While watching THE INTRUDER I felt that I'd seen this movie before. Perhaps not this exact movie but more than once I've seen those with a similar storyline. That didn't make it less enjoyable but it did prevent it from being the standout movie one would expect with a name like Dennis Quaid attached.
Annie and Scott Russell (Meagan Good and Michael Ealy) are a successful young couple in California on their way up. Having landed a top account at the business he works at the couple decided to buy the house of their dreams. They find just the place in Napa Valley owned by Charlie Peck (Quaid). Friendly and open to sharing the history of the house and his family, Charlie makes them an offer they can't refuse. After all, he's selling the house so he can move in with his daughter in Florida.
Things begin to go a little off once the couple move in. Scott is certain that he hears creaking in the house at night. Then Charlie begins showing up at the house doing things like mowing the grass. The couple tells him he doesn't need to bother but he just wants to help. His daughter is still trying to make the room that will be his complete and he won't be leaving just quite yet.
Scott sees this as a little strange but Annie feels sorry for Charlie. After all his wife did die of cancer in this house, his children were raised here and parting with it must be difficult. She even invites him for Thanksgiving dinner along with their friends Mike (Joseph Sikora) and Rachel (Alvina August). As Mike makes suggestions about changing the house by knocking out a wall to open the space Charlie becomes agitated while talking about the integrity of the house. It's an upsetting moment for all. Mike goes out for a smoke and Charlie follows. It's an act of intimidation that Mike is sure of. When he alter finds a cigarette burn in the seat of his car he's certain Charlie did it but can't prove it.
As the days pass Charlie continues to randomly show up out of the blue at the house. Scott is certain that something is wrong with all of this but Annie refuses to believe it. For her Charlie is a harmless older man who just is having trouble moving on. Of course Scott is right as we viewers have the chance to see Charlie peeking in through windows, breaking into the house and then watching the couple in their most private of moments.
All of this eventually leads Scott to confront Charlie and tell him to leave both the house and the couple alone. Of course Annie apologizes for his behavior. A few days after Scott is out jogging when a truck comes by and hits him knocking him off the road. Scott is confined to the hospital overnight and sends Annie home.
Who should show up but Charlie with pizza in hand. He and Annie talk and share stories. At the same time Mike has shown up at the hospital and Scott asks him if he will make a point of stopping by the house to check on Annie. From this point forward all the worst fears you could imagine begin to rise and become apparent to everyone.
As I said I've seen movies before where killers, stalkers and plain old lunatics end up watching a person or couple with ill intent before. These movies are never huge box office successes and this one did decent business. But there is a certain amount of comfort in watching movies where you have at least an inkling of where it will all go by the end of the film. Rarely do they alter course or come up with a twist ending. Does this one? I won't give it away.
Both Ealy and Good do a good job as the young couple moving into a different location than they're used to. Quaid takes center stage here offering us what appears to be a sympathetic character who is in reality someone to be feared. That's not a spoiler if you've seen the trailer for the film. Almost always cast as the hero it's good to see him stretch like this.
On the whole the movie is an enjoyable entertainment for the night but more than likely not a film you'll be popping in yearly to glimpse once more. If you're a fan of this sub-genre then you might do so but otherwise it will be a good night's rental and little more. But at least it's a fun ride the first time around.
For those who aren't aware of what Manga is it's a form of comic book developed in Japan that's fueled by colorful art and normally has adult themes. It's become quite popular since its inception and influential in comics in this country as well. While many Manga have been turned into animated films few have transferred into reality based films. That all changes with ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL. I should say somewhat changes because computer animation is still to be seen here. But it combines seamlessly with real footage to make an interesting, exciting and adventurous movie that most will enjoy.
The year is 2563 and its 300 years since the Earth was devastated in an all-out interplanetary war. In this post-apocalyptic world Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) roams the junkyards for parts for his cybernetic customers, people whose limbs have been replaced with robotic parts. He comes across a cybernetic body with a human brain still intact and takes it home to attach to a body he has there. He names the cyborg Alita after his deceased daughter.
Alita adjusts quickly to her new body though she has no memories of her past life. She meets a mysterious woman with ties to Ido named Dr. Chiren (Jennifer Connelly). Wandering the streets near where she lives with Dr. Ido she meets Hugo (Keean Johnson) a streetwise young man who dreams of getting off planet to the sky city above, Zalem. To fund his way there he steals cyborg parts he sells to Vector (Mahershala Ali), the head of the most popular game on the planet Motorball. The game consists of cyborgs battling it out on a track and Hugo takes Alita to see the game.
One night after noticing Dr. Ido sneaks out after dark Alita follows him. She discovers that he is secretly a hunter-warrior, someone who hunts down rogue cyborgs with a bounty on their heads to fund his hospital. Wounded by Grewishka (Jackie Earl Haley), one of those he's come for, Alita steps in and instinctively knows how to fight the attackers using a long thought extinct battle form. Taking out two of the three attackers, the third returns to his employer, Vector, and is repaired and upgraded by the doctor Vector uses, Dr. Chiren.
Wanting to help the doctor by becoming a hunter-warrior too he tells her no and to stay home. Like any young person she ignores his instructions and goes out to register on her own. Searching the nearby junkyards Alita comes across a body there, a Berserker, one of the bodies used by the United Republics of Mars (URM) during the Great War. She urges Ido to transfer her mind into it but he refuses.
Knowing that Grewishka will continue to seek out Ido Alita heads to a nearby bar where the hunter-warriors hang out. Picking a fight with the most infamous member there she nearly defeats him before Ido steps in and puts an end to it. Her goal was to recruit the hunters to take down Grewishka but before she could round them up the bar is attacked and Alita damaged.
With no choice Ido transfers Alita into the Berserker body. The technology even stuns Ido. Still alive and in love with Hugo who has now changed his ways, Alita is more determined than ever. Armed with the new body and still motivated to face off against the evil Grewishka, she enters the Motorball game. But Vector has something in store for her that may stop her before she has a chance to put her plan in motion.
ALIST: BATTLE ANGEL combines some amazing storytelling with the most astounding visuals seen in some time. The film doesn't depend solely on those visuals though and instead intertwines these two items to make a tale that you will find yourself involved in and waiting to discover the outcome of while ignoring the remote control, never wanting to fast forward past any eye catching moment. It's rare that the combination of storytelling and effects works so effortlessly and yet director Robert Rodriquez has done just that. But then he has the experience to pull this off having made SIN CITY and the SPY KIDS movies.
The acting here is much better than one would expect as well, including that of Rosa Salazar as Alita. In spite of the fact that her performance is CGI rendered had she not brought Alita to life through her acting abilities the character would have fallen flat. Instead she gives it substance.
I know of at least one person who's not a fan of science fiction that said she loved this film. My guess is that everyone who has the chance to view it will do so as well. By the end credits it's a film that you hope will find its way to becoming a franchise with new adventures for Alita to experience. If not at least this one will satisfy those of us who have become fans.
You can't be a fan of martial arts movies or Quentin Tarantino without knowing the name Yuen Woo-Ping. Woo-Ping was the choreographer behind many of the classic martial arts movies to come out of China as well as doing the same role on films like THE MATRIX and CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON. But he's also a well-respected director in the genre as well having directed films like IRON MONKEY and DRUNKEN MASTER. So it should come as no surprise that Woo-Ping now helms the continuing saga started with the Ip Man series of films.
Picking up where the third IP MAN movie left off Cheung Tin Chi (Jin Zhang) has abandoned martial arts after his defeat at the hands of Ip Man. Now running a small store in Hong Kong while raising his young son he sets out to live simply. But fate has more in store for him.
While making a delivery he literally runs into Nana (Chrissie Chau), an opium addict in debt to gangster Tso Sai Kit (Kevin Cheng) and her friend Julia (Liu Yan). When Kit breaks the gift Chi bought for his son, he steps in to protect the two women before the police arrive. All are arrested and thanks to a payoff to the corrupt police chief they are released that night. But the release comes late and Chi misses the dinner he promised to take his son to at a high end restaurant owned by Davidson (Dave Bautista).
Seeking revenge for his humiliation Kit and his men firebomb Chi's store burning him and his son. As he escapes with his injured child the men follow him. Passing nearby the Gold Bar, owned by Fu (Xing Yu) Julia's brother, he bumps into Julia and asks her to watch after her son. One by one he defeats that gang chasing him as well as an assassin named Sadi (Tony Jaa) who's been following him.
Julia talks to her brother and he offers Chi a job working in the bar. The two talk and form a bond once he realizes who Chi is having studied martial arts himself. Their friendship is tested after Chi takes vengeance against Kit by destroying one of his opium dens. Kit's sister Kwan (Michelle Yeoh) is the actual head of the gang that Kit is part of. She was also the person responsible for helping Fu begin his bar and he's indebted to her. All is smoothed over when she talks to Chi.
Kwan is in the middle of trying to take their business legit but Kit wants to carry on with the gangster life. So much so that he makes a deal with a friend and gets into the heroin business. When his friend takes him to the man behind the heroin trade (no spoiler here folks) he cements his loyalty to the man and finds himself with more power than he had in the past.
Chi discovers what is taking place and alerts Kwan to the situation. She asks for time to settle the situation but before that happens Kit kills Nana who was engaged to Fu. Chi and Fu storm Kwan's offices and an all-out battle takes place that is amazing to watch. Another offering is made, another situation settled but not completely. It isn't long before Chi will be forced to reignite the flame inside and use his skills to right the wrongs set in place by the various situations fate has steered him to.
Look, I'm a fan of martial arts films and have been for some time. I grew up on those Saturday afternoon showings of Kung Fu Theater that had the imported Chinese martial arts films that were more about acrobatics than martial arts. But the movies coming out of China today are stunning in not just the martial arts skills on display but the technical aspects of the films as well. And with Well Go leading the pack in bringing these films around the world on disc they deserve major kudos.
Yes, I know that much of what we see on display here is wire skills, actors being lifted high in the air by trusses and wires. But there is more to it than that. The moves used in these films take an enormous amount of skill to do properly and they do indeed follow through on those skills.
More than that the film is gorgeous on so many levels. The cinematography for a movie that some would write off as "just a martial arts movie" is amazing. The fluidity of the fight sequences is stunning. And rather than fall prey to the worst shooting of a fight scene possible as many western films do (the Bourne films come to mind) they don't zoom in for close ups during fights or rely on jerky camera movement to cover up the problems associated with a fight sequence. Instead they back up enough that you can see the entire fight taking place. And in the sequence in Kwan's office you have not one but two separate fight sequences taking place at the same time for some amazing shots.
I've not gotten around to watching the IP MAN series though I was able to pick them up used a while back. Now I find myself wanting to pull them out to watch and set this one next to them on the shelf. I have a feeling I will enjoy them as much as this film. It will be one that I know I'll definitely pull out from time to time to watch. Once again praise to Well Go for bringing these films to the world. And continued success to them with more coming.
Warner Brothers has been behind the release of superhero movies based on DC Comics character. Since they also own DC this only makes sense. But while the DC Universe was hitting the big screen before the Marvel superhero films with Batman, those were the only films to rival what DC has released. For some reason the folks at Warner felt that every single superhero outing needed to be as dark and gritty as the Batman films were. The problem was and remains that not all characters in comics are dark and gritty. They make an attempt to steer away from that with SHAZAM with mixed results.
If unfamiliar with the character he was originally named Captain Marvel and ran in comics published by Fawcett. A lawsuit filed by DC claiming he was a rip-off of Superman resulted in his series ending until DC acquired the character in 1972. The character was more simplistic than most and geared more towards younger readers. Aiming for a larger audience and a PG-13 rating that changes a bit with the movie.
The film opens on a dark and stormy night in the 70s with young Thaddeus Sivana riding along to a Christmas outing with his father and older brother. Ridiculed by both he ends up being called to a hidden hall where the supreme Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) tests him to take on the mantel of new warrior, but he must be true of spirit and heart. When he almost takes the container that holds the seven deadly sins instead, the Wizard returns him to his car. His reaction causes a wreck that leaves his father damaged and his brother blaming him.
Young Billy Batson loses his mother at a fair and becomes an orphan when no one comes to claim him. Fast forward to today and we find Billy (Asher Angel) attempting to find the mother that abandoned him years ago. Having moved from foster home to foster home the agent in charge of his case decides on another tact. She places him in a home owned by a couple who were once foster children themselves and now run a home for orphans. Billy isn't quick to make friends and that includes his roommate Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), a superhero geek. Still trying to find information on his mother he isn't quite adapting to the family setting here.
Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) has grown up trying to rediscover the location of the hall he was removed from. His goal is to take the eye, the container that held the seven deadly sins, and to gain power with it. He eventually accomplishes this but to gain the ultimate power he must take it from the Wizard who is still seeking a warrior to possess his power.
The warrior chosen is none other than Billy. When he's given the power and says the magic word "shazam" he turns into a muscle bound, tight and cape wearing superhero played by Zachary Levi. The thing is he's still 14 in his head. He lets Freddy in on his secret and asks for advice as to what to do. They pair test out which powers he has and uses them for less than reputable reasons, like getting beer or visiting a strip joint.
Eventually Dr. Sivana comes looking for Billy as the hero we will eventually call Shazam. More skilled and older than his opponent Sivana has the upper hand. It isn't long before Billy has to retreat, regroup and try and figure out what to do next. He's been adjusting to the family that is now part of his life and a momentous incident happens that solidifies that. But with Sivana hot on his heels Billy must decide what the right thing is to do and summon all his strength and pureness of heart if he is to win the day.
Some of the basics from the comics are there but not all. The film doesn't play off on the innocence that those who remember the comics will be looking for. The beer and strip joints are a big clue of that. But the heart of who and what Captain Marvel/Shazam is remains at the center of the film. His standing up for what's right, what's moral and for family serve the character well here.
At the same time the dark world of DC comes barreling in again though as the seven deadly sins are seen as dark and monstrous looking creatures. The addition of several characters being killed by Sivana also add a darker dimension to the film. It would be nice if Warner realized that the success of Marvel has been based on their acceptance and embracing of the source material rather than trying to change it.
The film looks good, the acting is good enough and the direction is fine. But the film still has a feeling of not quite being as good as it could be. A part of that lies also in the length of the film at over 2 hours. Twenty minutes of this film could easily have been trimmed and not missed. In the end it's not a bad movie but it could have been so much better. Still, it's worth a rent and a watch but perhaps not being added to your collection.
I can remember when WEIRD SCIENCE was first released seeing the film and thinking it was one of the funniest films I'd seen in some time. Watching it now some 30 odd years later I still thought moments were funny but was surprised at how juvenile it really was. Not in a bad way but it's that difference in seeing things through the eyes of someone in their 20s versus someone in their 60s.
If for some reason you never saw the film (welcome to the world after your release from the cave) it revolves around two geek teens named Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) and Gary (Anthony Michael Hall). Wyatt's parents are out of town and while watching the classic FRANKENSTEIN Gary comes up with the idea of using Wyatt's computer to create a woman of their own. Keep in mind this is the early days of home computers when a 6 inch floppy disc was the norm.
With bras strapped to their heads, feeding information to the computer and after easily tapping into the government missile based mainframe (notice how often that happened in 80s movies?) the pair soon find themselves confronted by a gorgeous woman (Kelly LeBrock) whose first words are "So...what would you little maniacs like to do first?" There first wish is to take a shower with her which they do while still dressed.
Decking them out in spiffy new duds she cooks up for them and hopping into her pink Cadillac the trio head out for some fun. Along the way they give their creation the name Lisa, the girl who shamed Gary the previous summer he still has a crush on. The location Lisa chooses for them is a black blues club where they end up drunk with Gary telling the group of friends they make there about the girl who crushed his heart and his testicles.
Getting home early the duo are confronted by Wyatt's older brother and main antagonist Chet (Bill Paxton). Visiting from military school and responsible for watching over Wyatt he constantly threatens him, bullies him and extorts money from him to remain silent. Face it, Chet is a supreme jerk.
Lisa next takes the boys to the mall where Max (Robert Russler) and Ian (Robert Downey Jr.), the school bullies who pick them, dump a slushie on their heads. Feigning regret to their girlfriends Deb (Suzanne Snyder) and Hilly (Judie Aronson) the pair get away with their misdeed but soon dump the girls when they see Lisa. Following her outside they attempt to hit on her when she tells them her ride is there as Gary pulls up in a Porsche. She then invites the pair to a party at Wyatt's house and tells them to let everyone know.
The party does take place and things immediately get out of control. Hundreds of kids show, food is eaten, alcohol is flowing freely and Gary and Wyatt are spending the party in the bathroom, afraid to come out. Lisa has to come up with a way to get them out of their shells, to put them in the eye sights of Deb and Hilly and to show the rest of the kids that they're much cooler than even they realize.
While watching the film I had a combination pop into my head. If you took a blender, tossed in Mary Poppins, a few Playboy magazines, the mind of a pre-teen boy and added a dash of science fiction then turned it on you basically have the script for the movie. Again, that's not necessarily a bad thing. But watching it now it feels to thin and ready to jump into the fun filled frivolity without much depth to it. As some in the extras point out perhaps this was director/writer John Hughes decision just to have some fun after the back to back hits SIXTEEN CANDLES and THE BREAKFAST CLUB. At least it seems that way.
The two leads here show tremendous differences in their abilities. Hall is adept at playing the buffoon teen having done it before and shows his abilities as an actor. Smith on the other hand is particularly lame in his performance. It's no surprise that his career was extremely limited. LeBrock does a fine job in only her second film. Her job is to look great which she does but she handles the comedic actress part required here quite well too. Standout among all though is Paxton as Chet. Once seen you cannot forget him in this role.
I doubt that a movie like this could be made today. The PC Police would have a field day with it, demanding that this, that or the other was offensive and would have to be eliminated leaving behind barely anything at all resembling a movie. Like BLAZING SADDLES you can either go along for the ride and have some fun realizing that it's just a movie and made for laughs or you can be a miserable human being and take all the fun out of everything. Keep in mind this movie was made for teens and it shows. It's still a fun movie.
Arrow Video outdoes themselves once more with a great presentation here. The film is being offered on blu-ray with a 4k scan from the original negative. Included are both the original and an extended version of the film. The extras are fun as well. They include a new interview with special effects makeup creator Craig Reardon, a new interview with composer Ira Newborn, a new interview with supporting actor John Kapelos, a new interview with casting director Jackie Burch, "It's Alive: Resurrecting Weird Science" an archive documentary on the film with interviews of the cast and crew, theatrical trailers, TV spots, an image gallery, a reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Tracie Ching and with the first pressing only an illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Amada Reyes.
Fans of the film who think they've had the best version on disc before will find that this one is far superior. If you are one of those fans make a point of replacing that old copy with this new one from Arrow. You won't regret it.
The film noir genre is not near as simple as some might think it is. While the standard held true for the most part (the femme fatale, the cynical attitude, the sexual motivations, the stark black and white cinematography) the films in the genre were not always so cut and dried. THE BIG CLOCK is a perfect example of that.
The film opens with George Stroud (Ray Milland) hiding in a building with a big clock in its tower. He's on the run and in voice over narration he goes back in time to tell us what it taking place. As the editor of CRIMEWAVES magazine published by Janoth Publications in New York City, Stroud has turned the fortunes of the magazine around making it a success. But working for Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton) has negatives as well.
Stroud is about to go on a long delayed honeymoon with his wife Georgette (Maureen O'Sullivan) and son when a scoop comes his way. Janoth wants him to stay and handle the details of the story but this honeymoon has been put on hold too many times. Stroud insists on going even when Janoth threatens to fire him and blacklist him from working anywhere else.
Upset at the turn of events Stroud stops in the bar downstairs for a drink where he meets Pauline York (Rita Johnson). He's completely unaware that Pauline is Janoth's mistress, a woman unhappy with her situation and looking for someone to help her tell her story which would result in damage to Janoth. As the two talk and drink Stroud misses the train he was supposed to take with his wife and son. Finding out she left without him he and Pauline go out on the town, drinking, buying a painting and seeking a sundial.
Stroud wakes at Pauline's place and she soon rushes him out as Janoth is on his way up to her apartment. Stroud makes his way out but sees Janoth going in. When Pauline tells Janoth what her plans are he strangles her. Seeking the help of trusted aide Hagen (George Macready), Hagen alters evidence and provides him with an alibi.
In the meantime Stroud has gone on to West Virginia where his wife is to let her know he's quit his job. But a phone call comes through. The magazine is starting a manhunt and Janoth calls him asking him to come back and head the search. Stroud realizes the man they are seeking is himself in an attempt to frame the "suspect" with Janoth and Hagen unaware he is the man they're searching for. He returns to New York working to find the evidence he needs to not only clear himself but to convict the mean really responsible for Pauline's murder.
The film works on a number of levels and is one of those classic Hollywood films where everything is done to perfection. The set designs of the Janoth building fit the mood of the period as well as the film. The flow of the story is excellent and the pieces of the puzzle fit nicely, never forced. The acting from every person seen on screen is superb with Milland completely believable as the man mistaken for a killer and Laughton as the overbearing elitist who thinks he can find his way out of any situation.
While watching this film I was reminded of the films of Hitchcock where he placed an innocent man in danger. The film has ties with films like NORTH BY NORTHWEST and THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH but is solid enough to stand on its own. Why it was forgotten by so many only to now be rediscovered is a mystery. That being said it deserves to be found by mystery and noir fans once more and thanks should be offered to Arrow Video for doing so.
Not only has Arrow resurrected the film from the dusty vaults it was left in they've done so with an exceptional version. The film is offered in 1080p from original film elements. And as is usually the case with Arrow there are plenty of extras on hand. Those include a new audio commentary track by film scholar Adrian Martin, "Turning Back the Clock" a newly filmed analysis of the film by critic and chief executive of Film London Adrian Wootton, "A Difficult Actor" a newly filmed appreciation of Charles Laughton by theater director Simon Callow, a rare hour long 1948 radio dramatization of THE BIG CLOCK by the Lux Radio Theater starring Milland, the original theatrical trailer, a gallery of stills and promotional materials, a reversible sleeve with two original artwork options and for the first pressing only an illustrated collector's booklet with new writing on the film by Christina Newland. That's quite a bit for a movie made in 1948.
If you've never seen the film it is one worth seeking out. It's an entertaining mystery that is sure to keep fans holding on until the final moments of the film. And there isn't a better way of viewing the film than this version from Arrow who prove once again why they are the best at what they do.
I'd never heard of HOLD BACK THE DAWN until this new release from Arrow Video came out. I'd never heard of the director of the film Mitchell Leisen before either though in looking through his resume on imdb I found I was familiar with several of his films. In watching the extras with this release they discuss his importance in film and the amount of respect he garnered and yet I still wonder how many would recognize the name or his films.
With HOLD BACK THE DAWN Leisen and writers Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder (yes that Billy Wilder) have brought to life a compelling story of change in a man with a location and tale that is seldom used. Made in 1941 the film revolves around European refugees attempting to enter the United States through Mexico. How strange that a movie made all those years ago revolves around a situation that continues to this day.
The film opens with Georges Iscovescu (Charles Boyer) finding his way onto the Paramount Studios lot in search of director Dwight Saxon, a man he met years ago in Europe. He's come searching for him with the hopes of selling him a story for $500, money he needs for a reason that can't be explained without telling him that story.
Iscovescu found years ago when leaving Europe that he couldn't come directly into the US. Making his way to Mexico in the hopes of an easy crossing into the country, he's told that it will take 5-8 years due to the number of refugees coming from his home. He finds accommodations in a hotel near the border where he sits and waits for his time, hoping that his money doesn't run out.
While waiting he sees a familiar face, Anita Dixon (Paulette Goddard). The two were a professional dancing couple when they were together in Europe. They spend some time together and Anita tells him there is a way to circumvent the wait to enter the country, one that she employed: find someone to marry and once across the border seek a divorce.
Iscovescu agrees to use this method and begins searching for a woman to romance and lure into his plan with the intent of rejoining Dixon once he's in the US. After a few failed attempts he sets his sights on Miss Emmy Brown (Olivia de Havilland), a school teacher on holiday with some of her young students for the Fourth of July. In no time at all she falls for his romantic tactics and they get married before she heads back home. Returning with the children it will take a few months for Iscovescu's papers to be processed and then they will be reunited.
With things going as planned now all he has to do is wait. Dixon returns and the couple room next door to one another getting cozy without fear of being recognized as a pair. But immigration Inspector Hammock (Walter Abel) knows the methods Dixon used in the past and is suspicious. When Emmy returns for an unexpected visit, Iscovescu sneaks her out of town for a romantic getaway.
During this trip the couple find themselves lost and ending up in a quaint village where the townspeople are celebrating an upcoming marriage. As Iscovescu watches Emmy he begins to develop a fondness for her. The slow change of Iscovescu from roguish gigolo to a man quite possibly in love makes for the most fascinating portion of the film.
But with the potential for happiness comes the matter of conflict in the story. As Iscovescu has fallen for Emmy his partner Dixon only seeks what is good for her. An inevitable clash between characters is set in motion and the end result is not quite what you would expect.
In a world where the topic of the southern border between the US and Mexico is in the daily news to find a movie made all those years ago discussing the same topic is interesting. The refugees on display here are coming not for jobs but for the freedoms that they hold up as something to be treasured. Their willingness to wait for the opportunity is a far cry from the flooding of the border today.
In addition to that the story here while focused around the three main characters is surrounded by the other cast members as well as the location the story takes place in. The various guests in the hotel Iscovescu is staying in round out the story and make it more believable. Their tale is just as important as his. It all comes together to make an interesting film that will hold your attention from start to finish.
Once more Arrow Video has done an amazing job of resurrecting a film that might otherwise have been lost. It's presented in a 1080p from original film elements and includes a number of extras as well. Those include a new audio commentary track by film scholar Adrian Martin, "Love Knows No Borders" a newly filmed appreciation of the film by critic Geoff Andrew, "The Guardian Lecture: Olivia de Havilland" a career spanning onstage interview with Olivia de Havilland at the National Film Theater in 1971, a rare hour long radio adaptation of HOLD BACK THE DAWN starring Charles Boyer, Paulette Goddard and Susan Hayward, a gallery of original stills and promotional images, the original film trailer, a reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio, and for the first pressing only an illustrated collector's booklet with new writing on the film by writer and critic Farran Smith Nehme.
I'd heard of the film THE LOVELESS years ago but not about its two directors at the time. One, Monty Montgomery, went on to work with David Lynch and did most of his work as a producer. The other was Kathryn Bigelow who went on to do films like NEAR DARK, POINT BREAK and THE HURT LOCKER. Which was more responsible for the way this film turned out we may never know but the film, while not a box office success, has garnered a cult following over the years.
Taking place in the late 50s Willem Dafoe is featured in his first leading role stars as Vance, a greaser on the road heading to Daytona and stopping in a backwoods small town to wait for his friends. Slicked back hair and black leather jacket over a sleeveless white T-shirt his mere appearance informs the viewer that this is a loner, a non-conformist with a chip on his shoulder. He's one of the one percenters before the term was widely known.
The reaction of the townsfolk to Vance is overtly stereotypical. He's trouble and they don't like him, to the point where the owner of the diner almost doesn't allow her waitress to serve him. What we as viewers notice though is that he's law abiding and doesn't cause trouble. He pays for everything he orders or buys throughout the film.
When his friends show one of them is having problems with his motorcycle. The group goes down the road to the local gas station and rents the garage for the night to work on the bike. Through the various customers that come through the station we get a glimpse of the townspeople and their reactions to the group. Once more through their appearance and behavior we get the idea that this is a motorcycle gang but not the typical sort. These men met in prison or on the road and are simply traveling together.
One of the townspeople that stops by is Telena (Marin Kanter), a young girl driving a sports car and someone you know is more likely to inspire trouble rather than walk away from it. Vance asks to drive her car and the pair head out down the road where she tells him her story. Her mother committed suicide and her father gave her the car out of guilt. They pick up beer and whiskey for the gang, drop it off and head to a hotel together.
The sound of gunshots outside and the bursting of their room door has Telena's father grabbing her and taking her out as she yells that she Vance didn't do anything her father hadn't done to her before. It's a troubling scene to think about and one that leaves Vance pondering what she meant.
Things come full circle as that night the gang heads to the local bar to hang out. Telena's father Tarver (J. Don Ferguson) is there and trying to start problems calling the gang members Communists. He has plans for them all and before the night is over things will indeed happen.
While all of this sounds like plenty to work with the film is actually one of the slowest moving pictures I've seen in some time. I don't mean that in a bad way either. It just takes time to build up speed and the highest point of that speedometer isn't all that fast. As Vance says at one point they're going "nowhere fast". There are no fast movements here, no bar room brawls and no drag races to be seen. And yet there is violence and deep emotion on display here.
Dafoe shows here in his earliest lead why he's such a sought after actor to this day. He never gives a bad performance that I've seen. As his sidekick Davis rockabilly singer Robert Gordon does an admirable jobs and comes off quite believable. He should have pursued a career in acting. Kanter does a great job here too making the sweet young possible teen who seems innocent actually something much more troubled than one would expect. Combined with the experimental feeling of the cinematography and direction it makes of an interesting film.
Do I really have to say after the praise I heap on all of their releases how great a job Arrow Video has done here? They start out with a brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative, approved by co-writer/co-director Monty Montgomery and director of photography Doyle Smith. Then there are their usual set of great extras. Those include a new audio commentary track with Montgomery moderated by Elijah Drenner, "No Man's Friend Today: Making The Loveless" a look at the film with interviews Dafoe, Kanter, Gordon, Phillip Kimbrough and Lawrence Matarese, "U.S. 17: Shooting The Loveless" a new interview with producers Grafton Nunes and A. Kitman Ho, "Chrome and Hot Leather: The Look of The Loveless" new interviews with production designer Lilly Kilvert and director of photography Doyle Smith, "Relentless" a new interview with musician Eddy Dixon, an extensive image gallery, the theatrical trailer, a reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx and with the first pressing only an illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Peter Stanfield.
The age of the mom and pop video store was a time when almost anything that could be made for a minor amount of money was taking place and rushed to the shelves to satisfy a customer base willing to plop down money for anything new. It was a time that I've talked about before, a time when horror films were being made that featured some terrible effects, mindless plots and plenty of skin and gore. Not all of these movies were bad but then again most weren't that good. Take THE CHILL FACTOR.
Narrated in the present a woman tells her story of a group of friends off for a weekend of snowmobiling. They stop in a tavern where they eat, drink and talk to the local friendly barmaid/owner. She tells them that if they're going out to make sure they get back before dark and to avoid Black Friar Lake and she'll tell them all about the place when they get back.
The group heads out, the testosterone inspires two of the guys to race and one of them ends up tossed from his snowmobile and into a tree severely damaging him. Looking for shelter they come across the main building that once housed a summer camp. Filled with religious icons and covered in dust no one had been here for some time. Injured enough that he can't be moved, one of the members decides to race back and get help before it gets too dark.
As the others scout out the building they come across what resembles an Ouija board. Jeannie, our narrator, tells them that this is a Devil's Eye board and also lets them know that her mother was a gypsy fortune teller. They beg her to show them how it works in spite of her repeated pleas that it will only offer them danger. Of course she eventually caves in and the door is then opened for malevolent spirits to once more walk the earth.
It isn't long before the members of this small group begin being killed off one by one. The wounded member suddenly makes a miraculous recovery but we know this is only because the demon spirits are attempting to possess him. And while we know that at least one of these friends will survive (our narrator), we don't know if any of the rest will or what she will find by the end of the film.
Other than the equipment rentals used to make the film most likely the biggest budget went to renting the snowmobiles for the film. The sets aren't bad but kept enough in darkness enough that we don't really see much. The acting is better than many low budget flicks but nothing that would stand out or make you think anyone involved would go on to bigger and better things. I can tell you up front that none of them did and the most roles any of them show at imdb is 6. For most this was their only experience before a camera.
And yet it isn't the worst movie ever made or even among the top ten. It's actually not bad in spite of everything. Some might rank it among those terrible movies that are so bad they're good but I found it to be decent if nothing else. Is it one I'm likely to pull out from time to time? No. Is it one I would suggest to mainstream renters of movies? No. But I would suggest it to those friends I have who enjoy a good low budget horror film and can accept it for what it is.
Arrow Video has done more for this movie than the original backers did. To begin with it's being offered on blu-ray with a 2k scan from original film elements. And the extras are more than one would expect from a small film like this. They include a new audio commentary track with special effects artist Hank Carlson and horror writer Josh Hadley, a new interview with makeup artist Jeffrey Lyle Segal, a new interview with production manager Alexandra Reed, a new interview with stunt coordinator Gary Paul, a still gallery, the original VHS trailer, a reversible sleeve with original artwork and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach and for the first pressing only a collector's booklet with new writing by Mike White.
One thing that should be brought up immediately when discussing the film HAIL SATAN? The movie is about The Satanic Temple and yet has virtually nothing to do with the religious character of Satan. Instead the film is a documentary about the group as a radical political group who chose the name with the intent of upsetting and poking a figure into the eye of the religious right.
The Satanic Temple were co-founded by Lucien Greaves and Malcolm Jarry with Greaves taking the role of front man for the organization. Self-proclaimed atheists the pair make it their mission to take on the religious groups for what they consider infringing on their rights and the separation of church and state. In their view the two entities should never mingle and all things religious should be removed from public locations or other icons should be allowed to co-exist in the same place.
The films shows the group beginning as a sort of merry prankster type organization that just wants to ridicule and attack those they disagree with. But as it progresses we see that the more people that join the more serious their views on things solidify and become more meaningful to their members.
One of the center pieces of the film you've most likely heard about and that is the construction and emplacement of a statue of Baphomet at the state capitol in Arkansas. Their desire was to have this statue of a horned satanic goat creature located next to the statue of the Ten Commandments there. While the claim is that they believe in their religious freedom to do so it's painfully obvious this is a way to thumb their noses at those who have religious convictions.
As the film progresses we see some of the other events that the group has promoted. One is an after school Satan club complete with coloring books and another a "Menstruatin' with Satan" program that provides feminine sanitary products for women. In the eyes of the group and the director of this film, this is simply trolling those who they seek to offend and upset, harmless harassment of people they consider rubes for believing the way they do.
But something amusing does actually take place as the film nears its end. The group has become so large that this anarchistic organization formed to stick it to those tethered by rules and regulations suddenly becomes the entity they seek to destroy. They come up with their own set of rules to be followed. When the leader of the Detroit chapter violates one of those rules by calling for the assassination of the President, she is kicked out of the organization. The group has gone full circle and become that which they claim to hate the most.
Perhaps it's showing my age but as I watched the members of the group rattle off about their beliefs and the organization I felt like I was watching a large group of malcontents who looked like the kids most picked on while in high school. I don't know how to describe it. It's not the tattoos or body piercings that make one believe this (I know plenty of people with both) but their general attitude towards things. They might have legal legs to stand on in the various events they stage but at the same time after watching this film I find it hard to believe they do them out of concern and more out of just an attempt to garner attention for themselves and laugh at others as if they're above it all.
Would I recommend this film? Sure. It gives people a chance to see how ridiculous a group like this can be. Or if you're a believer in the organization you'll cheer for their antics. They distance themselves from the religious version of Satan but have no problem using icons or ceremonies that have ties. In the end it's a movie about people who seem to have nothing better to do than make waves.
You know you're old when you begin writing about how things were when you were younger. But that's the case with many movies that are offered now on DVD and blu-ray for the first time. They are timeless classics that were forgotten but that bring back fond memories of days gone by for those who lived then. For those of us in our teens in the 70s FM music was the way to go. A cleaner crisper sound with none of the static that AM offered. So it was only natural that a movie about the topic would arrive on the scene and it did in 1978 with the film appropriately entitled FM.
Jeff Dugan (Michael Brandon) is the station manager/program director for Q-SKY radio in Los Angeles. Having assembled the cream of the crop with the DJs on hand and programming the station with more music than most he's been able to make the station number one in the market. But with that comes a problem.
The home office has just sent in sales manager Regis Lamar (Tom Tarpey). Lamar has plans to bring in ads for the US Army to the station. It doesn't fit their format or their audience so if course Dugan isn't very receptive to the idea. Eventually Lamar calls on the big wigs back at corporate to back him up which they do, dollar signs in their eyes.
This leads Dugan to quit the station. The other DJs back him up though, taking the studio hostage and barricading themselves in with supplies and telling their listeners what's going on. The station is surrounded by the listeners who support the move and a showdown between those who truly love the music and the corporation that wants to do nothing more than profit from the popularity of the station butt heads.
The story is rather simple and based on an actual event though reinterpreted for the film. What makes the film work though is the characters that flesh out the story and their tales that wrap around it all. Eileen Brennan, a fantastic actress, portrays Mother, the eldest of the DJs who is ready to bring her career to an end, tired of the traveling and catering to callers seeking more than her ear. Martin Mull is Eric Swan, a letch if there ever was one, who dreams of hosting a game show and moving up in the world. Cleavon Little is Prince, the soft speaking sultry night time DJ who's there to wind you up and help you along with a romantic evening. Alex Karras is Doc, a country DJs whose style doesn't quite fit in at the station and who's about to be cut with the lowest ratings in his time spot. And replacing Doc is Laura Coe (Cassie Yates) a soft spoken female DJ who also becomes the love interest of Dugan. Rounding out the group is Bobbie Douglas (Jay Fenichel), the station engineer who wants to be a DJ and gets the chance by doing news.
Each of these characters gets their own special spot in the movie highlighting their skills on air and off. These moments are skillfully placed around the story and help move it forward. Their moments add laughter that is appropriately placed alongside tender moments where you consider the life of a DJ and its ups and downs. Through it all the groups bands together in a family of sorts that stands next to and supports one another making the film a treat.
In addition to the actors the movie sported one of the best double album soundtracks ever recorded with not only hits of the time but a few concert performances that were included in the film by Jimmy Buffet and Linda Ronstadt as well as an autograph signing sequence with REO Speedwagon. The title song was made specifically for the song and "FM" by Steely Dan was a hit for the band.
The film never was a huge hit when released which always surprised me at the time and to this day. The people I've talked to who saw the film when it was released have always had as fond memories of the film as I have. Those of us who enjoyed it will be overjoyed at the release being offered now by Arrow Video. As always their presentation is amazing.
The movie has been transferred from original film elements giving a clear and clean picture. And it includes a number of extras like a new interview with Michael Brandon, Ezra Sacks who wrote the picture and an appreciation of the era of FM music by film and music critic Glenn Kenny.
This is not a film that you will likely find for rental. It's a movie that fans of the film have longed would be released. If you loved the music, if you have great memories of FM radio and if you remember the movie now is your chance to own it in the best format possible. My guess is you're already hearing the theme song in your head. Now give the movie a try.
The action genre is certainly seeing and upswing when it comes to films from the east. Chinese, Korean and now Vietnam. Well Go, a company that seems dedicated to bringing the best of these films to the world, has just released another film that combines the heart wrenching drama of child kidnapping with martial arts mayhem that will keep you watching from start to finish. The movie is FURIE and it packs a wallop.
Veronica Ngo stars as Hai Phuong, a woman with a past trying to make do and support her young daughter Mai by collecting debts for the local loan shark in a small town in Vietnam. Bullied due to her mother's job choice one day while at the market Mai is hurt when Hai doesn't believe her. Running off she is quickly grabbed by a set of kidnappers. Hai chases them down but they escape. Asking around she discovers their destination, Ho Chi Minh City.
Following any and all leads she heads to the city, a place she left long ago that's filled with only bad memories. It was here that she disappointed her family, getting pregnant by a gangster who left her behind. In order to survive she became a gangster herself, a dangerous woman who could take on any and all comers in a fight. When her pregnancy doesn't allow this any longer is when she left.
Back in Ho Chi Minh City, she seeks help from the acquaintances from her past. They turn her down. She goes to the police who seem less than interested but while scouring their office she sees a potential lead. Hai seeks out a known ex-gangster like herself, someone who is known to have information named Truc. A fight breaks out between the two and only because of his mother's pleading does Hai allow him to live. He gives her information and she leaves.
Not long after a police detective named Luong comes to Truc's as well. Truc is only to ready to give him what information he provided to Hai. Before he can make his way to the child trafficker's hideout Hai gets there. Taking on all comers she defeats them one by one until she meets up with the leader of the gang. Beaten down one would think this would end it all. But with the help of Luong Hai once more lifts herself up, determined to save the one thing that matters to her more than life itself, her daughter.
It's easy to see that the action in the film comes in the form of the various fights that Hai finds herself in. But the drama that combines well with the action here revolves around multiple stories. There is Hai and her past that catches up to her. There is Mai who wants to help but finds herself at odds with her mother. This normal relationship between parent and child, that certain amount of rebelliousness, works well with this story. Added to this is the story of child traffickers, a worldwide scourge that is seeing a much larger problem these days.
All of these items could have been tossed in a blender only to see how they poured out. Instead we have a well thought out drama with touches of violence that works on all levels. That's not an easy task to accomplish and yet it is done well here.
Something is always "lost in translation" when you find yourself reading subtitles. That being said enough is still able to be gathered by the performances here that you find yourself caring for everyone involved. The story is well thought out and that provides each and every actor with the chance to come at this full throttle and give it their all. And that's exactly what they do.
I'm a fan of martial arts films but this one was something a little different. It's one of the more enjoyable ones I've seen in some time and can highly recommend. Be willing to look past the subtitles and enjoy the film on its own merits. Sometimes it's nice to be open minded. You'll never know what you've missed if you don't try.
With the appearance of THE WALKING DEAD some years back now zombie films became the big thing for a while. Zombie films were popping up as fast as, well, zombies in a zombie movie. While that's good on one hand for fans of the genre it's bad as well. The genre became stale and predictable. So when something different comes along its worth making note of it. DEADSIGHT is that something new.
The film opens through the blurred vision of some inside an ambulance who then passes out. When he wakes, there's no one around him. Still not quite able to see he discovers he's handcuffed to the gurney. He finds a bottle of eye drops in his pocket and puts some in which helps a small bit. Still somewhat blind he replaces his bandages and tries to find out what happened.
Once outside it isn't long before one of the ambulance attendees attacks him, growling while doing so. Ben (Adam Seybold), as we learn later is his name, defends himself but soon the other attendant is upon him. A truck coming by with an armed man in the back shoots hitting the attendant and saving Ben's life but doesn't stop.
While this is going on police officer Mara Madigan (Liv Collins) wakes up and gets ready for work. Obviously pregnant she dresses and heads out. She had heard Ben calling for help on the ambulance radio and heads his direction to find out what was going on. When she gets nearby a woman in the road stops her. Obviously in the midst of changing she steals Mara's car and takes off down the road leaving Mara on foot.
Through determination and sheer luck Ben has made his way to a farmhouse, attacked once more outside. He takes down this zombie and begins to explore the house, counting off steps as he goes. Attacked once again it seems like the end for Ben when Mara shows up and shoots the zombie. Assessing the situation the pair decide to work together and make their way back to the ambulance. When it becomes apparent they can't make it with Mara guiding Ben, she heads out on her own.
The predicaments that this pair come up against with Mara's being pregnant and Ben being blind are what make this movie a bit different than most. This twist works well within the confines of the zombie genre and brings something new to the table. There's little change in the zombies but the only options are fast of slow. In this film they're both for some reason, perhaps due to the time of death. We also get an explanation for the outbreak for once, a variation of a flu shot that went bad.
The one thing that could ruin a movie like this is placing the roles of Ben and Mara in the hands of bad actors. While I've not heard of much by either Seybold or Collins both do a great job here. They play the roles as believable rather than ridiculing the characters. They also don't overact, a problem found in many low budget films being made in the horror genre. And yes, this is a low budget film.
But that doesn't stop it from being entertaining and interesting. In fact the low budget might actually be a plus here. The film works well in the rural setting (perhaps a tribute to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, which can also be seen when someone is killed in a cemetery by hitting their head on the corner base of a tombstone), much better than it would have in an urban one. The pregnancy, while not the first seen in a zombie flick (the remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD) it plays well here as Mara is the only one who can see.
I've seen some review take the movie to task for issues that stem from the budget and I think that's a bit unfair. For me I was interested throughout the movie never feeling that urge to press the fast forward button to get to the good parts. The combination of interesting story and solid acting made it worth watching and a film I would recommend to those who enjoy a good horror film with something new to offer.
If nothing else for horror fans the seventies was the best time for fans of the anthology horror film. Movies had been made like this in the past but nowhere near the number that came out in that decade. TALES FROM THE CRYPT, THE VAULT OF HORROR, TALES THAT WITNESS MADNESS, FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE and more saw short horror stories tied together with a single thread that horror fans were eager to see. Many of these films were produced by Milton Subotsky whose Amicus Films company released them. They also had the pleasure of starring actor Peter Cushing. Well both can be found connected to a nice little film now being released by Severin called THE UNCANNY.
The central story here revolves around a reclusive author Wilbur Gray (Cushing) who is urging publisher Frank Richards (Ray Milland) to publish his latest book that tells tales of cats being involved in the deaths of people. Gray is cautious, fearful that the cats are listening in as he relates his stories while Richards passes off his fear as nonsense. But each story Gray points out has that element of cats in it.
The first takes place in 1912 in London and involves an elderly woman named Malkin (Joan Greenwood) who is overly affectionate with the cats she has. So much so that the wealthy woman is changing her will and leaving all of her money to her cats as opposed to her nephew Michael (Simon Williams). But Michael is taking steps to prevent this by having an affair with his aunt's maid Janet (Susan Penhaligon). He wants her to steal the will and destroy it. But when she attempts to do so a scarp with Mrs. Malkin results in her dying. As Janet attempts to retrieve the will she is attacked by the cats and chased into the pantry. Can she survive the attack?
The second story takes place in 1975 where young Lucy (Katrina Holden) is orphaned and sent to live with her aunt Mrs. Blake (Alexandra Stewart), her husband and her daughter Angela (Chloe Franks). Along with Lucy is her treasured cat Wellington and several books her mother left her. Angela is the epitome of a terrible child, treating Lucy terribly and blaming any and all things she does wrong on her. Of course her parents are blind to her actions up to and including disposing of Wellington. Using the books her mother left her, books on witchcraft, Lucy will have her revenge though and Wellington will play a major role in that revenge.
The third and last tale takes place in 1936 Hollywood where the actress Madeline De'ath (Catherine Bégin) is accidentally killed on the set in an iron maiden while being filmed. Still determined to save the picture her husband and co-star Valentine De'ath (Donald Pleasance) suggest that they bring in a young actress he knows named Edina (Samantha Eggar) for the role. He fails to mention that Edina is also his mistress or that he had something to do with the failed iron maiden. The producers accept the proposal and filming restarts. But Madeline's cat has other plans in mind.
The film ends with Cushing reiterating his concerns about cats and their attacks on people, claiming these are no mere coincidences and that there is a plan behind it all. Is he right or is it all just by chance? Watch and see.
Of the many anthology films I have to admit that this is one of the weaker ones. That being said it was still a lot of fun to watch with high quality production values on screen and behind the camera. The acting on all parts was truly gifted running from the more serious offerings of Penhaligon to the campy style of Pleasance as he chews scenery with ease. And as a fan I have to say that anything Cushing applied himself to was worth watching.
Severin has done a fantastic job with the print used here, scanning from an inter-negative recently discovered in a London vault. It offers the cleanest looking version of this film to be found to date. In addition to that they offer two extras, a current interview with Penhaligon and the trailer for the film. I've got to say that Severin has stepped up their game when it comes to competing with companies like Arrow and Shout for films like this. Let's hope they continue to do so.
As the horror genre gave way from creatures to masked murderers stalking their prey theaters were inundated with various interpretations of this style of killer. By 1990 camp counselors were not being attacked as often, dreams were being invaded less often and the giallo was for the most part considered old hat. But a few films were still being made that would play in grindhouses and fill the shelves of the video stores that remained. Among them was NIGHT KILLER.
At a rehearsal for a group of dancers a masked stranger murders one of the girls involved, shoving a pointy fingered gloved hand through her abdomen. When her instructor goes to check on her she too is attacked. These are just the first victims of this odd killer.
Another potential victim is Melanie Beck (Tara Buckman), working at home after she sends her daughter to school. Beck survives the attack on the physical end but not the psychological. A single mother whose husband hasn't been seen since their divorce, her daughter goes with friends to be taken care of while she recuperates.
Instead she gets more depressed and wanders alone to the beach where she attempts to kill herself with pills. She's saved by a man whose been stalking her named Axel (Peter Hooten) who takes her to his hotel room. While watching you're not quite sure whether she's stepped out of the frying pan and into the fire or if he could be her last hope. Could this stalker be the killer?
More murders take place and the list of suspects is present for almost everyone but Beck. Thrown into massive shock by the attack she can't recall anything that took place. With no suspect, no description and no clues the police don't have much to go on. But Axel pushes Beck in an attempt to force her to remember. Will she do so? Will she be able to identify the killer or will he return to finish the job?
While the movie is entertaining in the right places and stupid in others if you don't see what's coming before the end then you've not seen many movies like this. Still, it does provide some decent acting, some terrible acting and is well crafted when it comes to the making of the film. The mask and glove may remind you of someone else (cough cough FREDDY cough cough), they don't do that character justice but still come off okay.
My biggest thought while watching the film was what ever became of Peter Hooten? This was the first person to portray Dr. Strange in a TV movie, made ORCA with Richard Harris and Bo Derek and was in the original INGLORIOUS BASTARDS. He seems to have disappeared though.
Severin has brought the film back and as with many of their releases has strived to make it look as presentable as possible, doing their usual excellent job with a version scanned in 4k from the original negative. Few extras are on hand but most likely due to the lack of items made when the film was released. What we do have is The Virginia Claw Massacre an interview with director Claudio Fargasso, an interview with screenwriter Rossella Drudi and the trailer for the film.
Horror fans will want to add this to their growing collections already fueled by previous films Severin has released. Movie fans will want to give it a watch since it does a decent job of offering a solid horror film.
Okay let's get this out of the way at the start. There is a genre of film known as Nazisploitation. For those unaware of the genre it involved, of course, Nazis and WWII as well as taking place in the few years following. The movies were filled with scenes of torture, Nazis, female concentration camp commanders, gore and sex. Everything that a good exploitation film required. The end result was a genre that kept grindhouses and drive-ins busy and open for some time. Now Severin is releasing one of the later entries into the genre, a film called THE BEAST IN HEAT.
The movie was directed by Luigi Batzella and comprised of footage shot for a previous film and new footage that was added. While that it shows the movie still at least has a coherent plotline. Released in 1977 the film opens with SS officer/doctor Dr. Ellen Kratsch (Macha Magall) displaying her latest creation, a half man/half beast near dwarf like beast she keeps in a cage. To show her colleagues what she's created she brings in a local virgin and has her tossed into the cage with the beast who then forcibly rapes the young girl nearly to death. How does this help the war movement? I have no clue.
As this is taking place in another town the resistance is doing their best to thwart the efforts of the German army. Blowing up bridges, hiding from the Nazis and facing off in various gun battles their efforts are having an effect. The local commandant is told to get things under control and to help him they are sending Dr. Kratsch.
The two stories, that of the resistance and of Kratch's various methods of torture, collide in a mish mash of a film that can't quite decide what it wants to be. That decision to combine two movies into one might not have been a good one after all. But the things that fans of the genre seem to enjoy are all here on display, in particular a good amount of exposed female flesh and plenty of gore.
I've never been a fan of the genre and this film by itself wouldn't be a good way to change someone's opinion of the films. It does provide plenty of laughs though and the extreme over acting of many of those involved. But to be honest I wouldn't have recommended this disc with the exception of something included in the package.
Included with the film is a feature length documentary on the genre called Fascism On A Thread - The Strange Story of Nazisploitation Cinema. The documentary takes on all aspects of the genre taking it far back to early WWII movies that featured some of the same themes and items that made the genre so popular. It includes interviews with various directors and writers who worked in the genre. Most notably among those interviewed is actress Dyanne Thorne whose portrayal of the main character in ILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE SS led to several sequels. By far ILSA was the quintessential film of the genre and to have her speak about it is quite interesting.
Severing has done a fine job with this release giving fans a clean version of the film, perhaps the best ever offered. In addition to the extra documentary there is Nazi Nasty: Interview with Stephen Thrower the author of MUREROUS PASSIONS and the trailer for the film.
If you're curious at all about the genre then by all means pick this title up, if not for the film itself then for the extra documentary. And if you are a fan then you'll want to add this version of the film to your collection.
The rating here is due to the extras, in particular the documentary on Nazisploitation films.
One of the joys of first VHS and now disc is that borders no longer mattered when it came to movies. Films that were regional hits shot in the backwoods of the US, martial arts movies made in China and movies from foreign countries not shown in the US were now available for anyone to have access to. In some cases that was good and in others it unleashed a flood of B to Z grade movies in the mom and pop video stores. One title that showed up on those shelves was DEATH WARMED UP. Now it's making its way to blu-ray with a great version from Severin.
Shot in New Zealand and released in 1984 the movie is a strange one. It opens with two scientists arguing about an experiment they've been working on. Watching them argue is Michael Tucker (Michael Hurst), the patient of one of the pair Dr. Howell (Gary Day) and son of the second. Howell has been treating Michael with a mind controlling drug which he uses to have him murder his parents. Michael is sent to a mental institution and Howell carries on.
Seven years later Michael and a group of friends are on a holiday to check out a remote island where Howell is now set up with his own institution. His friends include his girlfriend Sandy (Margaret Umbers), Jeannie (Norelle Scott) and her boyfriend Lucas (William Upjohn). On the ferry to the island Jeannie and Lucas have sex in the backseat of their car while two workers from Howell's institute watch from their truck. Spider (David Letch) is the apparent smart one of the pair, both of them looking and dressing like casts members of the latest ROAD WARRIOR film rather than hospital employees. Their watching begins to affect the more silent member of the two and his head begins fluctuating as he becomes ill. Caught watching it results in a fight between the two workers with Michael and Lucas and threats of revenge.
When they get to the island the foursome begin driving around. Only Jeannie knows the real reason for coming here. Michael wants revenge on Dr. Howell and to kill him. But his chances are reduced when Spider and his partner try to run them off the road. They escape but the deadly duo are not unscathed. Spider takes his friend to Howell for help who turns him down. This angers Spider who releases the prisoners Howell holds in his hospital, zombie like creatures oozing fluids and seeking destruction.
While this is taking place Michael and crew have explored secret tunnels he was told would lead him to Howell's hospital. Naturally the group is separated, bodies are found and Michael is captured by Howell. Not all of them will make it out alive as they find themselves surrounded by the various creatures for Howell's labs.
The movie is crazy in every way imaginable. Plot lines sometimes don't make sense but yet it works from start to finish. One has to wonder if everyone in New Zealand and Australia had some fashion scene going on in the 80s that required them to dress like post-Apocalyptic world denizens. The gore factor on the film may not equal that of many movies made since but the amount of blood, guts and gooey bodily fluids on display here will satisfy the most bloodthirsty gore hound.
Fans of the old mom and pop stores might even recall the box art they saw when the film was released back then. The number of movies that were made or played straight to video at the time are becoming a genre unto themselves and companies like Severin are making those movies available for the nostalgic.
Speaking of Severin this version of the film is a class act with a nice restoration on blu-ray. In addition to that they've included some extras that fans of the film will love viewing. These include the original New Zealand 4x3 VHS cut of the film, an audio commentary track by director David Blyth and writer Michael Heath, "I'll Get You All" an interview with actor Letch, deleted scenes with optional audio commentary by Blyth and Heath, an interview featurette with Blyth and Heath, the theatrical trailer, the VHS trailer and a TV spot.
Horror fans will be happy with the end result here and potentially flock to the film. Some will catch it for the first time. On the whole it was interesting to watch and brought back fond video store memories.
Once again saving a somewhat obscure title from oblivion Severin steps up with the release of ROBOWAR. Directed by famed Italian director Bruno Mattei (under his pseudonym Vincent Dawn) in 1988, this film takes several sci-fi hits, tosses those ideas into a blender and comes out as something different if nothing else. The film was written by husband and wife team of Claudio Fragasso and Rosella Drudi who worked with Mattei on other films.
The film opens with a series of explosions and soldiers being shot up while a team in a helicopter says they've lost touch with someone before being shot from the sky. A top secret military official and scientist need a special team to go into the field. The officer picks a team led by Maj. Murphy Black (Reb Brown). Mascher (Mel Davidson) is going in with them.
While the team has no idea what their mission is in detail they know they're going into a dangerous location. While it looks like Africa the names of towns sound Spanish so who knows where. Mascher tells them to keep alert and when they find what they're after he'll let them know. But let's not beat around the bush here. What they are searching for is a cybernetic killing machine, a fusion of robot and man built to become the ultimate weapon armed with searing heat rays, explosives and more.
As the team travels through the jungle they come across the bodies of soldiers who've come up against their prey. Their bodies are melted heaps of flesh, gooey gore clinging to skeletons. Wondering what they've gotten themselves into the continue going through the jungle as cybernetic eyes watch them while we hear the electronic vocalizing of the creation.
As the make their way to a nearby road they watch as two jeeps filled with local military personnel or perhaps mercenaries are chasing down two men and a woman. The men are shot and they catch up with the woman (Catherine Hickland). Mascher tells the team this is none of their business but Black and his men rescue the woman. The woman is named Virgin (seriously!) and she tells them she's part of a relief effort that was attacked. Of course they decide to help her there. That leads to bloodshed with the army based there and then an attack from their prey.
Eventually as the team members begin to be attacked once the local military is decimated Mascher must tell them what's taking place. In addition to that he has a weapon that can take out the killing machine but he has to be within range to use it. If he chooses to do so. His biggest concerns are trying to fix the machine man in the field so he can get him back for tweaking. But maybe this robo-warrior has other plans.
While watching the film I could tell exactly which films were being combined here. The muscular no sleeve mercenary look of the team reminded me of PREDATOR as did the views through the robo-warrior's eyes. The robo-warrior was a definite rip-off of ROBOCOP. And the corporate guy trying to save the project was pure ALIEN. So when watching the extras and hearing Drudi admit that these were the three films they had in mind to combine for this one I was vindicated.
The movies is a typical Italian production with halfway decent production values made on a shoe string budget that shows. From the looks of things the biggest part of that was spent on blanks for the guns in use. How a team like this was supposed to carry that many bullets was a mystery that was never explained.
The acting...well...yeah it was pretty bad for the most part. Davidson comes off fairly well here and Hickland. But as much as I think Reb Brown must be a nice guy he's a terrible actor. Honestly I've seen one good performance from him (UNCOMMON VALOR) but this is the guy that killed off the potential super hero films back in the late 70s when he played Captain America. The rest of the cast doesn't add much to the film either.
So here's the thing about this movie. There are fans out there rabid for any and all things Italian as well as movies that were the filler for shelves in mom and pop video stores. These kind of movies promised nothing and anything you got from them became a fun filled evening. People who were kids back in those days now want to reclaim those movies and companies like Severin are giving them that opportunity.
I've sung the praises of Severin more than once and I will continue to do so as long as they do the commendable job that they're doing now. Because not only are they releasing this film in a newly scanned 4k version from the original negative there are plenty of extras here as well. Those include "Robo Predator" an interview with co-director/co-writer Fragasso, "Italian Rip Off" an interview with co-writer Drudi, "Violence She Wrote" a career interview with Drudi, "Robo-Lady" an interview with Catherine Hickland, "Papa Doc's War" and interview with actor John P. Dulaney, "The Robowarrior" an interview with actor Jim Gaines Jr., "War in the Philippines" an interview with stuntman/actor Massimo Vanni, "Catherine Hickland's Behind the Scenes Home Movies", the trailer and an extra disc featuring the soundtrack for the film.
The film may not be for everyone but the fans will flock to this release as they well should. And if you have a chance to watch the film then by all means give it a look. You'll have some fun and it might bring back some nice memories of walking the aisles at the local video store.
I've been a movie fan for some time. It began when I was a child and continued forward from there. I was such a fan at one time I wanted to get in the business. I minored in motion pictures (Ball State didn't offer it as a major). During my time in classes I had the opportunity to see a vast number of films. Remember this is before the days of the VCR when everyone suddenly had easy access. I remember one instructor I had who insisted on presenting to us the most unusual and pointless films possible. He'd taught at Ann Arbor before coming here. More often than not the films were shorts and he even went so far as to tell us that a person could make a living off of government grants that would give you the money to make films like this. These films weren't entertaining, they were "art".
I began to learn something about many (not all) "art" films. They were made by people who were arrogant, full of themselves and who basically slapped together anything they could think of and then calling it "art". And critics were eager to please this crowd. I don't think they actually liked what they were seeing so much as not wanting to be seen as not being part of the "in" crowd, not admitting that it made no sense and was nothing more than trash. They continue to do that to this day, even more so in a highly politicized film industry determined to enlighten rather than entertain come Oscar time.
Why go through all of this background? Well you have to know where I'm coming from before I say something about the movie SAINT BERNARD.
Let me start by saying that no, this is not a sequel to CUJO. I was not a fan of CUJO but I can honestly say it was leaps and bounds better than this movie. If there is a plot in this film I couldn't tell you what it is. During the extras I hard director Gabe Bartalos discuss the narrative of the film but even after hearing this I couldn't find one.
Let me see what I can come up with between what I viewed and what I've read. The film revolves around the central character of Bernard (Jason Dugre), an apparent conductor in white tails complete with baton. IMDB give the description "A classical musical conductor unravels into the abyss of insanity." Watching the film I couldn't tell for sure if he was an actual conductor or not, if it was all in his head or reality. There didn't seem to be any delineation between what was real and what was perhaps a dream state or perhaps an insanity of the mind. It was all one big ride through the mindscape of the central character. Were the other characters real of just imaginings? No way of knowing.
The title might be referring to the main character named Bernard or it might be referring to the severed head with attached spinal column of an actual saint bernard that he comes across and then takes with him throughout the film. Other characters are the strangest that have appeared on film since perhaps a Terry Gilliam flick or even a David Lynch film. Those two names come to mind often while watching this movie. It's as if Bartalos loved their movies and emulated them here without bothering to attach a plot to the things he liked.
Known mainly for his work in special effects makeup Bartalos offers plenty in that area in this film. The severed dog's head, a woman whose legs are run over by a truck, strange looking creatures and people and more match the items he's made in the past for films like BASKETCASE 3, MUNCHIE, BRAIN DEAD and DARKMAN. I have no doubt that this film was an attempt for him to put together a movie that would help his career by allowing producers to see what he was capable of. The problem is before someone turns over millions to you to make a movie you have to make something that will generate enough of a return for them to be willing to trust you with it. This movie is not that.
Suffice to say that there will be some who will love this movie and sing its praises. They will be the same ones who watch ERASERHEAD monthly and who condemn the world of Marvel hero films and mainstream slashers. For those people enjoy this film in the best way possible since that's what Severin is now offering. Transferred from the original negative making it the cleanest print you will find with just a few extras on hand makes this the best offering of the film you can find. If it sounds like your kind of film by all means give it a shot. If curious you've been warned. If not your thing move on.
In just two films Jordan Peele has shown what a capable director he is. His first film GET OUT earned him an Oscar nomination in that category. I'm not sure his second film will follow but for fans of horror, science fiction and the just down right strange you'll find the film US a movie that will keep you watching.
The film opens in 1986 when young Adelaide Thomas on vacation at an amusement park in Vera Cruz with her family wanders away from her father and down to the beach. She notices a strange building, a haunted house of sorts there and enters only to see something that frightened her and would change her life forever.
Fast forward to the present as Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o) is now married to Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke) with two young children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). The family is on their way for their own vacation not far from Vera Cruz. Renting a house on the bay and a boat as well it seems to be a perfect time. With friends Kitty and Josh Tyler (Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker) and their two daughters things should be fun. But that changes suddenly when Jason sees a figure on the beach and discovers the same haunted house that Adelaide did years ago.
That night Jason looks out the front door and sees another family standing in their driveway. Not willing to be intimidated Gabe tells them to leave and threatens to call the police. And then things get really weird. The family begins tormenting the Wilsons by trying to break through the front door and smashing the windows. They eventually gain entrance, taking the family hostage.
At this point the Wilsons notice something about the intruders. They are each an exact copy of the Wilson family. Of this group only one seems able to speak, Red (also played by Nyong'o). Her voice is raspy but she talks about things as if Adelaide should know her. Could this be the person she saw long ago in that old building?
We're less than an hour into the film at this point and so much has taken place. We also discover that not only the Wilsons but the Tyler family have had the same thing happen to them. Who are these people? What do they want? Where are they from? And why do they look like exact duplicates of those whose house they enter?
Peele takes his time revealing the answers to these and more questions that arise as clues are offered. It takes a deft touch to accomplish this task and do so in a manner that will hold your interest from start to finish. He does that expertly here. It's no wonder he was chosen to head up the new version of TWILIGHT ZONE on CBS All Access.
Peele also wrote the script and if anything has a problem here it is minor bits and pieces with that. The standard fare found in horror films, the random stupid move by a character is found in the film. More often than not this usually involves female characters who run from killers only to trip and fall while screaming. In this case most of those moments fall to Gabe. Of all the characters in the film he is the one that most viewers will want to slap.
The performances here are well done by all. Nyong'o has the most to handle playing both Adelaide and Red. As one she's a shell shocked mother trying to save her family while the other is a raspy voiced murderous woman looking for escape and something else. Nope, no spoiler there you'll have to watch to find out just what that is. Duke does a good job as Gabe, the happy husband who thinks everything is fine and just wants things to go back to normal. Both Joseph and Alex turn in solid performances in roles that in the hands of lesser actors would ruin the whole film.
One thing to note is not to end the film too quickly. This is one that keeps giving even after you think you have it all figured out. And then it changes things up again. And then it makes you think perhaps what you thought happened wasn't right all along. An interesting movie that will frighten some and fascinate others and one to enjoy.
So often these days major horror films are given vast amounts of attention, spurred on by critics who rarely see horror films and are stunned by what they see. But for fans of horror most of those films are nowhere near the terrifying experience or enjoyable night at the movies that these critics think they are. True horror fans find the movies that stir them more on the fringes than in the mainstream press reviews. Those films are often small on budget and huge on fright, often far more interesting and original than those major releases. Like THE CLEANING LADY.
Alice (Alexis Kendra) is a young woman on her own with an addiction to love. Not intimacy or sex but love. She currently finds herself in an affair with a married man who continues to promise he will leave his wife for her one day. Attending group therapy for her addiction complete with a sponsor she swears off the relationship and plans to stick to her no contact promise. Working out of her home as a high end and in demand beautician Alice can afford to live well and on her own. She has no monetary need for Michael, the man she's drawn to.
When her drain clogs Alice contacts her landlord about the problem. One day she comes home to find Shelly (Rachel Alig), a severely burn scarred young woman, taking care of the problem. Needing someone to clean her apartment she offers to pay Shelly in cash to avoid the landlord knowing to do so and Shelly accepts. From this an infatuation develops.
We already know something is up with Shelly having watched her in the opening moments of the film toss three live rats into a blender before serving them up to someone hidden in a trailer. But none of that is brought up until later in the film. For now she's content to find a sort of friendship with Alice. Alice is just being kind to someone less fortunate but Shelly thinks of it as something more.
Things become even stranger when one night Shelly creeps in and chloroforms Alice. While out she makes a mold of Alice' face and then replicates it to create a latex mask that she wears when on her own, all without Alice having knowledge of what took place. Soaking in Alice' tub when she's away, dressing in her clothes, this brings to mind films like SINGLE WHITE FEMALE with a bit of a twist.
As things progress we learn Shelly's back story. Perhaps with one of the worst mothers in history we watch as her mother pimps her out at a young age. We see the problems the two face. And eventually we learn how Shelly was scarred. But the scars she has inside rival those on the surface and just how those will affect what takes place makes for the fright found in this film.
Well shot, well directed, well written and performed by actresses who may not be what Hollywood considers A-listers but who should be, this movie will hold your interest from start to finish. It takes the time to develop the story that is involved here, both from the viewpoint of Alice and her needs and those of Shelly and hers. The combining of these stories that wrap around one another until the final story becomes one is will done.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I put this one in to watch. After viewing it and while I enjoyed it I wasn't even sure if I'd ever watch it again. But the more time that passes since that first viewing the more I think I will. For me it was that good. Repeat viewings are something that help me judge how good a movie is. So take my word on it, this one is a solid horror film that will have you guessing and watching from start to finish.
One of the masters of film to come out of Italy is director Lucio Fulci. While working mostly in the exploitation genre he was still able to bring style to the films he made. This endeared him not only to the fans of horror films in particular but to all movie fans. Known mostly for films like CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE BEYOND and ZOMBIE, Fulci also delved into the giallo genre from time to time. This film was one that didn't garner praise when it was released but that fans have flocked to since its arrival on disc. Now Blue Underground is releasing the ultimate version of film to blu-ray.
When the body of a prostitute is found slashed horribly the case is presented to Lieutenant Fred Williams (Jack Hedley), a burned out detective nearing retirement but one of those never give up trying to solve the case types. A second murder occurs and Williams in talking to the coroner is told that a style is present in both cases.
Williams is told by the police chief not to say anything to the press for fear of alarming the public to the menace of a serial killer. To help him learn more about the mind of the killer Williams turns to Dr. Paul Davis (Paolo Malco), a young psychiatrist specializing in profiling criminals. Eager to aid Williams he begins looking into the case on his own.
Running concurrently with this story we have a woman who frequents the bawdier sides of NYC. Jane Lodge (Alexandra Delli Colli) is a married woman who we first see masturbating in a live sex show while recording herself on a small tape recorder. When the show ends she leaves. Backstage we see the female performer (Zora Kerova) in her dressing room hearing a noise in her clothing rack. She is viciously attacked and stabbed to death with a broken bottle, the newest victim of the killer. At the apartment of his prostitute girlfriend Kitty (Daniela Doria), Williams is called by the killer who talks in a "duck" voice, taunting the detective and letting him know of the last murder.
We then move on to yet another story mingled in with these two. Fay Majors (Almanta Keller) is followed on her way home by a man missing two fingers (Howard Ross), the same man who was in the live sex show with Kerova. She is then attacked and her leg sliced with a razor before she escapes. She awakes the next morning with her boyfriend Peter Bunch (Andrew Painter) there. Williams and Davis show up to question her and they learn about the suspect with two missing fingers.
Finally bringing things together Jane (whose husband is well aware of her sexual encounters including one that's a bit extreme between her theater encounter and now) is picked up by the man missing two fingers for a sexual fling. Seeing he is being sought by the police she escapes when he falls asleep. But will she truly escape? And will Fay just be an intended victim or will the killer seek her out? And will Williams and Davis be able to put together the clues before the next victim fall to the New York Ripper?
Fulci's film is highly graphic and filled with some of the goriest moments in film history, topping even some of the notable scenes in his other films. So graphic were these moments that the film was banned in the UK as long ago as 2011 when the film was first released on disc. And while I've seen plenty of blood spilled in film I have to agree that this one is particularly gruesome. I think the fact that this has nothing to do with the supernatural and that killers like this exist in the real world might be the cause of that.
Much has been said about Fulci not liking women and having a need to degrade and savage them on screen and off while making films. At the same time those who actually worked with him said this isn't true. In one of the extras here co-writer Dardano Sacchetti clarifies this by saying that it wasn't women Fulci had an issue with but bad actors who didn't take well to direction. Other interviews with the female cast members of this film have them fondly recalling working with Fulci so perhaps there is much truth in those words.
The movie is entertaining for fans of not just Fulci but for giallo and foreign film fans as well. There are some truly gut wrenching moments and a mystery to solve here that will keep movie goers guessing until the end. The acting is better than usual and the intensity of the film is there on screen. A warning to more sensitive viewers this film could qualify as hardcore porn, at least as it was back then. The sexuality on display here from the simulated stage sex to the sequence involving Colli as she is set upon in a bar is more terrifying than arousing. Some will be repulsed by it and that may have been what Fulci was going for.
While the movie wasn't well received when it was released it has developed quite a fan following since that time. Although banned in the UK as I mentioned a large number of bootleg and foreign editions made their way into that country for rabid fans seeking it out. The film did well enough when first released on DVD and my guess is that this new Blue Underground blu-ray edition will sell quite well. In no small part that would be due to the amazing amount of extras to be found here.
To begin with the movie here is a 4k restoration from the original uncensored original camera negative. Then there is a third disc included offering the motion picture soundtrack by Francesco De Masi. A second disc includes a ton of extras including an audio commentary track with Troy Howarth the author of "Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films, "The Art of Killing" an interview with Dardano Sacchetti, "Three Fingers of Violence" an interview with Howard Ross, "The Second Victim" an interview with co-star Cinzia De Ponti, "The Broken Bottle Murder" an interview with Zora Kerova, "I'm an Actress!" a 2009 interview with Kerova, "The Beauty Killer" an interview with Stephen Thrower the author of "Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci", "Paint Me Blood Red" and interview with poster artist Enzo Sciotti, a now and then location featurette, the theatrical trailer, a poster and stills gallery and a collectable booklet with a new essay by Travis Crawford.
I've talked at length about the release of films from Arrow Video. That company, based out of England, is doing amazing things. But it appears that Blue Underground has stepped up to the plate to give them a run for their money. They may not be releasing as many titles as Arrow but the quality of the product they are releasing is equal to that company's. One can only hope that they continue to do the amazing job they've shown so far with this and releases of ZOMBIE and MANIAC. If they do fans will be flocking to the sales racks.
Simon Pegg came to the attention of most American audiences with the release of SHAUN OF THE DEAD. Since then he's done a few horror films but has delved into more standard roles as well as the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE series of movies. So when word got out that he was in a new horror film along with cohort Nick Frost (who he co-starred with in SHAUN and PAUL) I was anxious to see how it would turn out. Thankfully it's good. Not SHAUN good but still good.
Don Wallace (Finn Cole) has done nothing with his life since the death of his father. Wanting more for him his mother has enrolled him at the posh Slaughterhouse School, one of those high class schools filled more with the snobbish elite than the everyday person. He arrives and the school is exactly as expected with upperclassmen taunting the new arrivals and looking down their noses at them all.
He catches the eye of Clemsie Lawrence (Hermione Corfield), one of the few female upper class students. This puts him in the sights of Clegg (Tom Rhys Harries), an upperclassman leaning towards definite Nazi tactics with a superiority complex. Don is warned off by his new roommate Willoughby Blake (Asa Butterfield), a student whose last roommate is the talk of the school having committed suicide the previous year.
As the new year begins school teacher Mr. Meredith Houseman (Pegg) introduces the school's headmaster referred to by the students as "The Bat" (Michael Sheen). An old school alum now in charge he warns the students of the new rules: no swimming in the pond and no walking in the woods. The reason for this, unknown to the students, is that he has leased out that area to a fracking company.
The usual school related problems occur from there, things like the youngest member of the class being targeted for bullying, snobbish wealthy elites looking down on everyone else and Don ignoring the warnings he's been given and then suffering the wrath of Clegg. During one of these tortures, forcing his roommates to run across campus, he and Blake are left behind by Clegg who informs them he doubts he'll see them in time for breakfast.
As the pair take a shortcut through the off limits woods, they come across a huge sinkhole that resulted from the fracking. With gas turning the flame from Blake's lighter green they realize something isn't right. Watched by the fracking company an alarm is set off and the boys run...right into the arms of an encampment of anti-fracking people led by Nick Frost. He launches into a diatribe about fracking before offering to sell them drugs.
Break comes but Don, Blake and their roommates are denied going home for walking in the woods. And Clegg is left in charge of their supervision. While the students are about to rebel the upper class members are being initiated into a Bacchanalian orgy that elevates their status on campus. Unfortunately things go from bad to worse when the fracking results in something coming out of the caverns the company discovered. Strange creatures are set loose and attack the workers before heading for the school. Who will live, who will die and will Don finally have a chance with Clemsie?
The movie is quite well made with some stunning photography and visuals. The effects are mostly held off until the last part of the film but are well done here. All of those involved on screen turn in admirable performances given that what they are starring in is basically a 1950s styled monster movie with lots of screaming and trying to stay alive. I will note that you should not be fooled by Margot Robbie's name in the credits here as her part is little more than a cameo.
For me the movie was fun and reminded me of those classic films I mentioned but on a better budget than Roger Corman would have offered. It may not be up to par with Pegg and Frosts' previous films but then little is these days. And yet I had a good time with this one and can recommend it with ease.
Some have taken the film to task in write ups on it but I think they were missing the point. Rather than looking for some fun, they did expect a repeat of the past. Go in looking at this as an original film and my guess is you'll enjoy it as well.
It's hard to think of a martial arts star with the lasting power and sheer magnitude of films to their credit as Donnie Yen. The name might not be all that familiar to some but to fans of the genre he's a legend. He's starred or been involved in films like IRON MONKEY, BLADE 2, SHANGHAI KNIGHTS, HERO, XXX:THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE and the IP MAN movies. He's not only an amazing martial artists but an amazing actor as well. All of that comes together in BIG BROTHER.
Yen plays Henry Chen, an ex-military man who signs up to be a teacher at a school in trouble. Teaching a liberal studies class he arrives on his first day to find that his students are among the worst the school has to offer. They ignore his call to class, cook and sell food in the classroom, play music instead of listening and more. Chen knows that standard teaching disciplines won't work with this group. He needs an in.
To do so he begins to learn about each of the students in his group. He reads up their files, goes to their homes and we watch as he gathers information about a few of these supposed malcontents. What he finds is hardship in their lives from financial problems to family issues. Using the information he forms a method of reaching out to the kids to help them develop an interest in learning.
All of this may sound like the standard formula film about troubled youths and accessible teachers and in some ways it is. But this isn't a normal teacher or scholar. We learn that Chen has a past with the school having once been a troubled student there himself. Couple that with his background after he left the school and joined the military and this is no normal teacher.
One of this student in particular, Jack (Jack Lok), has financial problems and works for a Triad running errands. Knowing this will lead to nothing but heartache for the boy's grandmother who works hard to support the two of them, he tries to get Jack to leave the group. When Jack is caught drugging the water of an MMA fighter at the instruction of his boss, Chen comes to his aid displaying a fighting skill Jack was unaware of. He rescues the boy but incurs the wrath of his boss, a man who has plans to make the school fail so he can tear it down in a real estate deal. The only way to stop this is for the students to succeed.
So the movie may sound like a cliché, it may sound like a half dozen other films using the same themes, but it is entertaining from start to finish. A pure sign of that is the fact I never once felt like I needed the remote in my hand to get past the boring parts. The whole film was a blast.
It was also nice to see Yen moving into a role that required him to do more than just throw fist and jump in the air. Sure, he's been able to show his acting skills in previous films but many movie goers are unwilling to accept the performances displayed in martial arts period dramas. This one places him in a current setting with current problems and he handles the role well.
The movie ends with the potential for a sequel and that would be a good thing. With a nice story, solid acting and a message that delivers it might be a good thing to see this one carry on. It deserves as much attention and the more violent pictures that Yen makes. I'm glad to see him stretching out and making films like this. More power to him.
With the release of CAPTAIN MARVEL the Marvel Universe has introduced its most powerful hero to date and it's not a man. That speaks volumes to how times have changed. Not only that it's a good thing as well. Marvel has been one of the most inclusive arenas when it comes to people of the world and that also says something. Even more so because they don't pat themselves on the back or make it so noticeable at the same time.
CAPTAIN MARVEL features Brie Larson in the lead role Carol Danvers/Vers/Captain Marvel. When the film opens we're far off in outer space in 1995 where young Vers is being trained by her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) to be one of the elite warriors of the Kree Empire. Sent on a mission against the Skrulls, the sworn enemies of the Kree, a battle leaves Vers wounded and captured. Using a special machine the Skrulls get information from Vers mind, showing images of her past taking place on Earth. Escaping her captors and damaging their spaceship they both find themselves landing on Earth.
At first the story takes a fish out of water approach with Vers acting as if everyone should know who the Kree or Skrulls are. She comes into contact with a street level agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. named Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) who thinks she is crazy until they are attacked by a Skrull. In hot pursuit Vers battles a Skrull on a train with Fury in following in his car until he discovers his fellow agent is a Skrull as well. Both survive their encounters and then discuss what is going on.
Using some of the memories that she recalls not only from her own dreams but those extracted by the Skrulls, Vers realizes all of this has something to do with a secret program called Project Pegasus. With Fury's help they head that way and discover that her real name isn't Vers at all but Carol Danvers and she was presumed dead in a crash back in 1989. Fury's boss Keller shows up only for Fury and Danvers to realize he's Talos, the leader of the Skrulls. Fury helps her escape and the pair head to Louisiana where Danvers best friend Maria Rameau (Lashana Lynch) lives with her daughter.
Adding pieces to her mixed up memories Danvers realizes that the woman she's been seeing in her dreams, Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Benning) holds all the answers to her questions and may have ties to the Kree. She alters her uniform becoming Captain Marvel and sets out to find out how her past ties her to what is taking place as well as just who is behind it all. She will also learn that she has more to offer than she thought.
As with all of the Marvel films released to date this one has more story content to it than most would assume since it's based on a comic book. But with the history of comics taking in some cases over 30-50 years to build their characters that shouldn't be a surprise. Even in the movies that establish the character the story surrounds there is a rich foundation from which to draw from. In the case of Captain Marvel there is more than one to draw from and the film division of Marvel made the correct choice to choose this direction.
In a genre filled with muscle bound or enhanced male superheroes Marvel has done a great job of filling the roster with many female characters. The same is true for heroes of color. Black Widow, Wasp, Scarlet Witch along with the Falcon and Black Panther stand side by side with Captain America and Iron Man. If you're looking for diversity there is no greater group than that found in Marvel films.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Captain Marvel ends up being the strongest of all superheroes in the Marvel Film Universe. That's a major responsibility in a world that contains a Norse God on the roster. It's also a huge step forward when it comes to female roles in a male dominated genre.
As for the movie itself on my first viewing I found it to be one of the weaker Marvel outings. On second viewing I think it's better than I felt the first time. The pacing is a bit slow but then this is an origin story and IRON MAN had the same problem when looking back. The movie does offer solid entertainment and storytelling and is a must see if you intend to move on to the next interlocked Marvel film. And even if you don't intend to, this is one that you can enjoy all on its own. But why would you want to? The Marvel films have done something extraordinary, combining 22 movies to tell a single running story but still enjoyable as individual films. That's an amazing achievement and one to enjoy over and over again.