Goto Film Reviews
Featuring : La Haine - Les Apprentis - Three Wishes - The American President
Goto Video to buy and rent Reviews
Featuring : The American soldier - Welcome II the terrordome - Terminal Force - Innocent Lies - The pope of Utah - The upstairs neighbour - The Frontline - Alferd Packer The Musical - Spare me - Transgression - Groupies - Cyberpunk - KENNETH ANGER: Magick Lantern Cycle Vols 1 - 4 - Thee Best ov Psychic TV and Genesis P. Orridge Beauty from thee Beast - Rashomon - Fox and his Friends - Tank Girl - Imaginary Crimes - Fall time - Who's the man
Goto Manga Reviews Featuring Project Ako parts 4 &5 - Patlabor 2 The Movie - Zeram (live action) - Uresei Yatsura TV Series 6
This month we go mad on videos and films with over 28 films and videos reviewed for your pleasure everything from Rashomon to Psychic TV to the latest from Hollywood.
La Haine - Mathieu Kassovitz
A day in the life of three unemployed youths on a council estate outside Paris. Filmed in gritty black and white, the film follows a trio of friends, a French skinhead Jew, an Algerian Muslim, and a Black French boxer as they go about there general run of the mill day. They hang out, do deals, get abused by their elders and suffer racial abuse form the police. The film caused hell in France and let's hope it does the same here. If you want to see a film this year make sure it's this one. It's incredibly powerful, sad, funny and above all it makes you think about your own life and just how bloody lucky most of us are. If you can't see it get the rap track soundtrack which is also bloody cool. The only bad thing about the film is the appalling US subtitles. The last thing I want is to a see a film where some culturally inept American has translated Asterix to bloody Snoopy, this is taking cultural facism to new heights.
10/10 - MA
A light French comedy in the mould of Withnail and I, this latest offering from Pierre Salvatori charts the decline and fall of Fred and Antoine, two Paris slackers. Antoine is a frustrated playwright and Fred is just frustrated. When the Landlady of the flat where they stay for free finally evicts them they're forced to turn to a life of crime, which does not prove to be one of their best career decisions. This insightful and gently comic movie covers a lot of ground, from the frailty of the human psyche to the search for sexual identity, but never loses its light touch or it's entertainment value.
7/10 - JB
This is Frank Capra with a nineties sensibility. Jeanne, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is a single mother left to raise her two sons alone, Joseph Mazzello and Seth Mumy, when her husband is killed in the war. She lives in the suburbs in the heart of middle American middle class land, at a time when non conformity of any sort was practically a federal offense. When she takes an itinerant Jack McCloud, Patrick Swayze, into her home to assuage her conscience after running him over, she crosses the boundaries of social respectablity into a territory where the deepest hopes and fears of her family may be realised. The strength of this movie is that it manages to function entirely as a weepy feel good movie, without ever stooping to the tired and hackneyed Hollywood cliches or giving in tot the most obvious and expected tried and tested plot contrivances.
6/10 - JB
The American President
This movie sits somewhere between being a sickly sweet romanticcomedy and a totally corny political drama. Well, its the White House isn't it so what would you expect!
Michael Douglas - him of flabby bum fame - plays 'Andy' Shepherd, a recently widowed democratic president who bares absolutely no relation to Clinton or the mob that came before him.'Andy' lives in the realms of political fantasy land - period. 'Andy' decides he'd like a bit of romance in his life, which is fair enough. We all like a hump now and then, but god forbid it is in election year. Well that is what his entourage Chief of Staff Martin Sheen, policy advisor Michael J Fox and in-house pollster David Paymer say. What a bunch of unbelievable whimps to advise you on your sex life! In the other corner 'Andy' has got right-wing Presidential hopeful Richard Dreyfuss going for his jugular. Slightly more believable maybe.
As you might expect, Aaron Sorkin's script is totally watered down and 'Andy' is never in a position where he might be involved in any big true-to-life corruptions. Instead Douglas wanders around grinning like he has over-dosed on Prozac big time.
Annette Bening plays Sydney Wade, the environmental lobbyist that Douglas falls head over his shiny shoes for. As you'd expect she is over-flowing with klutzy charm. The kinda girl who runs for the shower straight after a session for a good scrub down.It is mildly diverting if you are desperate to get away from the fairy lights. But if you are expecting a stonker, don't bother.
3/10 - Hasi
The American soldier - Rainer Werner Fassbinder - Connoisseur video - 78 minutes.
Well it's surreal and it's about as laid back as you can get. For some reason the 70's German film industry seemed to be dominated by films that went nowhere, and they went there incredibly slowly. People get shot and stabbed without any blood spilling, men crush glasses in their bare hands for no apparent reason, and the American soldier of the title (he's called Rick, and he's really a German !) wanders around in a white suit being mono-syllabic and drinking out of a bottle. It's all completely surreal try watching it on as many drugs as possible because only then will you be able to make out what the hell is happening. Watch for the slow motion death scene at the end of the film, it has to be the funniest bit of film ever. Are you sure RWF never directed any of the Marx Brothers films.
6/10 - MA
Welcome II the Terrordome - Ngozi Onwurah -Tartan video - 92 mins
Oh purlease what is this dreadful dreadful movie doing in my video player. The film has a promising start it's the 17th century and a bunch of Ibo slaves stand on the beach before their new masters and mistresses, but decide slavery is no way for a proud race to live, so they decide to swim back home. Unfortunately for them and for us they end up in a limbo World called the Terrordome which is not too dissimilar from some of the nasty bits of Hackney. The plot just goes into weedy thin mode, and involves some ridiculous whites V's blacks good guys V's bad guys sub-plot. I am ashamed to admit that this is an English film, it's trying to be an American big budget spectacular, and I really don't know why they bothered. There isn't a single decent bit of acting in the whole movie. The only redeeming factor is JC001's raps and the rest of the rap soundtrack.
0/10 - MA
Terminal force - William Mesa - Columbia Tristar video
A star vehicle if ever I saw one, unfortunately the vehicle in question is a ten-year old wreck that won't get out of first gear, and the star in question is Brigitte Nielsen. A warning of the films quality can be spotted from the box from the visual effects director of", so Mesa has never directed a film before, and it shows. The plot borrows heavily from every other sci-fi movie you can mention, a crystal is stolen from a distant world and makes it's way to Earth, closely followed by the baddies and the goodie (Big Brig in a skimpy leather push-up bra). She falls in love, gets in fights, which gives her plenty of chance to use her superhuman strength, and show off those magnificent pec's, and blasts the baddies to kingdom come. If you're a fan of ms Nielsen then you'll like it but I really wouldn't recommend it to anyone else. Unless of course you're a relative of one of the unlikely named actors and stuntmen, Fred Asparagus or Woon Parks or Dennis Madalone.
3/10 - MA
If the words "what an utter load of crap" don't spring spontaneously to your lips at the closing credits of this film, you're either related to a member of the cast or crew or you dozed off within seconds of it starting. This is an indescribably tedious, pretentious, completely confused and utterly repulsive little film. I almost want to sue its makers for the shameful and miserable waste of the 83 mins approx of my life that I spent watching it.
Adrian Dunbar plays a complete wanker detective who travels to France to investigate the murder of his old mentor. He spends his whole time trying to get into the knickers of Gabrielle Anwar who plays the daughter of Joanna Lumley, a fascist English aristocrat. Gabrielle is shagging her brother Stephen Dorff however, (ooh how naughty), at which point the plot becomes so confused and impenetrable that even if you didn't loath all the characters with an unspeakable vehemence, you wouldn't give a toss what happened anyway. If there's anyone upon whom you wish a fate worse than death tie them to a chair and make them watch this. It's out on January 24th make sure you leave the country.
0/10 - JB
The Pope of Utah
This is the first of six current releases on the newly formed 'Screen Edge' label (the other five are reviewed below). The label was set up earlier this year by John Bentham who runs the Visionary catalogue of ultra hip live music and arthouse videos. The intent is to create a film and video equivalent to the indie music sector so that first time and independent film makers can reach the audiences they deserve. And just as labels like Rough Trade became by words for excellence, encouraging you to buy records because you knew the label not the band, the Screen Edge logo on a video looks set to become an important stamp of approval.
Melvis Pressin, the eponymous hero of The Pope of Utah, is the mid west's most successful ever televangelist. Once a socially inept teenage geek, Melvis' ability to extract vast amounts of money from middle aged middle American housewives has made him a smash hit sensation, whose career is about to go ballistic. His station's programme censor Del Shandling has other ideas however. Once a rising young star on the New Jersey comedy circuit, Del's career took a nose dive when he married the daughter of TV station owner in order to get his own show. Now he wants Melvis to re-boost his career and end his miserable marriage by bumping off his wife. And he's prepared to go to any lengths to persuade Melvis.
It's not often that you can say 'you've never seen a film quite like this before' and really mean it, but in this case I can. While the film pays homage to thousands of film makers from Scorsese and Kubrick to the Coen brothers, it remains quite unique. Combining state of the art computer graphics with satire, slapstick and a sick sensibility, all at a break neck, benzedrine pace. Exceptional.
10/10 - JB
The Upstairs Neighbour
This dark and rather disturbing ode to Roman Polanski by writer/director James Merendino is part psychological thriller, part horror film and part study of suburban paranoia. When pulp hack and slash novelist Eric Esponsa discovers his new upstairs neighbour is tapping his phone he is somewhat incensed and begins to investigate his neighbours activities. To his horror his neighbour appears to be engaged in satanic devil worship, conducting pagan ceremonies and human sacrifice, all in the flat above his. When Eric believes him self to be under a curse inflicted by his neighbour, he engages in a fight for his life as he watches his career, his personal life and his sanity slowly disintegrate. Dark, chilling and at times deeply disturbing.
8/10 - JB
More than any other title in the Screen Edge cannon, this film exemplifies John Bentham's rallying call to film makers, "just pick up a camcorder and do it," a sentiment which echoes Sniffing Glue's exhortation: 'here's three chords, now form a band'. Made for a remarkable mere &169;12,000 and shot entirely on location in the notorious Moss Side and Hulme estates, writer/director Paul Hill explores themes Fassbinder would have been very much at home with, class exploitation, racism and political corruption.
When our hero James is released from mental hospital, he returns to Moss Side in search of his lost love Marion, now a DJ on a local pirate radio station. After winning her back and weaning her off smack, James is shocked by her sudden and unexpected death, and refuses to accept it was suicide. Along with Marion's father he begins a search for the truth which leads him to the very top of the corrupt political ladder and to a grim, bitter and bloody finale. This portrait of nineties Britain is unremitting in its portrayal of the disenfranchisement and horrors of life at the lowest end of the poverty scale.
Alferd Packer: The Musical
If you've ever sat watching films like Oklahoma and fantasised about taking a chainsaw to the whole cast then this is a film for you, I cannot possibly begin to praise it enough. Stomach churning gore, heart stopping melodrama, pulse pounding suspense, tear jerking romance plus an hysterically funny script and a show stopping score, this film has more than it's decent to dream of expecting.
In the winter of 1874 Alferd Packer led a mining expedition into the Colorado Rockies and was the only member of the party to return alive. Months later the half eaten remains of his murdered fellow party members were discovered. Packer claimed he killed only one of them in self defence and was forced to eat the others to remain alive, this musical is a radical re-examination of the facts. I was doubled over with laughter the whole time and still can't get some of the tunes out of my head. If you only buy one film in any of your life times, make sure you buy this one, in triplicate for all your friends and family.
10/10 - JB
This feature continues the exploration into the hitherto unseen seamy underbelly of American alternative culture that Matthew Harrison began in his ground breaking "Rhythm Thief". Theo, the bad boy of professional bowling is suspended from the pro circuit for a hundred years after braining one of his opponents with a bowling ball. Searching for a sponsor to help him get re-instated Theo looks up his long lost father Buzz, a former legend of bowling and perfector of the 7 - 10 pin split. Along the way he uncovers an illegal dwarf bowling scam, captures the heart of the corrupt town boss's daughter and saves her from the homicidal affections of her brother, recently escaped from the local maximum security asylum. This is compelling jet black comedy that's likely to keep you on the edge of your seat unable to believe what you're watching. Imagine a superior hybrid of Richard Linklater and David Lynch and you wont go far wrong, strongly recommended.
9/10 - JB
More than 'Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer', 'Man Bites Dog' or 'Silence of the Lambs' this film takes you further inside the mind of a serial killer than any other film has previously dared. One reason for the film's shocking authenticity is that writer/director Michael P. DiPaolo worked in the Brooklyn District Attorney's office video taping over 200 homicide confessions, coming into closer contact with the urge to murder most of his working days.
Investigative reporter Mary Selby makes a plea to a local serial killer on her weekly TV programme: contact her confidentially and she will provide a sympathetic ear, she is someone who wants to understand the killer. Acting on this invitation the killer, someone with whom she was already acquainted, kidnaps her and takes her step by step through the same processes that led to his becoming a murderer and forcing her to watch him murder time and again. Eventually she does come to understand all too well and when she escapes her captor she finds she is still ensnared in an even more deadly cycle of violence.
Transgression manages to trace every single crack in a fractured mentality, from child abuse and a preoccupation with the suffering of Christianity to sado masochism and the random cruelty of life, it quite literally doesn't miss a trick.
10/10 - JB
This documentary on the Visionary label is a fascinating document of a much talked about feature of the late swinging sixties. The groupies are voracious, liberated, man eating predators who roam the back stage area of rock gigs in search of their unwitting prey. This being the all too willing rock stars and would be rock stars on the east coast circuit, the more famous the better. Though the actual idea of a sexually rapacious horde of women hunting down the objects of their affection is quite attractive in principle, in reality waking up next to any one of these women the next day is the stuff of nightmares. The high point of the documentary is the interview with the now legendary Cynthia the plaster caster, who took plaster casts of some of the most famous rock penises in history. The low point is the shite guest appearances of such forgettable and now forgotten rock luminaries as Terry Reid and Spooky Tooth, great music this film does not have.
7/10 - JB
To be honest this documentary on all things cyberpunk is pretty poor. It begins with the premise that William Gibson is God and that computers and the whole world of cyberspace didn't exist until he sat down at his little portable typewriter in 1980 and invented them. From this point on it makes a lacklustre attempt to define cyberpunk and cyberpunk trends in music, fashion and culture, often not really hitting the mark. The standard of production is not high, but in its favour the interview footage with Gibson is extremely interesting
5/10 - JB
KENNETH ANGER: Magick Lantern Cycle Vols 1 - 4
Hollywood dirt disher Kenneth Anger is the godfather of both underground cinema and the pop promo in general. That even his earliest films still seem contemporary is proof of how over due a collection of his work is. Ranging from the wild sexual orgies of coked up gay bikers each with their personal death wish, to actual documentation of real life satanic rituals, from the transcendent to the deeply personal, from the intimate to the epic sometimes in as little as a single frame, this is truly exceptional film making. No one with the slightest interest in cinema can possibly afford to be without these.10/10
Thee Best ov Psychic TV and Genesis P. Orridge Beauty from thee Beast
While most people make home videos, the Orridge family make pop promos for Psychic TV songs. Any Psychic TV fan will be in seventh heaven with this collection of promos and live gig footage. These are interspersed with clips from 'Exile and Exhilaration' a video Orridge made when he was first forced into voluntary exile in America, ruminating on his condition and life in general. All in all it makes great viewing.
9/10 - JB
All the above titles are available on mail order from Visionary/Screen Edge at 28/30 The Square, St Annes on the Sea, FY8 1RF, England Tel: 01253 712453 e-mail: email@example.com and their website address is http://www.state51.co.uk/state51/visionary/
This ground breaking work by legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa was the first to bring him to the full attention of western audiences. It was eventually adapted by Hollywood, as were so many of his movies, as Outrage starring Paul Newman. The central focus of the action is a rape and a duel. The same event and the events that led up to it are told four times from the four different protagonists' point of view. Each tells a contradictory tale to the other and we're left with a wry consideration of the subjective nature of truth. The masterly performances, the deft script that owes as much to the traditions of Kabuki theatre as to western cinema, and the bold, lyrical direction make this a true cinematic classics. 10/10
Fox and his Friends
Fassbinder was in the second phase of his career, making "German films for German audiences" when he shot this satire on Bourgeois social exploitation. Fox loses his job as a fairground freak attraction when his male lover is jailed. With a great stroke of luck however he wins the lottery and comes to the attention of apparently wealthy socialite Eugen Theiss. Their ensuing relationship robs Fox of everything, his money, his self esteem, his home and even his identity. The bitter injustices of a post war German society are here distilled into the private matters of a tragic life.
I have to admit that I was never particularly enamoured of Hewlett and Martin's original creation. And let's set the record straight here, Tank Girl is neither a nineties feminist icon nor a lesbian role model. She's the creation of two inexperienced nineteen year old boys who probably hadn't been close to any females other than their friends' little sisters. Thus she is a facile one dimensional little male indie boppers wank fantasy. That the film adds nothing to this depiction therefore, should not be the point of criticism that it has become.
Anyway, it's 2033, it hasn't rained in decades and all the remaining water is controlled by Malcolm McDowell's evil multi national. All that stands in the way of his wicked schemes is tank riding Lori Petty and a bunch of genetically engineered kangaroo soldiers, one of whom is played by Ice T.
Clever use of cartoon and rostrum camera comic art serve to remind us that the film is based on a comic strip and shouldn't be taken too seriously. Get the beers in, get this out and have a giggle.
6/10 - JB
If ever there was one actor who has appeared in more of my favourite films than any other, it has to be Harvey Keitel. It is with the heaviest of hearts therefore that I say that his performance in Imaginary Crimes is not actually bad it's practically non existent. He stumbles through his part mouthing the lines as though he's completely strung out on Prozac. And this is a great shame for the part of Ray Weiler is a great role, cast in the mould of such great American losers as Willy Loman. Ray is always chasing the next rainbow in search of that sure fire deal that will make his fortune. When his wife dies and leaves him to raise his two daughters each failed dream turns consecutively more sour. But when Ray cons the wrong man into backing his latest deal the last of his meagre luck finally runs out and his eldest daughter is forced to stand up for what means most to her. An fine script, good direction and excellent performances from the cast (Harvey excepted) make this a touching and highly poignant movie.
7/10 - JB
Fall Time is this month's surprise find, a movie you expect to be run of the mill Hollywood garbage, but which turns out to be quite a tight little bleak and taught thriller. Set in the summer of 1958 it tells the story of three high school friends who plan to play one last prank before they graduate. The plan is stage a mock Chicago style gangster hit on the main road of their sleepy little town. Things go awry when they get caught up in a real life heist planned by Mickey Rourke and the always excellent Stephen Baldwin. Sheryl Lee famous as Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks also puts in a good performance as a femme fatale on the lam. Although all the signs point towards this being a buddy buddy rites of passage story it actually turns into a far more sinister cynical and daring movie. Well worth a night in.
8/10 - JB
Who's The Man
Who's the Man is a who's who of nineties rap where you can have hours of fun guessing who plays who, who can possibly resist. Ed Lover and Dr Dre play two hopeless Harlem hairdressers who are press-ganged into joining the NYPD and becoming 'The Man'. The ensuing fun leads them to uncover a corrupt business mogul buying up real estate in Harlem in order to drill for oil. This is Boyz N the Hood meets Police Academy with a cast and soundtrack that encompasses just about anybody who's anyone in the whole world of rap. It's worth watching solely for the fantastic performance by Denis Leary as the harassed station sergeant.
6/10 - JB
Uresei Yatsura TV Series 6
Every once in a while an anime series comes along that revitalises a jaded reviewers interest in anime and manga in general, this is just such a series. Uresei Yatsura is positively enchanting. If you haven't seen any of the previous series (I hadn't) don't be put off, this is the perfect place to join as one of the episodes recaps everything that has gone before. The series adapts the extremely popular Japanese manga by Rumiko Takahashi it tells the story of a magical alien princess who's in love with a lecherous schoolboy called Ataru. Each half hour episode (and there's six on the cassette so this is excellent value for money) is not only brilliantly inventive and bristling with imagination, but is also incredibly funny. This is entertainment for all ages and it's not difficult to see why it became such a hit in Japan. Very strongly recommended for that Christmas stocking.
9/10 - JB
Zeram (live action)
Imagine a Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers movie for adults and you'll have a fair idea of what this film is all about. Zeram is the ultimate ancient bio organic weapon, which has escaped its captivity and gone on a galactic rampage choosing Earth, of course, as its first port of call. The only thing that stands in the way of assured planetary destruction is Iria a lone mega babe bounty hunter and two hapless electric engineers who are accidentally roped into the battle. This is completely effortless entertainment, plenty of gore, plenty of stupid costumes, competent special effects and typically bad dubbing.
6/10 - JB
Patlabor 2 The Movie
Patlabor 2 is the second movie spin off from the highly successful animated TV series. Set in a near future, post earthquake Tokyo, most of the manual labour is now executed by robots called labors, as sadly is most of the crime. To combat this hyper mechanised new crime wave the Patlabor police force were formed. The standard of animation in this anime is excellent and the plot is tense, suspenseful and surprisingly sophisticated. Very well worth a look.
7/10 - JB
Project Ako parts 4 &5
These two anime end one saga and begin another completely different one that just happens to have the same principal characters. The original Project Ako, about two super powered schoolgirls Ako and Bko deadly opposed to each other and both vying for the friendship of Cko a saccharine sweet alien princess, comes to an end when Cko's folks speed buy in their royal flying saucer to pick her up in Project Ako 4. The new plotline starts when Cko, daughter of a Multi-Planetary Gazillionaire, is kidnapped and accidentally falls into the hands of two super powered desert scavengers Ako and Bko. If you enjoy light hearted, satirical, action packed anime then check this out.
5/10 - JB
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