About This Blog

A place to find my reviews not featured on epinions.com or horror-asylum.com, as well as opinions and lists on everything from movies to TV to music. It's all about me! Send hate mail to vegie18th@hotmail.com or just leave a comment beneath the posts. Review grading system assumes C+ is somewhere in the vicinity of a Passing grade or minor fail.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Review: Wild Geese II


Brother and sister John Terry and Barbara Carrera, who work for Robert Webber’s TV network, hire stone-faced Lebanese-American mercenary John Haddad (Scott Glenn!) to snatch famed Nazi Rudolf Hess (Lord Laurence Olivier) from an impregnable Berlin prison and bring him back so the aging Nazi will reveal all his secrets about Hitler. Meanwhile, a German working for the Russians (Robert Freitag) is also after Hess, as are the British, led by Kenneth Haigh, and even the Palestinians have an interest in things. Edward Fox plays a British sharpshooter and the brother of Richard Burton in the first film, Paul Antrim is a British Sergeant-Major on Haddad’s team (which also includes a French driver and a smart-arse IRA guy), whilst Ingrid Pitt plays one of Freitag’s assassins, and Patrick Stewart (who regrets appearing in this, apparently) plays a Russian.

 

The original “Wild Geese” was a terrific entry into the all-star ‘guy movie’ genre (sitting just a rung below the likes of “The Dirty Dozen”, “The Great Escape”, and “The Magnificent Seven”). This belated 1985 sequel from veteran editor Peter Hunt (director of films like “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, “Shout at the Devil”, “Assassination”, and “Death Hunt”) isn’t as good as the first film, but is never dull and the Nazi plot is irresistible fun until the rather crappy ending. Besides, with The Cannon Group behind it (home to every cheap Chuck Norris and Michael Dudikoff flick of the 80s), the film could’ve come out looking a whole lot worse.

 

Scripted by old pro Reginald Rose (“The Wild Geese”, “12 Angry Men”, “Whose Life is it, Anyway?”), it’s a jolly good yarn, even if its slow progression to the mission is indicative of Hunt’s usual problem: His directorial efforts are strangely not very tightly edited for someone with an editing background. Even “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, a fine Bond entry, suffered from that a bit. The cast isn’t as stellar as in the previous film, but there are some interesting people here. Scott Glenn doesn’t look remotely Lebanese, but as the stoic, no-nonsense, Pittsburgh-raised Haddad, he shows that he can do the hard-arse Lee Marvin-type thing quite well. Barbara Carrera might not be the world’s greatest ever actress, but she oozes movie star glamour, and this film is no exception. She sort of ended up being a bit of a flash in the pan after the 80s, but I have no idea why. She looks amazing and is quite good in this, even if I prefer her in ‘bad girl’ mode (ala “Never Say Never Again”). Playing the brother of Richard Burton’s character from the first film (but essentially playing the Roger Moore role from the first film, if that makes any sense), Edward Fox is having an ‘off’ day here. I like that he’s playing Burton’s brother (the film is dedicated to the late Burton), but not only does Fox fail to play Roger Moore as well as Roger Moore does (and Roger Moore could be insufferably smug at times), but he’s completely overboard and rather annoying. His hammy dialogue delivery actually sounds like he’s been poorly dubbed, but it really is Fox and he’s pretty awful. Much more effective are the always watchable Kenneth Haigh (albeit in an easily telegraphed role), a butch-looking Ingrid Pitt (her knockers look huge in this!), “Dirty Dozen” alum Webber, and rock-solid Antrim (essentially having the Jack Watson RSM role from the first film). Freitag plays a fascinating role in completely stiff, dull fashion, and by the time Olivier turns up it’s obvious who he’ll play. Sadly, he spends most of his time unconscious, and the rest of the time giving the same irritating, high-pitched vocalisation and performance he also gave in “The Boys From Brazil”. Greatest actor of all-time my hairy fat arse.

 

The horribly insistent music score by Roy Budd (“The Wild Geese”, “Get Carter”, “The Stone Killer”) is wildly inappropriate for the material as it sounds like music for a bad 70s cop movie, not a war-actioner from 1985. Look, overall the story in this is irresistible, even if it’s a bit slow in unravelling. It’s a good yarn, warts and all, but the first film is certainly preferable.

 

Rating: B-

Friday, October 19, 2012

Review: Femme Fatale (1991)


Nature reserve ranger Colin Firth (!) meets mystery woman Lisa Zane and seemingly instantaneously falls in love with her. Soon they are married, but then she disappears on the night of their honeymoon. Distraught and confused, he tries to locate her, leading to some very seedy locations, and equally shocking revelations (drug dealing, avant-garde, softcore S&M art projects, etc) about the wife he frankly barely knew. Meanwhile, some thugs (including the intimidating Pat Skipper, clearly having fun) keep smacking him around for some reason. Lisa Blount plays an actress who claims to have been very close to Zane back in the day. Billy Zane plays Firth’s sardonic artist buddy, whilst Scott Wilson is a psychiatrist who is crucial to the mystery.

 

Directed by Andre R. Guttfreund (who has directed episodes of “Picket Fences”, “Knots Landing”, and “L.A. Law”), this 1991 thriller isn’t especially good. Lisa Zane is clearly out of her depth in an impossible role, and Colin Firth, whilst likeable, seems to stand out like a sore thumb (He also appears to have no eyebrows, strangely enough) with his Brit accent. He sure as shit is a long way from Mr. Darcy.

 

What the film does have is insanity, thanks largely to the madcap screenplay by Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato (who both scripted “Catwoman”, “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines”, and “Terminator: Salvation”). This film is all over the map and has enough twists and turns that, whilst being kinda crap (the narrative is as confusing and choppy as hell), it’s also kinda watchable. The supporting cast isn’t bad either, Lisa’s brother Billy Zane (not much of an actor himself) is for a change surprisingly laidback and charismatic, whilst Scott Wilson, Pat Skipper (as a not-so smart thug who loves his work), and the late Lisa Blount (“Blind Fury”) all steal their scenes in colourful parts.

 

It’s silly as hell, there’s way too much going on, and Lisa Zane is clearly drowning, but you’ll keep watching just to see where the heck it’s all going. Disastrous ending, though, has one seriously questioning the protagonist to say the least.

 

Rating: C+

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Review: Paul


Best friends and sci-fi nerds Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are on a road trip in the US to Comic-Con and a bunch of alien-related landmarks like Roswell, New Mexico and Area 51, Nevada. On their way to the latter, the two Brit twits see a car crash, and when stopping to help, they come across something out of their wildest fantasies (well, not the ones involving chicks with three breasts- oh, I’m so with you there, guys!). They encounter a small alien being. It turns out that his name is Paul. Yes, Paul. Voiced by the very recognisable Seth Rogen, he’s a foul-mouthed, chain-smoking, smart-arse, completely unlike anything you’d expect. Whilst a bunch of spooks led by humourless Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman), and dispatched by an entity known as The Big Guy (but you can call her Zuul), are chasing after Paul, the two buddies are now forced to drive Paul to a rendezvous with his spaceship. Along the way they pick up a one-eyed, religious zealot (Kristen Wiig) whose faith is totally obliterated by Paul’s very existence. John Carroll Lynch plays Wiig’s nutjob, gun-toting father who also pursues our RV driving travellers. Bill Hader plays a nincompoop agent, David Koechner is a redneck (No, really?), and Jane Lynch is amusing as a bartender at an alien-themed dive. Blythe Danner (more sad than funny) has a role as an elderly woman who had an alien encounter when she was young, and it has made her life hell ever since.

 

I never warmed to the rather unpleasant characters Simon Pegg and Nick Frost played in the overrated “Shaun of the Dead”, nor did I think the follow-up “Hot Fuzz” was all that much better. Now they’ve come together to write and star alongside Seth Rogen in a nerdy alien comedy from 2011 directed by Greg Mottola of “Superbad” fame. It’s not up to the hilarious standard of “Superbad”, and in fact, it’s pretty uneven. However, Pegg and Frost are for once actually quite likeable, and the film has its moments.

 

The caricatured portrayal of Fundamentalist Christians is a sticking point even for an atheist like me, however. Yes, it only mocks those who believe in a 6,000 year old Earth and Intelligent Design, but still, it was unnecessary (it belongs in another film entirely) and unfunny. The characters played by Kristen Wiig and John Carroll Lynch just aren’t funny, and occupy too much of the film’s length. Actually, even the movie reference gags are hit and miss (The best are gags centred around “Close Encounters” and “Mac and Me”). The star voice cameo, for instance, flew over my head until right at the very end. It just wasn’t as funny as it should’ve been, nor is the film as a whole. When Wiig gets to use the most famous line from “Aliens” against Sigourney Weaver herself, it made me groan, not laugh. One of the funniest laughs about an illegal immigrant isn’t even a movie reference, just a genuinely funny gag.

 

The best and worst thing about the film is actually the title character. The CGI FX are genuinely impressive, Paul looks almost real, and certainly has been rendered with convincing solidity. Unfortunately, once the voice of Seth Rogen is heard and Paul is revealed to be a foul-mouthed chain-smoker (of various substances), my heart sank a little. Some of Rogen’s work is funny, even when going for lowest common denominator stuff like his his annoyed response to being asked if he’s going to insert an anal probe into our protagonists. But it’s just so lazy, disappointing (a stoner alien? Really? Yawn...), and tiresome after a while. And whilst it’s likely meant to be intentionally wrong, the match of Rogen’s voice to the visage of Paul actually works against believing Paul as a real film character. I know it’s a comedy, but I’m still meant to believe him to be a real character for 100 minutes or so, and I’m afraid I never quite did. He was like “ALF” (quite a lot like him, actually), but more uncouth, and a lot less funny (That show was hilarious, and I won’t hear otherwise!). So the fine FX work is essentially for nought, and Paul ends up as fake as the one-eyed Fundamentalist nut played by Wiig.

 

Still, this is a lot warmer and more likeable than the previous Pegg and Frost adventures, and I kinda had a good time with it. It’s just uneven and ultimately not what it could’ve and should’ve been. It’s one of those films on the borderline between B- and C+, but what the hell, I’m in a good mood.

 

Rating: B-

Monday, October 15, 2012

Review: Burke & Hare


Set in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 1800s, Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis star as the title duo, ne’er-do-well Irish immigrants who find a lucrative trade in supplying Dr. Robert Knox (Tom Wilkinson) with cadavers for anatomical study. Knox is rivalled by Dr. Alexander Monro (Tim Curry), who tends to get all the freshly hanged bodies of criminals for his own school, but Burke and Hare have a unique way of acquiring cadavers: murder. How long can Burke and Hare keep making a killing (quite literally I might add) until the militia (headed by Ronnie Corbett!) catch on? Meanwhile, Burke is smitten with an enterprising, wannabe actress (Isla Fisher, of all people), who needs funds to put on an all-female stage play of Shakespeare’s ‘Scottish play’. Jessica Hynes plays Hare’s opportunistic wife, Hugh Bonneville is a local Lord, Christopher Lee plays Old Joseph, and Bill Bailey is a hangman who serves as the film’s narrator.

 

I wouldn’t exactly call this a return to form for director John Landis (“The Blues Brothers”, “An American Werewolf in London”, “Trading Places”), but this 2011 grave-robbing comedy is at least a whole lot more watchable than his last release, 1997’s “Susan’s Plan”. As written by Piers Ashworth and Nick Moorcroft, it’s not gut-bustingly funny, but better than you’ve heard, and a pleasant diversion for 90 minutes or so. One of the five (yes, five!) production companies credited is Ealing Studios, and whilst it’s a very different company today, you’d do best to think of this as more of a witty (if lesser) Ealing film than a film from the director of hilarious films like “The Blues Brothers” and “Spies Like Us”. Not every comedy is going to be a laugh-a-minute, and this is certainly the case here, presumably intentionally. Having said that, it’s still not as funny as it should’ve been. You would also be best advised to forget any notions you have of the real-life Burke and Hare, because in Landis’ version, the duo are likeable scallywags, and in one case, a light romantic lead. Also, the ending is complete bullshit, historically speaking. I must admit that I’m very much interested in this story, having seen at least three films featuring the title characters or at least fictional versions of them. “The Body Snatcher” (starring Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Henry Daniell), in particular, is an excellent film, even if the characters are renamed. So, although this film isn’t as good as it could’ve and should’ve been, it’s not bad.

 

The film definitely starts well. Tim Curry’s very first moment on screen is hilarious. He’s a sadly underused talent. In fact, he’s sadly underused here, the highpoint whenever he’s on-screen. Although Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam tend to be better directors of macabre comedy, Landis shows an adeptness for British black comedy by having the film’s narrator (Bill Bailey, in a role that really ought to have gone to a Scottish comedian like Billy Connolly) also be an executioner. I also love the idea of an all-female version of ‘The Scottish play’. I mean, it’s terrible, but funny at the same time. And at least it’s Scottish. There’s some good lines, throughout, particularly a scene where Fisher and Pegg describe their jobs in euphemisms. Pegg refers to his work as ‘Surgical Supplies’. Even better is Pegg’s line ‘Y’know, I had confidence in a fart once. And I shat all over myself!’. I’m still laughing at that one right now. I also laughed at Serkis’ idea of foreplay.

 

As with any Landis film, careful attention has been paid to casting, with cameos by such luminaries and Landis favourites as Jenny Agutter (“An American Werewolf in London”), Ray Harryhausen (stop-motion FX whiz of “Jason and the Argonauts” fame), Michael Winner (director of “Death Wish”), John Woodvine (“An American Werewolf in London”), and Costa-Gavras (a director who does cameo duty in several Landis films). Christopher Lee appears in a funny, but blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo as Old Joseph. After this and playing a leper in “Season of the Witch”, I must admit I’d be OK with Lee retiring at this point. His recent roles haven’t seen him in a very dignified light, nor gotten much use out of him for the genuine talent he has been for so many decades. I also think comedian Ronnie Corbett (isn’t he like 90 as well?) is not especially well used as a member of the constabulary. I’m not the biggest fan of Tom Wilkinson and find him a far too ubiquitous presence in films, but he’s quite fine here as Dr. Knox. Isla Fisher is also quite amusing and adopts a not terrible Scottish accent as well.

 

The biggest assets of the film are its two perfectly chosen stars, with Serkis the more naturally scummy of the two, and Pegg the classic ne’er do well. They have a fine chemistry between them, and whilst I might question the cuddly treatment of the characters, it’s no fault of the actors. Topped off rather appropriately by a Proclaimers song (yes, that one), this film is pretty watchable. It isn’t exactly good per se, and it probably should have been better. It is, however, a lot better than it could’ve been. Landis shows himself to be a bit rusty, but that is unsurprising for his first theatrical film in over a decade. The film is a pleasant diversion at the very least. Just don’t expect consistent belly laughs, because it’s not that kind of comedy.

 

Rating: C+