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Showing posts from January 15, 2012

Review

Review: Welcome to Hard Times

The town of the film’s title is positively smashed to pieces by relentless psycho outlaw Aldo Ray who just as quickly rides out of town, presumably to come back later for more. The townsfolk, especially the unofficial town ‘mayor’ Henry Fonda, pretty much sit back and watch helplessly as the drunk (but still effective) Ray shoots up a storm, killing young Michael Shea’s dad. Whilst the bad man is gone, Fonda tries to rebuild the destroyed town, with the help of a travelling wagon of good-time girls (and their semi-unscrupulous pimp, played by Keenan Wynn), and aspiring store owner John Anderson (who also plays his character’s brother). Denver Pyle is a stagecoach driver, Warren Oates plays a scared Deputy Marshal, and Lon Chaney Jr., and Elisha Cook Jr., play scared townsfolk.

This 1967 western from the usually light and breezy Burt Kennedy (“Support Your Local Sheriff!”, “Hannie Caulder”, “The War Wagon”) features one of the best and most captivatingly da…

Review

Review: Revenge

Kevin Costner (who produced the film) plays a fighter pilot who goes to Mexico to meet up with an old buddy (Anthony Quinn), whose life he once saved years ago. Unfortunately, said old buddy is a rich and powerful gangster who doesn’t take kindly to Costner screwing his young trophy wife (Madeleine Stowe, with a globe-trotting accent). Revenge is about to be served cold, bloody, and brutal. Costner is beaten and left for dead, Stowe also beaten but sent off to work in a brothel. When Costner has healed from his wounds...well, second verse, same as the first. Miguel Ferrer, James Gammon, Sally Kirkland, and a young John Leguizamo (as Ferrer’s Spanish-speaking offsider) all turn up as characters who aid Costner in his revenge.

This box-office bomb was directed by Tony Scott (“Top Gun”, “Déjà Vu”, “Man on Fire”) and scripted by Jeff Fiskin (“Crackers”, “Angel Unchained”) and Jim Harrison (“Wolf”, “Legends of the Fall”), from the latter’s own novella that surely must be bet…

Review

Review: The Informers/Underworld Informers

Just as senior officer Harry Andrews is explaining that the use of snouts (informants) is on the way out, Scotland Yard copper Nigel Patrick finds out that one of his informants has been murdered. Going against orders, he tries to bring down the people responsible, chiefly Derren Nesbitt as the outwardly respectable (but thoroughly rotten) mobster, and Frank Finlay as his clever accomplice. Roy Kinnear is another member of the gang, Colin Blakely plays the brother of the dead man, Margaret Whiting is a hooker used to manufacture some dirt on Patrick when he gets too close, Katherine Woodville is Patrick’s wife, and Allan Cuthbertson is a brown-nosing cop.

Sometimes hokey, but mostly gritty, often expertly acted 1963 B-movie directed by Ken Annakin (“Paper Tiger”, “The Long Duel”). Patrick is rock-solid in the lead (as he always was), and there are fine supporting turns by veteran character actors Andrews (who is unfortunately saddled with crap…

Top 20 Horror Films of the 00s (2000-2009)

(Not included: “Zombieland”, “Bubba Ho Tep”, “The Cottage” – they are all are more comedy than horror, though fine films one and all)


20. 1408 (2007)-John Cusack is a cynical paranormal investigator and best-selling novelist who likes to visit the most notoriously haunted buildings, whilst he is also going through troubles in his personal life. The title refers to a hotel room so frightening that hotel manager Samuel L. Jackson claims no one has been able to spend the night. Cusack thinks that sounds like a challenge worth taking up. With a Stephen King adaptation, you never know what you're gonna get, but this one's among the better ones of the last couple of decades at least. It's a simple, old-fashioned haunting story, but effective. The FX are a bit iffy and the ending is awful, but credit where it's due, this is the first haunted house/room film I've seen where I genuinely worried that the main character wouldn't make it out alive. Good performances, a nice…

Review: The Last Hunt

The story (set in the 1880s) of an uneasy alliance between two very different buffalo hunters, one a psychotic Indian-hater (Robert Taylor), the other (Stewart Granger- yup, Mr. Romantic Swashbuckler himself), dour but far more sympathetic. Lloyd Nolan is a drunken veteran skinner, Debra Paget is a sensitive young Indian woman whom Taylor takes for his own, though she much prefers the company of the more even-tempered (if somewhat glum) Granger. Russ Tamblyn is somewhat miscast as Granger’s half-Irish, half-Indian (!) skinner pal, whom the disagreeable Taylor takes an instant and intense disliking to.

Tough, extremely bleak 1956 Richard Brooks (who made such excellent and diverse films as “The Professionals”, “Elmer Gantry”, “In Cold Blood”, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”, and others) film might well be called a ‘psycho western’, boasting Taylor’s finest, most complex and most cold-blooded performance ever. He’s shockingly good here, reaching depths of acting ability I never thought the usua…

Review

Review:The Big Heat

Glenn Ford plays an incorruptible homicide cop and family man (wife Jocelyn Brando, and a cute kid), called to the scene of an apparent suicide of a fellow cop (which we see at the very beginning), who was apparently on the take to mobster Alexander Scourby. The suave Scourby seemingly has most of Ford’s fellow cops on the take, and his superiors indeed warn him off the case, but neither that, nor Scourby’s own scare tactics will keep him from taking the crims down, they just give him more reason to seek vengeance/justice. Lee Marvin plays Scourby’s vile henchman, whose violent treatment of moll Gloria Grahame (the guy’s got a fetish for burning human flesh- off screen of course) sees her considering changing allegiances and helping Ford out. Carolyn Jones has a brief bit as an important witness (who suggests that it wasn’t suicide but murder of the crooked cop), and Jeanette Nolan has a great role as the opportunistic widow of the dead cop who hides vital evidence …

Review

Review: House of Sand and Fog

Jennifer Connelly plays a hopeless, recovering junkie who hasn’t checked her mail in months and isn’t aware that a bureaucratic stuff-up has resulted in her being billed for outstanding payments she doesn’t owe, and therefore is evicted from her house. The house goes up for auction and is bought fairly and legally by proud-to-a-fault Iranian immigrant Ben Kingsley, who has slaved in menial labour jobs (he was a dignified Iranian Colonel back home) to be able to purchase the house (cheaply I might add) so he can resell it (apparently a common thing to do, I’m not educated in real estate at all, still living at home) at market value with a few modifications. Needless to say, Connelly ain’t happy, and the two are heading for a showdown, with catastrophic contrivances…er…consequences. Shoreh Aghdashloo earned an Oscar nomination for her fine work as Kingsley’s timid, compassionate wife, and she and her on-screen son Jonathan Ahdout later played the wife and so…