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Death Wish (1974)
Blam! Blam! Blam! Take that, scumbags.
19 June 2018
Crime in New York is rampant, the city teeming with switchblade-wielding, gun-toting thugs. Innocent people aren't even safe in their homes. After his wife is fatally beaten and daughter sexually assaulted in his apartment, architect Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) packs his .32 and goes looking for trouble, determined to wipe the scum off the streets.

Michael Winner's cathartic revenge drama delivers vicarious thrills for anyone who has ever felt outraged yet helpless about crime and disorder. In reality, vigilantism is, of course, a bad idea (as is the right to bear arms, in my opinion), but when Paul Kersey decides to fight back against the rising tide of crime, one can't help but feel a sense of empowerment, making the film a whole lot of fun for armchair avengers such as myself.

Winner handles the action matter of factly, with little sense of style, but Bronson's powerful performance ensures that the film is thoroughly engrossing throughout. So successful was the film at resonating with its audience that it spawned four sequels and, just recently, was remade by Eli Roth with Bruce Willis taking on the Bronson role.

8.5 out of 10, rounded up to 9 for an early appearance from Jeff Goldblum as one of the loathsome hoodlums who attack Kersey's family.
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More enjoyable than Prometheus and Alien: Covenant.
17 June 2018
From legendary B-movie producer Roger Corman, Forbidden World is a cheap, cheesy and sleazy Alien rip-off that makes up for its low production values by chucking in as much gloopy gore and female nudity as possible.

The film opens with intergalactic trouble-shooter Mike (Jesse Vint) being woken from cryogenic sleep by his loyal robot SAM-104 (who looks like a bargain basement stormtrooper) to help defend against an enemy attack; after a terrible space dog-fight that makes use of footage from Corman's Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), a victorious Mike receives orders to visit the planet Xarbia, where there has been an accident in a high security laboratory.

On arrival, Mike is told that the result of a genetic experiment is on the loose, the creature continuously mutating as it grows. The bigger it gets, the meaner and more ravenous it becomes, with humans on the menu.

The directorial debut of film editor Allan Holzman, Forbidden World is tacky and tasteless trash that doesn't have any pretensions: it's aim is to please its target audience of B-movie fans, and that it most certainly does. Once Mike has set foot on Xarbia, its non-stop gooey effects and gratuitous T&A from the lab's two female scientists (played by June Chadwick and Dawn Dunlap), both of whom have rocking bodies and absolutely no qualms about getting naked.

After a whole load of messy gore (the victims slowly turning into a mushy mess), some nookie, and the welcome sight of Chadwick and Dunlap in the shower together, the film ends in splattery style with Mike having to remove a cancerous tumour from a fully conscious man without anaesthetic in order to feed the growth to the monster. Now that, my friend, is entertainment!

7.5 out of 10, rounded down to 7 for Holzman's occasional use of rapid-fire editing, which made my eyes and brain hurt.
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Creepy Asian weirdness a-go-go.
17 June 2018
After a long stay in a children's home, Sayuri Nanjo (Yachie Matsui) returns to her parents where she finds that she has an older sister Tamami (Mayumi Takahashi), who immediately treats her with disdain. Sharing a bed with Tamami, Sayuri finds reptile scales on the sheets, and comes to believe that her sister is a snake. Moved to the attic, Sayuri suffers from nightmares involving snakes, spiders and a hideous witch with detachable arms, and, thanks to a spy-hole above Tamami's room, discovers why her sister is so cruel to her. But who is the witch woman who clearly means to do Sayuri harm and why is she doing so?

While the ending does clear up the matter of the witch's true identity, I haven't the foggiest what her motives are, but that doesn't matter because the film is so atmospheric, downright freaky and full of crazy visuals that it proves entertaining regardless of the somewhat confusing plot. Matsui, as Sayuri, puts in a strong performance as the girl caught up in a strangely frightening situation, Takahashi is great as the mean sister whose face has a rather unusual sheen, and director Noriaki Yuasa keeps the pace brisk while providing plenty of kaleidoscopic psychedelia and surreality during Sayori's dream sequences, and a couple of surprisingly nasty moments: a nun stabbed in the chest and Sayuri having her hands mashed to a bloody pulp while hanging from some scaffolding. Fans of classic Japanese horror and Asian weirdness will find plenty to enjoy here.
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Sexy Rangers (2011)
Mighty Mammaried Sexy Rangers.
16 June 2018
Pai energy is the life force from big boobs; fighting evil with its strength are five well-endowed young women known as the sexy rangers.

Big Boob Squad: Sexy Rangers features a group of ample chested Japanese cuties in skimpy colour-coded outfits fighting alien monsters, and at just over an hour long, really shouldn't have been a chore to watch. But it was.

The plot sees the wicked Muscle Kingdom attempting to invade Earth, with Queen Amorous and her minions hoping to harness Pai energy for their own nefarious needs; this leads to them trying to abduct one of the sexy rangers (I'd go for the blue ranger, played by gravure idol Yuzuki Aikawa).

Badly choreographed and extremely dull fight scenes between the busty ladies and poorly constructed 'monsters' ensue (Camerang, a creature with a camera for a head, being the silliest), with time out for the sexy quintet to frolic in bikinis on the beach (easily the best bit).

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Click (2006)
From boob and fart gags to depression, regret and death.
16 June 2018
Adam Sandler vehicle click starts off as a goofball fantasy comedy that isn't all that funny, then turns into a surprisingly bleak but eventually heartwarming parable about not wasting your life, although for a while there I could have sworn that I was watching something else entirely: a movie about depression.

Sandler's character, Michael Newman, a workaholic architect who cannot find the time to spend with his family, is obviously suffering from severe stress and appears to have a mental breakdown. It's at this point that the enigmatic Morty (Christopher Walken) offers him a solution: a universal remote with which he can control his life, fast-forwarding through all the bad bits.

Think of Morty as a doctor and swap 'universal remote' with 'anti-depressants' and what follows can be seen in a different light. When Michael uses the remote, he is on auto-pilot, like a zombie, and before he knows it, years have passed and he has missed out on many of his family's special moments. Ultimately, his relationship with his gorgeous wife Donna (Kate Beckinsale) breaks down, he piles on the pounds, and winds up alone, having lost all that is dear to him. Then he dies.

Of course, this being a Hollywood comedy, this isn't how the story ends: Michael's miserable life turns out to have been a dream; waking up before his encounter with Morty, he decides to change his ways and make the most of every moment from now on. When offered the remote once again, he simply chucks it in the bin. If only it were that simple.

6.5 out of 10, rounded up to 7 for the astounding old age make-up.
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The best film about a labyrinth since Labyrinth.
15 June 2018
Spain, 1944, five years after the Spanish Civil War: a young girl, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), travels to the countryside with her pregnant mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil), to meet her new stepfather, Captain Vidal (Sergi López), a staunch Falangist who has been assigned to hunt down the band of rebels still holding out in the forests. While exploring the land surrounding her new home, Ofelia discovers a strange labyrinth where she meets a faun, who tells her that she is the reincarnation of a princess, and that she must perform three tasks in order to return to her magical realm.

Has the girl retreated into a world of make-believe influenced by her storybooks? Or is the faun very real and telling the truth? Either way, director Guillermo Del Toro's movie is utterly compelling viewing, expertly blending the cruelty of war with its supernatural elements. With imagination to spare, brought to life by an array of incredible special effects (both animatronic and digital), and excellent performances from all involved, Pan's Labyrinth is an unforgettable journey into dark fantasy, where the supernatural horrors faced by Ofelia as she performs her tasks are more than matched by the unspeakable acts perpetrated by the sadistic Captain Vidal (his cruelty making the film unsuitable for the kiddies, despite the fairytale plot).

Unforgettable scenes include the brutal killing of a hunter and his son, an encounter with a giant toad, Ofelia pursued by a freaky child-eating creature with eyes in its hands, and the haunting ending, which is either happy or sad, depending on your point of view.
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I really like the direction Hitchcock took with this film.
14 June 2018
North by Northwest is a breezy espionage thriller, much lighter in tone than Hitchcock's later cold war spy movies, Topaz and Torn Curtain, and a whole lot more enjoyable as a result.

Cary Grant plays Madison Avenue advertising executive Roger O. Thornhill, who is abducted by ruthless spy Phillip Vandamm (James Mason) and his cohorts, who have mistaken him for an FBI agent named George Kaplan. Unable to convince the enemy of his real identity, Roger escapes and goes on the run to look for the real Kaplan, aided by a beautiful, mysterious blonde Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint).

The action moves along at a brisk pace, with charismatic lead Grant making for a likeable protagonist and Hitchcock delivering a couple of his most iconic scenes-the crop duster attack and the finalé on Mount Rushmore-both of which are excellent. It's not all perfection-the moment where Thornhill is framed for murder is laughable, the poor sap grabbing the knife buried in a man's back and then turning towards a news photographer who just happens to have his camera at the ready-but for a couple of hours of pure escapism, North by Northwest is a good way to go.
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Not starring Arnold.
13 June 2018
The mid '80s... Wife: I'm back dear. I've rented that video you asked for. Husband: Great! I've been wanting to see Conan for ages. Husband takes video box and looks at the tape. Husband: Wait a minute, this is Gunan, King of the Barbarians, not Conan the Barbarian. Wife: Gunan. Conan. It's the same thing isn't it? Husband phones solicitor to begin divorce proceedings...

Such a scenario might seem a little far-fetched, but I can only imagine the complete and utter disappointment of those who have watched this film hoping for anything approaching the greatness of Arnie's barbarian classic. I saw Gunan armed with the knowledge that it was a total stinker, but I was still astounded by the level of ineptitude in every department, from the dire script to the terrible acting to the pitiful direction.

Gunan opens as the Ungat horde, led by the savage Nuriak (Emilio Messina), rides towards the peaceful village of Solmen, where the chief's wife is giving birth to twin boys. As the barbarians attack, the elderly midwife flees the village to carry the newborns to the safety of a friendly tribe, the Kuniats. Cut to many years later, and the twins are fully grown, competing to become Zukahn, the invincible warrior prophesied to free the land from the tyranny of the fearsome Ungats. The two brothers race each other and battle with swords, with Gunan (Pietro Torrisi) the victor. In order to prove himself, Gunan's brother steals the winner's talisman and sets off to kill Nuriak, but ends up with his head on a stick. Now Gunan must avenge his brother, as well as his mother and the rest of his village.

Equating slow-motion with epicness, director Franco Prosperi ensures that all of his action scenes are slowed riiiiiiight dooooooown, the result being a film that is even more boring than it would have been if played at normal speed. The fight choreography is especially poor, and looks even worse when given the opportunity to study every move in detail. None of the sword blows result in bloodshed. Desperate for anything that might hold the viewer's attention, Prosperi throws in a few attractive warrior women, with fleeting glimpses of nudity, but so mind numbingly banal is the rest of the film that a few flashes of bare skin does little to help.

Easily one of the worst Conan rip-offs ever (which is saying something, given how many there have been), Gunan is fully deserving of the lowest possible rating possible: 1/10.
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Indigenous (2014)
Panama Banal.
11 June 2018
Prey's trite premise made me feel like I had already seen the film several times before. I hadn't. There's no way I'd watch this garbage more than once.

The formulaic storyline sees a group of young backpackers in Panama hiking to a scenic waterfall in a remote part of the jungle, despite being warned not to do so by friendly local Julio. The travellers' trip turns into a nightmare when they find themselves hunted by blood sucking cryptids, the chupacabra.

Reminiscent of countless other 'horrific vacation' movies, including An American Werewolf in London, Hostel, Turistas, Chernobyl Diaries, and The Ruins, with more than a touch of The Descent thrown in for good measure, this lame creature feature brings nothing new to the table, director Alastair Orr content to wheel out all of the expected genre clichés: rapid, wobbly editing and dark cinematography that prevents us from getting a good look at the monsters for most of the movie; 'found footage' shot on the characters' phones; and gutteral noises to creep out the viewer and sudden screeches to make them jump. Even the survivors are predictable from the outset.

Technically, the film is slick enough, and the cast do a reasonable job, but when the finished product is so derivative, what is the point?

2.5 out of 10, rounded up to 3 for latin hottie Laura Penuela as Carmen.
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Uncle Sam (1996 Video)
War is hell. Or is it?
10 June 2018
I'm unsure as to whether Uncle Sam is pro-patriotism, anti-war or simply devoid of any subtext whatsoever; what I am sure of is that the film drops the ball when it comes to tone, neither cheesy enough to be a whole lot of demented popcorn fun, nor genuinely scary enough to be seriously unsettling.

Uncle Sam - a war hero with a mean streak who returns from the dead to punish those who upset his sensibilities - makes for a memorable killer, decked out in silky stars 'n' stripes costume and creepy mask, but he only occasionally rises to the occasion when it comes to bloody mayhem. A severed head in a 4th of July barbecue is the grisly highlight, but most of the kills lack creativity.

Written by Larry 'It's Alive' Cohen and directed by William 'Maniac' Lustig, the film has great horror credentials, and the cast is solid enough (P.J. Soles, Isaac Hayes, Robert Forster, Timothy Bottoms, Bo Hopkins), but the end result is a film that ultimately disappoints and confuses (what the hell is that final freeze frame supposed to imply?).

4.5 out of 10, rounded up to 5 for the peeping tom scene, which provides the obligatory female nudity.
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Not a single 'ooh arr' to be heard.
10 June 2018
Six years before the world's first human heart transplant, Dr. Blood's Coffin saw Kieron Moore star as Dr. Peter Blood, a biochemist determined to bring a man back to life by giving him a new heart. Of course, this being a horror flick, Blood is seriously deranged, his procedure requiring the donor to be still alive while the transplant takes place.

In order to carry out his plans, Blood returns to his rural home village in Cornwall (where absolutely no-one has a West Country accent), and proceeds to drug and abduct locals, taking them down to the tunnels of a nearby disused tin mine where he has set up a rudimentary operating theatre using medical supplies half-inched from the local surgery run by his unsuspecting father.

When he's not injecting victims with curare (which causes paralysis) and playing God in the mine, Peter spends his time wooing his father's curvaceous widowed nurse Linda (Hammer babe Hazel Court). As time goes on, Linda becomes suspicious of Peter, leading to a shocking climax that sees the demented doctor reanimating the nurse's decomposing husband.

While all of the above sounds like a lot of ghoulish fun, Dr. Blood's Coffin is less entertaining than it might have been, suffering from too many dialogue-heavy scenes and a lack of genuine horror, the only slightly disturbing scenes being the hasty removal of organs by a flustered Peter (he's a fast worker, completing the surgical procedure in minutes). The finale, in which Linda's mouldy husband comes back to life is incredibly silly, but easily the most enjoyable part of the film, director Sidney J. Furie finally delivering on the movie's macabre premise.
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Frankenstein created woman. A really ugly one.
9 June 2018
Professor Carter Morton (Felix Locher) is trying to perfect a formula that will cure all known diseases (might as well go for broke); meanwhile, his assistant Oliver Frank (real surname: Frankenstein) is conducting his own experiments, testing the unfinished formula on Carter's unsuspecting niece Trudy (Sandra Knight), and fulfilling his family's legacy by building a monster.

For a highly entertaining dose of '50s drive-in schlock, look no further than teen horror Frankenstein's Daughter, an unintentionally hilarious film with not one, but two monsters; the first is pretty teen Trudy, who is transformed into a hideous beast by the experimental formula slipped in her drink by Frank (Donald Murphy); the second is the grotesque creature assembled by Frank and HIS assistant Elsu (Wolfe Barzell).

The Trudy monster has really bushy eyebrows, bug eyes, manky Austin Powers teeth, and really bad skin, but still has a rocking body; Frankenstein's monster has the body of a Russian shot putter and the head of Trudy's sexy blonde friend Suzy (1957 Playmate Sally Todd), but it looks as though, in being transplanted, her noggin took a bit of a bashing (to say the least). Reports of both monsters menacing the neighbourhood means that the police are on the lookout for anything suspicious, which ultimately leads them to the Carter residence, where they finally discover what Frank has been up to in the lab.

Not only do we get lots of camp horror nonsense, but director Richard E. Cunha also throws in a totally incongruous pool party scene in which a group of crazy teens gyrate to a couple of swinging tunes from Page Cavanaugh Trio (who?), making the film even more fun for those who dig such silliness.
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Not as gay as you might imagine.
9 June 2018
A hideous creature (played by Predator performer Kevin Peter Hall) emerges from closets to kill innocent people; aspiring reporter Clark (Donald Grant), scientist Dr. Pennyworth (Henry Gibson), youngster 'Professor' Bennett (Fast and Furious star-to-be Paul Walker) and his mother Diane (Denise DuBarry) attempt to try and work out what drives the monster and how to stop it.

Given its suggestive title and San Francisco setting, I thought that Monster in the Closet would have some kind of gay agenda, but apart from the fact that the (presumably male) creature carries off handsome reporter Clark at the end, instead of the girl, the film doesn't really explore any potential homosexual subtext. Instead, this silly Troma film concentrates on what the studio specialises in: dumb comedy and even dumber horror, with a smattering of topless female nudity (courtesy of middle-aged MILF Stella Stevens). It's all extremely daft, the gags weak and the monster a hilarious z-grade rubber creation with an Alien-like extendable mandible, but it's reasonably undemanding fun for those who enjoy schlock.

From a technical standpoint, the film does rise above the usual Troma output, with smart editing and plenty of impressive fluid camera movement (including what I believe to be Louma crane shots), so much so that I was surprised to see that director Bob Dahlin didn't go onto bigger and better things (on the contrary, this was his only ever movie as director). The film also benefits from a cast of familiar faces that includes Donald Moffat, Claude Akins, John Carradine, and Fergie from The Black Eyed Peas in her movie debut.

4.5, rounded up to 5 for managing to show Stella Stevens in the shower, not once, but three times!
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Cargo (I) (2017)
Crocs, spiders, snakes, centipedes, scorpions, kangaroos: Australia is full of dangerous creatures. Now you can add zombies to the list.
8 June 2018
Directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke expand their 2013 7-minute short Cargo to feature length, with Martin Freeman taking the central role of Andy, who, in the midst of a zombie outbreak in Australia, must find a way to protect the life of his infant daughter Rosie. But at 97 minutes longer than the original, Cargo 'redux' proves to be a rather bloated zombie flick that serves to show just how taut, efficient and emotionally powerful the duo's first stab at the story actually was.

To be fair, Martin Freeman puts in a strong performance as the devoted father, and the film boasts great cinematography, but the extended storyline features several new drawn-out subplots that sap the basic premise of its strength. As zombie films go, you can do much, much, much worse, but do yourself a favour and be sure to watch the short - I imagine that you'll agree that it does things better, proving the old adage that less is more.

5.5 out of 10, rounded up to 6 for Lily Anne McPherson-Dobbins and Marlee Jane McPherson-Dobbins, who share the role of Rosie. Cute kids!
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Shape shifting schlock.
7 June 2018
I went to art college, where I spent most of my time honing my table football skills (I'm still a demon on the pitch); otherwise, it was a complete waste of two years. Still, at least I didn't have to contend with murderous art materials while I was there, which is what happens to students at the rural art prep class in Sôichi Umezawa's feature length directorial debut Vampire Clay.

The rather silly story sees teacher Aina (Asuka Kurosawa) discovering a bag of powdered clay buried near her studio. Aina takes the bag into the class, where its contents are made workable once more by student Kaori, who uses it to create a bust of herself. What Kaori doesn't realise it that the clay is vampiric, possessed by the spirit of a bitter artist, and it wants to feed. One by one, the students are attacked, only to return as clay-driven zombies with malleable features.

Having worked as a special makeup effects artist on numerous movies, Umezawa predictably packs his film full of effects, the living clay shifting shape like Carpenter's The Thing by way of David Cronenberg, with quivering phallic tentacles and pulsating 'skin', all achieved through the use of prosthetics and stop motion animation. With a rudimentary plot, perfunctory performances, and uninspired direction, it is up to Umezawa's effects to carry the show: fortunately, there's just enough weird and wacky stuff to make this a reasonably entertaining piece of schlock cinema despite the film's technical drawbacks.
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The Bitch (1979)
The Bitch is back.
6 June 2018
Joan Collins returns as middle-aged, sex-mad uber-bitch Fontaine Khaled in the inevitable sequel to The Stud, which sees her becoming involved with a hustler named Nico (Antonio Cantafora), who is trying to raise money to pay off his debts to the mob. But Nico isn't the only one with financial problems: Fontaine is also feeling the pinch, her divorce leaving her far less affluent and her London disco Hobo failing to pull in the crowds.

If you enjoyed the tacky disco-era smut that was The Stud, there's a very good chance that you'll enjoy The Bitch as well, this sequel delivering the same heady concoction of swinging sex, melodrama, and crazy dance floor action, all accompanied by a throbbing soundtrack of '70s smashers (including Leo Sayer, Real Thing, Blondie, and The Three Degrees).

Fontaine has nookie with every man she meets (sporting black basque, stockings and suspenders and chauffeur cap to seduce her driver), there's a swimming pool orgy scene (yes, another one!), Nico screws a mystery woman who turns out to be working for the mob, and Ian Hendry turns up as British gangster who wants Nico to pay off his debts by doing a small favour for him.

It's all instantly forgettable trash, as one might expect from a film based on a Jackie Collins novel, but it's fun for the duration.
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The Stud (1978)
An X-rated slice of disco-era smut.
5 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Based on the steamy best-seller by Jackie Collins, The Stud stars the author's older sister Joan as Fontaine Khaled, middle-aged wife of a wealthy businessman, who spends her time splashing her hubby's cash and screwing stud Tony Blake (Oliver Tobias), manager of her successful nightclub. Blake has bigger plans though: he intends to open his own happening establishment, steal Fontaine's clientele, and make off with her sexy step-daughter Alex (Emma Jacobs).

An X-rated slice of disco-era smut, The Stud is pure '70s trash, with an asinine plot and wooden performances, but it was still a massive success, largely thanks to the nudity and nookie, with Joan baring all for the camera and being all kinds of naughty in an effort revive her flagging movie career. Curious crowds couldn't get enough.

These days, The Stud is a dinosaur of a movie (although some might call it a 'time capsule'), but its tacky disco setting, silly melodrama and carefree attitude to casual sex are guaranteed to provide a good time for fans of camp cinema.

Those who are watching purely to see Joan getting jiggy are treated to a spot of elevator sex that sees Tobias going down on the actress before going up, and an infamous orgy scene set in an opulent health spa which sees a buck naked Collins on a sex swing.

As well as regular rumpy pumpy, the film also features a great soundtrack, with such acts as 10cc, Hot Chocolate, The Sweet, K.C. & The Sunshine Band and Odyssey accompanying the heaving dance floor scenes that make up a large part of the runtime.

6.5/10, rounded up to 7 for the bittersweet ending in which Tony is left jobless, womanless, beaten and bloody, but relieved to be free of the rat race.
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I suspect much of the budget was spent on fezzes and dry ice.
3 June 2018
Christopher Lee returns as the titular evil Asian, who is up to his wicked ways again, this time holding the world to ransom by threatening to freeze the planet's oceans. Mwahhahhahhaaa!

Of Jess Franco's 204 directorial credits, this is the 23rd that I have seen, with only a handful of those being worth the time and effort. Castle of Fu Manchu, Franco's follow up to his abysmal Blood of Fu Manchu, is - surprise, surprise - another complete stinker.

From the get go this is film-making at its most inept: the movie opens with Fu Manchu demonstrating his power by sinking a cruise ship, the director blatantly lifting footage from British Titanic movie A NIght To Remember (1958). A later scene showing a dam bursting borrows footage from Dirk Bogarde film Campbell's Kingdom (1957). These two scenes only serve to illustrate just how lame everything else is. Franco botches numerous fight scenes (rubber bayonets bending as the men do battle), stages the most boring heart transplant imaginable, and commands dreadful performances from all involved, while the use of strong coloured lighting throughout makes the whole thing look incredibly tacky. Worse still, there's none of Franco's trademark sleaze to keep things interesting; what's the point of casting giallo hottie Rosalba Neri and keeping her fully clothed throughout? It's like he couldn't be bothered...
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Franco does Fu Manchu.
2 June 2018
With the simple application of a droopy moustache and a touch of eyeliner, Christopher Lee is once again brilliantly transformed (can you detect a hint of sarcasm?) into tyrannical Asian despot Fu Manchu, who is still trying to conquer the world; this time, he is killing off his enemies using female assassins whose kisses have been made deadly through snake venom.

I love me a bit of Fu Manchu: the character seriously disturbed me as a youngster, his cruelty sending shivers up my spine (I think it might have been the Karloff incarnation that had this effect). Unfortunately, in the hands of the frequently crap Jess Franco, chills are in short supply with this entry in the series, which doesn't even deliver much in the way of unintentional laughs either, making it a pretty dull affair all round.

For a Franco film, the production values are actually pretty good, with reasonable location work and fancy sets, and the director throws in a little sleaze, with chained women subjected to torture and occasionally stripped to the waist for a snake bite to the breast. But with a dreary pace and some truly pointless scenes, the worst being those featuring an overweight bandit called Sancho Lopez (Ricardo Palacios), this is a real snoozefest.

It's a sorry sight watching a great actor such as Lee slumming it in such drivel, but at least he's not the only recognisable name making a fool of himself: TV's Robin Hood Richard Greene is also on hand as Fu's arch enemy Nayland Smith, and Bond babe Shirley Eaton appears as Black Widow.
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Sort of giallo-ish.
30 May 2018
Daniela Giordano plays recently released jailbird Margaret Bradley, whose parole officer Alicia (Rosalba Neri) sends her to the house of Mrs. Grant (Giovanna Galletti). Soon after moving in, Margaret becomes convinced that something strange is afoot, and her suspicions are compounded when she is approached by Jack Whitman (John Scanlon), who is investigating the disappearance of his sister, a previous guest at the house.

The Girl in Room 2A kicks off in fine giallo style, with the bloody murder of a topless woman during the opening credits, the victim impaled, her body thrown over the edge of a cliff; however, giallo fans are bound to be disappointed by director William Rose's lack of style (all of his previous films were pure sexploitation; I'm thinking he should have stuck with what he knew best), the low body count and a plot that strays a long way from the conventions of the genre.

Regular bouts of female nudity and some gratuitous sleaze (girls are tied up and flogged by a maniac in a red hood and cape) help prevent the viewer from dozing off, but remaining invested in the film is a struggle, the pedestrian direction, lack of gore, and dreary pace all taking their toll. The film ends with the revelation that the women are being killed by a sect who seek to 'cleanse' the wicked, and shows the masked killer to be none other than... well, that would be telling, but suffice to say it's suitably silly.

5 out of 10, minus one point for the inexplicable scene that shows a machine pumping blood through the floorboards of Margaret's room - what the hell was that all about?
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What a load of old arsenic.
29 May 2018
Two seemingly sweet little old ladies bump off their lonely male lodgers much to the horror and surprise of their newlywed nephew Mortimer (Cary Grant).

What I had hoped would be a charming American comedy classic turns out to be amongst the most tortuous two hours of cinema I have ever sat through. Directed by Frank Capra, the film stars Cary Grant as Mortimer, a writer renowned for his anti-marriage diatribes, who has just done the unthinkable and got hitched to beautiful blonde Elaine (Priscilla Lane). But before Mortimer can leave with his wife for their honeymoon, his discovery of a dead body at his aunts' Brooklyn home throws him into disarray.

With zero concern for subtlety from either Capra or his star, Arsenic and Old Lace is a loud, repetitive, drawn-out exercise in absolute tedium, the plot going round and round in circles until the viewer is finally put out of their misery with a really dumb ending. Grant over-acts like his life depends upon it, mugging and doing double takes whenever possible, as though this is all that is needed to drum up laughs; it isn't. The majority of the supporting cast are just as insufferable: the guy who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt really grates, the old ladies are far from endearing, Raymond Massey (as Mortimer's escaped criminal brother Jonathan) glares a lot, and Peter Lorre merely plays a caricature of himself.

Somehow this movie has earned itself a solid reputation and a high IMDb rating (8.0), which confuses me just as much as It's a Wonderful Life's place at #25 in IMDb's Top Rated Movies. What is it that others see in Capra's films that I don't?
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Here's my two credits's worth...
28 May 2018
Given its troubled production history, and the fact that Disney seem to be milking the Star Wars franchise for all its worth with little regard for the fans, I expected this to be a lot worse than it actually is. Not that the film is anything great, mind you (Rogue One remains the best of the recent Star Wars movies), but it delivers plenty of mindless slam-bang action, and little of the absurd nonsense that seriously marred The Last Jedi.

Alden Ehrenreich takes on the role made famous by Harrison Ford, and does a reasonable job of it, maybe not with all of the cocky swagger of his predecessor, but certainly more than passable; likewise, Donald Glover makes for a likeable Lando Calrissian. I wish I could say the same for Emilia Clarke as Han's love interest Qi'ra, but she is even less tolerable than Daisy Ridley (and that takes some doing).

As expected, the special effects driven scenes are jaw-dropping, with a heist on a speeding mono-rail train thingy being the action highlight (which unfortunately comes too early, meaning that the rest of the film can only be considered a slight disappointment by comparison). On the more negative side is Lando Calrissian's female droid L3-37, an irritating concession to political correctness, a metal SJW who fights for rights of droids.

All told, Solo is a mixed bag of good, bad and mediocre that, under different circumstances, might have been much better. But at least it's not The Last Jedi.

6.5/10, rounded up to 7 for the fun scene where Han meets Chewie for the first time.
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Smiley (2012)
Guaranteed to wipe the smile off your face.
27 May 2018
A girl tells her hot babysitter about the urban legend of Smiley, a facially disfigured killer who stalks the users of chat sites. Supposedly, if someone types the message 'I did it for the lulz' three times, the person they are talking to gets a visit from Smiley with his big knife. Hot babysitter goes home, logs on, and talks to a guy who repeatedly types the deadly message. Hot babysitter is killed. Cue titles...

You might as well turn off at this point, because the rest of the film is utter tripe, a dumb cyber-slasher that makes very little sense, features horrible characters, is chock full of really bad jump scares, and boasts a Scream-style twist ending that beggars belief. Only six years old, and the film's chatroom technology is already incredibly dated. Much of the action involves a creepy tutor teaching a class of philosophy students, which does nothing at all to further the plot, but which does plenty to bore the viewer senseless. We get some pointless interaction with disinterested cops. And there's a sub-plot about protagonist Ashley's fragile mental state, but this only goes to make matters even more confusing than they already are.

2/10. Slashers don't get much worse.
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Not the ultimate car chase movie.
26 May 2018
Kowalski (Barry Newman) is a speed freak in more ways than one, popping uppers so that he drive 24/7, having bet his drug dealer that he can deliver a supercharged car to California in record time; in doing so, he becomes a wanted man by the police.

The car chase is a staple of the action movie genre, but Vanishing Point, by director Richard C. Sarafian, IS a car chase - the whole damn thing! As such, the plot is virtually non-existant, the film largely reliant on the vehicular action which sadly isn't jaw-dropping enough to sustain interest for almost 100 minutes.

Being a product of the hippie generation, the whole thing is given a pseudomythological, existentialist vibe, in which driver Kowalski is elevated to legendary anti-hero status by DJ Super Soul (Cleavon Little), and there are plenty of off-beat characters along the way, all of which has secured the film a cult following, but I found the whole thing highly over-rated and ultimately pretty boring.

On a more positive note, the cinematography is great, while the mythical road warrior angle and much of the shots seem to have influenced George Miller's Mad Max movies (leading to Fury Road, which for me, is the ultimate car-chase movie).
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Creep (I) (2004)
Mind the Gaps (in logic).
25 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Independent scary movies shot on meagre budgets by enthusiastic amateurs are categorised as underground horror, but the same moniker could also be applied to a small sub-genre of films that take place in the dark, labyrinthine tunnels of underground railways, highly entertaining examples including Gary Sherman's Death Line (1972), Maurice Devereaux's End of the Line (2007), and Ryûhei Kitamura's The Midnight Meat Train (2008). Christopher Smith's debut Creep, which is set in the London underground, isn't anywhere near as good as those films, with a plot that is full of holes, characters that are hard to care about (victims include a drug dealer, a would-be rapist, and a couple of homeless heroin addicts), and a disappointing lack of splatter.

Franka Potente plays Kate, whose mission to have sex with George Clooney leads her to take a late night tube ride where she encounters a cannibalistic mutant who feeds on unwary passengers. Trapped underground, Kate must battle to stay alive until the morning. What sounds like a lean, mean set-up ripe for scares is actually predictable and dull, and makes little sense: people have obviously been disappearing from the platforms of Charing Cross for quite some time, yet no-one seems to have noticed, not even with the mutant leaving long trails of blood in his wake (perhaps he nips back with a mop and bucket to clean up his mess, but I doubt it). There's some attempt at a back story for the creature (whose name is revealed to be Craig - I kid you not), but not nearly enough to make sense of.

The majority of the film involves lots of wandering through dark tunnels, wallowing in filth and hiding from Craig, culminating in the expected showdown between Kate and the killer. At the end of the film, a bedraggled Kate is seen sat on a platform, having survived her ordeal, although there's a good chance that she will have contracted hepatitis having submersed herself in raw sewage in order to escape. Swings and roundabouts...
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