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3/10
What a load of warlocks!
16 September 2019
Of all the guests I have met at various conventions over the years, Ashley Laurence is probably the loveliest - not just beautiful but really nice to talk to as well. So it pains me to say that The End of Innocence, in which Ashley takes the lead, is easily the weakest Warlock of the three; not that I blame Ms. Laurence - she is easily the best thing about the whole sorry mess.

Ashley plays art student Kris Miller, who investigates an old ancestral house in the hope of learning more about the history of her family. After some spooky goings on, Kris is relieved when she is joined by her boyfriend Michael (Paul Francis) and a group of their college pals for some partying, but their fun comes to an end when suave architect Phillip Covington (Bruce Payne) -- in reality an evil warlock -- works his wicked magic.

Part III couldn't be less like the first two films: instead of a mix of humour and horror, director Eric Freiser plays it straight, but he fails to generate much in the way of genuine scares, his film an embarrassment of fumbled frights, weak performances (Bruce Payne, a poor man's Julian Sands, is terrible), tacky stylisms, and cheap and unconvincing visual effects (the shattering of witch Robin and the burning of Michael are unintentionally funny).

Freiser tries to compensate with some nudity courtesy of Playboy playmate Angel Boris Reed, who plays sexy dominatrix Lisa, and a little gore (bloodiest moment: a man having his throat torn out), and even tries to emulate Argento for a scene where Kris makes a bid for freedom (complete with operatic style music). It's all for naught though: some boobs and a little blood isn't enough to disguise that fact that Warlock III is predictable third-rate pap.

3.5 out of 10, rounded down to 3 for that awful goat demon at the end, and for the overuse of an irritating 'eagle screech' sound effect.
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6/10
Hickox fails to work his magic.
15 September 2019
Julian Sands returns as the titular warlock, who is reborn to try and gather together six runestones that will enable Satan to walk the Earth. Standing in his way are a group of ageing druids, two of whom have teenage kids, Kenny and Samantha (Chris Young and Paula Marshall), who must become druid warriors to do battle and save the planet from evil.

Anthony Hickox hit the ground running with gory tableau horror Waxwork (1988) and Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1989), but his subsequent sequel to his directorial debut (Waxwork II: Lost in Time) and his third in the Hellraiser series (Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth) were less impressive, the director ill-advisedly aiming for a more mainstream, teen-friendly approach (possibly inspired by the success of numerous cheesy Nightmare on Elm Street sequels).

The malaise continued with this follow up to 1989 supernatural hit Warlock. Hickox's film is too silly to be scary, but not funny enough to be a comedy; it sits awkwardly in the middle ground, never getting the balance right. There is some fun to be had from the ridiculous death scenes, as Sands' character creatively kills those who possess the runestones, and the gore is handled well enough, but the pacing is off and the less said about the sloppy visual effects (including early CGI that looks awful) the better.

Highlights include a woman giving birth to a fleshy sac that eats her Pomeranian, a dwarf impaled in an iron maiden, a fashion designer dropped from a height through a skylight, and a gloopy meltdown for the warlock at the end. Dumbest moments include a victim turned into a Picasso-style statue, the warlock shooting a druid with his fingers (blowing smoke from the deadly digits afterwards), and the scalping of a hitch-hiker (an effect achieved with a wig, a bald cap, and some ketchup).

5.5 out of 10, rounded up to 6 for IMDb.
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Nightbeast (1982)
5/10
Better than The Alien Factor (which isn't saying a lot, I know).
14 September 2019
Don Dohler's Nightbeast comes from Amazing Film Productions, which might be pushing it a bit (okay... a lot). A classic example of low-budget regional B-movie sci-fi/horror schlock, the film opens with an ugly alien with lots of teeth crash-landing in small-town U.S.A. where it proceeds to kill and mutilate anyone it meets. Why? 'Cos it's hangry!

The hero of the piece is Sheriff Cinder (Tom Griffith), who sports a greying afro perm, a droopy moustache, and large sunglasses; he's joined by several other locals in trying to destroy the monster, including deputy Lisa Kent (Karin Kardian), whose hair is almost as bad as the Sheriff's. As well as shockingly nasty hair, Nightbeast also features terrible performances all-round from the presumably amateur cast, some gratuitous female nudity, an out-of-nowhere sex scene between Cinder and Kent (two unattractive people bumping uglies is the real horror!), and a healthy dose of gore, including disembowelment, a severed arm, a clawed face, decapitation, and a guy fried to a crisp by high-voltage.

These gore effects are cheap but satisfyingly messy; the visual effects, on the other hand, are just cheap, from the terrible alien craft in space to the really naff sparkly laser-gun blasts, this is laughable stuff indeed. Dohler's direction is basic and the film does tend to drag between the splattery death scenes, but if you're into cheesy '80s drive-in trash, I guess you could do worse.
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5/10
Doc 'Cock likes 'em dead.
14 September 2019
London, 1885: surgeon Dr. Bernard Hichcock (Robert Flemyng) likes his women to be quiet when he makes love. Dead quiet. Accordingly, he injects his beautiful willing wife Margaretha (Maria Teresa Vianello) with anaesthesia to achieve a death-like state before getting fruity with her, but his plan backfires when she really carks it during one of his night-time visits. Distraught, he leaves home.

Twelve years later, the doctor returns to London with a new wife, Cinzia (Barbara Steele), who is blissfully unaware of her husband's particular sexual proclivities. But old habits die hard, and it's not long before the doc is up to no good, fondling the female stiffs at his hospital, and injecting Cinzia while she sleeps. Seeing a ghostly figure roaming the grounds at night, Cinzia suspects that something is very wrong and confides in her husband's dashing colleague Dr. Kurt Lowe (Silvano Tranquilli). Will Kurt realise the horrifying truth before Cinzia follows Margheretha to the grave?

If the title didn't make it clear, director Riccardo Freda's gothic horror The Horrible Dr. Hichcock owes a debt to dear old Alfred H., not just in the Psycho-style closing scene, in which the demented doctor's true nature is finally revealed to Cinzia, but also with several other references to Hitch's work: the gothic structure of Rebecca, the poisoned glass of milk from Suspicion, the 'skull in the bed' from Jamaica Inn. Freda's imagery is great, with stunning lighting and beautiful cinematography, but his storytelling isn't a patch on Hitchcock's, the action moving at a dreary pace that threatens to send the viewer into a deep sleep, anaesthetic not required.

The ending is also more than a tad confusing: according to both my trusty Aurum Encyclopedia of Horror and Wikipedia, Margaretha was buried alive and came back from the grave, presumably a little less sane for her experience. Did creepy housekeeper Martha (Harriet Medin) look after her for all the time that the doctor was away? Why didn't Martha contact Bernard to tell him? Or did he know all along? I haven't the foggiest. Not sure why the doctor thought that Cinzia's blood would revive Margaretha's looks either!

4.5/10, rounded up to 5 for the hilarious Anglicised name given to production designer Franco Fumagalli in the opening credits: Frank Smokecocks.
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1/10
It blows. Or sucks. Either one will do.
13 September 2019
Watching The Brown Bunny is like taking the most boring road trip ever accompanied by the most unlikable bloke imaginable, after which he gets a blow job and you don't.

Directed by and starring Vincent Gallo, this self-indulgent art-house snooze-fest follows motorcycle racer Bud Clay as he drives from New Hampshire to California, with brief encounters with several women along the way. When he gets to Los Angeles, he meets up with old flame Daisy Lemon (Chloë Sevigny), who gets a shot of protein to the back of the throat in the film's infamous un-simulated oral sex scene, after which we learn the tragic truth about how their relationship ended.

99% tedious shots of Gallo driving down highways, filmed through the windscreen, badly framed and frequently out of focus, and 1% Sevigny slurping sausage, this is precisely the type of unmitigated garbage that gives arthouse cinema a bad rep. It's ultimately a study of a man struggling with guilt and grief, which is all well and good except for the fact that it is also utterly boring and ugly to look at for most of the time. If it hadn't been for the fact that an established actress performs fellatio for reals, I suspect that The Brown Bunny would never have seen the light of day.
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3/10
Wynorski... whynoskin?
12 September 2019
Want to see past-her-prime ex-pornstar Traci Lords and once-promising actress Dominique Swain battling ravenous CGI sharks in a flooded women's prison? Who wouldn't? Unfortunately, Sharkansas Women Prison Massacre is not that film. The name Jim Wynorski mean anything to you? If so, then you probably already suspect that this isn't going to live up to the impressive title. Wynorski's movie doesn't take place in a penal institution, 'cos that would cost too much money; instead, it's set in a swamp, where a group of big-breasted jailbirds (dressed in regulation tight white vest and denim hot-pants) are on work detail when they are attacked by prehistoric fish released from an underground ocean by fracking explosions. Meanwhile, Detective Kendra Patterson (Lords) and her partner are on the lookout for the missing prisoners.

Even though the ladies in this film are well-endowed, their impressive mammaries are kept under wraps, the closest the film comes to delivering any nudity being a quick dip in a hot-tub, although the bikinis stay on throughout. As for the shark action, there's a lot of shots of dorsal fins sticking out of the ground as they burrow through the dirt (these sharks are as deadly on land as they are in the water), but not much else is seen of the fish. Not only does the film scrimp on the bare flesh and the sharks, but there's not much gore either. In fact, unless you're a particularly big fan of any of the 'actresses' involved, or a sucker for punishment, I would probably avoid this like a hungry great white.
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Satanic Panic (2019)
6/10
Not quite devilish enough.
10 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Horror comedy Satanic Panic kicks off in promising style, with pizza delivery girl Sam Craft (buxom beauty Hayley Griffith) crashing a party of devil worshippers in search of a tip. When the Satanists realise that Sam is a virgin, they take her prisoner with the intention of using her in a ritual to summon demon Baphomet. Sam isn't too happy about this, and with the help of Judi (Ruby Modine), daughter of head occultist Danica (Rebecca Romijn), sets about trying to spoil their plans.

There's a scene in this film where a woman wearing a huge, rotating drill-bit dildo impales another woman through the chest, at which point I thought I had discovered a really twisted horror gem, one that would only get more and more demented as it progressed; unfortunately, it doesn't. There are still a few fun moments to be had, but nothing quite as outrageous as I had hoped for, making the film feel like something of a disappointment overall.

Jerry O'Connell has a small part as a sleaze-bag who offers to deflower Sam, but accidentally shoots himself in the neck; Danica cooks up a strange bloodsucking sphincter creature and sends it to find Sam; Judi pukes up worms; and a demon in the form of a little girl makes the Satanists pay dearly for a mistake. All of this is reasonably entertaining, but had director Chelsea Stardust seized the opportunity and allowed the lunacy to escalate to epic proportions, it would have been so much more memorable-a bona fide cult classic instead of just a passable time-waster.
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The Furies (2019)
7/10
A fun Aussie gore-fest.
8 September 2019
Aussie horror The Furies isn't very original: it's a little bit Saw, a little bit Cube, a little bit Hostel, a little bit Battle Royale, and a lot like so many backwoods slashers. But despite this obvious lack of freshness, it still manages to be a lot of fun, largely thanks to its extreme gore, director Tony D'Aquino ladling on the splatter for his debut feature.

The film opens as two friends, Kayla (Airlie Dodds) and Maddie (Ebony Vagulans), are abducted, rendered unconscious, taken to a remote forest, and put inside wooden boxes. When Kayla wakes up, Maddie is nowhere to be seen, so she explores the surrounding area where she meets other girls in the same situation. Before long, Kayla discovers that she and the other young women are being hunted by a group of masked killers, part of a sick virtual reality game where their every move is broadcasted to members of an elite club via the special eyeball cameras that have been surgically implanted in their heads.

Kayla eventually realises that each abductee has their own assigned maniac who is there to protect them; as each girl dies, so does their 'beast', which leads to a 'survival of the fittest' scenario, where the girls turn on each other to increase their chances of making it out alive.

With the maniacs armed with a range of very sharp weapons (an axe, a scythe, a sickle, a machete, a knife etc.), the deaths are gleefully messy, an impressive array of gory effects drenching the film with blood, guts and body parts: one girl has her face hacked off, another has her arms ripped from her body, we get a superb axe in the head scene, and there's a nasty throat slashing. We also get graphic eye-ball gouging and several exploding heads. In short, The Furies is a gore-hound's delight.

If I had one minor gripe (other than the derivative nature of the plot), it would be that lead Airlie Dodds suffers from what I call 'Samara Weaving Syndrome': in other words, she has a really off-putting, warbling scream. Must be an Australian thing.

6.5/10, rounded up to 7 for IMDb.
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Creed II (2018)
8/10
It's a knockout!
8 September 2019
I've finally gone the distance with the Rocky franchise, watching Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, Rocky V, Rocky Balboa, Creed and Creed II almost back-to-back. The fact that I have been able to do so without throwing in the towel is testament to the brilliance of the original format, to which the sequels remained fairly faithful: gritty drama, likeable characters, a lot of pathos, and stunning fight action, with a training montage or two along the way for good measure.

Creed II doesn't break the mould, but it doesn't need to, because the formula still works, albeit with the focus now on Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), with Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) in the corner as his trainer. When Creed is pitted against Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), son of Ivan Drago, the man who killed his father, Rocky refuses to train him for the match, considering his opponent to be too dangerous. Inevitably, Creed is beaten to a pulp by the angry Russian, only hanging on to his title by way of a disqualification, and his pride is hurt almost as badly as his body. As Creed soul searches and returns to health, he must also contend with becoming a new father, his baby girl born with a hearing defect.

Knowing that he will never be happy until he has stepped out of his father's shadow and created his own legacy, Creed agrees to a rematch with Drago, this time with Rocky as his trainer (the Italian Stallion regretting that he wasn't there for the first fight).

Packing an emotional wallop as well as many physical ones, Creed II is a belter of a film, with plenty of heart-warming drama leading up to the inevitable showdown set in Moscow, where the titular character finally gets to prove to himself that he more than just his father's son. It's engrossing stuff from start to finish thanks to excellent performances and sharp direction from Steven Caple Jr., but it is the titanic battle between Adonis and Viktor that seals the deal: it's hard hitting, bloody, and superbly choreographed, with stunning cinematography and that awesome 'spaghetti western' score by Ludwig Göransson. Then comes the moment that the iconic Rocky theme music kicks and Adonis belts seven shades of the proverbial out of Viktor, and the crowd goes wild! Predictable, perhaps, but still a winner.
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Creed (II) (2015)
8/10
Two-fisted entertainment.
8 September 2019
Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) has retired from boxing but his story continues in Creed, as the one-time heavyweight champ is talked into becoming a trainer by Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), Apollo Creed's illegitimate son. Bounced around care institutions as a child, learning to use his fists in the process, Adonis has won a series of boxing matches in Mexico, but wants to make a name for himself in the professional boxing circuit. To do so, he enlists the help of the Italian Stallion, who teaches the young man to not only improve his technique in the ring, but also to come to terms with his legacy.

Creed sees the Rocky franchise returning to its roots, with the focus on character development and drama, whilst adding a renewed sense of realism to the action. The script sees Stallone's iconic slugger facing a new fight, this time against a form of cancer, which adds depth and pathos to the movie, whilst Creed battles not only with his identity but also struggles to balance his relationship with pretty singer Bianca (Tessa Thompson) with his boxing career. Director Ryan Coogler handles the drama and the fighting with aplomb, getting an excellent performance from Sly and delivering a superb final match for the ending, Adonis going the distance with Scouse champion 'Pretty' Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew). Adonis doesn't get the title, being defeated on points, but in my eyes he's a winner, the young fighter successfully taking on the mantle of boxing superstar from one of cinema's most enduring and beloved characters.

Also worthy of note is the wonderful score by Ludwig Göransson, which makes the movie feel like an epic spaghetti western at times, the composer only occasionally turning to Bill Conti's instantly recognisable theme for support.
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Rocky Balboa (2006)
8/10
Rocky's comeback movie.
7 September 2019
It's tough growing old, but even though the body starts to crumble and the mind slowly fades, the fight should go on; this message, which will resonate with long-time fans of the series, is at the heart of Rocky Balboa, and makes for an emotional return for America's greatest fictional sporting hero.

In the years since returning to his old Philly stomping ground, Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) has lost his beloved wife Adrian to cancer, and settled into retirement from boxing, the heavyweight champ now running a restaurant called Adrian's. His son Robert (Milo Ventimiglia) has very little time for his old man, bitter that he has lived for so long in his father's shadow. Feeling lonely, Rocky befriends bar-woman Marie (Geraldine Hughes) and her son Steps (James Francis Kelly III), who support the ageing boxer when he decides that what he really wants to do is return to the ring.

Stallone returns to the directing chair for this sixth film in the long-running franchise, and he does a great job, carefully balancing the sentimentality with the action, never letting things get too schmaltzy or too cheesy. Rocky's fight to pick up the pieces and keep moving forward is inspirational, his kind nature is heart-warming, and his motivational speech to his son is frank yet touching. The final 'exhibition' match between Balboa and current heavyweight champion Mason 'The Line' Dixon (Antonio Tarver) proves that the film's star still has what it takes in the ring, the fight being just as hard-hitting and tense as those against his opponents in parts one to four (the less said about Tommy Gunn the better).

While I could have done without all of the fancy visual touches during the closing fight (rapid cuts between full colour and black and white), Rocky V ably proves that comebacks are possible, even this late in the day.
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Rocky V (1990)
5/10
Not the greatest.
7 September 2019
It's a Rocky movie, so I had some fun with it, but there is plenty that Rocky V gets wrong in my opinion.

Firstly, the whole riches to rags story feels like a punch to the gut after all that has happened. His entire wealth gone because of a bad decision by Paulie (Burt Young)... is this even possible?

Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison, sporting a bad mullet) is a forgettable, personality-free opponent, especially when compared to the likes of Creed and Lang. Even Drago had more charisma.

The '90s rap/dance music is dreadful; what's wrong with the rock music of the previous instalments?

Rocky ignoring his son in favour of Gunn goes against character. I know he sees a chance of reliving his youth through Tommy, but it doesn't feel right.

I hate the way Robert (Sage Stallone) goes from being the ideal son to a street punk in a matter of days (his dangly ear-ring gets on my nerves too).

The street-fight feels anticlimactic compared to all of the final boxing matches in the previous films.

Lastly, there are too many turtle-necks in the film.

Rocky V is still watchable thanks to Stallone and the other familiar faces (Talia Shire, Young), but it's definitely my least favourite of the series.
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8/10
The killer clown from outer-space is back.
6 September 2019
The otherworldly creature that terrorises the Maine town of Derry every twenty-seven years is back, reuniting the now grown-up members of the Loser's Club, who swore to try and defeat the evil once and for all should it return.

Chapter two of IT is, unsurprisingly, very similar to part one: effectively creepy, occasionally gory, and slickly directed, with excellent performances from both the young actors from the first film (who appear in flashbacks) and their adult counterparts. Also putting in another superb turn is Bill Skarsgård, who returns as the monster's quasi-human form, scary clown Pennywise: he's just the right mixture of unsettling and humorous. Hell, even Stephen King delivers a decent cameo as the owner of an antiques shop (the mega-wealthy author making a funny about writers being rich).

Despite numerous attempts by director Andy Muschietti, I can honestly say I didn't jump once (I've seen more than enough horror movies to not fall for the obvious scare tactics), but I was suitably impressed by the inventive designs of IT's many forms, from the creepy old naked lady to the disembodied spider-head (a nice homage to John Carpenter's The Thing) to the final massive monster. Besides, the lack of genuine frights is more than made up for by the comedy, which was great throughout, with Bill Hader as Richie being particularly amusing, the best scene involving three doors and a very cute dog.

At 169 minutes, I can imagine that the film will be a touch on the long side for many, but I found that it whipped by with nary a dull moment and kept me entertained throughout, which is more than I can say for some of the much shorter, more recent and more lauded horror movies of the past couple of years (Us and Halloween, to name but two).
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Rocky IV (1985)
7/10
Rocky vs Russkie.
6 September 2019
Italian-American boxing champion Rocky Balboa becomes an all-American hero by taking on Russia in the ring, the Eastern Bloc represented by formidable Soviet slugger Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). Having already killed Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) during an exhibition match in the States, Drago sets his sights on the reigning Heavyweight Champion of the World, keen to prove his superiority over the West. Determined to avenge his friend, Rocky flies to the USSR to train, his old-school techniques in stark contrast with Drago's high-tech regime (which includes pumping steroids: those dirty, cheatin' Russkies!).

If you thought that Rocky III was cartoonish nonsense, you ain't seen nothin' yet, for Rocky IV goes even further into the realms of the absurd, with a jingoistic, flag-waving fantasy that sees Stallone putting Mother Russia in her place, as he would also do four years later in Rambo III, where he helped the Taliban fight the evil Russian army. My, how times have changed.

This very silly film starts as it means to go on with Rocky and family presenting Paulie (Burt Young) with a very special birthday gift, a robot that wouldn't have looked out of place in an episode of Lost in Space. It really is a stupid looking thing, with an oversized head, lots of blinking diodes and an AI system that is light-years ahead of its time, but it does let the viewer know immediately that this third sequel is far from grounded in reality. Likewise, Drago is very much an OTT cartoon villain: unfeeling, almost robotic, and superhuman, punching over twice as hard as his American opponents. This fact doesn't stop Rocky from showing 'The Siberian Express' who is best, defeating the ice-cold Russian with a good old dose of US grit, determination, and, of course, the eye of the tiger!

Once again written and directed by Stallone, Rocky IV knows its audience and plays to it, with clear-cut heroes and villains, and an outcome more predictable than Jeffrey Epstein's 'suicide'. But as formulaic and stupefyingly daft as it all is, it sure is fun. Stallone has never looked better, his physique even more ripped than in part III; Lundgren is suitably emotionless; James Brown turns up to sing 'Living in America' before Apollo's Las Vegas defeat; there's not one, but two montages, the first playing like an MTV music video as Rocky is lost in his thoughts while driving, and the second being the obligatory grab-bag of training scenes (also set to a rousing rock number); and the whole thing culminates in the hard-hitting fight between East and West, not in the least bit realistic, but still exhilarating.

After the battle between the superpowers is over, Drago having been defeated in the closing seconds of the 15th round, Rocky delivers a heartwarming speech about how we should put our differences aside and learn to be friends. Just so long as America is the more powerful friend.
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Rocky III (1982)
7/10
Ding ding!
4 September 2019
Round three of the Rocky story continues to dispense with reality, Philly's famous fighter slowly becoming a parody of his former self. At the start of the movie, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is still Heavyweight Champion, having successfully defended his title against numerous contenders, but after Mickey (Burgess Meredith) reveals that the fights have been against 'soft' opponents hand-picked to keep Rocky on top, the boxer begins to doubt himself. When Rocky finally comes up against a genuinely dangerous opponent, bruiser Clubber Lang (Mr.T), he loses his title and develops a psychological block. However, with the help of one-time rival Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), who would like nothing better than to see the arrogant Lang defeated, and with the support of his loyal wife Adrian (Talia Shire), the Italian Stallion regains the 'eye of the tiger' and rises up to the challenge of his rival. Dun... dun dun dun... dun dun dunnnnnnn....

It's very silly at times and rarely feels like anything other than a formulaic Hollywood sequel, but knock me down and count to ten if I didn't have a good time. An early charity fight against Hulk Hogan (as wrestler Thunderlips) sets the tone: this is more 'comic-book' than the previous movies, the violence shrugged off by those involved (and boy, does Rocky get pummelled big time!). In Rocky's rematch against Clubber, virtually every punch hits its target and is accompanied by a bone-crunching wallop sound effect, yet both men carry on despite a clobbering that would put mere mortals like you and I in the ground, making it about as realistic as an episode of the Mr. T animated series that followed shortly after. The iconic theme song by Survivor is the icing on the cake: this is great popcorn entertainment no matter how unbelievable it all gets.
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Rocky II (1979)
8/10
Do I get to win this time?
3 September 2019
Having gone the distance but narrowly lost his fight against heavyweight champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in the first film, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) takes another crack at the world title, but not until after lots of soul-searching, melodrama, and the obligatory training montage.

The film starts with Rocky, in danger of losing his sight, promising to hang up his gloves to please his concerned girlfriend/soon-to-be wife Adrian (Talia Shire). But when the money starts to run out, and as Apollo continues to goad him into a rematch (so that he can prove to himself and fans that the previous fight was a fluke), Balboa agrees to step into the ring once more, with old pal and trainer Mickey (Burgess Meredith) by his side.

Basically a retread of the first movie, only with a different outcome, Rocky II is not as fresh as its predecessor, and suffers from some sluggish scenes: Rocky holding back on his training (his heart not in it because he doesn't have Adrian's blessing), and the boxer's anguish as his wife slips into a coma after giving birth to their son. Fortunately, solid performances from the excellent cast help carry the viewer through these slower moments, the film picking up momentum for the expected crowd-pleasing showdown against Creed.

After Adrian comes out of her long sleep and gives Rocky the go-ahead, the Italian Stallion finally gets his mojo back and delivers a final act guaranteed to get the pulse pounding (helped not inconsiderably by Bill Conti's rousing score). The aforementioned training montage is a blast, the boxer turning into the pied piper of Philadelphia as hundreds of children follow him on his run through the streets, but it is the long-awaited battle with Apollo that really delivers the goods: it's pure Hollywood baloney, of course, with almost every punch hitting its target, but it's hugely entertaining and brilliantly staged, Balboa and Creed pushing each other to the limits of endurance. It'll come as no surprise that Rocky wins this time, but somehow writer/director/star Stallone still manages to make the fifteenth round edge-of-the-seat stuff, right up to the final bell.

7.5/10, rounded up to 8 for IMDb.
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4/10
A confusing proto-giallo.
1 September 2019
Fabio Testi plays amateur artist Francesco Villaverde, who wears a cravat and ties his shirt up at the front to reveal his midriff; despite his 'flamboyant' attire, he is actually something of a ladies man, even if he does like to throttle his women after making love. When a rich woman, Mrs Simmons, is found strangled on the beach, her husband (Renato Baldini) hires private detectives Bob Martin (Dean Reed) and Pepe (Leon Askin) to find the man responsible. Naturally, Villaverde is the chief suspect, but is this case that straight-forward?

The answer to that question is 'No'. Death Knocks Twice introduces so many characters and plot-threads in quick succession that it's easy to become lost, and consequently, to lose interest. The plot is all over the place, featuring a missing diamond necklace (stolen from the dead Mrs. Simmons), a gambling boat, a hotel owner named Charly (Werner Peters) who wants to expand his business, a crime boss (played by Adolfo Celi), and a crooked art collector called Locatelli (Riccardo Garrone). Bob's girlfriend Ellen (Ini Assmann **snigger**) is given the job of flirting outrageously with Villaverde, putting her life in danger. To be honest, It wasn't long before I didn't have a clue what was going on, but I stayed the distance in the hope it would all make sense in the end. It didn't.

Fortunately, there are quite a few attractive ladies (a couple of whom get naked) to help make the film easier to bear, my favourite being the drop-dead-gorgeous Hélène Chanel as blonde bartender Angela (who doesn't strip off, but who still steals the show as far as I am concerned).

3/10, plus a bonus point for the lovely Ms. Chanel.
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6/10
Make your own coffee!
1 September 2019
Behind a typically abstruse giallo title (the plot's link to a butterfly of any kind is extremely tenuous) lies a film that rarely feels like a typical giallo, with more police procedure and courtroom drama than usual. Director Duccio Tessari's film opens in familiar territory with the murder of a young woman in a park, the killer, in raincoat and hat, making his escape, but witnessed by several people. The police investigate the crime scene, forensics gathering numerous pieces of evidence, all of which points to TV reporter Alessandro Marchi (Giancarlo Sbragia) as the guilty party. The rest of the first half of the film is dedicated to the trial of Allesandro, with dreary flashbacks and cross-examination making the film something of a chore to sit through.

Found guilty of murder, Allesandro is sentenced to life, but while he is in prison, the killings continue, the modus operandi the same as before, the culprit contacting the police with a whispered phone call. When Allesandro's mistress comes forward with vital information that seems to prove his innocence, Allesandro is freed (much to the annoyance of his wife, who also has a lover). After much intrigue, Tessari eventually pulls together all the plot threads for an unexpected twist ending that goes some way to make the duller moments seem a bit more worthwhile. As far as the death scenes go, they are extremely tame and likely to disappoint fans of Argento or Fulci, and despite a fair few attractive women, the level of nudity is also fairly low.

Perhaps the most notable things about the film are its police inspector's strange obsession with coffee, and the cop who falls over running down some stairs during a chase on foot through the streets of Milan (it looks unintentional and is never spoken of).

5.5/10, rounded up to 6 for IMDb.
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Girly (1970)
8/10
Tony Chestnut!
31 August 2019
Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly is very much a product of the swinging '60s/early '70s, with director Freddie Francis taking a somewhat avant garde approach to his twisted tale of a demented family that abducts men to be their new 'friends'. Imagine Jack Hill's Spider Baby(1968) crossed with cult TV show The Prisoner (1967) and you'll be close to understanding the perversity and strangeness that this bizarre little film has to offer.

Vanessa Howard plays sexy teenager Girly, who lives in a sprawling mansion (actually Oakley Court, seen in many a Hammer horror) with her brother Sonny (Howard Trevor), their mother Mumsy (Ursula Howells), and their nanny, aptly called Nanny (Pat Heywood). Mumsy and Nanny treat Girly and Sonny as though they are still children, reading them bedtime stories, playing kindergarten games, and laying down strict rules. Girly and Sonny act the part, dressing in school clothes and talking like little kids. Every now and then, the brother and sister visit the park to befriend a stranger and bring him back home to participate in their role-playing games. Those who refuse or try to escape are put on trial and 'sent to the angels'.

Their latest 'friend' is Soldier (Robert Swann), who believes himself responsible for the death of his girlfriend. As the family go about their crazy ways, Soldier gradually turns his captors against each other, seducing the women, starting with coquettish Girly, and working his way through Mumsy and Nanny, causing feelings of jealousy. This angers Sonny, who decides that it is time for Soldier to be put on the train to heaven.

With hints of incest, bursts of violence, and plenty of offbeat action (the hunt of friend No.2 is very much like The Prisoner in style), Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly would no doubt have quite the cult following had it not been so difficult to find for many years. Thankfully, the film is now available on DVD and for streaming on Amazon, meaning that a wider audience is able to appreciate its strange ambience, Vanessa Howard's memorable performance (tempting and terrifying at the same time), and the general ghoulishness (highlights including the bubbling pot on the stove, and an axe-wielding Sonny peering through a splintered door, surely inspiration for the "Here's Johnny!" moment in The Shining).

7.5/10, rounded up to 8 for IMDb.
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7/10
Parkview Hotel, room 1002.
31 August 2019
Tom Hanks stars as zany motormouth Rick Gassko, who announces to his friends that he is getting married to his girlfriend Debbie (Tawny Kitaen) in a week's time. Determined to give him a night to remember, Rick's pals organise a wild bachelor party, with porn, drugs, hookers, and a donkey! Will Rick remain faithful to Debbie during the crazy evening of debauchery, or will he cave in and sow his wild oats one last time? Debbie and her wedding shower guests dress up as ladies of the night to crash the party and find out, while Rick's love rival Cole (Robert Prescott) does his best to sabotage the impending nuptials.

Bachelor Party, directed by Neal Israel (one of the creators of Police Academy), is a wacky slice of low-brow comedy, a film so '80s that it not only co-stars tasty rock-chick Tawny Kitaen, but also features Adrian Zmed of T.J. Hooker fame, and American Ninja Michael Dudikoff. The very silly antics include Cole sending a pair of prostitutes to Debbie's wedding shower, the boys arranging for a well-endowed male stripper to surprise the women, Rick and pals hanging a naked Cole out of a hotel window (after he shoots at them with a crossbow!), a bestiality floor-show going awry when the donkey hoovers up a fatal dose of drugs, and Rick somehow resisting the temptations of a completely naked Monique Gabrielle (man, that guy has impressive self-control).

There are quite a few serious laughs to be had with this delightfully deranged comedy, but I would have enjoyed it a bit more if Tom Hanks' character wasn't quite the massive jerk that his father-in-law-to-be says he is. Quite what Debbie sees in him is hard to fathom: he's an obnoxious, immature, and unrefined slob whose only redeeming feature is his fidelity. Still, even with Hanks' unlikeable protagonist, Bachelor Party is still a lot fun.

7/10. Funniest and most quotable lines: "I hope you like potato salad... it's chunky style... my favorite!" and "I wish I had someone I could really respect. Hey, look at the cans on that bimbo!".
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Death Screams (1982)
4/10
Formulaic and forgettable.
28 August 2019
Did every film studio limit their output to just slashers in the early '80s? There are so many of them. Just when I think I've seen them all, I find another one I've never heard of. Still, it's not hard to see why Death Screams flew under my radar for so long: it's formulaic stuff that never tries to do anything out of the ordinary, from it's clichéd group of characters (obnoxious joker, nympho, goody-two-shoes final girl, town simpleton, fat bumbling sheriff) to its rain-lashed finalé in a rundown house by a cemetery.

The film opens with a pre-credits double murder of a young couple, but it's too dark to see what happens to them, director David Nelson seemingly more preoccupied with getting in the first shot of a topless girl than delivering an effective fright. Certainly, for much of the time, Nelson appears to be more intent on delivering gratuitous T&A than he does horror, focusing on the twenty-something victims-to-be as they go about their daily business--smoking weed, showering, chatting up the local baseball coach, making out etc...

All of the girls are attractive and several wear skimpy outfits, with buxom town tramp Ramona (Jennifer Chase) looking great in a bikini top and hot blonde Kathy (Andrea Savio) sporting short shorts. In a rare spot of gender-reversal, it is Coach Marshall (Martin Tucker) who takes the customary slasher shower, baring his butt, but he does manage to give randy Ramona a soaking in the process. The only other killing amidst all of this titillation is a girl shot with an arrow and suffocated with a plastic bag, a scene more notable for its silliness than scariness (instead of seeking help, the injured girl takes time-out on a merry-go-round).

As the film approaches its final act, sexy blonde Sandy (Jody Kay) goes skinny dipping (cue full frontal nudity) and winds up dead, and from this point Nelson ramps up the violence, eventually bumping off most of the characters in the space of a few minutes (including double decapitation and a girl torn in half). But while the sheer number of kills in a short space of time is admirable, the gore is extremely basic for the most part, and not very satisfying (the severed hands scene is hilarious). The best effect is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it bullet to the head (resulting in the face exploding) as the useless sheriff empties his handgun into the already dead killer (who had fallen out of a window while attacking good girl Lily, played by Playboy playmate Susan Kiger). Exactly what the psycho's motive was remains unclear: possibly something to do with being mentally scarred by his mother, who may have been a stripper. I really don't know. Or care.
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The Boys: The Innocents (2019)
Season 1, Episode 6
7/10
Bring back the laser baby!
28 August 2019
After the brilliance of last episode's laser baby scene and Billy Butcher's hilarious anti-god rant, the chance that this episode would seem a little disappointing was always going to be high. 'The Innocents' is still good TV, but it doesn't have any outrageously OTT scenes, instead developing the character of Starlight and her relationship with Hughie, and introducing mind-reading supe Mesmer (Haley Joel Osment), who is called in to try and find out more about The Female (Karen Fukuhara).

Mesmer's introduction at a meet-and-greet event is the funniest moment, for he is sharing the limelight with stars such as Billy Zane and Tara Reid (both regulars on the autograph circuit), but on the whole this is probably the weakest episode of the season so far.
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The Boys: Good for the Soul (2019)
Season 1, Episode 5
9/10
Billy Butcher and the Laser Baby: great name for a band!
28 August 2019
Episode 3 of The Boys features the funniest and most outrageous scene of the series so far: pinned down by machine gun fire, Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) clutches a baby with laser eyes and uses it to slice one man in half and decapitate another. They're going to have to go some if they want to top this.

This episode also entertains with its anti-religion plot thread, with swipes at Christian rallies and evangelist leaders. Bitter Billy is a riot once again as he goes into a rant, calling God the 'C' word and generally upsetting self-righteous bible-bashers. It's guaranteed to enrage church-goers, but atheists will have a blast.

My favourite episode so far in a thoroughly entertaining series.
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1/10
Why?
25 August 2019
Jay and Silent Bob star Jason Mewes makes his directorial debut with Madness in the Method, in which he stars as himself, forever typecast as the stoner but who desperately wants to gain respect by taking on more serious roles. Encouraged by his pal, director Kevin Smith, to seek out a one-of-a-kind book that will divulge the secrets of method acting, Jason finds himself descending slowly into a world of madness and murder.

Having just sat through this thoroughly abysmal movie, I know how Mewes feels: by the end of Madness in the Method, I felt my grip on sanity had gone and I wanted to kill somebody.

One thing this film makes abundantly clear is that Mewes isn't Kevin Smith (hell, even Kevin Smith isn't Kevin Smith as much these days): this woeful attempt at emulating his long-time chum's slacker comedy style is a diabolical wreck that sees Mewes not only embarrassing himself, but a whole load of his C-list industry pals as well. Vinnie Jones gets a pass, being a footballer who has somehow carved a new career in Hollywood, but Dean Cain, Judd Nelson, Casper Van Dien, Danny Trejo, Zach Galligan, Teri Hatcher, Brian O'Halloran, and the lovely Gina Carano (who deserves much better than this) give performances that are painful to watch.

Mind you, working from a cringe-worthy script by Dominic Burns and Chris Anastasi, what chance did they have? Nearly 100 minutes of mind-numbing dross that should have been shredded moments after it was written, Madness in the Method makes even the worst of Kevin Smith's movies look like pure genius.

1/10. Stan Lee's last movie appearance -- not the greatest way to bid farewell.
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The Drone (2019)
6/10
Remotely entertaining.
25 August 2019
Jordan Rubin's follow up to his undead rodent horror/comedy Zombeavers is a tongue-in-cheek technological thriller with a premise so knowingly ridiculous that it's hard not to enjoy at least a bit, despite a lot less of the sexiness and outrageous gore that helped to make his previous film so entertaining.

John Brotherton and Alex Essoe play married couple Chris and Rachel, who find themselves menaced by a consumer drone possessed by the spirit of a serial killer. This silly set up allows for numerous very daft scenes as the drone flies by itself, carrying out a series of acts (including killing the family dog and murder) in order to get Chris out of the picture: it eventually transpires that the serial killer was an ex-boyfriend of Rachel's, and he is still obsessed with her.

The novelty of the sentient drone menacing the couple does get a touch tired towards the end, and the lack of serious splatter is a little disappointing (the drone bumping off a private eye by flying up his butt is all too brief, while the double decapitation of two policemen is only seen as a shadow against a wall), but the game performances and a general sense of fun go a long way to making this a serviceable time-waster.

5.5/10, rounded up to 6 for IMDb.
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