Reviews

18 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
9/10
Thundering Shogun!
4 October 2010
This film was a dark-edged delight from beginning to end when I saw it at the 2010 edition of TIFF. The audience there loved it too, breaking out into spontaneous applause during several scenes.

Solid direction by Miike, great characters, beautifully shot and simply some of the best and most intense action sequences put on film - ever! It does have it's obvious influences, such as Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai", but damn, this one kicks ass mightily! You've never seen Shogun like this! And something else to point out: the sound on this film was thundering, shaking and stellar! THIS is the kind of film that reminds us why we go to a movie theatre to enjoy a film on a big screen, why we turn off our cell phones and immerse ourselves in the experience of cinema-going, as opposed to staying home on our couches.

I'll go see it again on the big screen when it hopefully returns to town - you can bet on that!
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9/10
One of TIFF 2010's best!
20 September 2010
I saw this film at the 2010 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival, and it was a pleasant surprise.

Great performances, tightly directed, and a very compelling storyline, in addition to a being beautifully shot and using some great Magnum Photos in the film as part of the main character's unexpected shift into a new world and a new life.

Based on the American writer Douglas Kennedy's acclaimed book of the same name, but changed to a Euro setting, director Eric Lartigau easily shows how European filmmakers can take the themes of murder, obsession and identity to new artistic heights, while also giving us one of the best thrillers of 2010. It's a thriller as cinematic art as only the Europeans can do.

The film might not have gotten as much attention as other films at TIFF 2010, but it definitely should. I truly hope it gets a wider release here in Canada and elsewhere.

Seek it out. Decidedly worthwhile.
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8/10
Calling Criterion...
29 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I became curious about this one after realizing that this was a film based on the same source material as a later adaptation directed by Sean Penn and starring Jack Nicholson, Robin Wright, Benicio del Toro and Aaron Eckhart.

Penn's version is a very bleak, disturbing film with Jack Nicholson actually disappearing into the role of the main detective character, something he so rarely does these days. The unrelenting gloom of the film was probably what made it less palpable for audiences at the time of its release. I have to wonder if that atmosphere of despair was taken from the book, or simply inserted by Penn in his adaptation of the screenplay.

This version from the late 50's is nonetheless a very effective thriller in its own way, with great performances and very well directed. Gert Frobe (Goldfinger) gives a very chilling portrait of the killer, while Heinz Ruhmann as Detective Matthai is excellent too, and carries the film well.

It's simply one of those solid and well-done black and white thrillers from an earlier era that slips under the wire, and that should be rediscovered again by contemporary audiences. Criterion! Check this one out!
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7/10
great title, so-so film...but still kinda fun!
29 August 2008
While this movie can't be considered a classic due to its low-budget and uneven acting, it does have an appeal for me, in some strange way. Stewart Granger is all smiles and morally corrupt in his actions, but there's something about his character that makes you wonder where he originated from and what set him on the path to being the bastard that he is at an older age, compared to his younger compatriots. When he does unleash that smile upon hearing about an offer of more money to do a job, you can't help but laugh at his smarmy style.

He's like the dark side of espionage...something the genre of spy films rarely recognizes as a possibility, in that any man in such a world doesn't need any morals, he just needs finances to get the job done, whatever it may be. This is also something verbally acknowledged by those who hire him for the job early in the film. They don't want an upstanding citizen or agent...his actually being a bastard is what makes him right for the task, because those he faces are just as bad!

The title, while connected to events in the film, is also saying something about the whole genre of spy films at that time; that these men, being a Bourne, a Bond or whomever, can't always be doing the right thing for the right reasons, and that such films as a whole are more often about assassins and men of violence than those of noble and misunderstood heroes. (and yet, there is a touch of nobility and honor to his character in the film, too)

Maybe that's reading more into what is essentially a low-budget take on the popular espionage films of the 60's, but I think the film has a better script, and some decent enough dialogue, to make it hard to ignore completely. And Stewart Granger is a delight to watch as a gray-haired, older anti-hero spy-for-hire.
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9/10
Go Yeti!
18 February 2008
I just stumbled across a copy of this film recently on DVD, and consider it a very good find.

Since a kid, I've had a (somewhat) continuing fascination with Bigfoot, Sasquatch, the Abominable Snowman, etc. However, this is the first time I've come across a film that treats the subject intelligently, and with more thought than just providing a simple scare. This film was well acted, written (intelligently so) and directed, and created a genuine sense of suspense, and maintained an eerie mood throughout. You don't see the creatures full-on, but that's to the film's benefit and better over-all effect to those watching, especially in the almost film noir use of black and white photography.

This is no cheap monster quickie, or faux documentary (though I like some of those too), and though fairly low budget, it's still good.

So basically, I'd have to say this is the best film about the Abominable Snowman (or Bigfoot-like creature) I've seen. Like the Yeti...seek it out!
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Seven Sinners (1940)
9/10
that Dietrich look....
14 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I've seen this film a number of times on late-night TV, and quite enjoyed it, especially Marlene Dietrich. Go figure.

The story is all fun...kind of a South Seas version of "Destry Rides Again"....mixed moments of comedy and drama.

But the scene that gets me, and literally makes me always want to watch this film over and over again, is the one scene where Dietrich and Wayne are flirting with one another somewhere outside her home, and Dietrich is just looking at Wayne with a "oh yeah, we're gonna hook up tonight" look (for want of a better term) that would make any sane man melt. She's also so beautifully lit up and photographed, and the light in her eyes glowing with desire....sigh. It comes across as such a genuinely captured moment of desire on film, that it makes you wish you were in the Duke's shoes at that moment (he does indeed look happy to be there himself). Considering there are reports they in fact had an affair and spent time together around and after the making of this film, you can easily imagine and believe that it is indeed just that.
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8/10
an intriguing clip....
29 September 2007
I've only seen a clip/trailer on one of the Something Weird videos as a bonus feature on their 'Chained Girls/Daughters of Lesbos' DVD, but it looked quite beautifully shot, even though it seems there's no trace of the entire film to be found anywhere otherwise. The trailer was almost hypnotic with the narrator repeating: "The Wild Roots of Love. The Wild Roots of Love. The Wild Roots of Love."

Very bizarre stuff. I'd love to see the whole thing. Maybe the film will eventually come out.

If you come across that SW DVD, be sure to take a look at "The Wild Roots of Love. The Wild Roots of Love. The Wild Roots of Love."
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9/10
wonderful silence, and pace adjusted...
1 July 2007
I stumbled on this flick on a late-night Canadian French channel, and became quite enamoured with it - partly due to the story, the way it unfolded, but more so with Louise Brooks. She looks fantastic, her smile (when it actually appears in this somewhat melodramatic film) so captivating. But even the characters around her were fascinating too, and the way they were filmed.

It seems to me that with current technology, we can watch a silent movie like this now adjusted to what we understand to be a movement of characters to a pace more like our own, not the slightly quickened pace that we're used to seeing in silent films. I haven't seen the film in its original form, so I can't make an accurate assessment as to whether it unspools a bit more quickly simply due to projectors of the era, or the way it was filmed - the point is this: watching a movie such as this Pabst classic now adjusted to a more realistic pace does seem to make one appreciate them more in a strangely contemporary context. Though we still note the differences in clothing and appearance of the people, they all seem more identifiable somehow. But I swear, I spent a few minutes wondering if I had stumbled onto a contemporary silent-film imitation of some type! Oops!

I experienced something similar recently when watching a screening of Murnau's "Sunrise" - the film and its characters somehow transcended their era. Though part of me wonders if that film also had its pacing adjusted technologically, there was a human dimension to it that made me push aside any preconceived notions of silent cinema and just enjoyed it as a tale well told, beautifully filmed, and amazingly acted. This film has the same effect - though I think it was actually I who transcended my era by experiencing it.
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10/10
the best Bond film...
18 November 2006
This particular Bond flick will always be my favourite.

I don't think I need to elaborate too much on this film, as others have done, but suffice it to say this one captures the most Cold War feel of the series than any other of the films, and does it amazingly well before the films became a bit more fantastic in plots and situations. Great villains and action sequences - it's all there.

And the fight scene between Connery and Shaw still holds up as one of the most intense, exciting punch-ups in any of the Bond films. If that one scene didn't hugely influence the fight scenes in the "Bourne" series (amongst others), I'll eat my hat.

To me, this is THE Bond classic.
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Thunderball (1965)
9/10
one scene stands out...
18 November 2006
...of many, of course.

Many other reviewers have written about this film in various capacities, but let me offer my own take by highlighting one scene that made me laugh and yet was perfectly in keeping with Connery's take on the Bond character.

In the card-playing scene with Largo, Bond manages to beat him at cards several times, whereas Largo states: "You seem unbeatable, Mr. Bond." What does Bond say? Nothing. He just puts on a smirk and waves his hand as if it's a given. Bloody brilliant. The scene stood out upon watching the film in the new special editions that came out recently. Having seen the movie many times before, it was just one scene that illuminated Connery's mastery of the character in this particular brilliant Bond flick.
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Casino Royale (2006)
9/10
this is the good stuff...
18 November 2006
Daniel Craig takes on the iconic role and gives it a good kick in the arse! I just saw this today, and I have to say that this is certainly one of the better Bond films I've seen in some time.

Gritty, action-packed and Daniel Craig brings a new depth to a character that seemed too comic-book in previous installments. He played it tough, looked tough, and yet had a some moments of gentleness with Eva Green that rang true. And his acting style was natural enough to give us a Bond that we not only root for, but want to be like, which is very crucial to keeping the appeal of the character and this icon going. I felt a swagger to my step after the movie that made me recall the feeling of seeing Sean Connery in the Bond films and wanting to be like him in attitude and style. Ditto here.

Eva Green is luminous, sexy and intelligent as Vesper. Whenever she appeared on screen, there was an elegance and captivating style to her that made me forget the other bland Bond girls that were just there for show. Denise Richards will still be throwing laptops at old people 20yrs from now, but Eva Green has in this particular role given me an appreciation for her talent enough to warrant keeping an eye on her career in whatever future roles she may take on. Not something one often says about a Bond girl! Judi Dench just plain kicks ass...with just a few words, she steals the screen, and there seemed to be more of a solidity to her character in this film that was missing in the Brosnan Bond films. She too seems reinvigorated by the change of direction the filmmakers have taken with this series.

One more thing: mention has been made of the film feeling a bit overlong...well, it didn't feel like that to me! I wanted more, if anything! Well done by all concerned. Kudos.
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The Thing (1982)
9/10
Carpenter's best film...
9 November 2005
I know a lot of people love Carpenter's "Halloween" and consider it his masterpiece, but this is easily my favourite flick of his, especially as I tend to prefer monsters of the monster kind, as opposed to the human kind.

Everything comes together well here...great ensemble acting, amazing effects, excellent script, incredible tension and atmosphere and great music by Ennio Morricone. Even the dog is great! This is one of those classic horror/sci-fi flicks that is great to own on DVD, as you can go back and watch it regularly, since it holds up so well. Extras on the DVD are great too.

What is there more to say that hasn't been said by others here? This film comes with a high recommendation for lovers of the genre, so be sure to check it out.
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Calvaire (2004)
8/10
Dark, demented Euro film...
9 November 2005
Saw this film as part of the Gala Opening for the Cinemuerte Horror Film Festival in Vancouver recently. I kinda knew what to expect from reading a description of the film before going in, but it still was quite the cinematic experience.

Suffice it to say, I'd be hard-pressed to recommend this film to anyone in my particular circle of friends (well, maybe a few), but the film had me mesmerized, and since I do enjoy dark cinema, I'd have to say I certainly enjoyed it for what it was. There were images and scenes in the film that stayed with me after, and it certainly had a noticeable effect on the audience attending. Some liked it. Some hated it. Some didn't enjoy the "pig squealing"...like one girl in the audience noted after the film had ended. (you'll understand more towards the latter-half of the film) Elements of "Deliverance", "Southern Comfort", "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" are all here, with more dark humour involved. Dark, very dark humour.

The cinematography was incredible. You've never seen the wilderness shot to look so menacing, yet maintaining a strange, dread-filled beauty. And yet it also seems endless, as if civilization is nowhere near where the events in the film take place. I unconsciously wrapped my arms around myself during the movie, from both the tension in the film, and from feeling I myself was out there in the chill of the woods.

I won't go into the plot-line, since a few others already have, but this film gives good credence to making sure that if you go driving in the country, your engine has had a recent tune-up, and you've got plenty of gas in the tank. AND to make sure you're cautious about the seeming kindness of strangers...
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Trouble (2005)
9/10
Good, twisted Euro thriller...
9 November 2005
I recently saw this film as part of the Cinemuerte Horror Film Festival in Vancouver, on the closing night, and it was a great way to wrap up the final year of that particular festival.

"Trouble" is one of those thrillers that you wouldn't want to give away too much about, suffice it to say that the main character, Matyas, is a photographer with a wife and adolescent kid, who one day discovers that he has a twin brother! The film has elements of Hitchcock and Cronenberg, and is well shot and acted, and well paced. Even the music lends an element of tension to the way things unfold in the film. You easily get caught up in Matyas' circumstances, and his slow, gradual revealing of his murky past as a child, and how his twin, Thomas, figures into that.

A great Euro thriller! Hopefully, it'll arrive in North America soon on DVD, or in theatres. Definitely worth checking out.
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8/10
Funny horror-comedy from Germany...
9 November 2005
I saw this film as part of the Cinemuerte Horror Film Festival in Vancouver recently, and I have to say that I did enjoy it, as silly as it was.

The characters were affable, the zombie and gore effects were solid, and the storyline was good fun. You actually got to like the three "losers" and the preppy-rich kids were fun to hate. Don't listen to the person who commented on "bad acting", because they don't know what they're talking about. There was no bad acting in this movie at all. The actors were all very natural, and seemed like real teenagers, despite the fantastic situations they were in.

Anyway, when this film will reach DVD on North American shores is hard to tell, but if you like 80's-style teen comedy flicks, and are a fan of zombies and gore (there are some gross and violent scenes, but nothing as extreme as what you'd see in a Romero film, and they're mostly played for laughs), then this film is good for a laugh and worth renting. It's certainly better than most teen flicks coming out of Hollywood these days!
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8/10
Ahhh, those sexy nuns!
24 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is easily my favourite nunsploitation flick. The atmosphere was strangely haunting, and the nuns themselves were quite sexy...all the good elements to this genre are here.

The only scene I didn't enjoy was the rape of one of the nuns in the woods. Not only because it was ugly, but also the way she is made to seem completely helpless was unconvincing.

I suppose one could look at the nun's excursion out into the woods as her unfortunately confronting the ugliness of the world outside the convent, but I think D'Amato could of done better by it somehow.

Also, that scene is very ugly in relation to the other more beautifully erotic scenes between the nuns, especially those that occur during the final thirty minutes or so of the film. Though quite hardcore, they still are sexy, and even a bit humorous.

Well, the genre being such as it is, I guess there's no room for subtlety! Recommended for those who enjoy erotic 70's cinema, with women with real curves, real sexiness and a bit of the arcane strangeness of the genre and the era.
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8/10
Morgana and her slaves...
24 October 2005
This was, admittedly, a film I picked up for the titillation factor, since I enjoy the sight of women from the 70's in their natural, undressed Euro glory.

However, this film was done in such a way as to find me enjoying it throughout, despite my initial misgivings.

Granted, I don't think it's the greatest movie ever, but the settings and the "fairy-tale" feel of it I found to be quite good, and the erotic elements were considerably enjoyable. The dialogue also wasn't as cheesy as I was expecting, which is always a good thing, considering many similar films of that era can't escape those faults.

The DVD is quite good, the quality of the picture is excellent, and includes a good interview with the director, Bruno Gantillon. Recommended for fans of 70's erotica and fantasy.
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9/10
My favourite Steve Martin film...
24 October 2005
I've always been a fan of film noir, and this particular spoof of the genre is one of my favourite films of all time.

The ingenious method of mixing Martin in with film clips of older characters is ingenious. And if you consider that they managed to make the story work somehow, as silly as it is, then you have to give Reiner, Martin and the rest of the filmmakers quite a bit of credit.

Also, Martin somehow manages to bring the right combination of playing it straight, along with elements of the aforementioned silliness, to perfection. He somehow imbues his character with the right degree of sardonic hardboiled style that was more prevalent in characters like Philip Marlowe than one would think...and I'm also saying this as fan of Chandler's! Couple all this with the lovely Rachel Ward, Reni Santoni with a "payamas" obsession, and Carl Reiner as Von Cluck, then you have a great slice of comedy for anyone who was a fan of 40's noir, and of a time when Steve Martin was still making good movies.
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