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, March 15, 2014

Review: I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead


Clive Owen stars as a former London underworld figure who left the criminal life and has been AWOL for a while now. He comes back three years later to learn that his wayward younger brother (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), a small-time drug dealer has ended up dead in a bathtub apparently of his own hand. Owen wants answers, and although he has abandoned his old life, he is still not a man with whom to fuck. The audience already knows what has happened, Rhys-Meyers was brutally raped (and we also know by whom), and when Owen finds out, he considers the rapist to basically be a murderer. Malcolm McDowell plays a family man and respected businessman who has a secret life as a vicious gangster, Ken Stott plays a rival underworld figure to McDowell who wants Owen to get out of town (having himself basically picked up where Owen left off three years ago), Sylvia Sims plays Rhys-Meyers’ landlady, Noel Clarke plays one of Owen’s former associates, and Charlotte Rampling is somewhat improbably cast as a former lover of Owen’s (!), who is also a local restaurant owner.

 

A frustratingly detached and slow-moving crime tale from 2003, this Mike Hodges (best-known for the classic gangster pic “Get Carter”, also about dead brother-motivated gangster revenge) film wastes a wonderfully nasty performance by Malcolm McDowell, and a perfectly-cast Clive Owen. There’s a good yarn in here somewhere, but Hodges has slowed it all down into a stodgy coma. Ken Stott briefly livens it up in a Ray Winstone-esque turn (acting clearly isn’t a problem here), but it’s just a slog to get through this one.

 

It doesn’t start very well, to be honest. I would’ve cut out everything before the oddball cab driver and Malcolm McDowell, who in his memorable opening scene basically re-enacts a moment from “Caligula”. The film really is a shameful waste of a perfectly good Malcolm McDowell performance. After about 30 years of pretty much phoning it in, McDowell is truly nasty, in a scene-stealing performance that in a better film might’ve seen him earn an Oscar nomination. One has almost forgotten that this actor long phoning it in, was once the guy from “A Clockwork Orange”. You keep watching the film because you want to stick around for what should be a fittingly gruesome end for this thoroughly rotten character. But it’s a pretty dull watch for the most part, and I’d lay that at the feet of Hodges, not writer Trevor Preston (who wrote several “Ruth Rendell Mysteries” and hasn’t worked since this film it appears). The pacing is deadly, every scene seems to be unnecessarily drawn out. The ambient soundtrack annoyed me no end too, it just droned on and on, like the film itself. And is it me or has Charlotte Rampling started to look like Peter O’Toole in drag? Tell me I’m wrong, folks, but that and the 20 year age difference between her and Owen just struck me as a little odd (Usually the May-December thing is gender reversed, isn’t it? Weird thing is the role was also possibly going to go to Vanessa Redgrave or Julie Christie!).

 

No, this film just doesn’t satisfy, it’s too slow and detached for my tastes. “Get Carter” it ain’t, but I’m sure someone out there will enjoy the rather arty approach. Just not me, I wasn’t engaged much at all, and it needed a whole lot more McDowell.

 

Rating: C

Review: Black Heaven


A somewhat dopey young couple (GrĂ©goire Leprince-Ringuet and Pauline Etienne) find a seemingly abandoned mobile phone that belongs to a man exchanging cryptic messages with a mysterious woman. Some detective work leads the couple to a woodland area where the man and woman are in a car. On approach, our protagonists find the man and young woman are actually attempting to gas themselves. They intervene, saving the woman, a trashy blonde (played by Louise Bourgoin), but the man is unable to be revived. Leprince-Ringuet becomes obsessed with the blonde, trying to track her down. It turns out she is an obsessive gamer addicted to a game called ‘Black Hole’. He starts to play the game himself, hoping to woo her with his on-line avatar, whilst cruelly rejecting Etienne in the process (Someone has watched “Blue Velvet”, obviously). He’s hooked- but to the game? The girl? Both? This despite the warnings of the blonde’s rather intimidating brother, that she is mentally unstable, I might add. And things only get darker and more twisted from there.

 

Written and directed by Gilles Marchand, this 2010 thriller from France is disturbing, somewhat unpleasant, but at least it’s more interesting than your average film about teenagers. Co-written by Dominik Moll (Director of “Lemming”, which was written by Marchand), it also has something to say about how both computer games and girls can be addictive to a young man in their own way. And when you combine the two...look out. Points off for the dick lead character making out with a girl on her bed...with his shoes still on. Who the hell does that?

 

I’d call it a mixture of “The Virgin Suicides”, “Existenz”, and “Pretty Little Liars” (which I <cough> promise <cough> I’ve never watched...much), but even that doesn’t quite describe this rather weird, sometimes creepy and grim film. The film is pretty nicely shot at times, with nice woodland scenery early on, though obviously as the computer game storyline comes in, things become more insular. That game, by the way, is an hilariously twisted version of “Second Life”, which although I’ve had very limited exposure to it myself, I can see as being very addictive for some. Meanwhile, I have to say that not only is Louise Bourgoin extremely hot in a kind of trashy way, but Pauline Etienne has one helluva figure. Their performances, as with lead actor GrĂ©goire Leprince-Ringuet are quite solid, but Bourgoin and Leprince-Ringuet (whose character is frankly a bit of a louse) definitely have the meatier characters, the former especially.

 

I found this film interesting and disturbing. It is absolutely NOT a feelgood experience under any circumstances, however.

 

Rating: B-

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Review: Sitting Target


Hearing that his wife (Jill St. John, miscast with a wavering accent) is pregnant to another man and leaving him, hardened crim Oliver Reed breaks out of prison with his more outwardly charming cohort Ian McShane with the purpose of tracking down his wife and her lover, and killing them. He’s a real feminist, this one. Freddie Jones plays a creepy explosives expert who also escapes prison with Reed and McShane, Edward Woodward plays a cop hoping to nab Reed and protect St. John, and Frank Finlay is the rich crime boss whom Reed comes to call a favour from. Robert Beatty turns up as a gun dealer.

 

Directed by Douglas Hickox (who also gave us such cult gems as “Entertaining Mr. Sloane” and the all-star “Theatre of Blood”), this tough, incredibly grim-faced crime/caper from 1972 has a bad reputation from the few who seem to have seen it, and for the life of my I cannot understand why. For me, the harshness, ugliness, and grimness were actually positives, so perhaps that’s where others differ. But I think if you liked “Get Carter”, “Point Blank”, or “The Long Good Friday”, this is somewhat similar in tone at the very least.

 

Oliver Reed has an intense and intensely unpleasant screen persona, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing here. In fact, it means he’s perfectly cast (he even kicks a dog for chrissakes), and he and ratbag cohort Ian McShane (who nowadays tends to play Oliver Reed-type roles, ironically) make for a fine unscrupulous pairing. Freddie Jones, meanwhile, is his usual unrestrained self, and you wouldn’t want him any other way. If there’s any actor more capable of being creepy and unpleasant than Oliver Reed, it’s bug-eyed Jones, one of the best British character actors.

 

Edward Woodward is as solid- and rigid- as ever, playing a cop, which sure is some major casting against type right there. Some of the other actors end up a bit wasted (Frank Finlay especially), and I’m not a big Jill St. John fan, but honestly the only drawback here is some poor projection work ruining a potentially fun, nasty car chase/wreck towards the end. The bad 70s cop show music score by Stanley Myers (“No Way to Treat a Lady”, “The Deer Hunter”) has dated badly, too.

 

Scripted by Alexander Jacobs (“Point Blank”, “French Connection II”, and “An Enemy of the People”, with Steve McQueen), it’s a tough bastard of a film that deserves praise and more awareness. Pretty well-directed too, with an especially tense highwire prison break a standout. A good and underrated film awaiting rediscovery, with a prison that looks as harsh, brutal and ugly as its protagonist.

 

Rating: B-

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Review: Risky Business


In addition to the usual scholastic pressures of being a high-school senior, relatively affluent teen Tom Cruise finds himself in way over his head when his parents (dad played by Nicholas Pryor) leave him home alone for a few days. This is because Cruise, egged on by his wannabe sophisticate pal (Curtis Armstrong) decides to hire a hooker (Rebecca DeMornay). Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the cash on hand to pay, and when he returns from the bank, the hooker is gone and so is some of his parents valuable personal property. So he goes out in search of her, and before you know it, he’s basically running a prostitution service out of his parents’ house. DeMornay’s pimp, played by Joe Pantoliano is very unhappy to hear about this, but Cruise’s friends (who also include Bronson Pinchot) think it’s awesome. Meanwhile, as business commands much of his attention, his grades suffer. Richard Masur turns up as a recruiter from Princeton who comes to visit at a most inopportune time.

 

This 1983 teen sex comedy from writer-director Paul Brickman (“Men Don’t Leave”, a drama with Christine Lahti) is usually regarded as the pinnacle of the subgenre. I disagree because a) It’s so unfunny that I question whether it even is a comedy. It’s certainly no “Revenge of the Nerds” in my book, that’s for damn sure. And b) The film fails to get the comedy/realism balance right that the underrated “Last American Virgin” was far more successful at (as was “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” to an extent). Even the overrated “Say Anything” at least got the laughs, even if it failed on the drama. This is seriously ordinary stuff as either comedy or drama.

 

The mediocrity even extends to the irritating and monotonous 80s score by electronic outfit Tangerine Dream (“The Keep”, “Near Dark”, “Three O’Clock High”). Is the iconic scene of Cruise dancing to Bob Seger scene good fun? Of course, it’s the rest of the film I have a problem with. In fact, the entire soundtrack is good: Springsteen, Seger, Phil Collins, etc, so it’s a shame Tangerine Dream are all over the film. I especially have a problem with the central premise. I simply didn’t believe that this particular kid would and could trash his final year of high school and his whole potential future in such a short space of time and so spectacularly. I also don’t believe that any recruiter from Princeton would visit a prospective student at night. Truth kinda needs to be believable, strange as that concept might seem to Mr. Brickman. If the film is trying to be real and poignant, it jumps the shark early and keeps on jumping. Frankly, I would’ve vetoed the drama and tried for wholesale comedy instead.

 

I guess the chief selling point is supposed to be that Rebecca DeMornay gets naked a lot. I like nudity, but I don’t find Rebecca DeMornay attractive. She ain’t no Jennifer Connelly (circa 1990 or so) or Phoebe Cates (circa 1982) that’s for damn sure. It’s especially hard to accept Tom Cruise as the guy who can’t get a date (Mind you, there are those rumours ifyaknowwhatImeanandIthinkyado). Cast Curtis Armstrong in the role instead of the sidekick, and you’re closer to the mark, but then who would want to watch Booger from “Revenge of the Nerds” bone Rebecca DeMornay? Armstrong and future “Perfect Strangers” co-star Bronson Pinchot (sounding alarmingly normal) are actually well-cast in their roles, but not funny. There’s no comedy at all here (Case in point? Joey Pants is perfectly cast as a scummy pimp...to the point where there’s no humour involved. His rug does look more fake than ever, though). It’s a teen drama mixed with teen fantasy, and even then it’s only occasionally insightful and not particularly entertaining. Even the ‘wreck the parental car’ scene was later done far superior in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (Though here it at least gives us the film’s best line ‘Who’s the U-boat commander?’).

 

Nope, this one’s overrated. Even the ending (studio-imposed apparently) is a clunker because it overlooks a whole lotta stuff, like the $500 a certain person still owes by the end of the film. This one tries to straddle the line between comedy and reality, and it fails on both counts. But hey, everyone else on the planet thinks it’s a masterpiece. If you love it, good for you. I was bored. 

 

Rating: C

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Review: Boogeyman


Dopey brothers Danny Horn and Gabriel Steele inadvertently unleash hell when some silly roughhousing at the ‘ol Skinner residence leads to a monster-in-the-attic being released, which promptly (well, after the boys have left) kills Old Man Skinner himself. Their dad, the local sheriff (Eddie McClintock, from SyFy’s “Warehouse 13”) is charged with solving the crime, along with his partner Amy Bailey, who has a family secret to reveal. He also has to try and prevent his two inquisitive kids from becoming monster fodder, as well. The monster, for its part, goes around picking off random people- stoners, lesbians etc. But what it seems to really be after is Steele. Emma Samms plays the small town police chief. 

 

Not every SyFy movie ‘fracking’ sucks, and this 2012 film from director Jeffery Scott Lando and writer David Reed isn’t bad at all. It’s just generic, mis-titled (“Cain and Abel” would’ve been more appropriate) and kind of a “Pumpkinhead” rip-off when you think about it. It certainly has an 80s horror vibe throughout (not necessarily a good 80s horror vibe, though), although obviously much less violent. That said, it’s still pretty gory for a SyFy flick, so that was kinda nice. Rather than a literal boogeyman, this one’s your standard slasher/revenge deal. I gotta dock points for the two lesbians dying (nice to see SyFy’s TV fetish of lesbians, ala “Lost Girl”, “Defiance”, and “Warehouse 13” finally extending to their film output) but the pervert spying on them getting to live. That’s just not fair.

 

It’s not scary but there’s some nice use of fog and darkness at times, which I appreciated. A rather dumpy looking Emma Samms so much time trying and failing to keep an American (Canadian?) accent that her performance as a whole suffers. Then again, at least the cast isn’t filled to the brim with Eastern Europeans for a change, so maybe I should just shut up and appreciate what we’ve got. Eddie McClintock fares best as the smart-alec protagonist, whilst Danny Horn and Gabriel Steele are merely OK as his sons.

 

Can we please put an end to films with “Boogeyman” in the title? This isn’t awful, but c’mon, enough’s enough. The link to anything in the film here was tenuous at best. I mean, it was kind of a decomposed, reanimated corpse. “The Mummy” would’ve been a more accurate title and even that would be wrong. Anyway, you could do a lot worse than this (the other “Boogeyman” for instance), no matter what the title is.

 

Rating: C+