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|123 reviews in total|
A true shopping mall movie and a hopeless attempt to inject new life in a long-dead series, Die Hard 4.0 feels as though it began most of its life as a totally unrelated thriller before someone decided to change the main character's name to John McLane at the last minute. Even twenty years on, the original remains the strongest, most exciting action thriller of all time, but this is extremely bland and totally anonymous in comparison, lacking even the character of the flawed second and third instalments. Unattractively shot in hues of grey, the plot is some techno-nonsense about disillusioned (and decidedly unthreatening) Timothy Olyphant holding the US to ransom; in the meantime, McLane (Bruce Willis, going through the motions) teams up with a whiny computer hacker (Justin Long) to work out the blah, blah, blah, we've all been here before, right? Maggie Q looks great but has no discernible personality or character to work with, and Kevin Smith should have stuck to his Silent Bob ethos, as every time he opens his mouth, he exposes the fact that he's not very good at acting. The action is spectacular but difficult to get worked up about, the script is dull and overall the whole enterprise just feels like an 'in one ear, out the other' example of sheer product. Bafflingly, this film is proving to be very popular, but believe me, the original is all you'll ever need.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A sequel to one of the greatest, most powerful horror films of all time, yet one without the input of original director and co-writer David Cronenberg, was always going to be a hard sell. Unsurprisingly, The Fly II is a disappointment, emerging as a mere exercise in formulaic shocks and little else, as young Martin Brundle (Eric Stoltz) is brought up by the sinister Bartok (Lee Richardson) only to realise his horrendous destiny as dormant genes in his body begin to transform him into a crossbreed of fly and human, just his like deceased father. While reasonably entertaining throughout, this is a sloppy, scrappy film that underwrites its characters, gives them some silly dialogue and then feeds them to the lions in a gory finale that's just like any other in the genre. Stoltz and Richardson are quite good (plus the first film's John Getz makes a welcome return in a cameo role), and there are some effective moments here and there, but this is a totally pointless sequel, one that doesn't even come close to matching the original.
This wild and weird film is almost unclassifiable, though some have tried; calling it a gangster film doesn't even come close to pinning it down. Admittedly, the first half hour is a crime thriller of some sorts, albeit one that's a head rush of rapid editing and visual experimentation, as heavy Chas (James Fox) proves too much for his bosses to rely on, thanks to his slightly too enthusiastic attitude to his 'work'. After an attempt on his life goes wrong, Chas goes on the run and hides out in the house of bygone rock star Turner (Mick Jagger), and this is where the film gets really strange and quite brilliant too. Chas becomes immersed in a world of dual identity, drugs, sex and sexuality, while Turner finds that his long-gone artistic 'demon' might not be so lost after all. An often truly mesmerising experience, directors Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg deliver so much that a single viewing simply won't be enough; in fact, this is one of those films that gets deeper and more satisfying the more you see it. Fox and Jagger are very good indeed, as is Anita Pallenberg as one of Turner's live-in lovers. Technically the film is extraordinary, with stunning use of camera-work, editing and music throughout, and the conclusion is very ambiguous, leaving you to pose your own idea as to what really happens in the end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the very best films of the 1980's, David Cronenberg's stunning remake of the B-movie of the same name is deeply moving, intelligent, frightening, funny and powerful. Delivering possibly his best ever performance, Jeff Goldblum stars as Seth Brundle, a brilliant scientist who has created 'telepods', which can transport matter from one place to another. However, when decides to test the invention on himself, he accidentally fuses his molecular structure with a housefly who flew into one of the telepods before teleportation. At first Brundle experiences a near super-human increase in energy and strength, but it becomes terrifyingly clear that he is changing for the worse at an alarming rate Goldblum is just wonderful, conveying pity and fear in equal measures, while Geena Davis is also excellent as Brundle's girlfriend, who must helplessly watch on as her beloved decays and transforms before her very eyes. The script is terrific, the music score by Howard Shore incredible, the gory special effects unforgettable and the ending in particular is astounding; it'll have you watching through your fingers during the grotesquely scary moments and fighting the tears when it reaches its tragic conclusion. A masterpiece.
Is The Departed really the film that Scorsese should have finally got Best Director (or Best Picture) for? In the end, who cares? This is not a groundbreaking film in the mould of his earlier classics, but it is a white-hot thriller, energised by fantastic performances, a great script, and of course, that sure Scorsese touch. A remake of the cult Asian film Infernal Affairs, this tells the tale of two men undercover; one within the Irish-American mafia, one within the police force, with both trying to expose the other's identity. For the first half, this is a damn good film, but it really gets going around the halfway mark onwards, with a barrage of terrific moments that'll have you gripped. Jack Nicholson wisely stops short of self-parody with a mesmerising performance as the head gangster whom the police are just aching to take down, while Matt Damon is splendid as the mole in a uniform; the stellar turn however, is from Leonardo DiCaprio as the cop who must convince Nicholson and deputy heavy Ray Winstone that he's not a rat; his performance is the best of a brilliant bunch, and that also includes Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen and a hilarious Mark Wahlberg as the world's most obnoxious police office, who attacks anyone and everyone with an onslaught of classic put-downs.
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Alfred Hitchcock's penultimate film (his first to be filmed in England in decades) is an excellent suspense thriller, very well written by Anthony Shaffer, who manages to combine gripping horror and morbid comedy expertly. Jon Finch is the alcoholic ex-serviceman who becomes the prime suspect in a series of hideous murders, including that of his ex-wife, yet we know all along that the true culprit is Finch's best friend Barry Foster, whose affable, cheeky external persona hides a brutal, vicious dark side. Presumably due to the loosening of rules regarding what was and wasn't allowed on screen from the end of the sixties onwards, Frenzy noticeably has a lot more colourful language, nudity and violence than ever before in a Hitchcock film; there's a rape/murder near the start that's arguably the most horrific scene of the director's entire career. Finch is a fine lead, (he has a brilliantly dramatic voice too), but the star turns are from Foster and Alec McCowen as the inspector assigned to the case. Barbara Leigh-Hunt and Anna Massey are also very good in supporting roles. As is to be expected in a Hitchcock film, there are some brilliant set-pieces, the best of which involves a clumsy attempt to retrieve an incriminating piece of evidence from a rigor mortis-stricken body, while a very unsettling reverse camera tracking shot half-way through is one of the director's most powerful, overlooked moments. Great music score too.
Possibly the only film ever where a character actually says the line "prepare to die!", Road House is a trashy classic, or 'trashic' if you will; it's very silly and won't require you to refer to your brain cells for one second, but darn it, they really don't seem to make 'em like this anymore! Patrick Swayze is Dalton, a tough-as-nails bouncer who is hired to take out the trash at the Double Deuce, which is the kind of place where "they sweep up the eyeballs after closing". Cue a barrage of violent brawls, face-offs and good old rock and roll (courtesy of The Jeff Healey Band), not to mention a little sex on the side thanks to the appearance of doctor Kelly Lynch, who is won over by Dalton's declaration that "pain don't hurt". This latter development doesn't go down at all well with corrupt town kingpin Ben Gazzara, who intends to take Dalton down for good for daring to sleep with the woman he used to fancy. With little to no plot to speak of, Road House more than gets by on the strength of its (un?)intentionally funny script, some brilliantly pulpy performances from Gazarra and Sam Elliott (as Wade Garrett, the best bouncer of all) and of course, the fantastic fights, which are rough, tough and spectacularly messy. Swayze keeps a marvellously straight face throughout, which is a miracle, given some of the lines he has to work with. This is one of the best B-movies (albeit one of those with an A-movie budget) of the 1980s. On a final note, composer Michael Kamen must have been slumming it in 1989, as his score bears more than the occasional resemblance to his work for the same year's Licence to Kill, not to mention the previous year's Die Hard
Kevin Smith's follow up to his own superb low-budget comedy is a true delight and one of the most satisfying sequels of recent times. Brian O' Halloran and Jeff Anderson are back as Dante and Randal, only this time they've moved on from the convenience store scene and into the fast food world. However, their friendship is at risk, what with Dante all set to leave town and get married to a woman whom he's not even sure he really loves. In fact, maybe he's better off getting together with his boss and close friend Becky (Rosario Dawson) Clerks II pulls off the feat of being hilariously rude and genuinely sweet in equal measures; Dawson in particular makes for a lovely, refreshing addition to the cast. Jason Mewes and Smith return as slackers Jay and Silent Bob; the former enjoys a hilarious moment parodying a certain scene from The Silence of the Lambs. The profane script is first-rate, often extremely filthy and very, very funny, while an agreeable element of sentiment makes this a particularly upbeat and spirited experience too.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Dario Argento's twisted, very stylish thriller is, like many of his others, full of narrative inconsistencies and dubious characterisation to put up with, but there's also magnificent camera-work and brilliant set-pieces in abundance. A young, beautiful understudy named Betty gets the opportunity to play the lead in an opera version of Macbeth when the original choice breaks her leg; however, that's where her luck ends, as she becomes the obsessive object of desire of a psychotic fan who proceeds to trap her, place needles underneath her eyes (so that she can't close them) and viciously murder her boyfriend right in front of her. However, it appears that Betty's nightmare is only just beginning .try to see this film with the original Italian soundtrack, as the English dub is pretty awful, and detracts from what is a splendidly entertaining movie. Argento visual flair and Ronnie Taylor's cinematography (which includes a pulsating effect to mimic the beating of the killer's brain, not to mention a POV shot from a raven, and even a mini-camera placed inside a peephole in which a bullet passes through) is truly astounding, while the music is a wild and weird mix of opera, heavy metal, electronic and eerie fairytale-esquire lullabies. It's very silly, but often frighteningly effective; the first 'needles' scene is one of the director's most intense, scary and gruesome moments, while a later sequence involving the retrieval of an incriminating bracelet is unforgettably unpleasant. Arguably Argento's last great film, see it on the biggest screen you can, you won't regret it.
James Foley's film adaptation of David Mamet's play initially got some shtick from critics who felt that by transferring the action to the big screen, it didn't really add anything, save the odd cool camera move. Oh well, for the rest of us (and it's not like the play is easy to see; is it still running these days?), this is a marvellous drama. With a relentlessly talky script, the film essentially lives or dies by the strength of its performers; never fear though, as we have a truly astounding cast of actors on show. The story, concerning a team of real estate agents desperately trying to sell property, tests its characters resolve to the limit; some scenes are almost volcanic in profane intensity. The results are often painfully, excruciatingly funny, especially Ed Harris' Moss, a tightly-wound juggernaut who spectacularly loses it near the end when mocked by Al Pacino's equally shouty yet cooler Ricky Roma. Pacino's performance was the only to be Oscar nominated, but more or less everyone here should have got a mention, particularly Jack Lemmon as the pathetic, hopeless Shelley 'The Machine' Levene, who delivers an absolutely amazing turn that's one of his very best. Alec Baldwin also gets a priceless cameo near the beginning as the world's worst pep-talker. Kevin Spacey, Jonathan Pryce and Alan Arkin have the less showy roles, but they're just as fine in a film that is breathtaking in its performance-led sweep.
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