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Showing posts from November 26, 2017

Review: Dressed to Kill

Bored middle-aged housewife Angie Dickinson and hooker Nancy Allen are both potential targets of a serial killer, possibly a blonde woman (it could be a wig) with dark glasses. Keith Gordon plays Dickinson’s tech whiz teenage son, Dennis Franz a police detective, and Sir Michael Caine a psychiatrist who suspects one of his troubled patients may be the killer.


It’s funny, I wrote a review of this 1980 Brian De Palma (“Sisters”, “Carrie”, “Blow Out”, and his best film, “The Untouchables”) flick ages ago, and having seen it again recently, about the only similarities to my current feelings on it are the score I’m giving it and the film’s central mystery. Weird, but it’s true, my overall impression of the film is it’s largely the same near-miss it was last time I saw it.


De Palma shows us two things about himself in this film that were admittedly already apparent; 1) He knows how to gorgeously blend camera movement, bold colour, and sound, and 2) He has a huge boner for Hitchcock. I’ll gr…

Review: The Split

Recently released con Jim Brown devises a brilliant plan to rob the L.A. Coliseum after a sold-out game. Each member of Brown’s crew is hand-picked, with Brown giving each a task to perform in order to test their supposed skill, without prior knowledge of who Brown is or what he wants. So he and hired muscle Ernest Borgnine (well-cast) slug it out, he races limo driver Jack Klugman, traps safe-cracker and escape artist Warren Oates (a terrific scene), and has a duel with snooty marksman Donald Sutherland (clearly having fun). Julie Harris plays the bankroller of the caper, hoping to share in the takings, whilst a young Gene Hackman appears at the home stretch as a corrupt cop named Brill (a character name that turns up again with Hackman in “Enemy of the State” for some reason). Diahann Carroll plays Brown’s disapproving girl, with a startling James Whitmore her creepy, lusting landlord.


Pretty solid 1968 B movie from Gordon Flemyng (“Dr. Who and the Daleks” and a few other undistingu…

Review: Dirty Ho

Low-rent jewel thief Ho (Yue Wong) and travelling merchant Wang (Shaw Brothers legend Gordon Liu) play a game of one-upmanship, before Ho learns that Wang is actually a royal prince in disguise as a jeweller. Also possessing a mastery of kung-fu, he eventually agrees to act as sifu to the roguish Ho. Kara Hui turns up as a courtesan, whilst Lieh Lo plays an adversarial General, heir to the throne who tries to assassinate Wang.


The title obviously isn’t what you think. The lead characters are named Ho and Wang, but this is a con artist comedy with some martial arts thrown in and no sexual content at all, really. Directed by Lau Kar-Leung (the popular “36th Chamber of Shaolin” with Gordon Liu), this 1979 also isn’t any good. In fact, it’s a really lousy disappointment from the director who gave us my favourite HK martial arts movie “Eight Diagram Pole Fighter” (also featuring Gordon Liu). Scripted by Kuang Ni (“Infra-Man”, “The Magic Blade”, “Eight Diagram Pole Fighter”), this is colour…

Review: Nocturnal Animals

Art gallery owner Amy Adams, currently unhappily married to upper crust Armie Hammer, receives a gift from her ex-husband Jake Gyllenhaal. It appears Gyllenhaal has finally finished his big novel, and he wants Adams to read it first before it goes to publication. Dedicating it to Adams, she starts to realise the story’s violent and painful contents may be more than just a simple fictional crime story. Andrea Riseborough, Michael Sheen, and Jena Malone plays Adams’ snooty colleagues, whilst Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, and Michael Shannon play ‘characters’ in Gyllenhaal’s novel.


This 2016 film from writer-director Tom Ford (whose “A Single Man” I liked very much) tells two stories, and to be honest one was far more intriguing to me than the other. This despite the fact that the other story featured very fine performances by Amy Adams (especially terrific) and the underrated Armie Hammer. I also reacted badly against the opening pretentious arty nonsense. Yes, it’s relevant to the…

Review: Mississippi Burning

Set in 1964, straight-arrow FBI agent Willem Dafoe gets paired up with fellow agent and former Mississippi sheriff Gene Hackman to head down to Jessup, Mississippi where three civil rights activists are missing, presumed dead. Something is sick in Jessup, the town is steeped in either racism or ignorance or both, including the sheriff (Gailard Sartain), his deputy (Brad Dourif), and even the mayor (R. Lee Ermey). Hackman, who grew up in the South has a bit more of a handle on how to ingratiate himself with the small town folk than the rather unsubtle Dafoe, but even he struggles to get anyone in town to talk. Hackman does strike up a bit of a relationship with the deputy’s relatively timid wife (Frances McDormand), though. Stephen Tobolowsky plays a Klansman, Park Overall is a local hairdresser, Michael Rooker and Pruitt Taylor Vince play thugs, Tobin Bell (his first significant role) and Kevin Dunn (his film debut) are FBI agents, and Darius McCrary is a local African-American boy.


I…

Review: The Birth of a Nation

Set in the 1830s in the South, this is the story of Nat Turner (Nate Parker) a humble wannabe preacher whose slow-burn outrage towards slave masters’ ghastly treatment of African slaves eventually boils over into starting a slave revolt. Armie Hammer plays the well-meaning but highly pressured slave master who nonetheless imparts on Nat their different stations in life. Penelope Ann Miller plays Hammer’s mother, who educated Nat in reading and writing as a child. Jackie Earle Haley plays a sadistic and ruthless white policeman, whilst Mark Boone Junior plays a white preacher, and Gabrielle Union appears briefly as a slave who is assaulted.


Although I will confess to not overly liking him as an actor to begin with, I had hoped to separate art from the artist with this 2016 vanity project from filmmaker/actor Nate Parker. Unfortunately, the one-time accused rapist and his fellow scribe Jean McGianni Celestin (I won’t go into the details, you can Google that, but Parker was eventually ac…

Review: Hacksaw Ridge

Andrew Garfield is Desmond Doss, youngest son of an abusive, alcoholic and self-loathing WWI veteran (Hugo Weaving), who is brought up religiously and with a strict moral code that abhors taking a human life. Desmond swears to a life of non-violence after accidentally almost killing his older brother in a misguided bit of juvenile rough-housing. He is however, a man of honour and duty, so when WWII breaks out, Doss volunteers to join the cause, hoping to serve solely as a medic. He just wants to help save lives, not take them. He quickly learns that, just as his father warned him, the war nor the military will easily bend to suit his own personal moral code. Doss however, is stubborn and firm in his convictions as a conscientious objector, despite pissing off both military brass (Richard Roxburgh, Sam Worthington) and his fellow recruits who are worried that he’s a coward who is going to get them killed (Most notably an angry Luke Bracey). Refusing to even touch a gun during training,…

Review: Arrival

Amy Adams plays a language expert still suffering from a very personal grief when military Colonel Forest Whitaker requests her aid. Adams knows why, as it’s on wall-to-wall news coverage: Aliens have landed at 12 locations across the globe, and Adams is requested by the US military/government to help communicate with them. Alongside theoretical physicist Jeremy Renner, she enters the spacecraft daily to decipher their seemingly ink-blot based language of symbols and patterns so that she can eventually communicate with them and learn their intentions on Earth. Tzi Ma plays a Chinese General, and Michael Stuhlbarg is apparently contractually obligated to appear in everything.


Although a little too reminiscent of a certain late 90s alien contact film, this 2016 flick from director Denis Villeneuve (“Prisoners”, “Sicario”) and screenwriter Eric Heisserer (a horror veteran after the not-bad “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “The Thing” remakes, “Final Destination 5”, and “Lights Out”)is just …

Review: GoldenEye

British Secret Service agent James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) and fellow agent 006 Alex Trevalyan (Sean Bean) run into trouble on a mission in the Soviet Union that leaves Trevalyan in dire straits. Nine years later, Bond is ordered by M (Dame Judi Dench) to look into a stolen fighter helicopter and a group called the Janus Syndicate. The Janus Syndicate and their crazed head are set to use the Russian electromagnetic pulse satellite of the film’s title to cause all manner of financial havoc. Famke Janssen plays the ravenous, murderous Xenia Onatopp, a member of Janus. Izabella Scorupco is pretty programmer Natalya, Alan Cumming is Natalya’s slimy male equivalent Boris, and Gottfried John plays adversarial Russian General Ourumov. Tcheky Karyo doesn’t have his finest hour playing no-nonsense Russian Defence Minister Dimitri Mishkin.


Going through the Bond franchise again, I’ve found myself changing my opinion on two films, including one Pierce Brosnan entry that I like more now than previo…