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Showing posts from September 27, 2015

Review: Darkman

Liam Neeson stars as Dr. Peyton Westlake, a dedicated scientist and loving boyfriend to lawyer Julie Hastings (Frances McDormand), whom he has just popped the question to. Westlake is aiming to perfect an artificial skin for burns victims, but when Julie stumbles upon criminal information about her rich contractor boss Strack (Colin Friels), Strack sends mobster Durant (Larry Drake) and his goons to find Julie and the incriminating documents. Instead, they find Westlake (well, they are in his lab after all), and after beating the snot out of him, they blow his lab up, sending Westlake’s body sky high (in a moment I used to rewind and watch over and over as a young man. Sick, I was). But Westlake is not dead and somehow finds himself at doctor Jenny Agutter’s hospital with burns covering the majority of his body. The doctors use experimental treatment that fixes his massive pain, but also gives him super-strength and some uncontrollable anger issues. Fleeing the hospital, Westlake hole…

Review: Killers

An emotionless, meticulous Japanese serial killer (Kazuki Kitamura) records his misdeeds and posts the videos online where they are viewed by a brooding Indonesian journalist (Oka Antara) in a troubled marriage. Although a loving father, the Indonesian man seems to have a dark side too, and soon he is committing his own acts of violence, albeit with different motives (He is pretty much forced into killing someone, though he seems to find afterwards that he liked it). And then Kitamura decides to introduce himself to Antara online, after viewing Antara’s own grisly video, and a strange, twisted relationship begins between the two men as Kitamura sees himself the teacher to Antara’s pupil. Meanwhile, the seemingly sociopathic Kitamura is also experiencing some kind of feelings for a friendly flower shop girl. He wouldn’t hurt her, would he?

Co-directed by Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel, from a screenplay by Tjahjanto and Takuji Ushiyama, this 2014 Japanese killer-thriller (produced by…

Review: Way of the Dragon (AKA Return of the Dragon)

Bruce Lee travels to Rome to help out a cousin (Nora Miao) whose restaurant is currently being harassed by the local mafia (led by Jon T. Benn) who want them to sell. After Lee manages to take down Benn’s two henchmen (martial artists Robert Wall and Hwang Ing-shik), an American fighter (Chuck Norris!) is called in to take Lee out. Ping Ou Wei plays Mr. Ho, the slimy interpreter for mafia don Benn.

I guess Bruce Lee figured he could direct just as well as Lo Wei, but this 1972 martial arts film from the actor-writer-director-arse-kicker isn’t up to the standard of his two efforts with Lo Wei, “The Big Boss” and (his best film) “Fist of Fury”. This one is a bit better than the silly “Enter the Dragon” (directed by Robert Clouse), but really only comes alive in the action scenes. Silly sound FX or not, you really can’t get much better than Bruce Lee taking out practically a dozen guys with a pair of nunchuks. Nunchuks, people! So it’s not really a good movie, but it’s got some iconic ac…

Review: The Shadow

We begin in Tibet in the 1920s, where a black-hearted warlord (played by that wonderful Asian actor Alec Baldwin) who is taught by Tibetan monks to turn his frown upside down. Or something like that. Anyway, cut to years later in New York, and that same rogue is now called Lamont Cranston. He now spends his nights fighting crime as the mysterious, mind-controlling vigilante known as ‘The Shadow’. However, ‘The Shadow’ is about to meet his match in the form of Shiwan Khan (John Lone), who like his ancestor Genghis Khan, is hell-bent on ruling (and presumably enslaving) the world. This plan seems to involve Shiwan Khan getting into the head of a top nuclear physicist (Sir Ian McKellen) to construct a nuclear device for him. Penelope Ann Miller plays McKellen’s daughter, Margo Lane, whose help Cranston/Shadow enlists. Tim Curry plays a slimy, lascivious scientist in cahoots with Khan, and who has designs on Margo. Joseph Maher and Max Wright turn up as museum curators, Ethan Phillips is …

Review: Smokin’ Aces

Coke-snorting Vegas magician Buddy ‘Aces’ Israel (Jeremy Piven, in his sleazy, blurry-eyed element) gets so involved in the criminal underworld that he starts to think he’s a big man, and decides to sell some important information. Naturally, the mob ain’t too happy and put a $1 million bounty on Buddy’s head, with all manner of weirdos (notably the Tremors, a band of feral-looking psychos clearly inspired by “Mad Max 2” and “Romper Stomper”, one of them played by Chris Pine), professional killers (including emotionless Nestor Carbonell, and master-of-disguise Tommy Flanagan), and wannabe tough guys coming out to rub the little weasel out and collect the dough. Ryan Reynolds (surprisingly effective) and Ray Liotta are a couple of FBI guys trying to stop the fit hitting the shans, with Andy Garcia playing their unconvincingly Southern-accented boss. R&B singer Alicia Keys makes her solid acting debut as a Pam Grier-inspired hit-woman, with a startlingly tough-looking Taraji P. Hens…

Review: 300: Rise of an Empire

Whilst King Leonidas is off battling the Persians with his 300 men, Themistocles (Sullivan Stapelton) and his own Greek army take to the seas to battle Persian ruler Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his fierce navy general Artemisia (Eva Green) on a different front. Lena Headey, David Wenham, and Andrew Tiernan reprise their roles as Queen Gorgo, Dilios, and treacherous hunch-backed Ephialtes, respectively. Aussie Callan Murphy and “Spartacus” TV actor Peter Mensah also have roles.

I wasn’t overly fussed with the first “300” from director Zack Snyder (whose “Watchmen” and “Man of Steel” I enjoyed immensely), it was all artifice. Wonderful artifice, but completely hollow. As someone who loves the way Hollywood used to make historical epics, it just wasn’t my bag. Now comes this 2014 film with some events running concurrently with the first film. Co-written by Snyder along with Kurt Johnstad (“300”, “Act of Valour”), but directed by Noam Murro (a music video graduate), it’s based on the gra…

Review: The Travelling Executioner

Stacy Keach stars as the title character, a former prison inmate now working for The Man, who travels from town to town in the early 1900s with a portable electrocution device to carry out the government’s executions. Seemingly more of a huckster than an instrument of the law, Keach nonetheless seems to take pride in his work, and tries to calmly take his ‘customers’ on their final journey to ‘the fields of Ambrosia’. His latest assignment is executing Marianna Hill and her fellow immigrant brother (Stefan Gierasch). The latter goes smoothly, however legalities see Hill gaining a temporary stalling in her execution. In the meantime, Keach starts to develop romantic feelings for her, and he also takes up an apprentice in young Bud Cort. M. Emmet Walsh plays the sleazy-looking prison warden and Charles Tyner plays a local yokel.

A terrific, colourful performance by Stacy Keach can’t even come close to saving this 1970 nonsense from director Jack Smight (“No Way to Treat a Lady”, “Harper…

Review: Night Tide

Dennis Hopper is a sailor on leave hanging around Venice Beach when he catches sight of pretty Linda Lawson in a jazz bar. He awkwardly tries to chat her up, but after a strange woman (The singularly named Cameron, an occultist in real-life apparently) speaking a foreign language approaches them (in a scene right out of “Cat People”), Lawson excuses herself and leaves abruptly. Hopper follows after her and after talking a bit, she agrees to see him again the next day for breakfast. Turns out she’s part of a carny attraction pretending to be a mermaid. However, after chatting to some locals (including Luana Anders), Hopper learns that there are sinister rumours about Lawson, including the deaths of two previous suitors. Lawson herself, meanwhile, tells him something even crazier…she’s a REAL mermaid! Gavin Muir plays the drunken ‘Captain’ who runs the mermaid sideshow gimmick, claiming to have rescued the orphan as a young girl from Mykonos.

Moody, but not entirely successful oddity fr…

Review: Cocoon

Inhabitants of a Florida retirement home (Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley, and Hume Cronyn) experience a rejuvenation when (breaking and) entering a nearby pool next door. Have they found the fountain of youth? The house is being rented by Brian Dennehy, who along with several others (including Tahnee Welch and Tyrone Power Jr.) have hired Steve Guttenberg’s boat to sail out and pick up what look like giant shells or pods. It’s not long before Guttenberg realises that Dennehy and company are actually aliens, on a retrieval mission to take their cocooned brethren back home, after having been left behind on a previous voyage. They are storing the cocoons at the bottom of the very same pool the old-timers are frequenting, and Dennehy is not at all happy when he learns of these trespassers, especially now that word of the pool has spread through the entire home. Jessica Tandy plays Cronyn’s wife, worried that Cronyn might slip back into his old amorous ways, Jack Gilford is the one sceptic am…

Review: Locke

Tom Hardy plays a construction engineer and family man driving from Birmingham to London. We follow him on the long drive as he makes and answers several phone calls (hands free, of course) throughout dealing with both professional and personal crises all at once. And yes, that’s all the plot synopsis you’ll get out of me. You’ll thank me for being vague later.

What at first sounds like “Buried” in a moving car (shot in less than two weeks to boot!), this 2014 film from writer/director Steven Knight (writer of “Eastern Promises”, writer-director of the unusual Jason Statham flick “Hummingbird”) is not that kind of film at all, really. It’s not a gimmicky thriller at all, but a rather sad drama, and not a plot or action-heavy film. Much more internal than “Buried”, this is a one-man acting exercise and Tom Hardy is more than up to the task. There’s something rather moving about it. This guy has fucked up and he’s desperately trying to patch everything up, whilst also dealing with a ten…