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This a lesser seen Cat111 film from Hong Kong and starring Anthony Wong, of course. He is not the baddie in this but the father of a family that gets into trouble because of a bad investment, gambling and loans that get bigger instead of smaller as they are repaid. Rather more sexual violence in this than gore and many an uncomfortable scene. Children in peril, once more, much crying, screaming, hitting and running around. Also, again not unusually, totalling inappropriate humour whilst everyone overacts and grimaces like crazy. Just like crazy, actually. Not unlikeable for all that but this is not for the casual viewer. There isn't another country in the world that produced films quite like this up to the time of the handover. Good job too, some would say but for all the lack of sophistication, there is a level on which these pretty despicable and almost childish films can work a certain magic like no others. PC this is not!
This one rather caught me by surprise. The UK DVD packaging giving a much more coy picture than that here and the text referencing the Twilight films led me to expect a low key teenage vampire flick, which is probably why i have delayed watching it for so long. I certainly didn't expect lengthy , brutal and scary torture scenes, otherwise I probably wouldn't have watched it at all. Still, its done now, and I really enjoyed it, well I still found the most severe torture bits hard to watch but they are tinged with a black humour. Did that make them easier? Not a lot. Well crafted, good looking film with the tough, uncompromising and terrifying violence that reminded me of Wolf Creek in its intensity. The performances are great and particularly the very creepy killing couple. Could all this have been avoided if she had slept with daddy? We shall never know but what a scary and highly original portrayal of a demented couple they are.
Alexander Payne undoubtedly has his fans and I feel that his films turn out pretty much the way he intended. It's just that I either prefer my films a little more eventful or challenging or, on the other hand, more thoughtful and meaningful. Payne is clearly fascinated with the 'taken for granted' things in life. Not big on philosophy or exploitation he is more interested in character studies of the ordinary. Unfortunately I think he sometimes tends towards cliché and even to making fun of the very people he is supposedly fascinated by. This begins in an amusing enough way as Dern's character keeps wandering off, ostensibly to collect his prize, but as the film progresses (if indeed it ever does!) I found that staring at people staring back or at the TV, less than appealing and not very funny. Seems to me it's not difficult to make small town America look dreadful and to make some of its less well off inhabitants much the same. You can tell I didn't find this a bundle of fun, nevertheless, it just about held my attention and Bruce Dern and June Squibb do very well and I was delighted to see the much underrated Stacy Keach.
I enjoyed this although I can see why others might not and having looked into why so many names are missing from the credits (including Hopper's) the truth is out and this once ran 180 minutes instead of current 95mins. So, clearly chopped about which explains some jumps and perhaps some of the extra seeming quirkiness and it did occur to me when the film changes gear three quarters through that you would need to like Hopper to stay with this. Despite everything, this looks good almost all the time, you can see Hopper's eye searching out the urban and rural landscapes and never missing a good sky shot. And then there is Jodie Foster, who I'm not usually very fond of watching and the main man himself. Hopper does lumber himself with an accent he seems not really to be able to manage but the chemistry between the two is unmistakable and a delight to watch. The dialogue, red hot at the start gets a bit groggy towards the end and I see Alex Cox is part credited with the script (another name withdrawn). Charlie Sheen, Joe Pesci and no less than Bob Dylan are more who appear on screen but not on the credits. I can't imagine I've really sold this very well but I like it and would love to see the longer version which I understand was once available on video.
1968! That year again and here's another major oddity thrown up for all to enjoy. You will read all about the 'camp classic' claims and that John Waters uses it to assess whether he can be friends with someone. All good stuff but and then some of these 'fans' sit and hoot with laughter at every line. No need to worry, this is fine. More than fine it is really good. Tennessee Williams, the writer, can be somewhat overwrought and melodramatic but here, whether due in part to director, Joseph Losey or simply to the main couple, that is not a problem here. Indeed, Noel Coward and Joanna Shimkus are good but it is the central performances of Taylor and Burton that ensure classic status upon this film. The script is not quite 'Who'se Afraid of Virginia Wolf?' but these two performances pretty much are. Taylor especially seems to revel in displaying her range and simultaneously amusing, annoying and thrilling both us and Burton's character. I understand that the Taylor part was written as a dying gay man and even Coward's part as a woman but it all works well like this and as I intimated earlier might well have been just too much for this tale of dying and the vanity of the living to be delivered undiluted.
Sensational film! What a discovery I consider this to be. I had never even heard of the (female) director before but am completely sold, not only ordering more right away but even ordering the Madonna remake that I wasn't even aware of. I'm sure that will be a disappointment but I wonder if it is really as bad as some make out, for this is a really tough little tale. Strong political and socio-political elements together with increasingly controlling and sadistic sexual goings on as a rich socialite in all her finery and extreme right wing views gets marooned with the much despised communist deck hand. Some elements are a bit dated but from the almost screwball first section through the hardening and desperate survivalist relationship stage, this is absorbing and thrilling stuff. There is much here to delight, upset, and thrill but not for the tender hearted.
Its clear that I think more of this film than many others but maybe that's because I always rate a film according to how much I have enjoyed the experience. Nobody should look at my ratings to access whether I think the film well made in the normally accepted sense. Basically, if a film works then I don't care about the finer details of technique, I'm too absorbed by the content. I thought this was great and was most surprised how stylish, bold, thoughtful, amusing and flinch inducing it really was. Helped enormously by a fantastic central performance from Katherine Isabelle this explores the weird world of body modification and is a most impressive achievement from the Soska sisters. It is true to say that this drops a stitch or two towards the end and it is for that I don't give this the full star award it maybe deserves. Because of the Canadian origins I have seen Cronenberg's name mentioned and perhaps with all the surgical instruments and the modification business this would appear appropriate but I must disagree and suggest that this never looks the least like one of his movies. What I couldn't help thinking when I had a chance to pause for breath was Japanese cinema and its tendency towards the cold, the clinical and the ability to go where others may not. This reminded me more, in looks and tone, of the mighty Miike's, 'Audition'. Sensational.
Much as I love the film noir genre, a lot of so called noir do turn out to be little more than 'B' movie filler. Every now and again though one turns up to surprise you. This is nothing incredible but is very watchable indeed with a fantastic ice cool blonde central performance from Leslie Brooks. She seems to have had a decent career but I don't recall her taking the lead in anything else I've seen - gangster's moll more like. Based on the book by Whitman Chambers ('Once Too Often', although interestingly, 'Manhandled' on my own copy, which is a bit misleading because this lady doesn't get manhandled by anyone). The film lacks those deep dark shadows and night time location shooting, it even lacks any real baddies, unless you count the aspiring politician, but it does have a femme fatale. And what a performance Leslie Brooks gives as the most convincing ruthless ice maiden who does all the killing herself. Bit slow to start and seems to be slipping into screwball territory at one point but once on track this smokes.
Although very leisurely paced, this began well. The school classroom settings were good and the site of the first body placement very well executed even if the severed arm was not wholly convincing. Great idea too with the pair of youngsters fascinated by the actions of a serial killer decide to do some research and then trail after to watch his handicraft. But that's it really, the pace doesn't pick up, the kills are found, all much the same and unfortunately it dawns that this is the way the film is going to proceed till the end. Plenty of outside locations, looking much the same as ever but some surprisingly effective interiors reflecting a heavy western Gothic influence but all the stuff with twins and bullying and suicide we have seen so many times. Shame because this really had potential. My box suggests, 'arthouse meets grindhouse' but in truth that only applies to the opening a barely a couple more brief scenes. Nice idea though.
'American Rickshaw' on my disc but even with its Italian title, 'American Riscio', it would be no better. Directed by prolific and usually reliable, Sergio Martino, this suffers from weak and mostly inexperienced cast and pretty ludicrous storyline. Male lead, Mitch Gaylord is famous for having been the 1984 US Olympic gymnast champion and his female counterpart is unknown Victoria Prouty, who does well enough compared to everyone else but is asked to play a lap dancer despite a most modest chest. Actually, this begins fairly well and remains quirky throughout but things start to go wrong with appalling police representation and then this Chinese mumbo jumbo which becomes more prominent as the film progresses. We also get a spluttering performance from, always willing but not always able, Donald Pleasence as an evangelical nutter preacher, gone very wrong.
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