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The Staircase (2004– )
10/10
Superb documentary series
20 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
THE STAIRCASE, a 13-instalment true crime documentary currently available on Netflix, is truly one of the best of its kind that I've watched (better even than EVIL GENIUS). It's simple in structure, following a murder trial in depth for almost 20 years, and yet the level of detail and insight it goes into is unheralded. A French film crew are granted incredible warts-and-all access to the defendant and his family, following them through highs and lows, twists and turns, as things build to an unforeseen climax. This documentary is completely engrossing, and never less than shocking, moving and thought-provoking. David Rudolf, the defence lawyer, lights up the screen whenever he appears and the whole thing is just brilliantly conceived and achieved. I can't recommend it more.
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4/10
Extremely predictable
20 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
THE HUMANITY BUREAU is another hackneyed sci-fi movie seemingly inspired by the look of LOOPER and by the plot of a dozen dystopian fables along the likes of EQUILIBRIUM and the like. Nicolas Cage slums it as a government agent tasked with removing undesirables to a place called 'Eden', where they're rehabilitated and the like. He ends up falling for a single mother and her boy and helping them to evade the system, thus becoming a fugitive himself. It's a time-old premise done much better previously, and the budget is low here meaning few effects. Some half-hearted action doesn't really count for much, and that oh-so-obvious twist is one you can guess from the very first scene.
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Seedpeople (1992)
4/10
A cheesy rip-off
20 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
SEED PEOPLE is another cheesy rip-off from Full Moon Pictures, written by Charles Band who probably had the idea after watching INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and THE CURSE as it's a mix of the two. Meteorites land in the wood and spray their finders with alien goo that transforms them into the titular menace. Although the budget is big for a Full Moon film, this is still cheap and derivative, let down by bad acting and sluggish pacing.
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Bone Dry (2007)
3/10
Poorly made
19 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
BONE DRY is very much a cheap B-movie thriller which tries to mask a lack of budget with lots of camera tricks and stylised shots. The end result looks like it comes from the 1990s rather than 2007 and I quickly tired of the attention-seeking going on. The story is simplicity in itself, with traveller Luke Goss stranded in the desert and pursued by a vengeful psychopath, as played by the great Lance Henriksen. That's about all their is to it. Goss certainly goes through hell here and seems to be tortured or humiliated constantly, but the lacklustre writing saps this of strength and only Henriksen is reliably entertaining. The twist ending isn't too bad but it's a little late by that point.
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Crazy Six (1997 Video)
3/10
A terrible non-starter
18 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
CRAZY SIX is another terrible non-starter of a movie from director Albert Pyun, shot in Slovakia with an all-star cast who are entirely wasted in nothing roles. The story is about rival gangsters struggling for domination and the various characters who intertwine with them. Rob Lowe is the nominal hero, an anti-social drug addict unrecognisable behind a 'tache and long hair; supporting him is Ice-T, an extended cameo from Burt Reynolds, and Mario Van Peebles. There's even a smaller role for RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD's Thom Matthews, but the whole thing is so bad that this is a complete waste of time.
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Mission of Honor (II) (2018)
4/10
Clunky
17 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
HURRICANE is a spin on the usual WW2 movie in that it's told from the viewpoint of Polish airmen, who often get overlooked in such aerial combat pictures. Sadly, that's the most interesting aspect of this B-movie style production, and even that isn't handled in a very interesting way. Iwan Rheon is the morose lead, heading a lacklustre cast including Nicholas Farrell and Mel Gibson's son Milo. A lack of money really hampers things here, with just-about-passable CGI dogfight scenes, bad scripting and embarrassingly clunky line delivery. The "romantic" scenes are particularly embarrassingly handled. If you like this genre, you'd be better off stick with the old classics.
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4/10
Campy and ridiculous
17 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
CANNIBAL WOMEN IN THE AVOCADO JUNGLE OF DEATH is a farcical jungle adventure (and it had to be with that title) in which academics venture into the jungle only to discover a tribe of Amazons who have subjugated the male species and also occasionally cannibalise their suitors. It's ridiculous stuff for sure, not helped by a laughable script which makes a big deal about feminism and the like but comes across as nonsensical for the most part. Some B-movie favourites appear here, including Adrienne Barbeau and Shannon Tweed, but mostly this is all about '80s cheese. There's gratuitous nudity at the outset but none elsewhere, and after about half an hour it really drags out. The old campy 1950s jungle adventures were more fun.
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Hideous! (1997)
3/10
Silly
17 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
HIDEOUS! is another silly B-flick from Charles Band's Full Moon Entertainment, shot in Romania with a no-name cast (including the black guy from TOTAL RECALL, you'll remember him "I got five kids to feed!"). The story is about weirdos collecting biological "freak" specimens which are pickled but eventually come to life and wreak havoc, so yet another miniature rampage-style effort. After a long-winded set-up, all of the characters are trapped in a room with the little horrors trying to get them. It's bad taste for sure, but that's neutered somewhat by the awful special effects, which are barely glimpsed for a reason. Expect oodles of nudity to make up for the lack of horror.
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4/10
Very silly
16 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
THE CURSE OF KING TUT'S TOMB is another cheesy miniseries from Hallmark Entertainment, one that throws together various hackneyed premises and ideas about Egyptian mythology and brings them together for a low rent imitator of anything going. Caspar Van Dien is the nominal hero, working his way through a plot mixing up human adversaries with ancient curses and possession, and it's all very CGI dominated and quite laughable. THE MUMMY is the big film it rips off here but there are other nods to Indiana Jones and the like throughout. It's very silly, which isn't saying much.
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The Samaritan (I) (2012)
4/10
One good thing
16 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this under the cheap rip-off retitling of FURY. It's a low budget thriller in which Samuel L. Jackson comes out of prison and tries to go straight, only for a weasally associate to turn his life upside down. Jackson strives hard with the material - no matter how bad the film he's in is, he always does that - but the script is below-par and too obviously rips off OLDBOY for a crucial twist. What this does have going for it (and I'm not talking about Tom Wilkinson's creepy Hannibal Lecter voice) is another sassy performance from Ruth Negga, who's the best thing here.
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Drone (I) (2017)
4/10
A missed opportunity
16 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
DRONE is a promising would-be thriller exploring the morality and political fall-out arising from America's policy of using drone strikes to take down terrorist suspects abroad. The same subject matter has fuelled a slew of recent movies, but unfortunately aside from lots of soul-searching it really isn't handled very well here. When I saw Jason Bourque listed as director my heart sank (he's the guy responsible for tedious fare including ASTEROID: FINAL IMPACT and STONADOS) and things get very uninteresting after about 20 minutes in. The whole thing plays out as an extended family dinner; it wants to be intense and suspenseful, but it's just long-winded and boring. Sean Bean seems to be struggling with his American accent and none of the other actors are very interesting. A missed opportunity, then...
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Havenhurst (2016)
3/10
Gloomy digital tedium
16 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
RESURRECTION OF EVIL (original title: HAVENHURST) is another cheap haunted house flick with a gloomy digital look and nothing to recommend it for seasoned viewers of the genre. RAMBO actress Julie Benz plays a messed-up woman who becomes a tenant of an old rambing apartment building that turns out to be haunted by the ghost of a serial killer. Cheap gore effects, noisy screaming and lots of attempts at suspenseful dialogue are the order of the day here, but none of it works very well and you'll be itching to switch it off long before the end.
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P (2005)
3/10
Disappointing
15 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
P is another disappointing Thai horror flick that relies far too much on hokey jump scares and the like for effect; the result is laughable rather than frightening. The female protagonist starts out undergoing a difficult character arc, forced to dance in a sleazy club for cash, and it's this social aspect of the film which is by far the most interesting and relevant. The second half descends into the usual ghostly tedium with heavy use of CGI spirits and some gore effects. The acting is melodramatic and the direction, by a westerner no less, hackneyed.
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4/10
Nothing much going on
14 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
VOICE FROM THE STONE is yet another updating of the classic ghost story about a governess brought in to help a maladjusted child and his lonely grieving parent. This time around the setting is Tuscany, which is never really utilised to its full extent, although we do get some old-time Italian stars in support including Lisa Gastoni and Remo Girone. Sadly, the film is somewhat haphazardly written, never really getting going despite ample opportunity to do so. I don't mind slow burners but this has little atmosphere or depth to sustain it. Emilia Clarke does her best but still feels like she's acting, rather than fully inhabiting her role, while Marton Csokas has little to work with.
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Solis (2018)
3/10
Disappointingly scripted
14 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
SOLIS is another one of those ultra-cheap thrillers featuring a single protagonist in a single location. We've had quite a few of these in recent years, from Ryan Reynolds being buried alive to Tom Hardy driving in a car, but this time around it's a sci-fi movie about an outer space accident leaving an astronaut stranded and drifting towards the sun. Steven Ogg - best known for being the character model behind GRAND THEFT AUTO as well as his villainous henchman role in THE WALKING DEAD - makes a good choice of protagonist, but the script is extremely below par. Solid thriller elements give way to endless back story and soul-searching, and by the end it descends into CGI tedium. Alice Lowe also drags the film down quite considerably, even if hers is a voice performance only.
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Chance (1990)
3/10
Too cheap
14 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
CHANCE is another vehicle for long-forgotten and obscure action star Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs. This time he's a cop on the trail of various villainous gang members, aided by a typically hairy Dan Haggerty who comes along for the ride. This plays out as a cheap and cheesy buddy action comedy, but the budget is low and this the action is in short supply. It's little more than a camcorder indie at times; thankfully PM Entertainment would up the ante later in the decade and make much more entertaining movies.
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Mr. Brooks (2007)
5/10
Cold-hearted
13 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
MR. BROOKS is a cold-hearted serial killer film with Kevin Costner playing a happily married businessman by day and a serial killer by night. This makes him rather hard to root for, and unlike AMERICAN PSYCHO this film doesn't really have much of a satisfying plot, making it an average watch overall. Some parts of it are really well handled, with William Hurt's id character really nicely conceived, but the whole apprentice storyline with the uninteresting Dane Cook character is a misstep. Costner is once again excellent but the film itself fails to engage the senses like it really should. It's interesting, but hardly gripping.
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The Hard Way (2019)
4/10
Just the usual
12 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
THE HARD WAY is the usual kind of action thriller B-movie from director Keoni Waxman, who often paired with Steven Seagal earlier in his career. This one's shot in Romania and features a couple of rival characters who eventually team up in order to bring down the usual powerful bad guys and their endless henchmen. The plot is simplicity and unremarkable, while lead Luke Goss gives an indifferent performance and Randy Couture is underutilised. Best of the lot is Michael Jai White, who at least gets to show off his remarkable power and ability in a series of hard-hitting fight sequences.
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6/10
Solid stab at a sci-fi flick
12 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS is a fun if low budget British science fiction movie, set inside a normal suburban home at Christmas. Before anything weird even happens we're off to a conflict-fuelled start, with the ugly face of politics rearing its head and seeming most apt for anyone watching in the Brexit era of modern politics. Gradually, though, things become odder and odder, and with well-delineated actors giving decent performances you're caught up in the situation. The story is far less cheesy than expected and generally remains suspenseful up until the outre climax.
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Posse (1993)
6/10
Entertaining blaxploitation western
12 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
POSSE is one of the most entertaining blaxploitation westerns out there, admittedly in a very small sub-genre. This was directed by and stars Mario Van Peebles as a labour of love and it shows. The film has plenty of action in the form of shoot-outs and explosions, all captured in loving slow motion in that typical 1990s bombastic fashion. Even better, Van Peebles has assembled a cast of notable faces including crowd-pleasing old-timers like Isaac Hayes and Woody Strode, so watching becomes very entertaining. Billy Zane and Richard Jordan make for decent pantomime villains and at two hours the pacing is very quick, so there are no slow spots here.
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The Lighthouse (I) (2016)
3/10
Cheap and boring
12 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
THE LIGHTHOUSE is a cheap and boring drama that follows the mental disintegration of two lighthouse keepers affected by isolation and the rigours of their job. It sounds interesting and is based on a true story, but the execution here is horrible. You get long-winded conversations and back stories from two very dull characters interspersed with the occasional poor-quality green-screen outdoor effect. The monster flick COLD SKIN is much, much more interesting.
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Dark Shadows: Episode #1.306 (1967)
Season 1, Episode 306
6/10
A not-so-shock reveal
11 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Episode 306 offers a continuation of David and Sarah's misadventures, although the central storyline is on the rivalry between Barnabas and Burke. I found Barnabas' "shock" reveal to Victoria that Burke's been investigating him to be rather less than shocking; she does seem to be one step behind recently.
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Dark Shadows: Episode #1.305 (1967)
Season 1, Episode 305
6/10
Spooky playtime
11 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Episode 305 offers the introduction of a side-plot with just the right level of spookiness. David spends time playing with Sarah, the ghost girl, who leads him into the spooky old empty crypt that once contained Barnabas. DARK SHADOWS at its atmospheric best, then...
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7/10
A twist on the thriller genre
10 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
THE ACCOUNTANT offers a fresh twist on the action thriller genre for a film which is just as much a character study and drama as it is an action flick. In fact, those looking for Bourne-style hijinks are likely to be disappointed; there's an intense bit in the middle and a solid climax, but otherwise this is about actors doing what they do. Ben Affleck gets a chance to play a very interesting character, an austistic protagonist (how often do you see this?) who gets involved in a financial plot depicted in an interesting way. The film is generally quite gripping and involving, although it's a little slow and talky in parts and certain aspects are badly handled (Anna Kendrick's character has no purpose being in the film, really). Overall, I enjoyed it.
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4/10
Heavily stylised but only so-so
10 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
AMERICAN DRAGONS is a heavily stylised but rather unmemorable action thriller of 1998, indebted to John Woo's style but never really coming across as anything other than a cheap imitator. It's a buddy-buddy story in which Michael Biehn's kooky cop is hooked up with a South Korean partner to take down some gangster types. There's a fair bit of action here but it's rather overedited, although there are highs at times; the shoot-out in a bowling alley is handled rather nicely. The rest, I'm afraid, is strictly so-so.
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