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Showing posts from July 12, 2015

Review: The Rescuers Down Under

In the Australian Outback…ish, a young boy (voiced by Norwegian-born Adam Ryen) is kidnapped by a nasty poacher (voiced by George C. Scott, who I believe is 1/100th Aboriginal- just checking to see if you’re awake!), after falling into a trap set by the hunter hoping to nab wild animals. Since the boy prevented him from killing the prized giant eagle (in Australia?) he was really after, he decides to keep the boy prisoner, in hopes of him leading him to the eagle’s nest. When an Aussie mouse (at least we do have those here) learns of this, he sends out the call for help, eventually picked up by the Rescue Aid Society, who deploy intrepid mice ‘rescuers’ Bernard (voiced by an intentionally timid Bob Newhart) and Bianca (voiced by Eva Gabor) to do the job. They are aided in their quest by albatross Wilbur (voiced by John Candy) and a local mouse adventurer Jake (voiced by Tristan Rogers, who is at least Australian). Frank Welker provides the voice of the hunter’s companion, Joanna the G…

Review: Death Wish II

After an attack on his wife and daughter enraged him to the point of vigilantism, architect Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) has relocated from NY to LA, and shacked up with radio personality Geri (Jill Ireland). His daughter Carol (Robin Sherwood) has never really recovered mentally/emotionally from her ordeal. Meanwhile, a bunch of street punks (Laurence Fishburne among them) are up to no good, and having already nicked Paul’s wallet, they see his address and decide to pay a visit. They brutally rape his maid, and when Kersey arrives home with Carol, they knock him out, kidnap Carol, rape her too, and then she has finally lost the will to live and kills herself. Time for Kersey to do what he does best, skulk about on the streets at night to catch and kill every one of these creeps, and maybe take out a couple of unrelated crims and lowlifes along the way for good measure. Meanwhile, he keeps Geri in the dark about his moonlighting habits, but NY cop Frank Ochoa (Vincent Gardenia) has t…

Review: Twisted

The serial killer film is perhaps the trickiest of films to get right. A comedy doesn’t have to be gut-bustingly hilarious all the way through in order to work well (“The Blues Brothers”, for instance, also functions as a musical), and a horror film doesn’t have to scare you within an inch of your life in order to be effective (“Child’s Play” is one of my all-time favourite horror flicks, but I hardly cower behind my couch watching it). But in the case (no pun intended) of a serial killer film, if you can work out who the killer is early on, then you find yourself twiddling your thumbs as the characters try to catch up to you. The best example I’ve seen of a killer thriller that was almost impossible to guess the killer would be the underrated Christopher Lambert film “Knight Moves”. You’d have to be extremely savvy to work out whodunit there. If it also happens to fail to engage you with its characters or filmmaking and so on, then it’s even more unlikely that the film will come up s…

Review: Bataan

Based loosely on fact and based partly on “The Lost Patrol” (cribbing footage from it at times too), this WWII film features Robert Taylor as the leader of a multi-racial band of soldiers facing insurmountable odds against the Japanese in a situation not too dissimilar from “The Alamo”. Lloyd Nolan is the irritable corporal whom Taylor may or may not recognise from a previous military engagement. Thomas Mitchell is the veteran separated from his unit and joining up with Taylor’s band of soldiers. Robert Walker is the young and naïve Navy musician who may be in over his head. Also in this ragtag platoon that ominously number thirteen are Desi Arnaz as a private, George Murphy as an air force pilot who is to play a key part in events if he can get his downed plane repaired, Roque Espiritu as the resident Phillipino soldier, Kenneth Spencer (quite good) as the token black soldier, and Lee Bowman as an inexperienced captain who was in charge until the more battle-hardened Taylor showed up…

Review: The Picture Show Man

Set in Australia in the 20s with John Meillon as the title character, a low-rent travelling showman who tries to bring the magic of motion pictures to small country towns. Harold Hopkins plays Meillon’s son and cohort, with John Ewart (who won an AFI award for this) the piano player they pick up along the way, after Texan rival Rod Taylor pinches Meillon’s previous piano man (a perfect but underused Garry McDonald). Taylor is also a richer and more successful picture show man than Meillon. Jeanie Drynan plays a young woman whom Ewart sweet talks, whilst Tony Barry plays a copper.

Not the Aussie classic about 20s-era movie making that I was hoping for, this 1977 film from director John Power (best known for the mini-series “The Dirtwater Dynasty” and “The Tommyknockers”) and screenwriter Joan Long (“Caddie”, producer of “Puberty Blues”) has good performances but a story that isn’t nearly as interesting as it could’ve been. I mean you’ve got a really interesting period in Australian ent…

Review: Somebody Up There Likes Me

The story of Rocky Barbella, AKA Rocky Graziano (Paul Newman, in the film that really made him, yet was originally slated for James Dean), a former NY hoodlum, occasional tenant in several correctional facilities, and army deserter, turned middleweight boxer. Rocky’s dad (Harold J. Stone) was a former boxer who gave his career up to be with Rocky’s mother (Eileen Heckart), and as a result became an embittered, bullying loser who mistreats both mother and son. Sal Mineo (who looks about 12 compared to Newman and was actually 17 at the time) and Steve McQueen appear as Rocky’s hoodlum neighbourhood pals, whilst Robert Loggia is a crim who sees a boxer in Rocky, Everett Sloane becomes Rocky’s trainer, and Pier Angeli is Rocky’s love interest.

Although I wouldn’t say Paul Newman entirely convinces as boxer Rocky Graziano, it’s still fascinating to watch a still emerging (and soon to be great) actor/movie star still kinda raw and figuring it all out. Don’t get me wrong, Newman’s performanc…

Review: God’s Pocket

Set in the late 70s, the title refers to a working-class town in Philly full of petty crims and the like. God’s Pocket, my arse it seems. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a small-time crook who along with a butcher pal (John Turturro) pulls off a heist…of a meat truck. Meanwhile, Hoffman’s dipshit moron son (Caleb Landry Jones) mouths off to an elderly African-American co-worker one too many times while working construction, and ends up a little bit dead for it. His mother (Christina Hendricks) is overcome with grief and sorrow, and demands that husband Hoffman find out how this happened, even though the other construction workers band together to call it an accident. She feels there’s more to it than that, but no one seems to want to help…because they know the deceased was a major knob who deserved his fate. Also turning up in town is washed-up journalist Richard Jenkins, who earns the entire close-knit community’s ire for writing a story about the incident and getting it all wrong. Now …

Review: The Wooden Horse

POWs held by the Nazis in Stalag Luft III during WWII decide to stage an escape via the unique plan of using a gymnastics vaulting horse to disguise the tunnel-digging. Leo Genn and Anthony Steel play the leaders of the escape, with Anthony M. Dawson, Michael Goodliffe, and David Tomlinson among the other prisoners. Peter Finch plays a wounded Aussie soldier in one scene.

A smaller-scale dry run for “The Great Escape” (and based on a true incident in the very same POW camp!, this Jack Lee (“A Town Like Alice”, “Robbery Under Arms”) POW escape film from 1950 isn’t too bad. Some scenes are alarmingly similar to the later John Sturges classic, and the film obviously comes up short in the comparison. In fact, the film’s best scenes are towards the end, after the escape attempt. Even then the film has to contend with a frankly very wooden (pardon the pun) Anthony Steel. He’s the weak link in quite a sturdy cast, with character actor Leo Genn acquitting himself rather well in a lead role, a…

Review: The Departed

Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon play two Irish-American Boston boys who grow up to be cops. However, whilst Damon was mentored from an early age by mobster Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) to become his inside man, DiCaprio gets picked by Capt. Queenan (Martin Sheen) and verbally abusive Sgt. Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) to be their own inside man into Costello’s gang. Both DiCaprio and Damon are looking for moles inside the two organisations, i.e. each other. Vera Farmiga plays a police shrink who becomes romantically involved with Damon, whilst also professionally seeing DiCaprio. Alec Baldwin plays Damon’s immediate superior on the force, who is oblivious to Damon’s true allegiances and (get this) puts Damon in charge of investigating…himself, basically. Ray Winstone plays Costello’s rough and tough right-hand man, whilst Anthony Anderson is a cop who graduated at the same time as DiCaprio.

Entertaining, but not one of the better films from director Martin Scorsese (“Taxi Driver”, “Ragin…

Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Ten years after the events of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, the Simian virus has seen ape dominance become so strong that the few human survivors are forced to enter ape encampment in the woods to ask leader Caesar (a motion capture performance by Andy Serkis) for access to a hydroelectric dam within ape territory that will provide power for the relatively few surviving humans. Of these humans, Malcolm (Jason Clarke) is the most peace-minded, along with his girlfriend (Keri Russell) and son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Caesar, although deeply distrustful of humans, senses that Malcolm may be different from the rest, and reluctantly agrees to the request. After all, any kind of resistance might lead to conflict and the loss of life on both sides. However, a few bad eggs on both sides of the human-ape equation (including ape-hating militant Gary Oldman and Toby Kebbel’s treacherous militant ape Koba) threaten to put a dampener on this ceasefire situation.

I enjoyed the previous “Rise of the …