Friday, 11 March 2011



A film is always someone’s baby. No matter the aims or concepts, the money or the time, a film will always matter to one of its creators. When the result is a success, the pride is often only exposed in DVD commentaries or in interviews (where it can be mistaken for arrogance) but when it fails it can leave scars. But while the likes of Michael Bay can rue his TF2 mistakes in the knowledge that at least the film make a bucketload of cash, you can only have pity for the films that suffer the curse of failing mid-shoot. Falling apart with the promise of results already on daily rushes. LOST IN LA MANCHA details one such collapse as the fragile shoot suffers one tragedy after another – environmental, then physical, then financial.

Terry Gilliam commences shooting on his long-cherished project THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE with an impressive cast list, a solid crew and a budget to convey most, if not all, of his visions to the screen. He was shadowed by film-makers Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe who had produced the superior ‘making of’ doc THE HAMPSTER FACTOR for Gilliams TWELVE MONKEYS. Six days later, the production is dead, a cast member is on his way to hospital, a large amount of the initial props and technical gear are damaged and the docco makers find themselves shooting a film obituary.

Detailing much more would spoil the events of the docco, but don’t think this is all doom and gloom. In the brief moments of progress, you get to see Johnny Depp making his rather odious character shine on the screen, provide enthusiastic creativity for the director off of it. You get a feel of the costume/art departments stunning sets and locations, the DoP’s consummate skill, a 1st AD that couldn’t have come off any better if the docco was for his resume. On top of this you also get Gilliam creating cinema gold with a few local inhabitants, using simple camera techniques to create what would have been some fantastic characters. This is all potential, the creative spark, and I defy viewers not to wish for the end product to have somehow made it to the silver screen.

If you pick up the DVD, you will also find some of the filmed footage, a few wonderfull interviews (Depp and Gilliam) and art stills of the project.

No excuses, go watch.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

wild palms - the mini series

A genuine ‘show of it’s time’ WILD PALMS was a five episode mini-series, broadcast in 1993, that was promoted (in the UK at least) as the ‘next TWIN PEAKS’. It certainly had many of the ingredients: a mindbending plot, a Hollywood directors involvement and enough surreal moments to shake a log lady at. The show was a critical hit in the States, a bomb in the UK, and had the rare distinction of making many ‘best of’ and ‘worst of’ lists for the year, depending on your geography. I was firmly in the negative after this viewing, the first since I saw it on release, and yet I can still see the potential that kept me watching, the first time around.

So Oliver Stone is the big fish behind getting the story (originally from an independant comic) onto the big screen, which each episode helmed by one of a group of fresh feature directors. The basic plot revolves around a fusion of technology and drugs, and the role that  unassuming laywer Harry Wyckoff (James Belushi) finds himself playing as his world slowly falls apart. He has a devoted wife on the edge of breakdown (Dana Delaney) a femme fatale (Kim Cattrall) a crazed boss (Robert Loggia) a mother-in-law from hell (Angie Dickinson) and a truly worrying son (Ben Savage) all struggling to survive the next eveolution in broadcasting, politics and, maybe, human life itself... And then, theres the rhino...yup, a rhino... rather bored looking one, at that.
There is a hell of a lot going on, and thats one of the challenges of this show. In addition to the main tech thread, you have politics, media, art and genetics. All of these seem to struggle for airtime over the course of the arc, with the main thread suffering more than most. We get a tech-heavy start (plus William Gibson cameo) and then barely a whisper until its too late to care. What always impressed me, when I first viewed this, was how the series ending came out of nowhere and was ‘very deep’. . . . . nowadays I just call it piss-poor ploting of the main arc, especially since I watched all the shows within two days.
On this viewing, however, I did find elements I really enjoyed. There is a strong theme of art and style, tied into the political ‘freedom fighters’ of the film. This is personified by Nick Mancuso’s Tully character, a flambouyant artist who becomes a the ongoing foil for Dickinson’s seemingly untouchable matriarch. He is backed by assured turns from Ernie (agent I fly everything Fowler) Hudson and the mighty David Warner, as they portray the elements of society that have been mined and exploited by the media, to the point where you wonder if victory for them would herald a return to the dark ages.
Normally I do suggest people view the films i write on about (after all, everyones opinion is just as relevant) but I do feel that it would be a waste of time for anyone to spend time on this set, especially considering that this has aged horribly. Though two areas now seem to be so unintentionally hilarious that I may suggest it as a surreal comedy.
1)      Dana Delany (utterly stunning) is the overlooked housewife whom our hero cant get interested in (yes folks, our hero has Libido issues) yet he will go after Cattralls terribly styled plank of wood. Anyone who has ever seen Sam in SEX AND THE CITY knows how good Cattrall can be, in this she is absolutely abysmaly dull.
Thats not me moaning, thats the part I mean.  The bit where they have to show grief or rage. Its pitifull. Belushi’s grief over a certain element is the worst piece of acting I have E.V.E.R. seen in any movie, followed by Warners version of a similar moment (so ad they pan off him during the episode and dub his moan over a different shot in the next episodes recap) and then there’s oddity which is Dickinsons main face off (think cliché Prime and Megs) which just annoys me now.

God, what a review. You spent ages going through it and it comes to nothing. Damn, if I just came out with something random and cool you may think better of the artical and assume you missed the good bit. . . . . much like the subject then!!!



Cant seem to write a good review for toffee, at the mo. So, while i stare at the huge backlog of films awaiting a response, lets see if I can get something on a page

EL MARIACHI is a belter of a no-budget flick. It was remade as the (pretty damn good still) DESPERADO and prompted a series of films by director Robert Rodriguez that gave the audience a hell of a lot of bang for their buck. PLANET TERROR really surprised me as it was the first time that I didn’t feel the quality (ironic or not) didn’t match the budget/expectations and MACHETE sadly follows that pattern, for me.

Expanded from the GRINDHOUSE trailer, we have Danny Trejo as a one-man army who bounces between various interested parties, just trying to live a good clean wholesome (porn music) life. Thrown in the mix we have slumming actors Robert DeNiro (laziest i have ever seen him) Steven Segal (there is a reason he doesnt headline films any more) Don Johnson (dull and wasted) and Lyndsay Lohan (minor role and you just wonder how lower she can drop) who do their best to torpeado the film into unwatchable. What saves it are some of the other, often minor, performances where actors have really shown to step up. Jessica Alba (happy to play a grittier role) Jeff Fahey (works each scene to death) Michelle Rodriguez (very strong and smoking hot) and Cheeck Marin who just lifts you the moment he shows up.

But Adam, Rodriguez didn’t direct the whole film! Nope, the guy helmed scenes with the lead cast (leaving the rest to Ethan Maniquis) and yet the poor performaces appear at every level of the cast list. The story, B-movie as it should be, hits it’s strides when those performers believe in it’s scope, rewarding the freedom they are all clearly given. DeNiro and Segal in particular, remind of Richard Prior in the third SUPERMAN flick, underperforming because they are simply relaying the lines from the page, while the directors wish for ad-libing goes wanting.

There is silliness aplenty, with gore and effects peppering every available moment. Comedic sex scenes (calm down young lads, nothing really for you) and an ending that feels very much like ONCE APON A TIME IN MEXICO. . . which was done better, there. Yes, I know this is meant to be a classic exploitation flick, but there is a reason that those films retain a fanbase, because they have a certain style and charm, misplaced or not. This somehow looses this, diluted down in aspirations to cover all bases.

Go get MARIACHI on dvd, if you want a cheap movie that rocks your world. This is a mexi-can’t for me.

Monday, 7 March 2011


Before you start with the kneejerk reaction, lets clarify where you are coming from. Read the following statements:

Halle Berry needs to do more romantic comedies. Her downtrodden character at the start of this flick (and then at on-and-off moments during the film) is quite adorable. Ugly-betty-ish.
Halle Berry needs to do more thrillers. Her downtrodden, scared character 20mins into this flick (and then at on-and-off moments during the film)  is quite believable. 24-damsel-ish
The CGI cats needs to do more Hollywood work. Their fluffy expressions ( on-and-off  during the film)  clearly had them set up for a sympathetic role in CATS AND DOGS.
A pop promo-cut basketball scene looks just like the one from DAREDEVIL
Girlie chat scenes feel just like ones from ALI MCBEAL
Driving scenes have the same slick feel as FAST AND THE FURIOUS
Action scenes flow like a rap promo
Highly invasive music score, like any teen-based flick (annoying woman shout ‘uh oh’ to beats constantly)
Exposition from the warm-coloured proffesors study of an INDIANA JONES flick
Motion capture out of SCORPION KING
A fashion/beauty plot worthy of SEX AND THE CITY
Fight scenes from CHARLIES ANGELS
And a costume out of slash fic.

Now none of these things is particularly bad on its own (last one possibly) but only when they are applied to the shows to which they naturally shine. In fact, a combination of all these elements could work well. . . . the result being a potentially genre-breaking, female orientated, super-heroine flick.

But where CATWOMAN failed?. . . . . its poster.

The dark brooding poster (along with studio hype and fan expectations) meant the studio were reliant on a male demographic to make this film a box office hit. Failing to fully sever the ties to Michelle Pfeiffer’s version only added to the sense, in retrospect, of a film setting itself up for a massive fall.  I mean the climactic battle is fought whilst the hero and villain talk beauty tips, for gods sakes! Marketed right, with a poster that set out its intentions from the start, this may have done well. Angry fanboys would have been ignored just as the groans of husbands, dragged to SEX & THE CITY were. But no, instead we got one of the worst received film openings ever, and a legacy more notable for Halle Berry picking up her Razzie, than any praise.

Now the film isn’t great, let me state that. Berry is loveable as her characters ‘human side’ but annoying as Catwoman, all constant head twitches and a make-up scheme that made her look rather ugly (oh irony, eh) than ice cool. Sharon Stone makes what she can from a poor role, never getting to play anything other than a victim and being denied a small extra scene that could have set her up in a very interesting way for further films. . . . not there were ever gonna be more of these. The men of the movie are pretty pathetic. Thats all I can say about them. In fact, the one actor I truly adored was the cat who played Midnight. . . . sooooooooooooooo cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuute!

So this is a film branded a joke by people who never should have been conned into seeing it, in the first place. However, if you drop expectations of genre and poster, it is not the worst crime against film (and comic adaptation films at that) that has ever been commited. A 2 out of 5 is as good as it will ever get, from this bloke, but that is still more than most of this blogs readers will ever dare to give it..

Saturday, 5 March 2011



A modern action film isn’t a true hit unless you can production-line a sequel. And while, nowadays, the studios can usually be relied on to confuse/dumb down a follow-up, many will fare better than the likes of HIGHLANDER, the 1986 film that flopped on release, gained cult status on video and spawned such abysmal sequels that the franchise’s legacy is a thousand bad Sean Connery impersonations.

Watching it now, for the first time in a dozen years, it’s a real mixed bag. The core story (immortals wander the earth, fighting each other for an ultimate prize) is still a fantastic idea, a story given weight and authenticity by the casting of Connery to spell it out to the audience. Let’s face it, if we can seriously believe that Sean is Egyptian, we can believe anything, right? As the titular Highlander, Christophe Lambert struggles more with his accent, but exudes the right balance of weariness and menace that you would expect from a man out of time. That leaves our baddie to fill out the main cast, and this is where the best feature of the film reveals itself.

Clancy Brown’s stature and voice alone would make the Kurgan (bad guys name, don’t ask) a formidable enemy, but with Browns intense performance, he really steals the show. From his opening reveal (kinda reminding me of a Dark Eldar for some reason) as much as you are meant to hate him, you want to know more about the man. The films deft cutting inbetween past and present sets up as much as it misses and I feel a sequel could have mined this rich vein of the missing centuries for more stories, instead of heading forward into a damp squib of a future.

The films’ other huge win is its soundtrack songs, with Queen laying down the sort of tune-age that Bay wishes his, much used, Linkin Park buds could even approach, in terms of quality. I mean the songs are written about the events of the film yet still became hits in their own right, some probably not even noted by some fans as being for a film. It also amused me no end to see, in one promo, Freddie crossing swords with Lambert (well, Lambert’s sword and Freddie’s microphone stand). . . . but it’s just hilarious.. . . . . but that’s me, okay?

It’s not all win for the film, of course. Watched today, the soundtrack rocks but the incidental sound is pretty atrocious, coming from the height of popularity for tech-noir, synth-based, sound effects. The cutting in the various effects scenes is classic 80’s pop promo (expected as director Mulcahay was from a promo background) and the use of one effect recut to look repeated, a bit distracting. And then there's the matter of suspension wires. . . uuurrgh. Move on. The female lead (played by Roxanne Hart) is very derivative and of course there is a big old 80’s style “love scene” to make the kids feel uncomfortable. These are small matters, but they do give you a feel for why this wasn’t a huge hit on the big screen, where some of these flaws would have been felt more.

Of course I mentioned the sequels and they are pretty awful, from memory and what others have said. Nevertheless, I will give them a rewatch to see if they have maybe aged better. The TV show? Not seen it, don’t want to. A colleague of mine once worked on the crossover flick that covered the film and TV series. He said Lambert was a real gent, Paul (the bloke from the series) a prize arrogant twat. So no inclination, really. However, as I was preparing for this review, I was advised by a mate to check out what may well be the best sequel/remake of the whole franchise, one I had no idea existed. . . .so. . .


Crikey! That hits the spot. Yes, an animated feature that might not be perfect but clearly “gets” the feel of what the film series should be about. Rather than waffle into this (and bore you even more senseless on another already long review) lets go as follows

Take the Original Highlander
Take the animated visuals of FIST OF THE NORTH STAR
Mash them together
Ta-da!! It works well, especially in its time-jumping and character-setting. The version of Connery in this is more akin to Merklin from VISIONAIRIES, but thats no bad thing. . . . right?

So. . . . If you’ve not seen HIGHLANDER yet then give it a go. If you have, and fancy an update, then try THE SEARCH FOR VENGENCE

Friday, 4 March 2011


Thomas Turgoose made a huge impression as the youthfull lead in Shade Meadows THIS IS ENGLAND and has followed this up with a series of strong showings in other, low budget, films.  SCOUTING was the one I had missed and was given it to watch, both as reference for a film in development, but as an overlooked gem.  I gotta say, for what it is, it’s pretty damn good.
A simple tail of the friendship between a boy (David)and a girl (Emily), both living in the middle of a holiday camp, becomes a heartbreaking study of a confused young man as he is asked to help plan her ‘disappearance’.  The script takes a simple set of issues, and follows a small group of characters as they each struggle with the fallout of the missing girl, in unexpected ways. And, by small, I mean tiny. Susan Lynch, one of the best (and overlooked) actresses in the uk, is brilliant in the rather clichéd role of the trailer park mother. Rafe Spall increasing sympathetic as a man for whom events take on a tragic air, despite his characters very dubious nature. And thats it! Oh there are a few other people in the credits, but just one pair of adults are left to support the stars of this film, and it’s telling that they often feel surplus to requirements, such is the tender display from the leads.

Opposite Thurgoose, as the girl who wants to hide, is Holliday Granger as the mischievious Emily. She manages  to be both innocent and minx, show warmth and tenderness alongside a selfishness that keeps her character feeling fresh. Together, the two young stars fill the scenes they inhabit with countless awkward looks and beats, clearly conveying the feelings of young people at odds with the world and their hormones. You care for them both, as the films tightens, with Thurgoose’s David agonising  over his choices, hopes and fears. To describe the story would add spoilers, but the ending contains some of Thurgoose’s best performace to date, as well as being a beautifully written moment to still cause thought and discussion afterwards.

Low budget,  quality piece

Thursday, 3 March 2011


Those people who consider CONSTANTINE to be Keanu’s worst “reimagining” crime have clearly not seen this awkward mess in the light of the glorious original. So, with the kindness a vet gives an old animal that is in pain, I will cover this quickly and let you get on with your lives.

Story: Big spherical plot device lands on earth. Out steps corporate emo-man NEO and then something starts going on that involves the end of the world. Some other people turn up, there’s a bratty kid. End. Thats pretty much it. There is a fair bit of footage designed to make you apparently quake in fear/awe but you need to care about the situation to do that....yeah, not really good.

Cast: These actors can step up and produce powerhouse performances when they need to. This, however, was how they faired in this flick
Keanu Reeves: Directionless, pointless and managing to make JOHNNY NMEMONIC look better, every time he sleepwalks through movies like this.
Jennifer Connelly: Cold, bland, worryingly thin (personal opinion, folks) and lacking any form of personality.
John Cleese: Michael Caine was busy and Billy Connelly was on the X-FILES movie?
James Hong: Great for the minute he was onscreen (who he? Think BIG TROUBLE LITTLE CHINA chief baddie)
Jayden Smith: Best acting in the movie, a shame his character is so poorly written
John Hamm: The man serves no point, in this film.

I guess I should talk about Gort, but the poor thing never really gets the chance to shine. Looking at it now, you just feel it was the rough render for THOR's heavy-metal baddie THE DESTROYER.

Verdict: The original may have lost its connection with modern young audiences but it is a solid classic with a message more relevant now than ever. This, on the other hand, is a complete waste of a film and utterly pointless as a viewing experience.