Reviews written by registered user
rjobrien_1943

10 reviews in total 
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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Well worth a look, 26 July 2009
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

While the title smacks of affectation - or just plain attention-seeking, Sam McConnell's short film, now on the festival circuit, is stylish, funny and charming. The main characters, Will and Eli, meet by chance in a bar and head to the salt flats searching for a party. In the process, however, they take the first steps towards finding and accepting themselves. McConnell develops small yet revealing tensions between his characters, who at the start appear to inhabit different worlds. The shy Will expresses sexual desire, perhaps for the first time, while motormouth Eli, who seems full to bursting with self-confidence, exposes his vulnerability, leading to a surprising, unexpected bond. 'Twoyoungmen, UT' is very well written, acted and directed by this up-and-coming filmmaker. The only complaint is that one wishes the film was longer, as the material seems ripe for expansion. Hopefully, 'Twoyoungmen, UT' will become more widely available, despite the hurdles facing any short independent film in terms of theatrical, television and home video distribution.

Interesting but infuriating, 13 October 2007
4/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There's a good movie in here somewhere, but it's never allowed to escape. 'Never Give Up' seems to be making an important point about the state of Japan in the late 1970s, where the contained military forces will turn on their own people without hesitation or mercy. The main character comes up against a neo-feudalism, in which a single clan can control a town's big business, industry, press and police force. It's also the story of the hero's redemption, where humanity is reclaimed at a heavy price. Takakura Ken is a fine leading man and most of the supporting cast are adequate.

So why does it stumble so badly? The excessive length kills the pace and tension, not helped by flat direction. The script takes an eternity to set up the leading characters and various dramatic conflicts. It also relies on the Idiot Plot, where the story can only progress if the characters behave like idiots. The action set-pieces, though gory, are sparse and indifferently staged. Even Takakura's noble, stoic persona - used to good effect in 'The Yakuza' - is poorly served by a character who takes forever to decide what he needs to do, even though it's obvious to the audience from the first few scenes.

MAJOR SPOILER My biggest problem with the film is Takakura's failure to tell his adopted daughter why he was forced to kill her real father (the latter had been driven mad by fungal poisoning, slaughtered his fellow villagers and family, and was about to kill her). There may be a good reason - cultural or psychological - for his silence but I've no idea what it is. Furthermore, the daughter's psychic powers are forgotten completely in the final act, when they would come in really handy.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Flawed yet fascinating, 8 April 2007
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I watched the Hong Kong DVD release of this film - still available, I believe - which offers reasonable quality, though the Japanese characters have been given Chinese names and the English subtitles are sometimes poor. I thought the first half of the film was intriguing, outlandish, imaginative and weirdly funny. The introduction of a rather irritating DJ character added little to the movie, other than an obligatory romantic interest for the anti-hero. As other reviewers have pointed out, the film goes on too long, offering a succession of action set-pieces that seem at odds with earlier scenes. The main character's motivations remain a mystery and the downbeat ending falls a little flat, given the subject matter. For all these faults, I'd give it another look, but what could have been a great movie slipped away somehow.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
No classic, but worth a look, 30 January 2007
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

IGUANA WITH THE TONGUE OF FIRE has more than its share of faults. The film is often clunky and derivative, with little regard for telling a gripping or even coherent story. I don't think Riccardo Freda's heart was in the movie, a reflection - perhaps - that his career was on the wane. Freda's direction is often perfunctory, his frequent use of the zoom lens showing little of the imagination found in the work of friend and colleague Mario Bava. The pacing is uncertain, with little tension built between the extremely gory set-pieces. Freda does conjure some striking visuals, aided by cameraman Silvano Ippoliti, who also worked with Sergio Corbucci and Tinto Brass. The Irish locations are quite well used and certainly add novelty value.

The performances are competent but little more. Only Anton Diffring, Arthur O'Sullivan and Luigi Pistilli make much impression. Diffring and O'Sullivan dubbed their own dialogue, unlike Pistilli and several others in the cast (the film was shot without synchronised sound). The English dialogue varies from offbeat to functional to pretty awful. While the film avoids the blatant misogyny found in many 'giallo' thrillers, the vicious attack on Pistilli's teenage daughter is a cynical piece of sado-voyeurism. I found it more unpleasant than anything in Dario Argento's work. We don't even discover how badly hurt she was or if she recovered.

The recent German DVD release of IGUANA has an English language track. The transfer isn't great - it seems that the original film elements are lost - and several scenes are too murky. I think the distributor did the best possible job with the materials available and a restored, remastered version is highly unlikely.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Disappointing Shaw Brothers melodrama, 28 January 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Director Nam Nai Choi is best known for the outlandish - and ultra-violent - fantasies 'The Seventh Curse' and 'The Story of Ricky'. This earlier effort for Shaw Brothers gets off to a promising start, showing two young brothers growing up in the crime-ridden slum that was Kowloon's Walled City in Hong Kong. Once these characters become adults, the film is far less interesting, forsaking any dramatic force for clichéd soap opera. The plot contrivances come thick and fast and it's hard to care about any of the characters. Even the grand finale - which promises to be explosive - is a damp squib. The juvenile lead is Chin Siu Ho, best known for 'Mr Vampire'. He never quite made it as a star and it's easy to see why in this film. Chin lacks the presence and charisma to carry an admittedly weak vehicle. Nam Nai Choi would reunite with Chin for the vastly superior 'The Seventh Curse', a genuinely jaw-dropping experience.

14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Comments on German DVD release, 2 December 2006
6/10

'Kampf um Rom' appears to be an above average epic, but the version I saw is severely compromised. The recent German DVD release crops the original Techniscope image (2.35:1) to TV dimensions (1.33:1), then masks off the top and bottom of the picture to create an ersatz 1.66:1 ratio. I'm guessing their master copy was a print prepared for television. The faded colours, specks and scratches suggest it was done many years ago. While part one appears to be intact - I'm not sure - part two is obviously edited, with clumsy jump cuts where violence has been trimmed. Judging from the widescreen trailer - included on the DVD - an entire scene was removed, where a servant becomes an unwilling participant in an orgy. The DVD distributor, Universum Film, is usually meticulous with its releases. Presumably, the negative for 'Kampf um Rom' is lost and there were no usable inter-positives or even theatrical prints. Given this major problem, I'm surprised they went ahead with the release. Under the circumstances, the lack of an English option - either soundtrack or subtitles - hardly matters.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Evelyn got lucky..., 15 May 2006
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...as she only appears in soft focus flashbacks that resemble a soft-core rip-off of 'A Fistful of Dynamite'. The opening scene was great, suggesting a surreal Italian comedy. The rest of the movie was a big letdown: derivative, repetitive and plodding. As other reviewers point out, the supposed 'hero' is a deranged killer who never answers for his actions. The damsel-in-distress is introduced too late for audience sympathy (which would have made one of the twists more effective). The final twist suggests two people just died for nothing, as the master villain was already cornered. Maybe the director felt they had it coming. And who leaves large quantities of sulphuric acid by their swimming pool? I hate to say it, but the best thing about this movie is the title, which isn't even accurate.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
classic antiwar allegory, 12 February 2006
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Though hardly subtle, GOKE is an effective moral parable with science fiction, horror and disaster movie trappings. This is the earliest film I've seen with references to the Vietnam War, then ongoing. One of the characters is a young American widow en route to collect her husband's remains. The script and direction are generally strong, though characterisation is sketchy. The moral seems to be: never trust politicians, businessmen, psychiatrists or scientists. In fact, the only honourable characters are the air crew. The special effects are outstanding, though they obviously couldn't afford a stuntman in a fire-suit. The downbeat ending still packs a punch. The UK DVD is a subtitled, widescreen transfer, though the picture quality isn't great. Don't view the trailer first, as this gives away the haunting final shot.

7 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
English and Italian versions, 24 January 2006
7/10

The best English version on DVD is the Wild East release. The Italian print has been released on Japanese DVD by Imagica. Contentwise, these versions appear identical. Both run 90 minutes, give or take a few seconds, attributable to print damage and abrupt reel changes. The 'bloody hand print' shot present in the US trailer is missing from both versions. Presumably, the director or producers felt it was too hokey. Given the bloody gunfights, it's unlikely the shot was cut for being too gory. The film was shot in English - albeit without direct sound - making this the preferred audio choice. While Lee Van Cleef and Jess Hahn dubbed themselves, the rest of the cast have the usual 'spaghetti' dubbing, with some English accents thrown in. The Wild East DVD is taken from a faded, battered print, with plenty of dirt and scratches. Curiously, the credits are in Italian, apart from the awkwardly inserted title card. The Imagica DVD has superior picture quality, despite some heavy print damage early on. The image is sharper, the colours stronger. Question: what's the shoe-banging scene all about?

10 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Interesting, 2 January 2006
6/10

Best known for the BBC 'Ghost Story for Christmas' series, Lawrence Gordon Clark directed this M.R. James adaptation for Yorkshire Television. Updated to the present day, 'Casting the Runes' is an atmospheric, often eerie tale marred by some basic flaws. The main character is now a TV journalist, who incurs a magician's wrath after mocking him in a documentary. Shot on a mixture of videotape and 16mm film, 'Casting the Runes' conjures a sense of the uncanny against a mundane backdrop. While the special effects are variable - to say the least - the show transcends its limited budget. That said, the script could have been stronger. A longer running time would have helped, with more character and narrative development. As things stand, the pace seems rushed towards the end and a strong cast is underused. The weak ending is both cheap and objectionable. Leading lady Jan Francis appeared in John Badham's 'Dracula' (1979) around the same time, as the ill-fated Mina. For all its faults, 'Casting the Runes' is worth a look, though good luck finding a copy.