Category Archives: action

The Toxic Avenger (1984) – 24 Carat Crud…


Toxic 4

Woody Allen famously keeps a drawer full of ideas scribbled on bits of paper, which he dips into when he needs inspiration for a new movie. It’s not always successful – it seems like he forgot to add anything else before shooting Magic in the Moonlight.

I’d like to think Troma movies get made in a similar fashion. I can picture Lloyd Kaufman, Troma’s cartoonish co-founder, sitting in a hottub with a couple of poodle-permed babes, scribbling crazy titles on cocktail napkins and handing them to his butler for safekeeping.

Titles include A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell, Dumpster Baby, Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid, and Maniac Nurses Find Ecstasy. They’re friday night four-pack-and-a-pizza movies, and any VHS junkie from the ’80s and ’90s will be familiar with the lurid cover art of Troma’s oeuvre. They’ve been going for over forty years now, barfing a steady steam of lowbrow, z-grade schlock into existence – if it’s got aliens, monsters, psychos, guns and tits, all on the front of the video box, chances are it’s Troma.

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Christmas Double Bill: It’s a Wonderful Life & Die Hard…


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On the face of it, the festive classic It’s A Wonderful Life couldn’t be more different to action masterpiece Die Hard. The former has become an enduring part of the holiday season in the US and UK, while internet debate still rages about whether Die Hard is actually a Christmas movie at all.

These days we regard the Christmas Movie as a genre all of its own, but it is a relatively new invention. Check out any list of top Christmas films, and almost every popular choice – i.e. movies modern audiences still watch today – was made after World War II.

It’s a Wonderful Life stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a nice guy who finds himself standing on a bridge on Christmas Eve, contemplating suicide. He has sacrificed his dreams for the good of his family, friends and community, but circumstances have led him to the brink of ruin. Thankfully, the heavens are listening to the prayers of his loved ones and dispatch an angel, Clarence (Henry Travers) to show George that he really has a wonderful life. Clarence shows George what life would be like if he was never born, and what a positive impact he has had on everyone around him.

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American Ultra (2015) – Half baked…


American Ultra 1
“If ever there’s a movie that sinks its own ship while still tied to the dock, it’s American Ultra. For the promotion of Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock stipulated that no-one should be admitted to the theatre after the movie had started, to prevent ruining the surprise.

If Hitchcock was alive today, and he’d seen American Ultra, he would no doubt recommend exactly the opposite – to preserve any sense of suspense, one should aim to join the movie about five minutes in.

One of the most baffling decisions director Nima Nourizadeh makes in his sophomore effort is to start at the end, then employ a flashback moment which literally flashes every key plot point on the screen before the story starts proper.

In doing so, every drop of suspense is eradicated before the movie even starts, and we’re left with an action comedy thriller without any thrills. To make matters worse, screenwriter Max Landis, following up from the interesting found footage superhero movie Chronicle, also forgets to write any jokes…” Read the rest of the review here (opens in new tab.)

Jurassic World (2015) – Another trip to the world’s deadliest tourist attraction…


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“Like its genetically modified star attraction, the Indominus Rex, Jurassic World is a strange hybrid of the franchise’s greatest hits, part sequel, part reboot and part homage to Steven Spielberg’s much-loved original. It capitalises on nostalgia and Chris Pratt’s likable presence, providing two hours of solid monster mayhem without ever getting beyond the pace of a spooked herd of Stegosaurus…” Click here to read the full article (Opens in separate tab)

Furious 7 (2015) – A Balls-out Requiem for the Petrolheads…


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“When it comes to modes of transport, I’m a pedestrian. Pushing forty now, I’ve never taken a driving lesson, let alone driven a car. Some of my friends back in England used to get their kicks from revving their cars around town, occasionally parking up behind Burger King to pump music from dishwasher-sized subwoofers stashed in their boot. The whole scene left me cold – why not just walk, get pissed in the pub and put some tunes on the jukebox instead?

This is probably the reason why I – with my (abridged) encyclopaedic knowledge of film – have made it to the seventh installment of The Fast and the Furious franchise with complete ignorance of the previous six movies, and went into Furious 7 with no idea of what to expect…” click here to read the full article (opens in a seperate tab)

 

Interstellar (2014) – Christopher Nolan disappears up his own wormhole…


Interstellar is so big that it has its own gravitational pull, and time grinds to a halt while watching it…

Interstellar

“Christopher Nolan returns with Interstellar, one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year. It is a handsome, ambitious, sombre space epic, which is also deeply flawed and exposes Nolan’s weaknesses as a director more than any of his earlier work.

I admire Nolan as a film maker, because he makes popular, intelligent films with things to say about the human condition. His images are massive, his visions meticulously crafted and he draws expert performances from his actors. And yet…his films  lack stardust, a sense of wonder, a touch of showmanship, like a story told by an accountant, not a natural raconteur…” Click here to read my full review for Pop.junk (opens in separate window

Lucy (2014) Review…


I’ve recently started writing for a lively, brand new pop culture website called pop.junk. Here’s my first offering for my new comrades –

Lucy (2014) – If it had brains, it would be dangerous…

scarlett lucy

“Alfred Hitchcock had a thing for icy blondes, and shared his kinks and fetishes with the viewer in films like Vertigo, The Birds, and Marnie. Luc Besson also likes to air his sexual preferences in his films, and the French director likes ‘em hot, young and deadly.” Click here to read the full review…

 

Julia (2008) – Not the kind of girl you’d take home to meet the parents…


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I’ve never been a big fan of movies with just the character’s first name as a title – it creates so much expectation.  What is so special about this individual that I’m on first name terms with them before the opening credits roll?  I think – what will the trials and tribulations of Arthur, Annie, Alfie or Paul tell me about the world around me, or more importantly, the world within me?

So Arthur’s a rich pisshead; Annie’s an annoying ginger orphan; Alfie just wants to get his leg over with a bit of crumpet; and Paul is a slacker alien voiced by Seth Rogan.  Then I think – so what? Let’s watch something else instead.

Movies titles with just the surname fare slightly better – at least Bullitt sounds like a hard name, matching Steve McQueen’s inscrutable hero.  Perhaps it was Shakespeare who created such high expectations, naming some of his most famous plays after the eponymous character – Macbeth & Hamlet for example.  But the Bard could get away with it, a) because Macbeth & Hamlet are pretty cool names, and b) he was alright at creating memorable characters to match the anticipation generated by the title.

Julia gets away with it too.  The name itself is pretty mundane, and the film is based on another first-name-titled movie, John Cassavette’s Gloria; but it does feature an absolutely enormous central performance by Tilda Swinton.  In fact, if I could write a one-word movie review for Julia, borrowing the rather obnoxious exclamation mark from Oliver! – I would just write: TILDA!

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Mr Holly On…Dog Soldiers (2002)


If Dog Soldiers was a mammal, it would be a vampire bat – scary, hairy, full of blood, and yet you cannot take your eyes off of it. It is arguably one of the most gratuitously violent, and under-certified films on the U.K. market (The Untouchables 1987)) also springs to mind as Both are rated Fifteen). Perhaps the British Board of Film Classification should have granted this film an Eighteen certificate, like their Irish counterparts.

The story begins with a military training exercise set in the wilderness that is the Scottish Highlands (despite actually being filmed in Norway). What seems to be a staged combat scenario between Army Infantry and Special Ops, is disrupted by a furry third party.

After a hair-raising initial contact, Sean Pertwee (Love, Honour and Obey (2000)) leads a team of survivors to take refuge in a seemingly vacant cottage. It is here that the rest of the pieces fall in to place. A midst a hail of gunfire and drool, the characters are well-developed to a degree not usually seen in traditional horror-fests.

The film incorporates a wonderfully written and typically British script, but does include certain slang terms (“claret”, “brew” and “bone”) which could alienate potential viewers across the pond. Between consistent references to folklore and football however, a natural British feel emerges. A montage of well-deployed camera angles and overcast lighting is used throughout, adding to the feeling of tension. The opportunism of the characters during scenes of confrontation is refreshing in films of this type. For instance, the use of boiling water and aerosols as weapons would please even the most critical “if that was me…” viewer.

On the negative side, the werewolves appear more The Littlest Hobo (1979) than Lycanthrope and seem to have more hair than Chewbacca’s hairbrush.  Also, the performances of a couple of the cast seem more wooden than the endless supply of planks used throughout the siege scenario. On a shoestring budget of around £3 million however, this is to be expected.

The film also incorporates a dark comedic backbone throughout, portrayed through one-liners, small talk and petty insults. This black humour, coupled with colloquialisms also add to the sense that this is a film produced for a predominantly British audience. Along with 28 Days Later (2002), The Descent (2005) and Creep (2004), Dog Soldiers proves to be a refreshing addition to the British horror movie industry. All in all, a fun watch.

Performance of the film – This film was never going to win Oscars for acting, despite convincing performances from Pertwee and Mckidd ( Trainspotting (1996)). Pertwee sneaks it by a whisker.

Quote of the film – Despite a plethora of one liners, Emma Cleasby’s “It’s that time of the month” stands out.

Fact of the Film – Alongside his diverse acting career, Kevin Mckidd has provided the voice for ‘Soap MacTavish’ in the hugely popular computer games franchise Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

Soundtrack/Score – No real soundtrack, but a catchy score from Mark Thomas had us humming for a while.

Summary:

Some cheesy one-liners, but a very dogged effort. A good horror film – rarer than a steak tartar. 82/100.

(Last watched 6 hours ago. Reviewed by Mr  Holly and Fuzzy.)

Guest Review: Mr Holly on Carlito’s Way (1993)


 

If Carlito’s Way was an automobile, it would be an Oldsmobile 442. A hardcore, edge-of-your-seat ride which no-one knows about; always in the shadow of its mainstream counterpart (the Mustang and Heat (1995) respectively). Despite being a nose-picking, bum-numbing 138 mins the picture delivers an intelligent, well-delivered portrayal of the Big Apple’s 1970’s underworld.

With more twists than a gimp’s nipple, the film tells the story of Carlito ‘Charlie’ Brigante’s ploy to become clean after a five-year stint behind bars. In debt to the lawyer who saw his sentence reduced, the main  theme focusses on Carlito’s loyalty to his on-edge, on-drugs brief. Staying on a straight but VERY narrow path, Carlito attempts to escape his past life, despite staying true to his old-skool morals.

With more drink consumed than Oliver Reed on a chat show and more drugs than a night out at a hippy festival, this well acted bundle of joy is more in-your-face than an eye-watering egg fart in a packed lift.

While watching this gem I briefly tried to figure out where Carlito  resides, before settling for a hard drink over ice instead. By the end, this film left me with mixed emotions, reaching for the rest of the bottle,  satisfied.

Performance of the film – Al Pacino completely overshadows Penn with a brilliant display of tension-building facial expressions.

Quote of the film – Viggo Mortensen “Go ahead and kill me, you c********r.”

Fact of the film – This is the second epic Brian De Palma shootout in an inner-city train station.

Score/Soundtrack – Contemporary soundtrack perfect for the context of this film. The score emerges strongest during action scenes, peaking late on during the final chase.

Summary:

Carlito’s Way is a hidden classic; watch it.  87/100

(Last watched 2 hours ago. Review by Mr Holly and Fuzzy.)

 

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