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Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.)

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The Ward [DVD] [2011]
The Ward [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Amber Heard
Price: £6.50

3.0 out of 5 stars Listen, don't let this place get to you. You stay locked up long enough and you start to believe that you're nuts., 30 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: The Ward [DVD] [2011] (DVD)
After a gap of nine years, horror legend John Carpenter returned to the movie screen directors chair for this solid if unspectacular horror movie. Though some of the critical reactions to it stink of an over expectation for a return to his former glories, the plain fact is that it's just safe horror film making.

Plot finds Amber Heard (The Stepfather/All the Boys Love Mandy Lane) as troubled arsonist Kristen. Shunted into a mental institution post haste, Kristen finds herself menaced by a violent ghost that seems intent on ridding the ward of all its female inhabitants.

And there you have it, a bunch of hopelessly pretty girls (seriously, are all institutionalised girls good looking babes?) are stalked and killed by a female spirit who is dressed up in poor rubbery make up. The odd boo-jump comes and goes, making it not a complete dead loss on the scare front, while the cast are solid in performances and Carpenter shows some trade mark camera techniques to make certain scenes pulse with anxiety. It then hurries along to the big reveal, which sadly disappoints because it just comes off as something done far better in horror/thriller films previously. It was easy money for Carpenter, and us acolytes don't begrudge him that, while it isn't the embarrassment some have made it out to be, but it is average fare and not a great way for JC to bow out from horror movie making, director wise. 6/10


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sisters are doing it for themselves…, 29 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Sisters (Amazon Instant Video)
Sisters is directed by Brain De Palma who also co-writes the screenplay with Louisa Rose. It stars Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, Charles Durning, Lisle Wilson and William Finley. Music is by Bernard Herrmann and cinematography by Gregory Sandor.

When newspaper reporter Grace Collier (Salt) observes what she perceives to be a murder in the apartment across the street from her own, it proves to be the catalyst for a trip down a dark psychologically damaged street.

To be honest here, the continuous complaints about De Palma being a Hitchcock clone got boring around about the mid eighties. As Hitch is my personal favourite director it has never bothered me one bit that he homaged and borrowed from the great man's cannon, in fact I have always found that when on form it was great to have someone like De Palma to keep the suspense thriller genre going. It's not as if he's the only one who owes his career to director's from the past really is it?

Sisters is a wonderfully trippy suspenser, where De Palma lifts from some great Hitchcock motifs to portray a clinically edgy story based around an article he read about Siamese twins Masha and Dasha Krivoshlyapova. Infused with technical flourishes such as split screens, POV filming and close quarter framing, the director is donating his own blood for the veins of the piece. Suspense is rarely far away, be it characters in some sort of danger, or the possible discovery of a body, there is no pause for pointless filler fodder. While twists and revelations engage the brain instead of insulting it, something many of today's horror/thriller directors could learn to "homage" from actually, and a nightmare section of film literally unfurled out of the minds eye is top draw.

Herrmann was enticed out of near retirement to score the music, the genre and themes at work in the story ready made for his skilled compositions. The score in all essence is lifted from his own major works for Hitchcock, with added sections taken from Jason and the Argonauts and Mysterious Island, but reworked in such away it drifts a perfectly off-kilter vibe across production. Kidder and Salt do great work in tricky roles, and Finley is suitably edgy. Durning is a little wasted, though, but it's a small complaint in the acting area. There's a couple of plot holes and one turn of events that just doesn't make sense, but this is a prime De Palma thriller and a good starting point for anyone interested in his work. And yes! For anyone who really isn't bothered about someone homaging a past master. 8/10
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 31, 2015 8:17 PM BST

Stir [DVD]
Stir [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bryan Brown

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nails!, 28 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Stir [DVD] (DVD)
Directed by Stephen Wallace and written by Bob Jewson, Stir stars Bryan Brown, Max Phipps, Dennis Miller, Gary Waddell and Phil Motherwell. Music is by Cameron Allan and cinematography by Geoff Burton.

Stir is a tough Australian prison drama based on the real life prison riot that occurred at Bathurst Gaol 1974. Writer Bob Jewson was an inmate at the time and draws on his observations for the screenplay.

The standard rules of prison dramas are adhered to here, sadistic guards, homosexuality (though tenderly handled and not involving rape), poor conditions etc. Where Stir lifts itself into the upper echelons of similar genre pictures is with the characterisations, they are credibly written and performed. There are a number of human interest stories running through the plot, none of which involve outsiders, which is a bonus as we all are cemented in this concrete and iron jungle. While the mounting tension is unbearable at times, headed up by the terrific Brown who is pumped with snake eyed hardness and coiled spring intensity.

Criminally under seen, Stir is as tough as steel toe-capped boots and demands to be labelled as essential viewing for those interested in penal based movies. 8/10

Yesterday's Enemy [DVD] [2010]
Yesterday's Enemy [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ Stanley Baker
Price: £5.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning!, 28 Mar. 2015
"When You Go home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today"

There's a school of thought in film world that all war films are anti-war films, some, however, are the definition of such and are cream of the crop. Yesterday's Enemy is one such picture.

Out of Hammer Films, it's directed by Val Guest and written by Peter R. Newman. It stars Stanley Baker, Gordon Jackson, Guy Rolfe, Leo McKern and Philip Ahn. Story has the surviving members of a British Army Brigade holing up in a Burmese jungle village, where Captain Langford (Baker) happens upon a map that could prove critical to operations involving the Japanese forces in the area. Unable to get clarity from a potential traitor, Langford must make decisions that will outrage those in his quarters, but could well be for the greater good of the war effort. All while the Japanese are advancing on the village.

There is no music here, this is purely a sweaty black and white piece that booms with literary class. These men caught in a claustrophobic crossfire of moral quandaries, faiths and life altering judgements. Complex issues are brilliantly handled by Guest and his superb cast, with ace cinematographer Arthur Grant (shooting in MegaScope) completely making a mockery of the stage bound production to make real a Burmese jungle village. Come the sobering finale the realisation dawns that this was a bold movie for its time, pushing the boundaries of 1950s war movies. It's a must see film for anyone interested in the real side of that famous saying, war is indeed hell. 9/10

Charlie & Boots [DVD]
Charlie & Boots [DVD]
Dvd ~ Paul Hogan
Price: £7.63

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful movie, visually, emotionally and humanely., 27 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Charlie & Boots [DVD] (DVD)
What to say here? It's a road movie about a father and son played by Paul Hogan and Shane Jacobson respectively. After the untimely death of their wife and mother, the two end up on a long cross country journey to go fishing at the northern tip of Australia. They have previously never gotten on together, their differences seemingly impossible to put aside, but this trip will bring about many revelations, truths, pains and maybe even laughter?

The Australian landscape photography (Roger Lanser) is as stunning as the simplicity of screenplay, with the humour and emotional wallops delivered with great skill by Hogan and Jacobson. The message of it all is not heavily handled by director Dean Murphy, he and his team take us on a journey that rings true, one that brings hope to the many who need a prompt, a push in the right direction. Because it's true you know, life really is too short.

A lovely and heart warming movie that's also very funny as well. It deserves to be better known. 8/10

Never Talk To Strangers [DVD]
Never Talk To Strangers [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rebecca De Mornay
Offered by entertainment2yourdoor
Price: £14.08

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Erotic thriller dulls the senses..., 27 Mar. 2015
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Brian De Palma has often come in for some flak over the years, his penchant for sticking tight to Alfred Hitchcock thriller formula has been the source of much consternation in certain quarters. Yet when you view something like Peter Hall's Never Talk to Strangers it rams home just how welcome it is to have Hitch like thrillers at least done well!

Rebecca De Mornay is a troubled shrink who whilst dealing with the mind games of a serial killing loony (Harry Dean Stanton), meets sexually charged Latino guy (Antonio Banderas) and indulges in passions unbound. Then she starts to get very unwelcome presents in the post...

The erotic thriller has been well trodden, and will continue to be so for sure, so it feels a little churlish to decry Hall's movie for coming off as a weak willed imitator of previous purveyors of the sub-genre, but this blend of Silence of the Lambs meets Sea of Love - cum - Dressed to Kill - cum Fatal Attraction etc etc just comes across as a cheat. And that's because it is!

The makers know this and try to hide their ridiculous folly behind eroticism as the two lovely looking headlining stars get sweaty and wet, indulging in sexual play that's as powerful as the surroundings (Banderas lives in a loft apartment resplendent with metal cage and wrought iron doors). But, or should that be butt? The mystery element is weak, the suspense equally so, while the back story of De Mornay's father (a key character) is hopelessly under developed.

Then there is H.D. Stanton, stealing every scene is he is in, quid pro quo indeed, yet he's hardly in the film, which ultimately proves to be a tragedy as the plot hurtles towards its implausible and risible revelations. Red herrings come and go as quickly as Becca and Tony's underwear (the continuity editor should have been sacked along with the writers because of one scene BTW), and even though Pino Donaggio scores the music with customary swirling qualities, this just comes off as a piggyback tactic...

This is a poor thriller in spite of two very committed and visually attractive perfs from the leads - and of course Stanton's knowingly sleazy turn. Seek this out only if you think Body of Evidence is in the upper echelons of erotic thrillers. 5/10

Good Vibrations [DVD] [2012]
Good Vibrations [DVD] [2012]
Dvd ~ Jodie Whittaker
Price: £5.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars These kids aren't the problem for Belfast, they are the solution., 22 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Good Vibrations [DVD] [2012] (DVD)
"When punk rock ruled over Ulster, nobody ever had more excitement and fun. Between the bombings and shootings, the religious hatred and the settling of old schools, punk gave everybody a chance to LIVE for one glorious moment."

Uncle Joe Strummer.

Punk Rock and Punk Rockers have always been misunderstood. Back during the original wave that began in 1976 it was thought punks wanted to kill the queen and burn down your villages, so even though some ill informed (re: ill educated) principals courted controversy, the spirit of punk rock, its ideals and reasons for being, got lost in the mix of the media frenzies and drug deaths et al. Many films and documentaries have been made over the years, some worthwhile, others not so, but all in an effort to either correct the misconceptions of punk rock, or invite interest into a genre of music that made waves that are still being felt today. Good Vibrations the movie is the embodiment of what it was really all about.

The story concerns how Terri Hooley (played by a superb Richard Dormer) believed that music could make a difference, and this even as a soul destroying Civil War raged out on the streets of Belfast. He opened a record shop and formed his own independent record label (the Good Vibrations of the title), and then one day he stumbled on a movement, punk kids who just didn't care about sectarianism, race, creed or colour, they united as one with a love of music, of music with attitude and no hidden agendas. It ticked every box of Hooley's world, forcing him to beg the question of where have these boys been all his life?

I would like to report a Civil War outside!

The 1970s backdrop of the Northern Ireland "Troubles" strikes all the right emotional chords, but the makers are never heavy handed, it's never over-killed. The key here is portraying a movement - and an individual - that refused to be cowed by the bombs and the bullets. In fact during one quite brilliant scene ignorance proves to be bliss. From personal experience I can say that as a British guy living in England I was vehemently told back in the late 1970s to not even think about buying a 7" single by one of the 'Oirish punk rebel rousers. I'm still flipping that same middle finger I flipped back then, today!

Teenage dreams so hard to beat.

Thankfully the film doesn't spend most of its time on what music fans know as the key Irish bands of the era. The Undertones were indebted to Hooley as much as they were the legendary (and much missed) John Peel, but this picture barely features The Undertones, or Stiff Little Fingers as it happens. The former are key, and provide some of Hooley's most memorable moments, in fact it's the crux of the genius and otherwise (family changes) of Hooley the man and the "businessman". Yet it's the lesser known bands of the time that come to the front and tell the story alongside Hooley, which even though this is a biography of sorts, is a wonderful touch and dare I say it? Very punk rock. It's as he says, they are all a part of Good Vibrations.

I saw the light.

What of Hooley the man, how he is portrayed here? Pic makes the effort to show he was hardly an ideal husband type, where the love of his life, Ruth (the lovely Jodie Whittaker making an under written character boom) is playing second fiddle to his musical passion. His relationship with his parents is only pinched, though just enough to make a point, while some of his dealings with the warring factions in his community come off as a bit fanciful. But these are forgivable sidesteps, for this is about the music lover and the movement he fought tooth and nail to get heard.

It was never about money, punks wanted it, needed it even, but the true spirit of punk shines bright in Good Vibrations, both musically and as a human interest story, making it essential viewing for anyone interested in the original wave of Punk Rock. 10/10
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 29, 2015 5:56 PM BST

Annabelle [DVD] [2014]
Annabelle [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Ward Horton
Price: £9.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tis time to move on from conduit demons., 21 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Annabelle [DVD] [2014] (DVD)
*** This review contains minor spoilers ***

It doesn't have James Wan's name on the director's chair, but it's every inch a James Wan film. There seems to be a rut that has emerged where this new brand of horror film makers can't see that recycling the same ideas is, well, kinda dull.

Insidious, Dead Silence and The Conjuring have their critics (not me, I like them all very much), but the timing was right for them to hit the mark of many a horror film lover. Tapping into the fear of the doll and the demon hadn't been done for some time, certainly not with any conviction, so all good there for the fans.

Annabelle spins off from The Conjuring, and Dead Silence to a degree, but just comes off as a lazy cash-cow. The doll is a spooky monstrosity (most unlike the real Rag-Dolly-Anna version), but it's all a bit of a con, the makers resorting to another demonic being, only Red Darth Maul has now been replaced by Blue Lagoon The Loon.

Character's actions are often preposterous, stretching credulity to breaking point (I know you are being menaced by the unknown, but I got a conference to go to, sleep tight babe!). Elsewhere, while everyone acknowledges that what scares you is subjective, but the scares here are very thin on the ground, not helped by a dull script and bland lead actors.

It's tidy enough a production, granted, but familiarity breeds contempt and it's hoped that Wan's return to the director's chair for The Conjuring 2 (where we revisit the realm of poltergeist activity), signals a return to form for his horror stable. 5/10

Lou Reed - Rock 'N' Roll Heart [DVD]
Lou Reed - Rock 'N' Roll Heart [DVD]
Dvd ~ Lou Reed
Price: £6.54

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bitty doc about the Avante Garde Rocker., 21 Mar. 2015
Lou Reed,legend, simple as. Here under the American Masters series he gets just over 70 minutes of screen time, which ultimately isn't enough. For fans of his work, both solo and with the legendary Velvet Underground, it's "nice" to have something on film, to see him acknowledged, and I guess for interested outsiders this is a good "grooming" doc. Yet there's so much missing, key periods in his career are given short shrift and replaced by stock filler concert scenes - none of which play the whole songs!

Is there anything here that fans will learn that is new? Possible not. The newcomers get a sample of his early influences, from romantic poets to beat street artists, the Velvet Underground period gets good time, with welcome chatter from John Cale and Mo Tucker, then his solo work is covered by a series of interview snippets, with credible and interesting back stories to some of his famous songs. The live footage pleases the eyes and ears, while the roll call of back slappers is mercifully not over-killed.

But it's not even close to being definitive and that just comes off as a shame and wasted opportunity. 6/10

Miracle [DVD]
Miracle [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kurt Russell

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disney doing what they do best with this sort of material., 20 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Miracle [DVD] (DVD)
It's a feel good sports movie based around the true story of Coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) who had the unenviable task of leading the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team in the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid. Where the all conquering Russian squad were waiting.

We follow Brooks as he assembles a youthful squad then pushes them to the limits, mentally and physically, all while facing pressures in his home life as he gives his all on the ice rinks. If you know your sports history then there's obviously no surprise factor here, but there's good insight into squad dynamics, of coaching and toughness involved in the many facets of high level sport. Russell leads his young cast admirably, while the action scenes during the matches have a kinetic energy that's most impressive. 7/10

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