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Showing posts from May 10, 2015

Review: Five Man Army

Peter Graves plays an American mercenary dubbed ‘The Dutchman’ looking for four comrades to help steal $500,000 in gold dust from a Mexican military train with seriously protective armour, as well as seriously armed soldiers on board the moving vessel. These comrades are: Brawling and heavy-eating Mesito (Bud Spencer), stoic Japanese warrior ‘Samurai’ (Tetsuro Tamba), The Dutchman’s longtime comrade and explosives expert dubbed The Captain (James Daly), and thief-acrobat Luis (Nino Castelnuovo). Carlo Alighiero is their chief nemesis, the brutal Captain Gutierrez.

Although it’s definitely a spaghetti western, this 1970 film was directed by an American in Don Taylor (“Escape From the Planet of the Apes”, “Damien- The Omen II”), and reminds one of films like “The Professionals”, “The Dirty Dozen”, and “The Magnificent Seven”, rather than your average spaghetti western. Hell, if anything it’s a western version of TV’s awesome “The A-Team” with Peter Graves somewhere in between George Pep…

Review: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Dana Andrews plays a novelist engaged to Joan Fontaine. One day he witnesses a public execution with Fontaine’s left-wing, anti-capital punishment newspaper man father (Sidney Blackmer) about the wrongs of capital punishment. Blackmer comes up with a cockamamie idea for Andrews (looking for inspiration for a book) to incriminate himself to such a degree that he gets arrested for a recent murder, and set to be executed. The idea will be that Blackmer will arrive just in time with all of the plans that prove that he is innocent and that it was just a stunt to prove that an innocent man can be executed (That they could get arrested for dicking around with the law never seems to enter into their, or the filmmaker’s heads). In order for this to work, Fontaine must be kept in the dark, because she’s a silly bobble-headed girl who can’t be trusted to keep a story straight, right? So, Andrews agrees for some godforsaken reason to be the ‘guilty’ party and away we go. Complications come via a …

Review: Elmer Gantry

Set in the 1920s, Burt Lancaster is the title shameless travelling salesman and con artist with a two dollar smile and the gift of the gab. After catching a revival meeting with Sister Sharon Falconer (Jean Simmons) he discovers a new way to make a buck and is soon trying to ingratiate himself into her inner circle. She’s initially frosty and sceptical of the shameless womaniser, but she sees something useful in his speechifyin’ and bluster. Before long, Elmer’s delivering passionate oratory sermons about damnation and sin at her revivalist meetings across the country, making both of them rich and famous in the process. That is until Elmer’s human failings (chiefly the sin of lust) threaten to derail the whole damn thing. Also following them is a cynical, atheistic newspaper journalist named Jim Lefferts (Arthur Kennedy), who is friendly enough, but isn’t for a second suckered into their ranting and raving, entertaining as it may be. Patti Page (apparently a pop singer) plays a na├»ve …

Review: The Backwater

Set in rural Japan in 1988, the film concerns a teenager named Toma (Masaki Suda), whose father (Ken Mitsuishi) is a physically and sexually abusive to his current girlfriend Kotoko (Yukiko Shinohara), and presumably Toma’s divorced mother Jinko (Yuko Tanaka) many years ago. Although he occasionally beds down with Kotoko himself, Toma has a girlfriend too (played by Misaki Kinoshita), and he is worried that his sadistic father’s influence will see him turn into a similarly monstrous bastard of a man towards her (Cheating apparently isn’t a concern, though). Meanwhile, Toma makes occasional visits to see his mother, who cleans and processes fish caught in the polluted local river.

Although relatively well-acted across the board and featuring nice backwater Japanese locales, this 2013 film from director Shinji Aoyama and writer Haruhiko Arai is endlessly unpleasant to no real point and not a whole lot of merit. Hell, even the sex is boring and one-dimensional.

Set in the late 80s and ba…

Review: Captain Phillips

The true story of Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) and his container ship crew’s encounter with desperate Somali pirates. Barkhad Abdi is Muse, the one giving the orders amongst the gang of pirates, armed with machine guns and not much patience. Familiar faces Chris Mulkey, Corey Johnson, and David Warshofsky are amongst Phillips’ crew, whilst Max Martini represents the Navy SEALS, and Catherine Keener is Phillips’ wife, glimpsed in the opening moments.

It’s a shame that this 2013 film from director Paul Greengrass (“Green Zone”, “The Bourne Ultimatum”) and writer Billy Ray (director of “Shattered Glass” and “Breach”) has been met with the news that one of the men in Richard Phillips’ crew tried to sue him. It kinda puts a taint on the film that, at a moment’s thought, really shouldn’t be there. The complaint was more about a difference in opinion concerning decisions the Captain made, not slandering the guy as a whole, let alone the film. The film itself is definitely worth seein…

Review: Starter for 10

Set in the mid-80s, James McAvoy stars as a working class lad who is somewhat of a know-it-all, though more of a quiz geek than an intellectual (Bit like yours truly, actually). So much so that he gets into Bristol University with hopes of one day appearing on the team for University Quiz, which is broadcast on TV, something McAvoy grew up watching with his mum (Catherine Tate) and now deceased dad. He does indeed manage to get on the team as First Reserve, earning the disdain of older student and nerdy team captain Benedict Cumberbatch. He also falls for pretty and friendly teammate Alice Eve (who comes from money). Meanwhile, he also has a bit of a teasing relationship with lefty student activist Rebecca Hall, who seems more his down-to-earth match, if only he could get past Alice’s wonderful cleavage to see the other girl. Dominic Cooper and James Corden play McAvoy’s working class mates back home who warn him not to become a wanker, whilst Charles Dance plays Eve’s snooty father.

Review: Worth Winning

Mark Harmon plays a smarmy TV weatherman and all-round ladies’ man bachelor. His miserable married buddies (including Mark Blum and former “SNL” nobody and future Mr. Elaine Benes, Brad Hall) make a bet with Harmon. He has to get engaged to three specially chosen women within three months, and videotaped proof is necessary to complete the bet. After which he can simply dump them all like the prick he is. If he wins, Harmon gets Blum’s wife’s Picasso painting (The wife, by the way, is played by a humourless Andrea Martin). The three women are; ditsy Maria Holvoe, bored and married (!) Lesley Ann Warren, and smart, cultured but extremely strong-willed concert pianist Madeleine Stowe who loathes everything Harmon represents. Gee, I wonder which one he’s actually gonna fall for. Whoops, spoil…nah, I can’t even type that with a straight face. Arthur Malet mugs mercilessly in a recurring role as a movie ticket seller, and Kevin Dunn turns up at the end as a bidder at an auction.

Directed by…

Review: Swing Vote

Kevin Costner plays an apathetic blue-collar drunk from Texico, barely held together by his bright young daughter (Madeleine Carroll), whom he is struggling to maintain custody of. Carroll, although only 12, believes in doing your civic duty, and when sloshed ‘ol daddy fails to show up to vote, she decides to do it for him. She needed him to do it for her school project anyway. Unfortunately, something screwy happens with the voting card, there’s subsequently a tie between the two major candidates (and it’s crucial for the overall vote of the country, contri…er…conveniently), and it results in them coming to Texico, New Mexico to try and woo just one voter to their side as he re-votes. A guy who doesn’t give a crap, doesn’t think about much, and never wanted to vote in the first damn place. Now not only does he have the two politicians targeting him, but a huge swarm of media are camped outside his house, too. Kelsey Grammer plays the avuncular but smug incumbent Republican U.S. Presi…