Gregster-5

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Reviews

Who Dares Wins
(1982)

Not the cream of British filmmaking
It was 1982; Britain had Thatcher, America had Reagan. The Falkland war had just past and there was a strong vein of nationalism within the UK. With that backdrop, we have "Who Dares, Wins" (AKA Final Option). It's too easy to dismiss this movie as a piece of right wing propaganda, but I think that's too simplistic. It was a film scripted in Los Angeles with the usual oversimplification that only the British film industry could carry off, and so was somewhat detached from UK reality, with cardboard cutout terrorists and macho army guys.

Lewis Colins, a then well-known UK actor from the TV series the professionals, which had ended production by that time, was cast as the hero. He's more than up to the task, but what a waste of other cast members (Judy Davis, Widmark, etc.).

A contemporary TimeOut review described it as "something to offend everyone" - that sums it up.

The Wonderful World of Disney: Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story
(2001)
Episode 13, Season 4

peculiar, lifeless bio pic
Really quite a peculiar bio pic. In fairness, I didn't catch the first 15 minutes of this when it was shown on TV, but I can't imagine it being substantially different from the rest of the movie. Some observations:

  • it's difficult to believe that a screenplay like this got through development. - The movie seems to have a somewhat sanitized view of shirly's relationship with her parents, the scenes where she interacts with them are strangely muted - Nothing (that I could see) is mentioned about race and shirly's relationship with Bill Bojangles (uncle billy) - surely this would have been interesting to learn about - we see how the studio boos sees shirly, and makes some offhand comments privately, but in terms of the screenplay, it leads nowhere - the young lady who plays Temple is fine, but doesn't resemble her in any way physically or in the way she speaks or mannerisms. - the movie seems to end mid-scene

Escape from L.A.
(1996)

Carpenter drops the ball again
I remember once seeing John Captenter on British television in 1979 on a program about cult sci-fi movies (he did "Dark Star" as a college project). When asked about "Close Encounters of the third kind" he told the interviewer that he thought the director (Spelberg) had lost control of the movie part way through, and I agree with him 100% on that. Interestingly, during the interview, he was sitting outside of the old house in "Haddonfield"(sp?) since he was midway filming "Halloween".

The problem for me is that with the exceptions of his first few movies ("Halloween", "Assault on Precinct 13", "Escape from New York" and "The Fog"), his movies give me the appearance of lost control, from someone who started out with close to perfect filmic vision and directorial control. What went wrong? I watched "Escape from LA" the first night it came out in Mid-town Manhattan, and there were boos from the audience, not at the villains, but at the movie. Parts of the movie are very good - the action scenes (I'm assuming not a second unit production) are really well directed, but rehashing the plot of Escape from LA" was a bad mistake. But it was good to see people lining up around the block waiting to get into see a Carpenter movie, even if briefly.

Start the Revolution Without Me
(1970)

Simply dreadful
The movie was made in about 1970, so this is an early Wilder vehicle. Also starring Donald Sutherland, it's quite simply both dreadful and technically inept. At about that time, the British movie industry was turning out garbage such as "Holiday on the Buses", Steptoe and Sons" etc, i.e. TV spinoffs. This ranks only slightly above that in terms of production values. All outdoor scenes are looped, and badly looped at that - I wouldn't bet the farm that it was the original actors voicing over. The direction seems to have been minimal, and in some scenes it's painful watching Wilder basically running unchecked - I consider that the director's fault, not Wilder. Sutherland is completely miscast. The usual collection of British bitpart suspects are there, Spinetti, Fowler, etc. Absolutely dire.

Witchfinder General
(1968)

Big difference between versions
There really is a significant difference between the versions of Witchfinder General (or Conquerer Worm) going around. The US/export version has the extra female flesh requested by the American Distibutor (and financiers) of the movie, not to mention aiming the movie as an Edgar Allen Poe based film, which it wasn't. The UK version seems less disjointed to me. Additionally, the release on DVD now marries the film with the original soundtrack music by Paul Ferris which makes 100% difference to the feel of the movie.

The Alternate
(2000)

Action-packed movie
I'm not sure whether I was watching the same movie as everyone else here, but I thought movie actually worked very well, even if it was derivative. The action was continuous and the characters were well defined, if not particularly deep. check it out.

The Ladies Man
(2000)

Waste of talent
Frankly utterly unbelievable that talented directors/writers have such a hard time getting their projects to screen, with gazillions of execs casting their opinions about the quality of their work, and this clunker gets through with apparently no kind of studio review. Lorne Michaels does indeed have a lot of power. Meadows, Williams and the other cast members, all extremely good actors, are totally wasted in this complete waste of time. Apparently there appears to be no QC whatsoever in respect to SNL movie spinoffs.

Someone in charge of the production ought to be ashamed of themselves, presumably Michaels.

Firefox
(1982)

Very, very mediocre
This movie is very boringly written, and the direction is as flat as a pancake; made during the period when Eastwood would turn out movies like this to pay the bills. By all accounts, something of a travesty of the original book.

The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood
(1980)

Dreadful...
This movie purports to show us the background to how the orginal "Happy Hooker" movie was made (with Lynn Redgrave in the original). Hollywood parties abound with producers telling Xavier how successful the movie will be. Imn fact, both movie, this and original look like they were made on about $30 budget, with compellingly awful 1970's cheapo production values. Martine Beswick has a nice figure, but hardly worth the intellectual insult required to make it to those scenes. Absolutely ghastly in about every sense.

The Associates
(1979)

Brilliant series
I would just echo what the first reviewer suggested; I found the combination of Martin Short and Wilfred Hyde White just amazing; Wilfred used to paraphrase his lines and it looked like the actors geniuinely didn't know what he was going to say. Magic stuff. I haven't seen this series in 20 years, shame it's not on DVD or TV.

Freddy Got Fingered
(2001)

Not so much terrible as a waste of time
I had to get this one out from BlockBusters just to see what it was like, after being universally panned as "the worst movie ever made". It doesn't live up to the hype, as far as I can see; what it does have is the semblance of a pretty limp movie, similar to SNL spinoff/David Spade crapola, but with Green suddenly going crazy in odd places, in not particulary funny or even cinematic fashion. It's really odd, almost da-da'ist in the way it does this. It's easy to see why most all the critics barfed at this movie, presuming it to be gross-out comedy just going lower, but I don't think it's as simple as that; I think it's just inexperience on Greens part. What does seem to surprise me is the lack of studio production review that must must have accompanied this movie.

As with all limp movies purporting to be aimed at "the kids", it punctuates the story with vaguely contemporary band music. If I was a 16 year old I'd be highly offended by the general quality of stuff coming my way.

The opening title sequence is actually really well done, and Drew Barrymore looks great in it (in her brief appearance).

Witchfinder General
(1968)

Big difference between versions
There really is a significant difference between the versions of Witchfinder General (or Conquerer Worm) going around. The US/export version has the extra female flesh requested by the American Distibutor (and financiers) of the movie, not to mention aiming the movie as an Edgar Allen Poe based film, which it wasn't. The UK version seems less disjointed to me. Additionally, the release on DVD now marries the film with the original soundtrack music by Paul Ferris which makes 100% difference to the feel of the movie.

Escape from Alcatraz
(1979)

Genuinly good movie
I'm not a great fan of the choice of material Eastwood has chosen to base his movies on, but this is simply very good work from Director Siegal and Eastwood; no-one overacts, much is kept low key and I never found the movie to suffer the 60 minute drag effect that so many badly plotted movies seem to. Together with "In the Line of Fire" one of Eastwoods best and most worthwhile movies.

15 Minutes
(2001)

Cult movie
You'll notice reviews seem to be either "it's great" or "it stinks"... nothing in between. That's one of the signs of a cult movie.

I really like this movie; some of the characters are deliberatly characatured, but the pace simply doesn't stop. The visuals are very easy on the eyes and the story understandable. I think de Niro is great, and Edward Burns is well cast, doing very well in what could have been a stereotyped role. You really do feel that there's a friendship between the two of them. It's a violent movie, but nothing like the kind of depraved violence seen in a scorsesi movie. Much of it is implied and off-screen.

I'm a really fussy so-and-so when it comes to movies and I like this a lot; this isn't perfect but it's a real movie with some nice touches.

The Sting
(1973)

Aided by an unusual plot ***WARNING: SPOILER***
Read the other reviews for the accolades about acting, Scott Joplins music, etc. All the superlatives are true about this movie. For me what makes this movie so unique is the overall story of getting revenge for a murder by taking the perpetrator in a con game. In the end, the target doesn't even know he's been conned. In these days of open violence on-screen, it makes a refreshing change from the way Schwartzenegger or Stalone would handle this kind of revenge (probably in the second scene of the movie with a 44 magnum).

A movie that's refreshing in every way. Who could have predicted that two movie stars put together in a movie largely to financially capitalize on their first pairing (Butch Cassidy) would end up in one of the classics of modern cinema. This movie is a credit to all involved in its production.

On Deadly Ground
(1994)

Tosh - but worth seeing for the final 3 minute conservation message
Usual hokey movie from Seagal. It attemps to seek some validity for the banal, gratuitously violent story line in an environmental crusade. Caine is totally wasted (and foremost, miscast) in this limp escapade. Seagal really isn't that bad an actor and does have a natural screen presence but he needs to aim higher than this.

However, his final 3 minute speech on the environment gives a surprisingly effective and hard look at big business, energy and the environment.

Geheimcode Wildgänse
(1984)

Watch it just for the chase scene!!!
Code Name Wild Geese is one of those many movies that bases the plot around mercenary action in a jungle; actually, to be fair, given that every cheapo movie seems to have done that in the past few years, at least this was one of the first. (Is ANYONE really interested in mercenary-in-a-jungle movies?) Most of the action is perfunctory, predictable stuff. Lee Van Cleefe is wasted (as usual) in this; Lewis Collins does his hard man routine.

This movie wouldn't really be worth commenting on except for the chase scene. It's absolutely hillarious! Collins' character revs his car up in a tunnel when he realizes he's blocked in, and drives sideways, YES SIDEWAYS, along the wall of the tunnel! How does he do this? Well, aside from the fact that this is physically impossible, of course he doesn't... we're treated to a exquisitely appalling display of movie miniatures, intercut with grim expressions on Collin's face. It's priceless and worth the cost of a rental alone.

Letters from a Killer
(1998)

Very good thriller
I taped this off HBO largely because it was in HD and might be OK. It turned out to be a very competent thriller, nicely constructed and at about 100 minutes pretty much perfect time, and should keep you guessing to the end. I wasn't a fan of Patrick Swayze but I have to say he is perfectly cast in this, and turns in a very credible and watchable performance. If you are looking for a movie with action and twists for a wet afternoon that doesn't insult your intelligence, you could do an awful lot worse than to watch this. Interestingly line dance scene was choreographed by swayze's mother (Patsy Swayze).

Monterey Pop
(1968)

Important but flawed historical document
Many of the major players from the startup period of Rock music are here. Some of the performances are really good, all are fascinating. Always wonderful to see Hendrix. And just when you've overdosed on the n'th Northern californian band to play long slow drawn out songs, The Who comes along and dusts off the cobwebs as only Brit pop can. As for the movie technically, director D.A. Pennebaker makes the period-mistake of having the camera zoomed on the faces of the entertainers which gets old very quickly (and feels claustrophobic). However, some nice interviews and background views that must have seemed ordinary then but extraordinary now. Only marred by the lack of presence of Cream, who were invited to this fest, but whose management declined to allow them to come, much to the anger of Eric Clapton when he later found out (now that WOULD have been a lineup).

Switchback
(1997)

There's a good movie in there somewhere
Just watched this movie in high definition widescreen on HBO, and was blown away by the photography, which was stunning. The general structure of the movie was very good and economical, not laboring the setup and has a generous helping of Lee Ermey and the rest of the Texas policemen, who were very watchable. The movie drops the ball in being about 30 minutes too long (90-100 minutes would have been a good length for the movie). Some of the performances were just great, and probably someone less pickey than me would like it a lot, but for me the last hour needed to be compressed.

The Enigma Files
(1980)

Interesting series
When they finally gouge BBC gems from the vaults in DVD format, I hope they'll make this available too. The stories revolved around a little known police department that dealt with moribund cases that hadn't been solved. I can't remember too much more about it except that it wasn't particularly marvellous, but Tom Adams, the lead character, provided an unusual central focus for each of the relatively trite story lines. Adams went on the offensive in English Sunday newspapers about just how less-than-perfect some other TV detectives were, such as TV private eye Eddie Shoestring (Trevor Eve) and BBC's Target series Steve Hackett (Patrick Mower) (since Trevor Eve's wife (Sharon Maughan) was initially in the cast of "The Enigma Files", this was probably not too smart). Also memorable as a starting vehicle for the comedian Dougie Brown, who seemed more than adequate for the task.

Path to Paradise: The Untold Story of the World Trade Center Bombing.
(1997)

Interesting but flawed TV movie
Generally quite interesting and not badly acted but the general tone appears (to me at least) to be a little xenophobic and anti-muslim. Admitedlty, given the subject matter it's kind of hard to avoid this, but a better written script would have done so.

The Rockford Files
(1974)

Very, very, very good television
I recall seeing one of the first episodes when it aired in October '74, and not being that impressed. In the end, I was hooked on this gentle but deceptively captivating series. It sums up what is best about episodic television when a good cast, writers and production crew gets together. Garner is perfect for the role doing his "everyman" schtick. His comedic ability is also put to very good use (the later episodes with "Lance White" - Tom Selleck - are just soo funny, as Garner is always left eating dust!). The supporting roles are also extremely well filled. Simply extremely good television that everyone involved can feel proud of.

American Psycho
(2000)

Not especially watchable
This movie is clearly well directed by its female director but not well enough to counter the terminal obnoxiousness of the lead character. The golden rule about making a movie is that a flawed character needs to have some redeemable or likeable features, to retain our interest. Christial Bale does a sterling performance but who particularly wants to see an unpleasant psycho go through his routines for close to two hours? After a while it seems like the only reason you watch is to see how gross the next murder will be, and that has to be a bad thing to promote.

Galaxy Quest
(1999)

Simply wonderful
Occasionally one still gets surprised at finding a movie that's almost perfect in its execution, script, casting, spirit; this for me is one of them. This is clearly modeled on the Star Trek phenomenon (how did they get away with that?!) but it's a terrifically warm story about a bunch of actors who take on the roles they play in an ancient TV program. The humor is terrific; Tim Allen is terrific (and I was no big fan before) as is Alan Rickman and all the cast; the casting is just superb. In the end it doesn't deride fans of this kind of SciFi genre, it both celebrates and validates them. The special effects are just great and the pacing is wonderful; it doesn't lag for a second. There's nothing more I can say about this movie except many, many, many, many thanks to the cast/crew/producers for making it and when's the sequel?. (I lied, there is something more I will say about this; I heard nothing special about the movie when it "did the rounds" and I didn't catch it in the theaters so I was completely surpised that there wasn't a bigger "buzz" about it when I first caught it on HBO - well, that's other peoples loss!).

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