Death Wish (1974 USA)

Few motion pictures have the notoriety of Death Wish: short sharp slabs of repulsive, sadistic violence that linger in the memory along with a theme–if you like the film then you must be an advocate of fascist exploitation cinema, or if you don’t like it then you are a bleeding heart liberal. Critics of the time hated the picture, calling it irresponsible for advocating vigilantism. What the critics of the time failed to see, as the film became a huge commercial success, was that they had the luxury to sit in their comfy secure high rise apartments as the people of the streets lived in fear of stepping outside their homes. At least in large cities like New York. [Read more…]

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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe (2005)

The Chronicles of Narnia is a film that couldn’t have been made in the 20th century effectively – it relies so heavily on special effects and digital tricks that even attempting to make it without all the digital trickery would have resulted in a B-film, regardless of its budget. With his experience as the special effects guy on several of the Batman films, director and producer Andrew Adamson did manage to put together one hell of a display. With all the visual do-goodery in place, and one of the best stories ever told to drive it forward, there wasn’t a lot to make the Witch and the Wardrobe fail… And of course, it doesn’t. [Read more…]

American Made (2017)

Mr Show Pony himself, Tom Cruise, is here recycling his usual mannerisms – the grin, the hand gestures – even revisiting his own cinematic past as a pilot. Yet this time around his showboating is not meant to be wholly admired. Originally, Cruise was liked by the public, then fell out of the public’s good graces for some reasons…sofa jumping on Oprah, shilling for a cult, suing gay porn star after gay porn star until they were pauperized…but now, due to his skill as an actor, he is conditionally liked again. Director Doug Liman, having directed The Bourne Identity and Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow, knows a thing or two about fast pace, intrigue, and the limits of idealism. And American Made really is American made! Amazing. [Read more…]

Seven Samurai (1954 Japan)

One of the greatest motion pictures ever made, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai is crafted with such grace, passion and dedication that every moment of its 207 minutes running time seems relevant to the plot, and it never feels overlong. Brought to life with remarkable control and composure, this sustains its grip on the viewer with effortless ease. Seven Samurai has inspired and influenced countless films and filmmakers over the years yet has never been bettered. This unfolds almost like a documentary, giving us every piece of the grand puzzle. [Read more…]

Dick Tracy (1990 United States)

Warren Beatty carries a lot of baggage for me. I don’t mean that literally. But he’s one of those actors that trigger my harsh judgments. When his career was flagging, like his dwindling youth, he tried to assume the mantle of an ‘intellectual’, hoping to hoodwink the public and media with pretentious crap like Reds. In reality he suffers from egomania and satyriasis. As for this production, I don’t need to Google if Warren dipped his wick in Madonna when the work day was over. Or if she sucked on his twitching lollipop. I just assume this happened. The two of them are so obvious. He could no more control himself (Warren Beatty is the epitome of the working stiff) than the slag heap could at this stage in her career. Is she a ho? Lets just say the last time she felt ‘like a virgin’ would have been in her mother’s womb. [Read more…]

The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2 (1997)

With Jurassic Park being such a huge success, how can you make a sequel? This film was actually based loosely on a sequel novel, The Lost World, that Michael Crichton wrote. This one was really over- hyped, and unfortunately, it succeeded in recruiting an army of haters that trash it with their reviews. But haters are always going to hate, as youngsters like to say on the internet. However, I’d rate this movie as being even more entertaining and satisfying than the original. I’ll tell you why I think that (mainly because there is only one child this time around & we get more moody night time photography) but I’ll give a plot summary first. [Read more…]

The Sand Pebbles (1966 USA)

(There are many silly hat moments in The Sand Pebbles)

In 1911 China overthrew the Manchu dynasty, which in its weakened state, over the last century had sold off parcels of real estate outright controlled by European powers and later by Japan as well. The United States controlled no territory outright as other powers did, but the Americans did insist on extraterritoriality involving their citizens doing business there. What that meant was that US citizens were not subject to Chinese laws, civil or criminal. Matters involving them went to American courts. Other powers had those same treaties. That was resented. Westerners were resented. Japanese were resented most of all because they were fellow Asians doing it to the Chinese but this tale is only concerned with Americans. [Read more…]

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969 United Kingdom)

Assignment number six for the 007 franchise was the most controversial. Mr Connery had gone AWOL and United Artists waved their cheque books at every casting studio, trying to find the right replacement.  What they got was an Aussie model who had starred in a chocolate bar commercial. But, despite the million naysayers, I think he was a rather good Bond. His voice, for instance, was deeper than Pierce Brosnan’s. He had more youth (far more!) and testosterone than that smirking dinner jacket, Roger Moore. You can believe Georgie is doing those stunts – because he is. His lack of experience makes him more real. He seems a little unsure of himself, which is the Bond of Fleming’s novels. And we even get a love story. Just to make us feel icky. Anyway, this one ends in tears, which was a first. [Read more…]

From Russia With Love (1963 Britain)

You don’t review James Bond movies, you evaluate them, rate them according to how well they meet expectations. Today, the Bond franchise is second only to Star Wars in value, and second only to Godzilla in number of films. It’s MGM’s mainstay, and its title role is among the most coveted in the British film industry. But at the beginning, it was far from clear that it would be this way. Dr. No, while hardly a flop, was also less than a resounding success. It did decent box office, but reviews were mixed, and Ian Fleming himself was reported to be somewhat unhappy with the result. If the second Bond wasn’t an improvement, the series might not have continued much longer. But From Russia with Love was better, in practically every way, an interesting fact considering that it had the same director and leading man. [Read more…]

The Untouchables (1987 USA)

“Surprise is half the battle, Mr Ness.” “Many things are half the battle…losing is half the battle!” Thank you Netflix for jogging my memory by adding this to your schedule. OK, my boot-licking to the corporate monster over, “The Untouchables” is one the most complete films of the 1980’s and one of the highlights of Brian De Palma’s quirky career. This is an Untouchable classic. It has a great ensemble cast, the 1930’s period re-enactment is excellent, the magical music by Ennio Morricone is top hole. If you didn’t see it because you weren’t born/on drugs/in jail in ’87, you must see it now. And yes, it is pretty corny at times. [Read more…]

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