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The whole of the Rage crew cast their eye's over the latest film and video releases and Hasi looks in a bit more depth at the culture of drag.
TO DIE FOR
Nicole Kidman, never renowned for her outstanding dramatic talents, is none the less quite effective in this tale of Suzanne Stone the career woman from hell. Suzanne is a naive, none too intelligent, but never the less hard working WASP with an all consuming ambition. She wants to be a famous TV celebrity. When she pesters the head of the local community TV station into giving her a job as a weather girl, she looks well on her way. Only one thing now stands in her way, her good natured schlub of a husband played by Matt Dillon, whom she marries at the beginning of the film. Ever resourceful though, she enlists the aid of three teenagers from the local trailer park Jimmy, Janice and Russell, whom she's making a documentary about, to get her husband out of the way for good.
The cast all give fine performances of Buck Henry's well observed and witty script, especially River Phoenix's brother Joaquin as Jimmy, Suzanne's cretinous lover and stooge. But the films real strong point is the imagination and craftsmanship of Gus Van Zant's innovative direction. This wont make the list of the top ten movies of the year, but it is a more than entertaining way to kill a couple of hours.
The Travolta revival continues apace with another excellent performance in that notorious Hollywood chimera- a decent attempt at filming an Elmore Leonard novel. With sterling support from Gene Hackman, Rene Russo and Danny DeVito it's no surprise that this excellent romp has topped the American box office charts.
Basically Travolta plays one Chili Palmer, a debt collector for the Mob based in Miami (and in fact named after a real Miamian who makes a passing appearance as a goon) who has to move fast when his protector/employer dies suddenly and finds himself on the trail of 300 grand and in Hollywood via Vegas. Chili is a likeable soul, never strong-arm for the sake of it, and impressed by the movie colony. And when he's sent by Vegas friends to track down a debt owed by a down at heel B-movie producer called Harry Zimm (brilliantly played by Hackman as the arch egotist in a movie full of them- I mean, this guy never learns) he rapidly finds himself a new role as a Hollywood producer. He also finds his hands full with other heavies tracking Zimm, (including the excellent Delroy Lindo), Zimm's on-off girlfriend and actress/screamer (Rene Russo), the Colombian coke cartels, his old Miami enemy and Danny DeVito's excruciating take on a movieland luvvie.
Great dialogue, snappy direction from Barry Sonnenfeld, a suitably twist filled plot, and some sympathetic characters make for a fine evenings entertainment. The baddies are bad, the goodies are good and if neither Travolta or Hackman get some recognition for their work I'll be amazed. Poking fun at the film industry in the way that only real insiders do, at one point virtually ever character fancies their chances in La La Land, and that's the biggest joke of all. Good humoured and unpretentious, it's the film all the characters would love to be involved with. It's a hit!
This years 'Silence of the Lambs' make no mistake, 'Seven' is as dark a film as ever to top the US box office returns for a month. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman star as two New York cops on the trail of a serial killer aiming to cause seven deaths to illustrate the seven deadly sins in the most graphic, and frankly, nauseating ways imaginable. I mean, these killings are gross, really unpleasant. Where can it end, you ask. Well, this is a cheerless if haunting movie so I'll say no more.
Brad Pitt, as the rural rube in the Big City, played like Woody from Cheers, is unsurprisingly rather limited though Morgan Freeman is excellent as ever, as the kind of cultured cop only ever found in fiction. He also has a mere seven days till retirement, just to add to the tension. New York is presented as some kind of Dantean urban nightmare rather than the pleasant place for a holiday it really is. Shrouded in dim light at all times by Darius Khobji , cinematographer of cult hit 'Delicatessen', everything is darkness and shadows until all is revealed in the country at the end. Though at times you'll be screaming 'Don't forget yer wife Brad Pitt man!' and 'Turn the Fucking Lights On!' at the screen and calculating the implausibility factor more than once it can't be denied that Seven is an authentically unsettling hour and a half. If, like me you can only remember 4 or 5 deadly sins at any time then you'll be even more surprised at the neat full circle at the end, and wonder at the level of job dissatisfaction that sees an employee of Tower Records coming up with a script like this. Excellent turns from the ever familiar Kevin Spacey as Mad Bloke and Richard Rountree as Big Copper too. And try and work out just who's thinking what at the end? Or if Brad Pitt is thinking at all. Ah, the moral dilemmas... Recommended.
FARINELLI IL CASTRATO
Gerard Corbiau's Farinelli Il Castrato is a fabulously camp extravaganza about the life of Carlo Broschi, a castrati singer who was as drooled over in the 18th Century as much as Liam Gallagher is today. The totally glam period piece walked away with the Golden Globe Award, although in Rage's opinion it definitely deserved an Oscar.
It always helps to start of with a good story line, and this one is pretty intriguing. Broschi, who took the name Farinelli was the equivalent of Bono today and had all the trappings of a rockstar, including box loads of groupies. Women literally dropped their knickers for him, despite the fact that he had been painfully castrated at the age of ten to ensure he kept his angel's voice.
It is a totally erotic movie with lots of passion and buckets of saliva. If its the music you are after however, it would probably make opera lovers turn in their Armani suits. It is pretty much 18th century opera for beginners, but boy is it a turn on. Forget pumping up Orbital next time you are at it, shove on a nice aria instead.
It is pretty obvious that Corbiau has done some serious embroidering on the historical facts, but at the end of the day it is still a fabulous movie.
The tale goes something like this. Farinelli makes his big debut in a Naples square in competition with a bunch of trumpet players who basically haven't got what it takes to keep up with the castrati's dizzy heights. He is finally spotted by none other than Handel and invited to sing in court without his brother. He fast dumps Handel when the gorgeous Alexandra gets around him with her womanly ways and persuades him to go to the rival Noble Theatre instead.
A lot of intrigue goes on between Handel and Alexandra as Farinelli flirts with the both. Farinelli eventually retires to Spanish court with Alexandra who surprise, surprise gets pregnant. Here is the twist - Farinelli beds his women and then his brother steps in to finish off what he can't do. Nice work if you can get it.
This joint liaison for sexual purposes is played up big time in the movie as you'd expect. There is enough flesh and fornication to keep you busy in confession for a few weeks. Definitely a movie not to be missed and guaranteed to heat up those hormones.
DARIO ARGENTO'S WORLD OF HORROR
This is basically a 70 minute documentary about the life and work of Italian goremeister Dario Argento. Directed by Argento's protege Michele Soavi, the documentary basically comprises an extensive interview with Argento, interspersed with the goriest clips from all his films and on location reports on the making of scenes from some of his most famous pictures.
"Some people think murder is an horrific thing" he tells us, "I think murder is a very sensual thing." He comments that having filmed so many murders he would probably make quite a good murderer himself and that he is very much in love with all the monsters/murderers in his movies that is why he thinks up such beautiful (sic) endings for them.
If you like murder, mayhem and merciless mutilation then you wont be disappointed, most of the most blood soaked moments from his films are included. If you've a penchant for cinematographic exposes then you'll enjoy some of the fascinating insights into the film maker's craft. If you're a fan of coherent documentaries which give you a chronological step by step history of someone's career then you'll be sorely disappointed. This looks like it's been spliced together by an inept schizophrenic overdosing on Benzedrine. Nuff said.
THE CREEPING FLESH
This is British period horror at its best. When people eulogise the long forgotten British film industry one area that is often sorely forgotten is the horror film. And this film is an example of the horror film and the British movie at it's best. It features those two stalwart stars of the silver scream Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and as director Freddie Francis says "Put those two guys in a horror film and you don't need anything else."
Cushing and Lee play two ambitious scientist half brothers, each with personal inner demons they are trying to suppress. The externalise these demons in their cruelty to others, which is dressed up as benevolence. Cushing vents his misogyny by keeping his fully grown daughter a prisoner in her own home, Lee in turn suppresses the malcontents and members of the lower orders he keeps locked away in his crushingly barbaric asylum. These inner tensions come to a head when Cushing brings home the skeletal remains of a prehistoric anthropoid, a real life demon, from his latest archaeological trip to New Guinea. He believes this discovery will be the making of him, but when Lee catches wind of it he is prepared to go to any lengths to gain possession of the skeleton and the accompanying acclaim for its discovery. In their bitter struggle the two unleash an unspeakable evil on the world, 3,000 years before its time. This is genuinely frightening without having to resort to the blood and guts or shock scare tactics that many modern horror films resort to.
LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF
During the two year period when this and the last film were made Cushing made a staggering thirteen films and managed - perhaps with the exception of Dracula AD 1972 - to be brilliant in all of them. His performance as the police surgeon and amateur sleuth in this picture maintains his usual exemplary standard. A standard of performance which lead Laurence Olivier in 'Olivier on Acting" to describe him as "one of the best (British) screen actors."
As a young boy Etoile, played by David Rintou, is reared by wolves and then discovered by a travelling showman when he comes of age. He grows to be a man in the care of the show man his wife and assistant. But everything goes amiss when under the influence of the full moon he turns into a werewolf and tears out the throat of the showman's assistant. He runs away to Paris, gets a job in a zoo, under the watchful eye of the excellent Ron Moody, falls for a prostitute and tears out the throats of her regular clients when there's a full moon, or he's pissed. You know, the typical werewolf bit. All this happy arrangement comes unstuck though when the local police surgeon starts snooping about.
Shot with no small amount of panache, Freddie Francis' clever and craftsman like direction lifts it out of the mire of foulness, in which its small budget and risible premise might other wise have fixed it.
Django the bastard
A stranger walks in to a quite obviously built yesterday town, and kills 5 men in about 5 milli seconds, this looks good !! 10 minutes later I'm bored out of my mind. The whole film just isn't convincing, Django looks like the least convincing bastard I have ever seen. The cheek bones are perfect and the stubble looks painted on, he doesn't curse, he doesn't spit and he looks like he has a bath every day, Django 'the girls blouse' would be a more fitting title.
Typical dialogue from the film 'tell me stranger who are you ?', 'I'm a devil from hell'.
Footballers behaving badly
Neil Morrissey from men behaving badly tries his best to be funny but fails. This is real low-budget stuff, g-movie rather than b-movie. The sub- Jan Hammer synth music has about as much relevance to football as dialogue is to a porn movie Plus the whole raison d'Ítre of the video i.e. the clips of footballers behaving badly are appalling. The only good bit is the 1985 Everton v's Man Utd cup final which had more high-kicks than the foiles berger.
Most of the video is failed attempts at humour, the predictable 70's sideburns and bad clothes, some not quite classic own goals, stupid supporters in stupid outfits, remember the Man City bananas all totally predictable and totally totally burning.
1995 is set to go down as the year of drag. It's even taken Hollywood by storm with Wong Foo, Spielberg's latest movie which features the unlikely duo of Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes as drag queens, clocking up a massive $11 million in the box office in the first week.
You can't get away from sequins, feathers, red lipstick, smudged mascara and high heels - drag has finally gone seriously mainstream.
No longer is it subversive and kinky for men to tout themselves around looking like Shirley Bassey out on the town. It is totally acceptable and its happening everywhere, so girls you'll know whose borrowed your leather mini when it goes missing and it won't be kissing the ass of a lipstick lesbian I can assure you.
If you don't believe us check out this year's Alternative Miss World run by the artist Andrew Logan. It was supported by the Toshiba-funded ICA and judged by the less than funky Anita Roddick of BodyShop fame. Top of the bill, the self-confessed queen of glitz himself, Marc Almond. A seemingly odd collaboration and one I'm sure would not have happened a couple of years ago. Professional drag queens are pumping up their bank accounts thanks to a trend that has to be camper than Christmas. Lily Savage, who once worked seedy gay bars in South London, has now taken over from Paula Yates on the bed of The Big Breakfast. Both flaunting fake tits, so who'd tell the difference! RuPaul, whose got legs that any girl would kill for, is advertising gran's favourite tipple - Baileys Irish Cream in the US.
So why are drag queens so suddenly in vogue. Maybe it is because we all now live in the crazy world of media, where to get noticed means you have to clip on a pair of ear-rings and twirl a handbag. Maybe men have been doing it all the time and they're sick of keeping their Chanel lipstick to the confines of the bedroom. Whatever the reason it will make for some interesting experiences in women's changing-rooms round the country.
Feminist writer Camille Paglia has even gone as far as saying that her drag-queen buddies actually showed her 'how to be a woman'. We're not quite sure what she was like before, but it certainly makes for a bit of sensationalism.
So boys slip on those cocktail pants, jump into your sling-backs, grab that handbag and go.
The movie 'To Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar' goes on release from November 10th. Definitely not recommended for the beer-swilling, footie brigade.
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