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Showing posts from October 16, 2016

Review: Night of the Iguana

Richard Burton is a defrocked minister (after displaying ‘conduct unbecoming a minister’) who is now forced to earn his wage by becoming a tour guide in Mexico for a shonky company looking for any excuse to let the now constantly sloshed guy go. His latest troupe are spinster-types from a Baptist women’s college, led by the histrionically humourless Grayson Hall, whose “Lolita”-esque niece (played by “Lolita” herself, Sue Lyon) immediately starts throwing herself at the rather disillusioned former minister, and soon his resolve is broken, earning him the wrath of Hall. Burton decides to make a little detour to attempt to regain his sanity, by stopping at a crummy jungle hotel run by widowed Ava Gardner, a cynical, but earthy woman whose deceased husband was a buddy of Burton’s and whose counsel he was hoping to have sought. Anyway, Gardner lets the group stay for a while, despite not officially being open for business yet. She’s too busy shaking her bon-bon with a couple of local caba…

Review: Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

Jedi knight Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his young apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) are tasked with venturing to the planet Naboo to negotiate an end to a blockade by the Trade Federation. However, things break down in an attack engineered by the shadowy Darth Sidious, and they must whisk Naboo’s Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) to safety. They eventually make a stop on Tatooine to find parts to repair their ship. There Qui-Gon makes fast friends with a young aspiring pod-racer named Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd). A slave along with his mother (played by Pernilla August), Qui-Gon senses great Force capabilities in the young boy. Ahmed Best does a motion-capture performance as Jar-Jar Binks, a well-meaning, but accident prone Gungan, whom Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan encounter and can’t seem to get rid of. Ian McDiarmid plays scheming Senator Palpatine, Ray Park is the formidable assassin Darth Maul, Samuel L. Jackson plays a Jedi named Mace Windu, Terence Stamp plays the Chancellor, …

Review: Bananas

Woody Allen stars as Fielding Mellish a New York nebbish and product tester who tries to win the affections of politically-minded Nancy (Louise Lasser). This results in Fielding getting caught up in the socio-political situation of a fictional Latin American country, eventually becoming leader of a rebel movement and subsequently, dictator. Charlotte Rae appears briefly as Fielding’s surgeon mother.

Woody Allen (“Annie Hall”, “Scoop”, “Manhattan”, “Interiors”) attempts with this 1971 film to imitate/pay homage to the comedy stylings of old, and shows that he is without question, not Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, nor The Marx Brothers. Co-scripted by Mickey Rose (Woody’s “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” and “Take the Money and Run”), this is a real chore and a bore, with pretty poorly dated Banana Republic nonsense to go with the failed Marx Brothers-esque anarchic screwball comedy and slapstick. Sure, revolutions and all that sort of thing still happens from time to time, but Banana Republi…

Review: The Ladykillers (1955)

Droll, ghoulish-looking Prof. Marcus (Sir Alec Guinness) leads a gang of would-be thieves planning to relieve an armoured bank van of its contents. He and his cohorts rent two rooms in the house of little old lady Mrs. Wilberforce (Katie Johnson). She’s a funny ‘ol thing whom the local constabulary treat with barely concealed tolerance for her constant appearances at the station to report all kinds of nonsense. Posing as musicians, Marcus and his crew pose as a group of classical musicians, and have a hard time planning the heist with Mrs. Wilberforce’s constant intrusions with tea and the like. The rest of the gang are the respectable-looking but cowardly Major (Cecil Parker), well-dressed, humourless Italianite hoodlum Louis (Herbert Lom), soft-brained and soft-hearted muscle One-Round (Danny Green), and a ‘Teddy Boy’ named Harry (Peter Sellers).

The best of the Ealing comedies, this 1955 crime-comedy from director Alexander Mackendrick (the wildly different- and brilliant- American…

Review: Black Christmas (1974)

Sorority house is inundated with creepy phone calls from a sicko who then starts bumping people off for three days, starting from Christmas Eve onwards. Olivia Hussey is our virtuous (but surprisingly not virginal, she’s newly pregnant) leading lady, John Saxon is the investigating cop, Margot Kidder is a boozy, foul-mouthed lush sorority sister, Marion Waldman is the Shelley Winters-esque house mother, Keir Dullea is Hussey’s volatile musician boyfriend, Art Hindle plays another boyfriend of one of the sorority sisters, Douglas McGrath is a clueless desk cop, and a young Andrea Martin plays one of the sorority sisters.

This effective, somewhat underappreciated 1974 Bob Clark film (the late director of such varying titles as “A Christmas Story”, “Deathdream”, “Loose Cannons”, and “Porky’s”) is one of the originators of the slasher pic, being made several years before the much more popular John Carpenter flick “Halloween”, the film many credit to having started the subgenre (not to men…

Review: Devil’s Angels

John Cassavetes and his wild pack of bikers stir things up in conservative small town, running afoul of sheriff Leo Gordon (very good) when a local girl is lured to their ‘lair’.

Directed by Roger Corman’s favourite production designer Daniel Haller (who also subsequently directed “The Wild Racers”), scripted by Corman crony Charles B. Griffith (“A Bucket of Blood”, “Death Race 2000”), and starring a young John Cassavetes, this 1967 AIP biker film doesn’t quite live up to its pedigree (the screenplay is especially disappointing given Griffith’s track record). There’s a terrifically downbeat, cynical ending, but in order to get to that, one must sit through a pedestrian rehashing of all the usual biker clichés. In fact, for about 75% of the movie, I thought I was watching a rip-off of “The Wild One”, right down to the scared townsfolk, antagonising bikers, and battle for control of the gang. Hell, even the ending that I liked, really isn’t all that unusual in its tone (“Easy Rider” and…

Review: 5 Flights Up

Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton play a long-married couple looking to sell their apartment in Brooklyn. Whilst we watch them go through the process of enduring potential buyers and looking for their new living space, a potential terrorist threat in the area looms and may do damage to the selling price they can get. Also, the couple’s dog is in ill health, with an expensive medical bill the likely outcome. Cynthia Nixon plays the couple’s realtor niece who tirelessly tries to negotiate deals. Meanwhile, we also see flashbacks to their early days as an interracial couple (played by Claire van der Boom and Korey Jackson) at a time when it wasn’t quite so common nor accepted by (im)polite society.

You might not think so on paper, but Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton make for a really lovely screen couple in this 2015 lightweight drama from director Richard Loncraine (“Richard III” and…“Firewall”). They both give solid performances and play a really likeable and convincing couple, so it’s a…