ThE FiLm AnD ViDeO ReViEwS
Jaspre Bark, Jeffrey Peacock and Marcus go goggle eyed after watching the cream of this month's video releases Including Immortal Beloved, Dirty Weekend, Shallow Grave, Solitaire for two, Once were warriors, The last boyscout - The goal is to survive, Death Machine, Haunted, Silent Tongue, Jungle Law, 6 Degrees of Separation, New Jack City, Killing Zoe, The Avengers Vols 4 & 26, The City of Lost Children, Tales of Ordinary Madness, Not Angels But Angels, Postcards From America, I Love a Man in Uniform, The Slingshot, Faraway, So Close ! Germany, 1993, Connoisseur Video (15), The Adventures of Tintin: Prisoners of the Sun, Mad Bull 34: Part 1: Scandal, Goku Midnight Eye: Part 1, Super-Deformed Double Feature, Giant Robo: Part 1, Bounty Dog, 1994, (Manga Video), Project A-Ko 5 Battle One: Grey-Side and Project A-Ko 6 Battle Two: Blue-Side.
Director - Michael Winner
Stars - Lia Williams, David McCallum
This is the story of Bella who woke up one morning and has had enough. Based on Helen Zahavi's successful book, and set in and around Brighton.
Bella is one of life's victims, her boyfriend dumps her for one of his students, and she's now getting calls from a sick pervert. Until one day she bumps into Nimrod.
Miscasting award of the year goes to Ian Richardson who plays Nimrod an Iranian clairvoyant, is there really no Iranian actors in the World ? Nimrod offers the pithy advice "you're either a lamb or a slaughterer" which is it to be ? stunningly she opts for slaughterer, this is a Michael Winner film after all.
The dialogue is bizarre and for that matter so is the script, it's certainly not your average Winner vigilante killer (probably because Zahavi co-wrote the screenplay) but there again it's also not going to win any prizes.
Lia Williams acts her way through the thin plot admirably but I bet she wishes she hadn't bothered.
Directed by Bernard Rose
Stars Gary Oldman, Isabella Rossellini, Jeron Krabbe, a few UK bit parters Barry Humphries, Miriam Margolyes, Alexandra Pigg and lots and lots of french german italian and czech bit part actors.
running time 115 mins
Anton Schindler (played by Krabbe) is witness to his good friend Ludwig Van Beethovens (Gary Oldman) death and discovers his final will which leaves all his money to his "immortal beloved". Schindler then has to search for just who this was. The story is told mostly in flash back and jumps from one period to another with bewildering speed. Supposedly the film is a heartbreaking thriller, but we failed to see where exactly the heart breaking or the thrilling bits were.
The film is beautifully filmed, the costumes are gorgeous but as with all European multiple co-productions the dialogue and acting are appaling. It's very obvious from some of the facial expressions and the general woodeness of the acting that at any one time only a third of the cast can understand what's being said. The whole thing is so poorly executed and at 115 minutes overly dramatized that (despite the twist at the end) only a saint or the cast's mothers would like the film.
Solitaire for two
Director - Gary Sinyor
Stars - Amanda Pays, Mark Frankel, Roshan Seth
Katie (Amanda Pays) is an academic at the Natural History Museum who's cursed with ESP, and who just keeps on hitting Daniel (Mark Frankel). Yes I did say cursed with ESP, she finishes off other peoples sentences, thinks all mens minds are like sewers (well she's right). Plus her idea of a good night is a night in playing with three computer games simultaenously. Daniel is a wanker of huge proportions, the kind of moron that you hoped died out with the 80's. He's a lecturer in body language and somehow he reads a punch in the mouth as an open invitation to harass Katie. Should be a short film then, but no, of course it all ends in lurve , and we all know how long that can take.
It's got all the right hooks but in all the wrong places, and a prepostorous story,, it even has Right Said Fred singing love songs to Katie in the National History Museum. Plus the cast is hardly star studded. Amanda Pays is famous in this country for being the controller of Max Headroom, - in the 80's TV series of the same name - and nothing else. Mark Frankel is famous for being in lots of failed British low budget intellectual comedies.
Quite how they can describe it as the new 4 weddings and a funeral. is beyond me. But having said all this given a wet afternoon and the right amount of white wine I think even I could get to like it.
Once were warriors
Director - Lee Tamahori
Stars - Temuera Morrison, Rena Owen, Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell
This film caused a major sensation when it was released in New Zealand in 95. It's the story of Jake (Temuera Morrison) and Beth (Rena Owen) a stormy couple bringing up a family. they get drunk, he gets violent, she gets hit. It could be anywhere in the world.
It's weird seeing hard case muscled tattooed Maori homeboys talking with New Zealand accents in a surrounding that looks part like LA, and part like Australia., singing soppy 50's style acappella love songs.
The family range from the writer daughter Grace (Mamaengarda Kerr-Bell), delinquent son Nick or juvenile delinquent son Mark who gets put into a home where he gets back to his Maori roots. Nick wants to join the Tor gang but has to go through a brutal initiation ceremony.
Then everything goes wrong as one of Jake's mates rapes Grace and Beth decides enough is enough.
It caused a sensation in New Zealand but it just made a slight tremble around chez moi. It just didn't grab the imagination. Jake's character is just too extreme, and just too much happens in too short a time for it to be believable. It's also got the most absurdly dull moral tone running right through the film that only the educationally subnormal could miss. Have you ever felt patronised.
The last boyscout - The goal is to survive
Director - Tony Scott
Stars - Bruce Willis, Damon Wayans
Time - 101 minutes
Think of action, think of explosions, and above all think of the combination of Bruce "Die Hard" Willis and the director of Top Gun, and you've got TLB. This isn't a movie that pussyfoots around, Joe Hallenbeck (Bruce Willis) plays a hard drinking, chain-smoking, washed out, ex-CIA agent, and ex-cop, with a (soon to be ex) buddy who's screwing his ex-wife, private dick who's had enough. He's saved the presidents life, solved crimes, drunk drinks and smoked tabs and what's he got in return ? Hell and back (geddit-Glenda Slagg).
Willis takes on a job as a minder for a stripper called Cory, who dates an equally washed up football star James Dix (Damon Wayans). The death of Cory and the subsequent discovery of a secretly taped lead the unlikely duo in to a trail of devastation and destruction, that includes car chases, exploding cars, and much much much mutilation.
The film is lovingly filmed, it's also very dark and very smoky, allegedly smog warnings were sounded in LA each time Hallenbeck lit-up. The script is actually quite reasonable given the pedigree of Scott, Willis and Wayans, and there's enough action to keep the thing going when everything goes pear-shaped. The film had everything even down to the now de-riguer European psychopath bad guy, but hey this time he wasn't Berkoff, or Rickman they actually looked as far as France !
Inspite of its unfortunate name and none too original premise, this debut feature by writer/director Stephen Norrington is extremely exciting and exceptionally well made. Imagine a perfect cross between the work of the much underrated Sam Raimi, Ridley Scott and just about every action adventure shoot 'em up arcade game you've ever seen and you'll have a good idea what this movie has in store. Set in the near future, when the head of Battle Tech Weapons Corporation snuffs it in mysterious circumstances, sexy (ish) young female yuppy Hayden Cale (Ely Pouget) takes over and sets about cleaning up the company. Her main problem is, the childlike psychotic genius head of their weapons development programme Jack Dante (Brad Dourif), who is ensconced in his subterranean laboratories in the basement of Battle Tech Weapon's Chaank Building. When Jack comes gunning for Hayden with every sinister toy in his arsenal things start to get extremely watchable. Perfect accompaniment for a pizza and a six pack.
Based on the novel by horrormeister James Herbert and directed by the grand old man of English cinema Lewis Gilbert, this tense little thriller sadly fails to live up to its potential. David Ash (Aidan Quinn) is an extremely skeptical professor of parapsychology who is asked by the housekeeper to investigate the hauntings at Edbrook House. He is greeted upon his arrival by the beautiful Christina (Kate Beckinsdale), for whom he soon develops the major hots. As he begins to fall further and further under Christina's alluring spell events at Edbrook House begin to take a more sinister and supernatural turn, forcing Dr Ash to question not only his former skepticism but also his very sanity as well. Inspite of a brilliant plot and central premise, a fine script and good performances from the cast, this movie lamentably fails to deliver. The blame must fall squarely at Gilbert's feet, because it becomes patently obvious that he hasn't the faintest idea of how to direct a ghost story and sabotages the film at every turn through his gross incompetence. A sad waste of an excellent project.
Award winning playwright Sam Shepard wrote and directed this chilling and quirky evocation of the old west. It also has the honour of being River Phoenix's last film (thank god, who said drugs never did anyone any good). Richard Harris is typically excellent as a horse trader who bought a half white half Indian daughter as a wife for his son from Alan Bates, the owner of a medicine show. When the daughter dies, the horse trader's son played rather poorly by River Phoenix loses all grasp on sanity and sits in constant vigil over her body. Harris hopes if he buys Bates' other daughter it might help to cure his son. The script is an eloquent and clever examination of the many ways in which humans exploit one another, due to race, class, gender and just plain greed. The direction is sweeping and lyrical, tipping its Stetson more than once in the direction on John Ford and Sam Peckinpah. Inspite of some perfect and inspired moments, on the whole the film tends to be just one dust storm short of a brilliant movie and it's difficult to pin down just why that might be. Recommended all the same.
This is a rather turgid and crap offering from writer/director Damian Lee and Producer/Star Jeff Wilmot. Imagine a Chuck Norris movie without the intricate plot machinations and brilliant ensemble acting and you'll get the picture. What there is of a plot is a poor reworking of the old 'Angels With Dirty Faces' story. Two little boys get caught in a raid, one little boy runs faster than the other, gets away grows up to become a good guy while his not so speedy mates matures into a first rate hood. Wilmot plays Ryan the speedier little boy who grew up to become kick boxing hard man and conscientious lawyer and Paco Christian Prieto plays his all round bad guy ex friend. Lots of fighting, lots of testosterone, little point.
6 Degrees of Separation
Based on the award winning play by John Guare, this a superb study in highly intelligent film making. Written by Guare and produced and directed, with flair and panache, by Fred Schepisi the movie tells the true story of a young hustler who conned and schmoozed his way into the heart of New York's jet set elite by claiming he was the son of Sidney Poitier. Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing are superb as the Kitteridges, two wealthy and exclusive art dealers who are first conned by the alleged Paul Poitier and then go in search of the truth that lies behind their encounter and the subsequent encounters of many of their friends and acquaintances. Will Smith, the Fresh Prince, plays the part of Paul and though his acting abilities are nowhere near the league of Sutherland and Canning he still gives and adequate performance. This is an extremely watchable, entertaining and thought provoking movie, that stands up to repeated viewing. Do not miss
New Jack City
Although we've come a long way since the blaxploitation movies of the early 70s, New Jack City is not a milestone in that Journey. Directed by black cinema stalwart Mario Van Peebles, the sprawling nature of the plot and cumbersome social consciousness dissipate a lot of the tension necessary to make the strongly emphasised action scenes work. Ice T gives a workmanlike performance as Hood homeboy turned cop, but the best performance and best lines are delivered by Wesley Snipes, who sports the baaadest wardrobe in recent cinematic history. To its credit New Jack City probably takes the most responsible and enlightened view of the drug problem in African American inner city ghettos, of any action movie of its kind. For this at least it should receive some praise.
Excellent debut movie from writer/director Roger Avary, the Jean Luc Goddard to Tarantino's Truffaut. The plotline is expertly simple enough to allow for the sharp writing, innovative direction and excellent performances to shine through. Eric Stoltz is a safe breaker who comes to Paris to assist his childhood friend in a major bank job. On his first night he orders and falls in love with a hooker, the Zoe of the title, and takes off to explore the seamy underbelly of drug soaked Parisian revelry with his fellow bank robbers. The next morning they pull the job, but things don't go quite as planned. If Avary's cinematic experimentation doesn't always perfectly hit the mark, your never less than gripped by this impressive first movie. It's possible that, because of the broader canvas he works on and the greater terms of reference he seems to have, Avary could quite easily eclipse Tarantino's directorial star in the future. This is a real must have item.
The Avengers Vols 4 & 26
The release of these old and recently unrepeated episodes should be a welcome event to any fan of British popular culture. The Avengers is almost the perfect example of one thing British television did best, make spy series. The Avengers always managed to marry the surreality of the Prisoner with the humour of the Persuaders and the perfectly shot action of the Professionals. Collecting some of the best episodes of Honor Blackman's and Linda Thorsen's runs these are a definite must have.
Tales of Ordinary Madness
Based on the writings of beat poet and writer Charles Bukowski, this downbeat and gritty offering by bad boy of Italian cinema Marco Ferreri is totally unmissable. Charles Serky, played poignantly and with perfect observation by Ben Gazzara, is a writer who rejects the society around him because of its failure to do anything other than denigrate the very things he holds most dear. Keeping the company of bums on the street and staggering with a bottle in his hand from one meaningless sexual encounter to another, he is saved temporarily from this down ward spiral by the love of a special woman. Cass (the beautiful Ornella Muti) is a prostitute and drunk whose tragic beauty captivates Serky and offers him the possibility of either redemption or greater tragedy. This remarkable offering by Ferreri provides us simultaneously with one of the best screen adaptations of a writer's work and a true classic of world cinema. Rush to the shops and buy six
Not Angels But Angels
This fascinating offering from gay label Dangerous To Know is an important and enlightening documentary study of male prostitution in Prague. Director Wiktor Grodecki provides us with a fascinating insight into a hitherto unexplored realm. Through many detailed and frank interviews with the prostitutes and their pimps, Not Angels But Angels explores every avenue of the sex industry in the newly democratised country. 'Every job is good,' one pimp tells us, 'I can say what I like now, we have democracy.' The tales of the young boys who live on the street and off their wits are sometimes harrowing but the subjects themselves often come across as brave and quite charming. The relevance of this work stretches beyond the confines of the gay community and is an effort worthy of much praise.
Postcards From America
The second offering from Dangerous to Know this month is a feature sponsored jointly by Islet Films and Channel 4. Based on the writing of David Wojnarwicz it explores many archetypes common to gay biographical fiction. The protagonist's fractured relationship with an abusive macho father, whose aggressive misuse of his family is the only way he can keep his uncertainty about his own masculinity at bay. Life as a runaway hustler and rent boy amongst the drag queens of the big city. And the meaningless grind of a thousand casual encounters. Writer/Director Steve McClean skillfully guides the non linear narrative away from any possible pitfalls and provides us with a movie that's both rewarding and entertaining.
I Love a Man in Uniform
Like just about every other film I seem to have reviewed this month, I Love a Man in Uniform is written and directed by the same person, in this case David Wellington. It's the story of the ultimate method actor from hell. Henry Adler, capably played by Tom McCamus, is a trained actor who works as bank clerk. When he successfully auditions for a part in TV cop series Crime Wave his life and career look set to take an upward turn. When Henry takes his costume home to rehearse in, events begin to take a sinister turn. Henry is a moral man, who is often incensed by his fellow man's discourtesy, thoughtlessness and disregard for the letter of the law. The impotence he feels in the face of his inability to change this is soon rectified when he starts patrolling in his costume and is mistaken for a cop. This sudden empowerment has a tendency to corrupt however and Henry begins a slow descent into psychosis and obsession. This is a jet black parody of social mores and a perfectly observed portrait of a disturbed psyche.
The Slingshot of the title is made from an extra tough condom stretched over a special fashioned coat hanger and is the brain child of twelve year old inventor Roland Schutt. Writer and (guess what) Director Ake Sandgren's film tells the true life coming of age of inventor Roland Schutt. Set in the reactionary and repressive Sweden of the 1920's the film charts Roland's valiant struggles in face of bullying from his elder brother, the class expectations of his Socialist father and the bigotry he receives from his school masters due to his Jewish socialist background. This is a genuinely touching film that deals with true sentiment without ever being too sentimental. Go buy.
Faraway, So Close !Germany, 1993, Connoisseur Video (15)
As ill-advised sequels go, you could only do worse than Wim Wenders' Faraway, So Close! by pretending Frank Capra had made It's a Wonderful Life 2, where Clarence the Angel saves Jimmy Stewart from Joe McCarthy. The Cold War would inevitably have soured George Bailey into Natalie Woods' square dad from Rebel Without a Cause, who can't think what she sees in James Dean or that awful rock and roll music. The bitterness of this sequel would have killed our joy in the original.
So it is with Faraway, So Close. After miraculously almost predicting the fall of the Berlin Wall in the astoundingly moving Wings of Desire, Wenders' angels are back but now they carp and complain about the reunified Germany, get drunk, pick fights and have a miserable time.
A thorough familiarity with the first film is vital to an understanding of this one, yet the clumsy silliness of what little plot there is (caricature gangsters running guns) can only spoil fond memories of it. You cannot step into the same river twice. Non German-speakers should be warned that the sub-titles often shoot by too quickly to be read.
The Adventures of Tintin: Prisoners of the Sun
This compilation of two episodes of the recent animated TV series is an excellent adaptation of the work of Herge by Canadian animation company Nelvana. Perfect for fans of both Tintin and good animation. Be warned though, Prisoners of the Sun is the second of a two book Tintin story, so make certain you've watched or read the first part before buying this vid. The Adventures of Tintin: Prisoners of the Sun
This compilation of two episodes of the recent animated TV series is an excellent adaptation of the work of Herge by Canadian animation company Nelvana. Perfect for fans of both Tintin and good animation. Be warned though, Prisoners of the Sun is the second of a two book Tintin story, so make certain you've watched or read the first part before buying this vid.
Mad Bull 34: Part 1: Scandal
If the Mad of the title had been changed to Load of Old, this anime would have been more honestly named. The eponymous hero is the ultimate fascist pig. He may have no regard for public safety or the civil rights of any of his suspects, he might be a reactionary, belligerent, ungovernable tool of state repression, but hey the big schlub's all heart underneath , so you gotta love him dontcha. Our totalitarian bully boy is teamed with American born Japanese rookie Diazaburo in an attempt to appeal to both the Japanese and the newly growing American anime markets. This ill conceived pile of garbage suffers mainly from being produced by creators who have obviously never been near the New York setting where they based the story.
Goku Midnight Eye: Part 1
This latest offering from director Yoshiaki Kawajiri who gave us the exceptional Ninja Scroll and the writer of the pretty nifty Kabuto: Buichi Terasawa is Japanese anime at its all time best. Goku is an ex cop turned private eye. When he is hired to investigate the mysterious suicides of Tokyo's most elite Police Unit he finds he must pay for his findings with his own life. Resurrected by a mysterious unnamed power he is given a hyper extensible quarterstaff and a cybernetic super computer implant in his right eye. This allows him to access every form of computer in a future that is totally computerised, thereby giving him the powers of a virtual god. This is full on, exciting and brilliantly executed futuristic action that fans of the genre cannot afford to be without.
Super-Deformed Double Feature
Inspite of the bizarre title this is not an anime about hyper powered paraplegics or genetic freaks. Super-Deformed is a style of animation that parodies more serious anime, whereby the main characters are shrunk to the size of toddlers and act in a gauche and childish fashion. This is really only for the interest of raving otaku's (Japanese for manga anorak) as nobody else, including this reviewer will have heard of the obscure animes that are parodied here. A fascinating insight into Japanese popular culture non the less.
Giant Robo: Part 1
Silly title, but really great fun all the same. Giant Robo is retro anime at its finest. The large monolithic cyberhero of the title is the personal property one courageous young school boy who battles the global menace of the evil Big Fire alongside the other specially powered Experts of Justice. The gorgeous stylised animation and the inventiveness of the rather daft plot make this classic anime, (first in a six part series) hugely exciting entertainment.
'Bounty Dog' raises expectations of Blade Runner or Reservoir Dogs, while the Japanese title, 'Christmas Eve on the Moon' suggests Santa Claus, but this is really an ultra-violence 2001 where instead of a monolith on the moon we find an alien sleeping beauty threatening destruction when awakened.
Our hero must avenge his dead love and defeat both alien menace and Lunar military. Good production values on the animation side in this two part adventure, but don't hit eject when end credits come up after 25 minutes, the second half is on the same tape.
Project A-Ko 5 Battle One: Grey-Side
Fast, hardcore Manga meets Japanese kiddie cartoons for a punch-up. Everyone's got super strength all of a sudden in this custody squabble over a bratty heiress. The girls may be horror show dirty fighters but the super-pathetic fussing about their hair and bustlines may have you reaching for the sickbag, although when the 70s-style glam rock villain arrives and there's yet another bonkers plot twist you could find the daftness growing on you. Animation's good with a slight Moebius influence on the artwork. Part one of two tape adventure.
Project A-Ko 6 Battle Two: Blue-Side
We start with a complete plot summary of the lesser Project A-Ko 5, so this is definitely the one to go for. Same style though, switching from Snoopy to trad Manga realism. Plot ? Inch High Private Eye meets Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy with full-on Zen. Villains have a planet-eating three headed dragon to destroy our imaginary universes, only immortal souls will remain. Heavy stuff, and B-Ko even falls in love with the glam-rock warlock baddie into the bargain. Irritating, whiny voices do the dubbing, but there's spectacular animation.
The City of Lost Children
Jeunet and Caro's latest offering more than lives up to the promise of Delicatessen, their eerie and enchanting first feature. Everything about this movie is charming and magical, the art design, the characters, the performances and the direction all of it bristles with imagination and invention. It tells the story of Circus strongman One's search to find his adopted infant little brother Denree. Denree has been kidnapped and taken to a mist shrouded abandoned off shore oil rig surrounded by sea mines. There he is to be used in the sinister experiments of Krank, who steals the dreams of children to halt his premature ageing. Joining One in his quest to free Denree is the beautiful young orphan Miette, their journey takes us through some of the most enthralling spectacles of recent cinema.
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