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Review: Ad Astra

Brad Pitt plays the son of an astronaut who headed an expedition to search for extra-terrestrial life on Neptune 27 years ago. Contact ceased 16 years ago, Pitt’s father (played by Tommy Lee Jones) presumed dead. Now an astronaut himself, Pitt is called upon for a new mission. It appears that Jones may in fact still be alive and Pitt is asked to make contact with the man. First he is to travel to the Moon, before launching on a ship for Mars. It’s from there that he is to try to make contact with his father (a man he spent his whole life terrified of) to figure out what happened to the mission and whether it has anything to do with the strange energy surges currently affecting Earth. Donald Sutherland plays an astronaut who knew Pitt’s father very well, Ruth Negga turns up as an administrator on Mars, Liv Tyler is Pitt’s estranged wife, whilst the usual talking head officials are played by the likes of John Finn and Lisa Gay Hamilton.   There’s been quite a few space travel films i

Review: Trespass

Bill Paxton and William Sadler are a couple of Arkansas firemen who stumble upon a map leading to hidden loot in a supposedly abandoned building. When they go their, they find the gold alright, but they also realise the building is a meeting place for local gangsters, headed by smooth Ice-T, and seconded by volatile Ice Cube. When the gangsters are alerted to the firemen’s presence, a Mexican standoff begins with our greedy but none-too-bright firemen outmanned and outgunned and with no way out in sight. But then they find themselves a hostage, in Ice-T’s drug-addicted brother (De’voreux White) to use as leverage. Caught in the middle of all this is an elderly squatter (played by Art Evans) whilst the other gangsters are played by the likes of Glenn Plummer, a video camera-obsessed T.E. Russell (rarely showing his face on screen as a result), hulking Tiny Lister, Stoney Jackson, the underrated John Toles-Bey (where is he these days?), and immaculately dressed Bruce A. Young.   Not

Review: Blackmail

Bad girl Brigitte Skay, her boyfriend Benjamin Lev and their no-good hippie friends hatch a plot to rip-off her wealthy, straight-laced father (Umberto Raho), who has remarried to a younger woman (Rosalba Neri). The idea is to stage a kidnapping of Skay, but as often is the case, what seems like a sure-fire scam quickly unravels.   Deathly dull 1974 Italian thriller from writer-director Luigi Batzella (who gave us the cult classic “Nude for Satan” as well as “The Devil’s Wedding Night” ) wastes the talents (and everything else) of Brigitte Skay and especially and dreadfully underused Rosalba Neri. You’d expect some good saucy, crazy fun from the guy behind “Nude for Satan” , but alas even the near constant nudity from Brigitte Skay isn’t enough to make up for all the thumb-twiddling you’re going to be doing waiting for it to go anywhere. For a film running less than 80 minutes, it feels like an eternity to get to not much of anything at all. It’s also more crime flick than horror/

Review: Manhunter

William Petersen stars as haunted, burnt-out FBI agent Will Graham, called back from retirement by his boss/friend Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina) to help track down a serial killer dubbed ‘The Tooth Fairy’, real-name Francis Dollarhyde (Tom Noonan). An expert in serial killer profiling, Graham has been resting up on the Florida beach with his wife (Kim Greist), after getting a psychological pummelling by cannibal serial killer Hannibal Lektor (Brian Cox). Unfortunately for Graham, he’s gonna need the very same past acquaintance (currently jailed) to assist him in tracking down Dollarhyde, who has formed a peculiar bond with a blind co-worker (Joan Allen) whose life may be in very grave danger. Stephen Lang plays gutter journalist Freddy Lounds.   I don’t think I’d ever seen this 1986 Michael Mann ( “Thief” , “Last of the Mohicans” , “Heat” , “The Insider” ) film in its entirety until now, and now having seen it I’d say it’s on about the same level as “Silence of the Lambs” and “Red

Review: Running With the Devil

A DEA agent (Leslie Bibb) investigates the drug-related deaths of her sister and her sister's husband. A drug boss (Barry Pepper) deploys The Cook (Nic Cage) to look into who has been messing with his shipments, with an enforcer (Cole Hauser) accompanying him. Laurence Fishburne and Adam Goldberg play a couple of drug-snorting, hooker-banging lowlife pushers, whilst Clifton Collins Jr. and Natalia Reyes play a farmer and his wife, and Peter Facinelli is another DEA guy.   2019 crime-drama from writer-director Jason Cabell is like a cut-rate “Traffic” but directed by Paul Schrader ( “Hardcore” ) on speed or something. Cabell (a former Navy SEAL who only co-directed one film before this) is trying to do it all in 90 minutes as well. The result is a pretty big failure, with poor Laurence Fishburne’s worst performance to date as a seedy, hooker-banging coke fiend in a film that’s already got Nic Cage. The film just hasn’t got the running time appropriate to deal with the scope of

Review: Dr. Crippen

The true account of Dr. Crippen (Donald Pleasence) a meek and henpecked husband to a vulgar, low-rent showbiz veteran (Coral Browne) whom he is accused of murdering in early 1900s Britain. Samantha Eggar plays Dr. Crippen’s secretary/mistress, James Robertson Justice is a suspicious ship captain, Sir Donald Wolfit a barrister, and Oliver Johnston a trial judge.   Despite the lurid cover art and the presence of Donald Pleasence in the title role, this 1963 film from director Robert Lynn (2 nd Unit director on “Superman” and “Superman II” ) and screenwriter Leigh Vance (a veteran TV writer/producer who also co-wrote “The Frightened City” starring Herbert Lom and Sean Connery) is not a horror film. It’s a real-life tale of murder, and a rather solid one at that.   I won’t say Donald Pleasence gives a subtle performance, because we all know subtlety was never his thing. However, you’ll likely be surprised by how low-key and mild-mannered his Dr. Crippen actually is. Watching the

Review: Starship Invasions

Telepathic aliens led by Christopher Lee come to Earth to conduct breeding experiments on humans. A kind of alien United Nations group tries to stop them, getting in touch with astronomer and sceptic (Robert Vaughn) for assistance.   Poverty-stricken Canadian sci-fi garbage from writer/director/co-producer Ed Hunt (the somewhat OK horror pic “Bloody Birthday” ) from 1977. The same year that his long-time friend and co-star Peter Cushing was appearing in “Star Wars” , future Count Dooku himself Christopher Lee was barely containing his lack of give-a-shit whilst wearing black pyjamas with an oddball hoodie. I think this might just be his worst-ever film, even worse than “The Keeper” (another bargain-basement Canadian turd), “End of the World” , and “Police Academy: Mission to Moscow” . The film’s other star, Robert Vaughn is clearly bored shitless, too. Vaughn was a very fine actor like Lee, but when Robert Vaughn was bored and collecting a paycheck, it wasn’t difficult to detect.