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(no spoilers have been included in the comments below)
Four Rooms (1995)
Some serious issues with this one but its still worth a watch
I seem to recall than in the lead up to the release of this one back in the day there was quite a bit of anticipation. Quentin Tarantino was just off the back of the incredible double punch of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, so his reputation was never higher. So, an anthology film incorporating segments written and directed by him and his Sundance buddies couldn't be anything but a sure fire winner, right? Well, as it turned out, not really. I recall early reviews being poor and I sort of backed off from catching it at the cinema and in fact first truly encountered it when Esquire magazine printed the full script of Tarantino's segment - I recall reading that and being amazed how lacking it was compared to Tarantino's previous script work. In the event, I didn't catch this movie until the 2010's when I picked it up from a charity shop. When I finally saw it, I had to concur that the early assessment wasn't exactly unfair.
Having watched it for the second time, I am finding that I can be a little more forgiving, while still being unable to ignore the glaring flaws in the thing. For me there are two main issues with this one. Firstly, the writing just isn't very good. I couldn't honestly say that any segment has a particularly good idea at its core, or snappy dialogue to enhance a routine idea. The first two instalments by Allison Anders and Alexandra Rockwell have pretty hopeless ideas underpinning them, while the Robert Rodriguez and Tarantino parts are really only marginally better in this regard. Rockwell's is probably the poorest, while I would say that Tarantino's is most likely the best, although his segment truly feels like it's the work of a mid-90's copycat director. The second big problem for me was Tim Roth, who plays the bellboy who links all the stories. Roth puts in a truly excruciatingly annoying performance, where he delivers his dialogue in a consistently irritating voice. He overacts horribly throughout the piece and only seems good when he is on screen at the same time as Tarantino, who should never appear in front of the camera.
So, what keeps this from being a total train wreck? Well, one of the chief advantages is its format. The anthology structure ensures that no single section really overstays its welcome, meaning that things never really get bogged down with tedium. So, while the various stories are half-baked, they are reasonably entertaining strung along one after the other. The film does look nice, the hotel setting is a good one and there are some reliable players involved as well, so these factors do help a bit also, while overall, the endeavour does have a general strangeness which does work in its favour somewhat. So, on the whole, this is a curious viewing experience which I'd be hard pushed to describe as good exactly but it does have some left-field value.
A curious viewing experience
There is a superb scene in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive where Naomi Watts character acts a scene out at an audition. What makes it interesting is that she acts this scripted scene out twice, the earlier time in a manner not unlike acting from an afternoon soap opera, while her second performance is truly mesmerising. In other words, while the dialogue and characters are exactly the same, the end result could not have been further apart. What Lynch showed so successfully is that you can do the same thing twice but end up with two entirely different things. When Gus Van Sant chose to remake Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho shot-for-shot, he illustrated the exact same point, although I am not entirely sure that was his objective.
When I heard about this shot-by-shot remake back in the day I was appalled at the idea and maybe even a little offended that it was being done, thinking at the time that such an endeavour would damage the original film in a way that a standard remake never could. So, I took until last night to actually get around to watching it for myself. The funny thing was though, that as soon as I hit play I started to think that this could be kind of an interesting experience. I mean there is no other remake I can think of which adopted quite as audacious a method as this. For this reason, it could quite reasonably be regarded as an experimental work, especially since it was one of the all time classic movies ever that was the template here - I daresay no one would have batted an eyelid if Van Sant had did the same thing with Hard Ticket to Hawaii (actually, as I type this I am now wanting to see that movie as well!). Anyway, despite my misgivings - which were pretty reasonable - I found myself enjoying Psycho 1998. Sure, its inferior in every way, from casting to cinematography to suspense and intrigue, yet watching it was a curiously compelling experience. Partly, this is down to it being extremely watchable given that you don't really need to pay a lot of attention in order to know exactly what is going on if you already know the original and part of the fun is seeing the occasional bits which diverge from it. In truth, it mostly come across as a cheap imitation but some of its horror moments were quite well done and its cast were all game, albeit their line delivery came across as very forced quite often which I guess is what comes of having actors from the 90's delivering a script from a movie from 1960. But mainly the big take-away from this one was how it shows that the magic of cinema is so hard to replicate - you can use the exact same script and shoot the exact same shots but the result will never be the same - and I think its quite reaffirming to have this confirmed.
Ator l'invincibile (1982)
Another entertaining Italian sword and sorcery potboiler
Very few movie subgenres have no unwatchable films but one of the few examples which doesn't seem to is mid 80's sword and sorcery b-flicks, or Conan rip-offs if you prefer. I don't think I have seen one of these which has been anything less than entertaining. And Ator the Fighting Eagle is yet another example of this. This entry is surprisingly family friendly, with little violence or nudity; this is extra unusual when you consider that it was directed by Joe D'Amato who is most famous for video nasties and porn. Well, in this one Joe reigns it in a bit and delivers a far more restrained, yet consistently enjoyable, bit of fantasy hokum. Written by future respected horror director and frequent D'Amato collaborator Michele Soavi, this one is about a warrior who grows up and discovers he is the chosen one who must defeat the nefarious Spider King and bring peace to the land. There's nothing very original about the premise but in this subgenre of film, familiarity is usually a plus point.
The star here is Miles O'Keeffe, who is probably most famous for starring as Tarzan in the only movie ever to promote Jane as the main attraction, i.e. Bo Derek's Tarzan the Ape Man. O'Keeffe gets to stomp about in this one with another high calibre blonde babe, in this case Sabrina Siani, who seemed to be a regular in barbarian girl roles in fodder such as this. Like most of these fantasy-adventures, the story is episodic with a conveyor belt of ridiculous events to enjoy, so its never dull - there's undead warriors, a shape-shifting witch and a ludicrous giant spider. And, aside from the delectable Sabrina, Ator's sidekick is a cute bear. If all of this is not enough for you then you do have some howling dialogue to appreciate, such as at one point when Ator asks his sister(!) 'why can't we marry?', to which she not unreasonably replies 'Ator, we are brother and sister', cue (very) long pregnant pause, then Ator comes back with 'I'll talk with our father.'
Wild in the Streets (1968)
Silly but enjoyable 60's satirical teen psychedelic musical
I am always a bit of a sucker for any late 60's American counter-culture offerings, so inevitably I picked up this effort from Roger Corman's AIP studios. Turns out it is a psychedelic political satire that doubles up as a teen movie. In it a young pop idol called Max Frost decides to run for president. He and his cohorts put LSD in the Washington D. C. water supply leading to zonked out members of congress voting in favour of his reforms, which include shipping people over 30 off to concentration camps where they will be given daily doses of hallucinogens and lowering the voting age to 14.
Its all pretty ludicrous of course but it works well nowadays as a time-capsule portrait of the west coast counterculture in exaggerated movie form. Needless to say, like many other films in the same bracket, its main strength is its far out late 60's vibes, which include colourful fashions and décor, of-its-time hip talk and psychedelic musical segments. The satire is pretty light-weight and the film overall is a pretty uneven experience but on the whole, it is another effort from the era which gets by primarily on its love generation vibes. My vote is seven lava lamps out of ten.
Thriller: Where the Action Is (1975)
Ingrid steals the show
A professional gambler is abducted and held against his will in a mansion owned by a man who likes to coerce fellow gamblers into a deadly card game which results in his opponent's deaths.
This is an episode of a TV series called 'Thriller' - a show I have never seen - which I gather is a series of self-standing episodes featuring suspenseful storylines. This one had a pretty good set-up and central idea, although I did feel the ending could have been thought out a bit better. But undoubtably the best thing about this, is the presence of Ingrid Pitt. Her screen presence and charisma is in abundance here and she easily steals the show from every other player. It makes you wonder why on earth she wasn't a massive movie star back in the day, as opposed to a cult heroine. Whatever the case, if you are a fan of hers, then I would certainly advise checking this out.
Friend of the World (2020)
Limited but with some good things about it
This is one of those very rare feature films whose runtime is too long for a short but pretty short for a feature, but given its very low budget origins and lo-fi set-up, its probably a sensible length overall. It's a post-apocalyptic zombie film in which two characters from opposing viewpoints in life are thrust together for survival; this leads to the usual friction you may expect. Given the low budget origins, the set-up is unsurprising pretty limited with that good old setting used in many a micro-budget feature, the underground bunker providing the backdrop. The cast is very small too, with only the two leads really having much to do. The restrictive nature of the production does result in a movie which does have a stagey, theatrical nature to it. Nevertheless, there is a bit of imagination here and the effects were quite good. This small-scale film was always going to be limited but it does show some ambition and is one which should offer something to those who appreciate this sub-genre overall.
Airport '77 (1977)
Continues nicely where Airport '75 left off
Back in the 70's it was pretty common for people to believe in all sorts of nonsense, such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster and UFOs, so its not at all surprising that the Airport franchise decided to incorporate that other ridiculous phenomena of the era into its storyline - Bermuda Triangle! Tales of this scary waterway were so prevalent back then that there was even a boardgame released to capitalise on it. So, in this third Airport film, the disaster involves incompetent thieves hijacking a Boeing 747 and haplessly crashing it into the Devil's Triangle! As it turns out, this is a genuinely great idea for instalment number three in a series, which didn't jump the shark until 1979's even more ridiculous Concorde adventure.
This one continues the basic formula of a horrific disaster befalling a bunch of stereotypes on a plane. There is ripe melodrama and over-acting to accompany the action. We have Lee Grant going OTT as a spurned alcoholic wife of Christopher Lee. Lee played such a wide variety of iconic roles in his life from Dracula to Rasputin, via Scaramanga and Saruman - in this one, at one stage, he announces that he is 'an experienced scuba diver' - is there any limit to this man's range!? Jimmy Stewart also pitches up as the mega wealthy owner of the aeroplane, but he more or less sleepwalks through this one. The disaster movie side of the deal is dealt with pretty effectively with a well-executed scene where the fatal collision happens and the undersea setting is pretty priceless, making this film sort of like a cross between Airport '75 and The Poseidon Adventure. It is naturally all fabulous fun for those with a taste for this kind of thing.
Airport 1975 (1974)
Entertainment all the way in this 70's disaster movie classic
The original Airport was essentially a melodrama set in an airport, with the disaster element no more than a plot strand. But I imagine that the studio heads must have noticed that it was the section featuring the nervous passenger clutching a briefcase that the audiences liked best. And for this reason, in Airport 1975, there's little in the way of airport and it is instead disaster mayhem all the way! For this reason, this film and its immediate follow up, are the best in the series for me, as they just cut to the chase and give us what we all want from this franchise.
In this one a Boeing 747 is hit mid-flight by a private jet, resulting in the deaths or incapacity of all the front air crew, leading to the stewardess to fly the plane. Its gloriously high-concept stuff, with Charlton Heston on hand as the hero who has to be dropped into the plane seven miles up in the sky in order to save the day. Like the best disaster movies, the cast is an ensemble of stereotypes, including a singing nun, Linda Blair as a critically ill child and George Kennedy chewing up the scenery as chief engineer Joe Patroni. What makes this one so extra entertaining though, is that so much of it is genuinely unintentional hilarious - its this instalment above all others we have to be thankful for the comedy classic spoof Airplane! A particular favourite scene of mine being the part where the nun picks up Linda Blair's acoustic guitar and knocks out a tune. For 70's disaster film fanatics, this is an absolute must.
The Mutations (1974)
Old school mad scientist movie with some eye-popping exploitation added to the mix
I first became aware of this one from my, somewhat inaccurately named book, Sci-Fi Now which charted the science fiction which fell between 2001 and Star Wars. It turns out that this was a great era for the genre, seeing as the sci-fi in this period just seemed to go a bit weird. The Freakmaker on the other hand, seems to have resurrected that sub-category which was seriously antiquated even back in the 70's - the mad scientist movie. The story has the mad scientist abduct college students to use in his experiments where he is trying to create a crossbreed of human and plant; with his failed subjects being handed over to a circus to be used in their freak show.
This could be described as Frankenstein meets Freaks, with quite a heavy emphasis on the latter 30's Tod Browning classic. It even goes so far as to basically recreate scenes from that film, as well as finding roles for several actual sideshow freaks. To that end, we have a human skeleton, a human pincushion, the pretzel boy, Popeye (i.e. He really can pop his eyes out!), the frog boy, alligator skin woman and a good old bearded lady. We even get a section where we see an exhibition featuring these performers, so its pretty exploitative while being somewhat fascinating at the same time. Acting honours go to the ever-reliable pair, Donald Pleasence and future Dr Who Tom Baker; with the former going through the motions and given little to do, other than feed cute bunnies to giant carnivorous plants, while Tom Baker has a much more rounded part as a deformed self-loathing henchman afflicted with acromegaly. The story eventually has one of Pleasence's creations running amok through the town - it's a rubber-suited wonder which is half-man/half Venus flytrap, a man/plant, or as I prefer to call him, a mlant. There is a fair bit of things to like in this one, even if it does become increasing less interesting in its final third. Look out too, for the impressive opening credits sequence which features some nicely executed time-lapse photography plant action.
Il trono di fuoco (1983)
Generic mid 80's sword and sorcery potboiler, i.e. its good fun
I remember seeing this one on home video back in the 80's. My friend rented it no doubt on account of its video cover which almost certainly featured a barbarian babe with a sword. I can't say I remembered it too fondly, as all I could honestly remember was the scenes of the throne of fire itself. Overall, it isn't nearly as salacious as some of the other barbarian movies of its era, such as Amazons, so I reckon that may be why it seemed so averagely routine back then. Having revisited it again just the other night I do have to say that it was considerably better than I thought it would be. Sure, its story about a warrior's quest to prevent the son of Satan sitting on the throne of the title and ruling the world in an evil way, is about as generic as you can get for this kind of thing. But when it comes to the mid 80's sword and sorcery sub-genre, cosy familiarity is not necessarily a bad thing, right?
What you get is a chief villain with a perm, who likes to kill as many innocent people as he can but fortunately for us, always puts the hero in easily-escapable positions and then leaves the room. To this end, various capturings and escapings ensue in the story, one sequence of which features the hero being thrown into the Well of Madness, where he encounters a floating severed head and an armoured warrior. So, this is all good silly fun that delivers the requisite ingredients basically, however, the definite highlight of the movie was the delectable Sabrina Siani who plays a character called Princess Valkari whom the chief baddie is set on marrying on the day of the night of the day (a badly rendered solar eclipse to you and me); anyway, Ms Siani has a body to kill for and kicks about for the entire runtime in a barbarian girl bikini, which was very nice of her to be perfectly honest.
Something's Happening (1967)
Priceless time capsule material
If you ever feel like experiencing what it must have been like being part of the west coast hippie counter-cultural scene back in the late 60's, well this documentary is about as good a way to go. Set predominantly in the Haight-Ashbury district and a rural commune called Strawberry Fields, this is a ground level look at the freaks, long-hairs and beatniks of this time and place. The approach taken by the film-makers is of the show don't tell variety, to that end there is no narration. This allows the participants to talk for themselves, which unavoidably leads to a great deal of pretentious waffle. Occasionally a nugget of truth comes through and while the hippies come across nowadays as spectacularly naïve, they nevertheless seem earnest. Also included are an extended psychedelic dance routine to some blaring acid rock, body painting, LSD trips and a finale in which a large gathering assembles for a protest against the Vietnam War. Priceless time capsule stuff.
Wild Side (1995)
Loose story but decent characters
A high-class hooker gets caught between a criminal boss, his enigmatic wife and a sleazy FBI agent. This is one of those staples of 90's movies - the erotic thriller. Its slightly famous for a few things. Its director was the respected Donald Cammell - who was responsible for the classic psychedelic freak-out Performance - he killed himself shortly after this one was released, seemingly partly on account of how the studio cut his movie. Its also famous for having Anne Heche play a lesbian before she came out herself as Ellen DeGeneres partner in the late 90's.
It has a very loose storyline and it's a lot more talky than thrilling, so for this reason the acting is fairly important. We have Christopher Walken in hilarious wig chewing the scenery at every given opportunity as the crime boss, Joan Chen channelling her Twin Peaks mysterious Asian lady persona as his wife, Steven Bauer convincing as a dumb ass in the role of the rapist undercover agent and Anne Heche putting in a pretty strong performance as the central character. Its most famous sequence is probably the love scene between Heche and Chen but its most bizarre one has Walken buggering Bauer to prove a minor technical point.
L'assassino ha riservato nove poltrone (1974)
A fun time for giallo fans
This giallo is one which does not occupy the upper tier of the genre but is a solid example of a mid-tier entry. It sports a recycled Ten Little Indians plot, where a group of people who all seem to hate each other wind up at an abandoned theatre in the middle of the night; the find themselves locked in and a masked killer pitches up and starts knocking them off.
In some respects, this is a giallo whose plot more closely resembles one of the later American slasher movies than most of its Italian brethren, what with its stripped back plot and set-up; however, its characters, décor and music are pleasingly giallo all the way! The setting, while basic, is a pretty good one, with the theatre adding an attractive and gothic atmosphere to proceedings. Not only that but there is also a supernatural curse thrown in too for good measure! This ensures that this is even less concerned with realism than most other gialli, and given that this is a genre not concerned with realism at all in the first place, you will get the general idea of how mad this one is at times. Characters often act gloriously ridiculously, such as going off on their own when its perfectly clear than a homicidal maniac is on the loose. On the debit side, there is quite a bit of extraneous chat at times and that does slow the pace down on occasion. But thankfully this is punctuated by several moments of giallo excess which keeps things on the right path, including one pretty sleazy and nasty murder scene - you'll know it when you see it.
Rainbow Bridge (1972)
Heavy going for the most part but Hendrix (almost) saves the day
First of all, you have to give credit where its due - the late 60's/early 70's sure was a time when proper leftfield stuff was unleashed in the cinemas. This film now seems a wilfully uncommercial and bizarre effort and I'm pretty sure even back in the day it must have been somewhat oddball. It centres around the people who live at the Hawaii hippy commune called the Rainbow Bridge. But its very difficult to determine what is acting and what is documentary - it seems to be a bit of both, with the emphasis heavily on authentic chat but in effect this is non-actors acting themselves (if that makes any sense). For that reason, this movie improbably is a precursor for the reality TV shows 'The Only Way is Essex', 'Made in Chelsea' and 'Geordie Shore'; but instead of featuring Essex girls, Geordies or toffs talking garbage, this film does the same thing but with hippies talking gibberish, albeit about 40 years earlier! So, you do have to be forgiving of listening to an awful lot of waffle because 80% of the runtime is filled intimate chatting about new age nonsense. After enduring a lot of this interminable - and often barely audible - drivel, Jimi Hendrix pitches up and knocks out a few tunes in an open-air concert populated by our hippy friends. The musical segment, needless to say, is the highlight of the film and unsurprisingly is the angle that the movie poster's home in on as the chief selling point, made even more pertinent as this turned out to be Hendrix's last live concert, seeing as he unfortunately died two months later.
The upshot is that this remains an oddity which can be cautiously recommended. As a snapshot of the hippy counter-culture, it offers an interesting time-capsule; albeit, it would work better as background viewing, as opposed to sitting down and giving this your full concentration. The Hendrix material is great of course, but it does only constitute maybe 20mins or so of the overall runtime. So, hard going overall but it has its good points.
Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces (2014)
A fantastic accompaniment to Fire Walk with Me
I just finished working my way through Twin Peaks for the second time, watching it weekly so that it spread over several months and allowed me to immerse myself in it at the proper pacing. The Missing Pieces was the final viewing in this run, after watching the feature film and the international pilot and I did wonder how good this could actually be. After all, whenever I watch deleted scenes, I invariably conclude that the scenes in question were removed for a very good reason. So surely the same rules will apply to these scenes cut from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me?
Well, the answer to that question has to be no. This is a super rare example of a set of deleted scenes which for the most part, could easily have remained in the original film. I think this may be in part testament to the skills of David Lynch as a director, that so much of these scenes are incredibly interesting and so well executed that, in many cases, they would have improved the movie if left in. In fairness, the original film clocked in at well over two hours, so its entirely understandable that scenes had to go. And this was well before the days of two or even three volume movie instalments, and don't forget that by 1992 Twin Peaks mania was well and truly over, with the second season dropping the ball spectacularly after the conclusion of the Laura Palmer murder-mystery. So, its quite inevitable that all these scenes just could not realistically have made up the original film. That said, some material really should have made the cut, such as virtually all the scenes involving Theresa Banks, while the sequence involving David Bowie's Agent Phillip Jeffries is now just really strange, as opposed to utterly baffling! Much of the material also incorporates much loved characters from the TV show, and while it was definitely nice to see them, you sort of understand why they were trimmed out, given they were not fully relevant to the Laura Palmer story, which Fire Walk with Me ultimately is.
There's no real point highlighting specifics of the scenes found here but suffice to say, some are negligible, most add fantastic context and texture, while some feel crucial and I wish they had made the final cut. Needless to say, this is essential viewing for Twin Peaks fans.
Armchair Thriller (1978)
Good concept but middling execution
I remember in quite surprisingly clear detail the opening story of this series 'Rachel in Danger', considering I saw it last 44 years ago and I was only six years old. I recalled the little girl, her dad being stabbed in the back of the neck, the villainous imposter, the question 'but why did he take his glasses off?' and the ending in the park which made me forever think plasticene was a potentially fatal substance. Aside from this, the opening credits with the sofa and shadow with the scary hands was etched in my mind, along with the moody theme tune. I also recalled an episode set in a night-time park where a dog vanishes in a bush and another with a nun running in a field in the dead of night. So, with these indelible images in my head, it only seemed right to revisit this series and relive those moments and see what else Armchair Thriller had to offer.
Well, the truth of the matter is that my overall assessment is pretty mixed. Those early episodes were certainly interesting to revisit again on account of my childhood memories but they were often more ropey than I expected, which is something that could be levelled at the series as a whole. At its best, it could be very impressive television though, such as the standout for me 'Quiet as a Nun' which was very eerie and creepy on several occasions, with a nicely atmospheric soundtrack and setting. Mostly though, the stories were a little too routine, although they did occasionally offer genuine surprise, such as the seriously nihilistic ending to 'A Dog's Ransom', which reconfigured what had been a fairly messily told story up to that point. I don't think the series format was honestly to its advantage, with stories running for either four or six instalments. This resulted in the material being stretched out to breaking point quite often and resulting it quite a bit of tedium. Some stories did have arresting elements, even if they didn't add up to much by the end such as the weird scenes in a swimming pool in 'The Girl Who Walked Quickly', the sinister scene on the train in 'Dying Day' or the super creepy killer in 'The Chelsea Murders'. On the whole though, Armchair Thriller was probably a better idea than overall execution and I can't help but think it could have benefitted from a little bit more imagination in the story-lines - it was crying out for a bit more focus on horror and the supernatural I felt. Its worth a watch though and some of it is very good but at other times it can be a bit of a slog.
Salacious yet by-the-numbers Brit effort
This thriller is often categorized as a British giallo. This is not entirely unreasonable, even if it does lack the style and gory mayhem of those Italian movies. In this one there is a murderous rapist on the prowl in the woods adjacent to a girl's school. One of the teachers half-see's him and becomes one of his targets as a consequence.
You can probably detect from the synopsis that this does operate in giallo territory and it even also features the sort of ridiculous plot developments that those films had, such as the idea of featuring an imagined painting of the culprit in the local paper - except of course the painting looks exactly like Satan! How this exactly will be helpful in catching the killer is never fully explained. The story also includes a stock list of typical characters, such as an inept police officer who almost winds up letting the heroine die when he is distracted by a dog, a paedophile school caretaker and an aggressively annoying newspaper reporter who physically harasses the heroine. Needless to say, this is not a politically correct film at all by today's standards. That does naturally give it some interest value nowadays but it is let down a bit by its routine nature, with several male suspects so obviously not the killer that they might as well have been called Rod Herring and despite all this the real villain of the piece turns out to be a pretty easy to spot culprit; even if that individual's demise was pleasingly bizarre. Plus points do have to be given for the cast though, with the likes of Frank Finlay, Freddie Jones and the always great Suzy Kendall adding a lot. Watch out too for a hilarious cameo from David Essex. Salacious but routine Brit effort.
Generic story but well delivered car action
A specialist driver winds up lumbered with a kid who is being chased by gangsters who want a key fob off of him which will give them access to loads of money. This South Korean movie mixes odd couple dramatics and comedy in with some high-octane car chase action. It definitely is surer of footing with the latter material, as the story-line is pretty basic, with stereotypical characters and plot developments. The action scenes, however, are rather good, with some nice touches added here and there to make them memorable. The South Korean setting is nice as always too. These types of movies often have generic stories to be fair, so none of that is exactly a deal-breaker here and my advice would be to check it out if you appreciate either car movies or South Korean cinema in general.
Fun Aussie mix of social media comedy and bloody mayhem
I'm always up for a movie from Australia and this satirical comedy-horror constitutes another one worth seeing. It focuses in on an influencer who is invited to a hen weekend by a long lost pal. Things get complicated when she discovers that one of her old bullies is also going to be there.
This was a lot of fun, with a nice blend of comic antics with over-the-top - and well delivered - gory mayhem. The comic jabs at the influencer/social media culture were often pretty funny but its also not above having us get a good laugh at an annoying man on crutches being shoved off a cliff.
Nothing Compares (2022)
Good music bio about an interesting character
I remember Sinead O'Connor being a pretty big presence in the British music press of the early 90's. She would be hitting the front covers of the Melody Maker, Sounds and the NME on a regular basis. I did recall the fallout of her appearance on American telly where she ripped up a picture of the Pope and then thinking back to it now, she did seem to drop off the radar somewhat massively. This doc doesn't so much give us the biography of O'Connor from start to finish, it instead focuses her mid 80's rise in the music industry until her fall from the spotlight in 1992. There's little detail on her earliest years and pretty much nothing from the past 30 years. This isn't a bad thing necessarily, as it allows us to zoom in and look at the period where she made her most iconic music and made the biggest impact on the culture overall. There is a reminder of just how good her debut album The Lion and the Cobra is and there is unforgettable footage of her appearance at the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary show where she was abused by large swathes of the audience for her Pope protest..somewhat ironic coming from those attending the celebration of one of the world's foremost protest singers. A lot of excellent footage has been unearthed to put this film together, which adds a lot, even if Prince's estate refused use of the song which gives the film its name - pleasingly, the film-makers address this in the end credits to explain this obvious elephant in the room. Overall, this is a very good music bio, as there is plenty of grit and drama to go along with some top tunes.
Minimalistic, yet compelling
German psychological drama about a compulsive liar. This one adopts a pretty minimalistic approach and is made up of a series of long single takes. This approach can certainly slow down the pace of a movie but can work if the acting and script is of a good standard. I definitely though the latter was true here, with Moritz von Treuenfels in the central role, in particular, very good. It is a pretty convincing portrait of the behaviour of a fantasist, where you genuinely can't tell the fact from the fiction. Pretty compelling stuff.
Rewind & Play (2022)
More a case of bad TV than bad behaviour
Short doc made from footage and out-takes taken when jazz pianist Thelonious Monk travelled to France to feature in a TV special dedicated to him. The film-makers here raked through this footage in order to make a film of their own and in doing so, came to the conclusion that they had discovered evidence of Monk being subjected to racist treatment from the television host.
I don't know if I am going to be in the minority here, but I have to say that I did not concur with the film-makers findings in this one. To me, the host in question was not guilty of racism but of clunky questions. Sample example - 'why do you have a piano in your kitchen?' The only really contentious moment being when Monk is asked about his last time in France and he answers that he wasn't treated too well, with the host deciding that this was too negative an answer for his arts programme. It felt more like the host was wanting to keep things light for his telly show, as opposed to wanting to supress Monk because he was black. We also witness questions being repeated over and over but again, this seemed to have far less to do with lack of respect than us seeing the mechanics used to film TV shows, with re-takes etc being the tedious order of the day. So, there just didn't seem to be any real evidence of racism here and I felt that this was a case of film-makers reaching, in order to find controversy where little existed. This is additionally borne out by the fact that the doc lasts barely over an hour and yet huge chunks of that are allocated to uncontentious material such as behind the scenes stuff and Monk playing music. As a snapshot in time, this is kind of interesting but as an expose of racist behaviour, no it really isn't.
Le chêne (2022)
Beautifully photographed tree-based action
When I checked out the programme for the 2022 Edinburgh International Film Festival, I was a little alarmed when I noticed the best film I could find was a documentary about a tree. So, the question has to be, did it meet my lofty expectations? In all honesty probably not but it still was a beautifully shot nature doc which was well crafted throughout. There is no voice-over, so things are conveyed by the often very impressive imagery captured. My overall middling assessment was because I thought it maybe lacks a bit of variety and the music was somewhat on the nose/cheesy at times. Still, its a nice bit of work and if you are in the mood for some weevil action then this is the place to come.
The Human Tornado (1976)
Hilarious film, on a par with the original
This is the sequel to Dolemite, one of the all-time craziest blaxploitation movies ever made. In this one Rudy Ray Moore returns as Dolemite (aka The Human Tornado) and this time he has to battle a racist sheriff and the Mafia. If you were concerned that the follow-up to such a legendary one-off movie must surely pale by comparison, then don't worry as this one is probably equally as funny as the first. It does seem to be better made and although that can fairly be considered a relative statement, this one at least doesn't feature a boom mic popping down on every second scene. Whatever the case, Moore is an absolute riot in the central role again. He doesn't have quite as many sweary proto-rap routines this time around but his karate moves will have you in stitches (it certainly seemed to be amusing the other actors who didn't seem to be trying too hard to hide their giggles). There are plenty of REALLY silly moments in this one to enjoy and its basically pure entertainment from start to finish.
Welcome Home Brother Charles (1975)
Total insanity - the blaxploitation genre strikes again!
What is the weirdest blaxploitation film? Could it be The Thing with Two Heads, with its story about an old racist who has his head transplanted onto a black man from death row? Or could it be Dolemite with its kung-fu pimp, karate kicking prostitutes, sweary nightclub routines and ever-present boom-mic action? Or perhaps its Darktown Strutters with its female motorcycle gang, comedy relief racist cops, colour-co-ordinated KKK biker gang, pig men in capes and minstrel musical section? Well, maybe it is one of those but then again, there's always Welcome Home Brother Charles!
This film's hero is a drug dealer who returns from doing time in prison after almost being castrated by a racist cop. Naturally he wants payback against his enemies. So, what does he do? Why, he hypnotises women with one look at his dick and then strangles their husbands with his two metre long knob! Its never even really explained WHY he has a python like John Thomas with a life of its own. It was to do with being in prison or something. Anyway, needless to say, this is a thoroughly strange exercise in biscuit-taking cinema and, therefore, comes highly recommended.