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CAPSULE GUIDE

Message board musings for those films without a main review.
A mixed bag of genres for you to explore.
In Alphabetical order.

 

0 - A - H

 

12 ROUNDS
After the OTT, insanity dripping, fun of "The Marine" I had high hopes for this latter John Cena vehicle.
Sadly those hopes were dashed.

The whole 'play a game' plot means the film has no real action as such just increasingly OTT stunts and crashes.
Very well done, but soon very dull too.
The plot is contrived and achingly silly and, although she is his girlfriend, the utter devastation Cena causes trying to get her back from Aidan Gillen's bad guy is obscene!

Gillen is fun as always but Cena does not have the charisma or ability to carry this more dramatic (if crash, bang, covered drama) type of film, the occasional CGI is poor and it's all just....dull. Dull and silly.
Very, very nice blu ray transfer though (as with all these lower/moderate budget films it seems, like "Hunt to Kill") and some good stunt work.
But it's not enough.

13 Hrs
Meh.
This low budget British creature feature starts off badly with it's boring, nothing to do with anything, title.
It then proceeds to make you want to climb into your TV, with a fucking Uzi, and blow away the annoying and/or obnoxious teen cast.

The late Simon McCorkindale pops up for 5 minutes which is okay, but then we are left with the teens (as bad as any frat boy American teenage tossers) and a lot of shouting and arguing as this dysfunctional family (lead character half sister pops back home from America) and their friends bite chunks out of each other before something else arrives at the isolated house and bites chunks out of them in a different way.
John Lynch pops up and liven's things up with a fun turn as a dog catcher and it seems, after a few lengthy scenes building up to the arrival at the house, he might be something important to the plot. Seems not though and it's all a bit of a waste.

Sadly the FX are fast edit stuff and often shot in red hued/distorted 'creature cam' so as to hide the fact nothing much is actually happening when the creature attacks.
And when the most obnoxious of the bunch does not even have a good death...you know something's wrong.
Nice shotgun moment though.

The creature FX eventually show up and are pretty good but nothing special and it all feels as cheap as it is despite the plentiful blood spattered around near the end.

Some of the action is okay and there are a few tense moments and the finale (bar the pointless tedium of the final shot) is pretty good even if you could see the ending and the twists coming from a mile away.
So a nice try at something rare from UK horror (creature features exist in the UK, but not many) but the low budget, obvious (if still fun) plotting, very annoying or wasted characters and lack of real gruesome goodies mean this is below average fare and is rental at best.

2012
*HERE BE VARIOUS SPOILERS*

The CGI FX went from the ho hum to the outstanding and 'fun in destruction' time was had.
But even that felt strangely 'local'.
The film basically just followed the main characters around so we only saw destruction when they saw it, as such this 'global' apocalypse was almost entirely shown to have just hit America, a patch of India and a monk on a mountain in Tibet!
Much of the action is very very silly and unlikely and was also very repetitive, with a vehicle/plane escape sequence then being followed directly by another vehicle/plane sequence.

Elsewhere all was pretty much dire. And as hypocritical, two-faced and confused on what its stance is as you could imagine.
Cookie cutter characters made less than compelling cinema and anyone could have written this stuff as we have seen it all before.
We have on the roll call of tedium......

Ex-Spouses still in love.
Short end of the stick new love/step dad.
Angst-ridden/Comedy kids.
Ruthless (White American only) politicians.
Ruthless and contemptible rich people.
Noble and perfect anyone who wasn't a White American politician.
A self-sacrificing, Black, 'people's President'
An eccentric profit of doom.
A dumb, heart of gold, blonde.
A cute dog.
A Govt. guy who sees the wrong and ensures the selfish people come to their senses.

All dull, all very predictable and full of hypocrisy.
Much is made of not being selfish...and yet the 'Ark' and all the thousands on it are nearly destroyed because a bunch of good guys tried to sneak on and thus mess the door up!

And as for all the bleating about people being chosen...well many people would indeed have to be certain types of people with certain skills and knowledge to rebuild things.
And when the achingly hand-wringing Chiwetel Ejiofor moans that all the 'Ark' builders are being left behind (the good honest working Communist Chinese man) Platt, wonderfully, declares that he is free to give away his pass TO one of those good honest Chinese Communist working men if he so wants...he does not want!
So much for that bit of bleeding heart posturing then.

And really it does (in a film full of it) go too far into Capitalist, Western self-loathing when the rooms on the 'Ark' are shown to have enough room to house far more than just the one person allocated to them and they even include silver goblets!
Sorry, but I find it offensive (and not remotely backed up in any way) that the makers assume that those evil White, Western, Capitalist pigs would care more about the silverware having room than people having room!
Where and when was this film written, on a 60's Hippie commune?

As well as being blatantly socialist (all rich people are spat at) it's also rather bias as far as race goes.
Any White guys in authority are either bad or useless, while all ethnic characters were simply upstanding and noble with great spirituality.

That (like poor picked on Mexico and The Middle East being the one and only places left for those Western Imperialists to live in "The Day After Tomorrow") the only place in the entire world left above water in "2012" is Africa seems telling!
So civilisation returns to its cradle as all that was decadent and corrupt is wiped away and so dear people...at last...we are ALL Africans now.

The final shot in the film looks like a poster Robert Mugabe and the Black Panthers would have on their walls.

And oh yeah...For all it's oh so noble and caring stance the film does the most ruthlessly cynical, down right immoral, thing out...
It makes sure the now unwanted other man and love rival (the BEST "I've only had 2 lessons" pilot in the World!) is routinely killed off before the 'we're a loving family again now' finale!
oh, very nice and noble!

If this is how the World ends...count me out.

300
Superb.
Amazing from a technical stand point (the use of CGI and practical make-up was stunning) very exciting, very violent, very powerful, lots of fun and a had a message at the end that few today seem to listen to..."This day we rescue a world from mysticism and tyranny"!

That's "rescue from" NOT "hand over to". No wonder this annoyed Iran.
But quite frankly modern Iran moaning about "300" is like Italy moaning about a movie on ancient Rome.
"300" has nothing to do with 'modern' Iran and even less to do with Islam (mysticsm and tyrammy aside!).
So go blow.
This looks fantastic on Blu Ray too. If you have not upgraded...do so.

7 MEN FROM NOW
It starts off with a truly awful song (in fact it seems both screenwriter Burt Kennedy and Director Budd Boetticher also hated it) but this moves into a very good opening sequence as Randolph Scott kills the first of the seven men who shot his Wife.
In fact the sequence is so good it should have been a PRE-credit sequence as it would have led into the film very well. Just as that wonderful opening scene of "Cahill".

Randolph Scott is rigid, uptight, driven and pretty emotionless as the revenge seeking ex-Sheriff. It kind of works for the role, but i still say he's a rather unexciting and non-descript actor.
Luckily though the mighty Lee Marvin is in support and he does a superb job.
His character is ruthless, scheming and dangerous...but thanks to Kennedy's script and Marvin's ever watchable style his character is also a likeble, charming rogue.

Kennedy's, otherwise sharp, script messes up in one place for me though...Exactly why did a character not wait a paltry 60 seconds to let the bad guys ride out of town before walking over to the Sheriff's Office!? It was utterly non-sensical.

The rest of the score is also non-event, being filled with cookie cutter strings and horns. It is at it's worse during the 'romance' angle of the film, supplied by Gail Russell, as it drones out sickly sweet swelling violins.
The romance has an edge to it (as Russell is married) and is never actually sealed and the tragic Russell does a good job.
But I just don't like 'classic' Western love stories as they bog the stroy down, are generally cloying and saccharine and (as here) are visually crafted like a Hallmark Valentine's Day card.
But there is much to enjoy here, the action is pretty good, Marvin is a gem, Scott is rugged enough, there's a good plot twist later on (that is beautifully ironic as far as Marvin's character goes) and some of the dialogue exchanges are wonderful.

It's not going to ever knock off any of my Top 10 Westerns, or make me love 'clean and classic' Westerns and their (it seems even here, inescapeble) dated style over later American Westerns from the late 60's-70's and many Spaghetti Westerns...
But it was a good, lean, solid film with many plus points and worth a watch for the great Lee Marvin alone.

8MM
Vastly underrated.
Sure we have plot holes and it's rather fantasy land in it's attitude to so called 'underground' porn, but it's still an extremely good, brutal watch.
The final 3rd is especially hard hitting.

A BITTERSWEET LIFE
Ji-woon Kim delivers us a wonderful gift...Beautifully wrapped.
This is the tale of a Korean mob enforcer (wonderfully played by Lee Byung-hun) who is given a job to do by his boss...but fails to do it as his heart finally over-rules his gangster logic...

A great score, nice performances, marvellous visuals, high to the sky melodrama, dark humour, brutality, compassion, excitement, ruthlessness, hope and loss all mixed together with stylish aplomb.
Nothing really original or groundbreaking as far as the ingredients go, but it's all in the mixing as they say and the final, finished work takes the famliar and creates something rather special.

The ending has caused vast amounts of discussion and disagreement.
It can be seen as two things for certain. I don't see that open to any discussion.
But the director has stated what the ending is and what it means and so we must surely go with that?
And that's fine. It works.
It does make the film very theatrical and vaguely comic-strip (especially during the final few minutes)...but it works.
The other interpretation of the ending though also works just fine. And brings the more stylised, over the top events seen during the finale into context and rationalises them. And it satisfies.
So whichever way YOU choose to go...I'm sure the director would not be offended by such contrasting interpretations...you should still end up satisfied.
Well worth a viewing.

A DANGEROUS MAN
Nice one Stevie!
Stevie the Seagull flaps his chubby wings extra hard and manages to halt his career plummet (yet again) after the unwatchable lows of "Kill Switch".
This is well paced, well directed, wonderfully brutal (wince like a wincy thing at the meaty, crunchy, 'rod in the back of the neck death) and entertaining stuff that effectively juggles many different groups of characters, from Seagal's delightfully cliche 'ex Special Forces' (of course!!) troubled hero to Russian mobsters (Seagal's current fetish), Chinese criminal gangs, corrupt Police and the Chinese military.

The dialogue is also a gem of multifaceted delights. Made better by Seagal's obvious unwillingness to see trash dialogue as trash dialogue.
Highlights are (in a wonderfully unhinged moment for his character) Seagal's pronouncement to a would-be mugger that he's going to "Fuck you up ugly", his remark to the lead bad guy "Where I come from, we say death is emptiness. In that case, I've been dead for many years" and a stunningly delightful line from a Russian mobster to the corrupt Police Captain, "Where I come from we fuck Cops in the mouth when we've run out of farm animals"!
Genius!

Seagal is thankfully not doubled except for a couple of 'throwing the bad guy across the room' stunts and his ultra-fast punches, blocks and thudding kicks still manage to impress despite his extra bulk (though again, he looks better than he has done).
the gunplay is not as blood drenched or in your face as that of "Renegade Justice" and tthe support characters do more of it...but again it's effective and violent enough.
Trashy, cheesy, nasty, fast paced, no-nonsense funstuffs!
Now try to keep the quality constant Stevie!

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
Very good offering from David Cronenberg.
Brilliantly acted (Ed Harris is in top form especially) and directed, but pretty simplistic for a 'newer' Cronenberg film. This is not a bad thing, just an unusual one.
Yes it's character driven and concentrates strongly on relationships and how the violence changes them, but it's still just a good old thriller/drama at heart..
Far too many reviews for this read like they are reviewing a dreadfully deep creation with layers that are quite frankly not there. Almost as if they have to think such things because it is a Cronenberg film!
It's serious and character driven...but it's still just a thriller.

A LONELY PLACE TO DIE
The highly talented Julian and Will Gilbey delivered good stuff indeed (if you like Brit Gangster flicks) with their first two main films ("Rollin' with the Nines", "Rise of the Footsoldier") and this time they mostly leave gangsterism behind for this superbly made and shot British action film.

Opening with stunning shots of the Scottish Highlands/mountains (this film was made for blu-ray) this starts off as a wilderness thriller before doing an unusual about-turn.
The superb cinematography, solid acting, interesting characters and truly outstanding stunt work all make for a very enjoyable first half with some nice plot twists, turns and tricks being the cherries on top.

But then the film gains extra characters and a full-on backstory (until then it was just climbers rescue child from underground prison) and moves the action out of the mountains.
It's a bold move, even a brave one, and again it shows the twisting cleverness of the screenplay.

Sadly though this portion of the film does move things into a rather unlikely fantasy land and also has some gratuitously silly bystander deaths that should have been left on the cutting room floor, as they seem silly and for the type of experienced bad guys we have, ridiculously unprofessional.

BUT, you are kept on your toes and truly have no idea how things are going to play out or even who will survive. A rare and welcome feat.

So it's a stunningly well crafted, nicely bloody, great looking wilderness chase movie with a top cast and also a tense multi-layered kidnap action film.
And, despite the genuine OTT problems with the final 3rd, it all manages to satisfy in the end (it has a wonderfully satisfying finale and a great last scene) and bodes well for the talented Gilbeys.

A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA
The last of the true Marx Brothers films sees them pretty much neutered from their original, anarchist, roots and instead we have them in a far more conventional 'underdogs who save the day' roles.
now, instead of blatantly causing absolute chaos (reaching the levels of actual war in "Duck Soup") they tend to right wrongs and set things straight!
Shame.

This trend had already started a few years before in what became their most successful films, "A Night at the Opera" and the far superior "A Day at the Races" (although even then this change was not so severe) but by now the weakening of their characters was also teamed with (unlike "Opera" and especially "Races") a lack of any real classic set-pieces and sketches.
Their is simply no memorable verbal greatness from Groucho and even the slapstick from Harpo and Chico is tame.
When mixed with their now muzzled characters, this lack of classic Marx humour is crippling.
Only an, actually very funny, late in the day 'packing the clothes' slapstick sequence, where the Brother's play havoc with the packing to leave plans of the lead baddie, drags the film out of the mire and it's very well crafted set-piece, and as such stands out in the sea of mediocrity that surrounds it.
Sadly the film as a whole stands alongside the equally weak and pointless "The Big Store" and "Go West" as the worst of The Marx Brother's proper films.

Stick with "Races", "Horse Feathers" and "Duck Soup" for some truly classic Marx Brothers greatness.

A STAR IS BORN (1954)
Previously made in a non-musical version in 1937 with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March and then later on in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, this middle version, with Judy Garland and James Mason, of the well known story (about a new star discovered by a fading, self-destructive, one) is perhaps the most famous and lasting and with just cause.

As a very minor musical fan (and then mostly comedy musicals like "The Blues Brothers" or "Cannibal the Musical" or ones with an interesting story hook first, where the music is kept as a stage act, like "Cabaret"), I admit to winding through most of the 2 big musical numbers in this so what may have been a big plus in the film left me cold. Though I recognise Garland's huge talent.
But the top support cast and great acting by the leads (coupled with the real, wonderful, surprisingly self-critical, Hollywood setting) and classic storyline kept me highly entertained and rather moved.

As the destructive, waning, acting star James Mason is on top form. He gives perhaps the definitive Mason performance and essays a fascinating character who can turn on the charm and show great love one moment before succumbing to the drink and becoming a self-loathing, selfish wreck of a man the next.

Garland shows just why she remained such a beloved performer for so long and her musical skill and star power shines here during the (for me often too long, but thankfully mostly realistic stage/film set based) musical numbers and even when drink, depression and much heartache had taken its toll (ironically Garland in real life, through the passing of time, actually became very close to Mason's character) and she was reduced to belting out show tunes in seedy, gangster run, London nightclubs...Garland kept that icon status and "A Star is Born" really shows you why, because as well as the musical sequences she handles some for the later, full on dramatic, scenes brilliantly as well and bounces of the brilliant Mason with aplomb.
Any movie fan should find much to love in this, a musical movie fan even more so.

A STUDY IN TERROR
Had it's moments, but was hopelessly dated and fantasy land!
The prostitutes were all models in this version of London and in fact one was a young and bubbly Babs Windsor!
About as far from how they really looked as you can get!
It was the first time though that Sherlock Holmes went up against Jack the Ripper, something that would happen a couple of times more in film and fiction later on.

ABOVE THE LAW
Holy hell fire! I think I'm slowly becoming a bit of a 'Stevie the Seagul' fan (at least his early stuff that is) and after trying "Out for Justice" I thought I'd try some more. So this is his debut film.

Full of cheese of course (with a classic, "He's just trying to do his job, stupid Chief!", suspension scene) but a very lean and trim Seagal is in fine action form and yet again he plays a delightfully cold blooded character who blows away bad guys without a second's thought.
You have to love it when he disarms a bunch of guys and then shoots one of them dead anyway when he walks towards him saying "he can't drop us all". Blam! One dead unarmed bad guy!
That's justice! Seagal style!
Seagal is okay in the acting stakes but nothing great (with yet again too many sappy morality speeches), Henry Silva chews the scenery all to hell as the lead villain (in a film packed with villains), Pam Grier looks foxy and a very curly haired Michael Rooker has one line of dialogue in a bar scene!
Not as fun as, or quite as violent as, "Out for Justice" but still an enjoyable no-nonsense bit of bone snapping action.

The 'R' print (the only one available i think) is certainly trimmed though where a hand is chopped off and when Nico is being beaten by Silva.

ADAM CHAPLIN
An Italian "Fist of the North Star" mixed with "The Darkness" video game, computer game cutaway scenes, dystopian sci-fi & crap loads of LSD.
With gore-violence up the ass I might add.

Plot is this; a guy on a revenge kick has help from a scheming demon who gives him "Story of Ricky" levels of punching power!

The FX are made from a mixture of surreal CG, bizarre puppets & freaky as hell/nasty-ass practicals.
And every character in the film wears weird (and obvious) facial appliances to make them look like living cartoon villains.

It's surreal, eccentric and dubiously acted but the biggest technical hurdle in "Adam Chaplin" is the post dub (italian) dialogue track. Even when outside people all sound like they're in the same room.

It's also a text book example of how to tell a basically simple story in the most chaotic,cluttered and padded way possible, so prepare to be confused at times.
But the gore is absolutely crazy as people's heads are punched in half or even completely off, have holes punched through them and arms bashed off.
We also have various bullet/sharp object carnage too and the finale fight is utterly and completely INSANE and blood drenched.

So if you can deal worth the messy plot-line, bad acting, dubious dialogue track and general weirdness there's lots of madness, mania and tripped-out, live action, Anime-style carnage of the goriest variety to enjoy in "Adam Chaplin".
Worth a rental for sure.

AENIGMA
Oohhhhh....Oohhhhh....Ohhhhhhhhhhhh.
What the hell ever happened Lucio Fulci?
What went wrong?
What?

Completely, utterly, numbingly tedious drivel. When the best scene in the movie involves a rubber slug and snail shit, you know you have real problems.
Jared Martin teams up with Fulci again 3 years after "Fighting Centurions" to far lesser success as Lucio bores us to tears with that old chestnut the 'revenge while in a coma' plot.
Virtually goreless this plods from tedious dialogue scene to tedious dialogue scene (with crap dialogue) until a stupendously weak and bloodless death scene arrives......then it's back to the tedious dialogue again.

We have some unattractive breasts and a colossal bit of writhing booty to give us at least something to stare at and the famous 'death by snail 'n' slug' scene works on a gross-out gonzo level as (rubber slug in the mouth aside) these are indeed tons of real snails really oozing and dripping and crapping their way over the actress's body.
But hey! Anyone with a camcorder, lots of snails and a very forgiving female friend could make that scene work! So not much praise for Fulci there either.

OH boy...Can this really be the same Fulci that gave us such magnificent Gothic Gore Gems as "City of the Living Dead", "House by the Cemetery" and the truly iconic "Zombi 2"??
Hell, this makes "Door to Silence" look like "The Beyond"!
Lay down the slug pellets and kill this monstrosity!! Never let this festering sore of a film anywhere near your precious eyes!
Save your brain and indeed your very soul and walk away...no, run away...if you ever see this thing cluttering up a DVD shelf.

ALIEN vs PREDATOR
Sure it could have done with more gore (though it was hardly violence free) and it was too short, but otherwise it did the job it set out to do just fine.
It covered both bases as for as the Aliens and the Predators were concerned, had some good sets, some solid fights between to the two species and was entertaining. Most certainly not a crap fest most say it is.
Though "Predator 2" beat them to the finale!

ALLIGATOR
80's monster movie cult classic still holds up thanks to a top Robert Forster performance, fun blood and gore and wonderful model/miniature work.
Does flag a bit, and gets needlessly repetitive with too many sewer visits, that sap the energy at times.
But overall this is good fun, has some great attack scenes, and the FX really make it.
Fuck cheap, nasty SyFy Channel CGI monsters!

AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN (THE)
entertaining low budget Z schlock that sadly under-uses the whole invisible aspect.
But the noir style criminal getting the muddy end of the stick, the psycho madman manipulating him to rob banks while invisible, the imprisoned nuclear scientist schtick and a rugged, moustached, rifle toting heavy named....Julian(!) all add up to good times.

Silly, cheap, missed potential...but damn it! Still fun!

AMERICAN GOTHIC
How did director John "Twins of Evil" Hough sink to this dull, ponderous, by the numbers, 80's American horror fluff?
Oh dear!
The last 15 minutes picks up and opens up a suitably macabre world, but there is nothing here really.
Low gore, rushed deaths and ending, tired direction, overly slow build-up, annoying acting (Michael J. Pollard is only slightly less awful than he was in "Sleepaway Camp 3"), slumming thesps (Rod Steiger and Yvonne De Carlo, though at least Steiger has a better wig this time than he did in "The Kindred").
All in all it's just a passionless splodge of smelly blandness thrown at your TV screen, that was actually a good signpost to the (mostly) awful decade to come as far as American horror films went.

AMERICAN SAMURAI
90's action flick that screams 80's action flick...a not very good one.

James Russo is the big plus here as an alcoholic, non nonsense, on the edge, very angry Cop. He (as always) gives good value and spends all the film shouting and scowling.
Co-star is 00's DVD action star to be Jeff Wincott, here billed as 'Jeffrey H. Wincott' (OOOOO!), but he takes part in very little action.
Not that there's much action here.

Aside from the (rather good, but cheaply staged and shot) opening shoot-out there is not much here bar some clumsy, slow, chase scenes and many badly aimed bullets.
Even the finale is badly made with bad stunt doubles, lethargically paced, lacking punch, bad continuity filled action the order of the day, and it features cinema's slowest (and pointless, they end up where they started!) speedboat chase.

The plot is a strange mixture of the simplistic and the confusing and only Russo's ridiculously angst filled personal life and general bad temper, gruff-ass, performance truly entertains here.
And if anyone can explain why a film about a L.A. Cop, fighting Chinese crooks, with no link of any kind to anything Japanese is called "American Samurai"....I would love to be educated!

AMERICAN YAKUZA
Viggo Mortensen plays an undercover Cop who hitches up with the Yakuza and finds his loyalties torn as he becomes to close to his new crime 'family'.
Some good, solid action scenes, a very good cast (including Robert Forster), some impressive cinematography and an interesting screenplay that gives us engaging characters means this little B movie gem delivers all it should.
A great spot of theatrical high emotion during the finale is the icing on the cake.
Check it out.

AN INNOCENT MAN
Criminally underrated Tom Selleck flick made when he was trying to push away from his family friendly "Magnum" image.
Despite this it's very well acted by all concerned (David Rasche is particularly excellent as the corrupt Cop with a very short psychotic fuse and shows, when compared to his equally excellent turn in "Sledge Hammer" how good and underused an actor he is), is very well made, intelligent and with a well paced and believable plot-line as far as the change in Selleck's character is handled as he succumbs to being set-up and thrown in prison for 3 years.

Very nice support as well by the infamously underused F. Murray Abraham who never fails to deliver and has perhaps suffered one of the worst post Oscar winning (for a genuinely superb performance in the majestic "Amadeus") career profile dive in history.
Well worth a look

ANATOMY OF HELL
Arty feminist bollocks for the most part (with a rather shameful attitude towards men, and especially Gay men) with lots of pretentious twaddle being spouted.
But the lead actress is very sexy and looks great naked, the lead actor has a rather impressive tool and it contains one scene so explicit and extreme that i am amazed it was passed uncut by the BBFC. A shocking image!

ANIMAL CRACKERS
This is the real Marx deal. After the weak and flimsy movie debut proper with "Cocoanuts" the second Marx's film sees them under better directorial control with better technical back-up and far more assured and confident performances.
One or two weak songs aside (thankfully we also have the classic "Captain Spaulding" ditty to make up for that dreadful love song) this is almost all undiluted Marx madness as the director Victor Herman wisely took a knife to the song and dance routines.

And what Marxian gems we have!
Chico and Harpo are on top anarchic form with a big dash of surrealism (the boxing/wrestling match that pits Harpo against poor old Margaret Dumont is an un-PC joy for the eyes) and Groucho is at his verbal best as he quick fires some of the best Marx gags to perfection.
Top of the list has to be the wonderfully absurdist skit between Chico and Groucho when Chico puts forth his ideas to find out who stole the painting (the basic plot is a nonsensical mess but matters not) which goes from asking the people in the house who took the painting, to asking the people in the house next door who took the painting, to having to build a house next door to ask as there isn't one, to the layout of this fantasy house, to finally coming to the conclusion that in fact left-handed moths ate the picture...Absurd genius superbly delivered.

Other highlights (in what is easily a film at its strongest when being verbal) are Groucho's attempts to propose to two women at the same time.
Woman - "Why, that's bigamy"!
Groucho - "Yes, and it's big o' me too"
Groucho - "I'm sick of these conventional marriages. One woman and one man was good enough for yourGrandmother, but who wants to marry your Grandmother? Nobody, not even your Grandfather".

The classic dictation of a letter sequence (the only time Zeppo is given anything to do)
Groucho - "Read that back to me".
Zeppo - "... care of Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, Hungerdunger, and McCormick."
Groucho - "You've left out a Hungerdunger. You left out the main one, too"!

And the scene where Groucho introduces himself to Chandler.
Groucho - "Well, art is art, isn't it?
Still, on the other hand, water is water.
And east is east and west is west, and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce, they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does".

Not much Groucho/Dumont word play on show sadly but there is one gem;
Groucho - "You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen, which doesn't say much for you".
All in all though this is pure Marx Brothers genius!

ANGRY RED PLANET
Cheap and not so cheerful sci-fi potboiler worth seeing for its outrageously trippy and fun version of Mars.

Basically the movie turns into a strip of red hued film negative, with blown out 'whites' and dark 'blacks' (all actually bright red) hiding a multitude of studio set sins.
Panoramic views of mars are simply still line drawings, plants/creatures are blobby, wobbly and plastic. But what crazy creatures they are!
The most famous is the wonderful stuffed shrew with flapping mouth creature, suspended by giant claw-ended crab's legs!
Add in a giant floating cornish pastie, an LSD hallucination/oil and water blob creature, a floppy giant man-eating plant and a three-eyed alien and it's fun all the way.

Sadly the rest of the plot id tired, stodgy and generally annoying, acting is lousy, dialogue is newspaper comic-strip level banality and even at 79 minutes the film feels like 2 hours.
And they don't even show a major event near the end, just talk about what they plan on doing and then...cut...huge life threatening danger over.

So if you watch it, simply skip forward to the gloriously freakish, wonderfully dated and off the mark, Mars scenes and then switch it off when they're over

ANTS
Classic era American TV horror flick about annoyed ants with toxic bites (thanks of course to those beastly humans messing with pesticides) attacking a hotel full of stock disaster movie characters (the hunk, the free love hitcher, the scheming business man, his eager secretary, the old woman in a wheelchair, her pretty daughter and the rough and ready hero who people won't listen to. OH! and 'token Black guy').

It's all done in fun and the scenes where the actors let real ants crawl literally all over them are suitably squirm inducing. Some of the FX are bad though. look out for obvious 'sweet stuff' wet patches on the sandy ground to lure the ants, look out for black blobs being pulled up the wall to make the ants look more numerous and look out for black smudges on the picture to represent hordes of ants approaching the hotel.

A good cast (with a late in the day appearence by the always welcome Brian Dennehy) of B movie sorts and faded stars like Myrna Loy do what is required but the biggest problem is the basic idea.
Poison bites or not all you would have to do is piggyback the old dear and everyone simply run out of the door!
As it is no one goes anywhere despite the fact that ants can't bite through soles of shoes and when rescue attemps are used something either handily stops them being used again (like the helicopter blowing the ants everywhere in a great scene that sees the nosy bystanders get coated in the biting buggers) or as in the case of a bulldozer that rescue one person...there is no real reason given for not rescuing the rest!!

Silly, plot hole laden, and cheesy but still entertaining in that nostalgic 70's TV way and the scenes of real ants crawling all over the actors make it all worthwhile

APARTMENT (THE)
One of the movie's a gre up on, this Billy Wilder film still delivers.
Jack Lemmon is a sophisticated joy and Shirley Maclaine is as cute as a button.
Masterful light comedy drama.

AQUANOIDS
The makers had fun obviously. but it's silly, rather dull, badly acted, badly made (though they tried, but the idea of underwater creatures - or at least one creature as that's as far as the mask budget would stretch - needs a bigger budget and more technical skill), and is really just a 2nd rate, SOV, rip-off of the superior "Monster"/"Humanoids from the Deep".

Harmless and done with humour...but still not a good film.

ARENA
"Arena" rubs your face in blood and pain (and loads of female nudity) but it's strange film as it has a well used popcorn plot/set-up that has provided numerous fun action films over the years, but is just SO grim and serious that its simply not that entertaining.

Jackson hams it up but the rest of the film, with its explicit (very bodily) violence, montages of horrendous injury and agony (mental, not just physical) that Lutz's character goes through and the bitter view of the public (who watch Jackson's brutal internet fights), ensures that "Arena" never becomes the crowd pleaser it perhaps should have been.

But it's nice to see a dead serious (if logically dubious and unlikely) take on the old 'Death Sport' plot and although "Twilight" actor Lutz is no great thespian he does manage to essay his character's change into a spittle spewing, blood pouring, mentally scarred animal very well.

But (dumb logic and some dubious acting aside) the film's bleak but generally successful standing is rather undermined by its foolish non-ending.
It seems like a sequel set-up that's unlikely to happen and so fails to totally satisfy when it easily could have.
But still worth a rental for sure.

ARMED RESPONSE
My God!! A Fred Olen Ray film that's actually marginally entertaining! Have it stuffed!
A slumming and aged Lee Van Cleef plays the world's most unlucky father with a tired David Carradine playing his oldest Son.

A nice support cast (including a nice cameo by Dick Miller), some mildly entertaining action and bloodshed and some surprsingly nasty twists as far as Van Cleef's family goes mean this delivers more value than almost any other Fred Olen Ray flick.
But it's still rather shoddy, with some awful dialogue, bored acting (except by a suitably gonzo Michael Berryman), and badly handled action dynamics by the actors (Carradine moves like a snail in sludge and stands in the open and still no one can hit him, Van Cleef can barely keep his footing as he pulls off laughable martial arts moves) and a suitably cheesy and cheap 80's synth score does nothing to help matters.

A bad film (like ALL Fred Olen Ray films), but a bad film that at least delivers some entertainment.

ASTONISHING SHE MONSTER (THE)
The supposedly "The Astounding She Monster" (a woman with arched eyebrows, filmed in wobbly-cam, wearing a figure hugging one-piece spacesuit) has to be the most lethargic, hysterically useless, comically unthreatening, Alien invader in cinema history.

This mute She-Alien plods around, strikes a pose, plods around, strike a pose, rolls down a hill, glows a bit, wobbles a bit, plods a lot, poses some more and eventually blunders towards stupidly motionless victims with a bored expression on her glamour-puss face.

The first half is all shot with no live sound and appalling "Beast of Yucca Flats" style narration before all that vanishes and some actual dialogue exchanges happen.
Sadly these dialogue exchanges are wooden and boring but occasionally silly enough to marginally entertain.
At a paltry 59 minutes this still outstays its welcome and only unintentional comedy and road crash technical shortcomings in any way entertain.

And the grand, exciting, edge of the seat, balls-out, action-packed finale? A guy kneeling down...reading a letter!
Yes. A letter!
At least it was a letter from space. More excited now? No?
No.

AT CLOSE RANGE
Good, solid 80's thriller/drama that's kept alive in the more stodgy moments by the great cast. Christopher Walken is superb as the sly, charming, but totally evil Father, Sean Penn is a revelation as his lost Son and he shares a nice chemistry with Mary Stuart Masterson.
And a good solid support cast (including a mad as always Crispin Glover, hard as nails R.D Call and the late - much missed - Chris Penn) and a fine score by Patrick Leonard (even the Madonna version of the theme tune is not bad) rounds it all off nicely.

ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS
Giant nuclear mutant crabs (or crab...I don't know) attack some rubbish scientists and sailors on a Pacific atoll.
That's it.

And yet because Roger Corman often tries to have ideas above the film's station, that's not exactly it.
Oh no, we also have deep philosophical musings. Most of them from the Crabs!
Yes, that's right...from the Crabs.
Because as well as eating the juicy fleshy parts of any silly humans they grab, the Crabs also absorb their 'minds' and can 'speak' to the other humans via telepathy! Oh yeah!
This silly idea adds much silly fun of course but it also means we have mutant crab monsters that burble tedious monologues on the mind of Man. zzzzzzz.

Thankfully away from these boring downtime moments we are still left with a giant (we only see one at a time) crab that pops up in caves and back rooms of shacks to wave a menacing claw about and that looks great in a bad way.
Oh, and it snips off body parts.
And the film wastes no time either, with a big eyed crab monster snipping off a guy's head a few minutes in. Nice.

We also have utterly random explosions that matter of factly kill off half the characters but no one really cares, we have an annoying French guy whose sunglasses are able to move on their own and we have a random 'voice of God' doomsayer thrown in to remind us The Bible exists.

And we also get an opening crawl that's written as if YOU, the viewer, are going to be in the film...like those old 'Fighting Fantasy' books; "You are about to enter the Dwarf city".
All because Corman thinks he's making highbrow statements about God, Man, destiny and philosophical thought in a film about giant wobbly plastic crabs.
Bless him.

Awful. But entertainingly awful.
And indeed, to be fair, genuinely entertaining in its own right during the crab scenes.
Shame about the general tedium that creeps in and Corman's sleep inducing deep musings though.

ATTACK THE BLOCK
Rather mundane Alien invasion flick notable only for being set in modern (oh, how true) Britain.
Everything else...nothing special at all.

But it's the twisted morality and farcical Lefty politics that really stink.
Writer/Director Joe Cornish got the idea for the film when, in such an area, he was mugged by a gang similar to that in the film.
"Oh", he thought in his soppy apologist way, "I bet those kids are misunderstood and deep, lets have them as heroes".

It speaks volumes of the mindset of such idiots that he decided to have the blight of an area be the heroes against rampaging Aliens INSTEAD OF the other people in that block who work hard for a living, or who are ACTUALLY poor (as in they're not wearing Nike and playing XBox's) but don't go out and rob people.
The little moral insight he should have gleamed for his film was that the gang are really the rampaging Aliens and the other people in the block, who have to try and counter them, are the heroes.
But no.

Then you've got the vomitus rubbish of the foolish white girl who foolishly got herself mugged because she foolishly existed learning to 'understand' and admire those that physically assaulted and robbed her.
Please!
But that's not enough garbage either. He has to have this disgraceful dialogue take place just to cement what a moronic apologist Cornish is:

Woman victim - "I was faced with 5 Guys and a knife".
Mugger - "The blade was just to speed things up. WE WERE AS SCARED AS YOU".
Really Cornish? That's what you think is it?
The knife wielding gang of thugs were just as scared as the lone young woman being held up at knifepoint by them?!
Cretin.

Add a nasty and cheap anti-Police bias too (hyperbole garbage like "You ALWAYS arrest the wrong people") despite the fact Cornish's own screenplay had the Police (those he didn't kill) not know about the Aliens and instead just have a known gang of muggers (wrong people Joe?), who are armed, at the scene of complete destruction.
Frankly they'd have been neglectful not arresting them!

The Aliens are quite effective and different for Aliens (though they owe a lot to "An American Werewolf in London") but little happens really and the ending is as annoying as it is weak.
Avoid visiting this block for your own cinematic health.

AUTOPSY
Full of holes and general confused plot points this 'trapped in a mysterious hospital sort of Slasher' redeems itself by the gloriously gory, violent, imaginative and genuinely squirm-enducing set-pieces.

Robert Patrick is the surprise name star here and has fun as the deranged Doctor running this highly unlikely hospital and the film wastes no time at all in getting the would-be victims to said hospital and it pretty much never lets up from there.
It also features a genuine, has to be seen to be believed, 'turning on the light' reveal that is so wonderfully mad the dubious medical reality of it all is forgotten as the camera pans around to get a full 360 degree look at this superbly bizarre 'creation'.

Sadly the film does have far too many messy plot problems and features the worst final 2 seconds since the very end of "Timber Falls".
The film ends just fine and they then go and do this stupid, well what happens now then, 'twist' that turns relative audience satisfaction (thanks to all that wincing, nasty, gore-drenched insanity that went before) into abject dissatisfaction and annoyance.

Still, worth a watch just for the squirmy, crazy-ass, gore and violence set pieces in the rest of the movie.

AZUMI
An excellent slice of stylish Japanese mayhem.
Action, drama, tragedy, blood, cool music, fantastic visuals, some more blood, more high melodrama than even most John Woo films and the truly gorgeous Aya Ueto as Azumi.
The final test for the young assassins, before starting out on their mission, was shockingly unexpected and as harsh as hell.
Damn fine stuff!

AZUMI 2
A very different, far more traditional in style, take by the new Director means this plays more like a regular Samurai/Clan film than the first movie.
Music has become more orchestral, the battles are staged (and shot) in far more conventional style, the high melodramatics have been slightly toned down and the film does lack that hyper-energy of the first film.
But...It still works fine on that more traditional level, it still works is a sequel and as such should be judged on its own merits.
The action is well done and bloody (you just have to love those wonderful Japanese garden hose arterial sprays) and features some far out weaponry and styles.
And the film generally does what it should do...ENTERTAIN.
Aya Ueto is rather more subdued here, and not always in the forefront of the action until the finale due to the larger cast of comrades, but she still makes for a truly gorgeous sight and handles the action well (despite what some reviewers say) and makes for a likeable lead.
"Kill Bill's" Chiaki Kuriyama makes another memorable appearence as well.

BAD LT. : PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS
Meh.....
The gloriously batty Werner Herzog looked like he was going to give us a nice, though far more blackly comic, spin on Abel Ferrara's gritty and tough masterwork, "Bad Lt."
Sadly as the bloated running time (trim Herzog! TRIM!) goes on the film loses its hold and by the end seems to have been more of a self-indulgant joke at the audience's expense.

Cage is back on top form and has two or three wonderfully unhinged moments. But they are very few and far between and except for one scene, the truly wonderful 'granny torture' moment, Herzog's 'Bad Lt.' is actually not that bad (let alone mad) at all!
This is a sadly mainstreamed, cleansed, version of the truly unhinged, frighteningly off the rails, character that Ferrara and Keitel gave us.
This is in fact one of the tamest '18' rated films the BBFC in the UK has passed.

The, perhaps sometimes a bit sluggish, Ferrara movie was generally a lean and mean beast though with a simple tale told in an intelligently complex fashion.
Herzog though does the opposite. He gives us a far too convoluted, far too long and indulgent, tale and tells it (a few short scenes aside) in a very bland and simplistic fashion.

Cage is fine, but is not allowed off the leash nearly enough, the film is padded, mostly bland and the odd lovely moment of insanity aside...is a far too normal.
And worse has a 'Bad Lt.' who is quite frankly (abuser of irritating Grannies aside) not that bad.

BAD PACK (THE)
Oh dear!
How could a film that's basically a more violent "A-Team" episode mixed with "The Seven Samurai"/"Magnificent Seven" and which stars Robert Davi, Roddy 'don't call me Rowdy' Piper, Marshall ''Road House' Teague and Vernon 'Mad Max 2' Wells be a complete stinker?
Okay, okay...perhaps I was asking for it after all!
And I got it! Lame baby...LAME!

BANG RAJAN
Superbly crafted, historical Thai film about a village holding out against the invading Burmese army.
Lots of ultra-violent, bloody and sometimes gory battle scenes (a bit too much shaking camera work but not too bad) and a simple, yet strong and emotional, story.
It's biggest failing (at least from Western eyes, and i've seen many many Japanese and Hong Kong films) is that except for really 6 main characters everyone looks the same! Including the women!
Very similar features, exact same hairstyles, exact same facial hair, exact same build and exactly the same clothes!
As such it can be very hard to figure out who just died (or not) and you wonder if you had actually seen them in the movie before!
But that aside this is an astonishing achievemnt for such a small film industry and is wonderfully acted throughout and looks amazing.
The finale is a brutal and bloody masterwork.

BANANAS
Probably Woody Allen's broadest (and nudest) film is a real mess for the first 20 minutes or so as it hangs a few pretty funny moments on...well...nothing really other than porn mags and comedy gadget testing.
But when the main South American banana republic plot kicks some top moments of comical goodness are offered up for our delight, as broad comedy and political satire slam against each other.

This is perhaps the closest Allen got to the comedy of the absurd (see the likes of "Airplane" and some Mel Brooks) as utterly fantastical comic set-ups are delivered in a real world setting.
The courtroom trial sequence is a joy (Allen's hysterical cross-examination of himself is a highlight) and the live broadcast wedding night nuptials delivered like a boxing match (complete with audience and real life sports anchors) is one of the funniest broad comedy moments Allen has ever done.

As a full-on comedy film it may not be as damn funny as "Take the Money and Run" or "Broadway Danny Rose", and as a more mature relationship comedy it may not scale the majestic heights of "Annie Hall"...but "Bananas" is perhaps the best mix of both of these different aspects of Allen's wonderful film comedy legacy.
It's far more successful than "Sleeper" or even "Love and Death" at delivering this mix anyway.

BAT (THE)
Rather rubbish Vincent Price effort (though he is only really a co-star) that starts off okay with a good first Price sequence but then slowly fades away into nothingness and half remembered tedium.
And how a break-in and then a murder can happen in a perfectly accessible house and the place does not become a crime scene is beyond me. Let alone the fact that more possible victims are allowed to sleep in the house where the murder has just occurred!
Meh.

BEACH GIRLS AND THE MONSTER (THE)
Horrendously awful entry into the popular 'Surf, bikini, beach boogie' sub-genre so popular in the 50's/60's.

Some were horror films, some were comedy/romances, this is a horror entry that sees perhaps THE worst looking monster in the history of anything slowly plod around a bit of beach scratching the faces of bimbos in bikini's and surfer dudes in short shorts.
Even at just over an hour this drags terribly, is technically shoddy, appallingly acted, has some lousy songs, unexplained plot revelations and hysterically dire 'driving' back projection that reaches almost "Police Squad" parody levels.

Hell, in the middle of a possible monster attack (which are few and far between any way) the film cuts to the non-entity lead singing a love ballad on the beach before some tosser makes a Lion ventriloquist dummy sing yet another ditty (yes, you did read that right) and we never go back to the monster again.

And we have dialogue like this;
Marine biologist, holding up a massive cast of the monster's footprint: "Well Sheriff, this doesn't look like the claw print of any fish I know".
!?!?!?

And yet this is all so dreadful it becomes freakishly entertaining, fascinating even.
Horrendously, freakishly, fascinating...like the aftermath of an explosion at a half way house for grotesquely mutated midgets would be.
Avoid...and yet...watch.

BEACH OF THE WAR GODS
The most epic and famous of the great Wang Yu's directorial efforts is basically a semi-remake of "The Seven Samurai" with the Samurai being exchanged for Chinese warriors and their number cut to five and the extended, character essaying, build-up to the big fight removed.
Wang Yu also stars as the driven warrior who chooses a town on the 'Beach of the War Gods' to defend China from the rampaging Japanese invaders by recruiting four mighty warriors to aid him and the townsfolk.

A few minor fights in the first half of the film lead up to the grand battle that literally makes up the entire second half of the film, and what a stunning, truly, truly stunning set-piece it is.......
Wang Yu and his team of choreographers and actors pull out all the stops here as one of the finest, biggest, longest fight sequences ever filmed gives the audience all the superb weapons fighting, OTT stunts, bloodshed, epic battles and stunningly executed one on one skirmishes they could ever hope for.

Often the sequences are filmed in one long take (best shown by two jaw-dropping separate scenes where first Wang Yu (a force of friggin nature in this film) and then the Japanese Commander literally cut, hack and slash their way down a dusty street taking on dozens of other fighters as the camera follows them along their bloody swathe in a continuous tracking shot.
The level of screen fighting skill on show here is simply beyond compare.

And despite the Japanese being the sketched in, out and out, bad guys here (which is fair enough as it's a Chinese film) Wang Yu still ensures that during the fights they (and their iconic swords) are given plenty of chances to shine alongside the Chinese fighters.

The faults with the film are either transfer cosmetic ones (a very distorted soundtrack makes the already rather grating Mandarin dialogue tiring on the ears) or in the fact that having to fit in such a huge battle sequence (split into various components)into the 95 minutes running time means you have very one-dimensional heroes and there is no real emotional connection to the characters for the audience (or indeed between the characters themselves) that you would get in the "Seven Samurai" or even "The Magnificent Seven".
But as a piece of breast beating, epic in scale, mesmerising, violent, stunningly crafted action cinema it's a total must see, a must own in fact, and is worthy of its reputation.

It's also one of the movies that shows that Wang Yu should be remembered with far more respect for the skilled fighter and serious director he was in the industry...instead of being rather discarded as an enjoyable trash movie star thanks to the unfortunate fact that (although it is damn enjoyable of course) the overly cartoonish, delightfully silly and rather trashy "Master of the Flying Guillotine" is the film that seems to define his career in the eyes of too many general movie fans.

BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS (THE)
Legendary low-fi cinematic turd that sees a waddling Tor Johnson as the titular 'Beast' waddling along in the desert sedately strangling people and carrying off nubile young girls to his cave (supposedly 1000 foot high according to the endless narration...though we see it's actually just up a slight slope!!) to blow in their ear.

if all this garbage was not bad enough we have to add the fact that this was shot with no dialogue recording (ala Doris Wishman flicks) thus we have literally endless music, an hysterically sombre and constant narration, with just a bit of dialogue between characters..but only when their faces are too far away to see or are hidden off-frame.

It's technically awful of every level, artistically sterile and as stupid as all fuck.
But the technical shoddiness is on such a huge level it becomes its own entertainment.
And the script is so mind bendingly awful only a dead person would fail to find it gut wrenchingly hysterical.

And boy! What a couple of Cops!
Watch in awe as a supposed ex-Green Beret Cop, Jim, randomly shoots (from a helicopter) at a poor guy just looking for his kids purelybecause he's there...so may be the beast!
This poor bugger is chased "North by Northwest" style by this trigger happy nut and shot at least twice!
Meanwhile his kids are being menaced by the real Beast this joker is meant to be hunting!
Jim thinks he's done okay by the end...but I'm sure a lawsuit will be forthcoming from the, shot for no reason, hapless Father!

Best bit? Too many.
But how about the 'will it ever end/is he dead or not' final scene when a cute rabbit sniffs the Beast's nose?
Or the sight of the Beast (God bless poor old Tor Johnson) venting his wild rage (according to the narrator) by going "Ugh", throwing a stone, and thrusting his wobbly arms into the air.
Piss awful brilliance!

BEHIND THE MASK: RISE OF LESLIE VERNON
Aghh! Frustration!
This much liked homage/twist on the Slasher movie/Slasher killer starts off superbly with a very nice, very clever, astute, sometimes very funny and extremely well done "Man Bites Dog" type fake documentary on 'Leslie Vernon', an up and coming Slasher killer getting his big break.

Robert Englund does a fun Dr Loomis type nemesis turn, the conversations about other killers (in this world Jason, Myers, Freddy are actually real) are fun and full of fan homage and nods, the acting is all very good and the serious/comedic aspects are delivered well by the whole cast.
So all seems groo-oo-vy!

But then this clever and astute homage/parody twist on the Slasher film turns into an actual Slasher film.
And as such, seeing as it is (as already mentioned by golly) a clever and astute homage/parody twist on the Slasher film surely it would deliver in all the right ways AS a Slasher film in its own right when the time comes?
Sadly not.

The stalking scenes are messy, not very well staged and unexciting (and not remotely memorable in any way) and worse...worse...it has really, really boring kills!
Hold the fucking phone people!
How the hell can a clever and astute homage to Slasher movies commit the ultimate dumb, failed to grasp the point, sin in a Slasher movie? That is...lame, boringly staged, flatly shot, barely bloody, basically goreless kill scenes! Even the big kill at the end is out of frame.

Thankfully a near the end plot twist, where we becomes serious, helps this portion of the film (and a fun about turn on the virgin girl cliche) but man, after the Slasher homage gold that came before...the final Slasher portion of the film is a real damp squib.
Worth a watch for sure, with a great first 2/3rds, but prepare to go from nearing orgasm to ending up with a bad case of blue balls by the time the credits roll.

BEYOND (THE)
Lucio Fulci's mind fuck of a zombie/supernatural flick!
Fantastic atmosphere, stunning cinematography and set design, bizarre plot (but one that works), excellent music and some choice gore and set pieces.
Sure, some FX look dodgy (those spiders!) but overall this has some of the best Euro splatter ever seen.
From the nasty as hell chain whipping (that whole opening just drips classy atmospheric horror) to the truly outstanding, whoop for joy, head explosion...this sucker delivers.
Delightfully messy zombies and some superb visuals (the blind girl on the bridge, the dead taking over the hotel as the lights in each room come on) cap off this classic slice of Fulci.

BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR
Like mosy BrianYuzna films this has interesting/entertaining 'events', but is very lifeless and lacking charm as a whole.

BIG JAKE
Classic Wayne!
Violent, brutal but packed with sly and caustic humour that's laugh out loud at times.
Plus we have some great characters/relationships.
Some dodgy indoor for outdoor sets, but overall this is well made and fantastic entertainment.
And a Father hitting his sons has never been this amusing!
Essential Western viewing.

BIG TITS ZOMBIE
This super low budget (but nice looking) SOV flick is a chaotic mess of a movie about strippers fighting the undead they foolishly let loose on the world.

We have porn starlet Sola Aoi fighting the undead topless with a chainsaw, the lovely Mari Sakurai as a psychotic Gothic Lolita who flashed her knickers a lot, and porno actress Risa Kasumi wielding a Samurai sword.
And that's the tip of the iceberg.
We also have bad/fun gore, blood sprayed boobs, a flamethrower vagina, zombie sushi, a blue faced ogre in a plastic well & puppeteer floating body parts...in 3D.
The 3D is only used for about 5 scenes and all are pretty bad, except the GREAT 'floating tentacle limb zombie' scene, where the3D really worked

But don't be fooled. "Big Tits Zombie" is basically a bad film!
Technically ambitious but inept with how it does things, a messy and very silly plot and cheapness that sees so few extras the same zombies appear in different places at the same time.
BUT it was still LOTS of fun!
Plus we get so many great WTF moments it overcomes the obvious badness to ultimately entertain.

BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE
This wildly popular movie still holds up today thanks to the fun script, great dialogue, wonderfully loveable lead characters (has Reeves ever been better? No.) and general 'harmless good fun' feel to the whole enterprise.

It's certainly (and the sequel) holds up far better than the rather 'band wagon jumping in feel' "Wayne's World", which now plays embarrassingly bad at times as Myers and Co. come off as retarded and annoying grown men playing teenagers. Something "Bill and Ted" manages to avoid.

It's also nice to see a time travel film that simply never bothers at all to (unless it's to help Bill and Ted's plans) tackle the ever-tedious, plot in a knot, changes to history scripting.
When they steal Napoleon (a wonderful performance, as with most of the support cast) from the Austrian battle field the historical earthquake of all that is simply never an issue. And the film is all the more enjoyable for it.
I guess we have to assume they return the 'historical' figures before they were taken. But the film never says, and we don't care.
This is just all in fun.
Simple (perhaps overly childish at times to grown up eyes), straight line, no nonsense comedy funstuffs that should be in everyone's collection.

BIOHAZARDOUS
Zombies go a shambling as some secret virus escapes in a research institute.
Hmmm....Obviously a lot of hard work here and much enthusiasm. But this SOV indy flick suffers badly from numerous things to do with the budget and a plot that seemingly does not know what to do with it's characters for half the running time.
Basically, after the rather too long outdoors build-up, the film takes place in just 2 or 3 rooms and a couple of corridors of the genetic complex.
The same bunch of 5/6 zombies shamble down the corridors as people scream and run from them (or, if armed, shoot at them), and this goes on for a long time with a few time-outs for some "What's going on man, Jesus fucking Christ" type conversations.

Now and again someone does not run quite fast enough in a corridor and gets grabbed where we have some messy limb chewing scenes with many blood arcs splattering on the walls.
But even all this is rather repetitive.
Later on some explicit conspiracy plots open up, as the evil head of the evil genetics corporation that started it all betrays his staff and some covert military squad (about 2 people!) is brought in to 'mop up'.
Here (with wildly overdone 'Nu Metal' soundtrack intro) things get a bit more furious...but it's still all very cheap looking and still basically consists of the same people (getting less and less as we go on) running down the same corridors from the same zombies.
Sadly it all becomes a bit...dull. And the end is quite frankly 'meh'. I think the makers simply had no idea how to end the film so just did something easy and a bit naff quite frankly.

Some fun (if cheap) gore livens things up as the zombies chow down on all the squishy bits they can find (we also have some messy bullet hits and a bit of good old chainsaw violence), the perfromances are not too bad either for the most part with less over the top, self concious, theatrics that we normally have with SOV backyard 'n' friends movies, and the makers certainly TRY to get what they can from thier meagre budget.
But it's too flat and repetitive in the script department and too hampered in any kind of scope by the budget to be anything but average fare for a movie of it's kind.
Kudos to the makers though, as always for these fan/indy films, at getting it made and out there.

BLACK DAWN
Awful, con job, latter day Seagal flick is a perfect example of all that's wrong with this once popular (and impressive) action star.
The plot is a confused mess and has at least 3 sets of bad guys,new characters popping up all the time and no Seagal fighting.

It's very shoddy too. Despite a pretty good sequence Seagal's stunt double for a lorry/car chase was laughably bad. It looked more like Elvis!
But the real disgrace comes in the form of the fight doubles...or should I say complete replacements.
There are only two fight scenes in the entire film.
Seagal (or not) has brief fight with a guy but double does kicking as they cut to Seagal's face as he just stands around almost unmoving!

Seagal uses this double for every single fight scene (in entirety) in and it's an awful one to boot.
A fight in a hotel is done by a double in a different suit and a bad wig before we cut to Seagal walking down a corridor. It's truly shameful.
Avoid this disgraceful con.

BLACK BELT JONES
Coming off his kick ass launch in the iconic "Enter the Dragon" Jim Kelly starred in his own, rather less of an iconic but an iconic none-the-less, movie "Black Belt Jones".
With a superlative introduction/credit sequence (scored with a gloriously catchy main theme) "Black Belt Jones" shows us it's going to be a more lighthearted enterprise than "Enter the Dragon" and with the addition of heavy Blaxploitation overtones.

Everything from the cliche Black characters (the good karate school guys, the bad drug dealing gang), the cliche 70's Black dialogue, the semi-comic Mafia guys and their own cliche dialogue (at one point the boss even hold out his hands and says "Mama Mia'!) and the all round 'brothers got to stick together' philosophy means we are in Blaxploitation Heaven here and the added karate kick assery is the cherry on top.

Kelly does some fine moves and has some good fight sequences, but his physical Bruce Lee mimicry is a bit dated now and his Bruce Lee 'mighty shrieks' come off more as a mad monkey impression than Lee's vocal display of channeled power.
The fights also suffer a bit (especially the end fight) from overly comic moments and the fact that Kelly has absolutely no one of any martial arts skill to fight against.

Indeed the comedic elements in the screenplay sometimes sit badly with the few more serious moments and although there is lots to enjoy here the film is a bit uneven in tone.
You have to love the show of 'Mourning-Fu' from the karate guys at a funeral though!

The one naff moment in the film is a 'chasing each other around the beach' sequence between Kelly and Gloria Hendry.
It's pretty dire and actually just makes them both look like jerks as they run around spoiling the day of any poor white folk they meet by busting up a white guy's guitar, popping all the white kids balloons, running a (naked) white couple out of their tent then destroying the tent! Cutting room floor scene ahoy.

But the great dialogue, fun characters, 70's Kung Fu/Blaxploitation essentials, funky score and lots of fights (away from Kelly the highlight here is the sexy Gloria Hendry kicking ass in a split up the thigh dress) make for a no-nonsense fun-time flick and even Scatman Crothers does a spot of karate!! And stopping a wig as bad as he wears here from sliding off while punching guys...well, that's some skill right there!
Flawed...but lots of fun for sure.

BLACK DEATH
Christopher Smith keeps his run of success (after "Creep" and "Severance" - not seen "Triangle") with this grim and brooding look at the devastating effects of religious fanaticism, no matter what the religion.

Sean Bean leads a solid cast (though he's only really one of three lead characters and it is Eddie Redmayne who steals the show as a torn Monk) and the low budget may sometimes show in the scale of things but the film still manages to have some impressively authentic looking sets and costumes.
There are also some good, if brief, gore FX that add a dash of grim excitement to this very sombre and meditationary tale. They are mostly used during a wonderfully brutal fight scene between Bean's men and some bandits but other scenes of general grim grue pop up throughout.

Well scripted and intellectually astute in its examination of religious fervor, Smith's film may be a tad on the lethargic side at times and suffers a rather glaring logic problem in how things get turned around for Bean and his men and how they behave (especially given they were on the alert all along) but these relatively minor flaws aside "Black Death" is a gritty and thankfully serious movie that paints all involved in the shade of black.
At first we go down the road that many people go down (utterly wrongly and often hypocritically) while watching "The Wicker Man"; That of Christian zealotry being the only boogeyman here.
And although this zealotry never changes or is excused, it is joined by the film's take on the Pagans not being so innocent and honest and just as ruthless.

Unlike "The Wicker Man" though, and its Christian lead character who walks into a Pagan land, Smith's film has his Christian devotees indeed coming with murder in mind (unlike "The Wicker Man's" admittedly radical, but utterly benign and only there to help find a missing girl, Sgt.Howie) and he also makes it clear because of this that ultimately The Pagans are fighting a defensive battle and are not the ones going out of their way to cold bloodedly murder (unlike the, far worse and far more fanatical than Sgt. Howie, Pagans in "The Wicker Man").

But their brutal methods, sly cruelty and lies and even out and out trickery used for personal reasons by their leader (to cling onto power) do not paint either them or their religion in a very moral or particularly different light, even if they are ultimately defending themselves.

The, surprisingly extended (and very grim indeed) finale ultimately comes down harder on 1300's Christianity and The Church and its all consuming power and ideology on the individual, but the swipe at Paganism (which basically means the swipe at all other organised religions in general) is still felt in the fact it was ultimately just as equal in blame as Christian ideology (knowingly cruel Pagan trickery played on a damaged Christianity swamped mind) on what happens at the end.

Sometimes lethargic, suffers from a couple of plotting hiccups, but ultimately "Black Death" is a very well made, very well acted, very well scripted and suitably grim and bloody movie that's astutely critical of all organised religions and the brainwashing that can turn a good man bad and turn good ideals into selfish and cruel ones.

BLACK KNIGHT (THE)
This 50's British 'Arthurian' flick has Peter Cushing as an evil Saracen (echoes of 2006!) scheming with Patrick Troughton's Pagan King to bring down the growing Christianty that has come to England via king Arthur's court.
Only Alan Ladd as an ass-kicking blacksmith stands in their way!!

This is history straight out of a comic book. Costumes are bright pastel shades, armour is gold and shiny and looks like it's made of cardboard, the castles are clean and perfectly made and all around is green and lovely! Even the Vikings (with huge horns on their helmets) are in fancy shades of blue and silver!
It looks like the school play has been given a big budget quite frankly.
Cushing is a hoot! He's tanned to hell and back, has a jet black goatee beard and huge mop of jet black curly hair! he's also delightfully nasty!
Ladd is hysterical though! Not bothering to hide his Trans-Atlantic twang (in Ye Olde, America has not even been discovered, England) is funny enough, but when he becomes the 'mysterious' Black Knight and keeps the same accent...but no one recognises him with his flimsy visor down...things get decidely loopy!
The fact that he is the only white American in the entire world seems to have no baring!

The pro-Christian stance is also something to behold, as it means the Pagans are utterly demonised! Their 'lair' is underneath...wait for it...Stonehenge!
The lair is decorated with skulls and has 'heathen' Pagan dancers to usher in their diabolical human sacrifices!
And if you want to know why parts of Stonehenge are pulled down...this film shows you!
Added to the cast are Andre Morell ("The Plague of the Zombies"), Harry Andrews ("Ice-Cold in Alex") and Laurence Naismith ("The Amazing Mr Blunden").
Awful...but awfully entertaining.
Hell it even opens with a damn scarlet clad minstral on a horse strumming a ye olde merry tune about Ladd's daring deeds of yore!

BLACK RAIN
This mistreated gem of a late 80's actioner is given new life on Blu Ray for sure, but the old stuff that made this so damn satisfying is still all there too.
Sadly a tinge of sadness now hangs over this movie though, due to the still ongoing earthquake awfulness currently assaulting Japan (at least in 2011).

But....We still have top characters, spot on acting from all concerned (Michael Douglas is the friggin' man here, Andy Garcia is wonderfully likeable and charismatic, Yûsaku Matsuda is amazingly insane as the bad guy and the great Ken Takakura drips class all over the place), the wonderful Hans Zimmer score (including the gloriously cheesy rock song) is one of my favourites, Japan looks great and Tokyo oozes neon excitement, the sparse action is good and meaty and the verbal set-pieces are great.

Roughly 22 years later "Black Rain" still holds up as one of the great American action dramas with its perfect mixture of hard boiled drama, light comedy, tough action, cultural clashes, camaraderie and redemption being potent stuff even in 2011.
Damn well essential!

BLACK SNAKE MOAN
The shaky start gives way to a rare thing...a basically original plot!
Ricci looks great naked but still has that genuinely haggard and downtrodden look that such a character would have. She's also actually very good as the nymphomaniac white trash young woman given a wobbly start in life, a wobble that became a full blown personal earthquake.
Surprise of the show though was the rather good turn by Justin Timberlake as Ricci's Army boyfriend with his own problems.

Sam Jackson is the now wifeless, bitter, bible nuzzling blues-man who sees in his fateful meeting with Ricci a chance to help himself as he helps her to overcome her sexual demons; by chaining her up in his shack!
He also sees the chance to be the Father he was denied the chance of being.
Jackson mostly casts aside his 'Bad Mofo' image here...but there are still many fun 'Sam the Man moments' here when he loses his temper and swears like a good 'un.

Despite the harsh, illegal, methods he uses Jackson's character is basically a good man who has fallen off life's tracks as much as Ricci in many ways and he in no way harms her...and soon a strange bond grows between them.
A bond that solidifies during a superb moment in a lightning storm as Jackson's (pretty damn good) rendition of Blind Lemon's "Black Snake Moan" keeps a few demons at bay for both of them as his electric guitar blues compete with God's own electric show of power outside.

The soundtrack is basically the 3rd star here and it's a joy for any Blues fan and enlivens the film even when certain scenes drag (as they do at times).

The end is rather trite and dare I say it...Hollywood...but the final scene reminds us that life's struggles continue and there is no magical 'cure' that does all the work for you.
Not as good as it could have been and, away from the opening minutes, not the Exploitation film the damn impressive, 70's style posters would have you think...but as a very well acted, different, intriguing little film wrapped in fine cinematography and perked up by Ricci's fine breasts and groovy panty wearing abilities (as well as lots of great Blues moments) it comes highly recommended.

BLACK SUN: THE NANKING MASSACRE
Too episodic to truly grip you as far as the characters are concerned because the film re-creates one true event and/or atrocity after another with the very few characters we actually get to know leading us to each of these re-creations but doing little else.
But there are some really powerful, shocking moments and sights and the last 15 minutes piles on the kind of heartbreaking, horrifying, up close and personal tragedy the rest of the film was mostly lacking.
And the final scene is amazingly powerful and affecting.
Plus it can be taken far more seriously as a studious, dramatic condemnation of atrocity than the more widely seen, far more exploitative, "Men Behind the Sun".

BLACK TORMENT (THE)
Mostly forgotten British, Gothic Horror, movie that sees mysterious goings on at the estate of Sir Richard Fordyke (John Turner) as he returns home with is new bride (Heather Sears).
It seems Sir Richard, despite being away, has been spotted at night being chased on horseback by his dead wife on and worse a local girl, who was raped and assaulted, utters Sir John's name before she dies.

Into this bubbling pot of much mystery is thrown a solid cast (always nice to see Peter Arne, who sadly in real life ended up being murdered after a nightly homosexual pick-up went wrong), nice Gothic visuals, a suitably spooky atmosphere and some well used hokum. All combining to create a rather tasty, if unspectacular, cinematic stew.

Despite the carriages, stately homes, grumbling peasants and heaving corsets this period piece was written by British sleaze master Derek Ford (with his brother Donald). Derek Ford would be the unsung hero of British Sexploitation as far as any mainstream movie history would go and would do everything from saucy sex romps, trashy horror flicks ("Don't Open till Christmas") and harsh hardcore porn ("Diversions") during his varied career in trash cinema.

BLACKOUT (THE)
Unexplained monsters pop up from the ground and attack some people in a high rise.

Looking cheap, sounding cheap (almost like the dialogue was recorded live on set, but actually dubbed on after) with some bad CGI for a few more elaborate kills that should have stayed not as elaborate and avoided the CGI hell.
The script is also flat and often illogical as far as some actions go and acting is at best average, at worst awful.

BUT...the film is lean, has some good fast action and couple of good kills (one nice practical throat ripping) and the monsters are not only fun looking (Alien meets C.H.U.D's meets a porcupine) but also pulled off very well indeed by an excellent creature suit (perhaps suits, they may only have had one though) that also utilises the only good CGI in the film to pull of it's pincer ended, slashing, tail.
DAMN fine creatures and mainly pulled off with some classic practical FX.
Everything else is rather bad though, and the twist ending has been already given away really much earlier on.
Worth a look though.

BLASTFIGHTER
Why this gets such good reviews ido not know.
About 8 minutes of any really decent action in the whole thing, a wimp out 'i hate violnce' hero and a damp squib ending. BAH!

BLIND WOMAN'S CURSE
We start off in a very groovy fashion with a rain soaked Samurai sword fight that drips cool.
But a warning sign of the slump to come was shown here also, when a vital plot point of a woman being blinded by a sword stroke from Meiko Kaji is played out by the sword swipe very obviously not being anywhere near her at all!

From here on we enter a world of chaotic plotting, muddled all to hell ideas, dubious translations and redundant characters.
By the opening we are expecting Meiko Kaji ("Lady Snowblood") to be a tough woman with an agenda.
Instead the rest of the film, right up until the last 10 minutes, has her do absolutely nothing at all except cry a lot!
Bad comic relief? Oh yes. How about a guy in a bowler hat and a smelly red nappy? You got it.

What else stinks here?
Well the big Blind Woman's revenge sub-plot plays out with her actually doing nothing at all (despite her joining up with a group of bad guys) until the very end...and then she simply does nothing all over again!
The only person who does anything is her grotesque hunchback assistant...who then gets told off by her for doing something!

The plot is a jumbled mess of schemes, double-crosses and betrayals that are played as secrets one minute and then played out openly the next.
Despite a stew of sub-plots (clan rivalry, cat curses, blind woman revenge, hunchback murders, mysterious stranger pop ups) and the various groups of bad guys to choose from (who simply end up tripping over each other) nothing much happens in the film at all. Ever.
It's purely down to the horror tinges (an utterly deranged traveling 'spook show' carnival) and that loony hunchback that anything remotely interesting happens in the movie at all.

This real mess of a mass of nothing has the odd great moment of bloody violence (total screen time 5 minutes max) a smattering of sleaze and nudity (one hellish dope/prostitution den scene) and some theatrical horror visuals...but this is a case of a needle in a tedious haystack.

And worse of all is the end.
After a huge, muddled, sludge slow trek we have a wonderful few seconds of sword gore before we finally get to the big revenge pay-off as the blind woman actually does something for once as she squares off against Meiko Kaji (who has herself has also finally done something in the film).
But what happens now?
Once again nothing!
And yes I am going to reveal the end of the film to save you my pain.
In the end...blind woman decides she can't take revenge after all against Meiko Kaji because Kaji has a good heart!!
She promptly walks off and leaves Kaji and the audience staring off into space in utter confusion!

Before she walks off blind woman just so happens to sum up my thoughts.
"Seems as though I have wasted my life on this meaningless goal"
Change "goal" for "movie" and you have my thoughts exactly!

BLOOD NIGHT : MARY HATCHET
After good word of mouth I was looking forward to this Slasher flick.
It was on 'Lovefilm' instant watch...so I did. Oh dear.

A pretty good (if overlong) opening sets things up nicely, but then things lie down and go to sleep.
Bill 'I'm in everything and anything' Moseley pops up as a graveyard workman which puts a bit of life into the thing, but really this just stops dead to show us endless obnoxious jock pricks and loser hanger's on partying with some pretty hot but thick bimbos.
Nudity eventually arrives but by this time it's too late and I'm getting fed up and want someone, anyone, to die.

At last the killer shows up and we have some pretty fun (if cheap and rubbery) practical FX kills and some typically shoddy CGI blood.
But it's shot in such a lifeless fashion and it's all so damn old and dusty, stale and worn, that boredom still hovers over my head.

It all ends with a crap killer plodding around lifelessly before being killed in a crap way before a fucking lame ass twist puts the putrid cherry on top of this dry old lump of a Slasher flick.
Some fun (if not very good) gore, a pretty effective opening, some briefly seen boobies and a whole lot of nothing else worth a dog's fart.

BLOOD RUNS COLD
Low budget SOV Slasher flick from Norway, surprisingly filmed in English.
And although it is the actors actually speaking English they're very awkward and say "Man" an hysterical amount of times!
Why not shot in Norwegian with subs?

It has logic problems up its snowy arse too.
Guy sees strange man at window when he goes outside yet he knows that the only ones in the house are him and his three friends.
But he says/does nothing!?
At least we are offered two pairs of fine Norwegian boobs to take our minds off the script at this point.
Sadly the lead actress is mostly appalling though (if cute) as she's screaming one moment and acting like nothing much is going on the next. It's a strange performance in a strange film.

Thankfully it has some very groovy gore.
Highlights are a torn in half body, entrails being slopped and slurped and a truly great beheading.

And it features (in a film filled with random plotting and events) the most random handy weapon ever!
The final girl just happens to find a fully working, randomly discarded...wait for it...machine gun on the cellar floor!

So it has some good FX and violence worth checking out, but the wooden/awkward acting and script, wacky logic, annoyingly rubbish lead actress and the sheer randomness of it all (random mad guy who bleeds snowflakes(!) randomly pops up to randomly axe 'n' eat folks) damage the film a great deal.
I mean I don't need full motivation or back-story for any general Slasher villain (like "Hellbent" for example where it works fine), but when you have a set-up that involves a small village that has an almost indestructible cannibal/psycho killer who is filled with powdery snow and who slaughters people on the village outskirts with no one noticing...and you offer absolutely nothing in the way of an explanation ...it's just annoying.

Average fare. Could have been so much better.

BLOODSPORT
Better than "Kickboxer" because of stronger support characters, more (and more interesting) fights and it shows off Van Dammes atheletic fighting ability much more successfully. Superior end fight as well.
Dated for sure and the songs are awful (fun..but awful) but generally it still holds up as a solid western slice of Martial Arts violence.
And good old Bolo is always fun!

BLOODY BIRTHDAY
This entry into the rare 'Children Slashers' sub-sub-genre is perhaps the most famous and one that does a pretty good job in the way it utilises its murderous tots.

A great opening hits us with a 'born under a bad moon' (or non-moon) pro-logue that sees our deadly children all born at the same time during an eclipse.
We then move to the present day and get our first, of delightfully numerous, breast shots and a violent double murder.
All good stuff.

As we learn more about the children we also get to see just how sleazy they are too, despite their age.
The young girl, Debbie (Elizabeth Hoy), charges her fellow psychos and various local kids for a look at her older sister getting undressed via a peep hole in the closet and the nudity in the film in general (including in some of the murder sequences) adds an uncomfortable psycho-sexual element to our killers.

Bloodshed is sadly minimal for the most part (there is a little), even when an opportunity arrises for some splatter, but the many deaths are often sudden and brutal and just the the fact that we see little kids commit them and plan them with such cold-blooded, out and out cruelty, adds a disturbing power to the murders.

There's also a macabre black humour to some of the attack scenes due to the fact the children have to do odd things to carry out their plans because of their age and size, like the double-header car scene where one drives and one has to lie down and push the peddles!
And its of course deeply disturbing to see children run around with guns and use them with such callous disregard, let alone having a young boy put two holes into a topless teenage girl.
This is all pretty strong stuff even today, let alone in 1981.

All the child actors give excellent performances.
Hoy is perhaps the creepiest and most mature with her grin dripping hateful insanity, and Billy Jayne's Curtis is not far behind with his arrogant leer.
Oh and Jose Ferrer pops up in the most utterly pointless cameo of his career (and that's saying something).
Everyone else is at least average, but a good heroine turn comes from Lori Lethin as Joyce and from the young K.C. Martel as her unfortunate younger brother Timmy.

It has to be said though that away, and except for, the children the film lacks anything else really standout as far as other characters/scenes go and the film is often sluggish in the way scenes are staged and directed.
And the way, the seemingly on to the psycho children, Joyce goes back and forth on trusting these kids is rather silly and repetitive, as they continue to unsuccessfully bump off her brother and set her up numerous times.
Some of the music is poor as well, with numerous dated cues and some very cheesy trumpet solos on the sex scenes.

The finale is also a mixed bag.
There's some great moments here but also some badly staged ones.
The way a fully grown woman is powerless against a little girl's strength is silly, the rather cartoonish attitude to the way the Joyce and Timmy fight back seems out of place too given what the audience know about these truly brutal killers.
And the ending seems rather rushed and anti-climactic as well, with little in the way of proof against the children.
The very final scene is nicely ghoulish though.

But the gloriously nasty and unnerving killer kids are in the movie enough, and their scenes certainly good enough, to ensure "Bloody Birthday" overcomes its other faults and emerges as a mainly successful, chilling, brutal and often unsettling excursion into the movie world of murderous children.

BLUE JEAN COP
Barely average thriller fare from James Glickenhaus ("The Exterminator") that is badly plotted and dragged down by an utterly pointless romance sub-plot between the female D.A. and Peter Weller's Defence Attorney.
We have some very well staged stunt/action set-pieces that are large scale, but a lack of actual one on one gunplay.
And the less said about the ludicrious, dodgy FX, sight of Sam Elliot hanging from the landing carriage of a jet plane in full flight finale the better.
And it's now VERY unsettling to see the (superimposed) plane zoom dangerously close to the Twin Towers.

But the big interest the film offers for movie fans is the setting for a large chunk of the film...42nd Street!
Filmed at the end of 1987 James Glickenhaus has captured the dying breath of the 42nd Street strip in all it's decayed glory.
Given that all the cinema's were soon closed down and many ready for demolition ("The Last Action Hero" crew in 1993 had to decorate them with false marquee hoardings and lights to make the area look like it was still operating for example) this must have been the last couple of years or so of genuine life in the are...and the shoot-out, car/bike chase in "Blue Jean Cop" may well be the most elaborate movie sequence ever filmed on 42nd Street, and it's sure great to see the lights shine brightly as the action unfolds around them.

As it was 1987 the 'Indy' Grindhouse scene had already vanished, so almost everything showing then was mainstream Hollywood product and video shelf filler (and the fact at least one of the cinema's is screening shot on video XXX flicks like "Hannah does her Sisters" shows how far along the move away from actual film projection had come as most of the theatres moved over to video projected porn cinemas) but it's still interesting to see the diverse choice along the famous strip.
We have:
"The Running Man"
"Prom Night 2"
"Death Wish 4"
"Prince of Darkness"
"Witchboard"
"The Hidden"
"NOES 3".

But we also had a triple bill of Martial Arts flicks running that included "Rivals of the Dragon" and what looked like "Mad Sword" (which i think was a marquee abreviation for 1969's "Mad Mad Mad Swords") and obscure Argentinian thriller "Catch the Heat" with an already slumming Rod Steiger.
For any fan of 42nd Street and it's history it's worth checking "Blue Jean Cop" out just to see places like 'The Roxy' and 'The Lyric' before the bulldozers, Disney and 'acceptable' theatre came along to transform them in different ways.

BLUE TIGER
When her Son is accidentally shot during a botched assassination, Mother Virginia Madsen learns some Japanese, dyes her hair black, gets one hell of a tattoo off Harry Dean Stanton, turns on the sex appeal, picks up a gun from Michael Madsen ("Occupation"? "….Mother") and seeks vengeance.

The typically cool, hard-ass build-up to Madsen's vengeance is surprisingly nothing but a smokescreen.
Her character actually very vulnerable, and most of the time completely out of her depth.
In fact her vengeance never really comes to fruition in the way she wanted at all.
She is ultimately a bystander (realistic but hardly the thing of kick-ass revenge cinema) to events she knows little about involving people she could never hope to match or understand. Fancy tattoo or not.
Some sparse but well handled action punctuates the story (in which Madsen's character is almost entirely left out of) but this is actually far more of a character drama than a revenge thriller.
Not bad, well acted by Madsen certainly, but ultimately a bit too ’worthy’ for it’s own good which means it falls into the gap between serious drama and action flick and as such ultimately fails to satisfy as either. What Madsen will ultimately do at the end will keep you guessing...but the film as a whole is more foreplay than satisfying orgasm.

BODY COUNT
Fun but sadly forgotten 'robbery goes wrong' flick with a great little cast, Ving Rhames, Linda Fiorentino, John Leguizamo, Donnie Wahlberg, Forest Whitaker and a great barnstorming turn by David Caruso that's as far from "CSI: Miami" as you can get.

BOOGEYMAN 2
A barely related sequel to a little liked film, I had no desire to see, was not perhaps the best start for this (wrongly sent straight to DVD) movie, but some good word of mouth made me take a risk.
I was glad I did as well as, although there is nothing new here, the film delivers some well crafted, glossy, shocks that lead to a very satisfying and (amazingly today) coherent finale.

It's pretty much a repeat match as far as most of the killings go ('Boogeyman' gets one alone, does gruesome and nasty things, body then found by someone else) but at least the demises are suitably gory and nasty and carry a heavy "Saw" feel in the way some of them play out.
Much blood and gore later we are left with a solid, does the job well, glossy and modern Slasher flick (with possible supernatural tinges) that will come as no big revelation to anyone who has seen more than 4 horror films but is ultimately well worth a look for those in need for simple, well made, gory fun.

Its one to sit on the shelf ready to be pulled out at Halloween or on Friday the 13th's when you invite a few mates round for a bit of popcorn horror entertainment.
And there's nothing wrong with that.

BONE SNATCHER (THE)
Low key, sedate at times but generally a good little creature flick with some very well realised 'creature' (sort of...) designs and ideas which made for some ghoulish sights.
Not a gore fest, but it was well done with a good African music/electro based soundtrack and some impressive desert cinematography.
Not sure about the rather confused twist ending though.

BORDERLAND
Based (pretty closely in some places, not at all in others) on a true crime story about a bunch of drug running Mexicans who performed witchcraft rituals to protect their trade by sacrificing people, including a young American student.

Opening with a full on nasty bit of torture/mutilation the film then takes it's time (with no gore at all) building up three likeable main characters as they party heart at a Mexican border town before one of them is kidnapped by the drug cartel.
From then on we switch back and forth between the remaining two friends trying to track their friend down and the kidnapped lad at the gang's ranch. And aside from a couple of moments there is little horror or gore as the film basically becomes a thriller.

The fim could have done with a few edits here and there to tighten this part of the film up as it does play out slowly, even though something is always going on, but at least we get to really care about the characters when the brutality starts back up.
And it's a clever screenplay indeed that can keep an audience today surprised at what is going to happen, when it's going to happen or even if something will happen at all. As such the suspense is expertly crafted as things get slowly more nasty.

Some good shocks, some very well done gore by KNB (some nasty machete violence, limb hacking, torso chopping, eyeball gouging, body parts), good performances, a serious and generally well crafted script (if in need of a bit of editing), excellent cinematography and spot on editing and direction all help to make "Borderland" a very good thriller/horror hybrid movie that has a cloying atmosphere and a brutal streak that brings to mind 70's exploitation.
Well worth a look.

BOTCHED
Brit/Irish horror comedy that's utterly insane, completely unbelievable, wildy OTT and blood drenched.

A top cast (headed by the ever welcome Stephen Dorff) of mostly English and Irish actors all playing Russians (with delightfully broad accents) and they are surrounded by some good gore, lots of blood, madcap slapstick, black comic horror, la la land characters and plot twists.
Basically it's just insane.
The always fun, son of a real life gangster, Jamie Foreman (whose ham Russian accent and OTT performance work perfectly) is the support highlight but everyone here is good with Geoff Bell as a likeable but slightly insane ex-commando and Hugh O'Conor, as a dweeb who comes good, are memorable too.
Hell, all the characters are great (although Jaime "Dexter" Murray is a rather wasted female lead who seems to have had bits of her character background left on the cutting room floor).

Sometimes it's a bit too OTT comical (like the disco spiked floor) and pantomime, but overall it worked and was delightfully unpretentious, unsubtle, crimson coated, body parts filled fun that entertained to the max.
Recommended!
Avoid the trailer though as it gives away the first (wonderfully executed) gore shock that you would otherwise have no clue about.

BOY EATS GIRL
Short and very slight horror comedy from Ireland that does perhaps skip along too fast as far as any real, even obvious, dramatic scenes go as they simply don't exist.
For example...in a 75 minute film the main character (a teenager who is brought back to life by his Mum) is a zombie 18 minutes in...BUT the scene that contains his mother finding him dead, grieving, deciding what to do and then doing it is a 5 second quick cut montage!
I kid you not. Imagine that huge part of the plot of "Pet Semetary" with Gage dying, the grieving and the choice of reanimating him happening in just 5 seconds flat with no dialogue!
As such there is a perhaps unintentionally funny aspect to this part of the film simply because such massive events are brushed so outstandingly skipped over.
There's also a 'hold on..what about all the rest of the zombies around the town who were not in that finale' plot hole at the end.

Now this sounds like a negative write-up...but it's not!
As despite these faults (or quirks) the film is actually very enjoyable, well made, often very funny (with two very likeable and well played dweeb friends of the lead character) and has one of the most undervalued (indeed totally forgotten) gore sequences in horrordom!

When the cute Samantha Mumba (one time pop singer and her of "The Time Machine" remake) climbs into a tractor equipped with a huge grass cutter we can only hope good things happen as she trundles towards the zombie horde (or as horde-ish as the budget allows)...and we are not disappointed.
Forget the weak CGI-combine harvester sequence that was much touted around the web in the awful "Evil Aliens"...This (though smaller scale) sequence with the tractor is the zombie slaughter splatterfest we should be familiar with!

With gleeful abandon buckets of blood and loads of body parts fly around and get stuck, flopping, everywhere. Which is fun enough.
But a couple of moments showing some very well made full zombie bodies (with NO CGI rubbish anywhere) being literally mulched and exploded in full view of the audience as the blades hit them (as well as some great legless/ headless, aftermath corpses stumbling around), as well as a top notch squashed head, mean this sequence truly delivers the gorehound funstuffs.
It lifts the entire, already enjoyable, film to another level.

"Boy eats Girl" may be simple, slight with some less than successful screenplay choices (and the strangest 'zombie cure' ever seen), but it's also funny, fast paced, gory, well acted, well crafted and extremely enjoyable.
A sadly forgotten Irish pot o' gold.

BOYS FROM BRAZIL (THE)
Neglected 70's Brit/US production with a top cast in top form (even if it's sometimes a theatrical one) and a great story.

Naughty Dr. Mengele (a superbly raving Gregory Peck) has biologically cloned Hitler and adopted out the Adolf babies to the right kind of, un-expecting, families around the world.
He is now initiating a mass murder spree of the clone's adopted fathers, via is Nazi assassins, to ensure the right social background for the cloned kids (the death of Hitler's father), but an ageing Jewish Nazi hunter (Sir Larry Olivier in hammy accent mode) is on his trail.

A clever script with some great set-piece moments (some of the assassinations, Olivier coldly grilling Lilli Palmer's vicious female concentration camp guard in prison, a tense 'bugging' sequence, Peck going totally ape-shit at a Nazi dance) combine with a sly streak of macabre humour (running through the typically 70's thriller aesthetic) to make something rather special.

Away from Peck and Olivier the other stand-out performance is by the creepy Jeremy Black as the 'Hitler clones' who handles his very complex (multi-national) character brilliantly and really comes into his own during the delightfully bizarre 'n brutal finale.
And this finale is stunningly memorable too as ageing Jew and Nazi brutally battle each other tooth and nail (literally) before a pack of dogs get in on the action with gloriously bloody and violent results.

Fans of British horror/exploitation will savour the (far too brief) appearances by Michael Gough and the ever sexy Linda Hayden and even a young Steve Guttenberg makes a memorable impression during the extended opening.
Excellent, star-studded, 70' co-production thrills made with lots of tasty ham and side serving of bloodied flesh.

BREAKHEART PASS
A fine mystery western that has that welcoming and warm feel like one of those 70's mystery TV series, only with Cowboys 'n' Injuns, a bit more violence (nasty shot in the head, a bit of blood here and there and damn fun falling 'n' smashing dummies) and a big budget.

Mysteries set on trains (always a fave) live and die on their twists, turns, characters and actors.
This has the very welcome Charles Bronson doing his cool thing, and top notch veteran support players like Ben Johnson, Richard Crenna, Ed Lauter and Charles Durning doing what they do best.
The ever present in a 70's/80's Bronson film Jill Ireland is not as wooden here as she can sometimes be either ("Death Wish 2" anyone).
Most characters were colourful and the film has some solid set-pieces and action.

But the plotting is rather ropey.
How on earth was a supposed murder suspect (Bronson's character, obviously not real from the start) allowed total freedom of the train?
He might not have had anywhere to go in the wilderness, but he would still have been locked up on the train!
But then you would have no film...So another way should have been found for his character to get on the train, rather than being a prisoner.
That aside it was overall an enjoyable flick with an unusual mystery/western set-up and a great cast.

BRIDESMAIDS
Very funny for individual sequences, has a great opening sex sequence and a very funny 'penis in the face' discussion that gets the film off to a flying start.

But it gets bogged down in between such scenes and is too long at over 2 hours.
And not enough if the other bridesmaids, away from the lead character.
So its baggy and lop sided, but it has heart and when it's funny it is very funny.

BRIGHTON ROCK -(orig)
Classic British gangster drama.
A very young Richard Attenborough rips through the film as the psychotic, thug 'Pinky' who runs a gang of petty crooks in sea-side town Brighton, after WW2.
'Pinky' is a sadistic schemer, a ruthless maniac, a delusional small timer, and a lonely scared child all wrapped up in a vicious razor blade wielding form.
Nice support from William Hartnell as 'Pinky's' right hand man and an almost unrecognisible Nigel Stock as a wonderfully theatrical looking Spiv.
Carol Marsh as the tragic, innocent fly in 'Pinky's cruel web is also wonderful and Hermione Baddeley is great as the snooping good time girl who's determined to see justice done.

The cinematography (by Harry Waxman, who would go on to do another classic, "The Wicker Man") is also stunning!
Truly brilliant black and white photography takes on an almost German surrealist look at times and the lighting is a thing of sinister beauty.
A great achievement all round.

BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA
Amazingly filthy looking and bleak Sam Pekinpah movie with Warren Oates doing a brilliant job.
The first 30 minutes or so is overly padded and stodgy, but it picks up and becomes a top notch bit of nihilistic 70's cinema.

BROKEN ARROW
Forgot just how crap this Americanised Woo flick was! Avoid.
Stupid, hammy turn by Travolta and weak, weak action (as in all Woo Americana).

BROKEN BLOSSOMS
D.W. Griffith's silent, wonderfully told tale of love and heartache in the the 'New World'.
1900's London:
Lucy Burrows (Lillian Gish) is a beat upon young woman who lives a life of despair at the hands of the brutish, racist, shady, bare knuckle boxer 'Battling Burrows (Donald Crisp...yes, THAT Donald Crisp, the sweet as sweet can be old guy from "The Greyfriar's Bobbie").

Cheng Haun (Richard Barthelmess) is a missionary who comes from China to the New World.
Here he finds squaler, prejudice and violence. But he also finds Lucy. And a dangerous love blossoms between them. But it's a love that grows in the uncompromising and deadly shadow of Burrows....

Although heaped with an almost innocent and blind racism in it's basic conception and source (it's based on a book called "The Chink and the Child" for crying out loud), due to some of the language used to describe Chen ("The yellow Man") and the fact that White actors portray Chinese and Blacks, there is otherwise a deep respect for it's Chinese character in the screenplay and Cheng is (after Lucy) the purest character in the film.
It is for the White characters that Griffith (who would of course be mired in charges of racism for the rest of his life thanks to "Birth of a Nation") takes the time to portray in a negative light. Cheng is a noble man from the East surrounded by the Western barbarians.

As this is Griffth (a true, true, master of the cinematic form) "Broken Blossoms" is of course technically stunning, looks amazing and is kept fast moving with a good and simple tale well told.
But the true honours go to Lillian Gish as the poor girl stuck between a brute and a true love that can't possibly be.
Forget any stalked Slasher victim you have seen, forget Jamie Lee Curtis stuck in a closet in "Halloween" with Myers hunting her....All of it pales into nothingness at the superb, masterly acting by Gish when Lucy locks herself in a closet to escape the savage brute of a man who 'owns' her life and her soul.
Her Character trapped and filled with stark terror as Burrows smashes apart the door to get to her, Gish gives the most disturbing portrait of abject terror you will ever see.
As Lucy sees the fate that must surely be, if help does not come, she literally turns into a tiny trapped animal.
With all reason gone, her body shaking, her hands clasping and unclasping and the madness of terror in her eyes she twirls around and around in the tiny dark space...like a rabbit trapped inside it's pen as the fox rips it's way in.
Once seen never forgotten and in a non-Horror film it is one of the best and most disturbing horror scenes you will ever see.

BROKEN OATH
The glorious Angela Mao blazes a trail of vengeance against the men that killed her parents.
Perhaps the ultimate Angela Mao movie this is packed with wonderful old school fights as Angela (the 2nd best thing in "Enter the Dragon" damn it) expertly uses her fists, feet, poles, swords and handy scorpion filled lace scarf (!) on anyone in her way. To dazzling effect.

The odd acrobatic doubling aside the fighting is all the work of Mao as well whose blistering spin kicks are a sight to behold.
We have a slight bit of under-cranking to speed things up occasionally (though only one bad moment, during the finale swordfight) but basically this is majestic martial arts skill at its old school best.
We also have a bit of 'Fire Breathing Fu', which is a total riot, and wacky Chinese healing tricks that are totally la la land but fun.

But there is more!
Not only is Mao herself in top flight fight form but she is joined by a wealth of martial arts film greats, all working under the action choreography guidance of the legendary Juen Woo-ping.

The Demi-God that is Sammo Hung makes an appearance, sporting funny big black beard and wielding a great 'double fan of knives on a chain' weapon.
The much missed Lam Ching-ying ("Magic Cop", "Mr Vampire") has great fun as nasty Kung-Fu assassin who looks like Rob Zombie's lost Chinese uncle.
'Bruce' Leung ("The Dragon Lives Again") has a reunion with Sammo and Angela following their stunning "Hapkido", and has a great one-on one battle with Lam Ching-ying.
Billy Chan (Award winning action choreographer on Sammo's classic "The Prodical Son") pops up.
And both Corey Yuen (later director of "Ninja in a Dragon's Den"/"The Transporter") and the superb Yuen Biao ("Project A", "Above the Law") make early appearances...Biao more than likely doing much of the stunt and acrobatics work.
Even Dean Shek (who almost ruined "A Better Tomorrow 2" with his overacting, but does better here) pops up as a brothel janitor.

Some overly complicated plot twists (most definitely not helped by some badly translated English subtitles) and a couple of pointless comedy scenes early on are the only bad things here, as Mao cuts a gorgeously ruthless swathe though this classic bit of Old School 70's mayhem from 'Golden Harvest'.

BROOKLYN RULES
One of the many "Sopranos" writers penned this raher enjoyable little Mob drama starring Alec Baldwin, Scott Caan and a surprisingly good Freddie Prinze jr.

Nothing remotely new here, full of cliche and sign posted events but it's well made, well acted has some engaging characters (blimey, Scott Caan in 'Mob mode' standing there in a white vest is the absolute spit of his dad), a good soundtrack and is overall a solid piece of work for those into Jersey/NY Mob dramas (and what fucking douche isn't!?).

BRONSON
A demented surrealist pantomime salted with brutal violence, tragedy, madness and the foulest and funniest of language.
All of which is used to tell the fascinating tale of a small time thug who got a 7 year sentence for armed robbery but ended up spending 34 (and counting) years in prison...30 in solitary(!!)...for his constant assaults and kidnappings on Prison Service staff.
34 years where he gave birth to his alta-ego 'Charles Bronson' and became the most violent, costly, dangerous and ultimately famous prisoner in British penal history. And an accomplished artist and writer to boot.

As the mad, smart, sad, whimsical, tragic, charismatic, farcical and super scary Human art installation Bronson, Tom Hardy is simply outstanding.
Channeling the utterly unique personage and unforgettable physicality that is the real 'Charles Bronson' (whatever indeed THAT means!) Hardy still manages to deliver a tour de force of serious acting that kills stone dead any criticism he's just doing an impersonation.
And physically it's a truly unforgettable performance as well.
The hard as nails Bronson physique, mad moustache, wonderful vocal weirdness, the facial gymnastics and almost primordial brutality and razor sharp wit and artistic vitality of the man are all present and correct.
As is a gloriously unfettered attitude to full male nudity, the two sequences of which are truly brilliant and memorable, as Hardy even puts Harvey Keitel to shame in the swinging artistic penis stakes.

The movie is part bio, part art show, part acid trip, part parody and part shockingly realistic drama.
With faux stage act scenes, camera tricks, delightfully eclectic soundtrack, hyperrealism, surrealist fantasy, intentional camp and astute psychological study give us a very personal, utterly abstract, painfully grim and wildly entertaining portrait of a man who has become a bizarre British icon.

But the film never glamourises or makes excuses for a man of extreme, unpredictable (though never actually lethal) violence, demented thoughts, inexcusable actions and sociopathic danger.
Yet it also shows the unique mind at work, the raw artistic skill, the sharp brain, the social awareness and fascinating personality of a man who literally re-invented himself through art and writing.

It has still been accused of lauding the man and glamorising the violence in him.
But it is telling that the film does not end on the 'mime' make-up covered, wildly grinning Bronson commanding his fantasy audience on the psychological stage of fame and infamy he loves so much...But instead ends on the shocking image of a blood covered, wild eyed, lacerated Bronson painfully trying to stand up in a metal cage not much bigger than himself.
And aurally , it does not end on the sound of celebrity Bronson laughing on stage...but end on the very real, physical plain bound Bronson screaming, rasping and moaning as he tries to push aside the cage walls that hem him in as he stands clothed in nothing but his own blood.

He would never have been the man, yes even the infamous celebrity and lauded artiste, he is without that 35 odd years of extreme incarceration...and yet would any of us really want to pay such a gigantic price?
Stunning!

BUBBA HO-TEP
An absolute delight!
Unique, brave, moving, funny and just plain great Indy film making. Worthy of all the hype and more.
Bruce Campbell was an absolute joy.

BULLETPROOF MONK
Chow Yun Fat is a joy to watch and to generally spend time with and the film is fun enough.
But it's basically just fluff with far too many non-Martial Artists doing fights with the (often silly looking) aid of CGI, wires and stupid speeded up footage.
Better than I feared it would be thanks to Chow Yun Fat and the enjoyable first half, but Chow should have been appearing in films far more substantial than this at this point in his American career.

BURBS (THE)
One of those original box office disappointments that went on to become a well loved film when it hit VHS and TV.
And it still holds up. The humour is just as good, funny and well done and there is actually nothing in the film that really dates it. Change the household technology a bit and it could be set now.

The controversial ending still works, even if it becomes a lighter film because of it.
But then again it is a Tom Hanks comedy so perhaps darkness was never really a comfortable option.
And at least the possibly darker ending is delivered and used as far as Hank's character goes and the speech he makes.

Anyway, it's funny and well acted with Hanks and Bruce Dern (in a truly wonderful role) in really fine form but the basically forgotten Rick Ducommun certainly more than holds his own as Hank's barely sane friend.
And Corey Feldman is certainly having as much fun as the audience.
Courtney Gains is, as always, a ginger nutter beyond compare and of course Henry Gibson is always worth a watch!
Good times.

BURN
A strange beast indeed. Most prints are highly edited and that means much of the narrative is very choppy and confusing with obvious events entirely removed.
And yet at it's full length i fear it would be a rather trying slog.
Mayhap a film that simply can't win.

Brando is...well...weird in mnay ways due to the fact his dialogue was obviously re-dubbed after due to the mass of different languages being spoken on set and due to the fact his plumby English accent is rather hit and miss.
But he still manages to carry that quality of sheer presence on screen and his Empire scheming character is pretty engaging as he manipulates the sugar field slaves into revolution on a Caribbean island.

Some of the spectacle is impressive during the battle scenes as an army of Black slaves take on the might of Portugal and then Britain (though the print leaves a lot to be desired) and the documentray style shooting of these scenes (and the various scenes of executions, dancing and general upheaval) gives the film a powerful punch of realism...at times it looks like some Jacopetti/Prosperi Mondo flick!

If more careful editing of the (probably overlong and overblown) original version had occured "Burn" would have been a bigger hit then and have a more deserving profile than it has (there is truly much to admire and enjoy here) and if a nice widescreen/truly remastered print came out of it on DVD, "Burn" would also have a bigger following of new fans.
Alex Cox's equally as eccentric (though rather more surreal and bizarre) "Walker" played a lot of fictional games with the same real life character Brando plays in "Burn" (Sir William Walker) and that's also suffered an undeserving fate as far as cinema and DVD distribution goes...but that is also well worth checking out.

CABARET
Aside from "The Blues Brothers", "Cannibal the Musical" and "Bugsy Malone", I'm not a fan of musicals, but the setting, the story and the fact the music was realistically set only in the club really helped me enjoy this.
And Liza Minelli was superb. Not only when performing but also her acting as a whole.
And the slowly growing threat of the Nazi Party as it came to power added a genuine sense of melancholy and menace.
Good stuff, with a nice sense of decadence to the proceedings.

CABIN FEVER 2
Not bad. Starts off slow but engaging. But then loses it's way during the Prom, until things pick up again.
Some nicely gross moments involving various body fluids, lost of blood but only some (though strong) gore.

Some of the FX are dubious (awful latex finger and chest piece) while some are very good (head smashing and drippy cock), but the end is weak and anti-climactic with a tagged on piece that's too long, though leads to an okay pay-off during the animated credits.
Nothing special, weak ending, but has enough gross moments and interesting characters (who are not as obnoxious as those in the first film) to make a good rental

CAHILL U.S. MARSHAL
Average John Wayne fare that bogs down in a slushy swamp of family drama, but it has some fine moments.
Great, sinister panto villian, turn by George Kennedy, solid support by the ever welcome Neville Brand and some (as always) well staged action along with some ultra-cool Duke moments of gun blasting sardonic humour.

CAMP BLOOD
Oh dear.
Something went wrong with the mix Grandma, this ain't chocolate...it's shit.

Barely watchable amateur Slasher fare with a crap killer and lots of tedium.
Has a couple of okay deaths, but mainly it's just good old Tom Savini's 'machete with a half moon cut out of it' type FX as annoying people get hacked in the arm or head.
Acting varies from bad to okay, with top marks going to a spot on 'loony old fart who forewarns doom' performance from a guy who seems to have trouble standing up straight.

The film's real failing though is the Christ awful picture quality.
The video camera images are generally crisp and clear but the colour is shot to hell!
Red blood becomes either dull orange or a dirty gold colour resulting in seriously compromised FX and murders.
Skin-tones vary from green to yellow to yellowy-green and the rest of the colour spectrum seems to be missing.

So a weak home made Slasher flick (with a naff ending) slips even further down into the toilet and becomes almost unwatchable thanks to the dire colour quality.

CAMP BLOOD 2
A large improvement over the first film. Who would have thought?

Not only does the picture quality look much better, especially the colours (Yay! no more yellow people and orange/gold blood) but this time it seems the makers have also added some okay intentional humour (the scuzzy film guys are fun), more action, more nudity (a very nice pair of breasts during the opening of the first film I have to say...but a full frontal shower scene here tops it) and much better and more satisfying deaths and FX.

Though the film still stinks as far as plot and dialogue goes (though the lead actress is doing better here than in the first film, despite still looking shockingly ungainly when running) and you have to wonder how a suspected, judged
insane, multiple murderess is allowed out alone, back to the place she supposedly killed, to help make a movie!
But the fact the film shoehorns in lots of verbal plot explanation and footage from the first film at least means you don't actually need to own the crappy first film to watch this. Hooray!

Whereas the deaths in "Camp Blood 1" were nothing but a bit of blood and a machete with a half moon cut out of the blade that was placed over arms and heads, in the sequel we actually have proper FX set-ups.
The deaths are all more violent and gory and even rather nasty.
Sure the effects work is primitive, but it still works, still delivers and it's nice to see some good, on-set, CGI free, old school FX anyway.
Highlights are a messy machete through the mouth/back of the head, a pulpy burnt face, a nasty eye gouging, a hacked off hand with spurting stump, a machete through the chest and much general blood spraying.

It's cheap, it's got some bad lines for even worse actors to say, it has a major plot holes, looks cheap (though better) and has many moments of badness that should never have seen the light of day.
And yet i still quite enjoyed it! Unlike the first film.

The sometimes nasty deaths, large body count (also helped by the kills from the first film appearing again), the fun gore FX and an incident packed screenplay were all the positives that the first film never had, and here they help to counteract the many negatives.
Shucks! Give it at least one go, just avoid the first one.

CAPTAIN AMERICA
A rather slow build (far too much time taken to hammer home the fact Steve is a physical wimp but has a mighty heart) leads to some superbly designed, exceptionally well made, big budget action and Superhero hijinks.
A solid cast does well, the baddies look great (Nazi-chic is always an aesthetic winner whether people like to admit it or not!) and there's a good mix of drama and humour.

It sits in the new, unfolding, 'Marvel' movie universe nicely and gets you eager for the (tightrope of a movie for Joss Whedon to walk) upcoming "Avengers".

But it's also a bit dull at times. The slow build, the 40's period ambiance, the polite acting and typical Joe Johnson lack of directing flair make this the least overall dynamic of the 'Avengers' films so far.
Still good though, with some great moments and excellent FX and overall look.

CAPT. HORATIO HORNBLOWER R.N.
Damn fine seafaring funstuffs!
Sure we have American involvement (Gregory Peck does a great job though, English or not) but at it's heart this is solid British fare with some great model work for the battles, a fast moving and engaging plot and a fine cast.

CARAVAGIO
The late Derek Jarman's typically abstract, self-indulgent, flawed and sexually cheeky (although not exclusively Homosexual as with most of his films) look at the infamous painter's life.

This holds up well for the first 40 minutes or so with some nice performances (a very young and muscled Dexter Fletcher steals the show as the underused young version of Carravgio), some wonderful and lyrical dialogue, a lightly erotic touch to the goings on and some excellent visuals as his famous tableaux are brought to life.
But then it all rather falls apart in a pretentious mass of far too abstract philosophy (or I could be a dumb fuck, watch it and see for yourself), messy plotting, big timeline jumps and needless trips into the bizarre (with the 1600's now containing typewriters, electronic calculators and the like).

But it's okay, the first half is worthy, it's at least a more accessible title to choose from Jarman's work (that's not saying much though) and it is fun to see a young, blonde, posing in loin cloth, Sean Bean as the object of desire and architect of trouble.
Too self-indulgent, messy and lethargic overall though.
It's also perhaps a bit too sexually coy at times as well. No "Sebastian" bouncing erections to be seen here.

CASH ON DEMAND
A generally forgotten, outside of 'Hammer' devotes, thriller/drama from Britain's highest profile horror studio that sees Peter Cushing's cold, dour, stuffy and bitter Bank Manager having a very bad day indeed when a sly and icy cool Andre Morel arrives at his bank one morning and announces he's going to rob the place...with Cushing's help.

A slight tale this may be, but the (mostly set in two rooms) tight script, top class acting by Morel and Cushing (Morel especially has great fun), some genuinely tense set-pieces and a couple of mostly very effective twists ensure this fast paced little film (about 70 minutes) always entertains
And if the ending is rather twee thanks to another late twist you have to remember that the film is set just before Christmas and you don't always need 'spirits' to make people see the error of their ways.
Dickens' would have approved.

CHARLEY VARRICK
A nice turn by Wlater Matthau, yet another solid slime bag turn by Andy Robinson and a fine 'bad ass' turn by that 70's staple Joe Don Baker!
Great 70's style violence and a very un-PC attitude to women as well, who are either whores, slapped around types who know it's best to give a man some loving to avoid another slap, or just 'free spirits' who take a shine to any rough 'n' tough guy they've just met and jump into bed with them!
The 70's...Fucking movie heaven!

CHRISTINE
Carpenter's last film without deadly flaws.
Great set-pieces, great soundtrack, all round solid support characters and choice dialogue. And that car is to die for indeed!

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD
Lucio Fulci in his directing prime.
Wonderful set design, wonderful cinematography, great gore, great score, likeable characters, nasty as hell zombies (who can just appear right behind you and scrunch your brains out) great underground fiery finale...but a crapped up ending, that's made worse as the rest of the film is just fine.
Fulci has gathered together a top 'B' cast that has that essential English/American/Italian mixture of Thesps, including the greatest of all Italian sleaze actors John 'Mr Radice' Morghen, the oh so fair English totty that is Catriona MacColl and looking for work ex Hollywood star Christopher 'I've worked with John Wayne' George.
We have a superb opening, with a wonderful graveyard crawl and Fabio Fizzi's excellent music, a groovy (damn near iconic) head drill murder, actors spitting out maggots, a gross-out (definatly iconic) intestine spewing death, nasty brain mulching, a shock death of a main character, that outrageous buried alive rescue sequence, a drifing fog enshrouded town, crazy ass teleporting zombies and a blow up doll!
What more do you want!? Okay, not a crud ending...but aside from that....what more do you want!?

CLUB DREAD
Heard good things on a podcast. Picked it up cheap.
I hate 'Bro' comedy (fuck 'em, wheres Jason and his machete when you need him!?) but this, after the weak 'obnoxious Bro/broad characters' opening, was GREAT FUN!

A very nice homage/parody to classic era Slasher flicks, with some very nice ladies, some pretty likeable characters (amazingly) and lots of very funny spoof humour.
Worked as a comedy. worked as a Slasher, amazingly entertaining...and the last few minutes were utter GENIUS! Especially that last shot!
Essential viewing.

COCOANUTS (THE)
Sure you have to take context and time in to view...But that does not mean it gives a film a get out of jail free card and "Cocoanuts" sadly spends much of its running time behind bars.

The stage origins are obvious and stodgy.
Groucho (amazingly) seems very hesitant at times and seems to be fighting not to trip up over his own words in his first scene.
The musical numbers are achingly terrible.
The stolen necklace/real estate subplots (and awful actors in them) drag the film to a halt.
Not all of the word play/gags are actually that good (especially compared to the genius that would follow).
And only when Chico and Harpo appear 20 minutes in does the film gain any kind of energy. And at last Groucho seems more at ease as well.

Yes I know how old it is, yes I know that this was their first feature length film and they had a lot to learn, yes the bad DVD print does not help, yes we know what was entertaining then (as in Christ awful musical hall songs and dances) and understand why it's all in the film...
But none of that changes the facts that, a few pretty good Marx Brothers moments aside (the "Vhy a duck" and the 'Auction' skits are great), "Cocoanuts" is quite simply not very good and dated in all the wrong ways.
It was thankfully up from here....

COLD PREY
Snowy Slasher shenanigans from Norway that sees a bunch of snowboarding tourists being stalked by a nutter with a pickaxe inside an abandoned hotel.

A slow build-up for sure, but we at least have some time to deliver some fleshed out characters that we can care about and the film is expertly handlds as far as suspense goes.
Could have been a bit more gruesome, but the violence is there and we have a bit of bloodshed to entertain. Could have gone further though.

The killer is your silent hulk type, but he's creepy enough and has a good (if simple) backstory that gets more interesting in the sequel.

One plot mess-up though...They are in a hotel abandoned since the 70's and they still think they are alone. But they fail to have any acknowledgment at all of a LIT LAMP on a table in a secret room they're checking out!
That aside though..."Cold Prey" is solid, well made, well acted and with some effective shocks and scares.

COLD PREY 2: RESURRECTION
Following on directly from the end of the first film and set in a hospital, this sequel to "Cold Prey" has strong similarities to "Halloween 2".

But the very noticeable differences in the way "Halloween" and "Halloween 2" were made never really made it feel like one long film.
The very similar feel and style though (despite a different director this time) to "Cold Prey" and "Cold Prey 2" truly make this feel like one epic Slasher movie...and both movies benefit from this strong narrative and stylistic link.

The gore and violence are upped a bit here and the film plays a bit more slam bang than the first movie, but it still has a deliberate build-up to the killing just like its predecessor.
But again this gives us some pretty well rounded characters to care about and gives us time to learn a bit more about the killer.
The film also has some unusual twists and turns during the last third that keep you on your toes as you never truly know how things are going to play out.

Thankfully though the ending is satisfying and (one moment of very bad, especially considering who it involves, 'why does she not finish him off' scripting) "Cold Prey 2" is s fine sequel that makes the two films feel like one epic film...and that makes for a very entertaining bit of modern Slasher funstuffs.

CON-AIR
Of course it's far fetched to comic strip proportions and it's outrageously cheesy (perhaps a bit too much at times) but it is also packed with incident, action, spectacle and great characters and it just plain delivers!

Every actor here is perfectly cast and all do great jobs, from the leads to the support cast, and they are helped (especially the bad guys, John Malkovich's character in particular) by some wonderously fun dialogue.
Malkovich is a total joy as the deranged but slyly sophisticated 'Sirus the Virus' and John Cusack is likeable and fun as well as the good guy support to the real star of the show... Nic Cage.
Nic Cage and his...his...just...gigantic pantomime of a performance (which often comes close to sinking the entire enterprise as often as it keeps the entire enterprise afloat) as he delivers some unbelievable dialogue in a high camp Southern drawl, with long hair flowing in slow motion more often than not, that (just) fits perfectly into the movie in general and with his astutely cliche 'tarnished hero' character.

The Vegas finale is insane and that we go along with the coda visual to the end chase scene (he was just at the right gutter, at just the right time? Course he was!!) speaks volumes at how well crafted this cinematic popcorn is.
And hell, you even get a little lump in the throat as the credits roll, thanks to that damn effective song we love so much even though we know we shouldn't, as Cage and his cute-ass family is reunited.
A huge slab of cheese...but what a tasty slab it is.

CORRUPTOR (THE)
Some top notch, brutal action a great car chase/shoot-out and of course the oh so wonderful Chow Yun Fat.
better than I remembered it from my first viewing years ago, but it's perhaps too long and starts to flag by the 70 minute mark.
Still a good solid bit of action/drama on a nice R2 DVD.

COTTAGE TO LET
Superb British wartime spy drama with an utterly wonderful cast including the much missed Sir John Mills as a mysterious pilot, the wonderful Alastair Sim as a mysterious house guest, an astonishingly young George Cole (in his debut) as a cocksure refugee boy with a love of Sherlock Holmes, a young Michael Wilding as a geeky assistant and Leslie Banks as an eccentric scientist working on a new bomb sight in a house PACKED with British and Nazi spies.

Cole is a joy and shows right from his first scene just what an astonishingly assured talent he is. He's the cliche Cockney scamp playing the thing for lighthearted fun for the most part, but has a brilliantly dark scene later on as he experiences his first taste of betrayal.
Sim is of course excellent switching from amusingly eccentric to darkly sinister with ease.
It was here he met the young Cole who he would basically adopt and nurture for years hitting the perfect acting partnership a few years later in "The Belles of St Trinians".
Ironically Leslie Banks would go from being surrounded by Nazi spies to being a Nazi spy years later in the truly superb Ealing (pre-"The Eagle has Landed) German invasion of an English village movie "Went the Day Well?".
Some great twists and revelations unfold as this wonderful mix of light humour, stiff upper lip resilience and exciting wartime thrills plays out and all in all this is essential viewing.

What adds an extra edge to this film now is that it was made in 1941 when the outcome of the war was uncertain and Germany could very well have triumphed...Meaning we can say for certain that "Cottage to Let" would have never been seen ever again if the same bravery, good fortune and fighting spirit acted out in the film had not triumphed in real life.

COWBOYS (THE)
An excellent ride on the range with The Duke!
A film that manages the hard feat of being both sentimental and funny as well as harsh and gritty.
Another underrated latter day Wayne film.

CRANK
Violent, twisted, exciting, funny, comic strip, un-pc funstuffs, with the ever welcome Jason Statham in top form backed by a lovely and astute turn by Amy Smart who knows how things are going down and plays what could have been the one weak link in the film to perfection.
Mad, bad and surely one of a kind?.....

CRANK 2: High Voltage
Holy Hell!
"Crank" was so far off the map and damn bonkers that surely the human mind could not take a parody of it?
By definition something that would have to be an even more absurdist take on what was the most enjoyably absurd action flick ever.
Well...they did it anyway!

Absolutely psychotic and surrealist to the max, wickedly offensive as possibly to absolutely everyone it should be offensive to, just as violent and( astonishingly) sexually even more crazy than the first film.
How anyone let these guys go mad in a sandpit with millions of dollars is anyone's guess.

Mind shredding things happen just because it's fun for them to do so with no real world logic (or even plot progression), characters have completely way out and wild physical and mental afflictions just so a couple of groovy joke scenes can be harvested from them (and why not!), absolutely everyone is fantastically racist, sexist and generally vile to everyone else in a very loud way, grotesque physical trauma, death and mutilation is dished out with relish, and just as we think our brain can't surely take any more of this screaming insanity.....Gigantic human Godzilla's are suddenly thrown into the mix along with a completely bonkers return of a character form the first film done in such a way that the entire shrieking mass of the movie is catapulted into a whole other dimension of freakiness.

And quite frankly we should all wallow in this gloriously putrid pit of anti-movie insanity, as the makers won't get away with creating such a monster again!

CRIMSON PIRATE (THE)
A delightful, rousing blast from my childhood past.
Bright, gaudy, visually epic, superbly made and enthusiasticly acted by all concerned it still remains a fun watch all these years later.
And Burt Lancaster in his athletic, acrobatic, teeth flashing prime is a pleasure to experience for any film fan. What a guy!

CONDEMNED (THE)
Steve Austin, Vinnie Jones and 8 other death row hard cases go through an internet streamed, fight to the death, reality show that takes in "Battle Royale", "The Most Dangerous Game" and (the awful) "The Running Man".

What's unusual here though (and it manages to pull this potentially tricky problem off) is that this is set in modern times and is an illegal event.
It's not a futuristic, legal, past-time as is normally the case for such plots. Thus an extra level is added to the narrative.

It packs a brutal wallop at times, Vinne Jones is insanely entertaining (and I do mean fucking insane!), Steve Austin is kick-ass and likeable as always, the rest of the cast are solid, it looks good and has some exciting and satisfyingly nasty moments.
But it's also too preachy (and perhaps hypocritical), thinks itself far more serious and worthy than it is and relies on rather too much unlikely event scripting and cliche during the finale.

So it could have been much better, should have been much better, but is still good enough (and looks/sounds nice enough on blu-ray) to make for a satisfying wallow in high tech destruction.

CROSS OF IRON
Good stuff from Sam Pekinpah with a great turn by Coburn and a brilliantly effective attention to realism and detail in the hardware, weapons and uniforms.
But I have two moans.
One is the inconsistent style in the approach to violence. Some slow motion carnage is bullet-hole ridden and bloody, while other similar sequences are not only totally bloodless but don't even show bullet holes in clothes.
The other is the end. It's rather unsatisfying from a narrative point of view it has to be said. Luckily the in your face, real life photos of global conflict between the titles save the day somewhat.

CROSSROADS
A tale of the Blues and the Delta using the famous old legend that Bluesman Robert Johnson sold his soul to The Devil at a crossroads to become King of the Blues.
A nice slide guitar score by the always welcome (where is he now?) Ry Cooder, some great location shooting in the Deep South and overall a good, solid, if slightly overlong, bit of 80's entertainment from Walter Hill.
Nice turn by Joe Seneca (nasty Government guy in "The Blob") as the old Blues man, Blind Willy.
Steve Vai is The Devil's guitar gladiator of choice for the wonderful 'guitar duel' finale.
Smug Ralph Macchio? Currently residing in the 'where are they now' file.

One for Blues fans...and if you ain't no Blues fan? Kiss my pick!

CRUISING
Hmmm.....
Given the level of homophobia at the time you can see why this caused trouble.
But it never stated it was a representation of the entire Gay scene (no more than wife swapping and 'dogging' is of the Hetro scene!) and today the wildly over the top protests seem like the same kind of thin-skinned hot air that (ironically) would come from Bible thumping homophobes for the film covering anything Gay in the first place.

As for the film itself it's sadly hard to fully judge given the amount of footage excised that has not been restored.
Certainly the first hour is damn good, with some great scenes of 70's sexual decadence, a nasty murder, Al Pacino in fine form and some great songs.
The new transfer looks absolutely stunning and Friedkin's criticised tinkering (blue tinting the night-club scenes, adding a 'smeared juddering' effect to the Amyl Nitrate dance scene) are actually very effective and the sudden, brief, lurch from blue-tint into bright colour, as Pacino sniffs the drug, is a superb enhancement.
But an hour in the film leaves much of the nighcrawling and S/M club hopping behind and turns into a mainly daylight set Police procedure film with some obvious chunks of character/plot footage missing.
The film now drags a lot sadly and loses it's groove and exploitation edge and the rumoured censored sexual images in the S/M clubs would be most welcome during this period.

The generally confused, utterly incomprehensible as far as the identity (or not) of the killer (or killers) and who was killed by whom, ending sort of works on a 'crime is random and ever present' level that Friedkin said he was going for...but this is in the end a movie and the utter lack of any real conclusion to anything is a bit of a con.
The final image is a good one though and is edited perfectly into the driving end credits.

Certainly a film with some great moments, certainly a film that is not what too many people think it is, certainly NOT a homophobic film and certainly a well acted and crafted film.
But also a film with some major flaws in pacing and lack of grit later on and with a perhaps too oblique a conclusion to truly be the mini-classic it could have been.
Perhaps if a restored print does appear this ultimate conclusion could be reversed though.

CRY OF THE BANSHEE
Another Gordon Hessler helmed, AIP funded, Vincent Price starring, British horror film that shares much of the same cast as "The Oblong Box".

Here though Price at least has a lot of stuff to do and chews the hell out of the (obvious) sets as a cruel landowner/judge/witchfinder who rules over his twisted brood and the villagers from his castle domain.
Him and his Sons play cruel games with the villagers, accuse them of being witches and torture/executes them whenever they see fit.

But when they slaughter a bunch of Satanists/Pagans (more later) their head 'Oona', an old woman sporting 'Max Factor' make-up, uses a local mystery man (nice turn by Patrick "The Devil Rides Out" Mower) to take her revenge on Price on his clan by making him turn into a bloodthirsty beast...

Hmm...Gordon Hessler is an outstandingly bland and dull director and again he seems to have a half finished script here that seems to go on forever as it repeats itself and runs around in circles (Price had Oona but let her go and then spends the rest of the film trying to get her again!) and the film is obviously trying to ride on the coattails of the magnificent "Witchfinder General" but Hessler lacks the energy to drive such an endeavour and the film as a whole lacks "Witchfinders" searing intensity and authentic location aesthetic. And Price is fun...but he's too hammy to pull another Matthew Hopkins marvel.

The screenplay is also all over the place as far as the 'Pagans' go.
There is much talk of 'the old religion' and they do the old druid boogie around sacrificial stones (in far too white and crisp robes, which exemplifies the theatricality of the costumes in general). But when Oona calls up her curse she calls upon Satan!
Now I'm sorry, but Satan is very much an invention of Christianity and is a huge part of that (here, 'new') religion. It's nothing to do with Paganism or any kind of 'old religion' we keep hearing mentioned!

The film does pack in quite a lot of exploitation though with lots of bared breasts, the odd bit of torture, the occasional violent death and general body-count mayhem. Which is groovy.
The support cast is also good and better used here than in "The Oblong Box", with Hillary Dwyer doing her best screaming since the finale of "Witchfinder General", Sally Geeson doing good (if very brief) work as a doomed peasant girl and the ever welcome Hugh Griffth has fun as a rascally grave robber and as mentioned Mower is good as the reluctant furry weapon of Pagan choice.
Price makes a great bad guy as well (if not a subtle one) and overall the film delivers some good stuff but wrapped in a very bland and very lethargic package sadly.
Nice (if abrupt) ending too that has that welcome 70's streak of doom and gloom.

CRYING TREE (THE)
Cheapy cheap cheap SOV Thai Slasher flick that entertains despite itself.
The way people act and react, and the frequent fade to black explicitly defined scene endings, make it feel like a TV soap. The high end video look does not help matters either in this respect.

Also the script is full of logic holes (despite guests being butchered at this resort almost every night nothing is really done about it by the Police or owners, who would ever accept a lift from a driver wearing a hood and balaclava!) and repeats itself to a near farcical level (some random guy pops up, really sleazes it up with the, VERY cute, lead female character and promptly ends up stabbed and slashed with their heart cut out...repeat about 5 times with almost no change) and you have to wonder if going to a Thai resort is a good idea as the staff seems to be made up of very angry young men who pull knives on people at the slightest whim!

The gore is mostly aftermath wounds, bloody blades and much blood spurting from mouths and dodgy looking rubber hearts.
But there's an energy to it, the kills are just bloody and violent enough, the lead actress is absolutely gorgeous, the barmy plotting and characters entertain with much unintentional humour and there is a pretty good little twist at the end.
Barely average fare in general, cheap, silly, but surprisingly still quite good fun.

CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF
Wow! Two whole werewolf sequences in the entire film and one of them was at the end.
Very overrated 'Hammer' effort.
We do have a great looking werewolf and a few some good scenes but it takes far too long getting anywhere.

DAMNED (THE)
Visconte's lush expose of a German industrial Family as the Nazis come to power.

Wonderful sets and costumes and great cinematograohy enhance a rather overly melodramatic soap opera plot about the world's most disfunctional, warped, twisted and self-destructive family tearing each other to pieces against the backdrop of Hitler's power play, the slaughter of the SA during the 'Night of the Long Knives' and the push to war.

A top cast includes the debut of Euro fave Helmut Berger who steals the show as the paedarist, mother loving dandy who goes from a twisted, frightened, pitiful man-child to ruthless Nazi powermonger.
Berger looks absolutely fantastic and dangerously erotic in his Nazi uniform and the film is chock full of striking images of bloodshed, shadowed perversion and fascist decadence.
Indeed anyone with a fetish for Nazi uniforms (say what you want about their beliefs, but they sure knew how to dress!) will cream at the hordes of black and silver decorated SS men adorning the screen, and those that appreciate stunningly well made, expertly acted, 70's, Euro arthouse cinema will find much to enjoy and appreciate here.

DANCE OF THE DEAD
One of the oh so many, many, many, oh so bleedin' many Zombie flicks released recently but one that still manages to stand-out from the pack thanks to some fine set-pieces, entertaining characters, some clever FX and fast pace.

The SODV picture (mostly at night) sometimes makes it look cheaper than perhaps it is and at times it treads a fine line between good-hearted goofiness and just plain silliness, but there is enough fun gore, good acting, well rounded characters, memorable ideas here (and a script that keeps you on your toes as far as who will live or die) to make "Dance" a worthy addition to any Zombie fans collection.

Features one of the most unusual, but strikingly effective and just plain bizarre, 'dead rising from their graves' sequences ever. Watch those rotters leap!

DANTE 01
It's French. It's Sci-Fi, it's a French Sci-Fi film...and that's just not a good thing for all the obvious cliche's that are actually true.
Barely coherent nonsense that shoe-horns Hell, God, Jesus, Biblical terminology and religious iconography into a basic 'prison in space' set-up.

Mysterious experiments carried out on the inmates are given much flashy visual time...and are then completely ignored as we never learn what they are for, what they do, or what happens after.
Oh well.
'Weird new arrival guy with alien stuff in him who eats all our octopus monsters' turns into Jesus Christ and puts out the universe's biggest fire, people get bashed and stabbed and nothing makes any real sense and makes no sense by using wildly over the top CGI visual effects that seem like the makers were all tripping at the time.

Looks good, has a couple of nice violence moments...nothing else worthwhile at all and at the end of the day it's a right load of up its own arse French poncy nonsense! Yes!
Avoid.

DARFUR
Forget the (mostly true) assumptions of how bad Uwe Boll is.
Forget the stupidly crass remarks on here and other places.

The fact is if an American or British film maker/company had the balls to make this film then smug remarks about this film and STV fate would more than likely never occur.
Because, despite his many faults, Boll is passionate and uncompromising on certain events...certain rights and wrongs. And so is this film.

The day Hollywood makes a movie about the mass rape/torture and mutilation of women in Iraq, or the genocide against the one of the World's oldest (there long before Islam) Christian sect in Iraq, or the mass murder of Homosexuals in Iraq... instead of hypocritical, enemy PR, foot in mouth garbage like "Redacted" or "Green Zone" that only target ourselves, then it's left to Uwe Boll to tell the other side, the hard facts, about things that weak, treasonous, appeasing, cowardly Hollywood film makers won't touch.
Hopefully Boll will make that film about Iraq, or Afghanistan. Until then he's at least covered Darfur/The Sudan.

So Boll's at least had the guts to stand up to PC apologists and cowards and show the factually accurate atrocities of Arab (yeah, ARAB, not eeeevil White Americans/Westerners) militia in the sudan against Black Africans.

If this was an army of White Westerners butchering children & babies, mass raping women (to literally change the genetic pool) and murdering civilian men and burning down whole villages because they were Black, there'd be liberal uproar. There'd be Hollywood/Western films of major budgets being made and shown to all.
But it's not.
It's "Allahu Akbar" shouting Arabs. And Boll explicitly shows that. He shows that in hideously graphic detail.

Arab-Islamic slavery of Black Africans is still a massive/current business, mass rape to ethnically replace a populace is ongoing, forced conversion of Africa/Black Africans to a FOREIGN Arab culture and religion continues right now.
This has all been ignored for centuries or brushed aside today to bleat on about Western slavery long since dead (and who did The West buy Black slaves from again? Oh yes...Muslim/Arab slave traders), or White colonialism also long since dead is the chosen big evil.

That Islamic/Arab colonisation of Africa by death, force and rape has been ignored historically is bad enough. But that we still ignore it today? An atrocity of its own.

More powerful than the Islamic aspect though is that Boll shows the racial aspect in a way Hollywood would never dare.
Because even Black Africans who have converted to Islam are butchered by the Arab armies. Because being Islamic is not good enough...they're still Black you know!

Boll explicitly highlights this in an excellent and cold-blooded scene of execution where even the most devout Muslim is shot because he's still Black, not Arab.
Yes. Hard fact time. This is murderous racism. This is people being killed because they are Black.
But there's no KKK, no George Bush, no Tony Blair, no redneck yahoos. This isn't White Westerners killing Blacks/Africans so there are no films coming from 'liberal' Hollywood. So we have a Uwe Boll film.

So yes, Boll shakes the camera too much, he pads things out too much with driving/walking scenes and he's not remotely subtle.
But he still makes "Darfur" into a solid film, a well acted film and a film that kicks you in the guts and opens your eyes (yeah, even the eyes of those who don't like to admit the truth) and until anyone else has the balls to do it....Then I for one am happy Uwe Boll has.
SOMEONE HAS TO.

DARK ANGEL
Great fun as Dolph Lundgren tracks down an alien drug dealer.
Chock full of 80's action, violence and with enjoyable sci-fi decorations added to the cop/gangster plot.
Some great one liners as well with Dolph's final line to the alien STILL holding up as a classic comeback!

DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW
Although coming during the 80's, not the true golden age of such things in the 70's, this U.S television horror movie became an instant hit at the time and more importantly became a truly beloved cult item and nostalgic memory for decades after.
It played again in the 80's and then became a staple of Halloween TV scheduling in the 90's (in the UK it was a TV fave in the 80's too) but, soon to become collector's items VHS rental releases aside, the film then faded away.

Thankfully the internet kept the memory of the movie alive and nostalgia for the (now a lost art) terrestrial station TV horror film continued to grow. Until eventually these green shoots became a fully grown, special edition, DVD and then later blu-ray release and once again the Scarecrow lived.

And it still holds up today, still entertains and excites today. And that is testament enough to how well crafted (by writer J.D. Feigelson, director Frank De Felitta, cinematographer Vincent Martinelli and composer Glenn Paxton) the movie actually is.
Backing up this behind the camera talent are some solid actors before it. Larry Drake makes the mentally challenged Bubba memorable in the short time we have with him (before he is murdered and thus opens up the vengeful slayings to come), Tonya Crowe is very good as the little girl he befriends ,Jocelyn Brando is excellent as Bubba's grieving (but strong) Mother and Lane Smith/Robert F Lyons/Claude Earl Jones and especially Charles Durning are excellent as the villains of the piece. With Durning giving his all (as only he can in such roles) as the truly ruthless, nasty and twisted head of the group.

Indeed perhaps Durning is too good for the movie's good occasionally as he tends to over dominate proceedings at times. Certainly later on the film almost becomes "Dark Night of the Durning" as the movie focusses almost entirely on him as he goes on the rampage.
Somehow, despite being so repulsively good, he starts to unbalance the film.
It could have also lost a few minutes from the running time, as it runs over 90 minutes for no real reason.

But these faults are not enough to damage the film to any real degree and all that is good about the movie (the creepy/nasty - though tame visually- death scenes, the look of the scarecrow, well essayed characters, the generally astute script, the atmospheric look and staging and the music score) is good enough to ensure a totally satisfying viewing experience that drips class, technical expertise and a genuinely creepy atmosphere.

DAWN OF THE DEAD - orig - *Spoilers*
Most of the acting is bad (with only a few really good moments - mostly from the latter part of Scott H. Reiniger's performance), some of the FX are also pretty dire now (the "Carry on Screaming" flat top zombie is truly awful and some of the action-gore set-ups are far too staged and slow), some of the actor/director decisions are rubbish and bizarre (the frozen statue shots of Stephen when Roger takes over the shooting in the airport sequence, Stephen's utterly bizarre way of knocking over the zombie he then hits with the hammer, the way the other characters just stand there while one of their group is being attacked).

And Romero blows a few potentially good scenes/ideas, like the 'zombie kids behind the door' scene where he fails to show the door continue to rattle after Peter has already shot through it (at head height for an adult zombie) thus making his confused look and continued shooting through the door a mystery.
And two of his 'stock music' choices are truly awful.
Namely the silly 'cavalry fanfare' during the biker attack and the children's cartoon style, cheesy, heroic music played over Peter's 'change of mind' when he decides to escape after all.

But the positives are still strong enough and plentiful enough to ensure "Dawn" still satisfies and impresses.

Positives like the epic sweep of the narrative, that unique early Romero atmosphere and feel, some kick-ass set-pieces, the many still successful gore FX (pulled off on a shoe-string and on a huge scale), the sheer number of zombies, the majority of the classic score (both 'Goblin' and library tracks), and some well crafted (sometimes well acted) dramatic scenes that show just how good Romero used to be at providing real, proper, practical gore and action alongside effective emotional scenes and solid characterisation.
Plus, once again, that brilliant (shared by "NOTLD", "Martin", "The Crazies") and uniquely Romero atmosphere that his early films dripped.

Flawed, looking rather dated now, but still one of the best.

DAY OF THE DEAD *spoilers*
Perhaps my favourite Romero 'Dead' film.
Sadly, despite a later re-evaluation, this still wallows in general under-appreciation.

The superb John Harrison score is too often ignored, the great dialogue is wrongly maligned, the memorable characters (that unlike much of "Dawn" are played by far, far better actors) are under-valued and the doom-laden, end of days, plot is often the target for 'it's boring' criticism that's way off.

This may not be as 'jump in and enjoy' accessible as "Night" or "Dawn" as it really does play like the finale to the more self-contained stories of the first two films. But as the final disintegration of man's fruitless struggles the smaller scale plot and setting works just fine.
The zombies are also much better looking than those in "Dawn" (a few rubbishy exceptions aside) and the FX are a huge step-forward in quality and reality.
Savini's gore FX never looked this good in such close-up before or since, even if "The Prowler" (and the "Maniac" head scene) remain his truly visceral master works overall.
And the shrieking screams as the soldier gets his head ripped off by his eyeballs is truly unnerving!

All the main actors are great and a joy to spend time with as they essay their interesting, enjoyable characters.
But almost everyone in this amazingly (and disgracefully) went on to nothing much else after.
The truly lovely Lori Cardille in particular does a superb job in a strong and difficult role, Howard Sherman gives a brilliant mute/mime performance (under Savini's superbly subtle make-up) that transforms the zombie 'Bub' into a fun and emotional highlight, Richard Liberty is amazing as the unhinged Dr.Logan, Terry Alexander's Jamaican flyer may be broad but his great dialogue and the delivery of it is always a highlight for me and his work with the excellent Jarlath Conroy as his friend McDermott is great to watch.
And as the bad guys Joe Pilato, Gary Howard Klar and Ralph Marrero are simply wonderful.

The film perhaps needed one more 'trip outside in the helicopter' set-piece (like the opening one) to add a bit more zombie action to the middle to be honest as (despite me loving the dialogue/characters and exchanges) the film does get a bit bogged down in talky scenes, and the 'shock' moment during the very end is rather needless and cheap.

Some faults...the 'shock' at the helicopter is a bit naff, and a couple of the Zombies are not that well acted.
Otherwise though this is a wonderfully crafted, dark, mature, gritty and during the end wonderfully nasty and exciting zombie film that has dated the least out of the trilogy and is blessed with practical FX (remember them Romero? When you cared enough to take a bit of time over what you made) that still look damn good today.

DAYBREAKERS
A nice take on ze vampire mythology with some good splatter and a good cast.
Looks nice, is entertaining enough.

But the end seems a bit abrupt, and seems to cancel itself out as far as plot finality goes. Certain things that happen...a lot...during the finale seem to exist to push a 'multiplying' end to the proceedings, but then a sudden machine gun burst ensures that this big 'event and reveal' is rendered impotent.
Still. a good film with some good ideas and visuals but lacking somehow to be really satisfying.

DEAD (THE)
Low budget British zombie film does a brave thing and sets its story in Africa.
Yep...At last, after the shit pile delights of "Hell of the Living Dead", we finally get back to The Dark Zombie Continent, only this time we go there for real!

Another plus is the fact these are old school, slow, shuffling zombies!
And they sure look great shambling along.

We also have some top notch gore and violence (not much in the way of gut munching though, but modern zombie films rarely do) with messy bites, groovy looking wounds on the zombies and some righteous zombie destruction as heads, legs and hands are hacked off and cleaved in two and faces get blown apart.
And as well as great practical FX, even the minor smattering of CGI is extremely good.
Take note George Romero...as these guys had less money and a much harder time than you (no money for food, a mugging, mass crew illness, lost equipment, police harassment) but they have a great looking zombie movie with great FX... and all you have nowadays is dross with console game graphics.

But away from that good stuff we sadly have problems.

The slow zombies are great, but there are not enough of them in many scenes so they don't pose enough threat a lot of the time.
The film is also very lethargic and sparse. It's quite long and not much really happens and what does is very repetitive.
When you add slow zombies to a very slow film. Lethargy not excitement sets in after the highly effective first 30 minutes.
Plus the acting is equally as lethargic...emotions are not to the forefront.

So we have some pretty big faults in pacing and dramatic execution, but the great FX, unusual setting, great locations, some very effective attack scenes and one of the best opening zombie moments in the sub-genre's history make it at least worth a rent for sure.
Give these guys (The Ford Brothers) the support and budget of Romero's next desecration of his zombie movie legacy and we could have something very special indeed now some lessons have hopefully been learnt from "The Dead".

DEAD BIRDS
Overly slow, but has some good gore, some excellent visuals and FX and a nice creepy atmosphere.
Some of the dialogue is dreadfully muted though (the dialogue in the bedroom scene was so bad I had to flick on the subtitles!) and the twist was harder to grasp details wise once you really started to think about it.
Good stuff though in general.

DEAD AND BREAKFAST
Rather messy in the plot department, but otherwise this was a lot of fun.
It has a lot of heart and spirit, some well done gore, mostly successful humour and some great song interludes.
Generally it adds up to solid Halloween funstuffs.

DEADLY STRIKE
Police Captain Bruce Li gets together a gang of convicts to take down some nasty bandits in this damn fine slice of period kung fu mayhem.
Li does not try the Lee impressions until the end (where we have the cuts to the chest and cheek bare chested look) and shows that he was a pretty good martial artist in his own right and as such you can see why he hated the 'Bruce Lee clone' career he had.

What makes this such a fun watch (away from the great dubbed dialogue and voices, somehow just essential for such films) is the sheer amount of kick ass, old school, fights the film contains, with some crazy bad guys (dwarf/giant team-up where the short guy stand on the big guy's shoulders, 5 crazy synchronised 'Snake-Fu' monks etc), mucho violence and some superb one on one action that delivers some class old school moves and skills.

There's a surprising darkness to the film at times as well, despite some of the intentional comedy characters and unintentional comedy dialogue/performances, and Bruce Li's character is truly ruthless. At one point you think he's making a threat to make a point and he won;t actually do what he threatened...but he does, and it's cold-blooded stuff.
And when added to the violent deaths of some of the good guys and an ending scene that seems to hint at a drop into raving insanity for Li...this is pretty grim at times.

But luckily not grim enough to hurt the genuine fun the film provides as one of the best, straight ahead, almost non-stop brilliant action old school kung fu flicks.
Plus we have a nicked score that oozes Spaghetti Western origins.

D.O.A - DEAD OR ALIVE
Again, why the hate for this. it's an openly non-martial artist filled, totally fantasy movie based on a freakin computer game!
How much of an idiot would you have to be to go in expecting another Bruce Lee movie?

The leading ladies (Hot! Hot! Hot!) handle the fights well and are suitably flexible. We know thay are using CGI and wires to make the fights look good (and they do for this type of action), we know that before the damn film even starts. So why bitch about it later? Don't watch the film if it's that big a deal.

And lets not forget that most of the elitist martial arts fanboys (I've been a fan for nearly 2 decades myself but have thankfully not got that stick up my arse) who have criticised this flick not only seem to have forgotten how to have fun, but tend to forget that Hong Kong cinema has been using extensive wire-work, doubles and undercranking to enhance fight scenes for years.
Since the 80's Nu Wave hit, Chinese non-martial artists have been made to look like good screen fighters via doubles, wires and tricks.
Especially many of the ever popular 'battling Babes' like Moon Lee. So why the reverse racsism at sniping at white non-martial arts actors doing the same thing!?
Hell, Jet Li used extensive wire work to pull things off in "Once Upon a Time in China".

None of these fights were meant to be realistic, no one was actually being fooled into thinking freakin Holly Valance was a skilled martial arts fighter were they!?
The fights were fun, inventive and well staged. The characters were likeable, the women were gorgeous and sexy and did what they were meant to do very well.
It was undemanding, fast paced, popcorn fun with the added extra of a hell of a lot of stunning women leaping around in bikinis and revealing costumes flashing their knickers, bouncing their breasts, baring their thighs and having what looked like a lot of fun doing it!

It was what it was, it never tried to be anything else...so if you have a hang-up about a fun film packed with sexy women that's your sad problem just don't go and see the film in the first place!
The rest of us can have fun in peace then!

DEADLY SILVER SPEAR
The legend that is Wang Yu as a spear toting assassin
One of those stupidly complicated plots of cross and double cross and some wonderfully crap dubbing and dialogue (with much evil laughing).
But the weapons are fun, the fights with them are well done and entertaining (with lots of OTT sound effects) and the snowy setting makes a nice change of locale for the bloody finale (thanks to the villian's limb chopping 'circular saw frizbee of death'!)

DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR
Still good stuff!
Some nicely violent action, a suitably cheesy and likeable heroic attitude by Fred Dryer, lots of groovy explosions, suitably nasty villains and it's unashamed in it's flag waving...but in a fun way.
And given the state of the World today...Not that far off actually!

DEATH HUNT
Starring the mighty man stew of Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin and featuring a support cast of well known Canadians and Americans (all directed by an Englishman) this excellent, if slightly flabby, mixture of fact (the legendary 1930's Canadian Mountie manhunt of 'The Mad Trapper') and fiction (Bronson's wronged man on the run plot) is a violent slice of Western-tinged entertainment that deserves a much bigger following.

Inanely criticised at the time for not sticking to the facts of the real case this does in fact simply, openly, use the 'Mad Trapper' case only as background material (as Bronson is not the 'Mad Trapper', just wrongly labelled as such, and the actual Mad Trapper is a completely separate character in the film) to base an fictional story on.
Indeed this fiction uses the fact as a delicious slice of irony for the finale...despite the old hat 'based on a true story' blurb that appears at the start, the movie itself never pretends to be the real story.

Anyway, Bronson is in top stoic form (though he sadly - as in "Chato's Land" - is given no dialogue in the second half of the film) and Marvin gives an astute, tough, layered performance as the grizzled Mountie on his trail.
Some excellent early shootout/siege scenes pile on the blood and death before we settle down to an extended, snowy, manhunt that takes in some stunning scenery.

You could have lost the extended cameo by Angie Dickinson as Marvin's off and on bed companion to tighten the pace up, but overall this is a fine, bloody, action film with some excellent support performances (by the likes of Ed Lauter, Carl Weathers, Maury Chaykin and Andrew Stevens - who would team-up with Bronson 2 years later for the outrageously sleazy "10 to Midnight") and spot on lead turns by two tough as nails old pros doing what they do best!

DEATHSPORT
God awful Roger Corman poverty row sci-fi that has a silly looking (cape and a loin cloth with a see-through plastic sword?!) David Carradine take on Richard Lynch.

And nobody speaks normally.
They all speak like living fortune cookies, all hysterical wisdom spouting and deep philosophical musings. "We are union"....!
Annoying as all hell!
Hideously awful sound FX (at least 2 nicked from "Star Wars" ), awful music, crap costumes, crap props.

LSD fuelled tit jiggling helps a bit, as do the kick ass explosions and stunts.
But the sheer awfulness of the plodding script, awful production values, and dreadful technical cock-ups (a supposed sand arena in the long shots utterly vanishes in the close-up action to reveal a wide open, scrub bush filled, space with hills and telegraph poles!!) kill this "Deathsport" stone dead.

DELTA FORCE (THE)
An amazing support cast is shipped in to do ultimately very little in most cases (Shelley Winters, Martin Balsam, Bo Svenson, George Kennedy, Robert Vaughn, Joey 'I knew big Frank' Bishop, Susan Strasberg, Kim Delaney) as Chuck Norris and an ancient (but still cool) Lee Marvin rush (with their Delta Force buddies, including good old 'Cannon Films' staple Steve James) to save a bunch of hostages from Robert Forster's evil Arab terrorists who have hijacked their plane.
And seeing as this IS a 'Cannon' film the anti-Jewish stance of the hijackers is applied very thickly indeed (with many explicit nods to the Nazi's and the concentration camps coming via the German air hostess who is made to point out the Jewish passengers) as 'Cannon' co-head honcho Menahem Golan takes the directorial chair.
WHAT? Islamic terrorists hijacking planes and singling out the Jews for special treatment? Who writes this fantasy?
Shocking to think that things are even worse in 2006 as far as these things are concerned than they were in 1986 when this flick opened.

Some overly confusing moments concerning the plane aside (where it is and who is still left on it) this is good solid 80's action that is basically a film split into two halves.
The first hour is all about the passengers and the crew at the mercy of the terrorists (Forster hams it up to pretty good effect) while the second half mainly leaves the plane as the hostages are moved around from one hideout to another as Delta Force close in.
Cheesy action and super cheesy dialogue and posturing is the name of the game here of course, but the first half is pretty serious in it's execution so as to give the action heavy last hour some grounding in reality (even as Rocket firing motorbikes zoom around!).
Pretty much laughed at when it came out due to the fact it was seen (probably rightly) as a fantasy Delta Force repair job, after some high profile cock-ups (including a plane hijack rescue that saw as many dead hostages as hijackers) of the real Delta Force, but as an epic action flick it holds up and as mentioned...is still scarily relevant.

DETOUR
Oh dear!
Slooooooow (despite short running time), completely unoriginal, lack of action and nastiness (lots of blood streaked shouting a couple of bullet hits is about it), lack of body count and every sign-posted 'twist' you can think of.

Mad family dynamic adds a bit of interest into this Norwegian backwoods effort (any film with a mad old woman can't be ALL bad) but otherwise this is a miss-fire.

DEVIL DOLL
Both respected and ridiculed at the same time this Richard Gordon ("Fiend without a Face") produced, Lindsay Shonteff ("Night after Night, after Night", "Big Zapper") directed British chiller concerns a maniac hypnotist/ventriloquist named Vorelli (Bryant Haliday, "Tower of Evil") who has a very creepy act with a dummy that can magically walk on its own.
He then sets his nutty eyes on the girlfriend (Vyonne Romain) of journalist Mark English (William Sylvester) and things start to go weird.

Given the rather plodding pacing and directing here it's up to Haliday's performance and his gonzo hypnotist show (which seems to be about as much lighthearted fun as a mass grave at a children's home) to entertain.

The fact it plays up the trends and social attitudes of the time also dates the picture in a negative fashion (an extended rock 'n' roll dance scene tries the patience and there is a dated cheese factor as far as the way the love interest plot is portrayed) and we have to wait too long for the real meat of the film (in the shape of this very weird, uncomfortable, ventriloquist act) to really kick in.

The act, as the dummy and Verolli spit barely concealed disdain at each other, is like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis' act just before the break-up. Obvious, manic, hate exists between this man and his wooden dummy. If such a thing seems possible.
This comes to a head in a wonderful charity ball performance where the dummy picks up a knife and menaces Vorelli! It's creepy and well staged stuff.

The other main delight here is that aforementioned nutzoid, sinister, just the right size slice of ham, performance by Haliday that literally saves the film in the first half.
It's slow moving stuff sadly, so lets be thankful for the recently discovered 'Continental' version with added nudity to liven things up (often a myth, but sometimes a truism about British horror/sex cinema of the time) even if the nudity does seem ill at ease with the very polite British style of the rest of the film.
And strangely a completely unique scene to the 'Continental' version, a rather clumsy, breasts revealing, striptease, replaces a rather important dialogue scene from the UK version that actaully explains motivation for a later murder.
So we have extra titties, but we lose some important plot! I guess we just can't win with "Devil Doll".

The overly abrupt finale is played as a speeded up, jerky, highly eccentric fight scene that throws the viewer for a loop, but delivers a cheestastic pay-off.
In fact the finale sums up the good/bad/weird/drab schizo nature of the entire film.

DEVIL'S DOUBLE (THE)
Fictionalised in parts to sex it up, this is a semi-real take on the time a man spent as Uday Hussain's body double before and after the first (should have ended the regime then!) Gulf War.

It looks sumptuous, has a top soundtrack, good (if sparse) gore and violence, numerous naked ladies and a fun turn by Dominic Cooper as both Uday and double.

It's hyper realistic, is shot in golden hues and saturated colours and entertains for the most part despite the violence against young women (a young girl in one case) being rather harrowing.
Still a fun watch overall, if a bit slow in parts. Interesting, high tech, movie making.

DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS
I always thought, due to it's Drive-In cult status, this was an American film. Turns out it's a British one, but a British one that feels far more like a 50's American Drive-In film than any other British sci-fi/horror film I've seen.

Sadly it's achingly talky, is nothing more than the same sequence repeated ('Devil Martian Girl' walks into pub, insults customers, threatens customers, walks out again until the next time), lacks any real action or suspense and only the groovy PVC fetish get-up of the Martian woman (a sternly sexy Patricia Laffan), some of the unintentionally bad dialogue and the basic (utterly wasted) storyline of 'Mars woman comes to scout for hunky men to take back to her women only planet' gives this film the minor cult status it has.

Best scene is when Hazel Court's gorgeous, simpering model informs an about to leave hunky (and unlikeable) reporter guy that she is scared to stay here and all he does is pat her on the arm, states "you'll be okay, we won't be long" and promptly leaves her sanding there!
Hello??!!
Gorgeous model chick wants you to take her away from all this and you pat her on the arm and run out the door leaving her? Some guys!
Either he's very career driven or a raging homosexual. And yet by films end these two are supposedly deep in love! Not sure how, or when, that happened!
A misfire as a movie, but damn fine PVC.

DEVIL'S REJECTS (THE)
What a ride!
How the hell anyone can slag Rob Zombie off for making two of the best, balls-out, fuck you, nasty, exploitative and just plain cruel exercises in extreme modern cinema is beyond me!
So it was not original (whatever the hell that means today) big deal! Neither are any of Tarantino's films in content...but they are as a whole and it's the same here.
Yes there was lot's of homages, tricks and general ideas from other films, but seeing as there are only about 5 totally original ideas in cinema anyway, so what?

This sequel to "House of 1000 Corpses" changed many of that film's video stylings and was more cinematic in technique, but again combined a very modern kenetic energy with 70's ingredients and attitude to perfection.
It moved the characters on, had fun with them but never made them anything but sadistic villians, never (at least in the unrated print) avoided showing the cruelty and destruction of their actions.
It has delightfully well rounded and damaged 'good guys', had some well used cameos by some well loved people (how great to see Geoffrey Lewis again after so long!), had a fast pace that still took time for characterisation and yet again showed just how good Zombie is at not just the technical side (via some well utilised visual tricks and music) of film making but also the artistic side.

Quite frankly this film delivered. It was easily the nastiest and most exploitative film I've seen from any remotely mainstream source for a long time (the whole scene in the motel room was all out, 70's hard assed, in your face exploitation...end of) and watched back to back with "Corpses" it makes for the harshest, satisfying, respectful and just plain entertaining 70's throwback I for one have ever seen since those days.
How the hell every fan of horror, extreme exploitation and 70's Grindhouse sensibilities could not have had a ball with these flicks is beyond me
In a World of disgraceful, tame, safe, cop-out, tired, drab films like "Wrong Turn", "Freddy vs Jason", "Ghost Ship", "Halloween 5000" etc etc etc, Rob Zombie's films are a total delight and a truly welcome event.

DEATH IN HOLLYWOOD
90's documentary on some of the more famous, infamous, tragic and sometimes gruesome demises of stars in Hollywood over the years.

Nothing that new here, but it's notable for the genuinely unsettling footage of the awful (and still infamous) "Twilight Zone: The Movie" accident that saw two children and Vic Morrow killed when a crashing helicopter landed on them, decapitating one child and Morrow...the slow motion freeze frames are chilling.

DEATHSTALKER
Cheese, trash, cheese, breasts, breasts, silliness, blood, trash, mud, breasts, cheese, breasts, silliness, trash, sleaze, silliness, blood, cheese, silliness and more breasts.
A rare case of the often over-used saying 'so bad it's good' actually being 100% correct.

DEATH WISH 3
Supremely silly, full of huge plot holes and logic failings and about as far from the gritty, realistic and serious original as you can get.
BUT it was lots of cheesy, camp, 80's Americana fun and violence and Bronson is at his deadpan best.

DESERT RATS (THE)
Top turn by the late great Richard Burton, a nice cameo reprisal of his "Desert Fox" Rommel by James Mason, some fine action with a good utilisation of actual war footage.
Rather melodramatic...but that adds to the charm.

DINOSAURUS
Obscure children-aimed monster flick from 1960 that sees a couple of knobbly dinosaur bath toys coming back to life on a tropical island after being blasted out of their rock prison. One is a friendly Brontosaurus the other...of course...a T-Rex. Oh and a caveman also pops up for some comic hijinks such as putting a dress on.

Appallingly acted (in fact this features perhaps the worst child actor in the history of cinema who holds long conversation with dinosaurs and cavemen as if they can understand what he's blithering, very badly, on about) with outstandingly bad model/stop motion/matte FX this is tiring indeed and is so full of cliche (including a drunken comic Irishman who actually says stuff like "Saint's preserve us") and obvious antics you can almost write the thing as it goes along.
The caveman was the best bit as he was amusingly awful in his scenes of befuddled bewilderment towards such things as chairs, mirrors and eating with a fork (thanks to our annoying shit of a child).

Some minor destruction and death ensures before the weak-ass finale but overall this is pretty damn dreadful and only the camp/so bad it's almost good aspects make it remotely bearable.

DIRTY HARRY
Eastwood shits laconic cool all over the sidewalks of 70's San Francisco. in this iconic gem.
Suffers a bit from almost exclusively focusing on the 'Scorpio' case (although Andy 'Jesus Wept' Robinson is a fucking scene stealer genius here) as it all feels a bit back and forth, round the houses we go again, plot-wise.

But the GREAT Lalo Schifrin score, the great 70's San Fran locations, some claaaasssssic set-pieces (not least of which is the fun 'do you feel lucky' scene and it's deadly serious return during the finale) and a grim edge all help to push the film past the limitations of its plot and Eastwood is the friggin' MAN!

Sadly the Blu Ray (although nice in daylight) is hampered by a black ass transfer with blacks so deep you lose much shadow detail.
When Harry is climbing on some bins in an alley (big titties ahoy!!) you can only, literally, hear him not actually see him.

DOOM
Rather too much walking around in the dark shooting a lot of bullerts but not actually hitting anything. And it was a bit sluggish to start off.
But the second half picked up, and 'First Person Shooter' sequence was great fun!
Also a big round of applause for doing what they did with The Rock's character, especially given his popular hero actor status. A brave and unusual move.
Not as good as it could have been, but certainly much better than it could have ended up. Well worth a watch, and it was really fun seeing Ben Daniels from BBC drama "Cutting It" as a bible thumping space marine!

DOWNFALL
There was nothing really new here, no great revelations as far as Hitler and the bunker were concerned but the things happening outside the bunker were very interesting as it's not really been shown.
Bruno Gantz was superb as Hitler (everyone was excellent actually) and it had wonderful production values and technically it was brilliant.
The running time went suprisngly fast as well. It was well paced throughout.
I still don't really believe that the secretary new nothing though, not after being Hitler's own private secretary for nearly 3 years.
I remember when the superb "World at War" Tv series spent months getting her to speak for the first time all those years ago.
Well worth a watch.

DR. STRANGELOVE
Excellent movie.
Top script and performances. More proof that (first half of "Full Metal Jacket" aside) the only Kubrick worthy of the hype is his older B&W work.
This and "The Killing" are as good as he got...and "Dr Strangelove" is top stuff.
As sharp as a scalpel, let down only by being too short. The amazing cast alone is reason to watch!

DRACULA'S DAUGHTER
You know the film has problems when Dracula suddenly turns into Richard Nixon!
I kid you not...At the start the close-up of the dead Dracula in the coffin (with no Lugosi to use) was obviously some guy in a bad plastic mask that some blind creature thought looked like Lugosi. But no, it's the spitting image of Nixon!
Go look...Go on...See? Yeah! NIXON!
Not a good start.

Thankfully things improve with the introduction of Drac's Daughter (not literally we assume unless Drac did the dirty) who is actually a haunted individual who is desperately trying to get rid (!??) of the Vampyric curse she is under.
A nice stately turn by the striking Gloria Holden.
Otto Kruger as the friend of, the now arrested for murder, Van Helsing (nice touch!) is another plus.
At least when he spars with his female assistant. Their scenes play like something from a 40's comedy thriller.
He's less impressive as a hero though and when not bouncing off his assistant.

Some good scenes here of course, especially the startlingly erotic seduction scene when Drac's Daughter invites a young woman to her house to be painted.
This is surprisingly explicit in its allusions to lesbianism and it works wonderfully...and the lack of fangs (I assume for censorship reasons) means the sexual aspect is actually increased as the bite looks more like a kiss.

But sadly the film is hampered by lack of real incident. It sort of just hangs around for a while not doing much and repeating similar scenes until all of a sudden we move all the leads from London to Transylvania so suddenly and quick that it seems "Star Trek" transporters have already been invented.
The finale is also a damp splat of nothingness as all is suddenly wrapped up out of nowhere (film running out guys?) with an act that is never even explained as purposeful or accident despite being the big ending to it all.

Great in parts, weak as hell in others...so we only scrape into average overall here.
Certainly not a patch on the Lugosi film.

DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS
Highly overrated, ho hum 'Hammer' with a psychotic mime Dracula (oh the silly faces Lee pulls) who does almost nothIng after finally gracing up with his appearence. Has a few good moments (like the famous, cold blooded, throat slashing) and Barbara Shelley is watchable, but please...'Hammer' have done much better than this!
Basically it's a Sunday afternnoon TV costume drama with a bit of blood added.

DRAG ME TO HELL
Nice to see our Sam getting back to his whacked-out horror roots with a fine little film that manages to mix his hyper-kinetic, slapstick, horror violence (though no real gore sadly) and sticky fluid throwing with top notch FX work and high tech gloss.

Nicely played by all, this is packed with memorable moments, but perhaps it does blow its load too early with the truly stunning, laugh out loud funny, gross, exciting, creepy as hell car park fight scene, as our heroine, Christine, fights off the rampaging power of a pissed off old Gypsy woman with a grotesque eye and even worse dentures.
This is easily one of the finest moments in Raimi's career.

From then on we have some good and well crafted scares and smackdowns as Christine's 'dragged to Hell' possible fate gets nearer.
Raimi astutely plays these fright scenes for (for the most part) black comic laughs and the chance to pile on the slapstick violence.
This ensures the incidents become purely entertainment, instead of seriously delivered false scares, which would have been a huge and costly mistake as the plot has explicity told us that actually...she's not in the slightest bit of real danger yet.

Fans of his early work will relish the muck, filth, vomit, goo and blood plastered all over these scenes as well as the 'Three Stooges' level of bodily abuse.
And almost all the effects are expertly rendered and imaginative.
And if it wasn't for one easily avoidable cock-up near the end involving far too much (needlessly and easily avoided) fuss being made about something happening that should barely have got any coverage at all...The film would also have ended as effectively as the journey to that ending most certainly was.
The ending itself is perfectly fine...Raimi just blew the possible effectiveness of it by foolishly telling us pretty much what was going to happen 10 minutes or so before.

The film also has some plot hiccups as far as huge jumps in the narrative go, which makes me think a number of bridging scenes were cut.
For example Christine goes from walking out of a dinner, to a bust up at the Indian Seer's shop, to her trying to gather money together to pay for help when all of a sudden her boyfriend comes in and says he has paid the Seer!
But as far as we are shown the boyfriend was never with her during any of these scenes, she has had no contact with him and has no idea at all about the need for money or what it's for.
And seeing as only Christine can see and hear what she does...there is actually no sense in her uber-sceptical boyfriend suddenly becoming uncertain about what he believes.
It seems some kind of rushed editing of screenplay or actual footage shot was the order of the day.

Basically though..."Drag me to Hell" was a nice return to his roots for Raimi and, although disappointingly low on gore, it delivers tons of fast paced, slam bang supernatural violence, laughs and thrills.

DRIVE
I bet Steve Wang and co were pissed off when the vastly inferor "Rush Hour" films became such widely distributed hits, when their 'East meets West' movie (which did it all before and did it so much better) suffered an inglorious fate until the recent UK DVD.
Some great comedy/drama interplay between the leads and some fantastically inventive, violent and amazingly skillful (Mark Dacascos is in top form) martial arts/action/stunt set-pieces.

DRIVE-IN MOVIE MEMORIES
Slight (57 minutes) but affectionate look at the history of the Drive-In with the likes of Joe Bob Briggs, Samuel Arkoff and various B movie stars and film historians all talking about their own memories of going to the Drive-In and the films they showed.

Lots of fun footage, some wonderful information (like the Drive-In world premier of "Blazing Saddles" having audiences on horses replacing audiences in cars, John Wayne firing his guns atop the concession stand at the premier of "True Grit", rats being blown into cars from the Drive-In air conditioners and even planes allowed to join the cars as some Drive-Ins became Fly-Ins) and all in all a fun time.
Should have been longer though.

DROP DEAD GORGEOUS
Lots of fun with a good cast (EllenBarkin has not aged a day since "Sea of Love"!) and some real laughs. A nice surpise.

DUCK SOUP
Easily the most anarchic and chaotic of the Marx's films and infamously rather a big flop (which ushered in a new contract with MGM, the more 'normal' plots and romantic leads/songs to tie down the madness...something that admittedly worked great at the box office), but there are some truly great moments here.
This has perhaps my favourite Groucho/Dumont exchange routine (that opens with the card gag) and it's also a joy to see the great Edgar Kennedy make a cameo as well and his scenes with Harp and Chico are lots of fun.
Groucho's swipes at the Ambassador are also wonderful.

But it a couple of the songs are unwelcome in the short running time (unless you like that sort of thing, I would say I hated all the romantic interlude songs in Marx Brothers films - but almost all fans do - but only really have time for half of the funny ones as well), the skeletal plot completely vanishes in a truly chaotic bunch of non-linear scenes and it's obvious that no way to really end this was ever truly thought out.
You can see why it became too much for 1930's audiences!

DUE DATE
Robert Downey gut punches a child and a man and dog share sleep aiding masturbatory needs.
Nuff said.

It's no "Planes,Trains & Automobiles" but it's lots of fun and took some nice turns away from the expected.

EDGE OF DARKNESS (2010)
Frustration!
Mad Mel is in fine form as the father out for revenge in this remake/re-imaging of the classic 80's BBC TV serial.
He kicks ass, takes no damn shit, has some great dialogue and handles the action well.
And the action is very good and delightfully meaty and bloody.
An early shotgun death is expertly crafted splatter, a hit and run scene is just amazing and the (overly rushed) finale is full of spurting bullet hits.

The plot is pretty engaging, Ray Winstone is in top cool-ass mean bastard mode in support, the other cast are all fine too and the film looks great and moves at a good pace.
So what's the problem?


***MINI SPOILERS******

Well we have some rather silly plotting here.
Contaminated milk used to poison a person left in their fridge (!?) bad guys who follow Mel in the exact same big ass SUV all the time despite them already knowing Mel has spotted them earlier (!) and scenes that go nowhere at all:

One is a really bizarre sequence that literally serves no purpose and you would never, ever, know it ever existed if it went.
Mel is in his kitchen and is kidnapped, captured, escapes and ends up back in the kitchen, all in...i kid you not...3 minutes!
You have no idea why they even bothered to kidnap him (we already know they had no need to do anything to him by this point), we had no idea what they actually wanted to do with him (they tie him to a table) and I swear to God the entire sequence plays no part in the way the film plays out at all. Bizarre, annoying and just plain stupid.

And yet again Hollywood finances American self-hate when it turns out the American bad guys/Government are making untraceable nuclear bombs so if they have to they can make one look like a Jihadist dirty bomb.
YEAH, because as we all know....9/11 was an inside job and Jihadists simply make cookies and sing about love all day and would never actually use dirty bombs.......they're always stitched up by those damn Americans is all!
Why this garbage was written into the film is anyone's guess (it's not in the TV series), but given some of the the self-loathing/enemy propaganda movies churned out by Hollywood over the last 9 years I guess it comes as no surprise.

A shame really as otherwise I like this, and Mel dishes out some damn fine violence and spit ass hate filled dialogue, the support cast is solid and the film exciting and engaging
Not too sure about the 'off to heaven we go' last scene though.

ENFORCER (THE) - 1976
Eastwood is back as an even more comic strip Harry.
But thankfully some great set-pieces, some wonderful Harry dialogue and another top cast help keep the standards up even though most of the original movie's dark edges (can you have a dark edge? You can now) have been removed.

Sadly Lalo Schifrin did not return though for another groovy score, and instead with have a Jerry Fielding turd that sounds like the worst kind of improvised jazz.
Yuck.

Once again the main plot is bulked up with a few stand alone set-pieces, which entertain even if they live in fantasy land. The airplane sequence is fun...but fucking absurd.
The main plot is fun though and delivers some good action and bloodshed and some interesting (and in one case particularly deadly as far as good guys go) villains.
And it has some great laugh moments too. Harry's sequence with the assessment board is absolutely wonderful!

This also has by far the most gratuitous nudity seen in the series yet (in fact perhaps, outside of a comedy, the most gratuitous nudity seen in any mainstream film ever).
In a chase over random rooftops the bad guy falls though a random skylight and ends up.........in the middle of a porno shoot!
So pubic hair, breasts and even swinging man meat is served up for us as the chase continues!

The main idea of Harry having to have a female partner is a good one, if a very broad one, and thankfully a young Tyne Daly is more than up for the job and, despite many light-hearted moments aimed at her, her character manages to hold her own and comes into full blossom during the fun finale.

The welcome addition of Bradford 'Piranha' Dillman as Harry's nemesis Lt. Briggs delivers some great 'stupid chief' scenes and wonderful Harry put-downs and for fans of the series it's nice to see the continuity kept with the return of Harry Guardino (after a break from "Magnum Force") and the likeable DiGiorgio played by John Mitchum.

It's a lightweight movie for the most part for sure, and more popcorn than the original for a huge certainty, plus the score is lousy too.
But there is so much fun here that the faults fail to damage the overall film, and it's a good bow-out from the 70's for our Harry.

ESCAPE TO VICTORY
An evergreen treat!
Silly it may be, but it's damn fun and very entertaining with a wonderfully weird mix of actors and sportsmen as the WW2 prisoners of war take on the German football team as the dastardly Nazis look on!
Another Caine gem!
If you don't enjoy this feel-good classic you need a damn soul transplant!

EVER AGAIN
No messing documentary on the shocking rise of Anti-Semitism around the Western world.
It does suffer from it's avoidance of some of the many repulsively sexist, homophobic and all round radical thought connected to radical Judaism and a rather blanket 'there's nothing wrong with Israel' stance (there are a number of things to criticise actually) and that tends to get in the way of the far more important message...that of the rampant, unknown since WWII, hatred showed towards perfectly peaceful Jews all around Europe simply for being Jews.

The main focus is the growing danger from 'radical' Islam which by far (except in Germany itself where it is mostly from Far Right/Nazi groups) is the main source of the growing attacks on Jews.
The stories of Jews (who have never blown anyone up in buses, trains, planes or nightclubs) in Europe and the UK who have been attacked and abused with complete and utter freedom for their attackers to do so is scary indeed.

Anyone with a brain and eyes can see the marriage of the far left and extreme Islam but I was surprised by the information here about just how closely Neo-Nazis themselves are aligning themselves with Islamists.
I certainly had no idea that the infamous Finsbury Mosque in London held the conversion ceremony's of numerous Neo-Nazi's when they converted to Islam.

The Nazi's themselves (in their various new forms) are shown to be frighteningly more powerful and numerous now than they have been for many years in Germany and some of the concert footage of Neo-Nazi groups singing about 'thrusting their blades into Jewish flesh' and 'greasing the guillotine blade with Jew fat' are unsettling indeed.

Overall then some of the Hitler/Nazi/Holocaust/WW2 comparisons with today gets a bit too much screen time and a rather too blinkered approach to Israel mars things a bit, but wade through some of that and you have a refreshingly frank and blunt look (something never allowed in almost all Western media) at the, unprecedented in my lifetime, anti-Semitism rapidly growing and spreading in what are supposed enlightened, modern, Western societies.

EVERY OTHER DAY IS HALLOWEEN
Indy documentary on long standing TV (now internet) Washington DC Horror Host 'Count Gore De Vol' and the man behind the cape Dick Dyszel.

Filled with funny clips of cheesy cable TV innocence and simplistic television fun (the Atari 'Tanks' contest is a genuine hoot, as is the young lad who collects beer cans) this is a nostalgic and affectionate look at old school Horror/Kids TV hosting with some nice looks also at the surprisingly large number of modern Horror Hosts working today and keeping this very American institution alive.

EYE OF THE TIGER
Any film that plays 'Eye of the Tiger' as the credit 'Gary Busey in...' appears HAS to have something.
When you add the fact it co-stars Yaphet Kotto and William Smith (as a nasty biker no less) it seems like there is nothing that can go wrong.
Sadly this is not the case.

All looks good in the build-up, bad guys do bad things to Busey...Busey gets a load of arms and a super truck bristling with weapons to take vengeance!
It's still looking good when Busey decapitates a biker in slow motion via a wire stretched across the road.

But now it all goes wrong.
Busey just relaxes and hangs around a bit.
He carries out another attack on the bikers (not as much fun as the first) and then...hangs around a but more!
The Bikers then go and do something in retaliation, that Busey was already worried about anyway, but was sitting on a porch chugging a beer with a woman when it happened.

This is like prodding a hornet's nest and then sitting by it to eat lunch and acting surprised when the hornets sting your ass!
Get with the plan Busey!
So after much wasted time and some needlessly dead friends and helpers Busey finally goes all out and actually uses his weapons and super truck to damn well do what he should have done ages ago!

Aside from a 'well, no matter how much of a corrupt tosser the Sheriff was Busey's not actually going to get away with that surely' moment, the rest of the film plays out okay as Busey, armed with his famous scary grin and his rocket/machine gun firing truck (with the help of Yaphet with his plane and dynamite bombs) blow the hell out of the drug dealing (but rather stupid in how they act and bring attention to themselves) bikers.

A truly classic scene (which just makes the slack, silly, annoying, frustrating scripting that much worse as you ache for what could have been) has Busey ram a pipe bomb up the arse of one of the bikers, stuck in a hospital bed, to get information from him! The outcome of which is delightfully ironic.

Some good moments, a top cast, a good set-up, some tasty cheese...but the stupid scripting and plotting hurt what should have been a real classic.

EXPENDABLES (THE)
Oh dear. What the hell happened here?
Oh I know...lazy ass, cutting corners, film making and dreadful action direction.
For a film that was supposedly a throwback to the 80's action flick there sure was a whole hell of a lot of 21st century 'SyFy Channel' movie CGI atrocity on display here.
And it was not only downright shameful...it was depressing.

That CGI was used to handle scenes where multiple bad guys are blown to bits in one or two shots is understandable. That CGI was used for simple set-ups and individual kills was just lazy though.
CGI blood is everywhere and it's bad. The far superior "Rambo (4)" also used some obvious CGI, but it layered it with some solid practical FX and quite frankly it was better fucking CGI.
Here though the general CGI blood hits are backed up not by neat practical kills for close-up/one on one deaths but by even worse CGI!

Tom Savini was sticking knives through people's throats 30 years ago with a 20th of the budget used here, and yet "The Expendables" , for example, has a knife in the throat kill that is all CGI. Bad, awful, CGI.
This garbage is even carried on during the final, big, death for the main bad guy.
The final shot of him looks like the effects guys at 'Asylum' did the work. It's truly that bad!
There is no justification for such lazy work in a big budget, 21st century, movie. Let alone one reporting to be a pre-CGI action movie throwback.

Next we have perhaps an even bigger problem. That of the atrociously shot fight scenes.
Why get the (genuine fighting skills) likes of Jet Li, Steve Austin, Randy Couture and Gary Daniels for your film and then shoot their fights in face hiding close-up with endless multiple jump cuts?
That's the kind of stuff you do when you want to hide the fact the actors are not actually that good at fighting and need close-up (no face on screen) body doubles for certain moves and quick edits to hide the fact your actors can't actually string moves together.

Yet this is Jet Li! This is Gary Daniels! Both highly skilled, highly trained, veterans from the HK action movie golden days.
This is Steve Austin and Randy Couture. Skilled, brute force, sportsman fighters.
You film these guys in two shots, with few edits. You show that it is them doing the moves. It's the friggin' point of having such people in your film in the first place!
Yet in "The Expendables" half the time you can't actually see who is fighting or if they can actually pull more than two moves in a row!
Shockingly awful.

Luckily we have some good elements to save this from being a total bomb.
First is the ever welcome (always loved this guy from the very early days) Jason Statham who delivers the best fighting moves and fight scenes (and although he has become a skilful movie fighter over the years and can handle action wonderfully...he should not look a better fighter than Jet Li or Gary Daniels!) as well as featuring in the best scene of the entire film...the plane attack on the dock.
Away from Statham, we also have a great turn by Dolph Lundgren (only marred by the head scratchingly unlikely final sequence), Stallone in solid form and perhaps one of the best guns in cinema history making a brief but memorable appearance during the hit ands miss final battle

Other than that though, this drops the ball sadly.
Not only do we have the two main problems of CGI awfulness and wasteful fighting sequences, but we also have some very awkward and forced 'comedy' dialogue that almost always falls flat and a cameo scene by Arnold that should have remained a fun idea on paper...as in reality this 'big' moment seems awkwardly out of place, badly acted and seems more like tired self-indulgence.
Bruce Willis fares better, but his role is so small ultimately pointless this seems like yet another waste.
The same with not having Mickey Rourke in on the action.
And the less said about the final poetry scene the better. Jesus. What went wrong here?

Some good gun action, a couple of nice splatter deaths involving big bullets, a great plane attack/explosion sequence and a fun (if often wasted) cast.
But this should have been so much more, and coming after the excellence of "Rambo (4)", this is a comedown on the directing front for Stallone.

If you want to see a much more entertaining Jason Statham martial arts flick...see the first "Transporter" film.
If you want to see Jet Li do his thing...see "Once Upon a Time in China".
If you want to see a rugged Stallone kick ass... see "Rambo (4)".
If you want to see Steve Austin, Eric Roberts and Gary Daniels in the same action film... see "Hunt to Kill".
A tight little action flick where the director knows how to shoot a fight scene involving two good fighters. Watch Gary Daniels do his damn fine stuff in his smackdown with Austin in this (much lower budget) movie to see just how good Daniels' leg work is (and Austin's moves come to that) and wonder if it's the same guy in "The Expendables".
Average fare at best.

*EDIT* Upon viewing the re-edited/CGI trimmed, 'Director's Cut', I can say "The Expendables" is very much improved, if still flawed.

EXTREME CRISIS
Hong Kong action flick.
A nutty Japanese cult plans to explode a sarin bomb in Hong Kong and a vengeful Japanese cop teams-up with a vengeful Chinese cop to stop them.
Some good set pieces and stunts, lots of shooting, explosions and blood (easily the most hostage unfriendly film since "Hard Boiled"!) with a good few nods to "Die Hard".
But it's let down by the dialogue. It switches from Chinese to Japanese and to English with wild abandon, but most of the English is pretty awful!
It's hard to even take such dire pronouncement like "Hong Kong will be destroyed in 10 minutes" when the guy saying it says it in such bad English (Engerish).
In fact he sounds like the Kim Jong Il puppet from "Team America"!
Average stuff overall.

EXTREME PREJUDICE
Ultra violent funstuffs from Walter Hill.
Slowed down (although the topless scene was nice) only by the sappy female character involvement!
This is perhaps the ultimate macho, comic strip, MAN'S film ever!
And what a great cast! Micheal Ironside, Nick Nolte, Powers Boothe, William Forsythe, Rip Torn!

FANTASTIC MR FOX (THE)
Rather too old for my 5 year old Daughter, who I took to see it, because of the extensive dialogue driven plot as well as the dialogue based humour (rather low key humour at that) of much of the running time.
The almost other-worldly tempo of the dialogue deliver also made for a rather lethargic experience, so I say this is one for the older child. Though she still enjoyed the film, it did not have the effect that "Ice Age 3" or "Bolt" had on her.

But the occasional action was fun and well executed technically (nice to see good old fashioned stop motion) and if the character's body shape and ways of moving were damn strange at times, it fitted with the overall 'story book come to life' feel of the movie.
Different and generally entertaining, but really for older kids and fans of Roald Dahl's book.

FAR CRY
Oh dear!
Uwe Bolly Wolly does his cinematic dance of doom on another potential success and manages to turn an initially exciting, violent and well crafted actioner (that sort of follows the game franchise quite close) into a truly painful exercise in rushed plotting and achingly dire comedy shenanigans!

Why Boll decided to turn this sci-fi/bloody violence action set-up into a mugging comedy is beyond me (first with the dreadful 'fiery dialogue ala a 40's romantic comedy film' between the male and female leads, and then with bile producing 'obnoxious as hell comedy fat guy' slapstick) and the mix does not work. Even if the pitiful comedy was actually funny...it still would not work, so with the truly horrendous comedy at play here this was doomed from the very start.
A waste.

FAST & THE FURIOUS 5: RIO HEIST
The good looking guys 'n' gals are back! After the world's worst, most stupid, way ever to rescue someone from a moving bus opens the film I was not getting good vibes from this latest F&F outing.

Thankfully a superbly realised car-jacking from a speeding train sequence, using a crazy-ass "Mad Max 2" style vehicle, fills me with hope once more and we soon settle down to many familiar cheese moments, much man-love, mucho hot chicks, welcome/surprise returns of old faces and the slamtastic addition of The Rock (sorry Dwayne) as the Fed on our anti-heroe's trail.

The massive array of characters though, The Rock and his team, the Brazilian bad guys and our 'heroes' means that the film tends to struggle at times to give some characters, The Rock in particular, as much care and attention as they need and the fact that after lots of screen-time used up for heist 'test' footage (as our gang plan the robbery) the final robbery uses absolutely none of their planning means some big parts of the film end up being superfluous!
This is made worse by the fact the final robbery plan is so damn over the top and basically impossible outside of a movie world that you kind of wish the original plan had been used...as now the film becomes literally absurd and morally dubious in the extreme due to all the obvious dead Cops!

The logic seems to be that ALL, and I mean ALL, Cops in Brazil except one (who's s dead now anyway) are thugs working for ruthless criminals so it's okay to wipe them out utterly randomly.
Oh...and we just have to assume no innocent bystanders were killed as well. And when you see the destruction...and I mean DESTRUCTION...that's one hell of a big ass assumption.
Sometimes less is more and this finale (although impressive and 'fun') proves the point well. Reality and all logic just left the building together and blasted off to fucking Pluto.

But the regular's do good, the Rock vs Diesel anticipation is palpable and gets a fine fucking pay-off indeed, Walker (who I have a big man crush on. I just like the guy okay!) does well to stand out despite the Rock/Vin man mountain's surrounding him, the car races and the stunts are top notch and exciting and almost (as always) CGI free even if the whole idea of the finale means CGI has to be used at some points.
So it's too silly at times and logic-free to the max, but for fans of the films this is a welcome return/addition and there is much to enjoy!

******SPOILERS******

And what seemed like a nice little play on the timeline for fans of the series involving Han popping up during the start of "F & F 4" despite already being killed in "Tokyo Drift", has now become a surreal in-joke of the highest order.
Yes folks...despite dying two films and 5 production years ago...Han is back again! Which means this 5th/2011 film in fact takes place before the 3rd/2006 film!
And just like in "4" Han makes yet another remark about perhaps ending back up in Tokyo some day! This is so blatant in its mad way of having a popular character keep on appearing despite everyone knowing he's dead that you just have to admire the whole enterprise!

FIRE DOWN BELOW
Stevie the Seagul fixes porches, dances, plays the guitar, cleans up the environment, romances and fixes the personal life of the local female misfit... and shoots, pounds and generally stomps on a lot of bad guys.
What more could one want?
Well, a plot that didn't wind it all up so quickly and from nowhere (it feels like someone noticed that the film was running out of the camera) would be nice...and a slimmer Seagal would also help (though at least he's not so baggy and saggy as he became later)...but overall this was a lot of cheesy, pantomime fun. With teeth smashed out!
Ahhh what the hell...just enjoy it and then go back to thinking later.

FIRST BLOOD
Still an evergreen classic, the first John J Rambo movie benefits no end from a top support cast.
Top of the top is Brian Dennehy as the bullish Sheriff who pushes too far. It's classic Dennehy and shows why this guy was so damn welcome in movies.
Add cult director Jack Starret as the bullying Deputy, a baby-faced David Caruso as the only sympathetic member of the Sheriff's dept and a now classic bit of cheese from Richard Crenna as the walking 'Rambo Is Great' advert (packed with melodramatic statements!) and you have a solid bedrock for Stallone to build his character upon.
Despite general snobbery Stallone is actually very good as the tragic 'Nam vet and handles the well staged action with great aplomb.
He makes Rambo a genuine 'force of nature' as manmade weapon easily establishes a symbiotic relationship with his surroundings.

And despite a few flaws (seeing as Rambo shoots up half the town for a good 15 minutes without a single police car appearing you have to wonder where the 500 cop cars come from in the last 5 minutes) director Ted Kotcheff has delivered a true crowd pleaser that not only works as action-packed popcorn entertainment but also as a solid drama with something to say.
Even the much criticised ending delivers an emotional weight.
True on first viewing (especially through an 80's cinema sound system or VHS tape) Stallone's delivery of the speech does make it hard to understand at times. But after a couple of viewings you can easily hear what he says and what he says is actually very moving and suitably bitter.

The icing on the top is the GREAT score by Jerry Goldsmith.

FLETCH
As funny as it ever was.
The humour is not dated at all even if the style has (it owes much to "Beverly Hills Cop" in it's design and delivery...as well as directly music wise of course!) but that just adds a nice retro feel to it.
Some classic moments include...the "Godfather" joke, the tennis club scenes (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson is a very sexy lady as well), the anal inspection ("Woh! Using the whole fist there Doc"?) and Cheve Chase's banter with Tim Matheson and GeenaDavis.
Always nice to have a bit of Joe Don Baker too!

FLICK
UK (Welsh) low budget horror/zombie film that sees a tragic Rock 'n' Roll loser (who literally saw to it there was murder on the dancefloor) come back from his watery 1950's grave to get revenge and get that long wished for kiss from the girl; of his dreams.

The pretty good cast is packed with British film/TV regulars and old school veterans and they are joined by Faye Dunaway (all horse teeth and trout lips sadly) as an American Cop helping out (for some reason) on the case.
Dunaway has fun and is nicely energetic if rather hammy and everyone else does good and make the confused script more engaging than it should be.

The look of the film is highly stylised (madly saturated colours, odd angles, obvious green screen for driving scenes) and "Flick" makes no bones about trying to be a "Creepshow" style comic strip come to life (some parts of the film, even a car chase in a clever way to save on the budget, are shown as comic book pages) and it helps the film when the pacing flags.

There is a very good original Rock 'n' Roll/Rockabilly soundtrack that works well, but the total lack of genuine songs from that era does stick out (and again was more than likely down to budget) and some of the period setting is confused. Even when in modern day there is a rather unlikely amount of 50's/60's decor and objects and the addition (a confused one near the end thanks to some bad scripting) of a 'pirate radio' ship that only plays Rockabilly songs in 2008 is an anachronism that sticks out like a sunny day in "Se7en". Weird.

So a good aide, some good styling, the odd moment of bloodshed (the best being a stabbing in the car and the stylised opening dancefloor massacre), and a fun soundtrack. But the film is a mess as far as plot structure goes and is badly paced, transition scenes are a mess, we have bizarrely confused period setting details and the finale is a pretty weak and unstructured.
NICE try, but sadly a rental at best.

FLIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
It's a bit too slow at getting to the meat of the matter, but when it does it's certainly lots of fun.
Kevin J O'Connor is as likable as ever and actually does an older version of his wonderful turn in the shockingly underrated "Deep Rising".
Some good gore (though it's often more blood than anything else, but that's a LOT of blood!), some great scenes of the zombies riping through the floor of the plane as if they were ripping through grave soil.
Some solid acting and fun characters help it a great deal as does some spot-on humour and the faults are really quite few.

But they are there;
Some of the CGI is pretty good, some is very ropey (mostly the blue screen backed work on close-up, about to be shot, zombie heads and some dodgy plane shots) and the film is wildly uncertain about how the zombies are killed.
Some are dropped by simple shots to the body.
Some by shots to the head.
But the head thing is canceled out by the fact that one zombie has half of it's head smashed in and yet still lives! So quite how a body shot downs them is unknown!

Other than that it's an entertaining romp that knows it's nothing but an entertaining, gory, fun-time time waster and not the new "Night of the Living Dead" and so works on those aspects to its advantage.

FLIGHTPLAN
Not bad.
Intriguing set-up and solid acting by Jodie Foster.
But revelation a bit ho hum (with silly 'villain explains the plan' moments) and finale rather OTT (she is just an engineer, not John McClane).
And Sean Bean? Sir. Lose the plummy accent.

Worth a look though for sure as it's solid, well crafted entertainment.
Really only a one time viewing though.

FOG (THE)
Carpenter's old fashioned (with a hint of re-shoot violence to spice things up) ghost story is atmospheric as hell and packed out with top thespians (The Atkins, Janet Leigh, Jamie Lee Curtis, Charles Cyphers, Hal Holbrook, John Houseman, Adrienne Barbeau, George 'Buck' Flowers, Darwin Jostin), a classic score and some memorable set-pieces.
This was the first film on VHS I bought when I got my first, personal, video player...And it will always be special to me.

It does suffer from some plot confusion thanks to the late re-shoots to up the action, it's sometimes a bit too lethargic and has some bad (and bizarre) dialogue like;
"First it was a gold coin, then it turned into this neat piece of wood" (yeah, sure JC, kids love bits of old wood more than some gold).
And the most useless conversation in the history of man;
Jamie Lee: "Can I ask you a question"?
Atkins: "Sure"
Jamie Lee: "Is it always like this"?
Atkins: "No. It's always different".

But the rest is a class act filled with some great, and well delivered, 'tales of doom', bags of creepiness, some stunning visuals, suspenseful action and all that fantastic spooooooky atmosphere.

FORT APACHE
There is a smattering of a very good film in this, but it's broken up by some serious problems.
Far too much corny humour (some works, but this was also a fault to a far lesser extent with Ford's "The Searchers" too where in a very serious plot some 'Fordisms' would creep in as far as comedy was concerned), far too much soppy goings on with Shirley Temple's character and the young Officer, needlessly extended riding sequences (impressive scenery indeed, but we've had enough of it now), a dreadful, and dreadfully overbearing, score and a massive overdose of Irish blarney (includng a vomitous 'well now me darling' singing interlude from some Leprechaun/human hybrid).

There was some impressive action, stunts and cinematography (especially during the Injuns/wagon chase sequence) and the friction between John Wayne and Henry Fonda (two solid performances) is engaging.
And it's refreshing to see Ford take a more critical look at his normally Sainted U.S. Cavalry. If he does ensure us that all is well really at the end via The Duke's (now rather cloying) speech.

A very well staged and gripping finale helps boost things...but it's now certainly not the film it perhaps used to be and certainly not as good as it could have been even then.

FOUR SKULLS OF JONATHAN DRAKE (THE)
Slightly creepy head-hunting/head shrinking 1959 horror flick that has some surprisingly grizzly early scenes (severed heads ahoy!), a fun killer henchman (all stitched up lips) and a welcome bad guy turn by veteran bad guy Henry Daniell all help to lift this out of the ordinary before it succumbs to repetition and silly plotting.

The huge plot hole that such an unusual set of crimes (head hunting/shrunken head practices and Curare poisoning) is taking place in a small town where there just happens to be a known expert on head hunting/shrunken head practices and Curare poisoning staying means that the fact the Cops take so long to get a suspect beggars belief!

Some effective moments though.

FRIDAY THE 13TH - (orig)
Perhaps more than "Halloween" this is maybe the real wellspring of the Slasher movie. And as such it has all the positives and many of the negatives that implies.
It's certainly atmospheric and in the (actually very rare) moments that we see Tom Savini's FX they work pretty well.

The screenplay is also sharper than is often given credit for in how it delivers certain aspects of the plot to the audience.
The most perfect example is the very clever way the most important event of them all to happen at 'Camp Crystal Lake' is (essentially) never made to stick out from the rest of the incidents that have happened.
The driver of the truck that tells his passenger the story even mentions Jason's drowning in the wrong order, only mentioning it AFTER he mentions the two councillors being murdered, thus we are cleverly steered away from one event leading to the other.
Jason's drowning thus seemingly becomes no more important than the mysterious fires or the 'bad water' so it is not on the audience's mind throughout the film.

But in other ways (passage of time and growing audience movie knowledge and experience really hurts most Slasher films when it comes to re-watchibility) the film is painfully dated and tediously drawn out
An example of the former would be 'Crazy Ralph'.
He may be fun but he's also completely ridiculous. But the film plays him (especially music wise) very seriously. But his comedy 'you're all doomed' schtick is so farcical that you could literally just edit his scenes into a horror parody and they would fit perfectly without the need to re-film new ones.

An example of the latter are in fact the many false scares, false starts the film has (and indeed which almost all Slashers have) as the makers more often than not style set-pieces for that first time (still pretty niave to such films) audience.
This was a perfectly valid thing to do at the time of course, but it means that once we know what is going to happen and when, and once we know what are real kills and what are tricks, the false scare scenes are just plain tedious, especially if they have a long build-up.
And how many times during the finale chase do we have see the killer supposedly slumped un-concious or dead (after nothing but a weak-ass shove or punch) before they re-appear again?

The film also suffers from a far too large amount of off-screen kills.
We thankfully have most of the bodies turn up effectively (something "The Burning" utterly failed to accomplish) but to have so many deaths unseen means we are denied some genuine pay-offs for our patience.
Take for example the archery range death.
If the film never made it clear if the person was dead or not then that would be fine when the body turns up and is used to surprise us. But the film makes it very clear (a horrified look followed by a loud scream for Christ-sake) that the person has been killed. There's no mystery or anticipation there about their fate.
So why not show it?
After all you showed us the person walking around doing nothing for 5 minutes, so why leave when something actually happens!?

In fact statistically 4 out of the 9 victim deaths are off-screen.
That's nearly 50% of the murders going unseen by the audience.
In fact (the axe to the face is still only an aftermath shot) Savini only has to pull off 3 actual 'death' FX... and one of them is the killer's.
So it seems too coy today, it's padded with 'work once only' false scare set pieces and the cliches now (if not then, I agree) seem more comedic than anything else.
But the famous score, the occasional gory FX and some effective atmospheric/creep moments manage to make this icon just about hold up.

FRIDAY THE 13TH part 2
In many ways a better movie than its predecessor as we see far more of the kills and some of the action and death scenes are better handled.
But sadly this was hurt by the now infamous censor cuts.
Not one death scene goes by without it being obviously shortened, and in the case of the spear death almost removed entirely.

And this is a real shame, as with the kills uncut this would indeed easily surpass the first film.
Not that this too does not have many of the same basic faults. Many to do (again) with dated set-ups and boring false scares.

One of the biggest is the movie's blatant (although to be fair a general 80's audience would have no idea at all) stealing from Bava's "Bay of Blood" for at least two of the kills and general set-up and you really have to wonder if Steve Miner had somehow seen a pre-release version of "The Burning" as far as his own campfire scene goes. As it's so similar in execution and carbon copy 'shock' pay-off to the one in "The Burning" it's almost illegal!
Both films were released at around the same time, but "The Burning" had wrapped shooting about 3 months before "Friday 2" had even begun.
So the film does feel, today at least, like a rather tired (at times) re-hash.

But, although we do have a stupidly clumsy Jason here (though sporting an effective 'sack' disguise, obviously influenced by the killer's look in "The Town that Dreaded Sundown") who spends half of the finale falling over things or falling off them all to the film's detriment, overall "Friday 13th part 2" is perhaps the more enjoyable of the first two "Friday" films (better nudity too!) and we can only hope that one day someone actually bothers to restore the murders.

FRIDAY THE 13TH part 3
The one wear Jason truly become...er...Jason. Hockey mask here we come.
Well we eventually get to it after a stupidly long, 15 minutes, opening that spends almost every minute on a flashback to the (here changed) finale of "part 2" and time spent watching an old couple argue with each other, hang out washing, and run their store before they are finally killed just so Jason can put on some pants.

This lacks the same lakeside feel of the first two films due to the house/barn setting, it has the old padding moments once more but thankfully not many false scares.
Characters are mildly annoying and bland, but some shoehorned into the plot to add to the body count bikers add some cheesy fun.

The kills are a mixture of the very fine (the handstand demise) and the dire (the head crush/eyeball pop) and are hit and miss mainly due to the nature of their 3D existence.
I've seen both versions and the 3D version works okay in that technically weak old school way (although actually the best 3D effect isn't gore but a yo yo!) but the film is still okay in 2D.

It feels very flat though and lacks energy and the boat scene is a non-sensical mess purely there to ape the end of the first film.
Average fare at best.

FRIDAY THE 13H part 4
Infamously not the promised 'Final Chapter', although it is the final chapter in the saga of the real, un-zombie, un-parasite, un-android Jason so is as good a place as any to actually end your viewing of the series, as nothing got better than this.

Infamous as well for the legendary 'Crispin Glover Boogie' "Friday the 13th 4" is a step up from the 3rd film in both pace and body count and in fact is perhaps the quickest moving of all the first four films.
Censor cust are still here but this time (and "Part 3" was better too) they are not as heavy or as obvious as "part 2" and in fact the film has some of the best gore of the series and unlike the first film we get to see almost all of the victims killed.

There's still a certain lethargy here though and some awfully cookie-cutter, bland, characters that all fade into each other (Mr Disco Glover and a young Corey Feldman aside) and the use of two houses with these same bland characters in them can get confusing.
Plus the 'Jason jumping through the window/body hurled through the window' scenes are getting lazily repetative by now as well.
There's a couple of really good stunts though here that's a first for the series and the action flows nicely between the stodgy teen hijinks. Some welcome nudity too.

So not a classic of course, but perhaps the best in the series with some choice kills and a pretty fast pace that delivers a suitably (should have remained permanent) demise for 'proper' Jason.

FRIGHT NIGHT
Firm favourite with many a horror fan for many years this (recently re-made) vampire film pretty much stands up today as well as at the same time having a very 80's nostalgia/cheese vibe that adds an extra layer of enjoyment.

The opening faux vampire movie (being shown on the 'Fright Night' TV show) smacks of 'Hammer' movie parody with Roddy McDowell's ex-actor/horror host obviously channeling Peter Cushing's Van Helsing, hopefully tongue in cheek respectful, and this nod towards horror film lore continues throughout.

Lead William Ragsdale as Charley Brewster is good and likeable enough, veteran McDowell is in fine form as the initially reluctant TV horror host Brewster goes to for aid, Chris Sarandon is a mixture of the aggressively effective (under some dated but memorable FX make-up) and the downright cheesy (that awful scarf!) as Brewster's nasty Vampire neighbour, Amanda Bearse as Brewster's girlfriend is achingly 80's in attitude and god-awful hairstyle (her "Married with Children" familiarity certainly makes her disco seduction scene probably more amusing now than it was ever meant to be) but she improves later on (and gets delightfully sexed-up) but they all tend to stand in the shadow of the infamous Stephen Geoffreys as Brewster's manic friend Evil Ed.
Once seen never forgotten Geoffrey's er...unique...looks and screeching delivery add much needed energy to certain parts of the film and the later knowledge that he went into hardcore Gay porn just adds to the whole craziness of the guy and his performance.

The film is a bit slow at times (not so much in plotting, as in flabby pace and direction) and the full-on vampire scenes tend to be few and far between in the middle of the film and we don't get enough of good old Evil Ed.
Some scenes of random attacks on a few extras would have been nice.

There are some effective vampire scenes though.
An early seduction scene of a would-be victim that Brewster sees through a window is very well crafted with a wonderful use of Brad Fiedel's entertaining score
And a scene where Peter Vincent truly faces the reality of dispatching a vampire is a standout moment, not just because of the great practical FX, but for the way it's handled as far as the emotional trauma to Vincent goes. A surprisingly moving scene.

Sometimes the mix of the comic and the serious jars but at least, thankfully, the comedy is funny enough and the serious parts are dramatic enough to satisfy.
And when you add all the parts up; the great old school practical FX (some obvious wires visible though on a giant bat scene), good cast, some surprising drama and nostalgia factor, "Fright Night" still satisfies overall.

FRITZ THE CAT
Almost as legendary as Crumb's comic strip creation, this Ralph Bakshi classic still manages to hold up in 2010, despite being VERY much a film of its time.

Some references and names dropped were lost on me as I am nether the right age group (even at 40) or nationality to really grasp it all, but anyone with a good working knowledge 60's/70's New York/42nd Street, Blaxploitation films and general exploitation/underground movies and art will still find much to enjoy here.

Rude, crude and occasionally rather funny this is comic strip energy mixed with social observation and just plain un-PC funstuffs that may be dated and even rather simplistic at times...but it's still a movie with a knowing satirical edge amongst all the jiggling breasts, pointy nipples, big arses, floppy cocks and Jive-ass birdlife.

FROZEN
Adam Green does Adam Green again...as in much promise and much hype, but not much pay-off.

This is better than "Hatchet" at least, but the idea is so basic and paired down (a positive aspect if the movie had simply been a short) that the film has literally nowhere to go by the half way point.
Real dread and tension does not set in till quite late into the set-up and once a certain major (and well crafted) event happens the film now has nothing for the characters to do until it makes them do the obvious (which as been put off time and again) and until then the film is a mixture of the deadly dull and the uncomfortably unpleasant.
The way the girl is treated is just like watching a cancer patient slowly dying in a chair, complete with voided bowls and septic flesh. It's just not entertainment.

The end portion has a well done reveal of what was effectively, cruelly, signposted for us, some of the set-piece moments in the first half (where there were some actual set-pieces to work with) were pretty successful and it was certainly not a bad film with some initially interesting characters. though the stoic set-up then makes less than interesting.
But the rather obvious outcome of certain events, the unpleasantly dull middle portion and a certain 'meh' feeling as the credits roll mean this is rental material only.

FUTUREWORLD
The follow up to the highly popular "Westworld" starts off good enough and also starts off with an interesting mystery to solve.
So it all looks promising.

But then nothing happens.
Unlike "Westworld" this is not a film about the robots in a pleasure resort going wrong...just some dubious activities AT the resort.
As such, despite spending time introducing them/watching them, nothing at all happens to any of the tourists!
Nothing goes wrong!
There's also a desperate 'dream' attempt, again utterly pointless and never followed up, to get Yul Brynner's famous gunslinger back in the film that must be the most embarrassing thing the actor has ever done.

So we spend 1hour 40 minutes watching Peter Fonda and Blythe Danner walk around rooms, tunnels and corridors.
And that's it!
The final 15 minutes has a brief chase/fight (that no one else in the resort is part of or knows anything about) that eventually leads to a slightly entertaining, but far too abrupt and comical, last scene that sums up the pointlessness of it all.

Fonda is fun, a solid support cast (including the ever welcome John P. "It's Alive" Ryan) does okay, some of the mystery is mildly intriguing and the 'who is who' finale is quite good. But that's it.
Following up a famous 'machines go murderously wrong' movie with a 'machines function perfectly and nothing goes wrong' movie is bizarre indeed.

GETAWAY (THE)
Pekinpah and McQueen!
Holds up pretty damn well, good 70's cinema with a nice turn by the ever welcome Al Lettieri.

GHOST TRAIN (THE) (1941)
One of the may adaptations of the famous play, sees it turned into a comedy vehicle for wartime/post war comedian Arthur Askey.
A group of passengers miss their connection and are stranded in a wind and rain lashed, deserted, rural train station where the ghostly apparition of a train that once crashed is said to haunt the place.
And if you gaze upon it as it thunders past...you die.

The comedy hangs very well, and although Askey's antics have dated and are very music hall most of it works and there are some genuine laugh out loud moments of fun and Askey is very likeable.
Special mentions as well to the wonderful Kathleen Harrison as her stuffy, tea-total character gets sloshed on some 'medicinal' brandy and Askey's regular co-star and semi-straight man partner Richard Murdoch who bounces superbly off Askey.
What's also genuine is the creepy atmosphere built up in the excellent deserted train station set, helped no end by a wonderfully theatrical performance by Linden Travers as Julia, who is supposedly being driven insane by her need to look once more upon the ghostly train after glimpsing it years before.
Her wide-eyed pronouncements of spooky doom (as the unseen train thunders past, lights from its ghostly carriages illuminating the shrouded waiting room full of the stranded terrified passengers) add a full-on Gothic creepiness to the proceedings and certainly these scenes made a lasting impression on me when I first saw them in bed, on late night TV, as a teenager.

A fine, oh so delightfully English, blend of broad comedy and atmospheric, creepy horror.

GHOUL SCHOOL
Utterly tedious, badly made, low-fi schlock that was shot on film but plays/looks like a bunch of kids got hold of a Dad's video camera he uses for weddings, scraped up $50 and a few favours and decided (bless them and well done for actually doing something) to shoot a contamination/zombie film just for shits and giggles.
Sadly though we have to pay cash to watch their shits and giggles and that's where the nasty taste comes from.

Truly awful/utterly fake in every physical way possible, gore, no energy, horrendous acting and truly awful editing (that makes the "Action", "Cut", "Action" jigsaw performances even worse) and a crappy ass ending all add up to "No fun to be had here folks! Move along, move along"!

Thankfully the makers shoehorn in some utterly unconnected comedy routines/sequences between 2 guys in a broom closet (one who has THE worst phone acting abilities in cinema history) that defy description but amazingly give this an extra lift but can't stop the rot.
Shame.

GIALLO
Dario Argento's astonishingly, globally, mocked movie is actually not as bad as the tedious "The Card Player", or as stupidly false footed and wasteful as "Mother of Tears".
It at least has some nice and nasty gore and violence (at last!) and some interesting set-pieces in the first half.
It's also nice to see a psycho Charnel House lair again too, with messy corpses lying about.

But it falls apart in the 2nd half and Argento basically reaches the film's finale with 20 minutes left to go. So he now has to concoct a messy, rather silly indeed, final act that ends on a real non-event of an ending (though there is a nice nod to the finale of "Cat o' Nice Tails" and the opening murder of "Suspiria") that then has yet another final scene before the credits. It's all a bunch of messy, shoulder shrugging. nonsense.

And the basic plot is a mistake from the start as quite frankly not much happens except a couple of abductions and torture murders by the killer with a rather strange Adrian Brody and a badly acted female sidekick (sister of latest victim) moping around trying to piece the simplistic jigsaw together.
But as theres no (despite the name of the movie) Giallo mystery to uncover and reveal here there is nothing to hook us.

Not even the usual macabre entertainment we can normally get from watching the killer at work can hook us...
Why?
Because, and the infamy is justified, for no reason whatsoever (no really, there is no link, or twist, or revelation involved in the plot here at all) Adrian Brody also plays the killer that Adrian Brody the Cop is hunting!

And yes, despite the awful latex joke that constitutes the killer's supposed face, you can indeed tell, throughout the entire film, that it is without a doubt Brody. In fact I think you are meant to? Surely?
So to see 'Latex Face Killer Brody' torturing a victim (with unintentionally funny half sentence grunting) in one scene, only to then have the very next scene feature 'Beardy Face Cop Brody' walking down a corridor is nothing but a huge, utterly farcical, distraction.
In fact all the scenes with the killer, once we see his face fully revealed early on (that should be movie highlights) are nothing but huge distractions thanks to this utterly bizarre casting decision.

Argento has abandoned the film stating the Producers took it off him and edited it (though no outside editing has anything to do with almost all the faults here) and Brody has done the same and even gone so far as to block all further American distribution as he states he has not been fully paid.
So all in all it's an astonishing disaster that sees Argento, perhaps finally, throw away his very last chance (shot in english, big star American lead) at a comeback. Hell, lucky he got another after the unfulfilled expectations of "Mother of Tears".

And although the film is not "Card Player" bland and has some nice grue, it's still a sorry movie to see Argento's name attached to it.

GIRL WHO KICKED THE NORNETS' NEST (THE)
The trilogy finishes with a film that has absolutely nothing to offer anyone who has not seen the other movies and even for fans this is really just a dialogue heavy in the extreme wrap-up of all the loose plot stands. For a 140 minute film, only about 20 minutes is not people in rooms talking.

As such this flags at times and only the need to see the story completed and to see how the wonderful Lisbeth character gets through it all makes you stick with it.
And despite the heavy plotting here there are still some weak plot holes. Not helped by the fact that this and "Girl who Played with Fire" were originally 2 part TV films with about 60 minutes more material in them EACH!
"Fire" thought I thought was great and I couldn't tell that footage was missing (never read the books so that ignorance helps) but in "Hornet" narrative does seem to be missing (and indeed it is if you look up the differences in theatrical and TV versions) which leads to various moments of "how did they find that out", "when did that happen", "where did that guy go"?

They removed an entire death scene in "Hornet" for an important character from "Fire" for example and I had to wonder why they were talking about him as if he was dead!
There's also a huge bit of unexplained plotting concerning how Lisbeth finally deals with the psycho blonde guy...We have to wonder how she ever knew some guys were looking for him.
Supposedly this was because much of the newspaper/TV news reporting that Lisbeth could have seen of outside events that was in the novel (Lisbeth spends 95% of the film in hospital, prison or courtroom) was removed here.

But, Lisbeth Salander is such a complex character (and is just so well played by the amazing Noomi Rapace) who goes from being tough, to tragic, to kick-ass, to achingly vunerable, to warm and caring to cold as ice, that you can't help but be drawn into her story.
Plus it's nice to see scumbags get justice slammed down on their heads and to have the deep and layered plot finally (and completely and mostly satisfyingly) wrapped up.

So this is good stuff for fans for sure, but is utterly to be avoided if you have not seen the other films or if you hated them. And be warned...there is a massive slice of talk here, even more than the other two films, that may even occasionally tire fans.
But despite some bad plot-cutting (WHICH IS IMPROVED IN THE EXTENDED VERSION) and the odd hole, this is a satisfying conclusion and we'll miss Blomkvist and Salander for sure.

GLEAMING THE CUBE
It's the 80's!
Sporting an hysterical, big and spiky, blonde hi-lights, hairstyle and a dangly earring, a young Christian Slater is in fine form as a skateboarding teen after his adopted Brother's, Commie sympathising, murderers.

Unlike "BMX Bandits" the skateboarding here plays no part in the actual story (other than a mode of transport!) until the very, very end but there are some top stunts to be seen here and, although they need some help from cars, the skateboard chase at the end is good fun.
There's also a nice (if short) motorbike vs skateboard chase.

But the good cast (as well as Slater we have Steven Bauer, Charles Cyphers and Ed Lauter), gloriously cheesy 80's trappings and general fun time attitude make up for the middle slump and surprising lack of full-on skateboard vs bad guy action.

GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS
An amazing cast give their all with Jack Lemmon stealing the overall honours in a wonderfully astute performance.
But the best single scene has to be Pacino's stunningly brutal verbal demolishing of Kevin Spacey (in a marvellous turn) that uses words, and more importantly expletives, as razor sharp weapons that rip into their target.
A slight story (you can tell it's very stagebound origins) but the dialogue, the cast and the performances (Baldwin's one sequence cameo still makes for riveting viewing) make it something special.

GOD BLESS AMERICA
It's become the 'right on' thing to praise this film, but it's no "Super". And it so wants to be.

There are some good things here. Nice performances, some choice violence and odd amusing moment.
BUT the bigger problems are endless;

1) The obnoxious Roxy would be a target too surely?! She represents the hideous 'the adult writer disguised as the child character' syndrome.
OH...YES...The very thing the film endlessly preaches its hate about! They rant on about Diablo Cody and then have a Diablo Cody character in the film as joint lead.
I mean what the fuck was that 'Alice Cooper is God of all Music' rant from a 2012 teenage girl about?! Like Roxy would say that.
No that was Diablo...er...I mean Bobcat...speaking!

2) Another problem with "God Bless America" is are we meant to approve of these people?
Because most targets are 'brick in face' level social annoyances not murder level ones.
Bobcat (more later on this tit) sure does like his righteous spree killers though.
Not even "NBK" went to this level of 'I insist you approve of these characters and feel for them' psycho love. But then "NBK" shits all over this mess.

3) The finale sees our 'hero' shoot innocent working guys and security guards just doing their job, yet has the nerve to act all moral about society.
"NBK", "Taxi Driver" etc never placed their killers as moral spokesmen!

4) And what about the endless soft targets too?
They're welcome targets for sure, but so obvious.
The only real 'big' targets (welcome ones, as said) are Fascist commentators & Westbro Baptist Church stand-ins, but they are all so obvious and the rest are simply small fry. Obnoxious small fry...but still small fry.
Where's this supposed edginess?

5) Why no criticism of the racial bias in "God Bless America"?
Seems all the evils and wrongs in America come with White skin.
Would a non-White victims only version of this supposedly liberal and moral film be allowed, let alone championed? Would it hell as like!
Bobcat out and out LIES in interviews about the fact only White people and their culture are targeted.
One solitary Black person is shot in the entire film and that's only because they were parodying the "American Idol' Judges.

No Black religious homophobes and racists Bobcat?
No Muslim anti-Semites and zealot bigots Bobcat?
No Hispanic bad parents with wailing kids Bobcat?
No arrogant rich Black people Bobcat?
No non-White rude people AT ALL Bobcat?!

That certain groups are all White is logical and FINE. But why only White groups?
And why are all the general targets (rude parking idiots, rude kids in the cinema, rude neighbours, etc etc etc) just general, middle/upper class White people?
Imagine that reversed and only one White person was killed?
Liberal love still going strong then?

So five huge problems in a film that's meant to be about sorting out the problems in life.

Forget the hypocritical, nasty, bigoted, simplistic, soft, unlikeable "God Bless America" and all its 'right-on' critical praise...watch "Super", "Falling Down", "NBK" or "Taxi Driver" instead.
See how it should be done, from film makers who aren't famous for making stupid noises in barely average comedy franchises.
Stick to your strengths Bobcat...pull a face and screech. Don't get ideas above your talent level.

GODZILLA- American version
Sure it's not really anything like Godzilla. But hey, we know that. Like "Halloween 3" move the hell on! It's boring!
Taken on it's own merits though it's fine entertainment.
From the start it almost never lets up (no hour wait to see a monster here!), the sheer amount of destruction is great to see and very well done, the FX are superb (even in 2006 - a few dodgy matte shots aside - this is still some of the best CGI ever seen), it has some beautifully crafted action scenes (the helicopter chase though the maze of buildings is exhilarating cinema), likeable characters and quite simply it packs more monster fun 'n' punch than dull hype events like "The Lost World" could ever hope to deliver.

GOING TO PIECES: Rise & Fall of the Slasher Film
It's okay, sort of.
But really this is far too choppy and far too focused on the big franchises or well known titles.
Some very interesting films only appear as posters or as a couple of narration-free clips.

It's also hampered by far too many moments of pretentious, cliche-drenched, cod-psychology 101, sound bites about the deeper meanings of the Slasher film.
The worst coming from (shot in a cemetery no less) Amy Holden Jones and John Carpenter who spouts stuff like "We have a reptile brain way down inside and its cold-blooded", "the truth of the matter is there's a bloodlust in all of us" and "the darkness is in the human soul". Really John? Did you really just say those things with a straight face and not a hint of irony?

I mean for a bunch of film makers that are supposedly standing up for the Slasher films in particular and horror films in general and bemoaning the fact that these harmless fun rides are just that, they do spend a lot of time trying to make them sound like Bergman films, as if just being a gory fun ride horror flick is indeed not enough so they must add depth and serious meaning to them to be taken seriously and be respected.
Give me Joe Bob Briggs any day.

Some good clips here and there and some nice chances to see some minor/cult figures in the industry that rarely get interviewed but this is basically far too familiar and condensed in content and packed with far too much overblown excuses for the films and cliche drivel.

Best verbal moment is when the guy from New Line states that actually the twist in "April Fools Day" is a clever set-up, its the twist in "Haute Tension" that's the real cheat on the audience.
Very true.

GOLGO 13 - Anime
Not too bad. Far more like an animated comic book than an animated film with many static shots and basic animations over static backgrounds etc.
Some good violence and lots of sex and nudity keep things ticking along, even if it's not with much energy.
Very dated looking (though nicely stylised) with a now crappy looking CGI sequence that was a very big thing back then but not now, and a so so story.
Worth a look, but the commentary track (on the R2/Japanese DTS release) was actually more enjoyable than the actual feature!

GONE WITH THE WIND
This classic of cinema is , for me, classic in only an historical way.

"GWTW" is an okay film in itself and historically a landmark of course plus it looks amazing and technically is (mostly) brilliant.
But it's terribly dated as far as melodrama and much of the dialogue goes.
It's plotting is as deep as a puddle and as subtle as a sledgehmmer. As is the OTT music.
Plus it's filled with so many annoying, unpleasant and unsympathetic characters and general gloom and doom (a 2nd 'horse incident' is achingly tragic and cruelly contrived) that it fails to find a place in my heart at all.

Only Clark Gable's wonderful performance (and some of his great dialogue/insults) really shine here for me.
But Vivian Leigh is overly theatrical and Scarlett is such a repugnant bitch that quite frankly, as far as her life or 'hardships' go, I don't give a damn!

GONZA: THE SPEARMAN
Japanese Samurai movie that's 2 hours long and contains one, 20 second of screen time, fight at the very end!
The rest is a barely interesting story of Gonza scheming to learn the method of the scared tea service (I kid you not) by tricking various women until a mess up with one who is married (but has done nothing at all with) sees him and the woman having to flee.

This is meant to be the tragic love story part of the plot. But it appears very late, is set-up purely on bad luck with no similar feelings from Gonza's side at all towards the woman (whose fault it all was, due to her overheard shouting, that they had to flee any way) so any tragedy (and thus emotion and power) is non-existent.
Crap uk DVD transfer did not help the tedium flow any smoother.

GOODFELLAS
I still think "Casino" is a more satisfying and complex whole, and it's not quite as good as "Taxi Driver". But then again few things in life that aren't naked are.

Of course we have Scorsese making the craft of moviemaking look easy with his seemingly in-built skill when it comes to tackling such subjects and such harsh, disturbed characters.
Everything from staging, music and performance direction/capture is the work of a true cinematic artist.
He's helped by a mostly true story that's very well delivered in a tight screenplay (perhaps a bit too tight now and again as far as 'years passing' goes and its concentration of events) and some memorable dialogue. even if some of that dialogue is shouted and screamed a bit too much at times.

Pesci's now iconic performance tends to over dominate sometimes (have we become more sophisticated this quickly as an audience? As again I thought his underrated turn in "Casino" later on was a more grounded and successful psycho performance) but he is memorable and genuinely terrifying if you think you could ever sit by such a guy in real life...Talk about juggling with nitro!
De Niro is a little wasted overall, but he's superb at times here and brings the most complex thought processes his character goes through, often in a few seconds, come to life by his expressions alone.
Ray Liotta was strangely overlooked when this came out (although it kick-started his career for sure) despite the fact he utterly carries the epic storyline and is almost never off-screen.
And he's good. Very good.
We never like Henry Hill (we never like any of these guys...fascination with them and entertainment from them is not the same thing) but Liotta is astute enough a performer to know we have to never really dislike him. As then we tune out and get angry, bored and annoyed with the whole film.
Nice stuff.

The support cast of course is a gem. Packed with (surprisingly young) actors who would soon become mainstays of 'Mafia' drama for years to come and all look, sound and act their roles (often very small) to perfection.
This in fact looks like a "Sopranos" audition at times! Love it!

Some great music of course, some superb use of it in some amazing sequences, some fun (if perhaps overkill on it sometimes) narration and the odd smattering of righteous violence (that brings home how dangerous and ruthless these people are) and it's not a film, despite what some critics said, that glamourises The Mafia either.
By the time the end credits roll in fact you should never want to be part of it. Perhaps just an invisible in-looker at best.
Because these people will kill you in an instant, over the most petty of things and worse...kill you over things that lack any and all of the supposed 'honour and loyalty' they supposedly live by. The fate of the robbery gang shows this.
And although Scorsese shares his fascination with these people and their life with us...he's never blinded by it.
When Hill's Wife (a nice, strong turn by Lorraine Bracco) narrates that her Husband just works to get them a few essentials in life Scorsese is panning over a massive railing of suits and then dresses in their wardrobe. Scorsese smells the bullshit and so we do also.

Wonderful cinema and one of the greats of gangster movie making and a must for devotees of dem facking hump Mafia-types. And who the hells isn't?

GOOD DIE YOUNG (THE)
Top notch British thriller with a superb cast that Tarantino must have seen at some point as there are some close links to "Reservoir Dogs" with its tale of a bunch of strangers coming together to pull a heist and we learn about their backgrounds before the job takes place.
And what a cast!
Laurence Harvey in his prime and dripping sophisticated sexuality as the cruel head of the gang.
The great Stanley Baker in top 'hard guy with a heart' mode as a tragic ex-Boxer.
And supporting them we have John Ireland, Richard Basehart, a very young Joan Collins and a wonderfully horrible turn by Freda "Brides of Dracula" Jackson as Collin's manipulative Mother.
Nothing groundbreaking, but a solid watch and a great cast.

GORKY PARK
Very underrated thriller. A top cast all put in good perfromances and the story is interesting.
It's also a nice slice of history now with the Soviet Union setting.
People moaned about William Hurt's performance as the dogged Soviet detective, on the case of 3 faceless corpses found in the snow, but his use of an almost non-accent (sort of English...but not) is better than trying to do a dubious Russian accent for 2 hours (no one moaned at Connery in "Red October"!) and his clipped delivery not only adds to the feel that he is meant to be speaking a foreign language but also goes with the rigid, disciplined, regimented society he was raised in.
Lee Marvin is good and cold as the ruthless American fur trader and shady businessman. And a bit of Marvin is always welcome.
Joanna Pacula is suitably desirable and yet deeply tragic and gives a very good debut performance.
Brian Dennehy is a solid and wonderful to watch as he always was in his prime and the support cast is also good with nice turns from the both sadly late Michael Elphick and Ian Bannen as well as Richard Griffiths.
And we have a delightfully ghoulish performance by The Emperor himself Ian McDiarmid.
A bit overlong (and yet rather hurried at the end) but all in all a grand looking, entertaining, serious thriller that deserves a better reputation.

THE GRADUATE
60's perfection.
Hoffman is just wonderful as the multi-layered Benjamin and Anne Bancroft is an absolute joy as the cool as ice, but ultimately tragic, sexual predator Mrs Robinson who takes Benjamin in hand (as it were).

A great screenplay of course mixes the comic, the absurd and the tragic, but the other huge strengths here are the skilfull, taut direction by Mike Nichols and the stunning cinematography by the legendary Robert Surtees.
Not an inch of the widescreen frame is wasted and the visuals tell the tale just as much as the screenplay.
Just one of the many outstanding set-ups is when a petrified Benjamin and an unknowing Mr Robinson are sitting down, face to face, talking (just after the first pass by Mrs Robinson) and between them, in the background, the staircase looms...leading up to the bedroom where it happened. And then eventually, after just enough discomfort, Mrs Robinson is seen gliding down it.
And of course we have the wonderful score by Simon and Garfunkel that's full of classic songs (well used) and that truly puts the final layer of varnish on this mini-masterpiece.

GRIMM LOVE
This relatively obscure but still pretty mainstream re-telling of the infamous Armin Meiwes 'voluntary cannibalism' case where he arranged to meet up with and eat Bernd Jürgen Brandes.

This has to be compared to the extremely graphic Marian Dora directed version "Cannibal" and as such this version comes up short in most departments.

Unlike the Dora movie, which is mostly just a recreation of the infamous event (indeed it is almost a fictional recreation of the real, still unseen by the public, video that Meiwes shot of the killing/eating) "Grimm Love" spends most of its running time with flashbacks and backstory of Meiwes and Brandes (though they are both re-named and I'm not sure how accurate these events are, though they are certainly based on the main known facts) and this does contain some pretty interesting material, be it real or imagined (like an effective dream sequence of the Meiwes character walking through a room of hanging bodies and body parts), and it certainly gives the Brandes character some emotional weight which works well during his extended demise and which was missing from the Dora movie, where Brandes was literally just 'The Flesh'.

But the film really drops the ball in it's decision to add a completely fictional American student who is in Germany and meant to be doing her paper on the case.
I assume she is there to tell us the story, but the film tells the story of the two men without her. We see all we need to see with no link to her supposed research and she mainly just holds the main plot up by sitting on trains or walking around a house spouting a pretentious, cod-psychology, narration.
And all the audience does is wish she would vanish so we can get on with the main story.
I swear, if you knew nothing about the movie and they edited her out of it...you would never know she ever existed.

The homosexual elements are there but are never really explicit, although one scene (though no nudity is shown) where a tied to the bed Brandes pleads to his pick-up lover to bite his penis off is pretty intense, and certainly it avoids the sexually explicit gay sex and nudity moments that were so to the forefront in "Cannibal".

Gore wise there is nothing bar a black and white shot (meant to be the real video) of a head on a table, although there is some blood and some obscured stabbing and cutting, but again this is a far, far cry from the astonishingly realistic, very graphic and detailed killing and butchery seen in Dora's movie.

The first 2/3rds of "Grimm Love" (the pointless American student scenes aside) contain some interesting stuff and actually works as a pretty interesting, backstory, companion piece to Dora's superior movie.
But its version of the actual slaying/cannibalism is pretty weak and the boring, pointless and pretentious student scenes a real misfire. So ultimately you should stick with Dora's suitably bleak and grotesque "Cannibal" .

GRUDGE (THE) -Unrated/Extended
Having had my fill of carbon copy Japanese supernatural flicks I never bothered with "Ju-on", so I thought that the American version would be a nice compromise to make for a fresher viewing.
I have to say I was impressed. Geller does a fine job and the 'foreigner abroad' angle adds a new spin.
Some good 'cheap' jump scares combine with good genuine scares and the film is packed with creepy, grotesque sights and has a nice unrelenting pace as it keeps the shocks coming thick and fast and the final 3rd really delivers the brutal and grotesque goodies...but it still managed to add character and suspense.
Very good indeed overall.
BUT...What a travesty that Sam 'I have now become a corporate suit' Raimi allowed this to be cut down to get a PG-13! If allowing the "Evil Dead" to be re-made was not proof enough...this should be!
Checking on the IMDB at what was removed for ther theatrical release it's pretty easy to see that much of the film's well crafted shock power was simply thrown away!
Don't even bother going near the theatrical cut...get this version instead and you will enjoy the ride a lot more. Especially the far more disturbing finale/flashback to the family killings.

GUNS OF NAVARONE (THE) *spoilers*
Okay it has its moments, but it's still way overrated.
Some boring characters, a lack of action, awfully dated model work, a really stupid death scene for James Darren that makes little sense and a confused, very weak death scene for the great (but wasted here) Stanley Baker.
I actually prefer the much maligned sequel ("Force 10") which has more action, is faster paced, has more entertaining support characters and I prefer Robert Shaw's portrayal of Mallory over Gregory Peck's. And Franco Nero is always welcome.

GUTTERBALLS
This was a massive improvement on the Director's weak "LIve Feed" and completely delivered. If you hate gore drenched, nasty, sick, twisted, exploitative flicks then don't watch.
But if you fancy the idea of a well made (technically dubious dialogue recording aside), truly balls-out exploitation flick done with a fan's enthusiasm and a 70's/80's retro sensibility, topped off with wonderfully inventive kills and superb gore FX then here it is.

The acting is not so much 'bad, as amateur, but that does not mean bad. The acting had a fun, go for it, heart in the right place amateur appeal for the most part. Even the expletive filled script works in the context of the film and it's characters.
A killer with a bowling bag on his head, splattertastic death by ball polisher, a messy castration and a great charnel house finale. Oh...and some hardcore sex.
Exploitation fans rejoice at this little gem.
Death by 69? Could be a first! Check it out.

HALLOWEEN 2 (orig)
Pretty dreadful sequel to John Carpenters seminal, historic (but dreadfully plotted) classic "Halloween" that has an almost entirely mute Jamie Lee Curtis lying in a bed or crawling around the floor unable to scream at the right moment.
This version of Laurie Strode (who won't even hold a gun to defend herself) sums up the entire, weak, badly scripted enterprise.

A tiny bit of extra gore is added to the increased number of kills, but the FX are so simplistic they lack any power. And the best FX kill is simply ripped off "Deep Red" anyway.
This awful FX work is summed up by a straight into the camera throat slitting that is literally just a blunt scalpel with a blood dispensing edge you'd get in a joke shop. There's no wound made.

Add to this the leaden pace of the stalking scenes, a truly dire Donald Pleasence performance this time (his opening scenes/farcical - arrest this fucking maniac - road accident sequence being the very worst examples, as he screeches out bad dialogue in a forced American accent) and some lousy plotting (that sees a major revelation, that the Police would actually have benefitted from knowing, casually announced in the back of a car) and you have a trying exercise in tedium and grating annoyance.

Anything good? Nice explosion. Some titties, a nice 'lifting up the victim' scalpel in the back death, catchy (if overblown) 'Halloween theme' re-mix.
And, er, that's it!
Give me "My Bloody Valentine", "Happy Birthday to Me", "House on Sorority Row" and yes "Don't go in the Woods" any day over this!
In fact "Halloween 4" is better.
Shows why they changed tack for "Halloween 3" (a far superior film) as well.

HANGOVER (THE)
Stupendously successful and popular 'Bro' comedy that sees three friends take a groom out on a stag night trip the Las Vegas.
When they wake up though, they may have gained a lion and a chicken but they've also lost a tooth and the groom....

Starts off rather flat and uninspiring and the first 10/15 minutes seem strained indeed.
But once the 'morning after the night before' plot kicks in this starts to ratchet up the laughs, the craziness and the rude set-pieces with pretty much total success.
Only the (straining again...don't try so fucking hard writers!) real-life cameo by a punch drunk rapist seems needless as the fantasy characters are funny enough without such 'pop culture' desperation.

Some nice performances, some enjoyable (and often nicely growing and changing) characters, some nice un-pc baby troubles, some unexpected explosions of insanity and best of all (even his improvisation out-takes are hysterical) a great turn by 'The Doctor of Comedy' Ken Jeong as the stupendous 'Mr Chow', a chinese, or randomly oriental, comedy gangster-type creation who steals the show.
NOT the greatest comedy ever made, and without Jeong/'Chow' something would be missing indeed, but still a very good one that nicely satisfies.

HANNIBAL RISING
Why did this get so much hate?
It was far better than "Red Dragon" and "Hannibal".
It looked gorgeous (as did Gong Li), it was exceptionally well made, had an epic scope, was solidly acted by all (Gaspard Ulliel was very good indeed and thankfully left the Hopkins ham in the fridge), delivered the nastiness and was always compelling.

I also fail to see the criticism this gets for supposedly changing Hannibal from serial killer to vigilante hero.
First off (to escape or to evade capture aside) he always only ever seemed to kill people who were either deviants or just generally annoyed him or were counter to his warped sensibilities anyway.
Secondly he was shown in "Rising" to enjoy the kills far more than on just a vengeance level. He was loving 'the game' (a very Hannibal trait), the sadism and the drawn out deaths for their own sake.

He was obviously severly damaged mentally even at this early age due to what had happened to him and his family as a child (I also don't think this was a psycho-babble cop-put either as he was given chances to change by the Policeman who understood his reasons and by the only person in his life - who also loved him - Gong Li - but he chose to not be helped out of his own accord), so add the grotesque manner of the killings he carries out, add the fact he was loving the deaths and the sadistic games with his prey more and more (above the revenge level), add the fact we see him get more uninged as the film goes on and I think the movie made it very obvious at the end that Hannibal was one tiny step away from simply killing for his own pleasure and killing those who have not really done anything wrong to any normal mind...but have offended his now mortally damaged one in some way.

HAND OF DEATH
Early John Woo flick is an interesting look into the future.
A pre-eye widening operation Jackie Chan is the highlight and the action choreography by Sammo Hung gives him plenty of moments to shine.
Sammo himself also delivers the film's most horrendously grotesque aspect of the film....his comedy teeth!
Huge, shining white, goofy slabs that make him look like a psychotic rabbit who's eaten all the carrots!
Away from those mighty gnashers though, Sammo has a few good fight personal moments, but really delivers for the other actors.

Talking of the others, a young Yuen Biao is the other star of the show...though you won't really see him. Biao not only has a tiny acting role but does many of the stunts and doubles for various actors whenever acrobatics are required.
Aside from Sammo, Yuen and Jackie doing their early stuff (that would of course lead to some classic later pairings) there is little really outstanding about the film, but it delivers enough fight scenes to entertain and Jackie Chan really does shine.

HANGOVER PART 2 (THE)
Great sequel to the excellent original that, yes, does do the same basic thing (just as a "Die Hard" film does) but adds enough twists and changes on the formula to make for a satisfying wallow in full-on, un-PC (but never nasty at all, despite what poncy, right-on, critics who get free tickets, may say) non-stop comedy fun.
Regular cast all in top form, great to have the wonderful (stole first film) Mr Chow back, the monkey is a hoot and it all adds up to no nonsense, laugh out loud, good times.

Negatives are that the plot is less fun this time to figure out and the solutions to the amnesia craziness less far-out and rather mundane even.
But the humour still hits and that's the important thing.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME
Along with "My Bloody Valentine" this is the best known of the mini crop of Canadian Slasher films and "Happy Birthday to Me" delivers some good (if now mostly slightly censored) kills and only some needless padding (this is easily one of the longest Slasher films) and the odd moment of illogicality cast a shadow.

The opening murder is a surprisingly extended set-piece that delivers some effective tension and only the fact the would-be victim decides (twice) that running 10 foot then stopping is the best way to escape mars this sequence.
Kills worth a mention are a wickedly cruel weightlifting demise and the now infamous shish-kebab murder that became the film's most often seen publicity image.
Real gore is minimal and only a few shots of bodies during the finale and a spot of brain surgery (in a sequence mirrored years later in "Saw 3") are truly gruesome, the rest of the killings are simply bloody with little actual FX appliances.
But they still work, even in the now seemingly universal 'R' rated versions they exist in.

A rather well preserved Glen Ford is the only real name in the film, but Melissa Sue Anderson makes for an attractive and effective lead. Most of the characters are completely unlikeable though, not helped by that aforementioned forced sinister aspect they are stuck with.

The film's plotting problems come in the form of some stupidly sinister scenes purely to deliver red herring suspects, as characters act nutty for no valid reason like the silly bell tower scene and the now infamous reveal during the finale. It's still an excellent plot reveal with a nice twist on the very end and the infamy is more to do with a specifically physical aspects of the reveal that is of course rather absurd, as it would not have worked in real life.
But it's still a memorable and satisfying finale.
We do have one of the worst continuity errors in films history though when we see (three times!) a car fall into the river on its roof, only to then land on its wheels in a 4th shot! Truly awful.

But overall the extended running time is pretty eventful and although 10 minutes could have been cut the nicely extended finale uses much of the extra running time to great success and all in all "H B to Me" is a well above average entry into the crowded world of 80's Slashers.

HARD ROCK ZOMBIES
Ohhh ....My head hurts.
Truly DIRE! An awful film.
Only good moment....a Comedy Nazi Dwarf Zombie!
Otherwise....flush it!! Ohhh....

HARD TO KILL
The bad first.
Kelly Le Brock! Any stiffer and lifeless and she'd be a corpse!
Her over the top 'do you not know one is English' plum in the mouth delivery is grating and she quite frankly stinks. Which is not good as she is on it so much!
Even during some of the Stevie the Seagul bone snapping scenes she has to stick her face in!
It's rather plodding once Seagul pops out of his coma (after being shot and his Wife killed) after the hospital chase scene. We have revenge to get revenging so lets not spend anymore time than we have to with Seagul and Kelly the Plank.
Generally this is stuck with flat direction all round.
The plot is all over the place and filled with holes too and lacks a really good hammy lead villain.

The good.
Bone snapping! Limbs are twisted all kinds of wrong ways here (with suitably nasty crunching sounds) and it's all good.
A few satisfying and bloody gun fights break up the martial arts fights as well and yet again we have delightfully cheesy dialogue.
The best line comes after Seagal realises a Senator (who likes to say "and you can take that to the bank" as his political catchphrase) is the bad guy, and he scowls at the camera and announces:
"And I'm going to take you to the bank Senator. THE BLOOD BANK"!
And how can you not love this classic after Seagal rams a stake into a guy's throat! "That's for my wife...Fuck you and die"!
I also love the fact the Seagal pays no heed to innocent bystanders and property as he throws bad guys around! It's not safe to be a bystander at a Stevie slap down, unless you want a goon in your lap! And keep all breakables out of the way!
Good fun for the most part then, but rather plodding at times and with a big flaw in the shape (though it is a nice shape) of the god-awful Kelly the Stiff, who they insisted on putting into every other scene.

HARRY BROWN
Sir Michael Caine puts in a great performance as the ex-Marine pensioner Harry Brown who has seen too much death enter his life.
And when his last friend and confidant on earth is killed by a murderous, sadistic, drug dealing gang of teenagers who have been terrorising the run down estate Harry lives on...he takes justice into his own hands.

Brutal, harsh, explicit in violence and language this may be a slightly overblown picture of modern Britain but it's simply a concentrate made of everyday facts and figures from various inner city/large town areas that anyone with a eyes and ears can see is the way of things.

The gang are a truly vile slice of life and the film pulls no punches in showing how they operate and interact with other people.
The lowest of the low is an understatement and as such, seeing as the Police do nothing until it's too late (either by indifference, or by years of having their hands tied behind their backs) the movie utterly makes a case for Harry doing what he does.

And Harry, and Caine, do what needs doing in fine form.
Caine is absolutely wonderful as the scared, sad, frustrated old man and just as superb as the angry, vengeful, hate filled vigilante who goes right into the cesspit to hunt his prey.
Bloody, violent (some over use of CGI is noticeable but does not distract from the bloodshed too much), nasty, crude well paced, well acted, well directed and edited with some great cinematography "Harry Brown" delivers some tense scenes, some exciting scenes, some moving scenes and plenty of satisfaction as repugnant germs in human form get wiped out.

A nice final shot sums it all up in a simplistic but wonderfully effective way and this is one modern vigilante film (unlike the awful and hypocritical "Death Sentence") that does not hypocritically disapprove or punish its vigilante or have any bleeding heart, bastardised so called liberal bleating on behalf of sadistic villains who barely register as sentient life forms.
And anyone whose watched any gang videos on YouTube will know just how accurate this portrayal of the bad guys is in the movie...thugs too moronic to even notice Ali G was taking the piss and was not meant to be a role model.

A vigilante flick for people who actually like vigilante flicks and recognise the whole cathartic release for the audience point of their existence.
"Harry Brown" is the kind of vigilante film Paul Kersey would happily watch in the cinema after a hard days street cleaning....and that's a damn high recommendation.

HAUNTING (THE) - orig
Robert Wise's superlative haunted house movie still manages to deliver some of the most effective and genuine scares seen in the movies.

The initial pounding noise sequence, the face in the wallpaper/voices/hand holding sequence and the whole finale are perhaps the most perfect examples of (a bulging door aside) absolutely nothing accomplishing everything.
Wise shows you nothing remotely supernatural or even out of the ordinary. All we have are doors. door-frames, walls, ceilings...and that's it!
And yet the abstract camera angles, sudden zooms, carefully sculptured shadows and some excellent sound effects/soundscapes all combine to deliver goose-pimply, hair on the back of your neck tweaking, fright scenes of the highest order.

But the film does have some faults.

The cast is solid and all do well, and the problems with their characters are all really down to the hit and miss dialogue in the screenplay.
Richard 'Zombi 2' Johnson is a fine actor but his character too often (though not always) comes across as a living text book on the supernatural. He delivers lectures, not human dialogue.
And Julie Harris is overly burdened with voice-over/inner-monologue overkill.
Some of her 'narration' is very good indeed and adds an extra layer of chill to the proceedings. But there is too much of it and when combined with her equally overwrought spoken dialogue it sometimes pushes her otherwise fascinating and multi-dimensional character over the line into self-indulgent annoyance.

Otherwise the film still works as good as it ever did and the only other real fault is purely an age/technology one.
For a film so reliant on, and superbly effective in how it is used, sounds and noises the mono mix often saps these scenes (although still damn good) of their full potential.
The thumping, pounding, laughing, weeping, moaning, mumbling, scraping, screaming cacophony would move into a new level indeed with a new multi-channel surround mix. To hear those voices, bangs, scuttling sounds and weeping child voices moving around and behind you (Wise's camera does just that visually in it's zooming, fast panning, fast swirling coverage of these sequences) would be something indeed.
We need a blu-ray release of this...NOW.

HAUTE TENSION
It's very violent with some choice gore from the genius that is Mr De Rossi (so nice to have this guy back again with a good FX budget behind him) but the final 3rd may well annoy. It certainly opens up possible plot holes and it was perhaps a rather pointless choice to add this twist anyway.

HEARTSTOPPER
An electrocuted psycho pops back to kill a few people and do something with some girl he has a link with or something and oh....who cares?

why bother!? The most dire decade for American mainstream horror was by far the 90's.
So why does a 21st century horror film want to pretend its some 90's cheap-ass horror flick?
Crap gore (in a film about a psycho who rips out hearts - how does he manage to do that anyway? - it's a big mistake to have rubbish rubber hearts for the FX) , tired direction, bored actors, dull characters and just...oh....deathly, heartless stodge.

Who the hell would want to almost re-make something as truly dire as "Shocker" anyway?
Do we need more moronic, dull-fest , 90's type horror dross along the lines of "Dr Giggles"?
The late 80's/90's was a dire time for straight-forward horror film making with lame sequels, already dead in the water attempts to start new horror franchises, endless smart-ass one-liner spouting psychos designed to sell t-shirts to mall rats who shout "dude" at each other and all round boredom!

"Heartstopper" tries to be such a film (here the psycho spouts pretentious garbage instead of jokes) and only a smallish turn by Robert Englund as a could have been interesting character makes the film even remotely watchable.
In a very rare event for me I gave up after 40 minutes, skipped to the (just as I thought, dire) ending with it's obvious, nonsense 'shock' ending, removed the disc and got on with my life.

HEATHERS
Still good fun, with some great dialogue.
Not a huge fan of the change to standard psycho thriller in the final quarter, but still a fine watch and Christian Slater is marvellous!

HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN
VHS fave from the past that still manages to entertain with its mix of amusing low brow humour, well done FX and solid cast, including good old William Smith in top growl mode.

Packed with some damn fine looking women (Sandahl Bergman has never looked better and the basically forgotten now Cec Verral is truly striking) and held together, just,by the goofy performance of Roddy Piper "Hell Comes to Frogtown" is hampered by far too little action and a plot that treads water (nothing that much really happens for about 50 minutes) but the good humour of it all is infectious, the Frogs fun and the explosive cod-piece a silly work of genius.
Utter fluff but likeable fluff.

HELLBENT
A group of four friends attend a huge Halloween street/club party in West Hollywood but find themselves stalked by a devil masked killer who likes to collect heads!

The first Homosexual Slasher film is nothing new as far as the basic Slasher formula goes but is still well made, entertaining and importantly features characters you actually care about.
The four guys are fun to spend time with, very likeable, and when the bad stuff happens to them you feel sad about it (even though we of course need the violence and gore to satisfy the Slasher film requirements) as such the kill scenes and their build-up have far more power then the vast majority of more conventional Slashers with a Hetro set-up.

The gore is nothing extreme, but the decapitation kills are certainly blood (and sometimes brutal0 enough to satisfy and the use of CGI in them, to pull off some of the more elaborate/too expensive to do practical deaths and their aftermath, is very good with little (if any) CGI blood which is a big plus.

The whole Gay aspect is used for the set-up as far as the type of clubs they go to, or the people they hang with, but really (the fun drag aspect aside) if you simply re-wrote certain bits of dialogue this exact same script could be used to make a Hetro-heavy Slasher and you'd never know the difference.
So the Homosexual aspect adds a nice difference and is well and (often charmingly) used for sexual and comedic reasons but it never really becomes the film. Which is nice, as it shows that the sexuality of the victims is of little consequence but how well the film's made...is.

It does perhaps blow its load (yeehaw) too early though as what seems like an ending in a Slasher film normally, actually occurs with 20 minutes to go.
As such the finale (although quite tense) is a rather needlessly extended stalk and chase sequence set in basically one location.
There is a GREAT use of an eye though during this finale (some very good FX work here) but also the worst example of 'kill the psycho now while you can you idiot' Slasher film stupidity I think I have ever seen.

So it's not perfect, there are some plotting flaws, but overall "Hellbent" is very well made (if obviously low budget), is well acted, has some excellent characters you care about, some nice humour, some good raunch, a great party atmosphere, some good kills and a very fine looking psycho as well I might add.
Recommended!

HENRY: P.O.A.S. KILLER 2
Not bad, at least it was made and played in a serious fashion and had a few gory moments.
But it lacked the power of the first film.
Ultimately pointless, as I thought it might be, but not a bad watch

HIGH CRIMES
The mighty Franco Nero (with foppish blonde highlights) goes all kinds of OTT as a driven Cop after Mafia drug runners in a plot far too complicated for it's own (or our) good.

As with all Castellari films the deliciously dated (those dummies rule!) action is splattery and nasty and it has a great soundtrack to back it all up.
It also has one of the best car chases you never see on 'best car chases' lists that opens the film.
Sadly it all plods a lot from there with the backstabbing,betrayal strewn plot holding the action back.
Things do pick up near the end and the film is a bleak and nihilistic brute right up until the rather confused final scene.

So it's dark, nasty, exciting now and again, with a solid cast (veteran giant ant fighter James Whitmore gives support to Nero) and a good score.
But it's also far too convoluted for no good reason, flags between the action, is draining in it's constant shouting and very accent heavy dialogue (Nero, using his own voice, barely speaks a sentence that isn't screamed and backed with wild arm movements) and all these things drag it down to average fare.

Worth a look though for Euro Crime buffs and lovers of floppy dummies being gloriously abused.

HIGHWAYMEN
Looks great, sounds great, has a couple of brutal scenes of people being run over and some outstanding stunts.
Rather simplistic though due to the short running time and the fnale is a bit weak.
But once again Robert Harman ("The Hitcher") shows he is one of the masters of 'road movie' cinema.

HIT & RUN
Well acted by the lead actress Laura Breckenridge (who was great at essaying a woman totally losing it after she unknowingly hits a guy with her jeep and then buries his body) who was also fine to look at thanks to the copious tight ass, push up bra/sweaty cleavage shots of her.
She's brave enough to leave the glamour behind though as her character spends most of the film covered in mud, dirty water, much blood (which she later cleans off with spit!) and does quite a bit of puking...So well done Ms Breckenridge!

The film (and the director) is far too leisurely in moving the narrative away from this initial set-up though.
40 minutes of the 80 minute film is spent on just this basic initial set-up, telling the boyfriend about it and much cleaning up, freaking out, driving back and forth sequences...but not one second of plot progression.

Then all of a sudden, with 35 or so minutes to go the film goes bat shit CRAZY!
Meet the one of the grotesque, utterly deranged, psychos seen for many a year (great turn by Kevin Corrigan) and he's backed up by some well done make-up FX.

The film takes a few unexpected turns here and there, but is basically an extended 'Masters of Horror' episode.
But the good acting, gallons of blood 'n' grue and some nice suspense keep things speeding along nicely after that slow first half.
Worth a look.

HITMAN
Genz was chosen to helm this video game adaptation but then supposedly his version was hampered by some re-shoots and a reduction of the violence, but the DVD 'Unrated'/'Extreme' version at least fixes the violence problem by throwing huge great globs of blood, brains and general meat chunks around the screen with wild abandon.
In a less than 'Hitman - the game' fashion we also have a fair bit of nudity from the rather sexy Olga Kurylenko (including one full frontal shot) and so what's wrong?

Well we certainly needed 3 or 4 'montage hits' to set up the '47' character better before jumping almost right in to the main plot.
A couple of random assassinations based directly on some from the game would have been very cool indeed!
As for the main plot it's rather confusing at times.
The Russian twists and turns and motivations are confusingly handled and presented and a lot of stuff remains open to interpretation as far as 'why are those guys doing that' moments go.

But we also have many plus points. The styling, costumes, sets, locations and lots of camera angles are spot on as far as reconstructing the games goes and although Olyphant's face is not really like '47' the shots of him walking down corridors from behind are damn perfect, bar code an all!
As mentioned the violence is wonderfully bloody and chunky (and very gory during the opening arm hacking) and is almost all live, on set, blood work!
JOY!
No dubious looking CGI blood spray here, this is all gloopy, old school, squib goodness and it makes a big difference.
The action is generally well shot and handled and only a re-shoot sword fight is stodgy and forced (although the sight of a whole group of other bald assassins is fun) and Olyphant does well as '47' despite the facial difference and pulls off the gunwork perfectly.

So not as good as it could have been and not enough 'Diana' (!)
But it's certainly not the turkey too many people have said it is (at least not in this far more violent version) and, until a Director's Cut appears, this is as good as we will get for a "Hitman" movie and the very bloody action, clever styling/game reconstruction and well staged action are still a lot of fun and make for a classy action film (with titties) that still satisfies despite the few flaws.

HOST (THE)
Almost as depressing as watching Concentration Camp liberation films.
Basically lets see how much sadistic crap we can throw at one family in 1hour 50 mins and oh yeah...throw in a bit of monster mayhem now and again to fool people into thinking it may be entertaining.
That the whole idea is that a father believes his presumed daughter is not actually dead but still alive and goes through hell (with the rest of his dysfunctional family) to prove it and find her, it's then a betrayal (despite the tiny shiny bit of good with a saved orphan) to then never bring this fact to actual fruition.
Simply to make it all even more dark and depressing, as if the constant nastiness the family have already been through is not enough.

There are places for dark and bleak films in cinema...but you have earn that right and put it in context.
A supposedly slam bang monster flick, with the hopes of salvation for the presumed dead at the end, is not it.
I suppose its all meant to be deep and meaningful and about sacrifice and some kind of salvation pulled from the darkness of grief....yeah. Fine.
But this was not the film to do that.
About as much fun as "Salvador". But that had the right to do what it did. This didn't.
The point about Korean authorities and the whole system was made...the nasty cherry on top was not needed or welcome.

HOSTEL
You could have basically removed the opening Amsterdam sequences (bar the kid telling them about the Hostel) for better pacing, and I wish Roth would lose the
'gay', 'retarded' 'suks' spouting characters as I hate such plebs in real life and don't need them as characters you are supposed to care about in films.
I'd torture the creeps too!
Not as bas as "Cabin Fever" for this though thankfully.
Also some of the nasty as hell mutilations seemed to be shrugged off after like a paper cut! The finger amputation especially seemed to be almost forgotten.

Other than that, I have to say I liked it. I have no time for homophobia and I hope Roth is not like his characters, but it has to be said that this IS exactly how a good few American teens would act, it is after all 24 hour Baptist TV Land.
As such it seemed in place and even justified when the 'Dutch Guy', a complete stranger, touched the lad up. Plus it hinted that he may have been Gay himself.
So no real criticism here.
Or in fact of the anti-American stance. Roth showed various nationalities of victim and villian...if anything it was biased against what Europe is supposedly like! But hey..it's a horror film not a documentary.
And it seems the lead character would have learnt a valuable lesson anyway.
The plot was far fetched of course, but Roth embraced that fact and as such neutralised any criticism.
Delightfully strange moments, like the pack of feral kids, even seemed okay (like the crazy Kung Fu kid who came from nowhere in "Cabin Fever") because Roth openly embraced the wackiness.
Gore was not that well done, but was suitably moist and in your face when needed and a strong vibe of essential sadism ran through the movie.
Could have been stronger and even more disturbing...but then it would not get released outside of Internet geek sites. let us not forget the environment (and the money that goes with it) Roth is working in.
Nice to have some good honest (and very nice thank you) T & A on display for once in a mainstream horror flick and the eastern Europe seting made for a welcome change and the sets were atmospheric.

Overall it was not all it could have been but was better than most tries at
Exploitation we get from Hollywood although not in the league of "The Devil's Rejects" or "Wolf Creek" because unlike "Creek" it sometimes played it too 'crazy' and far fetched.
But generally it was good, nasty, bloody entertainment with some nice atmosphere and quirks.
We just need rather less dip-shit characters to cheer for Roth!!
Damn weird but nice to hear a re-mix of "The Wicker Man's" 'Willow Dance' song on the soundtrack too!

HOSTEL III
Off and on again, sometimes hit and sometimes miss, friend of Sam Raimi and 80's cult figure Scott Spiegel takes over the directing chair from Eli Roth for this belated 3rd entry into the infamous "Hostel" series.
But don't expect many Hostel shenanigans. This is far more like a thriller/action movie with a couple of torture scenes thrown in.
We even have 'action' music! This barely scrapes into Horror at all.

Given the infamy of the gross-out torture sequences that made "Hostel"/Hostel II" famous in the first place it was a rather bizarre choice to have almost no gross-out torture scenes for the 3rd film. Espiecally as it's explicitly called "Part III"

There are two effective deaths but they're violent more than gory.
One is macabre and an oft used horror movie trope, but the barely glimpsed, cheap, FX don't deliver so it's thanks to some PRIME screaming from the actor that the scene works.
The other death isn't gory (a bit bloody) but is more like the slow deaths "Hostel" is known for and again is pulled off by some good acting.

So you only get about 3 scenes of actual "Hostel" stuff, and one of them is weak and rather silly with poorly done CGI.
The rest of the film is cut away, fast edit, 'action-splatter' as the film fully morphsinto an OTT thriller, complete with shoot-outs, chases and explosions. It's all rather stodgy and uninteresting fare though.
This leads to a rather comic book, don't think about the logic or it will all crumble, finale that's more "Tales from the Darkside" than "Hostel".

So perhaps a film too far. It's not bad, but it's all rather flat, rushed and cheap with (a few little moments aside) none of that uncompromising/disturbing "Hostel" extremity, which is basically the reason for the "Hostel" series anyway.

HOT POTATO
Holy Afros! What happened here?!

This sort of sequel to "Black Belt Jones" (Kelly is an afro sporting, karate chopping, agent named 'Jones') is a right car crash.
Very broad, slapstick, comedy sound effect humour is the order of the day here for a good two 2/3rds of the movie and it's fucking awful!

Kelly is joined by a two comedy sidekicks, 'Chicago' and fat ass annoyance named 'Rhino', who bring the film down to the level of dirt (especially the prancing, bloated, douche 'Rhino') and the film just lies there and dies a slow death despite the obviously impressive budget compared to "B B Jones", the exotic Thai locations (this film jettisons all the former movie's Blaxploitation trappings and is pour martial arts ala "Enter the Dragon") and some plentiful action.

In fact the awful humour not only kills the general parts of the film, but much of the fighting too as it often stops for 'hysterical comic hijinks' (like a squashed hat) and gets landed with cartoon level sound effects.
This is a real chore folks.

Then a mini miracle occurs in the last 3rd as the film loses almost all of the comedy (bar that prancing loon 'Rhino' during a fight scene) and actually becomes a pretty enjoyable, quite large scale, action flick.
We have an amusingly bad attack scene with our heroes fighting off guys with exploding fireworks and various traps and the impressively mounted finale features some good Kelly karate and a lot of extras to hit.

So all in all the last 3rd showed us what might have been if the vomitous 'comedic' sludge had not swamped the first 2/3rds of the movie to literally torturous degrees as far as the poor viewer is concerned.

HOUSE OF DRACULA
Not very good.
The level of a bit of late night TV fun is the most such lesser 'Universal' films can ever hope to achieve today if we are being truly honest.

Some great use of shadows and Onslow Stevens effortlessly steals the show (and adds some genuine pathos) as the doomed Doctor and has great fun as the mr Hyde/vampire creature.
There is an interesting 'Igorrette' character in the form of a hunchbacked nurse.
And it finally has a good send off for the much troubled Larry 'Wolfman' Talbot.

But this features one of the worst and most boring Dracula's ever (Carradine) looking like a children's party magician doing very little vampyric other than cowering from crosses and turning into a floppy bat before being blandly turned into a novelty shop plastic skeleton.
Carradine is more slightly sinister hypnotist than any Lord of the Undead!

It also features one of the worst Frankenstein Monsters (in the hulking form of Glenn Strange once again) who does nothing whatsoever at all in the film except waddle around lin the last 5 minutes looking lost.
Good old Larry Talbot (Chaney of course) has 2 changes into the Wolfman and is allowed to do nothing at all with either of them before spending most of the rest of the film in human form where all he does is look sad while sitting in a bathchair.

Lionel Atwell pops up in a glorified cameo role as yet another identikit local police chief but this was near the end of his career and he looks and sounds very tired.
Half the cast is snuffed out at the end but the credits pop up so fast no emotional aftermath is allowed.

HOUSE OF WAX (1953)
I was surprised at how wrong I got the first half of this film.
I've not seen it for many years and I forgot that Vincent Price is shown disfigured and going around killing people so early on.
I could have sworn the disfigured face was a big finale reveal (under the rather stupidly realistic wax mask that *shock* looks and moves exactly like Price's face) but I was wrong....and sure enough this first half of the film is by far the best.

The film goes from fast paced disfigured psycho flick to slow, achingly obvious, horror drama and the shift in tone is dramatic.
Thankfully Price is in good form here so it makes the obvious plotting more entertaining to sit through and at least the finale ups the macabre, even if Price's demise is rather blink and you miss it.

What really stands out here though is how great the film looks and how genuinely macabre as far as the attitude to corpses goes. Dead bodies are joked over, they're carted, carried, dumped and abused with grotesque abandon and the film does benefit from this macabre playfulness.
So it gets a bit bogged down and obvious later on but it still holds up, still entertains, Price is good and overall it's certainly recommended.

HUMAN CENTIPEDE
Meh.
As I feared this is an idea, not a film.

The screenplay knows that the basic idea is a good one, but also a dead end at the same time. This is no 'monster' that this mad Doctor is creating, it is a weak, rather helpless creature that once made has nothing to do.

We know in a Frankenstein film that the monster will actually do things, get free and go on a rampage etc etc. It is a creature of strength and physical prowess. In a way it's creation is a new start to any Frankenstein-type film's 2nd half plot and action.

But in "Centipede" the creature is a pitiful thing that basically serves no purpose once it has been created.
Once it exists and has been led around the room a few times there is nothing going on and nothing to do with it.
The screenplay even knows this itself, as we have a stupidly long and utterly pointless 'escape' sequence half way through that only exists to delay the creation of the 'Centipede' (we all know will happen anyway) because the makers know that once the 'Centipede' is created and we have had the one and only scene (defecation) of morbid interest shown... the film is basically over.

So once made the 'Centipede' holds about 5 minutes of interest for the viewer and the rest of the film is nothing but a stew of silliness (worst Cops in the world anyone?!). boredom and utterly unappealing unpleasantness.
The 'creature' is not so much a creature rather a pointlessly sadistic game.
We don't really have an interesting monster after the operation (which is normally the entire point of such films), just sadistic scenes of three people suffering horribly and crying endlessly.
The novelty...even an exploitative sadistic one...wears off very soon as we get to scene number 4 of the girls weeping in agony and despair.

A 30 minute story idea dragged out to tedious and utterly unappealing lengths in a film that is 10% morbid curiosity, 10% horror funstuffs, 40% boredom and 40% pointless unpleasantness.
It does feature perhaps the most unusual, and slowest, chase in film history though...But how they can get a sequel from this, due to the final events, is beyond me, unless it has no actual links to the first film.

HUMAN JUNGLE (THE)
One of those gritty 50's Noirish cop thrillers that falls between two stools as far as a modern audience's perceptions go.

It hints at prostitution, it contains murder, features crime syndicates, petty hoods, street bums and brutal women killers.
And it goes out and films all this on the actual mean streets and drapes all the seedy alleyways in deep shadow.

And yet...because of the obvious censor constraints of 50's cinema (despite the slowly changing aspects that this film does highlight) and general mores of 50's society all this grit and darkness still plays out like a cozy, retro, viewing experience as all the shadows are just that bit lighter than they should be and all the dirt a little to shiny.
This is gritty urban crime drama with no sex, no nudity, no blood, no real on-screen violence no swearing.
As such it's a strange , though still highly enjoyable, creation and it would really take the 70's to fully catapult gritty crime cinema right into that dirt and grime and absolute darkness that "The Human Jungle" exists in, uses, but is never truly honest about.

A good cast features a young Chuck Connors as a slimy murderer and a still up and coming Claude Akins as a Mob heavy but the real acting honours here go to Gary Merrill as one of the most driven, uncompromising, tough as fucking nails Police Captains ever put on screen.
So good stuff, nice retro viewing for lovers of 50's thrillers...but it never truly gets under the concrete skin of that urban jungle it takes it's name from.

HUNT TO KILL
'Stone Cold' Steve Austin vehicle that amazingly turned out to be one of the most stunning blu-ray transfers I have seen.
The detail and depth in the picture (great for the woods/mountains) is astonishing!

This gets off to quick, full-on, start (nice cameo by Eric Roberts) and Austin makes for a very enjoyable hero and handles the action brilliantly.
The film is often dominated though by the bad guys, the most dysfunctional criminal gang you have ever seen, especially the amazingly OTT Gil Bellows. He's like a less sophisticated, more shouty, Hans from "Die Hard" and is great, if ridiculously theatrical, fun.

Also a stand-out (at least in the action sense if not the acting) is good old Gary Daniels.
Daniel's never really gets the respect he deserves and at leat he gets to showcase some of his top skills here as his fight with Austin is a major highlight. This is a guy who worked for and fought Jacky Chan in his heyday...He knows his shit.
The only real problem with the film is that its own set-up (Austin and his Daughter taken hostage as the gang, though the woods with Border Officer Austin as guide, hunt down a guy who robbed them) hampers the chance for lots of action in the middle of the film, which now slows down.

Thankfully the last half hour or so is good and violent and the film has some good splatter and a truly, truly, nasty bone snapping scene as Austin first snaps a guy's arm and then cold-bloodidly snaps his ankle with gorgeously hideous bone snapping and crunching sound FX that have to be heard to be believed.

The finale is so OTT as far as Gil Bellow's character goes (probably to make the finale more meaty, as the most dangerous threat - Daniels - has already had his moment) and nearly moves into parody territory.
But it's all fun, looks truly stunning in high def, is nicely violent and has some good characters.
Worth a watch for sure.

HUNTER'S BLOOD
A sadly forgotten 'crazy backwoods loonies' film that has some of the best 'redneck' characters out.
Plus we have some good gore, Including a great twitching body with a blown off face.
A bit slow to get up steam, but still deserves a bigger profile and a nice DVD release.
Clu Gulager is in fine form too, and Billy Drago is (as always) in top crazy mode.