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Doc says I'm better now, I'm free to roam in society again :-)
Me? Middle aged British punker who is heavily in love with anything punk related circa 1976 - 1982. Film fanatic who indulges in any genre of film but specialises in film-noir, westerns, war and big - bold - historical epics.
I like writing reviews, even having some published in British newspapers and I have received nice emails from people associated with films that I have reviewed. While my mantra here is quite simply lets be here to learn and share.
The Director Titans
Alfred Hitchcock Robert Aldrich Anthony Mann Sam Peckinpah Jacques Tourneur
The Director Gods
John Ford Budd Boetticher Robert Siodmak Billy Wilder Joseph Losey
The Director Royalty
Edward Dmytryk Nicholas Ray Fritz Lang John Sturges John Carpenter
The Director Gurus
Preston Sturges Frank Capra Howard Hawks Marcel Varnel Carol Reed
Modern Director Legends In Waiting
David Fincher Michael Mann
Stay Cool Peeps, See You On The Boards.
The Wicked Lady (1945)
I never could resist anything that belonged to somebody else.
The Wicked Lady is directed by Leslie Arliss and Arliss adapts the screenplay from Magdalen King-Hall's novel. It stars Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, Patricia Roc, Griffith Jones, Michael Rennie, Felix Aylmer and Enid Stamp-Taylor. Music is by Louis Levy and cinematography by Jack E. Cox.
Plot finds Lockwood as the wicked lady of the title, a woman who has absolutely no guilt in stealing her friend's man, in cheating, gambling and much much worse...
An absolute riot out of Gainsborough Pictures' juicy melodrama period, pic finds the studio pushing one of their female lead characters to a devilish edge. Here we have Lady Barbara Skelton (Lockwood) pushing way over the boundaries of social acceptability, all while deliciously thumbing her nose at feminine stereotypes. She has the men dangling from her strings of puppetry power, regardless of if they are morons or the ones who would happily give her the world.
Things go up a further gear once Mason's dandy highwayman joins the fray, for Skelton and Jackson seem a match made in rouge heaven. But there are twists and turns throughout, some truly surprising sequences, plenty of racy thunder for 1945 (laughably the pic was edited in America as the Hays Code objected to Lockwood's cleavage) - mind you it is a sight to behold, no wonder Captain Jackson slides in for a good snog every chance he gets!
Unsurprisingly the era of film making dictated there has to be some sort of moral ethic in how the picture finishes, and yet it's actually not disappointing. There's a noirish kink to it, a sort of society sick joke getting back at the woman who has so readily flipped the bird at the society around her. Cast are bang on form, so much so it would be unfair to single one of them out (ok, maybe Mason since his gallows shenanigans is something to be joyful about), while Arliss (The Man in Grey) blends the various larks, lust and ligatures with consummate skill. 8/10
Sea Fury (1958)
Fury on The Fury II
Sea Fury is directed by Cy Endfield and Endfield co-writes the screenplay with John Kruse. It stars Stanley Baker, Victor McLaglen, Luciana Paluzzi, Grégoire Aslan, Robert Shaw and Francis De Wolff. Music is by Philip Green and cinematography by Reginald H. Wyer.
Aged Captain Bellew (McLaglen) of the tugboat Fury II is lured into a romantic involvement with young Josita (Paluzzi) by her father who has designs on financial gain for the family. However, the arrival of British sailor Abel (Baker) to the crew sees a romantic dalliance occur of which Bellew is sure to be furious about...
Set in a village on the Spanish coast, where the harbour is host to tugboats and ebullient sailor types, Endfield's film is a weird romance - come - seafaring drama. In truth the first two thirds of the film is pretty turgid stuff, it shuffles along as some sort of bizarre love triangle, then a bit of jealousy comes into play and a drama at sea forces the pic onto a much higher level.
Filmed out of Estartit and Girona in Spain, the acting is fine, where McLaglen (in his last film before his death) is in full bluster mode, Baker is smooth and macho, and Paluzzi strikes the right forbidden fruit chords (including one quite racy and well shot underwear change sequence).
When the plot forces the now bitter crew of the Fury II out to a perilous rescue mission that will make them good money, it is here where the pic pays you off for the time spent with the previous tedium of the lovelorn character developments. It's dramatic, furious even, with Baker put through the water mangler by his director.
Above average, but only recommended if one has the patience to wade through an hour of sogginess to get to the watery thrashy pulse raising last third. 6/10
Quantum of Solace (2008)
If we refused to do business with villains, we'd have almost no one to trade with!
Quantum of Solace is directed by Marc Forster and written by Paul Haggis, Neil Purvis and Robert Wade, suggested from the stories written by Ian Fleming. It stars Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Gemma Arteton & Jeffrey Wright. It is the 22nd film of the James Bond series.
Following on straight from Casino Royale, we find James Bond thirsting for revenge on those he believes responsible for Vesper Lynd's death.
Is Quantum Of Solace a great action film? Yes it surely is, is it however a great James Bond picture? Not quite, apparently, given the often venomous reaction to it from some Bond fan quarters. You wonder if Quantum Of Solace is a victim of Casino Royale's soaring success? A film that even surprised the many Daniel Craig haters. Were these internet warriors preying for a bad Bond film purely to further their argument that Craig should not be Bond? Did QOS give them smug satisfaction? Actually no it didn't, the box office and longevity of professional critiques proves this fact. Further viewings of QOS show it to be very astute in the Bond universe, where much of the charges of it not being fun enough etc just do not stick. As for not being Bondian enough? Opening car chase, a pursuit on foot that ends in a quite exhilarating rope dangle punch up, speedboat chaos, aeroplane peril with free-falling! Not Bond enough? Seriously? While it's also great to see Bond active on a motorcycle again.
The Casino Royale rebooted and re-suited offering was popular because it had an earthy make over, Daniel Craig's Bond is a fallible human being brimming with egotistical ruggedness. It's much of the same here in Quantum, where he is forced to go rouge, something that again has proved to be an itchy narrative thrust with sections of the Bond faithful. Yet as serious as he is, driven by pangs of annoyance, revenge and unanswered questions, Bond does have time to lay out a quip, there is some fun stuff their, honestly, Mother. Personally I enjoy the dark half of this Bond, "I don't have any friends", he wouldn't care", and "how many is that now?", these are moments nearly as good as the interwoven opera blood bath and Bond drinking away his demons with 6 high velocity cocktails. Then there is Craig. Ah, Craig, Daniel Craig, again perfect in the tux and kicking arse with streetwise credibility, each scar on his nicely formed body a testament to this new rugged Bond of the people. That he rises above a relatively muddling script is testament to not only his acting ability, but also his new found acceptance in this most iconic of cinematic roles amongst the British institution that is James Bond.
The rest of the cast are a mixed bunch, Jeffrey Wright & Giancarlo Giannini are again merely making up the numbers, though the last gets to give Bond one of the film's darkest and cold inducing moments. Judi Dench of course does her usual solid M performance, swearing and growing the balls she hinted at previously, while Olga Kurylenko is very much a sparky Bond girl to savour; even if the sub-plot involving her almost feels like it was shoe-horned into the script as an added extra. Elsewhere there are problems. Casino Royale, had on the surface a weak villain, a man merely playing cards to pay off a more evil source, but he was effective. Sadly here in the Quantam universe the main villain is a hindrance to the picture. Mathieu Amalric's Dominic Greene does a good line in smarmy, but he's so weak the film nearly crumbles under the weight of his banality. The people at the house of Bond need to realise that little fish villains are only OK if we get the big daddy shark showing his/her face later in proceedings, for if this trend continues I fear the franchise could well lose the edge so well built up in Royale, and Gemma Arteton is pretty, but pretty ineffective. The locations are sumptuous, mind, and the sets are Bondian delights, with the title sequence certainly hitting the spot in spite of the quite dreadful Jack Black and Alcia Keys' theme song that accompanies the sequence. A homage to a former great Bond film sequence is respectful but a touch lazy, but QOS still overcomes its failings to be up above many action pictures of the last decade; this in spite of it being very slim line at an hour and 45 in length. Crucially, though, it pulses with Bond aggression and egotistical nous, just as Fleming wanted it. But this only comes out with further viewings...
Skyfall will be the next venture for Bond, regardless of quality we know that it will fail to appease every Bond fan on the planet. That's just the way it is with the series, so many want so many different things from their Bond. But I feel this is a good period for Bond, they do have the right man wearing the tux and as a character he is well tuned into the times, both politically and cinematically, it's now up to the makers to fuse the two and deliver a film to fully realise the rebooted franchise's potential and maybe, just maybe, win the dissenters' trust. 7/10
King George angry at them white fellas. King George say them white fella bad spirit. Must be taken from this land.
Australia is directed by Baz Luhrmann and Luhrmann co-writes the screenplay with Stuart Beattie, Ronald Harwood, and Richard Flanagan. It stars Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, David Wenham, Bryan Brown and Brandon Walters.
It took a bit of a kicking from the pro critics upon release, where the consensus is that at a cost of $130 million this intended sprawling epic is an ambitious flop. For the record at the box office it practically made double its outlay, so certainly wasn't a financial flop.
It's a mixed bag for sure, a film of two differing halves. First half sends Kidman's English aristocrat to Northern Australia after she inherits the sprawling Faraway Downs Ranch. Here she finds herself in the middle of a dirty take over plot and reluctantly makes a working pact with Jackman's stock-man Drover. Seeds are sewn here for a bit of a screwball relationship, all while a cattle feud brews and the Aborigines at the ranch - particularly young Nulllah (Walters) - are in fear of racial tension. Pic then flip-flops into a love story, a war story (as the Japanese attack Darwin) and the bile strewn historical strand that features the "stolen generations" of half-white/half-Aboriginal children.
With all this going on, as Lurhmann nods to classic epics from classic era past, the vistas are stunning and the hard work of cattle ranching is given genuine credence (helps having the rugged Jackman leading the way). Set pieces are exciting, the Japanese aerial attacks realistic for dramatic worth, while the chemistry between the leads, a worthy child performance from Walters and a quality weasel villain turn from Wenham ensure performances don't harm the pic in that department. There's even the likes of Ben Mendelsohn and John Jarratt in secondary support slots.
It isn't all it can be, and tonally it feels like there might have been some behind the scenes interference (three co-writers probably didn't help). Yet there are some genuine moments of fun and beauty here, mixed with some heart string tugs and reflection of an historical time that should never ne forgotten. Luhrmann reached for "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and didn't quite make it, but it's honourable and has some damn fine craft for entertainment purpose. 7/10
I wouldn't put a lot of faith on what the captain says. I'm an architect, and these boats weren't designed to float upside down.
After playing water games with "The Perfect Storm" six years previously, director Wolfgang Petersen returns to the water to reimage 1972's "The Poseidon Adventure" (novel by Paul Gallico). Story essentially finds a cruise liner capsized by chaotic weather and survivors try to make their way out of an upside world before the boat either sinks or the inrushing water drowns them.
The original is one of the highlights of the disaster genre that burst forth in the 1970s, so it really didn't need remaking, but Hollywood insists on remaking old films for cash cow purpose. As it is, this is hardly a terrible movie, it lacks character development, the plot is stripped bare without any additional depth, and ultimately it's the CGI effects (that do work handsomely enough and were Oscar nominated) that carries the picture to just above average status.
Hardly a must see disaster film but enough excitement and suspense to make it a decent time waster for fans of the genre. 6/10
I love it. God help me I do love it so. I love it more than my life.
Patton is directed by Franklin J Schaffner and is adapted to screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North from Ladislas Farago's "Patton: Ordeal and Triumph" and Omar N. Bradley's "A Soldier's Story". It stars George C Scott, Karl Malden, Michael Bates, Edward Binns, John Doucette, Stephen Young, Michael Strong and Cary Loftin. Music is by Jerry Goldsmith and cinematography by Fred J. Koenekamp.
Pic is a part biography of George S. Patton Jr. which follows his exploits in WWII until his retirement from service.
Released at the time of the Vietnam War, there's a certain bravado in the makers choosing this period to release a biopic about one of America's most famous - and controversial - military characters. Led by a tour de force performance by Scott as Patton, Shaffner and his team rightly portray the man as full of flag waving bluster, gigantic egotism and majestic tenderness. The complexity of the man in Scott's hands is what drives the film to greater heights.
Schaffner (Planet of the Apes) shows a smart eye for battle scene construction (shot in 70 millimetre - Dimension 150), this puts us viewers right in amongst the horrors of warfare. The supporting cast do sterling work in the face of Scott's barnstorming show, which when all told as a film leaves us with a war biography of great depth and one that rightly is held up as a marker for such genre ventures. 9/10
The Lion in Winter (1968)
I marvel at you after all these years. Still like a democratic drawbridge: going down for everybody.
The Lion in Winter is directed by Anthony Harvey and adapted to screenplay from his own play by James Goldman. It stars Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Jane Merrow, John Castle, Anthony Hopkins, Timothy Dalton, Nigel Stock and Nigel Terry. Music is by John Barry and cinematography by Douglas Slocombe.
1183 A.D.: King Henry II's (Toole) three sons all want to inherit the throne, but he won't commit to a choice. His sons and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Hepburn), variously plot to force him into a choice - but he himself has is own agendas as well.
An utter lesson in theatrical tropes shifted to the screen with brilliant results. Set over the Christmas period, Henry II has called all the family together to the family castle in France, for what proves to be a blindingly sharp game of human chess.
Essentially it's one giant family squabble of huge political importance, a conniving dynasty war that could shape history. The script sizzles with literate smarts and firey dialogue, with performances from the top draw, while costuming, set design and Barry's melancholy score seal the deal for what is a true genre classic. 9/10
My Fair Lady (1964)
The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.
Upper crust phonetics Professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) agrees to a wager that he can make brash London speaking flower girl Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) presentable in high society.
Lerner and Loewe's Broadway version of George Bernard Shaw's play "Pygmalion" comes to the big screen and is an utter joy. A winner of 8 well deserved Oscars, pic boasts top line performances, songs that either gladden or melt the heart, gorgeous costumes (Cecil Beaton) and in director George Cukor the venture had a man who knew how to blend together the theatrical with the core basics of human interactions.
Julie Andrews had played Eliza Doolittle on the stage and it was something of a sore point to many that Hepburn got the gig for this filmic version. It really doesn't matter, Andrews went off and made another ode to joy in "Mary Poppins", while here Hepburn (dubbed by the wonderful Marni Nixon for the musical numbers) absolutely lights up the screen by being funny, heart warming and simply gorgeous in equal measures.
Not for everyone of course, it asks for a lot of patience since it runs at 170 minutes, while some back story issues (which I care not a jot to write about) irk others. Yet to me this is never one where I find myself looking at the clock, I'm too busy tapping my feet and being beguiled by it all. If you buy into it the first time you ever watch it? then you will find it's a love that lasts forever. Bloomin Loverly! 9/10
The Railway Children (1970)
It's like we're in a besieged castle, the arrows of the foe striking against the battlements.
Adapted from E. Nesbit's much adored novel, this filmic version is directed by Lionel Jeffries and stars Dinah Sheridan, Bernard Cribbins, William Mervyn, Iain Cuthbertson, Jenny Agutter, Sally Thomsett and Gary Warren. Music is by Johnny Douglas and cinematography by Arthur Ibbetson.
Rightly thought of as a British classic, story finds three children relocating to Yorkshire after their father has wrongly been imprisoned for treason. Trying to go about their fatherless life in this small Yorkshire village, they find solace in the happenings of the local railway station, and from there action, drama and pending adulthood does beckon.
Picture comes with splendid Edwardian detail, of a time long since lost to Britain. Jeffries never once over eggs the Yorkshire pudding, filling out his pic with great dramatic sequences and wonderful coming of age literacy. Boosted by a scintillating turn from a then 18 year old Agutter as the eldest Waterbury sibling holding things together during a one parent crisis, this is a beautiful picture that reminds us of better times. 9/10
Joan of Arc (1948)
But if I had a hundred fathers and a hundred mothers, I could not go back. I must go forward now.
In the Fifteenth Century, France is a defeated and ruined nation after the One Hundred Years War against England. Up steps a teenage farm girl who claims to hear voices from heaven telling her to lead God's army against Orleans and to crown the weak Dauphin Charles VII as the King of France. Joan gathers the people with her faith, forms an army and advances on Orleans - from here real history is formed in all its heroic and tragic glory...
Savaged by some critics, cut by the studio to various run times, it really is a case of asking film fans to at least see the now readily available full 145 minute version to give it a fair trial. Starring Ingrid Bergman in the title role and directed by a clearly fawning Victor Fleming (he takes every single opportunity to focus on Bergman's natural beauty), it's unfortunately a mixture of a stirring historical epic with over theatrical stage bound theatricals.
Bergman, although surrounded by a great array of superlative supporting players, carries the lead role with aplomb. She clearly dives into the role with a passion of some distinction and film lovers are rewarded with a performance of great depth and feeling, none more so with the sequences in the last tragic quarter of the pic.
The screenplay by Maxwell Anderson and Andrew Holt (based on the play "Joan of Lorraine") is beautifully written, with dialogue passages that stir the blood whilst holding court. For some the literate passages may come off as long winded, even tedious, but in Bergman's hands they hopefully will entice the masses in the way that "The Maid of Orleans" actually did. 7.5/10
The Wind and the Lion (1975)
To Theodore Roosevelt - you are like the Wind and I like the Lion.
The Wind and the Lion is written and directed by John Milius and stars Sean Connery, Candice Bergen, Brian Keith, John Huston and Geoffrey Lewis. Music is by Jerry Goldsmith and cinematography by Billy Williams.
In early twentieth century Morocco, a Berber Sharif kidnaps an American woman and her children, forcing President Theodore Roosevelt to send in forces to conduct a rescue mission.
On basic terms it was meant to be a sly attack on American interventions, what we actually get is a wonderful collage of homages to great desert epics of the past - with tongue firmly in cheek. It's funny, thrilling, and is in turn boosted by a soaring Goldsmith score and stunning natural location photography.
However, lets not be swept up in it all to not notice it's a vastly inaccurate observation on US interventions. It is unashamedly a flag waving piece of jingoism, but the myth making gusto of it all, with all its entertainment values, makes it a sort of serial piece of fluff entertainment. Not even Connery's Scottish brogue can detract from the fun of his Berber chief Raisuli - or Bergen turning into Lara Croft at one point...
But with Brian Keith excellent as Teddy Roosevelt, historical truths be damned. Seek out the real story behind the events of the story being told here and just have a good cinematic time. 7.5/10
Into the valley of death rode the 600.
The Charge Of The Light Brigade is a good military film boasting quality action sequences, it's not a true account of the actual event, and it should be noted there is a disclaimer of sorts at the film's beginning.
This telling begins in India in 1850 and leads us up to what would become the Crimean War. Indian chief Surat Khan (C. Henry Gordon) is plotting to sever his ties with the British and pitch his lot in with the Russians in readiness for a total revolt against the Empire. Khan oversees a sneaky bloody massacre of British troops that also see the slaughter of innocent women and children. Pumped up with revenge, Major Vickers (a dashing Errol Flynn) decides to take matters into his own hands and leads a brave charge on the Russians at Balaclava Heights which is where Khan has fled into hiding.
That's all you need to know as regards the plot, there is a love tryst sub-plot between Vickers, his brother Perry (Patric Knowles) and Elsa Campbell (a radiant Olivia de Havilland), but this is merely a side issue to add impetus to the bravery of the men in the charge. It's a rousing picture that provides a quite breath taking final reel as the charge is brought vividly to life by director Michael Curtiz.
Sadly many horses and a stuntman were killed during the shooting of the famous charge, the then legal use of trip wires to impact falling horses taking its toll with very tragic results. The practice was brought into the public eye the following year as congress raised the issue about the treatment of animals in motion pictures, thankfully the practice has long since been outlawed. A bit of a sad taint to the film for sure, but it was a golden age for cinema and nobody was doing anything deemed illegal at the time, and lets not hide the fact that the result is truly dynamite. 8/10
I quattro dell'Ave Maria (1968)
Well, no. Money corrupts men, it softens him. So to keep you young and pure, I think I'll take everything.
Ace High is directed by Giuseppe Colizzi and Colizzi co-writes the screenplay with Bino Cicogna. It stars Eli Wallach, Terence Hill, Bud Spencer, Brock Peters and Kevin McCarthy. Music is by Carlo Rustichelli and cinematography by Marcello Masciocchi (Technicolor/Techniscope of course).
After Cacopoulos (Wallach) manages to save himself from being hung on a false charge, he robs Cat Stevens (Hill) and Hutch Bessy (Spencer) of a lot of money and steals their horses. This results in a merry chase and Stevens and Bessy become unwilling allies in Cacopoulus' revenge against the people who deserted him and framed him towards the rope...
Is it a spoof or a parody? Well I'll leave that to the hard core Spag Western fans to decide, what I do know is that it's good entertainment. Plenty of daft sub-genre staples are adhered to, as are the many cool action sequences as our gruff anti-heroes go about their greed and revenge fuelled ways.
Colizzi wisely keeps his cards close to his chest as regards our trio of lead characters, who in true Spag convention are making it unclear where we are heading. The action is wonderfully kinetic, with some sterling sequences unfolding when our leads get involved in a Texan/Mexican battle. Why I'm still not so sure, but it's exciting stuff!
It's all very derivative, there's no getting away from that, and as the genre often does, it renders the porotags/antags under developed. Yet for fans of such fare this is well recommended, with lovely cinematography that gives some authenticity to the era, Wallach channelling a Tuco clone, and Hill and Spencer doing their Spaghetti Abbot and Costello thing, it's all good really. 7/10
Shack Out on 101 (1955)
Slob's got an eight cylinder body and a 2 cylinder mind.
Shack Out on 101 is directed by Edward Dein and Dein co-writes the screenplay with Mildred Dein. It stars Terry Moore, Frank Lovejoy, Lee Marvin, Keenan Wynn and Whit Bissell.Music is by Paul Dunlap and cinematography by Floyd Crosby.
An isolated diner on California's 101 highway provides the backdrop of for nuclear secrets, spies, federal agents and sexual boiling points.
What a wonderful hot-pot of the weird and wonderful world of the era's "red scare" momentum. Often inserted into film noir dictionaries or "commie" thriller paragraphs, the truth is, is that it's a film very much of a kinky oblique niece section of film making. This is the kind of picture that will either have you utterly giggling away with a knowing sense of enjoyment, or conversely have you annoyed and possibly thinking you should have spent your time some place else.
It's low budget stuff that's mostly confined to the diner of the title, but Dein brings a joyous combination of genuine menacing thrills and sequences that make you feel you have stepped into another movie (witness the whole snorkel wearing sequences). Moore is a sensuous treat as the waitress babe right in the middle of things who is making every male on the premises unscrew their brain and lob it into the dep fat fryer. There's a slight touch of misogyny in the air, but the female half of the Dein film making duo ensure it's actually kept in check.
Marvin steals the pic, where we get an early glimpse of what we would come to know as a dominant screen presence. Moore would speak very highly of Marvin, which obviously goes against the grain of the character he plays (Slob!), and Marvin and Wynn would form a friendship that lasted their lifetime. These are nice tid-bids form what is a love it or hate it film. So go on, watch it and see if you can pigeon hole it. I loved it. 9/10
Gojira tai Hedora (1971)
There's no place else to go and pretty soon we'll all be dead, so forget it! Enjoy yourself! Let's sing and dance while we can! Come on, blow your mind!
The 11th of the Godzilla franchise is easily the most trippy, and most divisive. Hedorah (AKA: The Smog Monster) is spawned from pollution and begins to destroy Japan. It spews poison, shoots acidic mud, tokes on smoking chimney stacks and can shape shift into the bargain. Enter the atomic lizard, Godzilla, who takes up the challenge to hopefully rescue mankind, he can even fly in this one...
There's some psychedelic animation inserted into proceedings, which couples up with the whole hippy vibe and LSD infused musical interludes. It's really a hard film to recommend with confidence, with director Yoshimitsu Banno doing an appalling job of staging action and pacing the narrative for cohesive viewing - a first line director he was not.
However, it's just nutty enough to understand why some Zilla fans love it, kind of like it's a fun off-shoot of the more potent pics of the series. Certainly the eco message is worthy, but really I'd personally have to be under the influence of strong liquor to ever watch it again. 5/10
Faccia a faccia (1967)
Reasons of state, Wallace. You studied history, so you know what I mean. Not out of hate... but with compassion.
Faccia a facia (Face to face) is directed by Sergio Sollima and Sollima co-writes the screenplay with Sergio Donati. It stars Gian Maria Volontè, Tomas Milian and William Berger. Music is by Ennio Morricone and cinematography by Emilio Foriscot and Rafael Pacheco.
Brad Fletcher (Volontè), a New England professor, is plagued by ill health and is advised to relocate to the West for better climate conditioning. Once in Texas he is unfortunately taken hostage by wounded outlaw Beauregard Bennet (Milian), the result of which begins a turning of the character based tables...
Sergio Sollima followed his excellent La resa dei conti (The Big Gundown) with this similar, if more complex, classic piece of spag cinema. Often cited as a picture with deep political motives, which Sollima denied, it really is in simplified terms a story about a good man going bad and a bad man going good. There are of course political and social observations, coming as it does down in the South post the Civil War, while some of the literate philosophising rewards more on subsequent revisits to the pic.
Very talky for sure, it does however contain some superb action sequences, particularly in the last quarter, which in turn is crowned by a very Leonesque finale of quality framing. The trio of lead actors, each a Spag Western legend, are on superb form, while Sollima and his cinematographers provide an epic location based scope to the piece. Be sure to not see any abridged or dubbed version, see it only in its full length with natural Italian accompanied by the various subtitle options. 8/10
Raw Deal (1986)
Because of you a lot of people are dead. And now it's your turn.
Raw Deal is directed by John Irvin and written by Luciano Vincenzoni, Sergio Donati, Gary DeVore and Norman Wexler. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kathryn Harrold, Sam Wanamaker, Paul Shenar, Robert Davi and Ed Lauter.
A former FBI agent turned small-town sheriff agrees to help the FBI chief infiltrate the Chicago mafia when the FBI chief's son is killed by them.
Something of a forgotten Schwarzenegger vehicle, it's for sure one of his lesser lights from his 80s output, but there's enough brawn and bonkers machismo to make it a fun time viewing. Arnie has been scripted with some trade mark phrases and director John Irvin (Hamburger Hill) stages some exciting action set-pieces. In support it's unsurprising to find Davi yet again oozes vile scumbag charisma.
There really isn't much to it, it's all very much dressage for Arnie to do his thang, so any expectation of credibility is preposterous in the extreme. So really just suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride. 6/10
Airport 1975 (1974)
There's just a hole where the pilots usually sit!
A 747 in flight collides with a small plane and is rendered pilotless. With one of the cabin crew stewardesses forced to take the helm, the control tower must try to get a pilot aboard so the jet can land safely...
With the disaster genre of film now in full effect by the mid 70s, it was inevitable that we would see a follow up to the forerunner that was Airport (1970). One again we get a star cast list, this time thrust into mid-air peril where standard genre conventions apply. Unfortunately this is one of the weakest genre entries of the decade, where suspense is hard to find, and in fact it often comes off like unintentional comedy. Draw card actor Charlton Heston is wasted, as is George Kennedy, while the predictability factor of how it will pan out sort of kills hope of a thrilling finale.
Not a total stinker, there's some nice aerial sequences, some rich characterisations, and Karen Black as the under duress cabin crew member trying to fly the plane, is at least convincing enough to sell the terror of the situation. But really it's a tough sell, especially when you consider that genre highlight "The Towering Inferno" was released this same year. 5/10
Any Which Way You Can (1980)
More of the same in pleasant sequel to Every Which Way But Loose.
Any Which Way You can is directed by Buddy Van Horn and written by Stanford Sherman and Jeremy Joe Kronsberg. It stars Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Geoffrey Lewis, William Smith and C.J. the Orangutan.
Philo decides to retire from bare knuckle fighting, but when the Mafia come along and arrange another fight, he is spurred on to take another big money fight. The Black Widows motorcycle gang are still after his blood, Clyde the orangutan is still creating mischief, and Lynn Halsey-Taylor is trying to make up for breaking Philo's heart.
Much like the first film this is all very silly but ultimately great fun. Crux of the narrative is Philo being dragged back into the bare knuckle fight game to fight the street fighting king Jack Wilson (Smith excellent). All this and matters of the heart are trying to be repaired. Clyde the orangutan is once again a ball of mischief fun making, while the crowning glory that is the big fight is superbly staged and prolonged for grand effect.
There's a wonderfully fruity section that sees parallel seductions going on - including Clyde and a lady orangutan - and there's actually some adult writing in how the fighters are shown to be compassionate men, as opposed to just being brainless thugs making a few bucks. It was another big hit at the box office, once again proving that sometimes theatre goers just want to leave the brain at the door and have a fun time of things. 7/10
Every Which Way but Loose (1978)
I think he's spending too much time with Clyde.
Every Which Way But Loose is directed by James Fargo and written by Jeremy Joe Kronsberg. It stars Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Geoffrey Lewis, Beverly D'Angelo and Manis The Orangutan.
It surprised the studio executives, even had them sweating about the release, but the adventures of Philo Beddoe (Eastwood) and his pet Orangutan proved to be a smash hit at the box office.
Beddoe is a trucker who also happens to make money by bare knuckle fighting, and he's very good at it. Clyde the orangutan is a full on personality himself, and between them they wind up being trailed by vengeful coppers and a very incompetent motorcycle gang. Philo's brother Orville (Lewis) is along for the ride and polar opposite love interests come into play via Lynn Halsey-Taylor (Locke) and Echo (D'Angelo).
Plot is very thin on the ground, we are in fact viewing a series of events that are mined for comedy purpose - which totally work. Action comes by way of the punch ups Philo gets into, with Eastwood as always proving to be one of the better punch throwing actors of his generation, while Lewis shines bright as the best friend and voice of reason to Philo.
The love story sub-plot involving Lynn and Philo - and its subsequent revelations - feels a touch out of place, since this is such a chilled and relaxed comedy picture. Which is the key, the makers know what they are doing, they are having fun and ask the audience to do the same. The public lapped it up and ensured that a sequel of similar tropes would follow. That also proved to be popular since it was more of the same.
Open the beer and popcorn and just run with it, it was never meant to be high art etc. 7/10
Revenge on society. Innocent people had to be slaughtered.
Amsterdamned is written and directed by Dick Maas (also providing the musical score). It stars Huub Stapel, Monique van de Ven, Serge-Henri Valcke,
Hidde Maas, Wim Zomer and Tanneke Hartzuiker. Cinematography is by Marc Felperlaan.
Hard-boiled police detective Eric Visser (Stapel) sets out to capture a gruesome serial killer who is terrorizing the canals of Amsterdam - apparently from the water itself...
If you was to list the genres this film homages you could be here for some time, while any attempt to pigeon hole it as one specific genre piece is pure folly. The strength in Mass' movie is that it successfully blends a number of filmic strands to great effect, even serving up some deliciously humorous dialogue in amongst the suspense and murderous shenanigans.
Working off from a unique standpoint of having a serial killer operating from beneath the waters of Amsterdam's canal system, this gives the pic its own identity. Sure some of the sequences have been tried and tested elsewhere - notably a superb homage to "A Nightmare On Elm Street" - but Maas stitches it together with a thrilling panache that's aided by Felperlaan's atmospherically piercing colour lenses.
The characters are neatly etched in a matter of fact way, giving them an earthy and vulnerable realism that's refreshing. While some scenes are suspenseful/frightening because it's left purely to suggestion over blood inducing show and tell. It's a bold choice from Mass not to go overtly Giallo Slasher on his audience, but by choosing to tantalise in the name of keeping the mystery aspect alive proves to be a good decision.
There's some truly great scenes to hold attention here. A bloody victim's body literally paraded aboard a sightseeing tourist boat, an extended speedboat pursuit that's fit for a Bond film, and Visser's trawling through Amsterdam's murky underground waterway tunnels is quality horror staging. There's proof positive here that the director knows his genre tropes.
Acting is a mixed bag, but there's no faulting Stapel as our main man. He instils Detective Visser with a steely film noir resolve that's most engaging, even as ikt happens looking into the bargain like a future Vincent Cassell. As the main female draw card, Monique van de Ven is sensual without being overt, and she makes a smart accompaniment to Stapel's more rugged edges.
Sadly the finale is something of a let down, not so much in the reveal, but in the quickness of it all, it feels rushed and ill thought out, especially given the pic runs at just shy of 2 hours in length. There's also the issue of the heavy synth score, which while a staple of many an 80s production, was even by 1988 feeling very old hat. Personally I kept drifting off into Harold Faltermeyer 's score for "The Running Man", only this was the one note version.
Small complaints, though, for this is a very smart and well thought out Dutch thriller. 7.5/10
Van Helsing (2004)
Van Helsing is written and directed by Stephen Sommers. It stars Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham, Shuler Hensley, Elena Anaya, Will Kemp, Kevin J. O'Connor and Alun Armstrong. Music is by Alan Silvestri and cinematography by Allen Daviau.
Famed monster hunter Van Helsing (Jackman) is sent to Transylvania to stop Count Dracula's (Roxburgh) fiendish plan involving the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolf Man.
Well it was universally savaged by the pro critics and is considered a flop. Yet whilst understanding those things, it does for a reason hold above average ratings on the big internet movie sites. It did find a market (and continues to do so), it's like one big long MTV video, a sort of chaotic monster fun frolic in rock opera style.
It's effects laden, which is no great thing since they are shoddy, and the dialogue is often as cringe worthy as some of the accents are. Yet it's still a thrilling ride, a strap yourself in and run with it job, to be in the company of sexy lead actors in Gothic garb and devilish period surrounds.
Loud and boisterous for sure, and tacky at times, but exhilarating all the same for those after some pure escapist carnage. 5/10
South Pacific (1958)
Knuckleheads and cockeyed optimists.
Even though it's gargantuan in length, this is actually a "small" screen adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway play. Met with indifference by the critics of the time, it has however come to be loved by many a musical fan. I'm not one of them though...
There's no denying that the songs are superb, mostly top draw, but there are so many irritating issues within. The much discussed colour filters that were used by director Joshua Logan and cinematographer Leon Shamroy, are overkill, trying to supplant whimsy when really a static set can't carry the treatment. Pic is easily 45 minutes too long, thus when the war sequences come so late in the play they feel at odds with what has transpired in the previous 2 hours of film.
Mitzi Gaynor and Rossano Brazzi as our loved up lovers are polar opposites on character terms, but also in acting skills. She is radiant for the key musical numbers, but her character away from the musical numbers starts to grate the longer the pic goes on. He, well he's as stiff as one of Logan's camera set-ups is. Even some of the dancing choreography comes off as something that was originally thrown away during production discussions.
The tunes carry you through to the end, for they demand to be given our attention, but really this is one musical that I really could never watch again. 5/10
Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison is written and directed by Crane Wilbur. It stars Steve Cochran, David Brian, Philip Carey and Ted de Corsia. Music is by William Lava and cinematography by Edwin B. DuPar.
The sadistic rule of Warden Ben Rickey (Corsia) at Folsom prison has brought the establishment to breaking point. Escape attempts and riots are now the order of the day. Can Mark Benson (Brian), the board of directors' specially assigned captain of the guards, actually make a difference?
There is no substitute for freedom!
Film Noir has some pretty great prison based movies, where the likes of "Brute Force", "Riot In Cell Block 11" and some French classics are simply must see movies for anyone interested in the genre in this film making style. Wilbur's movie is no classic, but it has enough requisite nous about it to ensure it's well worth the time of the discerning viewer.
The stereotypes and prison movie tropes are of course wholesome. We have another sadistic warden (Corsia enjoying himself), alpha male convict (the always ace Cochran), stool pigeons getting short shrift (hello dam buster) and bouts of brutal violence. Jostling within the pent up testosterone stew is the core question of if prison is a place of punishment or a correctional seat of change?.
Filmed on location inside the famous prison itself, we are taken aback from the off when the prison narrates to us as a first person - stentorian like (Charles Lung), it's a neat device that demands we listen to what the prison has to say!. Wilbur (also prison movie Canon City 1948) keeps things suitably atmospheric and sweaty, while DuPar (I Was a Communist for the FBI) photographs with moody monochrome strokes to emphasise the desperation of the incarcerated male.
It all builds to an explosively thrilling climax, a reward for those who stayed patient throughout the long stretches of dialogue. And then it's time for the prison to talk to us again, thanks Folsom, nice to meet your acquaintance. 7/10
Butterfly on a Wheel (2007)
Never pick a fight with someone who's got nothing to lose.
Butterfly on a Wheel (AKA: Shattered) is directed by Mike Barker and written by William Morrissey. It stars Pierce Brosnan, Maria Bello and Gerard Butler. Music is by Robert Duncan and cinematography by Ashley Rowe.
Butler and Bello play a seemingly happily married couple who have an adorable young daughter into the fold. Enter a rather sinister Brosnan who announces he has kidnapped the daughter and requires the couple to do everything he asks. Pressure is on then!?
Basically this is just real solid kidnap thriller film making, the kind that we were well served with back in the 1980s, and with that in mind this comes off like a throw back to that decade. Brosnan (how nice to see him doing a natural Irish brogue) grows ever more spiteful, while of course our handsome couple get more frantic.
But naturally there's a mystery going on here, we are left in no doubt about that there is something lurking beyond the edges of the frames. To which the inevitable twist, on which the whole pic's very being depends upon, will either make or break how you ultimately feel about the piece as a whole.
I liked it. 7/10