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Showing posts from October 9, 2016

Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

A sort-of prequel/origin story to the TV series, as American agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is forced to team up with Russian counterpart Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) to stop a nuclear bomb being created and used for nefarious means by nefarious types. In the mix is German mechanic Gaby (Alicia Vikander), whose missing father is a top scientist. Jared Harris plays Solo’s boss, Hugh Grant turns up as Harris’ British equivalent, and Elizabeth Debicki plays icy socialite Victoria Vinciguerra.

I went into this 2015 spy film from Guy Ritchie (“Snatch”, “Revolver”, “Sherlock Holmes”) and co-writer Lionel Wigram (“Sherlock Holmes”, which he also produced) pretty blind, having not seen the TV series (despite being a Robert Vaughn fan), and only knowing the casting of both the show and this film adaptation. It’s actually pretty watchable, and Ritchie makes a decent stab at a cool 60s vibe right down to the use of split-screen and a jazzy opening number over the titles. In fact, the music …

Review: Rocky

After his opponent backs out five weeks before the fight due to injury, showboating World Heavyweight Champion boxer Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) comes up with a way to keep the date, but with a different opponent. Apollo’s new idea is to give a title shot to a local Philadelphia scrub (preferably as white as Apollo is black), thinking it’ll be an easy gig, and good PR for himself. He chooses lowly fighter Rocky Balboa (Sly Stallone), a southpaw with the nickname ‘The Italian Stallion’. No one thinks Rocky even has the slightest chance of winning, certainly not the cocky Creed, but not even crusty old trainer Mickey (Burgess Meredith). Rocky, though, just wants to go the distance, to prove himself. Meanwhile, Rocky starts up a sweet, tentative romance with shy pet store employee Adrian (Talia Shire), whose lousy brother Paulie (Burt Young) is a friend of Rocky’s. Joe Spinell plays a local loan shark/gangster, whom Rocky occasionally breaks fingers for to scrape together a few bucks in…

Review: Cinderella Man

Persuasive 2005 Ron Howard (“Parenthood”, “Apollo 13”, “A Beautiful Mind”) biopic of working class boxer Jim J. Braddock (Russell Crowe), a genuinely decent man who fought to feed his family during the Depression, despite injuries and a has-been tag. A perfectly cast Paul Giamatti plays Braddock’s manager, and Renee Zellweger is his supportive but concerned wife. Bruce McGill has a fine supporting role as Jimmy Johnston, the fight promoter who doesn’t see any crowd-pulling potential in Braddock. Craig Bierko turns up as a demonised version of Max Baer, the supposedly brutal heavyweight champion.

Crowe is absolutely astonishing here, and the story so winning (it’s like “Rocky” meets “The Grapes of Wrath”, with Braddock becoming a hero for the downtrodden just like Tom Joad), that one can overlook its flaws. Aside from the unfair treatment of the Baer character (I’ve heard on good authority that he wasn’t a monster at all), and overlength, one also has to contend with a seriously mopey,…

Review: All Neat in Black Stockings

Horny window cleaner ‘Ginger’ (Victor Henry) likes to drink beer, bang chicks, and hang out with his similarly inclined mate Dwyer (Jack Shepherd). He takes a particular fancy to Jill (Susan George), and vice versa. But there are complications (Ginger’s a dickhead, for instance), and Jill’s disapproving mother (Clare Kelly) for Ginger to try and win over.

Real-life tragedy is the only interest point to this completely boring blend of ‘Kitchen Sink’ drama and tits-and-knickers comedy released in 1969. Star Victor Henry was felled by one of life’s truly random, senseless tragedies when he was struck by a falling lamp post that had been hit by a car. He spent the next (and last) 17 years of his life in a coma, never to awaken before his death in 1985. He had only made a few appearances in film and TV prior to this, and I guess we’ll never know what he could’ve become. It can all change in an instant, people.

Directed by Christopher Morahan (a prolific TV director) and scripted by Hugh Whi…

Review: Paratrooper/The Red Beret

Concerning the Parachute Regiment in the Second World War, Alan Ladd plays a Canadian training to be a paratrooper with the Brits (Canada being part of the Commonwealth, the film’s cheap way of not earning heat with Ladd’s casting as the hero). He rubs his superiors somewhat the wrong way, and indeed is very cagey about his past. Susan Stephen is cast as the spunky parachute-packer who takes an interest in him. Leo Genn plays his commanding officer, Harry Andrews is a proudly Scottish RSM, Stanley Baker is a reckless instructor who doesn’t take too kindly to Ladd’s showing him up. German actor Anton Diffring appears in a small part as a fellow paratrooper, a strange bit of casting for the usual portrayer of arrogant Nazi villainy.

Aside from some of the worst rear-projection work I’ve ever seen in a film, and one dodgy performance from a surprising source, this 1953 Terence Young (“Dr. No”, “From Russia With Love”, “The Jigsaw Man”) WWII flick is reasonably watchable. Ladd and Genn ar…

Review: Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Lee Yeong-ae stars as the title character who took the fall for the murder of a child, and who has just been released from prison after 13 years, in which she had to contend with a hefty, sadistic lesbian (natch), and apparently found God somewhere in the process. Needless to say, she ain’t happy, and those who crossed her had better run and hide. Choi Min-shik plays a repugnant teacher, and Aussie character actor Tony Barry turns up in a surreal plot development as the adopted father of the title character’s daughter.

Boring, overrated, somewhat confusingly plotted (some say slowly revealed, I say pretentiously, intentionally confusing) 2005 Korean revenge saga from Park Chan-Wook is the third in his Vengeance trilogy after “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” and the overrated “Old Boy” (starring Choi Min-shik). It’s filled with uninteresting and unpleasant people, and it’s all surprisingly bland, really. Like “Old Boy”, I expected something enjoyably sleazy (or at least entertaining like th…

Review: The Seven Per-Cent Solution

Seeing his friend and master sleuth Sherlock Holmes (Nicol Williamson) going through the horrors and hallucinations of a cocaine addiction, Dr. Watson (Robert Duvall) tricks Holmes into going to 1890s Vienna where the renowned Dr. Sigmund Freud (Alan Arkin) has agreed to cure him of his addiction. The root emotional cause of his addiction seems to stem from his childhood, and a surprising revelation about long-time nemesis Prof. Moriarty (Lord Laurence Olivier). Then Holmes, Watson, and even Freud embark on a mystery involving a kidnapped actress and former patient of Freud’s (Vanessa Redgrave). Joel Gray plays Holmes’ brother Mycroft, who is in on the deceit with Watson.

A revisionist take on well-known and well-loved characters can be a tricky sell. I personally loved what James Goldman did with the melancholic and moving “Robin and Marian”, but a lot of people disagree. This 1976 film directed by Herbert Ross (“The Turning Point”, “Pennies From Heaven”, “The Last of Sheila”, “Footl…

Review: They Came From Beyond Space

Silver-plated skull makes American scientist Robert Hutton immune from the aliens who are taking over people’s minds, and apparently making everyone speak with a monotonous, deep-voice. Meanwhile, this film’s makers appear to have taken over one of those American International ‘Red Scare’ sci-fi cheapies with footage taken from a Russian serial (“Planet of Blood” with John Saxon and Dennis Hopper comes to mind), and replaced the actors with extremely stiff, monotonous Brits, whilst directly ripping off a certain classic sci-fi film. Zia Mohyeddin plays Hutton’s Pakistani-British colleague and friend.

1967 sci-fi film is one of the few turds in the library of Amicus Films, who for a while were pretty competitive in the horror market with Hammer Films. But this Freddie Francis (“Dracula Has Risen From the Grave” for Hammer) turkey is a total rip-off, appallingly acted (Michael Gough isn’t bad, but he only has one scene- at the end of the film), and often unintentionally hilarious (alien…