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.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Review: Sisters


Margot Kidder (with a perfectly fine French accent) is Danielle, a sweet, if flighty French-Canadian model in NYC who brings home a man she met on a “Candid Camera”-style TV show they were both on. They make love, and the next morning Danielle wakes up to find the dude is dead. She blames it on her twin sister (until recently, conjoined) Dominique, who is apparently evil and murderous. From this point, the film shifts its focus to nosy journo Jennifer Salt, who witnesses the murder from her apartment across the street, and is convinced Danielle did it, not Dominique. She sets about proving it, with help from portly PI Charles Durning. Meanwhile, Danielle’s creepy-looking ex-husband (William Finley) has turned up and helps her dispose of the body inside her couch-bed combo, and clean the apartment up before Salt and the cops (led by Dolph Sweet) turn up. They’re already predisposed not to believe her because she’s annoying and has written unflattering things about cops in the past. So who did it? Sweet Danielle, deranged Dominique? Or someone else entirely? A youngish Olympia Dukakis plays a cake shop owner, while Barnard Hughes turns up as a journalist who once did a story on conjoined twins.

 

Aside from “The Untouchables” and “Carrie”, I’m not really a fan of Brian De Palma (the appalling “Body Double”, the equally terrible “Raising Cain”, the sexy but ridiculous “Femme Fatale”, etc.), who has a tendency to be aggressively flashy and is also prone to ripping of Hitchcock. This 1973 psycho-thriller of sorts was his first Hitchcockian film (containing elements of “Vertigo”, “Psycho”, and “Rear Window”), and for me, one of his better ones. It certainly doesn’t go so far as to actually rip-off Hitch the way “Body Double” (a sleazy and pathetic “Rear Window” rip-off) did, for instance. He also gets away with having a very Hitchcockian music score, because at least this time, it’s actually Bernard Herrmann (“Psycho”, “Vertigo”, “North By Northwest”) himself doing the gig. It’s a terrific score, if unsubtle and a tad indulgent on the oboe.

 

The film is frankly a bit too slow, the ending is a a disastrous non-event, and it’s all a bit silly at times. However, De Palma seems to be winking and having fun here, and this was a rare occasion where I was mostly having fun with it too. Especially when De Palma quits with the annoying (and now long-outdated) split-screen which isn’t nearly as clever as De Palma thinks it is. The ‘Peeping Toms’ opening certainly gives an indication that De Palma isn’t taking things too seriously.

 

The biggest flaw, really, is that while Kidder is excellent (if somewhat bizarrely cast, looking at things retroactively. We all remember her oddball antics in the 90s caused by manic depression), Salt is merely OK and a little irritating at times. Her mullet, in particular, is appalling. And I say that as someone who had a terrible mullet for way, way too long myself. I’m kind of an expert on the subject. Thus, the film loses something when we change protagonists, partly because Kidder has really won us over.

 

It’s not a great film, but it’s quite enjoyable, with nice small roles for Charles Durning, Barnard Hughes, and the Donald Sutherland-esque William Finley, who steals the show. Oh, and if you want to see Lois Lane’s tits (no, not Teri Hatcher. See “Heaven’s Prisoners” for that. Or don’t. They’re actually not spectacular at all), this is your movie.

 

Scripted by Brian De Palma and Louisa Rose, from a story by De Palma, this movie isn’t subtle, but aside from a few flaws discussed above, it’s pretty effective. Even the split-screen helps add some tension at times, much as I hate it being used at all.

 

Rating: B-

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review: Human Centipede


American girls in Germany (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie) find themselves in need of roadside assistance when their car breaks down on their way to a party. Eventually they decide to walk to someone’s house and make a phone call, and this leads them to the premises of a serious-looking man named Dr. Josef Heiter (Dieter Laser). He’s not terribly helpful, though. In fact, he’s incredibly messed-up in the head and after drugging a glass of water given to the girls, he has forced them to take part in his bizarro surgical procedures. The goal? To create a perfect ‘human centipede’. And how is this achieved? Let’s just say you definitely don’t want to be the middle part. Eeeewwwww. Akihiro Kitamura plays the third ‘part’ of the human centipede.

 

Oh boy. So it’s come to this. Bring that I don’t much like the torture porn side of horror, I knew going into this notorious 2009 film from-writer director Tom Six that I wouldn’t like it. What I didn’t know at the time was that...frankly, I don’t even think it’s really a movie. Or has a damn point to it.

 

Dieter Laser (who looks like a cross between Jean-Claude Van Damme and Scott Glenn) is fantastically cold-blooded and weird, so it’s a shame that his services are wasted in a single-minded non-film that features more heavy-breathing than in some pornos. And what’s the point? OK, you can create a human centipede. So? What for? It’s a fundamental flaw because even madmen have a rationale for what they do, even if it only makes sense to them. Here we get absolutely nothing.

 

And for a film that was supposed to be offensive and disgusting, not only do you see a whole lot less than your mind probably makes you think, but when you see the human centipede, it looks so incredibly absurd and fake that it’s not particularly disturbing. This is a stupid idea for a film, born, apparently, out of a joke the director made with friends about what to do with child molesters. Think about that, people! (John Waters’ infamous “Pink Flamingos” surely had to have been an inspiration, too). I wasn’t offended, just bored out of my mind. Usually when films have very little plot, they’ll compensate with action, comedy, or sex...gore even. But torture and medical procedures? No thanks.

 

I’m not going to call this film an abomination, it’s just not really much of a film, and certainly not interesting outside of Laser’s performance. Who the hell thought this would be an entertaining way to spend 90 minutes? How in the hell did they get sequels out of this thimble of an idea? There’s something actually quite infantile about the whole thing, when you think about it.

 

Rating: D-

Review: The Cold Light of Day


Henry Cavill plays a young businessman trying to deal with some rather dire financial problems, before deciding to leave it all behind and go on a sailing vacation with his family in Spain, including parents Bruce Willis and Caroline Goodall, as well as his brother and the latter’s girlfriend. Cavill decides to stop for supplies onshore whilst the boat is docked, and when he returns...everyone is missing, though the boat is still there. The corrupt local cops are no help, and things seem awfully suspicious to say the least. And that’s when dear old (hard arse) dad resurfaces to tell him that he’s actually CIA, and the family disappearance is all his fault. Terrorists (or are they?) have the family and won’t give them up until Willis gives them what they need (something about a MacGuffin...er...briefcase). Sigourney Weaver plays Willis’ old partner who is no help whatsoever (wanting the briefcase herself), Veronica Echegui plays a pretty local who helps Cavill, and Joseph Mawle plays a nasty but not very bright henchman.

 

A film starring John McClane, Ellen Ripley, and Superman that was released direct-to-DVD in Australia and barely given lip service at the American box-office? How is that even possible? Just watch this 2012 thriller from “JCVD” director Mabrouk El Mechri and writers Scott Wiper (director/co-writer of “The Condemned”) and John Petro (A TV producer in his first screenwriting endeavour). It’s not a bad film by any means (not nearly as bad as its reputation...or its title), and in fairness “Man of Steel” came out after this Henry Cavill vehicle, but it’s a watchable film that has been rather poorly presented. The plot is like “Breakdown” meets “Abduction” and “Taken”, and although slow-starting, it sure as hell leaves the latter turkey for dead. However, as intriguing as the central idea is, it’s a predominantly ugly, extremely murky-looking film. The shaky-cam employed by cameraman Remi Adefarasin (“About a Boy”, “Little Fockers”) is also entirely unnecessary (something that also plagued “The Condemned”), and combined with the horribly unattractive night-time scenes, make for an ultimately not very enjoyable experience. The local architecture looks lovely when the DP and his shitty digital camera allow it to be so, but I just think the negatives outweigh the positives with digital cameras, no matter how much of a philistine I sound at this point.

 

Cavill is OK in the lead, and although no great English speaker, Veronica Echegui is appealing. Similarly, French actor Roschdy Zem (as one of the people who are holding Cavill’s family) is no great English speaker, but isn’t bad in a rather shadowy role. Bruce Willis is appallingly underused and gives the absolute bare minimum, clearly not giving a fuck. It’s kind of a ‘Basil Exposition’ role, or more precisely, Jason Isaacs in “Abduction”. Willis also strikes me as the last guy who would have a yacht (even though the real-life Willis I’m sure can afford one), but perhaps that’s just me. Although playing a trigger-happy, pants suit waring villain isn’t the best use of Sigourney Weaver, she’s perfectly fine. I’ve just seen her do much, much better with far superior roles. Everyone’s gotta eat, I suppose. Meanwhile, if anyone can explain to me why Colm Meaney only turns up for a walk-on at the end, I’ll greatly appreciate it. His ‘special appearance by’ credit should really read ‘special walk-on by’.

 

Some of the car chases and action are really well-executed, even when it all looks so ugly. It’s a watchable film, but the ugly visual presentation proved quite a challenge for me, and the big names in the cast have done much more substantial work than this.

 

The plot is intriguing enough that you want to stay to the end to see what happens, but that and some well-staged action aren’t enough to make it a memorable film.

 

Rating: C+

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Review: The Thin Red Line (1964)


Centring on the invasion of Guadalcanal (in the Solomon Islands) in WWII, Keir Dullea is the Private always looking for a pistol to protect himself from potential death at the hand of enemy Japanese soldiers. He gets on the wrong side of embittered and battle experienced Sgt. Jack Warden, whose antagonistic tactics are either outright bullying with a side order of psychological torment, or a strategic attempt to prepare his men for the madness of war. Unfortunately, Dullea seems hell-bent on not following Warden’s sometimes petty goading masquerading as orders (e.g. Asking Dullea to complete a task he knows Dullea has already completed). When Dullea manages to kill a Japanese soldier (which seems to please the blood-thirsty Warden in a still shockingly brutal scene), something inside him appears to have snapped. Aren’t these two guys supposed to be on the same side? Are they almost as bad as each other? Ray Daley plays Capt. Stone, who always tries to look out for his men, but may be a little too compassionate for harsh combat situations.

 

I found myself completely unmoved by Terrence Malick's 1998 version of the James Jones WWII novel, as it was detached and depersonalised to a skull-crushingly boring and seemingly never-ending fault. This 1964 version from director Andrew Marton (best-known as a 2nd Unit Director on “55 Days at Peking” and “Ben-Hur”) and screenwriter Bernard Gordon (“The Lawless Breed”, “55 Days at Peking”, “Krakatoa: East of Java”) whilst a much lower-budgeted, B-movie kind of approach, was a whole lot more to my liking. It’s not without flaws; An overly insistent music score by the usually reliable Malcolm Arnold (“Hobson’s Choice”, “Bridge on the River Kwai”, “Inn of the Sixth Happiness”), supporting characters who aren’t afforded much depth, and a mid-section that is perhaps a little unfocused. But whenever the film focuses on the personal battle between the two main characters and the shocking amount of death that is war, it’s quite riveting.

 

Bullying Sergeant Jack Warden (perfectly cast) and Keir Dullea (as the Private who refuses to take any crap and continues to think and question in an institution that perhaps breeds obedience, conformity, and compliance) are both excellent. The way Warden bullies Dullea, and the latter’s eventual breakdown is quite reminiscent of the early (and best) scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket”. It may not earn any points for originality, but there’s some really strong stuff here and it makes war look far more maddening, dehumanising, psychologically damaging, and likely to get you killed, than any war film I’ve seen of, or before its time. Like “Platoon”, it really makes you believe that war truly is hell and gets the psychological issues of war down pat. The film also scores on an action level, despite limited funds, it’s all very exciting. Best of all is the incredible B&W cinematography by Manuel Berenguer (“King of Kings”, “Krakatoa: East of Java”, and a tonne of Spanish films), which is as nightmarish and harsh, as it is beautiful. There are images in this film I don’t think I shall ever forget, especially that swamp tricked with mines. And littered with dead bodies.

 

The remake failed to move me, but this one definitely gets the job done and is worth a look, especially if you were as disappointed with Malick’s version as I was. If this presents war as hell, then Malick presented it as an abstract painting to be admired from a distance. I have no idea which was more faithful to the source (I have a feeling the answer would be ‘neither’), but I very much preferred this version, even with some misgivings. At least it gets the damn point across in a little over 90 minutes instead of nearly three hours like Malick’s film.

 

Rating: B-