let's do that!" unfortunately meaning they've rather missed the point that it is now twelve years later all this stuff has been done to death already (and far better too). So we're treated to endless, martial arts fights where the action goes from regular speed to sudden slo-mo as our hero/villain/demon does a back flip mid-battle and are so poorly edited with crash zooms and camera jerks you can't actually tell what is going on.
Obviously, as with any show like this, acting talent is not the main reason these people have been cast. It's the, "Prettiness Factor," that's got them in and I have no problem with that. This is designed to be eye-candy, fun, entertaining television, not a Pinter adaptation. But the level of writing and the ideas behind the show are so poor it's hard to tell if the actors are bad or if it's just the scripts and direction.
Ironically enough, it is the person who is probably the most respected actor in the cast, Philip Glennister, who fares the worst. His Rupert Galvin has to win the award for most clichéd depiction of an American by an English person on a British show ever. It's not really his fault, he makes a fair crack at the accent and what have you, but it's the dialogue he's given that lets him down and makes it just interminable. He comes across like a twelve year olds idea of what a tough guy American must talk like based only on watching bad American movies and who has never actually met an American in their life. Practically every line out of his mouth is some leaden cliché, like references to, "The whole enchilada," and the godawful, "Showtime!" (which terrifyingly seems to be what the writers are trying to make his catchphrase despite the fact that even Arnie stopped thinking saying that just before a fight was cool twenty years ago) that flops around on the ground like a fish gasping for breath before expiring. I actually consider the use of the phrase, "Showtime!" as an indication of how awful a movie or TV show is. If a writer thinks it's a cool, original thing for a character to say then it's generally a pretty fair indication that whatever I'm watching is crap and, "Demons," is no exception to the rule. It ranks right up there with, "Why don't you put down your gun and face me like a man?" And, judging by this show, the North of England must be empty as they all seem to be living in London.
All in all, I can see why this show seems to be losing viewers by the millions already. Although it will probably get a second season due to the amount of money they've put into it, regardless of ratings, as happens with U.K. shows more and more these days. Maybe ITV could put the money to better use and come up with an original idea for a change? Maybe a show about a group of elite soldiers, framed for a crime they didn't commit, who escape from prison and enter the criminal underworld and use their skills as mercenaries to help innocent victims? Oh.... Hang on.....
This is a, "movie?"
This spin-off from the new, "Get Smart," movie more closely resembles one of those episodes of shows like, "CSI," where they focus on the secondary, or even lesser,characters, with the producers harping on about how these are, "wonderful actors," with, "great characters," that need to be given the chance to, "shine," when in fact we all know it's because the real stars wanted a week off. There's a reason those actors and characters aren't the leads, and the same goes for this movie.
Although, I think you'd be hard pressed calling it a, "movie," considering the run time is listed as 72 minutes when, in fact, the actual movie itself barely lasts an hour (another way it's like a TV episode) with the end credits being stretched out ever.... so.... slowly and various average outtakes and scenes not actually in the movie, but obviously intended to be, spliced into them. If the scenes are, "funny," enough to go in the end credits why the heck are't they IN the movie? Having said that, it's mildly amusing without ever being hilarious but hardly worthy of it's own release onto DVD. Unless you're a movie studio looking to suck every last dollar out of your new Summer Blockbuster. Stand up Warner Bros! The best thing in it is Larry Miller, who has the best lines in the film (which might be damning him with faint praise but at least they made me laugh). And I'm including the end credits in that. That way I can sell this review as, "Feature Length."
Grizzly Park (2008)
Glenn, you deserve so much better.......
The excellent Glenn Morshower was my main reason for watching this film. Over the past few years he's cornered he market on stoic, dependable, "down-home," authority/military types, with his performance as Secret Service Agent Aaron Pierce on, "24," being the pinnacle of that particular type and a true highlight of that series. Therefore I was naturally excited to see that he had finally been given the lead role in a movie (as opposed to standing behind the lead, usually in a military uniform).
It would seem at first glance those doing the casting had a keen sense of humour, having Glenn doing his, "stoic," bit as a park ranger to a bunch of Community Service teens being stalked by a grizzly in the wilds providing a funny dynamic in a well worn horror staple. How wrong I was.
The film itself suffers from a terminal case of slowness, with scenes that should move along with pace (as should the whole film) being bogged down with performances where everyone....pauses...before....saying....their...lines in response to another characters remarks, almost like the editor just couldn't quite bear to part with those few seconds between the director calling, "Action," and the actor remembering their lines. As a result already stilted performances are made even worse by long bouts of silence. Endless scenes of walking through the woods before we actually get to any action doesn't help either.
The cast of young actors are also undermined by the list of stereotypical characters they are given. Granted, this is a horror movie, they deal in stereotypes, but in this case it just comes across as incredibly lazy and tired. Making them, "Young Offenders," in an effort to add depth to the proceedings is a total waste of time as nothing is made of it. It literally doesn't matter. As does the subplot of the, "Escaped Maniac." Quite why he's in there I have no idea. Reading the synopsis, it would seem to be to add another element of danger to the story (If the bear doesn't get them, the killer will!) but the fact that he is eaten pretty much straight away kind of undermines that attempt at, "tension." He could quite easily have been the Corrections Officer whose identity he steals in the first place (and, in a totally logic defying decision, whose job collecting a bunch of kids from the local cops, who one would presume are all looking for him, he decides to carry on with) and it would make no difference to the story.
When the bear finally does arrive the level of the effects just makes the whole thing even more laughable, with paws that don't look all that more convincing than those on, "Trickster's," bear costume (which must have had some kind of inflatable head given the size of it in comparison to the backpack he's carried for the rest of the film) dragging poor teens through cabin windows.
In the end it's only Glenn who comes out of this whole thing with any kind of dignity intact, putting in a performance worthy of a far better film. Reading the trivia section for this film on IMDb, I see that the director got his break by thrusting his home made movie into the arms of the producer and it endeared it to them so much they gave him his shot. Perhaps next time the producer could just smack him over the head with it and tell him to go practise some more before letting him loose on another movie.
A very decent effort
Overall I would have to say I was pretty impressed with this film. The direction, performances, effects and music are all extremely good, especially when you consider that the budget can't have been that large. Rather than trying to over reach, and thereby just winding up with some atrocious CGI effects that take away from the rest of the movie, like so many other would be horror films do these days with a misguided notion that this alone creates scares, the filmmakers have done it the old fashioned way and used what they had, building atmosphere and tension through lighting, direction, design and performance, which I personally find refreshing to see. They manage to create some extremely tense and eerie scenes this way, with the design and use of the, "ghosts," being done particularly well and used to great effect.
However, where the film does fall down is the plot itself. The efforts at explaining the scientific reasons behind what is happening fall into the well of, "Technobabble," to such at degree as to make no sense whatsoever. Plus, after all this effort to establish why things are happening, the rules governing the, "ghosts," are then ignored in order to facilitate scenes (i.e. throughout the film they can just appear within the bunker at will however, when the makers require our heroes to make a valiant last stand, suddenly they can only appear OUTSIDE and must walk THROUGH the bunker as any normal person must do to get to our heroes) which is a pity but understandable as the makers are trying to wring as much tension and horror out of the situation as possible. It's just a pity it's to the slight detriment of the film as a whole, undermining some of the good work that has gone into it.
Taken as a whole though, it is a strong effort that I would recommend and one that makes me look forward to seeing what the makers come up with next.
Manhattan Chase (2000)
Well, there's ninety minutes of my life I'm never getting back!
First off, be warned (that is if the rating and the title I've given this review aren't warning enough that is), Cynthia Rothrock may well get top billing in this movie but she is by NO means the star of this movie or even it's main character. That dubious honour falls to Loren Avedon as former criminal, Jason Reed. Just released from prison after a six year stretch for... well... as far as I can tell, laying in the grass in Central Park with a black balaclava on his head and a sniper rifle in his hands, randomly targeting passers-by until the aforementioned Ms. Rothrock pops up and arrests him after, of course, kicking his butt. It later emerges that Loren is a hit-man for what has to be the smallest criminal organisation in the history of New York, consisting of all of five guys! This does even out though as throughout the course of the movie it emerges that there are in fact only three cops in the whole of New York, Cynthia, her crooked partner and, "Moustachioed Uniform Cop," who is the only other cop to show up at any arrests. As in, he's there when Loren gets busted then, six years later (!!!) he's there to help Cynthia kick some mugger butt, (a fight scene which contains the, "Amazing Appearing Table," as in, in the middle of an alley, there is suddenly, out of nowhere, a table for Cynthia to kick some guy through! Thank goodness for randomly appearing furniture!) completely unchanged of course (in fact he may even have the same lines) AND to help her bring her crooked partner down in the finale. By the way, did I mention that Loren Avedon got SIX YEARS for playing sniper in the park with a high powered rifle? Good job he didn't actually shoot anyone otherwise he might've gotten like.... what? Six-and-a-half years? So, this is definitely NOT a Cynthia Rothrock movie. She is shoe-horned in to do a few moves every now and then but the rest of the movie revolves around Loren Avedon's character and his attempt to go straight and build a new life with his son, Tommy, which are sent awry by him becoming mixed up with a girl who just happens to have stolen a stash of drugs, which the five guys in the, "Big Criminal Organisation," want back (just think, "Kitchen Sink Drama," crossed with, "Enter the Dragon"). Yes, coincidentally, the gang after her is Loren's old gang but, then again, this is one of those films where everybody is, "coincidentally," involved with everybody else. Either because the script writer was too lazy OR because they can't afford more actors so, in order to have it all makes sense (and I'm using the phrase, "makes sense," in the loosest terms) everyone you DO have has to be involved in the main plot. I'm going for both. Seriously, not only do we have the whole, "Loren's old gang," connection (so no need to have any different bad guys!) this a movie wherein Loren's ex-wife (and mother of his child) shows up after ten years and is, amazingly enough, Cynthia's sister! And the, "Mysterious Bad Guy," in charge of it all just happens to be Cynthia's partner! Who was sleeping with, "Girl In Trouble's," best friend! Who stole the drugs and gave them to Girl In Trouble's brother! Who Girl In Trouble then stole them off! And was saved by Loren who just happened to be driving past at that exact same time! If only they could have all arranged to hook up for a coffee at the start I wouldn't have had to sit through the next ninety minutes! And that's just the half of it. For your money you also get some dire martial arts action, the kind where guys do triple forward flips after getting lightly slapped across the face. Only the direction and choreography is so bad you can see the stunt-guy missing by miles (which is helpfully underlined by the regular use of slow motion). Loren desperately trying connect with a surly son, who is obviously more interested in playing on his GameBoy, and falling in love with the woman who has caused it all for no readily apparent reason (other than to add, "depth," to their characters). Though that does at least mean we get to hear him utter the immortal line, "You've taught me to love," with a straight face. It's all capped off with the world's worst, "chase," through Central Park wherein bad guys (ON ROLLER SKATES!) are chased by Cynthia Rothrock (ON A POWERED FOLD-UP SCOOTER!) going all of 0.3mph! (On reflection I'm thinking that was in there to warrant the title of the movie). There is also what has to be the most unintentionally hilarious sex scene I have ever seen committed to celluloid. In the end, as Loren bravely sacrifices himself to save his new love, we're taught that crime doesn't pay but you can change your life, connect with your son, and do something good.... but you WILL get shot for it.... and the girl who started it all by stealing drugs to sell and wound up getting you, all your friends and all her friends killed over it WILL wind up with custody of your son... and his GameBoy.