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The Boys: You Found Me (2019)
Season 1, Episode 8
7/10
Hurry up with season two, please.
22 September 2019
I've thoroughly enjoyed The Boys as a whole, but You Found Me isn't quite the all-out, slam-bang season finalé I had been hoping for. It starts off in fine fashion with Homelander (Antony Starr) flying to Syria where he kills everyone at a heroin processing factory, slicing them up with his laser eyes. It's a good 'n' gory way to kick things off, but remains the best part of the whole episode, nothing that follows matching it in terms of OTT fun.

A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) versus Starlight (Erin Moriarty) is reasonably entertaining, and Homelander dispatching of a major character by burning the eyes out of their skull is satisfyingly twisted, but I can't help but feel a little disappointed that it's all wrapped up in such an unexceptional fashion when compared to some of the craziness in previous episodes.

Hopefully season two isn't going to be too long in the offing, and I won't have lost the impetus to pick up where this one leaves off.

6.5/10, rounded up to 7 for IMDb.
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The Boys: The Self-Preservation Society (2019)
Season 1, Episode 7
8/10
Another great episode.
22 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
The penultimate episode of season one is another belter, with several standout scenes that still qualify the show as one of the most daring and demented currently streaming. In this one, Hughie (Jack Quaid) and Starlight (Erin Moriarty) consummate their relationship, A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) has his leg smashed by The Female (Karen Fukuhara), Billy (Karl Urban) deals with Mesmer (Haley Joel Osment), and The Deep (Chace Crawford) gets his gills fingered during a kinky sex session.

We also get to learn a little more about why Billy hates supes so much (his wife died giving birth to a supe baby, the result of her affair with Homelander), and see Starlight struggle to come to terms with the fact that her boyfriend Hughie isn't all he seems. All in all, another excellent episode in a show that keeps on delivering the goods. Only one more to go, but season two is in the works - yay!
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Child's Play (2019)
8/10
Give it a chance.
21 September 2019
Having seen the poor design for Chucky '19, and on hearing that serial killer Charles Lee Ray would play no part in the story, I had no real burning desire to see this remake of cult favourite Child's Play, but ultimately felt that I should give the film a fair chance to challenge my preconceptions. And challenge them it most certainly did!

I went into the film cringing at the sight of the new Buddi toy doll that replaces the Good Guys from the original, but came out of the film having enjoyed myself a lot more than I thought I would. The look of the doll definitely takes a bit of getting used to, but the whole 'messed up AI.' plot device actually worked pretty well, and the film succeeds by being knowingly silly at times and more than a bit demented, with some surprisingly nasty moments.

Gabriel Bateman plays 13-year-old Andy, whose single mother Karen (Aubrey Plaza) gets her hands on a high-tech Buddi doll for her son's birthday. Unfortunately, this particular doll has a fault: a disgruntled factory worker in the manufacturing plant removed the safety protocols, making it capable of learning and extreme violence. Keen to please it's new owner, Chucky, as the doll names itself, goes about getting rid of anyone who upsets Andy.

So what makes this remake so much fun? Well, there's the willingness to get dark and bloody when necessary. Chucky is a vicious little thing, strangling the family cat after it scratches Andy, and picking up a few sick tricks from Leatherface after Andy and his friends watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (out of sequence). A lot of blood gets spilt, with one hilarious scene seeing a little girl getting drenched in blood after a guy is stabbed in the neck. Another victim is dropped onto a rotary table saw (nasty!), killer drones attack people in a department store, while the newest toy in the Buddi line-the Buddi Bear-is truly the stuff of nightmares, especially when it comes to life to kill!

Also going a long way to making this film so entertaining: Mark Hamill, as the voice of Chucky, the actor a more than respectable successor to Brad Dourif. Hamill's voice is suitably creepy, but he also manages to make Chucky quite sympathetic at times; after all, he only wants to make Andy happy and be his best friend forever.

7.5/10, rounded up to 8 for IMDb.
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Hell Fest (2018)
4/10
A forgettable theme park slasher.
20 September 2019
Having recently watched Haunt (2019), set in a Halloween haunted house attraction, I felt that more could have been done with the premise, so I tracked down the similarly themed Hell Fest (2018), hoping that it would deliver the intense horror experience I was looking for. Sadly, Hell Fest turned out to be even less satisfying, a pedestrian teens-in-peril flick that fails to capitalise on its promising locale, a massive Halloween event (the colourful set design being the film's strongest point).

Visiting the seasonal attraction with her close friends, pretty teen Jodi (Cynthea Mercado) finds herself menaced by a mysterious figure in a mask, who easily blends in with the similarly attired theme park employees. As Jodi and pals go wild at Hell Fest, enjoying the tepid thrills, the psychotic stranger proceeds to give them something to really be afraid of, killing them one-by-one. What follows is totally predictable, mostly unexciting, and quite tedious, the bulk of the film consisting of the annoying characters (Bex Taylor-Klaus as Taylor being the worst) wandering round not-very-frightening haunted houses, the only notable scenes being a very brief smashed head effect and a decent syringe in the eye gag. All of this is accompanied by a repetitive and uninspired score that really gets on the nerves.

4.5/10, rounded down to 4 for the dumb ending that one can only presume was intended to be deeply disturbing, but isn't.
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8/10
Rambo: Lotsa Blood.
19 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
It might not be the definition of a great movie, but Last Blood quenched my thirst for some good-old-fashioned ultra-violence. It takes a while to get there, the first hour or so devoted to giving John Rambo (Sly Stallone) something to get really riled about, but once the grizzled Vietnam vet gets his rage on, there's no stopping him until every last one of the enemy is in pieces.

So what's got Rambo in such a tizzy this time? Well, his niece Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal), to whom he has been a father figure, is forced into prostitution by some nasty Mexican scuzzballs who keep the girl doped up on scag so that she is more compliant with the customers. Naturally, Uncle John ain't happy about this, and busts a few skulls whilst rescuing the girl, but when she dies on the way home, he goes looking for revenge. This involves hacking off the head of one of the Mexican gang leaders and dumping the severed noggin out of his car window as he drives to his ranch, where he prepares all manner of deadly booby traps in readiness for an all-out battle.

The final act is what fans will have been waiting for, and it is an all out gore-fest, with Rambo chopping, slashing, shooting, dismembering and immolating for all he's worth, leaving the biggest and baddest Mexican till last, keeping good on his promise to tear out the horrible man's heart.

The revenge story-line - a bit of a departure for the series- is a little formulaic to be wholly satisfying, but since I suspect most people won't be watching for an Oscar-worthy plot, it's of little consequence: Last Blood is all about delivering death in as many ways as possible, and in that it certainly succeeds.

7.5/10, rounded up to 8 for being so unashamedly violent.
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Haunt (2019)
6/10
Stop clowning around and give us some gore.
18 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Haunt is a reasonably entertaining horror film, but as seems to be the case with most movies that Eli Roth has a hand in (he's one of the producers), it doesn't live up to all the hype (SO many glowing reviews here on IMDb). The fairly routine set-up - a group of friends enter an 'extreme' haunted house and find themselves hunted by the characters within - allows directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods to create a palpable sense of dread with their ominous Halloween attraction, but they blow it all with a collection of bland victims and a lack of inventive kills with very little gore.

Considering all of the opportunity for intense horror that the creepy locale provides, there are surprisingly lame fates in store for our cookie-cutter characters, with death by pitchfork and hammer failing to provide the creative splatter. For such a weird looking bunch of psychos (their faces more scary than their masks), the antagonists sure aren't very imaginative when it comes to the kill, which makes the film less effective overall. The first half of the film works best, when the viewer is still on edge about what horrors await those who enter the haunted house; the second half, when the disappointing kills actually take place, is far weaker.

Haunt does end on a high with final girl Harper (Katie Stevens) turning the tables on one of her attackers, but It doesn't stop me from chalking this one up as an also-ran.
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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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