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Review: Theatre of Death

A retired pathologist named Marquis (Julian Glover) has been frequenting the stage productions of a Grand Guignol-esque Parisian theatre called Theatre du Mort. The productions tend to climax in murder of its beautiful young female stars. The chief theatre director is the very intense, demanding, and secretive Philippe Darvas (Christopher Lee). Darvas is currently moulding his latest muse Nicole (Jenny Till) to become the next theatre legend. Meanwhile, Marquis is asked by his inspector friend (Ivor Dean) to consult on a series of recent killings of pretty young ladies. He quickly latches onto a juicy prime suspect: The very serious and very sinister-seeming Darvas himself. In a cast full of non-Parisians, American actress Lelia Goldoni plays Nicole’s roommate and fellow theatre actress. The late Sir Christopher Lee made a heck of a lot of movies (not to mention TV movies etc.) in his career that it’s hard for even the biggest film buff to get around to seeing all of them. However, I’…

Review: Tag

A group of middle-aged guys have been playing the same game of ‘Tag’ one month a year for 28 years. Although they live in different cities, four of the guys (Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, resident stoner Jake Johnson, and Hannibal Buress) still keep in touch. The loner of the group also happens to be the one guy who has never – ever – been tagged, Jeremy Renner. Helms feels this is the year to change that, however. Apparently Renner is getting married to (typical Bridezilla) Leslie Bibb, and although none of the gang have conveniently been invited, he suggests they show up anyway…and tag him. Also helping out is Helms’ uber-enthusiastic wife Isla Fisher, seemingly a long-time acquaintance of the gang although she’s not an official participant in the game (No girls allowed. This game started when they were kids and who cared about sexism when they were a kid?). However, Renner has anticipated their arrival and will not make it easy for them. Rashida Jones turns up as an old acquaintance whom bot…

Review: Terror in the Crypt

AKA “Crypt of the Vampire”The Karnstein family has been cursed for generations, with one family member sentenced to death for supposedly being a witch. Count Ludvig von Karnstein (Christopher Lee) is worried for his daughter Laura (Adriana Ambesi), who is plagued by nightmares involving blood-sucking. Could Laura be the next Karnstein in line to be cursed as some kind of sinister supernatural being? Jose Campos plays a young historian hired by the Count to uncover more of his family’s ancient secrets. Nela Conjiu plays family housekeeper Rowena, who might have some sinister secrets of her own. Also stopping by the family castle is beautiful young Lyuba (Ursula Davis), whom Laura takes an immediate and rather intense interest in. An atmospheric 1964 vampire tale from director Camillo Mastrocinque (“An Angel for Satan” with Barbara Steele) that only works in fits and starts, and wastes Christopher Lee in a rather dull role. I guess he was happy to not be playing the vampire or villain f…

Review: Rocketman

The story of Reginald Dwight (Taron Egerton), later to become the famous singer-songwriter Elton John, largely featuring moments from the first half of his life and career. For all of his musical success, Elton is a lonely man longing for love and companionship as a gay man. “Bohemian Rhapsody” may have been lauded with awards, but it was for me one of the worst films of its year. Now comes this 2019 musical biopic from director Dexter Fletcher (Spike from “Press Gang”. I’m sorry, but that’s what I mostly know him from. Loved that show!), who took over the reins of “Bohemian Rhapsody” once Bryan Singer vacated the position. Since Fletcher was at the helm the entire time of this one, he gets the blame almost exclusively to himself here. A dreadfully wrong-headed film that is far more musical than biopic, it’s only a slight hair above “Bohemian Rhapsody” in my view. Scripted by Lee Hall (“Billy Elliot”, the dreadful “War Horse” and largely mocked film version of “Cats”), I hear Elton Jo…

Review: Ocean’s 8

Sandra Bullock is Debbie Ocean, sister to George Clooney’s Danny, who was the lead character of a few dreary heist movies you might’ve seen. Like her brother, Debbie’s a crim, and fresh out of prison when we meet her. She’s got her next criminal enterprise already long-planned, one for which she’ll be joined by long-time acquaintance Lou (Cate Blanchett). The heist will involve the services of a thief (Awkwafina), a tech expert (Rihanna), a jeweller (Mindy Kaling), a party planner (Sarah Paulson), a fashion guru (Helena Bonham Carter), and unwittingly a top starlet (Anne Hathaway) set to be adorned with expensive jewellery at an upcoming awards ceremony. Richard Armitage is somehow figured into all of it as Debbie’s jerk ex, whilst James Corden appears late as a detective, and Elliott Gould provides a more concrete link to the previous three “Ocean’s” films. When this 2018 all-female attempt at an “Ocean’s” movie was first released I was in two minds about whether I was interested in …

Review: Sky Riders

Robert Culp plays a wealthy industrialist whose wife (Susannah York) and kids are kidnapped by pre-“Friday the 13th” hockey mask-wearing terrorists of vaguely European extraction and taken to a mountain lair somewhere in Greece. The terrorists have a list of demands, but Culp instead turns to an unusual source; James Coburn, a sea-faring adventurer and the ex-husband of York. He’s also the biological father of one of the children. Whilst the local law (represented by Charles Aznavour, of all people) seem to be playing tiddlywinks, Coburn is looking at a local troupe of hang-gliding experts…and plotting a rescue mission. Enjoyable nonsense from director Douglas Hickox (The top-notch “Theatre of Blood”, the rather loopy “Entertaining Mr. Sloane”), is a very silly, faddish 1976 hostage rescue mission story with a perfectly cast James Coburn. Coburn to me was the coolest actor to have lived, and here he’s typically having a great time being James Coburn. In fact, the majority of the cast …

Review: Crawl

Competitive swimmer Kaya Scodelario is informed by her sister that their divorced dad Barry Pepper is missing during hellacious Florida weather. She takes the drive to find her dad, who it turns out has ignored evacuation orders and is still at his home. When she finds her dad (who was her swimming coach as a kid), he’s in the basement, with water rapidly coming in. Before she can try to get the old man out though, another problem arises: Florida alligators. The only thing worse than a hurricane may be a hurricane with gators swimming about all bite-y. It seems as though every reviewer of this 2019 horror-thriller from director Alexandre Aja (“Haute Tension”, “Mirrors”) is obligated to mention that Quentin Tarantino listed it as his best film of 2019. Well, I can’t say I agree with QT on this one, as this alligator-in-a-flooded-house flick is pretty much a ‘jump scare’ film. Y’all know my feelings on that subgenre of horror by now, I find it lazy and annoying. It’s not that I can’t ad…

Review: Hard Times

In Depression era New Orleans, stoic drifter Charles Bronson (too old by a decade, but in terrific manly-man shape) hooks up with small-time fight promoter James Coburn, whose last fighter didn’t pan out so well. A lucrative partnership in illegal bare-knuckle fights is formed, though Bronson doesn’t intend on sticking around for too long, while Coburn isn’t exactly reliable in paying his (seemingly plentiful) debts to some awfully shady people. Jill Ireland plays Bronson’s main squeeze (a hooker), Robert Tessier is a thuggish fighter, and Strother Martin plays a drug-addicted ‘cut man’ on Coburn’s payroll. It might have limited appeal for others, but I must say watching Charles Bronson punch the shit out of hulking slabs of humanity for 90 minutes or so was quite an easy time-waster for me. This 1975 Depression Era flick from director Walter Hill (“The Warriors”, “48HRS”, “Streets of Fire”, “Trespass”, “Undisputed”) is exactly what you would expect a Depression Era flick from Walter …

Review: Child’s Play

Buddi dolls are the latest craze, a mixture of Cabbage Patch Doll and a computerised personal assistant, ala Amazon’s Alexa. Single mother Aubrey Plaza buys a Buddi for her young son Andy (Gabriel Bateman). Unfortunately, this Buddi (named Chucky, and voiced by Mark Hamill) has been sabotaged by a disgruntled fired employee of the manufacturer, who has taken out all of the doll’s safety precautions. The result? A malevolent little killing machine (literally) who starts offing anyone who dares cross little Andy, who is helpless to stop the carnage. In fact, everyone starts to suspect that it’s Andy behind all the mayhem. Brian Tyree Henry plays a neighbour cop, Tim Matheson plays the company CEO. They remade my favourite horror movie “The Omen” and it didn’t turn out too bad, and now comes this 2019 remake of my second favourite horror film of all-time, Tom Holland’s 1988 killer doll/voodoo-practising serial killer flick “Child’s Play”. Directed by Lars Klevberg (whose background is mo…