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Snakes Alive ... Well, Not Here ...
A 'scientific' group go hunting for a legendary flower in Borneo, 2 Doctors among them. Let the fun unfold.
Take 7 individuals who wouldn't look out out place along the fashion catwalks of the world, pump up the men like body-builders, make the women super-sexy (especially when perspiring in skimpy tops) and add a generous splash of ridiculousness (unlike this movie, that word is real).
Lead by Bill Johnson (Johnny Messner), the group heads up a river in Borneo and comes across an animal that doesn't exist there. First mistake. Messner's character is, thanks to fancy scripting, ex-Special Services. Wow. I wondered why he was as cool as a cucumber, shaved with a blunt 12" Bowie knife and managed to kill a large crocodile single-handedly. Just for the record, he talks with a husky whisper and has some of the most implausible lines I have ever heard.
The 'scientists' loose the first of their own when one of these giant snakes attacks and snatches him to the waters below. As if by total magic, none of these 'scientists' can actually identify what took him. Everyone sees the snake but everyone HAS to ask "what was THAT?".
No-one in the group appeared to be over 30 and none of them seemed to been prepared for life in the jungle - but on board Johnson's beaten-up plywood boat, the 'Bloody Mary', all seems to be well and a laptop computer buzzes away in the background.
When Gordon Mitchell is taken, he's in a state of paralysis. The snake (weighing a little less than a ton, we can surmise by it's size) can easily slip through the inter-twining beams of a native's jungle hut without so much as a creak of a bamboo rafter. The remaining group decide to torch the jungle hut to kill the snake. As it happens, this scene takes place during a wild and torrential rainstorm - but the jungle hut, as you can guess, goes up in flames like a tinder-dry forest.
One viewer left a note to say that they 'turned the movie off when the monkey died'. Just goes to show how much people were really paying attention to this absolute cinematic wreck. Another said "brilliant movie", followed by no less than 6 exclamation marks. Enough said.
What a load of utter bilge. Come on ... it's got more holes in it than Swiss cheese.
The Plank (1967)
Pretty Much Perfect for 1967 ...
Sadly, and quite rudely, leask81 seems to have got it all wrong. The Plank was made in 1967 by some of the finest British comedians of the day - 'poms' or not. His comment was posted in February 2006 so, quite naturally, it would seem out-dated. In fact, any viewing later than 1976 would ... have you tried watching Paul Hogan's early stuff?
The sheer enjoyment out of watching the story of this errant plank of wood and its two clumsy handymen is not only a gem of British comedy, but is also a bar over which not many comedy performers since then have managed to clear.
A highly enjoyable 'short' and one for the collector.
Hannibal Rising (2007)
Total Waste Of Time ...
When you draw on the strings of a classic cult horror film and try to rewrite history, the wise would be well off leaving those sleeping dogs snoozing to their heart's content ...
Hannibal Rising is, without doubt, one of the worst films to kick off a new year - and it's still only February. The story is disastrously weak and riddled with nonsensical chance and writer's cramp. With it's forerunner now well and truly on a higher shelf, some bright spark decided that the original story should be told from the beginning. So, along with a financial backer, they set out to recreate the early years of Hannibal Lecter.
Casting a French boy in the role of the adolescent Hannibal only confused the character's Eastern European origins when he spoke. The supporting cast must have been drawn out of a hat at a charity ball and the editing appeared to have been done by a deranged axe-man with a blunt instrument. Where the idea of this Japanese Aunt came from, along with the martial art of kendo and the Samurai mask, I'll never know - and we're only 30 minutes into the film at this stage.
It's a bizarre tale with some truly awful lines, delivered by a collection of character actors who should strike this ordeal from their resumes. Remember Ridley Scott's Hannibal in 2001 and leave this poor relation to the half-price bins at your local DVD store.
If I were to describe this movie in 5 words, I'd say that it was 'a cow in a tracksuit'. But then I'd be insulting the cow ...
Oh dear, what a shame ...
This film, it has to be said, is truly awful. Simply a vehicle for Statham to rack up more dollars and Snipes, the fading star, to get back onto the big screen. The plot has a number of opportunities to develop into something tangible but flounders around like a beached whale, gasping for air.
There are some notable gaffs. For instance, with the Police mounting such a huge operation to secure the area during the bank raid, how can any Police force allow the general public quite so close to the scene? Furthermore, how can the let the press even closer?
Statham's accent is weak and unbelievable. He's not exactly RADA trained though the character does have the odd line which is simply 'the wise crack' used to deflect his acting abilities - the reference to Quincy being one. The Gina Lopez role would have so much better had they employed someone more credible. Bad casting shows and here, it glows like a 747 landing light. When Snipes holds the snack bar girl as a hostage, she couldn't look more relaxed if she tried. Where was the terror? Where was the stress? In the producers office, no doubt, but not on the screen.
Directly after a huge bank explosion, how come cops always have time for a sit-down meal?
Capt Martin Jenkins uses a very strange analogy in one speech, 'rocket surgeon'. I always thought they were 'rocket scientists' but the script writers seem to have other ideas ... which was something I believe the crew had on their minds while in production.
The Last Hangman (2005)
Having A Swinging Time ...
When documenting a true story, criticism is often levied at the film-makers for condensing and twisting true-life events to suit their needs. That may well be the case. Unless the viewer has read first hand accounts of such true-life stories, then the film versions of these events appear stilted and fanciful.
Albert Pierrepoint's story has been well documented in not only his autobiography but by numerous historians and writers. With key events in the film being followed as closely as possible, it must have been nigh on impossible to keep everyone happy. Casting for this film must have been quite an exciting process. With people like Timothy Spall in the lead role, he showed all the care and attention that Pierrepoint was famous for. His wife, played by Juliet Stephenson, was a highly touching character. Although Mrs Pierrepoint never stood out in the original autobiography, Stephenson brings us a strong yet gentile woman, the driving force behind The Hangman. Eddie Marsan's portrayal as 'Tish' was casting at it's best.
A supporting cast of physically interesting character actors blended with superb lighting and set design, make a highly enjoyable and thought provoking film about the rights and wrongs of capital punishment.
The fact that the makers of 'The Last Hangman' managed to cram a fascinating life-long career into 90 minutes must serve as a tribute to their skill and craftsmanship.
Gangster No. 1 (2000)
Nothing to get excited about ...
The Brits have always had the knack of making superb gangster films the along comes Gangster No 1 and destroys the fact. Whilst the majority of gangland stories have their fair share of colourful language and violence, this film went far beyond the boundaries of exceptable good taste. The entire film is splattered with both obscenities and blood but the script has to have been written by an illiterate with a limited vocabulary. Maybe that's what the film-makers wanted, who knows. There's nothing special within this film and as for hidden meanings, only those who think too hard might find 'a little something' that isn't there.
Les chevaliers du ciel (2005)
Full Speed ...
A French aerial-action flick packed with fast jets, quick tempered pilots and the usual array of love-interests. Many have compared 'Les Chevaliers du ciel' to the 1986 US box office blockbuster, Top Gun. Film fans bang on about 'this lax French copy' - but it's not a copy, it's a completely different film altogether. Different plot and different characters. It just happens to feature the French Air Force, whereas Top Gun was based on the US Navy.
In my honest opinion, 'Les Chevs' (it's international title being Sky Fighters), is a very plausible film. If you ignore the weak female characters and their individual inter-woven story-lines, then the 97 minute film motors along quite happily. Then you discover that the director is one Gérard Pirès, the man responsible for delivering 'Riders' and 'Double Zero'. For anyone who saw either of these stable-mates may recall British actor Bruce Payne's fingernail scraping American accent in 'Riders' and then there was the farcical 'Double Zero' - a French spy comedy film. It was obvious that a large slice of the combined budgets went towards lunch.
'Les Chevaliers du ciel' has a fairly reasonable story: a new French fighter jet, the Mirage 2000 is hijacked on the tarmac at the Farnborough Airshow in the UK. Two French fighter jets are sent to intercept the stolen aircraft as it flies towards the French coast. Our two heros are flying the interceptors, Benoît Magimel as Capt Antoine "Walk'n" Marchelli and his sidekick, Capt Sébastien "Fahrenheit" Vallois played by Clovis Cornillac. They end up in a multitude of trouble but go on to save the day when a naughty little inter-governmental plot is revealed.
Such is the advancement in filming technology and special effects in the 19 years since Top Gun was made, this particular flick contains some very impressive aerial sequences. What many fail to realise is that the flying sequences in Top Gun were mainly filmed from the ground, whereas in 'Les Chevs', it was mostly airborne. With 21st Century kit like the Spacecam and the Vectorvision Jet Camera, what you see is what actually happened. By strapping this new technology to the underbelly of another fighter jet, the aerial sequences have you in the Martin Baker seat of ejection happiness. A pod containing 4 cameras captured the forward, rear and side-to-side action, making for a fascinating insight into the sheer joy of punching your way through a cloud bank.
The film, naturally, has to have a love interest - or 3 - as in this case. Géraldine Pailhas plays Maelle Coste, the French Prime Minister's defence adviser, Alice Taglioni plays fellow pilot Lt Estelle 'Pitbull' Kass and Rey Reyes as "Stardust", an American Air Force pilot on an exchange programme. I must say that Ms Reyes took a leaf out of 'Riders' by delivering a shockingly bad US accent and also managed to corner the market in pouting and posing. A character somewhat far fetched and unbelievable.
The inter-weaving sub plots keep you thinking and Fiona Curzon, a Paris-based English actress, makes an appearance as a certain Mrs Redgrave, a British arms dealer from Gibraltar. Sadly, she too seems to have been struck down with a case of the 'awful accents'.
Overall, 'Les Chevs' seems to have lifted Gérard Pirès out of his funk and is well worth a viewing. So brush up on your French, return the seatback to the upright position and prepare for the rush of the afterburners.
The Avengers (1998)
Avengers is such sweet sorrow ...
Remakes just don't have the same 'oomph' as the original and one has to ask, why do they do it? Leave the original film to rise to the rank of 'classic', leave well alone and go off and shoot something else instead? Something, err ... original? If Hollywood, or indeed the British Film industry, keep telling us how fantastic and talent-rich they are, then surely someone has an original idea out there? No-one has ever succeeded in making the copy better than the original. In 2000, Hollywood 'adapted' another British classic, 'Get Carter' (1971). Then, in 2004, they hijacked another favourite, 'The Ladykillers' (1955). This time, Tom Hanks took the lead role as Professor GH Dorr (Alec Guinness' Professor Marcus), a carbon-copy even down to his bucked teeth Much like those before, this particular group of 're-makers' gathered round a can of light beer, opened a bag of pretzels (careful you don't choke fellas, we know how delicate you are) and thought that the viewing public would flock their droves to see their version of 'The Avengers'.
Well, they didn't.
The cast, for one, needed a script to get their teeth into. Not something thrown together at the last minute.
The plot no let's leave well alone. What passes as a plot really began as notes written on folded paper and drawn out of a hat by the 4yr old son of one of the set decorators.
The teddy-bears Sean Connery. What was he thinking? One reviewer said 'don't rent this movie, wait for it to do the rounds on cable if you can sit through it'. I must say that I am in total agreement.
The next time the movie-hijackers decide to remake a classic - STOP! Go and have a cup of tea or a brisk walk around the block, then give all the money you conned out of the gullible backers to help fight world poverty or disease or just go to the pub and buy everyone a round of drinks.
Now go to your room. You've been a very naughty boy.
Erik the Viking (1989)
Norse Star ...
Seen as a poor relation to true-Python movies (even forgotten), it tells the tale of a young adventurous Viking, Erik, who sets out on a quest to find Asgard. Along with a selection of other Norsk villagers, they sail into the unknown, encounter a sea monster and stumble across the idyllic 'Hy-Brazil', a land ruled by King Arnulf (Director, Terry Jones) who keeps insisting that in the face of adversity "It's alright. It's not happening".
The badness in this piece is care of Halfdan the Black (John Cleese) and delivered in typical Cleese fashion. Loki ((now) Sir Anthony Sher) plays to Halfdan as a crooked little stoolpigeon, only looking to improve his standing and possible gains.
Sadly, no other members of the original Python team played a part in this film as, rumour has it, after the death of Graham Chapman (in October of 1989), the remaining Pythons. Gilliam, Palin and Idle, decided not to appear.
Erik The Viking is a light comedy with occasional droplets of Python rain, gently falling about the story. Director, Terry Jones, relies on a pair of old-school character actors who number his and many Python films: John Scott Martin (Ingemund the Old) and Charles McKeown (Sven's Dad).
Jones allowed his cast to keep their mother-tongues: Tim Robbins (Erik) and Mickey Rooney (Erik's Grandfather) keep their American drawls and John Gordon Sinclair (Ivar), his broad Scottish accent. One of the best interactions is between Ivar and Thorofinn, discussing seasickness aboard their boat and a welcome diversion comes in the shape of 28yr old Imogen Stubbs (Princess Aud).
In the end, it's just a bit of fun and serves as a good 'hors d'oeuvre' to anyone who needs a gentle initiation into the world of Python.
Der Untergang (2004)
Bunker Days ...
If this dramatisation of Hitler's last days in his bunker are to be believed, then this has to be the best version of events ever filmed.
Chilling, stark and moving, the film-makers have brilliantly captured life below ground for several dozen of Herr Hitler's closest personal staff. As the Russian troops surround Berlin, now within a matter of kilometers of the Reichstag and the nearby bunker, Hitler is forced into making decisions that will affect the city and the lives of Germans after he has gone.
From the inevitable destruction of Hitler's pet German Shepherd dog, to Frau Goebbels taking the lives of her children, the film follows Traudl Junge, Hitler's final personal secretary - her thoughts, fears and desires.
Made by the best German film-makers and with some of the best German acting talent around, the country should be very proud of their achievement.
If you get the chance to see it, do just that.