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…]

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Around The World In 80 Days (USA 1989)

You should know the plot and shame on you if that’s not the case. A 3 part TV miniseries rendition with an all-star cast. There are many cameos and bit parts by so many top actors from back in the day. (Darren McGavin as Mudge was the most pleasing surprise for me) There are some scenes that are not in the book, but they didn’t bother me as they were just as entertaining as the ones that were. Filming on location in Germany, England, Yugoslavia, Macau, and Thailand, adds a lot of grandeur to the series that it otherwise would have lacked. [Read more…]

Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971 Disney)

Three children evacuated from London end up being reluctantly taken in by an odd woman who lives on her own with a raggedy black cat. They don’t even make it to the end of the first night before they observe that their new guardian Miss Price is not just odd, she is an actual witch, trying to perfect a spell to help with the war effort. While the children make this discovery, Miss Price makes her own – the mail-order college she has been training with is going out of business before she has everything she needs. With the help of Paul’s knob (don’t ask) they set off to London to find the Professor – the start of a much bigger adventure. [Read more…]

The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953 USA)

As the 50s started with a fascination for science fiction, Ray Harryhausen soon got his first chance to prove his talents in a solo effort when he was hired to do the special effects for Eugène Lourié’s new film, “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms”. This sci-fi epic about a resurrected dinosaur fitted Harryhausen’s animation like a glove and gave him the opportunity to show his amazing skills. After this now-legendary motion picture, the sky itself became the only limit for the animator’s career. It would be very easy to dismiss “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” because of its nowadays clichéd plot (in fact, it’s idea would be improved the following year with Ishirô Honda’s very superior “Gojira”), however, one has to remember that this was among the first (if not the very first) films to tell this kind of story.  [Read more…]

Thérèse Raquin (1980 BBC)

The picture quality on this DVD has the resolution of a fading VHS tape from 30 years ago, and if this truly is the best restoration that can be made of this 166-minute production, that must be counted as a minor but distinct tragedy…for actress Kate Nelligan is the Thérèse Raquin to end all Thérèse Raquins. Based on the Zola novel, this is the story of a vibrant but trapped young woman, stuck in a loveless marriage to a pampered weakling. Then one day, the husband brings home an old friend–Laurent– and the doors of her soul fly open. [Read more…]

I Am Not Your Guru (2016)

Random Dude No.1: “If you don’t step up and be that person, she’s never going to find him…” Random Dude No.2: “F**k dat! f**k dat!” Both of these guys are in each others faces, in the free-for-all that is a Tony Robbins convention crowd. They don’t know each other from Adam, but its the last day of the seminar and they feel a need to impersonate the man on the stage who’s been in everyone’s face for the past few days. He stares into the eyes of strangers and demands they change for the better. F**k this! f**k that!..what is this f**king shit?![Read more…]

Treasure Planet (2002 USA)

Disney’s attempt at “action/adventure”, and Treasure Planet was another of these more adult films for the impatient. So far Disney hasn’t done too bad in this genre, since we are now free of sitting through annoying songs and have more time to see the actual film. Treasure Planet was loosely based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. However, this one takes place in a futuristic setting; the robots are replaced with small hover-craft, the large clippers and ships with unusual opened spaceships (which makes one wonder how the characters breathe in space), parrots with morphing creatures, and one-legged pirates with cyborgs. [Read more…]

The Amulet Of Samarkand (Bartimaeus #1) (Jonathan Stroud)

This novel is set in a modern-day London that is ruled by Magicians. It is written from the perspective of a djinni (demon) and an undervalued magician’s apprentice. It’s tempting to compare the book to the Harry Potter series. Young boy. Magic. Sneaking around. Breaking the rules. Stern teachers. But the similarities really end there. What’s obvious is that Stroud can write about a complex world (and one I want to know more about) and making it interesting and funny. I’m used to slow beginnings in fantasy but this one started with a bang.
[Read more…]

Lady In Cement (1968 USA)

Warning: for the hip-hop/MTV crowd of today – this flick is probably one for you to avoid. It does not contain CGI effects, mindless dance music, jumpy editing, eye-blinding SFX or even a politically correct message thrown in. Good, now that’s out of the way, what do we have here? We’ve got the pride of Italian Americana – ole Blue Eyes himself…we’ve got a Jewish lady with a sumptuous cleavage that puts Raquel Welch to shame… we’ve got very bad 1960s hair days… we’ve even got Hoss Cartwright himself, Dan Blocker… Oh, and we also have the aforementioned Raquel Welch…our basket might be overladen with goodies! Or is it? [Read more…]

Twice-Told Tales (1963 USA)

In Twice-Told Tales Vincent Price does what he does best: be mysterious. It’s good enough to compare favourably with the best films in the Price / Roger Corman / A.I.P. series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. But the slow pacing and length of the film may not sit well with some viewers, but others will take delight in the atmosphere, the performances, the story telling, and all the trappings of the genre. Possibly the inspiration for “Creepshow,” complete with a skeleton hand turning the pages between stories. Twice-Told Tales is sometimes funny, sometimes ridiculous, but always entertaining in that surreal sixties style I find so charming.
[Read more…]

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