The Dead Pool (1988 USA)

“If you wanna play the game you better know the rules, love.” So sayeth Harry Callahan. Thankfully, director Buddy Van Horn and his team knew how to end the franchise on a high note. This is just as good as its two predecessors. In fact, Sudden Impact and The Enforcer were both pretty lackluster to the point of being almost boring. At least this swansong for Harry has a high degree of pure 80’s trash going for it. You want rock music videos, silly accents, some amusing dialogue, Uzi machine guns ejaculating at glass elevators and even a high speed car chase that involves a toy? With The Dead Pool, you’ve got all that and more.
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The Assassination Bureau (1969 United Kingdom)

‘The Assassination Bureau Ltd.’ was an incomplete novel by Jack London. The 1969 film version was produced by Michael Relph and directed by Basil Dearden. Crusading journalist Sonya Winter (Diana Rigg) uncovers the existence of a secret society of hired assassins operating at the turn of the 19th century. Their founder is cocksure Russian nobleman Ivan Dragomiloff (Oliver Reed). He is hired by Sonya to murder…himself. Feeling the Bureau to have become complacent, he accepts the challenge. Sounds like quite an ominous plot!
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Magnum Force (1973 USA)

Just in case the viewer gets carried away, or the protagonists on the screen, Harry earnestly repeats throughout Magnum Force that “a man’s got to know his limitations” and “there’s nothing wrong with shooting, as long as the right people get shot.” So bullets in bare breasts are acceptable, because the topless ladies in a swimming pool or nudes stoned at “$900 an ounce,” reinforce the morality: people who take off their clothes may have been asking for it. There’s also a gratuitous murder of a prostitute, climaxed with a shot of her killer’s face grinning through her spread legs. If that’s not offensive enough, in a dvd extra from the copy I have, shady-looking script writer, John Milius, suggests that Italians are not real Americans. [Read more…]

The Jungle Book (2016 USA)

Too much CGI can go stale very fast if the story cannot keep up. The seams will start to show and the minutes will turn to hours. Looking at all the frames of The Jungle Book, other than Neel Sethi as Mowgli, everything is wall-to-wall CGI. But the sense of story is so compelling I lost myself totally in this world. I was awestruck by the level of visual details of each creature that occupies the screen. The facial expressions mirroring its running gamut of emotions, the physical movements of each animal, the pitch-perfect voicing – who wouldn’t believe they possess a human soul? Jon Favreau really cemented his directing skills with this film.
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Lock Up (1989 USA)

(Living the dream. Sly’s got a new boyfriend and some cat food. Talk about Mr Hollywood!) Frank Leone (Sylvester Stallone) is a saint. Literally. He has to do time in the big house for avenging the brutal beating of an elderly man. And he’ll only break out of prison if there’s a funeral for a loved one, or the old man that he avenged. Then back to his cell he will go like a good ‘un. Heck, when he has any free time he even spends it with his kids. And not even his blonde girlfriend, looking on approvingly, can stop him. Not a racist bone in his body either, but as an Italian stallion, he can see through those racist Anglo-Saxon types. Like warden Drumgoole and his guards, Manly and Wylie. These are the bad dudes. Lock Up isn’t subtle. [Read more…]

Mad Max (1979 Australia)

Heavily drawn from his observations of the 1973 oil crisis’ effects on Australian motorists and the 1975 film, ‘A Boy with his Dog’, director George Miller, with first-time screenwriter James McCausland, created one of Australia’s best known films: Mad Max. The first of several in the series, this movie tells the story of a dystopian future, where the scarcity of oil has begun to cause the collapse of civilization. Law and order are barely holding on within the towns while the highways are controlled by the outlaw gangs.  Despite popular belief, the film wasn’t a hit in the USA until later. It wasn’t until 1982’s Mad Max 2 (retitled The Road Warrior in America), that Americans started to love the original film. In the meantime, 1981, horror author Stephen King dismissed Mad Max as a “turkey” in his book, Danse Macabre. [Read more…]

Spectre (2015 United Artists)

The Sam Smith theme tune is s**t, obviously, but the rest of Spectre is quite superior to most other 007 entries in the long and tortuous franchise going back to before most of us were even born. Heck, this may even be my favourite. If you’ve wanted a Bond film that successfully merges Craig’s gritty Casino Royale, with all the old school touches, look no further. Director Sam Mendes tries to create massive story-arcs that span 4 films! Adding to that he attempts to weigh in on Bond’s steely personality, giving him a back-story that almost turns him into Bruce Wayne. (Don’t laugh) In modern parlance, this is some deep s**t. [Read more…]

The Forbidden Territory (Dennis Wheatley)

This was a smash hit in 1933 for its first time author. And he never looked back. By the 1960s he was selling a million books a year. He was never ‘big’ in America though, and with his elitist views and prudish characters, Wheatley’s name has faded into near obscurity now. As well as being well written from a technical perspective—plot, story, dialogue, exposition, The Forbidden Territory is also an interesting window on the late British Empire. For this reason, if no other, the books of Dennis Wheatley are worth reading. If you have a warm fire and a comfortable reading chair, this slim novel should provide a top-hole evening of very British entertainment: wealthy debonair characters (resolutely heterosexual) tanning the hide of uppity foreigners. It almost makes one wish for the return of the British Empire. [Read more…]

The Lord of the Rings: The Twin Towers (2002 New Zealand/USA)

So the journey continued with ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.’ This review will assume you have seen the first film, ‘The Fellowship of the Ring.’ Which is fine because Peter Jackson, at the helm of this massive production, assumes you have seen it as well. Intelligently, Jackson does not begin with a redundant and unnecessary prologue. He dives right into what the filmmakers considered the hardest segment of the trilogy to make.  [Read more…]

Assault On Precinct 13 (1976 USA)

Labelled an “auteur” by the French and a “bum” by his compatriots, John Carpenter will never get the acclaim of a Spielberg or a Hitchcock. I’m siding with the Americans…The best thing about “Assault” is its bare-bones construction. There’s precious little backstory, no real explanation for the heinous actions of the gang members, no extraneous “character development” for the protagonists, no scenes where they talk about how they have a wife and kids at home or are retiring tomorrow, and very few cutaways from the main action once it gets going (the lone exception being a few sequences with a couple of clueless cops patrolling the neighbourhood who keep missing the siege on the supposedly abandoned precinct). [Read more…]

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