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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.

 

Q - Z

 

RAISING JEFFREY DAHMER
Started off okay. This was actually a pretty interesting look at the effect Dahmer's crimes and arrests had on his family...far more "Living with what Jeffrey Dahmer Did" as much as "Raising Jeffery Dahmer".

Acting varies, the film is low budget and there is actually very little of Dahmer's crimes or actions on show here at all, but it managed to hold the interest as we saw the stress and hardship (and lies) the parents faced from the media.

But then the film throws Bo Svenson in 2 scenes as a fictional Detective and promptly has him do absolutely nothing at all plotwise...until a completely farcical, totally made-up, action that seems like it comae from a completely separate film.
From here on the film seems to have run out of things to say or show and frustratingly (despite the film's title) jumps over too many interesting events in the older Dahmer's life with his Dad (like his Dad's realisation about Dahmer's first killing...which amazingly gets mentioned in the film and then ignored by the film in the same scene).

As such it all plods to a weak finale that's a real shame because it started out well and had potential but ultimately fails by simply giving up on its own story after an hour.

RAMBO: First Blood part 2"
Although not as well scripted, well acted or as serious a drama as "First Blood", this still makes for a fine slice of chest thumping, violent, fuck the liberals, entertainment.
Remembering that actually there was a half of Vietnam who did not want to be overtaken by mass murdering, Russia and China backed, communists (despite what Jane Fonda may have thought) this sequel sees John J Rambo released from hard labour (following his antics in the first film) and teamed up with a South Vietnamese woman (the truly striking Julia Nickson) to help him find out if missing American POW's are indeed still being kept prisoner. But all is not as it seems...

The ever welcome Charles Napier makes for a wonderfully slimy burocrat (with traitorous fall back plans) and an even cheesier Richard Crenna returns and entertains, in a slightly reduced role, as the walking Rambo billboard Col. Trautman.
But no one has the impact of Brian Dennehy from "First Blood" and although The Berkoff makes a cameo appearance as a dastardly Soviet it's really left for Stallone to caryy the film this time.

The action is as good as 80's Hollywood action got really with loads of, ever essential, exploding bamboo huts, oodles of blood squibs a huge bodycount and those gloriously famous exploding arrows.
Stallone is even better here action-wise and although Rambo himself has now become a comic book creation he still does well. But so many years of parody have hurt his performance here, where it's still remained untainted in "First Blood".
The speech at the end as well (even more infamous than the unjustly maligned speech in the first one) is badly acted, thus making the sentiment (rather cloying anyway) rather less than successful in relating pride and dignity than it is in delivering unintentional smiles.
Not great, but still damn good.

RAMBO III
Easily the weakest and most ridiculous of the 'Rambo' series (and in fact the one that really shows how serious and well done #4 is) and one that is now fatally flawed by the about turn that history took as far as the Mujahideen goes, where the Soviet fighting resistance fighters seen here mutated into the truly vile and murderous Taliban in the power vacuum that followed the Soviet defeat.
Ironic to now see the fictional Afghan women rescued from a Soviet run prison in "Rambo III" only to have their real life versions end up in the Taliban run prisons their own homes became.

As such the speeches made by these noble fellows in the film now grate indeed, although amusement of a bitter kind is had from the conversation between the American Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna back again for the last time in slightly less fun and cheesy form) and the Russian baddie where Trautman says that the Russian should have studied the history of Afghanistan and known that the Afghan's never surrender against invaders etc etc....OUCH.
Now it is the general Afghan people fighting alongside British and American forces to try and rid Afghanistan of the same Mujahideen/Taliban fighters seen as the heroes in "Rambo III"!

The action is good though and you can see how much the budget has gone up from the previous film.
But the structure of the film is a mess (why have a long failed rescue mission sequence then almost instantly follow this up with a second rescue mission that is basically the same plan only this time it works?) and the comic strip absurdity is overpowering.
A sign of the good and the bad is perfectly shown in two bits of dialogue.
We have a great moment of perfectly judged hyperbole like this;
Russian - "One man against a hundred commandos! Who do they think this man is, God"?
Trautman - "Oh no. God would show mercy".
BRILLIANT! A spontaneous whoop of laughter escaped my lips!
But then we have groan-worthy garbage like this;
Russian (into radio) - "Who is this"!?
Rambo - "Your worst nightmare".
Oh please! Spare me!

So we have some good action and a nice big budget spent on it, some class horsemanship by Stallone, and the odd groovy line of dialogue.
But we also have a major drop in IQ all around, some 'ready for the video game' crap dialogue, a laughable Rambo hairstyle, a messy and repetitive structure, far too much absurdity in general and a (now, at least) fatally flawed political set-up.
All of which means we should give even more thanks to "Rambo 4" for seeing that Rambo the character, as well as the series in general, regained that grooviness, seriousness and (dare I say it) dignity that made the first two films so successful.

RAMPAGE
Uwe Boll manages to rack up good film number 2 for me after "Tunnel Rats".
Not quite as nasty as I assumed it would be (one scene in a beauty parlour aside) and the nice twist near the end disposed of my problems I had with the film's supposed message up to that point.

Needless and unjustified shaky (as hell) camera work though because it's not shot from the gunman's POV so why all the mad bouncing?
One shot is simply the guy walking across the street towards the camera and yet the picture is shaking all over the place as if an earthquake suddenly hit.
This aside though "Rampage" is a pretty good exploitative wallow in ultra-violence with a few nice plot touches.

RAW
Some funny stuff here for sure and his impersonation of a cliche Italian American is spot on genius.
Even the sadly crass and dated Gay sketch is funny...despite the inane use of 'faggots'.

But man...these odd moments of fine stuff are buried in a huge mass of self-indulgent tedium.

Few subjects are covered because he goes on and on and on and on and on about them instead of moving to the next.
Or worse, he goes on and on about nothing.

Because "Raw" is packed with 'switch your brain off' padding material (like the utterly tedious, almost completely unfunny, masturbatory 'phone' tirade about nothing that makes up the entire last act) and joke situations/observations that are initially funny but are then spun out for another 20 minutes, by which time your mind switches off.

Ho and indeed hum.
Watch for the early impressions of Cosby, Pryor and Mr T, the start of the "Half" joke (which is again flogged to death, so wind forward a good 15 minutes) and the Italian stuff...then turn it off completely and go watch "Trading Places", "Coming to America" or "Beverly Hills Cop".

RAWHEAD REX
Ill-fated Brit/Irish horror based on Clive Barker's short story.
Barker also did the (supposedly) altered during production screenplay.
Nasty, pre-Christian, monster bursts from underground prison to rip the throats out of people who live in caravans, throw topless chicks against trees, corrupt Priests and piss-baptise them and give American writers and their families are real bad day.

The monster itself is a nice design (think GWAR type stuff) but really badly made.
It's an obvious suit with a plastic head on top with glass eyes sporting red bulbs behind them. Not good.
And this hurts the attack scenes, though cheesy fun can still be had from them.

The real pleasure comes from some of the overwrought dialogue and the (more interesting than the monster's own attacks) corruption of the good (Police, Priests) by the evil of Rex.
Zealot, ranting, nutzoid followers are always a hoot and that's no different here. The mad Priest is a wonderful character and delivers lost of great foul-mouthed rants.

Sadly it seems all (or all I know of) prints must be cut from earlier pre-release/festival prints as an old review I read about a nasty child killing and a decapitation (on-screen) during the caravan park attack are absent from the film. One does not exist one is not shown.

So a badly made monster, empty direction, rushed script (and a dreadful final shot that makes no real sense) means this falls below the average scale sadly.
But the odd bit of bloodshed, the general blasphemy and mad follower antics save it from total worthlessness.

REC
Bags of screaming, moist, raging fun as the residents of a block of flats succumb to raving zomibism.
Lean and mean and packed with violent, shrieking death this popular Spanish horror film lives up to its reputation and even manages (just) to get away with the whole 'carrying a camera around with you' set-up thanks to some clever plotting later on to make the camera invaluable for a light source.

Lots of grue and some genuinely effective jump scares are the order of the day (a fall scene is particularly good) and the creepy resident of a locked apartment during the finale is a grotesquely creepy image indeed.

REC 2
Not as good as the first sadly.
Still had some highly effective moments and scares (ghoul kid on the ceiling was class!) but the 'camera' usage was silly in this one as far as the teens went.
Once again, no...you would have dropped the camera ages ago!
It's dark, there's crazy monsters everywhere, you're just a kid, you need alert senses (360 degrees worth of them)...you're not going to bother to film things (let alone film it good enough to show at a cinema)!

The first film did well justifying the camera, by initially having a professional TV news crew on site who would film during stressful moments and then, when it got really mad (and you would ditch the camera normally) they needed the camera's light to see.
Sadly "REC 2", as far as the teens went, failed to justify the use of a camera.

The story was all rather too similar to the first film too, with the religious stuff not being the big about turn I read about as it was signposted heavily in the first film anyway.
But pretty good and I'm looking forward to seeing the final parts.

RECKONING DAY
The first feature film from Julian Gilbey who would go on to make the equally violent and bloody, but far better made in every other way, "Rollin' with the Nine's" and the more famous "Rise of the Footsoldier".
Shot over 3 half years from 1998-2001, it's basically a souped up, micro-budget (not much over £7000), student action film.
The budget, the inexperience and the technical limitations do sadly hit the film hard, especially in the dialogue scenes and general plot mechanics, but there is still much to enjoy here.

The various action scenes are spectacularly visceral and violent (these are superbly created, bloody as hell, squibs that would look at home in a Hollywood blockbuster) and generally very well directed, shot and edited with some wonderful stunt work.
And unlike every other zero budget film I have seen with gunfights (where the scenes are truly awful and never work) the gun battles are brilliantly handled in every way, from how they look, sound and feel.
Add some full on car violence, a chainsaw fight and a brutal axe/electric saw execution to the splattertastic gunfights and you have a film that delivers as far as brutal thrills go.
But sadly we have all the bits in-between.

It was a huge mistake to have a guy spend the last half of the film, parts of which were shot a year apart, in a blood soaked white t-shirt. Continuity problems anyone??
See the shirt switch from total crimson, to simply blood spattered but still very white, and then back again in the space of one scene.

Sadly the lack of live sound recording also means that, a near crippling blow as far as the non-action scenes go, all dialogue is dubbed on after.
This would be bad and distracting enough anyway even with good actors, but here we have some very bad actors, reading often bad dialogue.
It's extremely hard going, not helped by a very messy, overly complicated plot (that needs some deadeningly long exposition scenes).

Anyone who knows the UK comedy/homage show to badly made TV called "Garth Marenghi's Dark Place" will cringe whenever these cheesy/bad actors read cliche hard man and/or melodramatic dialogue, that does not quite fit the lip movements and sounds like it was all recorded in the same studio.

So "Reckoning Day" is too long, has too many dialogue heavy plot exposition scenes, features bad acting, bad sound recording, technical black holes and a dodgy script.
And yet...The numerous well crafted action scenes, the full on gore and violence, the ambitious ideas and the sheer enthusiasm that runs through the entire thing do make for an ultimately rewarding viewing experience.
And with the better budgets, better actors, more experienced writing, professional crews and technical improvements that would thankfully arrive for his next two films (cliche though they may often be) Gilbey certainly came good with the promise he showed here.

To know just how hard these guys worked and the hurdles they overcame to make some of these brilliant action scenes, just look at this;
A single fight sequence on a cliff top utilises the following;
Footage shot in two completely different locations, featuring shots filmed a year apart and with a total of three actors/stunt guys playing one character.
That takes commitment. We salute you.

RED DAWN
Lots of well done, big budget action is the order of the day here in this iconic slice of 80's action movie making.
It'a also far less silly and gung ho, and far bleaker and serious, than often given credit for.
Nice suppport cast of adults to back up the up and coming 'Brat Pack' youngsters as well (Ben Johnson, Powers Boothe, Harry Dean Stanton and William Smith speaking fluent Russian!).
It holds up. Watch it!

RED, WHITE & BLUE
Not since the 70's has cult/low budget/underground cinema (even mainstream at times) been so brutal, unflinching, uncompromising, dark pit of hell terrifying as the films birthed since 9/11.
This is one of those films.
A slow burn that turns into the very flaming lake of Hades itself.

An excellent cast all round but Noah Taylor is a truly terrifying force of nature as he rips through flesh for answers and vengeance.
But he's no hero to root for.
In fact there are no good guys or gals here. But no black as pitch villains either.
"Red, White and Blue" is all about grey. The grey areas inside any human being.
This is sketched, but still serious, characterisation that defies expectations.

A film drenched in human tragedy.
A film of brutal,shocking force.
A film of slow beats.
A film of raging intensity.
A film of touching moments.
A film of spit in the face hatred.
A film of utter despair.
And a film you have to see.

RELIGULOUS
Bill Maher's very funny dismantling of any and all organised religion shows just how mad, hypocritical, scary and just blatantly false (and nothing new or unique) modern, organised, mad made, religious thought is.

He perhaps goes too easy on Islam (surprise!) but at least he does something to show it up for what it is, even if it's not enough. The same for Judaism and even Catholicism.
Plus he ignores the equally barmy and sometimes just as violent Hinduism, or the African rooted brands of Christianity that have grown bigger in Western society recently and that has, in the UK alone, seen a number of children murdered and dissected...because the children were classed as 'witches'.

No, Maher mostly concentrates on the American evangelical movements.
I guess this is because it's a much bigger deal in America (far, far, more so than in Europe) and does have direct influence on how America is run and acts. Just look...with Bush it went as far as the Presidency!

There are loads of well aimed, fairy tale destroying, comedic shots to enjoy here (some cheap, some clever, some sombre, all funny) and you have to love it when so many of these oh so certain people suddenly can't explain their way out of Maher's astute observations.
The utter destruction of the three main religion's basic 'the one and only truth' set-up is a highlight, as Maher points out to a 'religious theme park Jesus' that almost all of 'His' story is a direct rip-off of religious invention a 1000 years before Jesus was even thought of.
Wash. Recycle. Wash. Recycle.....

It's perhaps too short and lacking in the detail and wider scope such a topic truly needs, but what we do have is thankfully good enough and funny enough.
But if a 5 hour mini series version of this ever appears....I'll truly be heaven.

REPO MEN
Not sure why this got some much negative press and snotty fan remarks.

Well made, fun and (later on) exceedingly violent and bloody this sc-fi action/thriller/drama may not be using all new parts to make its whole but the whole is still a satisfying one and, at least in the longer cut (more talk than gore for the most part by the way) is also a rather serious, even thoughtful, film that only really turns into a gory action romp in the last 3rd.

The visual FX are superb (looks great on Blu-Ray too) and help to carry the story along rather than dominate it and the OTT gore and bloodshed is suitably impacting and entertaining.
And yes, for me, the corridor scene was far more entertaining than the one in the good but stupifyingly overrated "Oldboy".

Includes a bizarre, rather moving no less, 'romantic/erotic mutual surgery sequence that cinema snobs would have hailed a masterpiece if it had occurred in a subtitled foreign film.
I saw the ending coming (Gilliam is certainly hiding in the creative shadows here) as it was visually signposted too much, but it was still an effective finale to a solid, well crafted, sci-fi film.

RESERVOIR DOGS
Like all Tarantino films this debut is a film that gets better and richer with each viewing.

Dripping with wonderful dialogue, astutely used music, glorious set-pieces, amazingly engaging characters and that unique Tarantino vibe, "Reservoir Dogs" is simply a film fan's wet dream come true.
And it's from a decade that saw hard-ass, kick-ass, in your face, Action/Thriller movies take glorious flight.

Yeah, I also said unique up above. Screw the 'rip-off' haters.
Screw the haters who came late to "City on Fire" (mostly American online critics) and tried to make out "Dogs" was simply THAT film re-made.
Yes, QT should have acknowledge debt earlier but "Dogs" is nothing like "City".

In fact when people watched "City" (a film I had already seen, indeed owned, before "Dogs" even came out) because of "Dogs" most of them thought it boring. As it wasn't remotely like the film they had been told it was like, i.e it wasn't like "Reservoir Dogs".

Because no matter what QT takes from other films, what ingredients he gathers, the end product he makes from them all is utterly unique.
It is in fact astonishing that a film maker who uses so much from other Directors makes films like no other Director.
Not all work, but even his worst ("Death Proof", "Kill Bill 2") are still obviously Tarantino movies.

So "Dogs" heralded the film geek in all of us done well. And it holds up, it still...rocks.
Some bits sit uneasy (the finale is perhaps too OTT and forced) but mostly this IS what it's always been; One of the finest debuts ever and a true classic of Indy crime cinema.

RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE
VAST improvement over the first film and it played pretty faithful to the spirit computer games (Nemesis was perfect!).
Lots of action, lots of zombies some unexpectedly staged deaths...good stuff.
And in fact watched right after #1, it improves that film a great deal.
Good, high tech, slam bang entertainment..nothing more nothing less, why the moans?

RETURNER (THE)
A really entertaining and expertly crafted slice of Japanese sci-fi/gun play action film with some excellent characters, some great FX (including some marvellous CGI renditions of apocalyptic destroyed cities with alien ships and huge transformer robots roaming the ruins).
It also delivers some solid and violent action scenes, a solid cybertech/Industrial soundtrack and a nice streak of gentle humour.

RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD
loads of fun is to be had with this gem.
Anice mix of humour and horror that gets surprisingly dark and downbeat at times.
Full of classic moments like Linnea Quigley dancing naked and her great zombie scenes, the Tar Zombie, the spurting bitten head, the numerous Romero in-jokes, the spine twitching female zombie, the excellent soundtrack, lovely performances/characters and that unexpected ending.

REVENGE
A tough Brit drama that somehow misses too many chances for real tension that the plot offers up.
Always a pleasure to see Kenneth Griffith and the sadly underrated and used James Booth though.
And Joan Collins looks very nice in her underwear!

RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY
Early Peckinpah flick is well thought of, but failed to impress me.
Nothing much happens for nearly an hour, no gun is fired until about 70 minutes in and the end seems to be the kind of forced cliche the basic set-up of the film (aged gunslingers trying to find a place in the changing West) was playing against.
Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott (Scott especially does good work ) should have been given lots of fine dialogue moments about aging and change but their time together seems rushed so we have less great character moments between them than we should have as too much time is spent on their younger partner and a wayward young woman who joins them...to less than interesting effect.

Eventually some kind of plot kicks in and we have a great support cast (L.Q Jones, R.G Armstrong, Warren Oates) and a smattering of effective action (including a surprisingly shocking for the time zoom in on a dead face, complete with bullet hole in the head)...but the bad guys are not initially that bad and seem to be having a lark more than acting like hardcore killers and the finale is, as said, forced and unlikely.

If you want a look at the changing West and those old guys trying to live in it Peckinpah's masterful "The Wild Bunch" does this much better and if you want an aging Western star playing an aging gunslinger facing up to his fate watch the wonderful "The Shootist" with John Wayne.

RIPPER
A killer sees to be offing obnoxious student types in ways similar to Jack the Ripper.
Hmmmm....After a pretty good opening this then gets rather plodding (long running time for a horror film actually) for a while until coming to life again.
It has a few bloody moments and keeps you guessing.

The finale is chaotic, reveal filled, fun and the very end....well....seems to have really been the thing that has given this film any sort of profile.
I for one thought that very final twist (simply a 2 second scene before the credits) was pretty easy to understand and that the movie had a perfectly satisfying explanation.
But it seems other people have other ideas and much debate still goes on on-line.

A forgotten and generally hated sequel has a continuing (though not needed, the first film does end) plot that seems to confirm the obvious as well.
Not bad. Just average fare.

RISE OF THE FOOTSOLDIER
Brutal Brit flick about real-life general thug and Gangland villain Carlton Leach and the changes in the English crime scene he experienced over 2 decades.

The first 3rd is rather choppy and jumps all over the place as far as 'years passing' goes, while the film covers his football hooligan period.
The middle 3rd covers his low rank entry into gangsterism via some violent as hell doorman work.
The final 3rd is the full crank into lethal Gangland territory as the astonishingly nasty 'Range Rover Murders' is covered as Carlton's best friend, and his two equally unhinged partners, go on an out of control rampage only to end up blown apart by shotguns.....
Generally well directed, very well acted and only slightly hurt by the sometimes over the top 'Cockneyisms', "Rise of the Footsoldier" was wrongly ignored on it's theatrical release, hopefully this high profile DVD will improve things.

Battering and brutal in its language and gory violence (the 3 different views on what may have happened during the murders are all shockingly extreme in their shotgun shredding explicitness) the film is a pretty solid and engaging watch and very well made with it...the cinematography is superb (especially the snowy, moon glow shrouded reconstruction of the murders).
Strangely Carlton Leach, who was indeed the main focus of the film, almost vanishes visually (he narrates the film throughout though) as he was not directly involved with the 'range Rover Murders'. To help this he is even placed in scenes where in real life he was not present, but this does not stop a strangely lopsided feel to this otherwise extremely effective last 3rd as our lead character becomes a distant support player.

Craig Fairbrass does his best work ever as the psychotic Pat (the attack on the pizza parlour manager with a pizza cutter is truly scary stuff) and is far more effective than his dreadful support turn in "Cliffhanger" or his lead turn in the putrid "Proteus".
As Carlton Leach, Ricci Harnett ("28 Days Later") does a very good job at essaying a thug who eventually tired of the insanity he saw unfolding around him, while still retaining no regrets about any of it.

Overall a truly brutal, bloody and nasty slice of British Gangster film making that is only hurt by perhaps being too late down the line (now hip, but wrongful, contempt has crept into critical reception of Brit gangster flicks) and the lopsided nature of the final 3rd.
But these are small problems in what is overall a superbly made Brit flick that any general gangster movie fan, and especially Brit gangster movie fan, should check out.

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Ho hum.
Great CGI features for the apes, but when they move and jump it's pretty much CG hell.

The biggest problem is that the film has to rush everything due to the fact it spends half the first half following around John Lithgow as he gets sick, then better etc etc. The script acts like it has 3 hours to tell this massive tale instead of 100 mins.
So all the really interesting ape stuff is either wedged between boring James Franco and his 'TV Movie of the Week' personal crises with a sick family member or quickly rushed along in the middle of so so CGI destruction in the last 20 minutes.

The film also can't make its mind up about the apes.
It spends ages setting up this medical experiment explanation for Caesar's intelligence (we have to start with him as a newborn...zzzzzzzz) but then has loads of apes during the finale (from the zoo and other unexplained places) acting like an intelligent army! Despite the fact they're just normal, unaltered, apes!

It also decides to do it's own reasons on why mankind was nearly wiped out so the apes could take over (though again, this explains nothing about how so many apes became intelligent) that is different from the original "Planet of the Apes" movie.
And stupidly fast as well for such intelligent apes to conquer a world.

That decision to change (reboot) is fair enough, but why lose (as you do now!) such cinematically iconic nuclear war reasons?
Reasons that gave birth to such a classic moment in the first film...Heston can't scream "YOU BLEW IT UP" now.
The new reason is also more of an accident rather than suicidal destruction that nuclear war was. Thus it's less powerful.

Some good moments, some nice Andy Serkis motion capture acting (though, despite the Oscar noise, this is NO Gollum) some mild fun in the finale and some interesting moments with Caesar, but really this is overhyped, a bit of a slog before being a big rush (thanks to needless sub-plots) and with changes that water down the whole "Apes" idea from the classic film series.

ROAD (THE)
There was certainly enough stuff going on here, away from just the father/son relationship, to keep this moving drama interesting and even exciting and it had some great visuals and excellent acting all round.
The cannibal 'basement' scene was suitably creepy and grotesque, and the film did a good job at ramping up the tension while still being a genuinely moving, serious, movie.
So I 'enjoyed' it and will re-visit it.

But....it felt more lightweight than I was expecting somehow, and perhaps a bit too low key and even a bit short.
But still a good, well crafted, engaging, worth owning movie.

ROCK & RULE
Obscure cult animated feature that feels like a PG version (though we have a few skimpy clothing/nipples through clothes shots) of a Ralph Bakshi film, with dated rock tunes.

The mostly seen U.S. version of this Canadian production has Paul Le Mat re-dub the joint lead character, Omar, as U.S. distributors did not like the original voiceover guy. God knows what that was like as Paul Le Mat is awful.
Thankfully the film is literally saved by the great voice work on the bad guy Mok by Don Francks. All his scenes are superb.
The old school art and animation is also fun, but the plot is a mess and yet simplistic at the same time and most of the songs only reach average levels.
Vocals are by Debbie Harry and the group Cheap Trick, Lou Reed and a wasted Iggy Pop.

Not bad. Certainly a curio (basically a watered down Bakshi, sci-fi, rock opera) but should have been so much more.

ROLLERCOASTER
One of those 70's large cast (though not as large as some of them) disaster/terrorist films we all have a soft spot for.

The unfortunately named Timothy Bottoms is the nutter in question here and he is targeting amusement park rollercoasters by blowing up sections of track to cause 'accidents'
The always welcome George Segal (with bad 70's moustache) is the safety inspector helping Richard Widmark's FBI guys to catch the killer.
The legend that is Henry Fonda pops up in 2 or 3 scenes as Segal's boss and Susan Strasberg is wasted as Segal's wife.

The film sadly lacks 'incidents' (we only have one, pretty groovy in a 70's squash the dummies way, successful rollercoaster attack at the start) but thankfully the good cast are all in fine form, there's some smatterings of light humour that work, Bottoms is a pretty damn clever nutbag and there are some really, really, well crafted suspense scenes.
The best of these is a great 'run Segal around every damn ride in the park' money payoff sequence as Bottoms makes fools of Widmark's wonderfully grouchy FBI guy and his men as he attempts to pick up his cash off Segal.
the end is also a well done suspense piece...and the finale for Bottoms is a GREAT one!

And look out for some early support/walk on roles for:
A very young Helen Hunt as Segal's Daughter, Craig "Body Double" Wasson as a patron and Steve "Police Academy" Guttenberg in an uncredited one scene walk on (with a huge as afro!).
The really weird appearance though is from barmy art pop/rock/Hitler on the piano group 'Sparks' who play at the gala during the finale!

Needed more BOOM, but that aside "Rollercoaster" was still a lot of fun.

ROLLIN' WITH THE NINES
Before the excellent "Rise of the Footsoldier" film makers Julian and William Gilbey made this tough thriller about Black gangster violence in London.

Most of the Black actors who play the criminals are very good (especially Vas Blackwood and Robbie Gee) but the film is really hurt (at least from a serious drama point of view, if not a straight entertainment one) by some dreadful miscasting and general bad acting (and writing) as far as the Police go.
The two main (actually corrupt as they like to skim from drug hauls and sell it!) Cops are without doubt the most unconvincing Cops put in screen.
One is just a weak actor and the other is simply a Cockney Gangster thug throughout and never a Policeman. No wonder the actor, Terry Stone, was re-used in "Rise of the Footsoldier" as a brutal Gangster. In that he was fine, but as a Cop in this he's completely unbelievable.
That's not to say the Cops are not enjoyable, comic strip, tough ass character s though. And we can only hope that real Cops get this hardcore with criminals!

Talking of which the action here is superb. The low budget is completely invisible as thundering multiple gunshots, fast editing, slick styling, well constructed set-ups and excellent blood FX all combine to deliver some brutal as hell shootouts.
The action highlight (although it plays like no shootouts I've ever heard of happening in the UK, even now!) is a truly nightmarish assault on a Yardie (Jamaican Gangsters) drug house where the cramped setting provides real edge of the seat suspense as the Cops move through a house filled with truly psychotic Gangsters as well as booby traps.
It's astonishingly bloody and violent and the sickening discovery in an upstairs bathtub in the middle of the brutal chaos truly makes the sequence a trip through hell.

The budget is again ignored during a very well done extended car chase that's wonderfully shot, edited and performed and when added to the location footage and crisp cinematography results in a film that, from a technical level at least, can holed its own with almost any Hollywood production.
All in all then "Rollin' with the Nines" is only really let down by some genuinely poor acting in a couple of key roles, at least one miscasting blunder and some overly hip and comic strip dialogue (worse when said supposedly by Cops).
Everywhere else though it's top notch, fast paced, great looking, superbly crafted thriller making that may revel in cliche, but does it very well.

ROSEMARY'S BABY
Hack about 10 minutes out of this and things would improve in leaps 'n' bounds.
There are too many repetitive scenes and events and the whole Satanic plot (if it exists...but I think by the end we are meant to realise it is indeed real) seems rather flawed and long winded in execution.
The plan of the all powerful Lord of Hell has to rely on the complete consumption of a chocolate mousse?

And although I like John Cassavetes he is never, ever, anything other than rather unlikeable and suspicious. With his endless forced smirks and bursts of rage you never, not once, feel this is a trustworthy guy and innocent Husband. He seems to be on the wrong path (indeed the left hand path! LOL!) from the start.
It would indeed have been far more effective (and fascinating) if the clean cut, likable, Robert Redford (who was originally up for the Husband role) had taken the part.
As quite frankly to have had a "Barefoot in the Park" style Redford be exposed as pimping out his young wife to Satan would have been a real shocker...and completely unexpected to a virginal 60's audience.
With Cassavetes though, you think he's up to something as soon as he appears!

This aside though, Polanski has delivered a surprisingly engaging Satanic slow burner that has some engaging characters and a nice air of sinister mystery and dark conspiracy.
Mia Farrow is just the right side of twee and does a great job later on as her character's natural shrewishness valiantly tries to fight back against the all powerful witches plotting against her.

I have to wonder why this still rates an '18' in the UK though. A nicely bloody body aside (and I'm still not sure why and how this character died either...her existence in the plot seems rather strange and unexplained) we have nothing else at all except some mild nudity, Halloween costume Devil claws and the most sedate rape ever filmed.
This is '15' material.
I still refuse to see this as a real classic in 2009 and I put it far behind "The Omen", but it does hold the attention for the most part, is well made and directed and delivers a stonking finale.

ROYAL WARRIORS - aka "Police Assassins".
Top class old school 'Modern Day Action' flick with Micelle Yeoh (in her 'Michelle Khan' days) in top ass kicking form against some very nasty, cold blooded as hell killers.
Bags of 80's Hong Kong action entertainment. Awfully done 5:1 audio on the 'Universe' DVD though!

RUN ANGEL RUN
60's biker flick from Jack Starrett ("Race with the Devil"/"The Losers") about gang member Angel (William Smith") selling the clubs secrets to a magazine for $10,000 and then going in the run from them with his girlfriend and hold up on a farm..

Plus points first.
Loved the close-up camera work on the bike riding scenes near the start of the film. Really exhilirating stuff. And the chase scene was good.
William 'Conan's Dad' Smith is always a good watch, and here he played a pretty complex character in Angel. Rotten, mean, selfish and then loving and honourable with dreams.
Mean-ass hobos! They started out okay, but soon turned on the nasties.
There was even a weird sort of master/slave relationship between one White hobo and a Black hobo (named Elmo!). best though was the stuck up, uptight hobo who was disgusted at the idea of them all sharing Angel's girl....But was the first to get right stuck in when the chance came!!
A rape of a young girl was very well handled, especially the way it was edited into Angel and his girl making love, and the way they simply abandoned the beaten and bloodied girl after was pretty powerful stuff.
Angel's relationship with the farmer was good too as Angel saw a possible glimpse into his future that he really can't decide if he wants or not.
And there was some good general "we be mean bikers" scenes as well which were fun.

BUT...this took far too many time-outs to show Angel and his girl having the same arguement again and again. It got veru boring very fast as we had yet another scene of Angel smashing something, grabbing her arm and telling her he's "going to blow".
It overdosed on the fancy editing and multiple split screens as well as if that added life to things.
The promised jump onto the train was an unseen non-event that was just a confused mess due to the split screens.
After such a build-up the finale basically failed to deliver much. Always a damaging flaw.
The roaring bikes in the dark were good as they shot around Angel, but it was not enough really.

Overall? Very good in parts with certain fine set-pieces, a good script as far as Angel's character goes and some good bike scenes. But much of this was to low key for it's own good, with tedious arguements and a rather flat finale.
Average fare.

RUNNING SCARED
WOW!
A real boot in the face bit of cinema.
Frantic, brutal, uncompromising in language and violence, superbly made so as to feel like a hyperkinetic graphic novel come to life, some balls-out performances (esp by the main child actor and Paul Walker) and with some head-spinning plot twists.
It's wildly over the top, totally implausible and packed with comic strip characters and events, but given a brutal make-over with high melodrama to ensure we care what happens to people.
The basic set-up is like a far more serious, far more nasty "Snatch". Only with a gun replacing a diamond, which takes the various larger than life characters on a mind bending journey into over the top (but wonderful) situations.
You either embrace and go with the harrowing, brutal but comic strip plot or you don't and as such miss out on one of the finest American films to come out in a LONG time.
How damn unexpected and just plain scary were that couple!!?

SANTA'S SLAY
A great idea, with a great start at least.
Evil Devil spawn Santa lost a curling contest with an Angel and was forced to be good for a 1000 years. Time's up.

Getting off to a stonking start with a dysfunctional/celeb cameo family massacre and with a great Pantomime turn by Bill Goldberg as evil Santa (with a great sleigh set-up) all is looking good for "Santa's Slay".

Sadly things dip when the other characters are on screen and despite some first half goodness (like a strip joint massacre) the whole thing falls apart at the end and gets bogged down with utterly pointless sequences throughout.
No point sequences like the lead buying chewing gum from a gas station and (what looked like a big showdown) the wasted curling re-match with Angel Robert Culp just bog the film down.
The curling is an especially big sequence that in the end has no effect on the film at all. If it never existed, you'd never know!

Add to this some pointless weirdness too.
Like a bunch of hunters with an old Indian who speaks with a voice synthesiser for no other reason than to make all his dialogue hard to hear.

This all adds up to a confused, anti-climactic, finale that fails to satisfy.
Shame.
Because other aspects of the film (the look of Santa, Goldberg's turn, the creative seasonal/decoration deaths, some good initial gore/violence, and nice black humour) show that there is a great movie hiding in a messy, unfocused, rather dull overall average movie.

SAW
Very good.
Raging, violent, bloody, dark and with some spot on twists. It did the business as far as I was concerned.

SAW 2
A nice little treat.
Nasty, violent and with some excellent twists.
The actual 'Saw' traps' in this seemed rather tacked on and of no real aid to the plot (the 'wrist grabbing box' really seemed shoved in simply to have a trap in the film at that point) but eveything else was spot on. Great finale as well.

SAW 6
If as far as plotting went you really had no chance following the 'Saw' films after "Saw 2" if you had never seen any of the others...here even those who have followed the series will find themselves needing very much the mass of flashback sequences to appreciate the full goings on in "Saw 6".

And even then, despite all that and despite that the plotlines left dangling are all tied up, "Saw 6" has a few new 'Er?' moments of its own creation thanks to some sadly murky plotting near the end.
As such the need to reprise so much of the plot from flashbacks throughout the film (not just at the end as usual) and the less than clear plotting at times make "Saw 6" not as satisfying as the last 2 sequels imho and the need to flashback means the film never really becomes it's own film until a good 40 minutes in.

Some of the traps are nasty nasty (especially the opening, prepare to wince!) but by now the traps are getting stale in general. As such this is not as good as people have been saying it was.
Still a must for "Saw" fans though...and it has a finale moment that's just great and totally unexpected.
Although for the first time ever in the series, despite this really being an end as far as the past five "Saw" movie plotlines are concerned, the film ends on a genuine cliffhanger. As such it never, ever becomes a real whole.
But the cliffhanger paved the way for a mostly very satisfying final movie, topping off a fine franchise.

SCREAM/TASTE OF FEAR
Ho hum.
Has some one or two shock visuals (the swimming pool scene is class) but lacks any real horror aesthetic or macabre content and as such plays far more like a drama/thriller then most of the other 'Hammer' mystery films. Very TV movie like in fact.

Okay stuff, but the plot is muddy (given the planned outcome of the scheme, why all the 'trying to scare her' bits beforehand, unless I missed something) and the bungled way the finale is shot/edited makes it look like everyone, including the police, was simply watching this guy do what he did and said or did nothing to stop him!

Poor Chris Lee had only a few lucky moments with 'Hammer'.
He either has no dialogue, only a tiny bit of dialogue, or has to speak in funny accents when he actually has a lot of dialogue. Hi ho. Must be why he likes "The Devil Rides Out" so much.

SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN
Truly bizarre British produced horror crams in Vincent Price, and Christopher Lee in extended cameos, Peter Cushing (who never meets Price and Lee) in an actual cameo, serial murders, mad scientists, Eastern European intrigue, Communist/Fascist 'superman' plots and police procedural plotting and the resulting stew is a mixture of the tasty, intriguing, and the downright putrid.

As said the 'name' actors are secondary roles really until the finale (Cushing looks good in Nazi-style black but has only one scene) so it's up to the rest of the cast to really carry the film.
Thankfully Alfred Marks (as a non nonsense, straight talking Police detective) gives a truly gorgeous performance and has some great dialogue to throw out.
His random rant about the state of the Police station sandwiches is everyday situation comedy gold decades before Tarantino.

He's backed up by the ever welcome (if ultimately tragic, he would soon commit suicide) Michael Gothard ("The Devils") as the bizarre, superhuman, vampire style, serial killer.
But there's something just not right in seeing Gothard boogying on the dance-floor in a 70's disco!

The film also has a famous, rather great, opening stinger that becomes a truly macabre running gag as the film goes on, as a man in a supposed hospital bed wakes up each day to find another limb missing!
In fact this idea sums up the general grissly, gruesome and macabre style and content of the film, complete with a spot of nudity.

So what's so wrong?
Well the padded out, dreadful, hole filled, all over the flippin' shop, screenplay that's what!

We have cheesy disco scenes that go on too long (purely to showcase real band 'The Amen Corner' ), there's a tediously protracted car chase scene (indeed the entire chase scene, even when it's on foot, is ridiculously long) and a needlessly extended 'searching the house' scene near the end and in a film that goes over the 90 minute mark all this padding was not remotely needed or indeed welcome.

But it's the (now truly infamous) second half mess that truly shows the dreadful (if at least different) screenplay up.
Twists are thrown out with tediously wild abandon, actions go unexplained, good characters are lost and plot holes open up to such an extent the remaining cast almost falls through the floor.
It all ends in a seemingly well wrapped bundle until you spend a second thinking about it and then the wrapping falls off in your hands revealing a box full of cat turds.

But the odd moments of warped genius, the odd moment of blood and nudity, the generally macabre aspect of it all,the bizarre cast and a couple of top performances/characters manage to save the film from being a major disaster.
But it's still a mini disaster of a movie and one that you probably won't want to re-visit more than once a decade

SCREAMING SKULL (THE)
Jeeesus! The Snoring Skull more like.
New, mentally fragile, wife (with lots of cash) is taken by her new husband to the house where his first wife mysteriously drowned!
Write it yourself.

A rubber skull appears now and again to frighten her, we have a limping sinister Gardner (director Alex Nicol), and HUGE passages of the film where the Wife sits on her bed staring, walking around a bit, going back to sit on the bed before walking around a bit more.
We have a Vicar who gives unasked for hairstyle advice, a man holding said rubber skull against his neck to simulate a hideous attack and we have conversations like this:
'Wife': "What's that shed"?
'Hubby': "It's where Mickey keeps his gardening equipment".
'Wife': "Who's Mickey?"
'Hubby': - "The Gardner".

Tedious, cheap, badly made, badly acted, badly written, badly directed...but somehow it still manages to be slightly fun thanks to all those faults.

SECRET KICK OF DEATH
Lots of fun 'old school' Martial Arts action, packed with fights including some good femme action. Very cheap but very cheerful.

SEED OF CHUCKY
A nice way to end the series, in the only style you could really do it in.
Not as good as "Bride of Chucky" but it had some nice moments, some clever in-jokes and self-digs and some delightfully weird and wonderful ideas.
Lacked energy though, and the very final scene was rather silly and strange.
overall the entire "Child's Play" series is easily one of the best franchise's as far as keeping up the quality, the pretty good continuity and at delivering all round solid entertainment.

SEPTEMBER DAWN
September 11th has another brutal religious slaughter to its name.
This time the death, in 1857, of 120 men, women and children at the hand of The Mormon Church.
Christopher "Young Guns" Cain takes too long to tell this foul tale and the love story (although emotionally effective from a narrative stand-point) is told in far too cliche, twee and sickly a fashion.

But the fine cast, headed by Jon Voight, Tamara Hope and Trent Ford, does a fine job and when it comes the massacre is as it should be...a brutal, sadistic act of religiously motivated butchery that is genuienly hard to watch as Cain's camera spares no gender or age when it comes to showing the bloody deaths.

Flawed, too long, sometimes too slow and a bit simplistic in characterisation...but it's a story that needed telling (please feel free to do the same type of telling for other religion's atrocities too though Mr Hollywood) and the movie tells it very well and makes for suitably grim viewing. But at least it's well crafted grim viewing.

SE7EN
The new blu-ray transfer looks excellent, and the film still holds up brilliantly well.
True the two great and unexpected shock moments lose a lot once you know them (the victim in bed, the finale) but the top class characters and the top class acting by all involved still ensure the viewer is engaged.

It of course looks amazing and is so skilfully crafted that almost every scene and set is an art piece in itself. Damn fine soundtrack too.
It's of course a stunningly bleak film (even with the gentle humour earlier on) with not a chink of light to be seen in the pitch black hellhole of its screenplay...but the likebale characters, stunning look and top notch acting make it worth numerous re-visits.
For a first time viewer though, the effect is even better of course.

SEVENTH SIGN
Sadly forgotten Demi Moore vehicle about the coming of the Apocalypse, but with an unusual twist in the telling as it's all God's work...with no Satan or Anti-Christ in sight.

Jürgen Prochnow is the mysterious guy walking the earth and breaking the seals that move the apocalypse closer (some good scenes of mass death and decay) the unlucky Michael Biehn is Moore's husband and Demi Moore herself does a pretty damn good job as the mother to be who holds mankind's salvation in her hands.
Acting highlight though is Peter Friedman is a priest who is not what he seems (some good Bible based lore here if you like this type of scripture based mystery ala "The Omen") and it all comes to an emotionally powerful (if rather obvious) head.

Different, well made and deserving of a bigger profile.

SHADOW MAN
Lame latter day Seagal effort that has lots of action, but its all badly edited and staged, Seagal does very little and is clumsy in what he does do and even has a body double...to cross the road! Literally.
Bizarre cast has two UK TV/soap actors and Imelda Staunton! Who must have had a spare day to pop up in this! She's trying to be American too.

Watch as Seagal shoots down a massive army military helicopter with a pistol and it explodes like an old XBox cutaway scene, listen in awe as mystic flutes lift us up as Seagal pulls a mystic punch just after uttering the mystic line "It ain't over till the wolf howls".

SHADOW OF A DOUBT
One of Hitchcock's favourite of his films owes much to the great turn (and some great psycho speeches) by Joseph Cotton whose unhinged character saves this from the generally messy and inconsistent in tone screenplay he resides in.

Longer than it needs to be and far too unstructured the film is not helped by the performance in the first half (it vastly improves later on) by Teresa Wright who makes her selfish, drippy, simpering, OTT woman-child character even more annoying with her spot on (so perhaps it's actually a great performance!?) drippy, simpering, OTT woman-child performance as Cotton's niece.

The abrupt, seems rather handy and shoe-horned in, finale is a letdown as well...so only some of Hitch's typically stylistic suspense scenes and Cotton's great turn and character make it worthwhile.

SHADOWS RUN BLACK
Truly appalling pseudo-Slasher notable only for an early turn by Kevin Costner (in satin jacket, pink open shirt and bead necklace).

It's one of the most achingly tedious, truly honestly tedious, films I have ever sat through.
Nothing happens very slowly. It's almost bloodless and lacks any and all tension or excitement.
It's dreadfully made, technically a complete wreck, acting is atrocious. As is the music and TV movie level cinematography.

It at least has some gratuitous topless/full frontal nudity. But absolutely nothing else is worth a bag of farts

SHEPHERD (THE)
As far as Van Damme's a hand to hand fighting/acrobatics go this was his best flick for a long time.
His physique is looking good too...no Seagal style letting himself go to be seen here. Some of the plotting (or should that be post filming editing it seemed to me) was off and some scenes and minor characters were left stranded, but the action, fighting and Van Damme himself were all top flight, certainly for a latter day Van Damme movie.

SHERLOCK HOLMES
Fucking garbage.

A Holmes film for people who hate Holmes, don't know Holmes or were dropped on their heads at birth.

Downey paints Sherlock as a mumbling prick (truly you can only hear half of what he says...death for any version of Holmes), it makes nods to the actual stories and then shits on them and the screenplay has no idea about Holmes or his relationship with the other people and the world around him AT ALL.

It's trash and another drop into the crapper for Ritchie after his first two wonderful films.
An obnoxious, mumbling, Holmes, a slam-bam mess of a plot and 'hip' blandness is all this rubbish offers.
Mumble, mumble, bang, crash, inane scripting, mumble, stupidity, mumble, annoyance, loudness, mumble...FUCK OFF.

If you want Sherlock Holmes close to the stories, or only based on them (but still faithful to the essence of the stories and the character) watch the new BBC "Sherlock" series, the Rathbone films, the Brett TV show and listen to the BBC radio, full-Canon, versions with Clive Merrison & Michael Williams.

SHINER
What a joy!
Is it a black comedy or a serious drama? Fucked if I know, and I don't think the makers knew either.
Michael Caine in top pantomime form, nothing serious about his acting here (another "Get Carter" this is not) but he entertains no end!
And the OTT, foul mouthed, dialogue is a hoot! "Go and have a cup of tea or a wank...but calm down, calm down".
And my favourite..."I'll personally force you to fuck your Mother"!
Saying that, there was genuinely intense scene with Andy Serkis (cock dangling) and his pregnant wife.
Caine sticks a gun to her belly and threatens to pull the trigger if a battered and bleeding Serkis does not tell him what he wants to know.
The whole sequence reeked with violence. Nasty scene.
Totally melodramtic and unreal in general, but very entertaining and extremely violent and bloody at times.

SHOOT 'EM UP
Birthed from the iconic 'Chow Yun Fat with a baby and a shotgun' scene from John Woo's "Hardboiled", "Shoot 'em Up" delivers a film based on the idea that Chow would have to look after and protect the baby throughout the entire film!
And it works brilliantly.

This is not a film pretending to BE a John Woo film, or even pretending to be LIKE a John Woo film (they are separate creatures despite the shared DNA) it's simply a movie being something so out of this world deranged that is exists in its own little universe.
It's a juicy hamburger made of the finest meats and cooked to absolute perfection and served on the best bun ever baked, to John Woo's juicy prime steak cooked and seasoned to perfection and served on the finest bone china plate ever made.
Both bloody lovely depending on what mood you're in.
If Woo's masterworks pushed reality to breaking point in their drive to ensure that style and entertainment come before all else, then "Shoot 'em Up" quite frankly pushes reality out of the frame entirely!

Stupendously creative and over the top set-pieces packed with blood spattered carnage and oh so many guns is the order of the day, with a large side helping of humour and utterly fantastical physics.
But because the film starts out like that from the very start (a guy killed with a carrot should signpost all you need to know about the kind of film this is going to be) then the movie's 'there are no rules' rules remain basically above criticism.
You want a film literally packed with guns, blood, action and stunts that you can just sit back and enjoy with absolutely no pretensions?
Well here it is.
Done in a way so completely devoted to delivering the most outrageous examples of guns, blood, action and stunts that quite frankly, if you walked into the cinema in the first place, and crucially were still there after the first 10 minutes....You've got nothing to complain about!

The creative use of the baby only adds to the comic strip madness of the action (you WILL get close to the edge of your seat at times whenever the baby is put through the kind of set-pieces Tex Avery would find too crazed) and for a film that was basically spawned from an idea in another film, and that hugs and kisses so many past action conventions with great passion, it's to everyone's credit that the damn thing still comes out unlike any action/gun film you've ever seen.

Clive Owen is quite frankly pitch perfect as the mysterious stranger who's a one mad slaughter house. Owen knows exactly how to react to the madness, how to trip out the one-liners and how to handle the action.
And Paul Giamatti is a complete comic strip, pushed to the edge of the cosmos, nasty as hell villain who shouldn't work... but does perfectly in the kind of universe "Shoot 'em Up" dwells in.

This is a gun-play film on speed, acid and grass all at the same time while still managing to pull all the best effects of such a cocktail together with military precision (under Michael Davis' expert direction) to amazingly deliver not a vomit chocked overdose, but a big ass, grin on the face, orgasm.

SHOWTIME
LOADS of fun! Should have been a much bigger hit.
Eddie Murphy is on top form and Robert De Niro gives a lovely performance.
Some good action mixed in with the comedy and all in all it's well worth a watch.

SHUTTLE + Article. *Spoilers*
The recent splurge of extreme Horror and Exploitation movies from America (“Hostel 1 & 2”, “Devil’s Rejects”, “House 1000 Corpses”, “Saw”) has been a mixed bag but has also been a generally effective and very welcome shot in the arm of a genre pretty much on it’s tired, in-joke filled, moronic franchise aimed, oh so bland and extremely vapid and irritating knees in the previous decade.
So far this new Millennium has been as close to the Exploitation/Horror Heaven of the years between 1968 (or so) and 1983 (or so) we could have hoped for.

Even the rather more popcorn munching, multi-plex friendly American Horror film (the re-birth of the Slasher film for example back to its no messing, here for the fun, hack ‘n’ dice roots, “Wrong Turn 2”, “See no Evil”, “Laid to Rest”, “All the Boys Love Many Lane”, “Boogeyman 2”) has given us some surprisingly gory, devilishly sick and violent efforts that have been generally very well made and funded.

Brutal and often bold and risk taking Horror, with a sometimes arthouse sensibility, has been at its most uncompromising in some of the chilling and powerfully grotesque movies from Europe in general (“Cannibal” from Germany, “Cold Prey”, “Manhunt” from Norway for example) and France in particular (“Martyrs”, “Inside”, “Frontiers”).
Even Australia did the brutal Horror business (“Wolf Creek”, “Storm Warning”) as did a regenerated (though often multinationally funded) British Horror film industry (“Mum and Dad”, “The Children”, “Severance”, “Creep”, “Dog Soldiers”, “The Descent”, “Shaun of the Dead”, “28 Days Later”).

All in all, at least in film, the 21st century has been very kind to Horror fans, with only the, still going strong, need to re-make many wonderful 70’s/80’s films (not even all Horror) for no good or welcome reasons whatsoever being the unwelcome stain on the crisp bedsheets.

And into this still young and exciting revitalised century comes “Shuttle”.
A bloody, nasty, bleak little film about 5 people being driven to their various fates (or not) by a sinister airport shuttle driver.
An unusually long running time for such a film and a very quick to get going plot ensures that the film has plenty of time to offer up many twists, events, set-pieces and locale changes to ensure that something new and surprising is always going on, even if it sometimes sacrifices energy for event.

Strong performances are essential to keep an audience interested in what is often just a horror coated road movie and thankfully there are no bad turns here, with some solid work in particular from the lead actress Peyton List and the driver himself Tony Curran (with a pretty good American accent).
The film also delivers some nicely messy violence, all done with deadly seriousness, and lots of well honed terror and threat. It’s good, solid, technically sharp horror movie making that we have come to now expect.

All this dark mayhem finally ends in a conclusion it that is up there with “Wolf Creek” for being so truly horrible. The eventual grotesque fate for the last character, that will also have a long and terrifying build up for the victim, is utterly audience unfriendly and stupendously bleak and ice cold. Not a fun time can be said to have been had!
It’s not nice, but it’s this uncompromising hardness and extremity that has been such a welcome breathe of fetid air to recent genre films for those craving a darker treat from some of their horror.

The problems with the film come from general troubles with the movies’ basic setting and set-up and that old chestnut…some dumb choices by the characters and a shit load of unnaturally bad luck!
The film switches the power and advantage from bad guy to victim more often than any psycho film I can think of. As such, although this adds surprise and freshness to the proceedings, it does start to grate when the would be victims don;t do what you want them to do and what you hope you would do in such a situation.
Too often the victims utterly foul up their chances to our extreme frustration. It is a sadly large problem the film is stuck with, and seeing as the rest of the film is so good and well made it’s a shame some more time and effort was not spent by writer/director Edward Anderson brainstorming the consequences of certain actions and how to realistically deal with them without simply having something foolish happen to get him out of the corner he foolishly wrote himself into.
And it also ignores what would be the biggest problems to any of this happening today, namely the fact that no modern city is ever this empty. Ever. And this place is damn empty believe me!
And in a world full of CCTV and speed/roadside cameras the Police would have been screeching around the corners in hot pursuit before half the running time has elapsed.

But in the end the film’s strengths win out over its weaknesses and the film is (as so many Horror films are nowadays) ultimately saved by it’s brutally uncompromising attitude and extremity that gives the right kind of viewer for such a film the kind of satisfaction (if not exactly fun-time enjoyment) they crave and have come to expect from this kind of Horror film today.

SIMBA
Once a staple on UK TV this is now a little seen British film about the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya, that saw atrocities carried out against Black Kenyans as well as White farmers.

It's hurt by the old filming techniques to some extent. I'd bet none of the main cast ever left England as all their close-up/dialogue scenes are studio bound/dodgy African back-projection affairs or sets built by very English looking trees!
The otherwise excellent Kenyan location footage is only used for landscape sequences and for when the characters are a long way off so you can't see the actor's faces.

For a 50's film though it's very progressive as far as race and racism goes.
It paints the shades of grey around the more black and white aspects (no pun intended) of the plot and manages to be sympathetic to the issues of the White farmers and the Black Kenyans while still managing to have bonafide villains in the shape of the brutal Mau Mau and their leader, the titular, Simba.

Some of the attack/murder scenes are still quite strong now, and must have been pretty shocking when this came out.
There are a couple of excellent and bloody set-pieces that still hold up and the finale is powerful and pulls no punches in it's moderation vs fanaticism that rips apart not just countries and communities...but families too.
A solid movie with good acting by Dirk Bogarde, Virginia McKenna, Earl Cameron and Donald Sinden (underrated actor who always gave great performances in his 40's/50's films) that mixes a good message with gritty action.

SIN CITY
Wonderfully crafted and amazingly faithful to it's graphic Novel source (these guys really went all out here) this was hip, cool, smooth, nasty, fun, violent, hopeful and very entertaining.
A great cast do a great job, the stories are wonderfully weaved together and emotionally satisfying and it simply looks stunning.
Easily one of the best Hollywood films of the last 5 years.

SINGER NOT THE SONG (THE)
Infamous British Western that takes place in a Mexican town populated by very few Mexicans but a lot of the folks from Downton Abbey.
Lets just say this is Mexico by way of Ealing.

The legendary John Mills plays an Irish Catholic Priest bringing The Good Lord to the peasants despite psychotic, Atheist, Mexican bandit Dirk Bogarde.
If that plot sounds mad. It is. As mad as the casting.

Mills has an awful Irish accent that either vanishes completely or sounds like he's trying to sell you 'Lucky Charms'!
Bogarde is wise enough not to try any accents and sticks with is own wonderful English tones. This helps the performance, but does not make it any more authentic seeing as he's meant to be a Mexican.

But to add to this madness we have Bogarde's wonderful choice of costume. Tight, shiny, black leather!
This unapologetic homoerotic look just adds to the unintentional fun here and puts the cherry on top of Bogarde's strong (even at times genuinely serious) performance and presence.

But it's a complete stodge of a film that has no common sense as far its characters go.
Mills' Priest is rightfully angry at the sheer murderous outrages committed by Bogarde (that include killing a 7 year old child!) and then he's trying to save him and give him relationship counselling (!)
Bogarde is brutal and murderous in getting the Priest to leave (going so far as to try and kill Mills and kill 4 people to get him to give in) and then he's saving him and having some kind of re-awaking for no valid reasons at all.

It's poor and wants to have it both ways (defends the Church then mocks the church) and is far too long and dull.
But Bogarde is very good (Mills is okay but can't win against that stupid accent and messy character) and has a couple of great speech scenes ("I spit on your church! I spit on your goodness"!) and looks great (if camp) in his leather get-up.
A curio of a film for sure. But not a good film.
For freak show lovers and Bogarde fans only.

SINK THE BISMARK
A true classic of the Brit movie golden age (Kenneth Moore was never better), the sea battles are well done, the (mainly) accurate plot is engrossing and it's a ballsy, proud image of Britain.
Sadly though it wasn't just the Bismark that ended up getting sunk it now seems....

SKIN I LIVE IN (THE)
Twisted genius.
Avoid all discussion of the film, trailer is okay...just. Otherwise go in fresh and prepare to be gloriously shocked and entertained.
Great performances, great set design, great costumes, great music score and a clever, surprising and just all round great script.

Get it? Yep, it's great.

SLITHER
This unpretentiously does all it sets out to do.
It has some good gore, some cool FX and creatures, likeable/enjoyable characters, well used humour and mixed various bits from here and there to create it's own film. "The Thing", "Shivers", "Squirm", "Night of the Creeps", "The Blob" and even "Society" were blended together to make a fun horror *new* movie.

The main creature's face gave off a heavy Bilial vibe, "Basket Case's" Frank Hennenlotter was namechecked on a banner, Lloyd Kaufman appeared, Rob Zombie was heard and we had a character named J. MacReady.
Despite some weird criticisms of the CGI, I thought it was very well used, it looked very good for the most part and was utilised as it should be...to enhance 'real' FX and to do impossible things otherwise.
And it was nice to see a film that referenced other films yet still stood on it's own,

SLUGS
Even worse than I remembered. Shaun Hutson's (first) novel that it was based on is not that good (the sequel was better) but it was a masterwork compared to it's movie incarnation.
We have to endure not a single even remotely adequate performance (some lame dubbing as well makes matters worse) , truly inane scripting, stupid as hell plotting, shoddy direction, dire technical flaws, laughable music and basically almost everything here is just plain BAD.
A few moments reach 'so bad they're good' status, most of the time though it's just simply awful and shows just how rare (and well done even) true 'so bad they're good' films truly are.
Some choice gore here and there (especially during the bedroom scene), but that's all there is to even remotely bother with.
This does not reach the heights of 'guilty pleasure', cheesy fun or anything else. In fact it shows just how much better the low budget 60's/70's schlock fests were than people give them credit for.
"Slugs" is truly dire movie making.

SMOKIN' ACES 2: Assassin's Ball
Ball? Balls more like!
Despite snobby critics bad mouthing the original film, it was in fact a wonderfully cast, wonderfully played, superbly made, fast paced, extremely well plotted balls-out action fest.
It managed to deliver a dense, clever, satisfying plot whilst also managing to keep up a constant barrage of high tech action and thrills.
This sequel though manages none of that.

Running 20 vital minutes shorter than the first film this stinking donkey dropping of a movie takes no less than 50, basically action free, minutes to set up a bunch of only marginally interesting characters before placing them all in a couple of rooms for the last 30 minutes so they can shoot at each other (and dodge awful CGI explosions) for no plot propulsion purpose at all.
But actually even that's wrong. As really only about 20 minutes of that last 30 is action, the rest is made up of two scenes (one in the middle of what is supposed to be the big action finale!!) where a couple of the characters rapidly mumble supposed plot explanations to each other as the screenwriters try to make up for having almost no plot whatsoever for the first hour.

I mean it. Almost all the final 10 minutes of what is supposed to be an action film is nothing but, nothing at all but, a rambling stream of plot exposition and incomprehensible twist explanations (that crassly and crudely tries to shoehorn in real life political/terrorist events) that lead up to a complete non-event of an ending.
Plusses? There are two wonderfully gory head destruction scenes and you have to love the exploding clowns. But all that adds up to about 1 minute of screen time.

"Smokin' Aces 2" is witless, stupid, badly made, often looks cheap, has Christ awful pacing, has an outstandingly badly delivered and truly pitiful plot (that only exists just before the film ends) and manages to do everything wrong that the first film did so damn right.
Avoid this turd, even if you liked the first film.
Watch the exploding clowns on YouTube and save your money!

SNOWTOWN
Look past the 'get paid/don't pay to see the film' mainstream critics hyperbole (and ugly ass star ratings) spewed all over the DVD covers and posters and you find not much of anything in "Snowtown"...accept confusion, pointless wallowing in homophobia and whitewashing to the point of muddied tedium.

We do find some good acting also and some effective atmosphere but they hide a rather pointless film that pretends to be about an infamous, real life, serial killing case purely to get bums on seats.
In reality it's just about some Australian slum slobs eating food in crappy kitchens for an hour telling each other how nasty those 'fags' are....something that is drawn out for no reason in the end...before various people are killed completely off-screen (except one), in vastly confusing ways (you're not sure who's even dead most of the time) before the film ends in the middle of the story with some lazy ass text to tie things up.

When (over half way through) the killings actually start (off screen even then) it turns out that all the anal rape/fags are paedophiles talk that made up the first half as little baring in anything that follows as they kill mostly the mentally handicapped/general slobs.

And here we have the tale of at least 12 murders with one, count it, ONE on-screen death.
It's a nasty one...but it should be, that's the point...but this hardly expresses the sheer sadistic brutality the victims went through. In "Snowtown" they simply vanish in nice clean ways (bar a few blood streaks in a bath).
It also makes a mockery of the hyperbole critic quotes that make this sound like it makes "A Serbian Film" look like a Disney movie.
I guess these critics don't see many tough horror films or brutal thrillers. As "Snowtown" has just two scenes of any kind of violence.

This not only whitewashes what these jumbled assortment of people (as this was a group crime) did to their victims but makes for completely unsatisfying, achingly confusing, movie making.
You get pointed leads to who might die only to then have nothing happen in the film itself.
You really struggle to know who they even killed for a good half of the victims!
The killers thought of them as nothing...and so do the film makers it seems!

And as for the sheer confusion of who is who!
The main family is almost incomprehensible in its structure so any emotional connection is completely lost.
Step-brothers, real brothers, fathers, husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends, friends all are mixed up in a time jumping, fractured to fuck, narrative that only adds to the head scratching when some of these people are then killed off-screen...er...maybe.

Good acting, sordid atmosphere, a couple of effective scenes do not make for 'A Triumph' or a 'Masterpiece' (anything to get your name on a poster quote, right guys?) or even an averagely satisfying serial killer/true crime drama.
It's 65 minutes of homophobic rants from food filled mouths, followed by 25 minutes of people standing, walking and driving and 20 minutes of marginally interesting stuff.
Ho, and indeed, hum.

SOMEONE'S KNOCKING AT THE DOOR
GIGANTIC SWINGING MUTANT COCK...is really the best thing this low-budget Indy horror/drama has going for it sadly.
After the initial shock opening the film then does not really anything at all (almost zero as far as even the most normal gore and nudity goes) for the next 40 minutes.
So we have to spend time with a bunch of dubiously acted tossers who are so annoying and/or obnoxious you wish they would all die very quickly.

Eventually (with only about 20 minutes to go out of a rather short 75 minute running time) the really crazy, wonderfully crafted (in that low-budget 'doing the best you can' way), warped as hell extremity I was hoping for finally bursts out all over the screen.
Now we can at last savour the crazed delights as cunts eat heads, heads get fucked, arses get reamed and the most grotesque sexual tumour-c0ck of all time swings it's way down a corridor (attached to a big-ass, face-fucked, zombie) after a screaming girl.

It all ends on a nice twist (not that hidden) that is a negative as much as a plus. It's a good twist and it makes sense but at the same time it makes the utter insanity of what you have up until witnessed (eventually) rather ordinary as what was seemingly an early-Lynch throwback actually turns out to be not as remotely deep or off-the-wall as its makers obviously think it is.
It also has a pointless and rather naff final shot.

But there is just enough warped sexual deviancy and grotesques splatter to save the film, so it's only average fare, but average far you have to see at least once just so you can tell your mates how much fun you had with a big flapping mutant penis that time.

STAKE LAND
This got rather lost in the "Zombieland" phenomena and seemed to be a 2nd run rip-off with Vamps instead of Zombies for yet more comic horror shenanigans.

In reality the unfortunate "Land" moniker is extremely misleading.
The very basic set-up is the same though; A Vamp outbreak spreading throughout the World and a tough ass old dude and a male teen orphan travel together, meeting other people, trying to get to some kind of promised land.
But "Stake Land" is as comedic as a bus load of babies being driven over a cliff onto a shelter for abused women.
This is doom-laden, grim, gritty, dark as hell stuff.

The Vamps are genuinely scary and come across as a real threat as they are so brutal and tough to kill.
The violence is messy, cold and remorseless, the picture of much of humanity (not all though, crucially) is bitter and you truly never know who will live or die.

Acting is excellent all round with co-writer Nick Damici superb as the bitter, driven, Vamp hunter especially.
But his co-star Connor Paolo holds his own and both get nice support from Danielle Harris and, an almost unrecognisable, Kelly McGillis.
And Michael Cerveris makes for an effective, religious zealot, bad guy.

This is excellent, tough, exceptionally well made, grown up horror. And as such is most welcome.

STARSHIP TROOPERS 2
Not great, and someone has obviously been watching "Shivers" and "Night of the Creeps".
But the action was well done, the gore was nasty and explicit, the nudity was very welcome and the end was stupendously ironic and bravely bleak.

STONE KILLER (THE)
The vastly underrated Michael Winner (60's/70's Winner is top class stuff, so there) teams up with the mighty Charles Bronson again for this sprawling, violent, Cop/Mafia tale that's been sadly rather forgotten.

An amazing support cast provides us with non-stop top acting and enjoyable characters to keep us interested between the dummies and the blood squibs.
Just check this cast out;
Martin Balsam ("12 Angry Men"/"Taking of Pelham 123"), Paul Koslo ("The Losers"/"Mr Majestyk"), Jack Colvin (TV's "Incredible Hulk"), Norman Fell ("Charley Varrick"), Ralph Waite ("Grissom Gang"/TV's "The Waltons"), John Ritter ("IT"/"Bride of Chucky") and Stuart Margolin ("Kelly's Heroes").

Bronson himself is in top 70's form; Tough, ruthless and by the book. But not yet the annoyingly puritan/overly serious Bronson of "Kinjite" and the like.
He's kick-ass, smart-ass and a joy to watch.

Another major plus is the hard boiled dialogue and no messing, very un-pc but fun, attitude.
This is pure 70's cynicism and rudeness.
Hippies are dippy, Blacks are insulted by Whites, Whites are insulted by Whites, Hispanics are insulted by Blacks, swingers and Gays get mocked (although parading around in those y-fronts means mockery is the only way to go) and Bronson just dislikes everyone.
This is classic 70's writing.

Action is well spaced in the surprisingly complex and countrywide hopping plot and delivers a nice line in bright red squirting bullet hits.
Also a plus is the in-your-face use of very obvious, but oh so much fun, dummies (we'd have to wait for 80's Italian sci-fi flicks for dummies to be this much fun again) that Winner has plummet from a stairwell and (in a classic moment that the camera captures in full) all the way out of a high rise window till it smashes on the sidewalk.

The plot perhaps meanders a bit at times as Bronson seems to endlessly and effortlessly flit around from L.A. to New York and there are perhaps too many Police superiors and Chiefs involved which slow Bronson's investigation down.
It's engaging...but flabby.

Overall though no one gives a bad performance (even if Balsam's very Italian Mafioso is highly theatrical), action is solid and bloody, Roy Budd's ("Get Carter", "Who Dares Wins") score is catchy and funky, there's loads of great characters who have some great scenes (the wise old pot dealing hustler is a complete gem) and Bronson is in fine, cynical, moustache twitching, form.
Another winner from Winner.

STRIKING DISTANCE
Very underrated Bruce Willis flick. Nothing mind blasting, but a solid action thriller none the less
And the great support cast is what really lifts it. Tom Sizemore in great form, nice turns from Tom Atkins, Brion James and John Mahony and some excellent barnstorming by the great Dennis Farina.

STRANGE WORLD OF PLANET X (THE)
1950's British sci-fi flick with that stars Forrest 'I love England' Tucker as a scientist.

Magnetic experimental shenanigans have let in those naughty cosmic rays and thus some people have been turned mad and the insects have all become giant!
Now that sounds like a right winner does it not!?
Sadly though it takes about an hour for anything to happen aside from scientific babble and workplace romance (with a woman dubbed over with an 'Allo Allo' French accent) until we eventually have some truly dire insect attack scenes that are simply footage real bugs blown up and superimposed next to the actors ("Empire of the Ants" would still be using this crap method decades later).

But actually such mind-blowing FX sequences are a rarity here. Most of the 'action' is a handful of soldiers in a field shooting their guns off to the left or right of the frame before we cut to a completely separate 'National Geographic' scene of a real insect scuttling about.
And that's your lot!

This tv print was sadly missing the one moment that sounded slightly interesting (a soldier's face pulled off - a mask pulled off a joke store plastic skull supposedly!) so I was left with nothing but truly dire acting, plodding acing, go nowhere screenplay, crap FX and a shoe-horned in Alien saviour sub-plot that gives us the floppy nothing of an ending.
Bah!

STREETS OF BLOOD
Val Kilmer, Sharon Stone (with a dubious accent), Michael Biehn and Fifty Cent, of all people star, in this STV thriller about dirty cops and moral ambiguity in post 'Katrina' New Orleans.

An interesting set-up, some excellent location filming and a few well done action scenes can't help the messy plot that ties itself up in knots until the tired finale that still leaves certain things confusing. I never did figure what the opening murdered corpse had to do with anything or who killed him, unless I missed something.
The dialogue track is also distracting, not just some of the accents but the fact a lot of it sounds post-synched, especially Sharon Stone, which makes it sound cheap.

Kilmer is good though and shows he still has potential there for a comeback role, but the story is such an unsatisfactory mess, the technical aspects cheap and the finale such a let down that the genuine plusses are swamped in a 'Katrina' of negatives.

STRIKE COMMANDO
Bruno Mattei atrocity from the 80's (under his popular 'Vincent Dawn' pseudonym) that stars some guy named Reb Brown and co-stars Euro-Trash stalwart Christopher Connelly (in a rare bad guy role) in a Vietnam/revenge flick that borrows liberally from "Rambo: First Blood part 2" (torture, electro-fide bed frame, much belt-fed heavy machine gun misuse, traitorous boss man, voice of reason commanding officer, headband wearing and much bare chest posing) but is so badly made that little excitement is generated.

The fact the, pretty plentiful, action is also almost completely bloodless and often very badly staged indeed is a big problem for such a film (the first 5 minutes of "Cannibal Apocalypse" is better than this entire movie) and we only have that generally fun Euro-Trash styling, enjoyable ham acting and two very late exploding bodies to offer up any entertainment.

And you have to wonder what they were thinking when the last exploding guy manages to shout out the hero's name even while his body parts are flying in through the air...resulting in said hero catching the dead guy's metal dentures in his hand before walking off into the distance reciting a supposedly amusing (but not) fake disclaimer about the "events not being based on any actual persons alive or dead...especially dead". WTF?

Sadly an example of what used to entertain you as a VHS teen, no longer really does so as a DVD oldie as the wrinkles appear and the patience for just plain bad film making gets shorter and shorter.

STUFF (THE)
Not as good as it once was...but this is still a fun flick from Larry Cohen and as with all his films it has many wonderfully weird and quirky moments.

SUBMERGED
Steven Seagal stinker that's an awful Seagal movie (he barely does anything at all until the very end) but a great Vinnie Jones movie!
Vinnie is a complete bad ass nutter and does most of the work.

Most disgusting waste of Gary Daniels ever...even his wasted role in "The Expendables" was better.
Bad, but blood spattered fun at the same time.

SUDDEN DEATH
Solid Van Damme actioner that has a top performance by a very nasty Powers Boothe as the leader of a ruthless gang who take the Vice President hostage as an ice hockey game.
Van Damme get involved when his daughter is taken hostage too.
Lots of action, Van Damme is likeable, Boothe is in fine villainous form, the location/setting is impressive, it has some pretty good violence and the film never tries to be anything other than a slice of popcorn entertainment.

The faults lie in some very small scale (despite setting and number of bad guys) fights that are rarely more than Van Damme vs 1 or 2 people, some mixed/dated matte effects (though some are very good), a badly placed (though enjoyable) 'downtime for hockey action' sequence that deflates the growing tension, logic holes everywhere, too many scenes of bad guys talking to Van Damme instead of just shooting him(!!) and the fact that some of the stuff Van Damme does is rather absurdly OTT and superhero like. He is only a fireman!

Director Peter Hyams' action directing is also rather stodgy and somehow the film lacks pace, not in plot just in the general energy of scenes.
It's much better than the tedious and even more flatly paced Hyam's helmed "Time Cop" though.

But that aside it's a fun romp, with a genuinely nasty bad guy threat. And it's really Boothe's performance that give the film that extra lift.

SUDDEN IMPACT
A rather long 7 years after 'Dirty' Harry left the funky 70's behind with a bang, he is revived into the glossy 80's with a loud pop.

With Eastwood at the helm this time, "Sudden Impact" is a weird concoction of two very different decades of cinema.
This unsure mixture is best summed up by the (at first seemingly welcome) return of Lalo Schifin to music duties because as the film opens the wonderful driving funk of the first two films has been replaced by some achingly dated (in fact, in a way this is the most dated film in general out of all four of them) synth rock 'n' pop.
Lalo does re-hash the odd cue from his original score, but they fail to gell with the rest of the music and that we have a piss-awful ballad over the end credits sums it all up.

This is also the most absurd screenplay yet for a 'DH' movie.
Gigantic logic problems abound, silliness is everywhere and desperate contrivances to up the action quota are almost parody level!
Harry has a fun if unlikely run-in with a mob boss for example purely so the mob can send a few guys to attack Harry at various dull spots.
But that's not enough, oh no, to ensure this becomes more of an 80's action film than a 70's thriller we also have some general punks attacking Harry to ensure he can never leave his apartment without a war occurring.
But holy hell! All that is not enough either!
We (of course...it's the 'Dirty Harry Movie' law) have a random armed robbery for Harry to take care of, where he delivers one of this movie's two one-liners; "Make my day", but we also have a completely stupid, inane, second random armed robbery (Harry newly arrives in another town just as a robbery takes place!? Really!? REALLY!?) that ends in a dreadfully staged chase between a motorbike and a retirement bus that is achingly slow, uneventful and filled with loads of shots of bystanders who are painfully obvious in their 'kept at bay by the film crew' look.

This comic strip level of absurdity is crass, stupid and as far from the first film as you can get. But it still manages (vehicle chase aside) to be lots of fun and it entertains well enough. Even if Eastwood is not really an action director, as some of this is rather clunky.
And you have to love the 'dog shit' dialogue lift scene!

The main 'woman on a path of vengeance' vigilante plot has nice nods to Harry's general attitude to criminals of course and Sondre Locke does a pretty good job in the role, especially in her finale beach scene.
The executions she does are satisfying, and the villains she goes after suitably evil for the most part (this in fact features one of the most vomit-enducing female villains in movie history) and it all adds to the action quota.
There's a nice support turn by welcome vet Pat Hingle too, as the local Police Chief.
Eastwood is playing Harry almost completely as a character not a person by now and he looks rather too old, but he still handles his role well and Harry is still a great movie creation.

Connections with the original trilogy are sparse here, but the odd music cue and the surprising (if sadly brief) return of Bradford Dillman (again as Briggs) help to bridge the long gap between this and "The Enforcer".
Which brings me to another link...The guy who, Eastwood aside, has appeared in more 'Dirty Harry' movies than anyone else.
Good old Albert Popwell!
Popwell is the series' good luck charm (even though the luck is starting to wear off here) and he appears in all four of the first films as four different people.
A bank robber ("Do you feel lucky"?), a pimp, a Black activist and finally here as a Cop.
I love me some Popwell!
He would not return for the utterly appalling turkey that was "The Dead Pool"...and so the luck vanished.

So it's silly, contrived, comic strip fantasy and generally absurd but it's also fun and generally satisfying and, if Harry had to return, it was a suitably gnarly finale for the ageing character.

SUDDENLY
Frank Sinatra plans to shoot the President with a sniper rifle from a window. OUCH!
Sterling Hayden's stiffly acted Sheriff and the most upstanding American family ever seen are out to stop him
This wildly melodramatic and outrageously theatrical movie would probably have drifted into obscurity if it was not for two linked events.
JFK was later assassinated.
And Sinatra stopped distribution of the film because of it.
Such is the way movie folklore is born.

It is very strange to hear Sinatra, when he is told other assassins have never escaped, going through the list of President killers (and why they are inferior to him) and not of course have any mention of Oswald and JFK as that was 9 years away.
If the film was made now it would of course be explicitly mentioned,
Sinatra chews the scenery, it's outrageously patriotic, it's all rather silly (after the Sheriff and the head Secret Service guy go missing and another Cop is shot in the streets...why would Sinatra ever think the Presidential visit would still happen!!?) but it's all very entertaining.
In fact how could a film, where Ol' Blue Eyes slaps around an 8 year old boy and threatens to cut his throat, not be entertaining!?

SUKIJAKI WESTERN DJANGO
Takashi Miike's strange homage to the titular "Django" plus "Yojimbo"/"Fistful of Dollars" and Japanese folk tales, set in a Japanese/Western town where all the Japanese characters speak English, is pretty much an essential watch.

The idea to do the film in English is just one of the eccentric decisions n the film (hey, it's Miike!) and it takes a while to get used to as a lot of it is very broken and badly pronounced.
It works and it doesn't.
Lots of good and bloody action, some cool ass characters, a constant muddy bleakness, spot on homage and humour (though some humour, the schizo Sheriff who argues and fights with himself for example, is rather annoying), great sets and cinematography and a cool soundtrack.

Don't let the, far too weird for its own good, pre-credit opening put you off (with a bizarre Tarantino performance) as the film settles down to a more conventional look and setting and moves most of the overly bizarre stuff into the background.
And overall it's a wildly enjoyable mix of movie homage and Miike meets Tarantino cool.
How fucking cool you ask?!
Well a Japanese language version of the famous "Django" theme song ends the movie!
Thats how cool.

Almost genius. Watch it!

SUNSET BOULEVARD
A film worthy of its classic status.
The now classic opening (sometimes test screenings can be a good thing) leads to a fascinating study of dashed young hopes, fading stardom and deluded dreams.
And above all it's a study in blind ambition and a ruthless drive for success.
No one here is pure, everyone (even the wholesome Betty Schaefer) is willing to bend ideals and morals to get that big break and is willing to use duplicity and lies even for what they consider moral causes (like Erich von Stroheim's 'Butler).

Famously it's also an attack on old Hollywood and the way it turns its back on those that help make it.
And it's pretty biting about that.
And the ultimate example of that is Norma Desmond herself, so brilliantly essayed by the then also faded (but not mad) star Gloria Swanson, ironically getting the comeback her character never gets.
Her performance is slyly comic (there is, as it's Billy Wilder, some lovely comedy in the first half of the film), tragic, touching and downright scary.

As the opportunist, ultimately doomed, gigilo the young (but also starting to fade before this revival) William Holden is the lynch pin that holds the film together and he gives a gorgeous performance. Not only in looks but also in the way he perfectly mixes comedy and tragedy in his character.
A character, like them all, who's a genius creation by Wilder and Brackett.

The utterly crazy real-life connections between the actors is the icing on top for movie buffs;
Swanson was a big star who made films with DeMille (who has a cameo playing himself as her character's old director) and who had also faded into the background.
One of Swanson's most troubled films was "Queen Kelly" in which she was being directed by Erich von Stroheim, a film packed away and unreleased after Swanson complained about this "madman" making it. Erich von Stroheim and Swanson basically never talked again.
"Queen Kelly" is used as the film to show her character's old film career!
But Erich von Stroheim himself plays her character's 'Butler' who was also one of her characters early directors before she moved on and left him.

How these mighty egos with such a tangled past managed to work together is testament to how professional and respectful of each other's legacy they were.
A wonderful, classic, movie experience that works as a movie in its own right but is also essential viewing for any movie buffs and lovers of film.

SUPER
Marvellous Superhero homage/non-Superhero/comedic/deadly dark/superhero type movie that juggles all those things perfectly.

It's laugh out loud funny, it's great entertainment and yet it's very uncomfortable and it's very serious.
Despite the unfortunate release timing, that had it seemingly ride on the coattails of the excellent (but not as excellent, and far more a proper superhero film) "Kick-Ass", that got it pretty much ignored this is in fact an essential watch and indeed an essential purchase.

Great acting, perfect casting, multi-dimensional characters, brutal action, funny set-pieces, genuine shocks and although it's a treasure trove of geek/fandom nuggets it's also a legitimate and memorable dramatic work of it's own...A proper movie.
It also does what so many unusual films (which this is) fail to do; it provides a very satisfying ending.
Great stuff.

SUPERSTITION - aka "The Witch"
Rather forgotten supernatural body count movie (and I mean body count!) that hots the ground running with hacked off heads, microwave carnage and a dissected torso complete with unnervingly twitching legs.

By the 22 minute mark we have a body count of 5 and we end 60 minutes later with it in double digits with such delights as clawed up bodies, a person staked into the floor through the head, chest crushing, face skewing, neck snapping and blood spraying death by screwed up carpentry equipment.

Lots of atmosphere too, with a great back-lit, taloned, Witch for the finale, a solidly hokum-filled plot (complete with those essential witch trial flashbacks) with an unusual and memorable score backing it all.
We do have a rather forced, dubiously plotted, finale, a few illogical actions and the occasional slow spot, but the huge carnage count, groovy gore 'n' violence and general atmosphere make this a must see.

SWEATSHOP
You know the old saying "A diamond in the rough"?
Well in "Sweatshop" we have a slight variation on that...here we have 'A diamond in a stinking, putrid, rotten, maggot filled, slime coated, dead tramp's turd'.

What is the 'diamond' I hear you cry?
Well the diamond is the superb, ultra-gory, twisted, nasty, exceptionally well made, cool-ass death scenes carried out by a groovy killer and his awesome great hammer.
The 'stinking, putrid, rotten, maggot filled, slime coated, dead tramp's turd'...is every single other thing to do with the movie!

A truly obnoxious bunch of utter cunts that pass for characters (who all seem to be crude, inbred, halfwits if male and arrogant, airhead whores, who think the 'Suicide Girls' website is a guide to life, if female) all acted so badly I wanted to crawl into the TV and strangle the entire cast was bad enough of course.
But when these lumps of gristle in semi-human form start spouting the worst kind of inane dialogue (and very badly post-synch dubbed dialogue at that) for what seemed like an eternity I almost gave up the will to live.
Add to this the crappy cinematography (if that's not to insult the word), the crappy SOV picture quality, the utter lack of any kind of basic logic of any kind whatsoever, the rubbish music and the general incompetence on show all round and "Sweatshop" looks to be heading towards utter damnation.

But then, in the middle of all this complete and utter dross, something miraculous happens...these obnoxious cretins get killed off!
And when they do it's as if a totally different film crew appeared!

Not only does the film suddenly become technically excellent (with great and nasty practical FX with only a smattering of, very well done, CGI) but it becomes fun and imaginative as well.
The killer is a fat mountain of a man sporting a welder's helmet and swinging a hammer that seems to be a huge anvil with a long metal post rammed through it for the handle!
And this Hammer from Hell does, and we are shown, all the damage to a human body you expect it to do the first time you see it.
Add to the mix a couple of (although utterly unexplained) female, sub-human/creature, helpers who scuttle around with nasty-ass teeth and you have something very wonderful indeed.

And yet all this goodness...this shining diamond...is stuck in this fetid shit of a movie!
I mean these kills are 'whoop out loud with shocked joy' genius!
Stunningly well done, nasty and just goddamn wonderful.
What a waste!

So watch for 10 minutes to get the (utterly nonsensical given the pre-credit's sequence) basic set-up and then, and I mean this very seriously, scroll through the rest of the film until it looks like a death is about to happen.
And when that death is over...if you value your very soul...carry on winding forward until the next kill.
Because "Sweatshop" has absolutely nothing of any worth whatsoever to offer except for these superb death scenes.
And what they're doing in such a piss-awful film is anyone's guess.

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL
60's French Nu-Wave director Jean Luc Godard shoots the (still at this time) mighty 'The Rolling Stones' as they craft their seminal classic "Sympathy for the Devil" in a large recording studio.
Great! Nice to see some classic era 'Stones' at work. Yeah!

Oh.......Hold on....What the hell is this now?

It seems Godard thinks he's back in France. And I weep.
Suddenly we have 'deep' socio-politcal satire being read by a guy with a plum in his mouth while some Hippie chick spray paints the most achingly simplistic political cliches on various walls and buildings. You know, deep shit like 'CINEMAXIST'.
Christ!

Then we have a Black guy reading from radical pamphlets in a dirty old junk yard by the River Thames...as he sits in a wheelbarrow. Yes.... In a wheelbarrow...for that is 'meaningful'.
A slow pan reveals a huge Black guy distributing weapons to other Black guys as they too, all at the same time just to make it all even more annoying, preach from various radical tracts....while hanging out of junker car windows.
Can I take much fucking more?
Seems I have to sadly as now Goddard shows his 'radical hipness' and has three White girls (in white robes) marched at gunpoint into the junker camp, as another Black guy reads passages about how he worships the White woman.
It's "Mandingo" for the joss stick crowd.
The gang show this worship, by the way, by raping and then executing the women as yet more dated to hell, radical, Marxist, Black Panther type vomit is splurged into our ears.
Not sure what Godard's reasoning was here, but all it looks like is a 'BNP' (British National Party') recruiting video. As going by what we are shown here I'd want these fucktards rounded up and shipped out the country too, as all they do is brandish weapons, kidnap/rape/murder White women and spout tedious rubbish into the air.
It all seems more racist than radical.

JOY!!!!!! 'The Stones' are back...Yay!
Oh shit....spray painting hippie chick and constant annoying narration guy are back as well, now the scary Black guys are back, now we have another Hippie chick being interviewed by three annoying student pricks about achingly dated ultra-radical feminism, the plight of the Proletariat and groovy sexual terrorism while she glides around some trees waving her arms.

Oh look...Mick and co are back. Oh look....they've gone again.
I can't take anymore so I skip forward a few times to find that 'Stones' gold. There are a few nuggets there, nestled in this piss-awful shit pile of a movie. But the shit pile is what dominates.
OH LOOK! Now the Black guys (still spouting from those radical tomes) have painted 'MALCOLM X' on the side of a smashed car. I'm moved. I re-evaluate my socio-political naivete.
Oh no, hold on, I don't.

It all goes on like this, repeating the same, dusty old 60's radical chic in-between some odd moment of the actual 'Stones'. It all ends with some idiots running around (and falling over) on the beach with guns in their hands shooting the film crew. Never mind at least the finished title song now plays to sooth my ears.

Reminds me why I so disliked the French Nu-Wave in general, why I dislike Hippies in general (unless they sound like Casey Kasem and own a dog named Scooby) and why i've always found the French just so damn irritating.
Put the record on instead.

TAINT (THE)
"The Taint" delivers in amazingly fun/utterly gross FX (with superb CGI transitions from real actor's faces to dummy heads) and crazy ideas.
But after a balls-out (LOL) start it suddenly has over-extended jokes (an initially very funny/cheesy 'pumping iron' sequence goes on well passed the laughter stopping) and achingly long and dull flashbacks that halt all the fun.

In fact the entire middle is nothing but flashbacks that take us away from main plot (even with only 10 minutes to go) or if they are linked they are still needlessly drawn out.
The out of nowhere explanation flashback seems to go on for half the movie.
It's as if someone forgot to say "Cut" and then forgot to edit it after anyway.
And it was gross indulgence (although he is a fun character) to have a guy already dead half way through appear endlessly in other flashbacks later. With the main 'killer, rampant cock, men/end of the World' plot utterly forgotten.

That's not to say "The Taint" isn't worth a watch, it most certainly is.
It delivers the gross out craziness, is technically excellent and features some great (if OTT) practical FX and clever CGI.
And there's some genuine laughs to be had here.

But it gets so very lost in those too long/badly placed flashbacks

TAKING LIVES
A nice sex and nudity scene with Ms Jolie and a nasty decapitation...but otherwise rather silly, very slow and generally ho hum.

TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE
Average anthology fare (like almost all anthologies) that is basically the unofficial "Creepshow 3", that benefits from a strong cast (Christian Slater, Debbie Harry, James Remar, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore) and some GREAT old school practical FX work.

FX highlights are a superbly gross 'man eating a pussy' scene and a creature transformation - even if creature itself is hokey.
Nothing great, but solid enough.

TALL T (THE)
Another of the Randolph Scott/Budd Boetticher Westerns that opens with all dazzling smiles and happy-happy dialogue and attitudes (and a typically crap 50's Western musical score that drowns you in saccharine and cheese) before it becomes surprisingly dark and violent.

A verbal plot revelation, involving a well, is certainly hard-hitting and quite shocking and from then on there is an air of genuine menace here as the (ever marvelous) Richard Boone's gang (including a young Henry Silva in full psycho mode) take Scott, a purposely dowdy Maureen O'Sullivan and her husband captive.

The lean running time helps the fact the plot is thin and the top performances from all concerned also help to push the film higher than it's basic set-up (based on a story by Elmore Leonard) and the odd moment of violence (especially a scene involving a shotgun and a face and the finale) add punch to the movie.

TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE (THE)
Not only one of the finest Hollywood 70's movies, but perhaps THE finest example of a thriller and comedy mix ever.
A stunning cast does marvels all round, from the superb comic (yet serious enough when needed) turn by the great Walter Matthau, stoic support from prime era Robert Shaw and nice turns, as the "Reservoir Dogs" birthing criminal gang, by Martin Balsam and Hector Elizondo.
But away from these, we have some astutely performed support (often scene stealing) characters like Tom Pedi's Bronx bulldozer of a Supervisor and Dick O'Neil's ("Cagney and Lacey") train controller.
Lee Wallace as the flu-ridden, hysterically unpopular Mayor and old Woody Allen regular Tony Roberts as the Deputy-Mayor are also a joy.

Add some taught suspense, bursts of action and violence, a wonderfully crafted (and directed) plot and the superbly funky (and catchy) David Shire score and you have a totally wonderful slice of 70's cinematic greatness!
And the final shot, of Matthau's delightful Hound Dog face, caps it all off perfectly.

TAXI ZUM KLO
Semi-autobiographical film from actor/director Frank Ripploh about a German Homosexual school teacher who is also a thrill seeking sexaholic in his personal life.

This groundbreaking slice of explicit Gay sex, light comedy, dark drama and simple love story was something of a revelation when it hit in the early 80's but, at least in the UK, it was stuck in 'private' cinema clubs as the BBFC wanted lots of cuts.

It was finally passed uncut in 2005, where the 'whole context' of the plot and artistic merit of the movie had scenes passed as a high street '18' certificate that would normally be cut from sex shop only 'R18' films...namely a scene of explicit urination.

So we can at last easily see the full print and judge the film properly.
And it holds up.
It falls a bit flat in the middle where the film becomes a little too interested in the daily mundane, but things pick up as we move to a funny, but rather sad, finale as our 'hero' decides if the honest love of a good man is what he wants (nice performance by Bernd Broaderup)...or is the thrill of exciting, un-fettered, random sexual encounters with many men (and the feeling of personal rebellion) too strong?

Be warned, this does contain explicit sex and fetish scenes so prudes and the morally offended are more than welcome to stay away...but if you are open to the subject (whether Gay or not) then there is also much to enjoy in the humorous, astute, drama that plays out in-between these scenes.

So, a bit flabby and slow at times, but generally a success and certainly an historic entry into the whole realm of sexual cinema, Gay cinema, society's changing mores and general movie censorship.

TAXIDERMIA
Stupendously off-the-wall exercise in arthouse grotesquery from the Hungarians.
The fetid tale of three male generations of the same messed up family.

First is 'The Grandfather' a lowly soldier dogsbody who toils in the filth and the bitter cold with only his sexual fantasies to keep him warm.
When fantasy becomes reality and his penis gets some real pork to mount, his doomed is sealed but his genes live on in his Son, who will become... 'The Father'.

'The Father' grows up to be a speed-eater for the military where he meets his Wife to be.
Much eating and vomiting later 'The Father' has a Son, but the 'The Father' has now become a man mountain of blubber, holed up in his foul smelling room full of chocolate bars and big, fat, hungry cats.
'The Son' is a disappointment to 'The Father' as he is skinny, drawn, weak and has nothing but contempt for his Father and what he has become.

'The Son' does like to stuff things though. He is a skilled taxidermist who keeps the flesh from rotting...But can he keep his own flesh from decaying into the fucked up gene-pool that is his family?

Filled with sights, sounds and smells that polite society keeps hidden away, György Pálfi's "Taxidermia" instead wallows in them.
In full and glorious detail we see;
The rutting (some actual hardcore shots here).
The masturbation.
The wayward cock attacked by the chicken.
The bath of dead pig flesh bathed in semen.
The shoveled down foodstuffs.
The mass expulsion of vomit (as each 'eating contestant' purges himself).
The shudder of blubber.
The stretching of skin.
The removal of superflorous organs...
And the ultimate display of the human form as it bathes in the adoration of strangers and shrugs off the decay of time.
Backed by a deliciously off-kilter score, strong acting, striking visuals and touches of directorial flare "Taxidermia" is unique, weird, sad, funny, grotesque, taboo and a must-see for any of you that likes to dip your toes from time to time into something the rest of society would not see as suitable for the human eye.

TEAM AMERICA
Unrated. Very funny for the most part (the extended sex scene is a bad taste gem!) but it's overly padded and thus too long.
Losing a good 10/15 minutes would have helped it a great deal. Some wonderful jokes and politically incorrect splashings though.

TEARS OF THE SUN
Underrated Bruce Willis flick action/war flick with some very well done action, some brutal sequences and a good story.
It has a heart as well and a stroy to tell that needed telling.
Too many so called critics know nothing.

TEETH
Wonderful little horror film that delivers some great black comedy, some well executed gore and gross-out sequences and benefits big time, in the longish build-up to the main plot device of a toothy fun tunnel, from the brilliant performance by Jess Weixler as the teenage girl with a big problem.

The mixture of the comic and the serious is well handled and although you have to wait (though it's a perfectly fine 'n' dandy wait thanks to the script and the lead performance) the penis armageddon the plot idea hints at is delivered in full blooded, shaft separated, close-up and the finale is a grotesque gem of black comic cock carnage.

Predictable for sure (although thankfully this means we don't have a stupid non-sensical twist to mess the film up as the credits roll) but that does not mean "Teeth" isn't wildly entertaining and satisfying.
Highly recommended.

TERROR TOONS
Cheap as a cheap thing SOV comedy/horror is...bad.
BUT it's so damn likeable and goofy that it's just impossible to build up any hate for the enterprise.

We have cheap, fun, gore, whacked out visual FX, weird-ass 'Terror Toon' characters, dubious acting to say the least (especially Drag Queen mum and Pizza Delivery Guy) and a total turn around straight into full-on bizarro during the last 3rd that tests the patience.
But as the outtakes flow over the end credits any malice you may have been able to build up vanishes into the goofy ether.

TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD
Too slow and filled with needless padding, but when Amando de Ossori's famous horror film is good it's very good.
With the Templar's being truly wonderful creations as they ride along in slow motion on their undead steeds.
Flawed, but still an iconic title in zombie cinematic lore.

THAW (THE)
A weak and confused start leads into a very tense, extremely icky, skin crawling 'infection' horror flick.

It's low budget but has some very good FX, excellent acting and some gross out moments (parasite bugs, limb abuse, under flesh egg laying etc etc) and only the slightly heavy handed preaching grates.
It is uncompromising in it's 'We are to blame and that's that' stance.

Is global warming real? OF COURSE!
Is Man partly to blame? Yes.
Is Man all to blame? Very unlikely.

Earth has had massive changes long before Man, long before any kind of industry, long before industry we did have could have had any effect.
And it's happened time and time again.
Only now we are here to see it, there are far more of us in far more areas to be effected by it, we are advanced enough to understand it, and have instant global communication to talk about it.

People used to skate/hold market days on The River Thames because it USED to freeze over solid!
This was centuries before any kind of global warming effect by Man. But if the same thing happened now? "Look what Mankind is doing! The Thames is frozen...see! Proof".
So, I'm not on board with the film's total "WE are to blame and only WE can stop it" stance, as that seems to ignore millions of years of extreme global changes that Mother Nature was more than capable of carrying out herself.

But hey, it does not effect the horror/thriller aspect of the film and for fans of "The Thing", general 'bug' films and infection flicks this is a winner.

THEM
The best of the 50's 'Atomic Terror' flicks and one that still works today.
Some wonderfully creepy early scenes (with that great 'ant noise' providing some really unnerving moments) nice performances, great finale and really effective FX work that manages to pack a punch (even though the huge ant models don't look very real) because these are real solid creatures being really attacked by real people using real flamethrowers.
As such the action scenes, even 55 years later, are vastly more satisfying than any CGI fart fest made now.

Love the fact the stunning DVD transfers have the original full colour title card as well, unseen since cinema screenings as far as I know.

THERE WILL BE BLOOD
Lives up to the accolades given it on all fronts.
Great to look at and listen too and filled with superb performances this takes a simple story (perhaps a little too slight overall) and layers it with complex characterisations.

And amazingly, despite the dry (or...sticky?) subject matter and long running time the film rarely slows or loses the viewers attention as Paul Thomas Anderson directs with great skill.
The 'Brothe'r (Kevin J. O'Connor) sub-plot perhaps slows the film down a little bit, but overall this is genuinely engaging and fascinating in-between the four or five truly stunning acting and writing set-pieces that truly make the film.

These set-pieces, all involving the amazing Daniel Day Lewis (stunningly memorable) and most with the almost as good Paul Dano, are breathtaking examples of the majesty of cinematic acting and writing and will stay with you long after the film has ended. The superb (and genuinely amusing) 'baptism' and the final confrontation are the highlights of the movie, but this is all gold.
Black gold that is.

THIEF
Michael Mann's slow burn crime drama has all the classic Mann hallmarks (synth/rock score, no nonsense protagonist, great nighttime city visuals and chrome coated cool) but also a great old school performance by James Caan who's also given some great dialogue to deliver.

A solid support cast (and early, very brief, turns by the mighty Dennis Farina and William Petersen - soon to deliver a superb performance in Mann's classic "Manhunter"), lots of fascinating heist details that drip authenticity, double crosses, blood spattered violence, an anti-hero to revel in, all backed by a great Tangerine Dream score.
The film is perhaps too long and feels strangely padded one moment and then rushed the next.
And the Willie Nelson character seemed like rushed and wasted potential.
So it's not perfect, but it's still an excellent slice of classic 80's Mann, with a great central performance, driving score, great visuals and a top finale.

It's what the superb "Drive" owes the most too and that's pretty damn high praise.

THING (THE)
John Carpenter's more faithful adaptation of the story "Who Goes There?" straddles the re-make description too, but whatever you call it it's a vast improvement on "The Thing from Another World" and, along with "The Fly" (a true re-make), shows how a more personal director, huge FX advances and much more lenient censorship can breath new life into an old film.

Great cast in top form (with Kurt Russell earning his fan love), tense set-ups and set-pieces, pin sharp direction by Carpenter, great visuals, stunning FX that still impress today (a coupe of puppet-looking heads aside) and show just how practical effects can be truly ageless when done with this degree of skill, a dose of light humour cleverly inserted to lighten the dark plot and a good score (though why John Carpenter paid all that money to get Ennio Morricone to do a John Carpenter score is a mystery).

A modern classic. Looks even better on Blu-Ray. Shows how good the FX are to stand up to that level of scrutiny too.

THIS GUN FOR HIRE
Alan Ladd hits the screen running as a delightfully ruthless assassin.
Within the first 10 minutes Ladd's unstable hitman has ripped a woman's dress and given her a slap (for picking on his kitten!) point blank shot a man dead, shot a female witness to death through a door and threatened to carve off the flab from a fat guy!

Things do settle down to a more common 40's aesthetic with the introduction of Veronica Lake as the girlfriend of the Cop hunting Ladd who also gets mixed up in Ladd's revenge after he is paid off in stolen money.
Ladd still has a no-nonsense attitude (indeed at one point he is seriously thinking of shooting Lake in the back before being interrupted!) but the conventional softening of such a controversially murderous character does occur sadly as more traditional melodrama steps in and Ladd softens towards

But there are still some very dark parts of Ladd's character and he shows he has not been completely house trained (despite now doing the right thing in the last part of the film) and is still willing to shoot whoever else needs shooting. And he is given some nobility at the end, despite remaining a stone killer up to the credits.

40's movie attitudes and standards may take the edge of this at times, but "This Gun for Hire" is solid noir/crime fare and is moved that bit higher up the league by the superbly ruthless moments given to Ladd's character and his fine performance.

THIS HOLLOW SACRAMENT
Super low budget Indy horror that's bleak, dark, sometimes nasty and often hard going thanks to some poor performances and general pretentiousness.
The story of a disturbed ex-Soldier Cop tracking down a serial killer who kidnaps sexual abuse victims to 'save them'...by torturing and butchering them.
Nice fucking save nutbag!

The murder sequences have a nasty streak but are very inconsistent in what they will or won't show (probably due to budget) and sometimes, though not always, lack the punch their content should provide (like the grotesque evisceration of a pregnant woman, that simply doe not have the FX skills to remotely pull such a thing off), but there is a general air of exploitation here that succeeds. And we have some surprising nudity during one key (very bleak and uncomfortable) scene.

But the bad acting by the cop and the killer (with some awful 'deep' dialogue from the psycho) really damages the movie's vital organs as they simply fail to deliver the acting skills needed to carry off some of the key events and to save some of the more overblown melodrama.
And why on earth they decided to make the victims teenagers in the script but got (stupidly obvious) much older actresses to play them is a mystery.
One victim was meant to be 13...she was played by an actress who must have been in her twenties!
So why not have the victims as women in the first place instead of needlessly damaging some important scenes?

The ending is suitably nihilistic, but some clumsily handled flashback exposition waters down the impact of the final scenes.
Average indy fare then in need of a re-cast and a re-write, but with just enough dark meat to make it worth a look.

THUNDERBALL
Connery's 4th outing as Bond is better than the dull, badly staged and generally overrated "Goldfinger" and has less rather nasty sexual content (if the scene with Pussy Galore in the barn in "Goldfinger" isn't a classic example of 'she wants to be screwed really, she just has to be shown the error of her ways', I don't know what is!).

It's a bit overlong and lacks action in the middle portion, but the oft criticised underwater scenes (esp the surprisingly bloody and violent final battle) are actually rather effective.
There's some nice Bond one-liners too and some very nice ladies on display.
A very abrupt ending though with no actual final dialogue or even close-up scene featuring Bond.

TODAY IT'S ME, TOMORROW YOU
This popular Argento scripted Spaghetti Western is easily one of the most out and out enjoyable and straightforward example of the genre out.
Brett Halsey gets 4 mercenaries for hire (including Bub Spencer) to join him on his quest for vengeance against the outrageously theatrical, what the fucking hell was HE doing here, Tatsuya Nakadai who killed his wife and set him up for a 5 year prison term.

Packed with action and pretty violent the soundtrack is filled with those gloriously unique Spaghetti Western electronic gun shots as dozens and dozens of bad guys get blasted by our merry band (who all have specific styles and weapons of choice, including a great sawn-off Winchester repeater) before and extended, guerilla warfare, finale in the woods where the Nakadai's gang are bumped off throughout the day and night be knife, noose and bullet.
Performances are all fun but the 'WTF Award' has to go to the eye-popping, teeth baring, trippy as all hell turn by Nakadai...who plays nothing less than a racist psycho who just happens to be a Japanese cowboy!
Anyone who has only seen Nakadai giving his masterful turns in Akira Kurosawa's masterful Samurai dramas "Ran" and "Kagemusha" in the '80's will be bowled over at the sight of him here with his 'outlaw chic' clothes and insane grin.

It all ends with a wonderfully ruthless and cold-blooded killing before the cheesy score (which pops up whenever out heroes ride, in a macho line, towards the camera) brings up the abrupt 'fine'.
Nothing like art here...but as no-nonsense, action packed, Spaghetti fun it's a winner.

TOOTH & NAIL
A barmy post-apocalyptic plot that has all civilisation virtually destroyed in no time at all because the electricity has run out.
This sudden lack of lack of twinkly lights, PC's, DVD players and HBO is so bad that many humans turn to cannibalism (despite there being rather a lot of animals in the world) and as the survivors try to stay survivors...these cannibal sorts roam around picking them off one by one.

After an effective enough start the tiny budget starts to show, the silly script starts to scream at you about how silly it is and the few good bits in the film start to drown in the rising boredom and general ho humness now swamping all before it.

Despite Michael Madsen playing one of the cannibals he actually appears in only 2 scenes and then without the other cannibals.
Vinnie Jones also appears in only 4 or so scenes and again, he is either alone or with only one other cannibal chum.
Obviously this was because the budget only stretched to having these guys there for one day or so.
Jones is hammy rubbish, Madsen is...er...Madsen again and is soon dispatched in a crappy way.

The fact the cannibals (to keep the meat fresh!) only kill one person at a time adds a certain sadism to the proceedings as those left at the end of a particular grocery trip know they will have to go through it all again the next night when the ribs have all been eaten.
But this methodical way of doing things also means that a dull repetitiveness sets in, not helped by some bad acting and small scale of the set-pieces as it's almost all set in a few deserted rooms and corridors with only 2 or 3 people on ever on screen.

Gore wise it starts off very well with a nasty throat slicing and an exceedingly sadistic axe attack (with Madsen enjoying himself!), but after that there is very little gore and little real bloodshed.
A late twist is also ineffective as quite frankly it seemed blindingly obvious ages ago, so the film is playing catch-up to its audience which is never good.
Plus a weak finale rounds things off badly.
Could have been okay...ended up not.

TOTAL RECALL
There's still lots of fun to be had with this Arnie vehicle adaptation of "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" with it's copious, practical, hardcore violence and bloodshed, some of the sci-fi trappings, great support turns by the Ronny Cox and the ever mighty Michael Ironside and general pace of things.
Plus a kick-ass midget hooker with a machine gun.

But in many ways this is actually prime material for another go around.
The new version may take this film's title but would seem to be a genuine re-adaptation of the original story and not a re-make of this film, and it will be interesting to see a non-Arnie vehicle take on the story.
Because despite its fun factor "Total Recall" has dated badly, has lots of silly moments and stupid logic and some very dated FX.

That a dome that protects a gigantic city is not even bullet proof is absurd (and isn't just a throwaway observation either this fact plays into the actual plot) Arnie's line delivery is sometimes farcically bad and some of the matte FX take you out of the story, as do some of the practical 'head' FX...a case where CGI would actually be an improvement.

That's not to say the practical gore/blood isn't lovely, or that SOME of the animatronic's aren't fun, they are, but some of the FX/model work (mountain at end) and numerous fake heads that were once cool...are now actually pretty bad indeed and only have retro camp value.

The styling of the future is also hit and miss.
Some of it is fun for sure but some things, like the fashions/make-up and truly dire looking vehicles, are as dubious as any 50's sci-fi styling of 'the future'.

So yes, it's fun.
It has some cool lines (Arnie's last line to - a good value -Sharon Stone is still a classic), some good action and some righteous bloodshed and even has a deeper level to the basic plot.
But it's also overly silly, overly Arnie-vehicle, overly stuffed with as many bad as good FX and lacks basic logic (as well as the stupid dome, what about the ridiculously contrived and laughably fast acting 'reactor'?!) that mean this is now dated stuff and a re-do/closer to the original plot movie could well be interesting.

It's no "Conan the Barbarian" or "Terminator". Or "Robocop" for that matter.

TORTURER (THE)
Sadly no English soundtrack or subs! Beware the Italian DVD cover is WRONG on this...they are not there.
Anyway.
I sort of know what's going on on a basic plot level, but not much else.
It has some good visuals as Lamberto Bava mixes the recent torture/sadism trend in horror films with that old Giallo asthetic.
But the film is generally uninteresting away from the torture scenes and only the striking attractiveness of the lead actress keeps things interesting as far as this part of the plot is concerned...especially with no plot details being understood as well!

The torture scenes are a mixed bag.
They are certainly gratuitious and all are sexually violent. All the women are toplesss (although, given the events unfolding, the fact that knickers are always kept on seems glaring!) and in three scenes breasts are mutilated.
BUT the FX are so clumsy that what should be a real shocker only works on a trash level because the solid latex breast appliances are so hokey looking! The 3rd scene is marginally more effective though.
There is certainly some imaginative sadism here (women bound and put in wooden boxes then long nails are hammered in, blowtorch to a leg, electrocution in a wheelchair, a woman tied to a spinning wheel and flogged with a blade tipped whip) and the film certainly revels in ghoulish details (after a woman is whacked with a baseball bat and dragged away her teeth are left behind) but the generally shoddy, very latex-looking, FX ensure that we are ultimately reminded in every scene that this is a movie and these are cheapy FX.

As such we are never as horrified, even with the sexual violence which will ensure no uncut releases will ever appear in the UK or in a rated form in the U.S, as we should be at such grotesque events unfurling before us.
The (later revealed) killer is also a rather painful ham, with the actor laughing hysterically while grasping at the air and grinning insanely. All very overblown to say the least!
A pretty good guitar/synth heavy score, attractive actresses, abundant nastiness and some crisp, old school Giallo lighting and cinematography (although it does look all rather digital video and is too bright on the torture scenes, thus showing the bad FX up even more) ensure that the film is not a total failure by any means, but the general pacing, lacklustre characters, false looking FX and a tired basic plot mean this is mearly an also ran.
It's nice to see Bava Jr back in the nasty mode of film making though after being stuck in Italian TV/Video hell for so long...and it's nice to see an explicit Italian Giallo influenced film again. But it could (and should) have been better.

TRAIN
This Thora Birch starring aborted remake, of the crappy Jamie Lee Curtis Slasher flick "Terror Train", morphed from a general horror film to a full-blown exploitation film (which are often very different things from what a true horror movie is), now about body parts/organ donor harvesting set in rusty Eastern Europe.
And as one of the many extreme exploitation films that have crawled out of this most globally vicious and barbaric of decades since WW2 it falls somewhere in the middle of the pack.

It's ultimately too slight to really stand out and is hampered by some silly plotting.
You want to carry out the most delicate operations with just one Doctor, on a wobbly train, with organs/parts brutishly yanked and carved out of people in a filth-coated old box car by a guy who never washes let alone wears gloves?
Really?
You may have a nice 'n' shiny operating room (even if it is shaking all over the place) but given the grotesquely un-hygenic and sloppy way the organs were acquired it would be like hygienically transplanting a dog turd into someone's body!
Plus...I'd just jump off the fucking train.

But, saying all that the movie does deliver in the gore stakes with some simple but very well crafted practical make-up FX, and it opens with perhaps the most gruesome credits sequence seen for many a year.
The characters are cookie-cutter but generally likeable enough and well played, the basic plot is rather silly but is given an added macabre sheen by the fact the needy patients are actually on the train with the unwilling donors whose body parts they crave!
And some of the chase/fight/kill sequences are solidly crafted.

The film also delivers to exploitation nastiness with some wincing moments of butchery, general degradation and one of the most unpleasant fates dealt out to a female character seen in any mainstream film for a while.
Some of the train sets/green screen/CGI visuals are well done too.
So, nothing stand-out, some silly ass plotting, but in general "Train" delivers a solid enough wallow in 21st century extreme exploitation, a genre that has had it's ups and downs but is easily at it's highest peak since the halcyon days of the late 60's/70's.

TRAINING DAY
Supremely cliche and full of contrivance and Denzel Washington's performance, although very commanding and memorable, seems far too theatrical and 'gangsta' to have won an Oscar!
BUT it's very entertaining, full of memorable dialogue and set-pieces, faetures a nice turn by Ethan Hawke, and has a balls-out attitude.
It's a very good film...but it's almost as fanciful as something like "Running Scared", but plays it like it's a deadly serious expose and, some plot contrivences aside near the end, it's a film that stands up as the years go by.

TRANSFORMERS: Dark of the Moon
Remove 40 minutes from the first hour (the appalling, OTT, pantomime Human/star cameo garbage) and ditch the dreadful new girlfriend and you actually have a pretty good, exciting, technically astonishing movie (has CGI ever looked or been used better?) that kicks ass when it tries hard enough.

But the messy scripting, stupidly out of place tanned arse shots and swearing, awful Human character subplots (what the hell was the mighty Mr Chow - without great comedy accent - from "The Hangover" doing here?! And John Malkovich...WTF!) and general bloated aspects of the movie (150 minutes? Really?!) cause some pretty mortal wounds.
But the the Transformers themselves, the action and the stunning visual effects manage to, just, save the day.

Nowhere near as good as the leaner 1st film, but better than the truly lousy 2nd and with the best FX yet.

TREASURE HUNT
Pretty dire latter day Hong Kong film for Chow Yun Fat.
By this time he should not have been making such a badly plotted, non-sensical bit of fluff like this.
No wonder he went to Hollywood (as the made around the same time "Return of the God of Gamblers" is even worse!)...sadly he had no idea how little America would really do for the artistic side of his career.

TRICK OR TREAT
MEEEETAAAAAAL!!!!
Needed more blood (any blood?!) and jock killing...otherwise good, cheesy as all hell, big hair heavy metal horror.
Ozzy was fun as a metal music hating preacher!

TROLL
Family move into new apartment block.
Young Daughter gets replaced by a nasty troll.
Only her brother and a resident witch know the truth. Troll starts to turn the building and the other residents into a beastly fairyland filled with gnarly little creatures....

80's fave that's hit and miss in the extreme.
It certainly wastes no time on getting the plot going, and the troll itself is a wonderful bit of suit/make-up FX.
The other tenants of the apartment building are interesting and varied and nicely played (by a bizarre mix that includes a very 80's looking Julia Louis-Dreyfus - who turns into an ivy draped woodland nymph - and Sonny Bono as a swinger) and the idea of little girl (good turn by the young Jenny Beck) being replaced by an evil shape-changing troll is a solid one indeed.

Always nice to have the eccentric Michael Moriarty around and as his wife Shelley Hack is indeed MILF.
But, except for a few seconds at the end, the parents take no part in the main plot (a waste of Moriarty for sure) and only a wonderfully memorable bit of rock music miming/mad dancing by Moriarty (prominent in the fun trailer) gives them anything to really do.
As far as adults go only Phil Fondacaro (as a dwarf neighbour but who is also in the troll suit!) and June Lockhart (as a delightfully fun white witch) stand out with veteran TV actress ("Lost in Space") Lockhart in particular doing a great job with her likeable character, and for 61 years of age she looks pretty damn hot too. GILF anyone?

Some of the non-Troll FX though (away from the first 'man changing into a pod' scene, which is a fine example of 80's practical FX) are pretty awful indeed with various other 'fairy creatures' being obviously nothing more but blobby latex rod puppets (ala "The Muppets") and hand puppets. And they stink!
In fact they look like typical John Carl Buechler latex atrocities...which is of course what they are.
More fun than crappy CGI, but no better quality wise.
Their mass, 'pagan' chanting/musical sequence is delightfully off the wall though.

There's also a big drop off in fun as the weak finale unfurls and the way the 'day is saved' is such a bad idea it makes the entire plot that has gone on before pointless.
The idea to replace June Lockhart with her real life daughter Anne for the finale was a bad move too. Because as an audience we want the fun and loveable character we have followed to take part in the finale, not a sudden younger replacement. And Anne simply isn't as good or as fun as June.
We also miss any kind of real resolution for the likeable dwarf neighbour sub-plot and things also end on a pointless, plot-wise nonsensical, last scene twist which is weak too.

So a mixed fairy bag for sure.
But some good FX, a strong cast, fun characters and a clever and generally eccentric idea just save the day.
And how strange to have the Father and Son named 'Harry Potter Sr. and Jr'!

TROLLENBERG TERROR (THE)
A right weird little film.
One of my many childhood initiations into the movie world (thus will always have a soft spot in my heart) this has some memorable and grizzly moments (heads torn off that end up in all the wrong places) and a solid atmosphere and cast.

The plot takes in everything from mind reading, murderous chilly zombie sorts and of course huge wobbly brains with tentacles and one big eye!
The non-eye creatures first 2/3rds is the better and more effective film, but the creatures are at least fun and look great...even if the film now goes off into silly land.

TROUBLE EVERY DAY
Too many 'worthy' silent passages and rather too low key, but it has some impressive moments, a very good score and two genuinely disturbing and grotesque sexualised cannibalism scenes.

TUCKER & DALE vs EVIL
I thought it would be a one-joke film and get boring fast with no repeat value.
Happily I was proven wrong.

Great characters well played, fun script that took that one joke and did enough with it to keep the film mostly fresh and flowing, some fun deaths and mishaps and a great, feel good, ending.....even if the very start (which it strangely never leads back to) shows that evil still lurks.
Nothing groundbreaking, but lost of fun and Tucker and Dale are great.

TUFF TURF
I was hoping this slice of extreme 80's would hold up and by God it did!
Sure some of the pop video styling is dated (as are the fashions!) and some of the 80's teen stylings/attitudes (not to mention James Spader's piano ballad!) now have a bit of a wince effect...but overall this is still top notch, unpretentious FUN.
James Spader is an absolute delight as the rebel teen new kid, Robert Downey Jr is good value as his musician friend and his bare chested, eye liner, drumming is a hoot!
Kim Richards is as cute as a sexual button as the, crimped hair, object of Spader's affection and Paul Mones (later a Van Damme screenplay writer!!) is great as the villian of the piece.
Nice turn by prolific Hollywood veteran Matt Clark as Spader's Dad too.
Some of the music has dated, but some is still great fun with a nice live turn by Jim Carrol (later to find fame as the writer of "The Basketball Diaries") and his band (with Downey on drums!) and a couple of wonderful 'Blues Brothers' style Rythm N Blues numbers by 'Jack Mack and the Heart Attack'.
A fun film. Just damn well......FUN.

TUNNEL RATS
Uwe Boll makes a good film. The omens are here...flee to your bunkers and pray.

Low budget, but with a well used low budget, Boll's sombre look at an ill-fated group of GI's whom (going by this film) make a complete hash of clearing out VC tunnels is a cloyingly atmospheric and genuinely unnerving little film that makes no judgments on either side as it tells its (rather slight) tale.

Acting is pretty solid and it's mice to see good old Michael Pare pop up as a ruthless Sgt. The actors playing the VC are particularly good, especially the actress who plays the lone female soldier.
Gore is minimal but effective (a well done effect of a bamboo spear through the neck being the highlight) and the tunnel sets are well done and Boll cleverly ensures they remain dark and claustrophobic but still retain enough light to effectively cover the action.

It's all rather inconsequential at the end of the day, but while it lasts it's suitably entertaining (if constantly grim) and a solid and professional movie overall.
Who'da thunk it?

TWO MINUTE WARNING
Rather forgotten 70's disaster/thriller with a bunch of famous thesps in football stadium in the sights of a mad sniper!
Very bloody, flesh flying, bullet hits are the name of the game once the action starts.
The impressive cast includes John Cassavetes, Charlton Heston, Jack Klugman, Martin Balsam, Beau Bridges, David Janssen, Gena Rowlands, Walter Pidgeon and the recently deceased Brock Peters.

UNCOMMON VALOR
Blimey!
Welcome to the 80's!

Despite the generally awful (or perhaps perfect?) score by James Horner (that makes "The A Team" music seem subtle), an inconsistent mix of humour and deadly seriousness, some truly dire acting by a young Patrick Swayze and generally dubious acting by almost everyone else except Gene Hackman (despite such a great cast) and heavy handed, cliche as all hell, moments of 'emotion'....despite all that...."Uncommon Valor" manages to be a very entertaining HOO HAW of a, POW rescue, action film.

Some good action scenes with a nicely epic sweep, a fun mix of comic strip characters (hence the comic strip acting I suppose, although Swayze is just BAD), a smattering of utterly refreshing/good old fashioned flag waving on behalf of 'our boys' (compare that to the cover 'our boys' in dirt we get now from Hollywood war films) and a nice mix of exotic locations are the order of the day here.

And as long as you ignore the 'mature ideas above its station' attitude the film seems to have about itself whenever Hackman does his serious thesp schtick (although the final helicopter scene IS effective emotionally) and accept this as simply a good old fashioned popcorn flick, with a great 80's nostalgia to it, there is much to enjoy here.

And what's this?! One of the 'Executive Producers' was none other than good old nutty Wings Hauser!?
Hell Wings, we needed you in front of the camera!

UNDEAD
Pretty good.
The Alien aspect to the typical zombie fare makes for a nice change, though it did make you hope it all made sense at the end while it was going on. Luckily it did.
A nice change of direction for the zombie film and although it's nothing fantastic it's worth at least one viewing.

UNDER SIEGE
Stevie the Seagul is a ship's cook with an attitude!
Lots of action and some highly theatrical villains in Gary Busey and Tommy Lee Jones to go with the big budget spectacle.
Fun, but the violence (although quite strong at times) is far more user friendly than his earlier films and Seagal seems to get lost in the chaos at times. The final (very cool) knife fight provides a good and nasty demise for the lead villain though!
His best moments are actually dialogue driven when he butts heads with Busey and his men at the start.
A bit flat...but good fun overall.

UNDER SIEGE 2
Seagal's cook is back to take on nuclear satellite armed terrorist loonies who hijack a train.
A bit more action, but the fault here is (shock!) the lack of any real dialogue exchanges with any of the cast (one of the highlights of the first film).
Once the action starts Seagal is basically mute and the action (although violent) is rather flat and confined by the train setting.
There's also an awful comic relief waiter guy who annoys the hell out of everyone.
The visual FX are awful too, with Seagal's 'hanging off a cliff' blue screen sequence laughable in the extreme.
Barely average fare sadly.

UNLEASHED
Very good!
Some nice fights (too much wire work on the falls and throws though), a good story and a really mixed cast. Jet Li and Morgan Freeman seems a bizarre combination but it works.
Great to see Bob Hoskins doing his Cockney thing as well after too long doing crappy accents and he was lots of nasty fun! Never seen him play such an outright nasty character before. Harold Shand this was not, despite the vocal mirroring!
Two faults with it...Where did all the henchman go at the end?
And why was the apartment building not swarming with Police seeing as Hoskins publically held a gun to a woman shop worker to get Jet Li's address?
Othwerwise...Good meaty stuff with a nice plotline, good score and some very good acting from Jet Li.

UNTOUCHABLES (THE)
Classic as always, but the Blu-Ray really makes this shine with some good depth and some stunning detail.

Some of it's now a bit cheesy (mostly involving Ness confronting Capone) and of course historical accuracy is almost completely jettisoned in favour of cinematic drama and viewer satisfaction, with Nitti's fate (as always Billy Drago is the man!) being the most outrageous bit of fiction.

Everyone is good here with Charles Martin Smith and Sean Connery particularly shining.
De Palma of course pulls out some stunning (and bloody) set-pieces all backed by Morricone's great (if rather recycled) score.

And the De Palma that delivers customer satisfaction here, in a scene involving Ness, Nitti and a roof, is a far cry from the pseudo-liberal, wet rag, De Palma of later who vomited out the putrid "Redacted".
That De Palma would be more worried about poor Nitti's human fucking rights!
Thankfully though this is old school De Palma and he delivers a wildly enjoyable, exciting, emotional, ride that has remained a firm public favourite for good reason.

UPRISING
Excellent and very well made telling of the Jewish uprising against the Nazi's in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Comes on a very nice DVD as well.
A very interesting, moving and exciting watch.

URBAN EXPLORERS
A group of tourists and a guide go on an exploration of the Berlin underground system.

Taking a whopping 72 minutes (out of just 90) to deliver up any dead people and bogged down with ultimately pointless Nazi legend/red-herring talk (as well as much walking around), this is a good looking, well made and atmospheric horror film that wastes so much more than just that running time.

An amazingly toothy psycho (think Lee Marvin mixed with James Coburn in the chopper department) ups the energy a bit but his unexplained existence is frustrating, especially as a big portion of the film is nothing but talk about legends and the history of the tunnels and Nazi connections that seem to have no bearing on what happens.

And when you have only 5 would-be victims it's wise not to remove 3 of them from the film completely half way through.
Especially as so much time was spent building them up before the trouble starts.

Gore is mild for the most part (although a nude body aftermath is surprisingly explicit) and not very well done.
One fate is suitably nasty though, even if the entire lead-up tries to ape "Wolf Creek" but without being as effectively disturbing.

There's one moment of surprising, cold-blooded, cruelty during the big finale but it's too little too late.
So watch "Creep", "Stag Night" or the classic "Death Line" ("Raw Meat") instead is you want tunnel crawling, underground chills.

V FOR VENDETTA
Fake liberal, lefty garbage.
When "V" put Islam as a victim it blew it's liberalism;

Censored art? Censored thought? Punishment for sins? Homophobia? Islam isn't the victim of any of any of that!

Ask Rushdie, ask the Dutch cartoonists. You could ask Theo van Gogh but a Muslim murdered him for making A FILM!
Ask the 100's of homosexuals executed in Iran...Oh.
Ask the 100's of Pakistani blasphemy victims.
And how dare it list Muslims with Homosexuals as victims of religious oppression!

And what was that?
High brow film using 9/11 conspiracy theories as it's liberal backbone? It wasn't 'Religious Extremists' it was the Government!

It even had Homosexual actor Stephen Fry playing a character whose had to hide his homosexuality because of religious bias...yet the character owns a Quran for it's 'beautiful imagery'!! What? like Homosexuals being thrown from mountains & having walls pushed onto them!? That imagery?
Shame on you Fry.

The worst kind of cinematic hypocrisy!

VALHALLA RISING
Nicolas Winding Refn's swift follow-up from his superb "Bronson" is a strange and otherworldly beast that is (for the most part) nothing like the film the traliers/posters/covers would have you think.

Not for Refn a re-hash of "The Vikings" with added mud 'n' blood. Oh no. Instead he paints a stunning looking picture about faith, transcendence and destiny.
The ever intriguing Mads Mikkelsen plays the completely mute fighting slave, a feared legend amongst the Highland tribes, who escapes his brutal captivity (shades of "Conan the Barbarian" here) and is taken by invading Vikings, who have converted to Christianity, on a crusade to The Holy Land...only they end up somewhere very different.

Getting off to a superbly crafted, astonishingly brutal start (necks are snapped, throats bitten out, skulls smashed open, entrails ripped out), with the stunning scenery, electronic soundscapes (that reach almost "Downward Spiral" era 'NIN' intensity ) and rough hewn production design delivering a mixture of cinematic theatrics and a brilliantly realistic recreation of a barbaric age.
Once the (long) sea journey begins though, and the group get to wherever it is they have got to, the film slows down and becomes a psychological, spiritual and physically extreme journey where drinking hallucinatory brews and walking for miles and miles (with the odd time-out for a death) take up almost all the remaining running time until some more gore makes an appearance and leads us into the melancholy, God becomes flesh, re-birth finale.

Thankfully Mads looks amazing with is one-eyed facial mutilation and tattoos and makes for a brutally physical presence.
The landscapes, dreamlike/nightmarish cinematography, sparse but effective music, solid acting, sudden bursts of extreme brutality (far too much needless CGI blood though sadly) and generally intriguing set-ups manage to lead the viewer through the obscure plotting, murky philosophy, heavy-handed religious (Pagan and Christian) iconography and general lethargy of it all to make "Valhalla Rising" a success.
Although it is certainly a close thing here between success and self-indulgent failure and the film will most definitely not be for all tastes.

The suitably eccentric DVD comm track with Alan Jones and Refn is a must listen as well, as some of the more obscure aspects are at least partly put into focus.
Avoid the trailers though, as they actually give away the Viking's location which I don't think you are meant to explicitly know about until the final scene.

VAMPIRES: OUT FOR BLOOD
Hmmm...Not too bad for the most part and we have some entertaining ingredients like breasts, goth chicks and cheesy gore...but the crap ending put the stake in and killed it.

VANISHING POINT
Nice car, nice cinematography. Good stunts.
Dull, pretentious, badly constructed film though.

There's nothing here. Newman is a nobody character who has almost nothing to do in the entire film but act like he's stoned (more than hyped up on speed) and grip a steering wheel.
The stunts are well done, but with no actual landscape to pass you lose the sense of speed the car is going at and after the 3rd time the samey car chases get very boring very fast.
The DJ sub-pot is a real mess too (especially the attack on his station which comes from nowhere and then seems to vanish out of the screenplay) and is badly handled, the script is a mixture of hippie pretension, general tedium and contrivence and the ending simply weak.

Sure it looks good and has that 70's bleakness to it, but there is never enough reason built up for him to make that choice. None.
It simply exists because it had to exist that way....man!
Started off okay (with the best chases as well) but then drove into that same desert of abject boredom that it's lead character did.

VEXILLE
Stunning CG Anime that utilises a varied soundtrack (everything from 'Dead can Dance' to 'The Prodigy') to great effect and combines it with some great aural FX to create a stunning soundscape that matches the stunning visuals perfectly.

Most importantly though it has an engaging, emotional, exciting, action packed plot and storyline that mixes bits of "Star Wars", with "Bladerunner", "AI", "Dune" post apocalypse flicks and good old slam bang Mecha to create an utterly satisfying experience.

Only negative is a small one.
And that it's a shame a multi-lingual audio track, that's mostly in Japanese with subtitles but flips to English when American characters, in America, are speaking to each other, wasn't utilised.
It's a bit weird to have an explicitly American vs Japan plot set-up with everyone speaking Japanese, even when in America with no Japanese around.
It jars with the actual Japanese characters speaking to each other.

But that's a small thing in an otherwise stunning Sci-Fi Anime that plays out as well as it looks and sounds.

VIDEODROME
It's still pretty much impossible (the point?) to say what is definately real or hallucination but David Cronenberg's superbly crafted techno mindfuck of a film still holds up thanks to some great performances (one of James Woods' best performances), some spot on and grotesque FX, fascinating ideas and an orifice-tight narrative that never wastes a second of screen time.

VILLAIN
An underrated and rather forgotten BrIt gangster film with a fun, if rather theatrical, turn by Richard Burton as a homosexual East End hoodlum.
And yes that is Ian McShane playing Burton's much abused bi-sexual lover!

VINYAN
Looks great.
Well acted.
Creepy.
Unsettling.
All seems well....

Then the end arrives and you realise that you just spent 85 minutes being groped, in the hope of a damn fine fuck to come, only to have the director spurt his load in your face before he runs off laughing at you.
The ending was a nonsensical farce that pushed ambiguity so far it shattered all over the audience's face, just like the director's own release as he finished his masturbatory workout at our expense!

Not explaining all the details is one thing.
Not remotely explaining anything at all, about anything at all, is just taking the piss.
You'll hear 500 differing explanations of the ending, and hear nothing about the other, seemingly endless, unanswered questions at all.
So don't bother to listen, as really they're as fucking clueless as you and each other.

The conclusion is so full of completely unexplained past and current events and is so utterly obscure it makes "Lost Highway" seem like a 'Janet and John' read-a-long book for pre-school kids.
So I have a message for Mr Fabrice Du Welz;
Don't feel me up and get me all hot and eager, only to then laugh in my face, run off and leave me utterly unsatisfied! You pretentious tosser!

WAIT UNTIL DARK
Classic thriller with a blind Audrey Hepburn at the mercy of scheming thieves, including a young(ish) Richard Crenna and Alan Arkin(who does a wonderul psycho turn), and with a finale that (even down to some of the piano cues) must have had an influence on "Halloween".
Needs to be seen at least once by everyone.

WAKE OF DEATH
Damn, this is one hell of a good film..
Van Damme may have been stuck with some stinkers lately but this is not one of them. This should have been a smash cinema release.
Good acting by Jean Claude, who's looking wonderfully mean, lean and as hard as hell here (he could eat the recent wimpy Punisher for breakfast and crap him out by lunch) and his character is the kind of cold-blooded avenger that Denzel should have been in "Man on Fire" before wimping out later on. Van Damme is one guy truly dispensing all out, no one escapes, vengeance.
Some truly brutal and well done action (including a torture scene that is genuinely disturbing, intense, extreme and truly uncomfortable to watch), some good one-on-one fights and stunts, an effective and well used score, hyper kenetic direction and a nice support turn by the ever welcome Simon yam.
Hunt this gem down now!

WALKING TALL (orig)
The Drive-In, Joe Bob Briggs, classic that still holds up today
Bloody, violent and well acted this benefits from a great lead turn by the ever wonderful Joe Don Baker and some fast paced action.

Due to its (pretty close) ties to the rather tragic, real story, of Buford though the film actually ends in a very unusual way.
After the crowd pleasing (if still gritty) events the film's final 10 minutes or so are surprisingly downbeat and indeed Joe Don Baker's kick-ass Buford ends the film a physical mess with most of his face covered by a plaster cast.

In a way the film ends in a fashion most such films start.
But real life is not the movies and the film, although liberties are taken (indeed the film does have Buford dish out one brief bit of retribution that is totally fiction), ends as the real life story did...with tragedy and death.
So it's a brave move to have a Drive-In crowd-pleaser go out like this.

Classic Drive-In goodness.

WALLED-IN
An unsettling opening scene (the drowning of a terrified young girl in wet cement) does not translate into anything powerful or unsettling in the rest of the film. This is dull, illogical and old hat.
Jump scares, scary noises, scary shadows etc etc is the be all and end all of the horror here and it would be old hat in a 50's movie.

Things pick up a bit at the end, but then the plot also shows all those holes in it to a greater degree and all in all "Walled In" is not worth anyone's time.

WARLOCK
Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda and Anthony Quinn star in Edward Dmytryk's epic, multi-layered, multi-plot strand Western that boasts some superbly crafted, three dimensional, characters all expertly played.
The action is sparse but effective and the clever, ever twisting, plot keeps you intrigued and guessing at exactly what will happen and just as importantly...how it will happen.

A streak of 50's melodrama (and some crappy sweeping strings on the soundtrack during the occasional - most dated aspect of the film - romantic interludes) goes against the astute, dark and intelligent screenplay now and again but overall this is stunning stuff.
And it features a truly fascinating portrayal of a driven, noble but ruthless gunslinger, now at a loss at what to do with his life as he and The West ages, by Fonda.
You can certainly see aspects here of his majestic, steely-eyed, complex performance as Frank in "Once Upon a Time in the West" as his Marshall character here could well be the noble flipside of Frank.

There's also a really unusual male bonding aspect between Quinn and Fonda too, that truly is a platonic love story about two men who literally need each other to stay alive.
An intelligent, astute, layered and superbly played Western classic.

WATCHMEN
I'll come right out and say it. I love it.

Thought it a fine (as best as we can hope for, or would actually work as a live action movie) adaptation done with massive care, time, money and love.
As a sane fan of the graphic novel (and with a realistic head on my non-fanboy shoulders) I understood you would have to remove parts and layers of the overall novel experience...but in this (only way to see it) 'Ultimate Cut' the makers have done a stunning job as far as the film standing on it's own goes and a fine job as adaptors.

Rorschach was spot on perfect in every way and actually looked more effective in the film than he he did even in the graphic novel.
The world was superbly realised, the story epic in scope but still personal and easy to follow even for those with no knowledge of the novel, the FX were often stunning, the action brutal and effective and the mixture of macho cliche, parody, homage, observation, commentary, fun, thrills, laughter, heartache and tragedy was mixed almost as well in the film as in the graphic novel.

And until you've seen the proper version of "Watchmen" in it's 'Ultimate Cut' form AND THEN watched the excellent version of "under the Hood" on the 'Complete Story' DVD...you have not really seen the "Watchmen" film.
Taken as a whole the DVD experience of "Watchmen" is a mini marvel as far as adapting such a great and ,multi-layered book and it's one hell of a well made package done with massive love.
In these days of massive DVD/Blu-Ray sales worldwide, with increasingly big and powerful home theatre systems...the cinema version of a film is becoming less and less and important and is almost gone as far as a definitive viewing experience of a film goes.

The excellent (as best an adaptation as we could have hoped for...and if you are against ANY adaptation don't see the bloody thing then) 'Ultimate Cut' and the separate 'Under the Hood' feature (done as a TV documentary) make for a masterwork in my view.
Loved the graphic novel, loved the 'Ultimate Cut' and I can;t understand the hate for the movie (which actually improved the ending of the graphic novel by easily and effectively ditching the, never would work in a film anyway, rather goofy 'octopus' monster).
Essential viewing.

WATERLOO ROAD
A wonderful slice of English life during the WW2 that sees John Mills's soldier go AWOL to snatch his wayward Wife from the arms of Stewert Granger's scheming, draft dodging 'Spiv'!
The GREAT Alastair Sim pops up as a helpful Doctor just to round off this fine cast.
Made in 1944 this is of course very patriotic and very anti-Spiv (those flashy, shady dealers who made a living from the war while others fought it) and the wonderful characters, the fascinating war time London locations and an all round top cast mean this delivers big time.
The final fate of Granger's Spiv is wonderfully ironic!

WARRIORS (THE) - Director's Cut:
I know most people hate this edit, but I enjoyed it more.
The comic book transitions are extremely well done and add (like Hill states on the DVD) to the utterly comic book plot.
There is nothing remotely realistic on show in "The Warriors"...It is a damn comic book. The gangs prove that!

The Greek myth angle was only slight really and the new historical intro was perhaps a bit much, but it still added an extra bit of weight to the plot.
It was also more violent than I remembered as well (though not nearly as violent as it should have been...an oft stated criticism) and the cast did a great job.

The new Director's Cut transfer is also a joy! It looks and sounds superb.
Perhaps the best thing to do would have been to re-master the original edit as well and make a double disc release of both versions.
As it is if you hate the DC, you also miss out on the stunning new transfer.
Better than I remembered, I enjoyed it a lot:
1) For all it's comic book camp charm.
2) For the acting funstuffs.
3) For the silly gang costumes.
4) For the great David Patrick Kelly essay in childish psychosis and his bottle banging abilities
5) For Deborah Van Valkenburgh's unfettered breast and nipple display.
6) For the well used songs and score (which in parts is a very close preview of 'Tangerine Dream's' later score for Michael Mann's "Thief" actually).
7) And yes...Also for it's comic strip make-over and superb new transfer.

WEREWOLF OF LONDON
Before 'Universal' gave us the now iconic Wolfman with Lon Chaney Jnr we had this Werewolf flick Starring Henry Hull.
For me the design of the Werewolf here is much better than the more famous later design.
Chaney kind of looked like a teddy with a silly black snout...But Hull looks far more feral with his bottom row fangs and pointed ears and although perhaps more human looking than Jack Pierce's later Wolfman make-up it looks far more savage.

The problems here are that in a 70 minute film the Werewolf takes too long to appear, Hull is amazingly stuffy and everyone else is so overly theatrical that much of the film looks like a stage play.
The film also makes a major mistake with the way the Werewolf acts.
Despite uncontrolled howling, Hull has presence of mind the dress up in a big coat, put on a cap and cover his face up as he skulks around (in one scene, despite the fact he leaps through a window after he changes, Hull puts on his hat before doing so!!) as such the film actually plays far more like a 'Jekyll and Hyde' film than a Werewolf film.
Hull never loses control or goes totally animal like Chaney did...he's basically a wolfy looking Mr Hyde and acts like a skulking serial killer rather than a feral beast.

BUT...The film is still fun, the Wolfman looks good, there is some nice atmosphere and there are two great support characters (two gin swigging old women who spend their time trying to put one over on each other) who provide comic relief and give the film much needed energy.
Strange mix of sci-fi in this too, including a way before its time CCTV/video phone set up that lets Hull see who is at his door, and a huge meat eating plant with tentacles!

If they had got the Werewolf in quicker and have it acting more like a feral wolf this would have been improved greatly, but it has enough successful moments to pull it through and make it worth a watch.

WESTWORLD
Great stuff for most of the running time with top notch 70's blood on show.
But actually dies out during the finale where it goes all low key, minimalist and is just Yul Brynner walking slowly after Richard Benjamin for 20 minutes.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO AUNT ALICE?
Geraldine Page plays a bitter and exceedingly twisted old widow whose recently deceased husband left her nothing but his stamp collection.
To make ends meet, she decides to fleece her housekeepers out of their savings (by saying she's investing them with her broker) before whacking them on the head and burying them under her ever growing line of trees.

When new housekeeper Ruth Gordon applies for a job, all seems like plain sailing once again for the plans of our psychotic widow...But the new housekeeper is not what she seems and when unwanted neighbours appear and a nosy dog starts sniffing around it seems the merry widow's time may be up....

This Robert Aldrich produced black comedy/psycho thriller is a relatively more obscure entry into the briefly popular 'ageing star actresses have a new burst of macabre life' set of horror thrillers basically started by Aldrich himself with "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" (and followed by the likes of "Who Slew Aunty Roo", "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte" etc).

It does feel like a TV movie a lot of the time and lacks visual flair and when away from Page's truly wonderful performance of her scheming, utterly ruthless, deranged and just plain evil character, the film does drag a bit.
Ruth Gordon is surprisingly subdued here as well for a large part of her performance, and anyone expecting the histrionic delights of her turn in "Any Which Way But Loose/You Can" will be let down.
Thankfully though she has some nice catty moments with Page and the near-finale escapades between them are a black comic (very black mind you) joy as grey power flexes its muscles.

There is a suitably macabre feel to the sparse violence (the most violent scene is actually the pre-credits kill, where we see the rock actually strike the poor old dear's head not once but twice) and the darkly amusing, getting longer, line of fir trees fits in perfectly with the morbid humour that all these 'old stars get nasty' films share and the, as mentioned, outstanding performance by Page just rams home the uuterly deranged set-up perfectly.
Using some great expressions and some spot on sinister and generally mad line readings (Page would do an equally superb vocal performance as the equally nasty 'Madame Medusa' in Disney's "The Rescuers" a few years later) Page is easily one of the best moments in any of these movies next to Betty Davis' perhaps definitive 'mad old bird' turn in "Baby Jane".

So not a great film, but a suitably macabre one (with some surprising plotting later on, although you may guess the last twist very early on) and one that is without doubt pushed to greater heights by Page's gloriously wicked performance.
Not sure of the title is a wise thing though as I'm not sure if it was meant to be part of a joke (that only gets revealed later) or not.

WHEN THE LAST SWORD IS DRAWN
Stunning, epic, superbly acted, majestically crafted, deeply moving Samurai drama that, through flashbacks and flashbacks within flashbacks, tells the moving and tragic tale of Kanichiro Yoshimura a low grade Samurai who, during the turmoil of the collapsing Shogunate and the open ing up of Japan (as also seen in "The Last Samurai") gives up his standing, frriends and reputation to make as much money as possible to feed his family.

The action and violence are sparse for the most part (the third quarter of the film piles on quite a lot though) but when used it is powerful and effective and the large cast and period detail make for grand spectacle.
An ambush in a town is a superbly edited, directed, choreographed and played set-piece that delivers some exciting action while also pushing all the right emotional buttons.
The drama is sometimes melodramatic but it always works in the context of the piece and is often also just as sublime and always beautifully handled by the cast, Kiichi Nakai as Yoshimura is simply amazing but literally everyone here gives their all.

The wonderful cinematography and set design compliments the tragic drama, the romance, the bloodshed and the sacrifice of the story and some scenes will pull at your heart with a genuine power...for example a night scene, on a snow covered little bridge, as Yoshimura and his 5 year old daughter say their tearful farewells is an avalanche of emotions that completely overwhelms the viewer.
The extended last quarter of the film does perhaps go on for too long and can get quite tiring as what seems like numerous places to end the film successfully continue to play out.
But in the end the patience of the viewer is rewarded with some highly emotional revelations and a deeply moving ending.

"When the Last Sword is Drawn" is a sometimes funny, sometimes violent and exciting, sometimes tragic and deeply moving and always superbly acted and crafted Samurai drama that is truly essential viewing.

WHISPERERS (THE)
60's British drama that's as dour and bleak as they come.
The barely touched upon at all reason for the titles is that the old lady of our plot , Mrs Ross (superb turn by Edith Evans), hears whispering voices in her house (we don't).
This sounds like a psychological horror premise but its not as these few and far between 'whispering' moments are indeed all in her head (this is never in doubt) and have no more plot importance than any other aspects of her general state of mind.
As such it's a strange, rather misleading, title for the film.

Really this is a grim, 'kitchen sink', 60's drama about an old lady becoming more and more senile and being ignored by and taken advantage of by those around her. Including a seemingly kind middle aged woman (in a shocking scene of blatant cold blooded thievery), her off the rails son (a typical weasel turn by Ronald Fraser) and her wayward Husband (nice scheming turn by the great Eric Portman) and a cold, brow beaten, young neighbour (a good acid turn by the cinematically underrated Nanette Newman).

Director Bryan Forbes (Newman's husband) does a good job guiding the performances and layering the film with grim hopelessness...but it's hardly a barrel of laughs and the overly long running time and deliberate pacing mean it can be a bit of an uphill climb. But worth a look for yet another underrated stab at British life by Forbes.

WILD BUNCH (THE)
Pekinpah's truly iconic and vastly important Western.
The finale is still as mesmerising, powerful, exciting, cool and poetic as it ever was and just as brutal.
And it's also the blueprint for almost all action scenes to come.
John Woo's gunplay movies may have come from a 'Shaw Brothers' Swordplay movie seed, but there is far more Pekinpah in his Hong Kong masterworks than Chang Cheh.
The finale drips with what would become familiar Woo trademarks (and other directors in the HK action 'Nu Wave').
Not just in the style of the violence and how it is shot, but also in the deeply personal and emotive moments of 'calm in the storm' where friends and allies share a moment together and look at each other in silent conversation before going out to face their destiny.
To see the end of "The Wild Bunch" is to look into a crystal ball and see the finale to Woo's glorious "The Killer".
An exceptional film, from an exceptional Director, and both would be the well-spring from which, years later, many more exceptional movies would flow from.
And what a fantastic cast.

WILD GEESE (THE)
Superb cast of British thesps, great characters, top notch acting all round, intelligent and engaging plot and wonderful score by Roy 'Get Carter' Budd yet again.
Volent, ruthless, bleak, cynical but with some well judged sadonic humour mixed in with the action and spectacle.

WILD MAN OF THE NAVIDAD (THE)
Here be spoilers....as quite frankly (despite what some review sites who should know better may try to tell you after watching their freebie screeners) no one else needs waste their fucking hard earned money on this.

Yes, the makers got the look right (cheap white-out contrast problems aside) to give this the style of a 70's Drive-In/Grindhouse flick and the compositions and framing are genuinely astute at carrying this off.
As were the great retro looking titles.
But that's as much as this lifeless, dull, badly written, just frustratingly weak and generally naff movie gets to the real thing.

I don't know of any 70's 'creature' flick that would let over half the running time go past without barely a glimpse, or one single attack (let alone death) from the creature.
At the very least these films gave us pre-credit/opening sequence establishing the creature's presence and threat the essential hook to thrill and pull in the audience while (YES) the often long build-up occurs to the next attack...here though we literally have nothing at all offered up to us.

At about 55 minutes (of an 83 minute film) in we finally have an attack, on characters we have spent a good five minute of constant screen time following.
And what are we given after this agonising wait?
A single shot of the creature, in the dark, bloodlessly attacking a tiny tent (the two characters are nowhere to be seen) with just dubbed on over screams to represent people being present.
Just over an hour in we finally have a tiny bit of real gore. Which is simply a bit of blood and some endlessly recycled, dried up looking, offal strips resting on the actor.
And as in all these weak, badly shot, attacks there are no meaty sound effects at all to represent what we are constantly not shown. Something real 70's movie makers were adept at providing to cover up their visual limitations.

Nothing much happens again then until the very end with one more attack that is once again just a splash of blood and bits of sad offal strips resting on the actor before the 'creature' is despatched, after a thrill free hunt by some bored and confused looking guys in sweaty shirts, in a totally bloodless fashion, by one single bullet, by what sounds like a cap gun.
The End.
Thank fuck!

As a creature on the loose flick it utterly fails to deliver the thrills, kills or chills and even the gory fun.
The creature is a worthless looking, threat free, guy in a bunch of old rags and skins...that is never in doubt...and yet the makers still try to make out this may be a creature.
As such we get neither a successful rendering of a monster OR a successful rendering of a mad man.
Real deals like "Don't go in the Woods...Alone" shows how to deliver a wild man killer in a satisfying way (and a damn huge, gore-filled, body count besides) and yet that gets slagged off while this junk gets praised.

And even as a 'backroads' hick flick it fails due to the schizo writing and dull characters.
Shadowed plot points about the 'creature' are brought up (the main characters even know about it and - in endlessly repeated scenes of boredom - leave food out for it) with even the Sheriff knowing something even before any killing starts and yet he does nothing at all to stop any of it happening.
And exactly what retro movie world do the makers think a cheap Drive-In creature flick would be half in Spanish with subtitles?!
Make your minds up!

This also brings up the awful character writing for a guy named Mario who seems to be the live in (?) help to the main guy and his invalid wife.
One minute Mario is a total sleaze who tortures and sexually assaults the wife (even that's done in a dull fashion)...the next minute he's a wise friend to the husband and...wait for it...the moral backbone of the story!
But hold on! Next scene he's molesting the helpless wife again!
Worse, his eventual demise (basically he's the joint lead as far as screen time goes) happens off screen!

"The Wild Man of Navidad" may have the look of a 70's exploitation film but it has NONE of the scuzzy energy, passion, wonderful characters, wonderful dialogue, cheap thrills, bloodlust, eccentricity or simple thudding violence of the real thing...and that's despite what the bogus quotes on the DVD may say to make you part with your cash.
Go watch the real deal.
Don't be suckered like I was with this failed retro effort.

WITCHCRAFT
Rather forgotten British horror film that sees a witch resurrected when her family graveyard is dug up by developers headed by the witch's hated rival family (the ever welcome Jack Hedley).

A surprising guest appearance by Lon Chaney Jnr adds much blustering energy to the build-up (though why this very American sounding actor is playing the head of an old English family is best not thought about to much) and when the witch gets to work things get genuinely creepy and macabre.
This is thanks to some well staged creep scenes and expert lighting that gives the strangely alluring Yvette Rees (as the witch) genuine presence.

The shots of her on a stair case, leering over a bed and (in a delightful bit of cruelty) appearing in the back of a car are top class supernatural set-pieces and only the rather tired (though with one nice bit of bleakness to the very finale) later stages with her mortal 'worshippers' drag things down into cliche and they seem far less of a threat too.
It also features the most stupidly fast spreading fire in cinema history.

But these problems can't hurt the overall effectiveness of the witch scenes and the good cast and old English charm.

WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION
Billy Wilder's almost masterly adaptation of the famous Agatha Christie play sees the great Charles Laughton (with delightful, Oscar nominated, support by his Wife Elsa Lanchester as his fussy Nurse) as a cigar and whiskey consuming English Barrister hired to defend an American man (Tyrone Power) accused of bumping off an elderly spinster for her money.
The man's wife (Marlene Dietrich, in uber-firey form) is summoned by Laughton to support her Husband but he is surprised to find out she's actually hostile to him. And the case gets more and more complicated from then on...

A fine cast indeed and Laughton (in a role that was one of my most memorable filmic moments as a youngster) is an absolute joy.
All the players work well off each other and Laughton's comedic jousting with lanchester's Nurse are as effective as his rather more serious jousting with Dietrich's hostile witness, as the well scripted case unfolds.
The failings then come mostly from Power's turn as the accused.
But I'm not sure if it even is a failing!
If you know the outcome then you will know what I mean, but Power seems so theatrical and overwrought in all that he does you can't help but come to the conclusion the guy's as guilty as sin and have to wonder why Laughton does not think the same.
But I'm truly not sure if this entire performance is meant to be like that to make the plot twist mechanics work. Either way Power becomes an air grasping, lip quivering, ranting annoyance.

Dietrich is wonderfully memorable as the wife with a scheme and truly radiates sexual power while at the same time coming across as vulnerable.
Una O'Connor (sadly in her last role) is also a complete joy as the bad tempered, un-trusting old Scottish housekeeper to the murdered woman, and is representative of the perfect mix of comedy and murderous drama that Wilder does so well.
The outcome is fun if rather melodramatic (as well as having to rely on a less than convincing bit of dated movie audio trickery) but sums up the twist upon twist convolutions of the case perfectly as, even as the film ends, the plot carries on in the same 'all is not how you imagined it to be' fashion.

WOLFMAN (THE) - 2010
Part remake of the original Universal film, part its own tale and part homage to "An American Werewolf in London" this oft delayed, much troubled, production manages to overcome its tough birth to provide some solid, gory, sometimes very impressive looking, old school Werewolf fun.

The middle portion of the film is mainly newer stuff (asylum scenes, London rampage scenes) but away from that and Anthony Hopkin's character this is pretty much the original film.
So for fans of that there is enough to enjoy here that's the same, as well as enough changes to add something extra to the tale.

The heavily CG aspect of the film is a distraction though.
In a sort of "300" type way many of the backdrops look like purposely comic strip creations, the colour/lighting scheme is overly 'blooming' and saturated as well resulting in some practical FX looking like CG (like the finale 'fight').
There is the odd smattering of CGI blood, but mainly this is practical FX standing in front of CGI created/enhanced backgrounds and all are sadly mired in a massive post-production swamp of CG tweaked visual stylings.

The CGI is worst during the controversial transformation scene where bad CGI is used to complete/'enhance' the stages of the change, especially Larry Talbot's face (that annoyed Rick Baker so much, as he insisted he had the full, practical, transformation stages planned and ready), and despite the Oscar he picked up it seems like a rather insulting way to treat Baker, a master of stretching 'skin' and 'muscle' into any shape without any CGI 'help'.

Thankfully the Werewolf make-up/suit itself is a brilliant piece of work (as are some of the gore FX) and here we have a vastly improved looking Wolfman from the original and it is this work that Baker must have really won the Oscar for, and not the CG molestation to his transformation work.

The cast is solid and does okay with Benicio Del Toro being an unusual but mostly successful choice to essay Lon Chaney Jr's. Laurence Talbot role, Anthony Hopkins is very good indeed as Talbot's father (perhaps the biggest change from the original, and although not 'better' as such, it's certainly a very dark and interesting change) and amazingly keeps most of his ham locked in the fridge.
Hugo Weaving is rather wasted as the equally rather wasted Inspector Abberline though (yes...THAT Abberline) and Emily Blunt is rather inconsequential too.

Thankfully a good cast of British character actors offers effective support to Hopkins and Del Toro.
One of which, David Schofield as a Policeman, is just one of the nods to "AWIL".
The homages to Landis's gem I noticed were;
1) As mentioned Schofield played the darts playing pub local in "AWIL".

2) Hopkins says "Holy Mother of God" when he sees Larry's body in the cart after the initial attack.
"Holy Mother of God" was the last thing one of the tramps said before the Werewolf killed him in "AWIL".

3) A scene where a London stream bus goes out of control as the Werewolf runs across the street (and runs over a guy on the road) before turning over is exactly the same as in "AWIL" where a London bus also goes out of control as the Werewolf runs across the street (and runs over a guy on the road) before turning over!

All in all a visually excellent, and yet also visually flawed, remake with pumped up Werewolf attack scenes that add much needed meat to the Werewolf character, some great make-up FX, a solid cast and some excellent set-pieces and pacing.
But the ceaseless CGI tweaking of almost every aspect of the film is an annoying flaw and one that could easily have been avoided with less use of it and/or more care taken with it.

Overall though...Recommended.

WOYZECK
A truly stunning performance by Klaus Kinski in Herzog's adaptation of the unfinished play of the same name.
Overly obscure in the dialogue in the first third as a basically simple story, of a man's sanity being ripped apart by all those around him and their disdain for his being, is made needlessly impenetrable.
But the rest of the film is excellent as we focus more on Woyzeck and less on the speeches to him by those around him (though at least the other actors, especially Eva Mattes as Woyzeck's wife, turn in good performances) and it is here that Kinski truly starts to own the entire picture, not the other actors or even Herzog himself...just Kinski.
A slight picture, but one worth watching for Kinski's breathtaking, tour de force example of the actors art.

X312: FLIGHT TO HELL
Good ol' Jess Franco and his deranged shaky zoom lens deliver a curious exploitation/adventure hybrid that offers up some nice and hairy nudity, a pretty hot (despite Franco trying to make it not so with blurred zooms into tops of heads and shoulders) lesbian scene and a rather good Euro Trash cast.

Sadly Franco turns all coy when it comes to the violence. As such we have almost no blood and no real violent deaths (despite one being a rape/murder) that means the film lacks punch.
Take out the occasional full frontal nudity...and this would barely scrape PG13.

Thankfully though the cast is fun:
Franco stalwart Howard Vernon is great value as a leering, fake tan smeared, fake moustache wearing villain named Pedro.
Spaghetti Western regular Fernando Sancho is good as a scheming flight attendant.
And the voluptuous Esperanza Roy ("A Candle for the Devil") looks hot, gets naked and gives a good femme fatale performance.

Okay stuff in general with some great exotic locations to make up for the super-cheap production values (no on-screen plane crash here, just Franco rolling the picture around!), nice nudity, good cast...but far too shy in the blood and violence department despite the numerous deaths.

YEAR OF THE DRAGON
Michael Cimino's more modest comeback film is pretty much spot on.
The positives are the great location shooting and sets, ballsy/bloody action, some great support characters for Mickey Rourke's suitably hard as nails Cop to bounce off (the best being the wonderfully witty 'Surveillance Nuns'!!), Ariane's naked body (she was introduced here and went on to do nothing of any worth bar a blink and you miss cameo in Ferrara's masterful "King of New York") and the general atmosphere.

Negatives are rather too much soap opera moments with Rourke's overwrought Wife and some far too melodramatic dialogue. Plus a rather rushed ending.
Otherwise though this is still a solid, superbly crafted, bit of action/thriller movie making.

YOUNG & DANGEROUS
Very good.
Solid tale about young Triad members that launched a sequel/prequel/spin-off explosion!
Looks impressive (great Hong Kong sights, especially at night), solid, enjoyable acting, interesting characters and excellent pacing. There may not be many fights, but they are placed at just the right intervals and all in all it was a satisfying watch. A must for fans of Triad movies looking for something different from the gun toting/older actor norm.

ZOMBI 2
Fulci's Zombie icon.
The highly effective mysterious opening kicks into the excellent Fabio Frizzi score played over those ominous white on black titles and you just know that something special is happening here.
This rushes into first attack and it's looks and sounds unlike anything else in any Zombie film seen before.
Add the bizarre Shark/Zombie fight (certainly unlike anything else ever seen) and you have a film that may only exist because of another movie...but went on to break its own ground and to develop its own style.

Nice turns by all the cast ,with Richard Johnson especially using his great voice to perfection, a bit of nudity, some great sets, truly superb looking zombie make-up, some amazingly executed gore effects (Sadly marred by the overly bright new DVD transfers) with the oft forgotten throat bite easily being the jaw droppingly bloody highlight and the slow and sadistic splinter scene is as undying in it's appeal as the zombies themselves and stunning Cinematography.
All is in place to deliver a memorable movie.

And this is also a film drenched in apocalyptic atmosphere.
As the corpses mount up in the mass burial pits, as the cast is munched down, a real sense of bleakness sets in.
Fulci expertly milks this atmosphere for all it's worth in the majestically designed Zombie shots where the rotted dead shamble into view (and these wonderful creations walk in the definitive 'Zombie way', in that head down, dragging monstrosity of human movement).

One of the finest visuals, in any horror film ever, has to be the lone zombie stumbling through the deserted wind swept village. And in a magical mixture of fine make-up FX, camera movement, cinematography and music Fulci delivers one of the great horror shots as the camera sweeps around to reveal the Zombie's half destroyed face.
And lets us not forget the best damn chowing down sequence ever as the half eaten body lies on the table like an all you can eat buffet as a group of shadowed ghouls consume it...and the shot of the zombie with it's head down who eats by shoving his face into the bloodied trough of his hand is perhaps the most horrific example of a living corpse eating human flesh!

Plods a bit in the middle, but otherwise this is essential Horror viewing and always will be.

ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST
Far more a Cannibal film really as the zombies don't appear until late and then they don't do much.
But some good gore, a great loony turn by Donald O'Brian, some very nasty experiments, great atmosphere, a smattering of nudity and the hysterically bad FX scene where an arm flies off a dummy, as it hits the ground following a fall (only for the guy in close-up to have both arms firmly attached) all means that this is a fun slice of Euro trash!

ZOMBIELAND
Bags of fun with some sparse but nicely effective splatter and a good cast in good form.
It does tend to grind to a halt in the middle though.
The infamous Bill Murray chunk (and it's a big chunk when you include the build-up and aftermath) is pretty amusing but bogs the film down and ends in a rather stupid (and signposted) way.
Should have really existed only as a thought in the maker's heads, or on the cutting room floor once made.

The rest was lost of fun though, with some great dialogue, fun exchanges, nice visual touches, solid characters, good acting (Woody is the man!) and some crowd pleasing zombie splatter.
It just needed that middle bit re-writing and re-editing.