4:50 From Paddington (Agatha Christie)

One of the major joys of Christie’s books is that they manage the difficult feat of being full of corpses and yet free of angst – a trick the Golden Age authors excelled in and modern authors seem to have forgotten. Miss Marple (our “old pussy” as she’s referred to in the book) is at the absolute top of her game. She gives us some nice village parallels to shed light on the characters of the suspects; she twinkles affectionately at both young Inspector Craddock and Lucy; she does a bit of gentle match-making; and she gives us some very ambiguous pronouncements that leave the reader as beautifully baffled as the other characters. [Read more…]

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

“Love Never Dies” screamed the posters. But creativity did. It died at the Borgo Pass. How bad is this? Keanu Reeves bad. Come on! He actually looks as high as a kite. I think the people in charge of this piece of garbage were his dealers. They were in the wings, feeding him his lines – and his coke. Urging him on with “we got this, those schmucks in the theatre seats will never know you’re out of it. You look dead when you deliver your lines anyway…” Really, if I wanted to see people reading their lines without emotion I’d watch a small business ad on tv. He’s that bad. In fact, the only good actor was Gary Oldman, and it looks like he doesn’t even care, though I can’t say I’d blame him: everyone seems to be reading from cue cards. [Read more…]

Relax With Eckhart…

Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971 USA)

Roald Dahl’s Grimm-like book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” gets a careful, pointed musical treatment here, involving five Golden Ticket-winning children who get to tour a mysterious chocolate factory–at their own expense. Turns out the journey is a test of their personalities and upbringings, and while the film is a little presumptuous to suggest that the poorest child may be the most noble and honest (as if all rich kids are rotten). This must be in the top 10 of the most entertaining films of the last 100 years. Few people haven’t seen this. [Read more…]

Blind Corner (1963 Britain)

(This motion picture is also known as “Man In The Dark” for the American market) Director Lance Comfort’s finest 74 minutes of his career. Not that that’s saying much as his stock in trade was the “supporting” B films that were shown before the main feature in British cinemas throughout the 1950s and 60s. These types of movies were done on the cheap as there just wasn’t enough cash in Britain’s post-war film industry those days. Its amazing how many did get made. They were always great value, and its fairly cheap to build up a nice dvd collection of them. They are also historical documents as to how people lived back then. [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…]

Maigret Sets A Trap (2016 Britain)

So much effort was expended on getting the atmosphere of the whole thing right that tension and a plausible story went by the board. Another old serial killer plot? It may have been bold and edgy in 1955 when Georges Simenon penned the novel, but the subject has been explored endlessly from every possible angle these past few  generations that its hard not to stifle a yawn. The film looks authentic enough even if it was filmed in Budapest. But it gives us a Paris that is about as quiet as a sleepy village in Provence. The viewer never gets to see any bustle in this city, but I guess when you saddle yourself with a 1950’s setting, the correct vehicles are not that easy to come by, and it has that shot-on-an-early Sunday morning look. [Read more…]

Pulp Fiction (1994 USA)

PF is sick slop geared towards video store geeks. Why is this flick so bad? Its like asking why is Barbra Streisand so ugly? She just is. Pulp Fiction, similarly, is a byword for cheap, profane nastiness. Watching this causes your brain to shut off for two and a half hours while a man with a God complex strokes his ego. I can understand to some extent why it is so popular. And as for padding Quentin did achieve something remarkable: every awful stretch of dialogue is dragged out as long as it will last, and then some. It’s as if Tarantino said to himself “I think I can cram two more f words and one more line about milkshakes in here”. [Read more…]

Revenge Of The Manitou (Graham Masterton)

The 71 year old Edinburgh-born author has an unusual pedigree. He used to write sex books like How To Drive Your Man Wild In Bed – 3 million copies of that one sold. He was also heavily involved as an editor for porn mags like Mayfair and Penthouse too. Then he became a prolifically successful horror novel writer. Interesting…anyway, this follow up to his earlier The Manitou is much more entertaining. At first I was leery as the book opened with the focus on an eight-year old protagonist, but I quickly warmed-up to Toby and the Fenner clan.  [Read more…]

Carry On Henry (1971 Britain)

A curiously neglected entry, perhaps as it was made in a period when the series had generally started to go into decline, but in my view it’s one of the best of all, certainly in the top three. The historical outings were usually among the team’s funniest, and Talbot Rothwell provides perhaps his most audacious script with a real plot, told in his trademark puns and double entendres, but with a real abundance of panache and wit, attaining an almost poetic quality. Here the great tyrant, Henry VIII, is kinky haired Sid James – a pint-sized, dirty old man with a mug only a mother could love – chasing tavern wenches and princesses alike. [Read more…]

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