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Reviews Written by
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.)
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

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The Battle At Apache Pass [DVD]
The Battle At Apache Pass [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jeff Chandler John Lund Susan Cabot
Price: £9.96

3.0 out of 5 stars Cochise does not break his word - it's Geronimo., 25 April 2017
Film Reviewed Only.

The Battle at Apache Pass is directed by George Sherman and written by Gerald Drayson Adams. It stars Jeff Chandler, John Lund, Bruce Cowling, John Hudson, Susan Cabot, Jay Silverheels, Gregg Palmer and Jack Elam. Music is by Hans J. Salter and cinematography Charles P. Boyle. A Technicolor production, the location's for the shoot were at Moab, Utah, with Arches National Park, Colorado River, Courthouse Wash, Ida Gulch and Professor Valley forming the backdrops to the story.

The film is a fictionalised account of The Bascom Affair of 1861 and the Battle of Apache Pass that occurred in 1862, the latter of which saw the Indians witness for the first time in the region an artillery attack by means of mountain howitzers. It deals in the events that led up to the battle and focuses on the in fighting between Chiricahua warriors Cochise and Geronimo.

Although both Chandler and Silverheels reprise their character roles from Broken Arrow 1950, The Battle at Apache Pass takes place prior to the events depicted in the 1950 movie. As solid as they come story wise, and with beautiful Technicolor scenery, Sherman's film is only really let down by not having acting gravitas in the American roles. Messrs Lund, Cowling and Hudson are OK, but the material needed more assured performers to play off of the excellent Chandler. On the feminine side Cabot does the best with what little she is given to do, while Beverly Tyler, playing a pretty important character narratively speaking, is just a pretty tug-of-war prop device. However, it's easy to look away from the lack of dramatic worth in the acting because Sherman's action set ups are very good, with the actual battle of the title brilliantly constructed in a rock formed valley, featuring reams of extras, lots of war-fare and the thunder of howitzers filling the ears. While Boyle's (Horizon's West/Tomahawk) photography is sumptuous and a credit to the cinematographer's craft. Salter's score, tho, is only standard fare, with familiar Redskin strains for the Indians and drum beat military thrusts for the Cavalry sequences.

A fine film to look at, with a more than interesting story driving it forward, it sadly, tho, needed more grit from a good portion of the cast. 6.5/10

100 Rifles [DVD]
100 Rifles [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jim Brown

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rifles or Trifles?, 17 Mar. 2017
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This review is from: 100 Rifles [DVD] (DVD)
100 Rifles is directed by Tom Gries and Gries adapts to screenplay with Clair Huffaker from Robert MacLeod's novel The Californio. It stars Burt Reynolds, Jim Brown, Raquel Welch, Fernando Lamas and Dan O'Herlihy. Music is by Jerry Goldsmith and cinematography by Cecilio Paniagua.

Arizona lawman Lydecker (Brown) travels into Mexico to arrest bank robber Yaqui Joe Herrera (Reynolds), and lands in the middle of a war between the Yaquis and the Mexican army.

A good blood pumping Oater feasting on Spaghetti leanings, 100 Rifles boasts star appeal coupled with exciting genre staples. Filmed in Almeria in Spain, pic doesn't lack for smooth on the eyes locations either. The dialogue is a mixture of cheese and the philosophical, but it sits well in the production. It's strong on violence, with a number of action sequences very well constructed, while it has a cheeky glint in its eye and for sure is sexy into the bargain. OK, so the cast aren't exactly pulling up any trees, but they are fun to watch as we take in weasel villains and lovable rogues.

Good time to be had here. 7/10

1408 - Director's Cut Edition [2007] [DVD]
1408 - Director's Cut Edition [2007] [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Cusack
Price: £2.33

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dolphin Sandwich., 10 Mar. 2017
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1408 is based on one of horror writer Stephen King's short stories. It stars John Cusack as a supernatural investigator who rents room 1408 at The Hotel Dolphin in New York. It is said to be a most haunted room and the scene of many deaths. He soon finds his scepticism tested to the max.

Although it has deep themes of grief et al, this essentially boils down to one man in a room being plagued by psychological and physical attacks, with the intended chills and shocks surreal in presentation. It's all very twisty and big on conundrums, which makes a second viewing something of a necessity, whilst Cusack's performance is also reason to check in for another viewing. However, it's not the scary movie some have lauded it as, in fact it's more fun-house palaver than anything terrifying, but there's no doubting the intelligence and skill of the writing. The mind is a curious, wonderful and troubling thing, and 1408 wants us to know it. 6/10

Forsaken [Blu-ray] [2016]
Forsaken [Blu-ray] [2016]
Dvd ~ Kiefer Sutherland
Price: £5.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Traditional Treat., 9 Mar. 2017
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Forsaken is directed by Jon Cassar and written by Brad Mirman. It stars Kiefer Sutherland, Donald Sutherland, Brian Cox, Michael Wincott, Aaron Poole and Demi Moore. Music is by Jonathan Goldsmith and cinematography by Rene Ohashi.

There's a group of words bandied around for this one such as generic, cliché and formulaic, and most assuredly these can not be argued about. For this is very much an old style traditional Western, the plot featuring a retired gunslinger being pushed into action again - while he tries to reconcile with his estranged father - is a hard core staple of 1950s Westerns. But what is wrong with having a traditional Western in this day and age as long as it's produced with skill and grace? The answer for Western lovers is nothing at all.

This is a beautifully mounted picture, fronted by father and son Sutherland's - which adds heartfelt emotion to their scenes together - and boosted by gorgeous cinematography (making it a Blu-ray must), it's a genre piece of worth. Crucially it knows what it wants to be, it has no pretence to be anything other than a traditional Oater for lovers of such. The villains are sneery and scenery chewers - apart from Wincott who is a gentleman dandy type - and the good guy is wonderfully broody and reflective. Pacing is fine, the story has good drama and the finale excites as we hope it should.

In summary, nothing new here of course (except maybe Cox's out of place language!), so expectation of such would be foolhardy, but a smashing Western it be. 7/10

Bloody Mama [DVD]
Bloody Mama [DVD]
Dvd ~ Shelley Winters

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moma's Boys., 9 Mar. 2017
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This review is from: Bloody Mama [DVD] (DVD)
Bloody Mama is directed by Roger Corman and written by Don Peters and Robert Thom. It stars Shelley Winters, Bruce Dern, Don Stroud, Robert De Niro, Diane Varsi, Robert Walden and Pat Hingle. Music is by Don Randi and cinematography by John A. Alonzo.

Story is loosely based on the infamous Kate "Ma" Barker, who along with her sons would cause criminal carnage wherever they went.

"I told my boys to just rob banks and stay out of trouble"

Very much coming off like the bastard son of Bonnie and Clyde, Bloody Mama finds Roger Corman on devilish form. He somehow manages to create violence that cuts hard, and yet there's still a pantomime vibe to things. The characters range from a mad matriarch who is a deathgasm addict - to a psychopath - a sadist - a submissive homosexual - a junkie torturer - and a hapless girlfriend, is it any wonder there's murder, robbery and seedy sexual shenanigans going on?! Hell the pic even begins with incestuous rape!

Kiss me Kate!

It's all very chaotic at times, led by a blunderbuss turn from Winters, but just when you think it's going out of control to the point of no return, Corman and his cast pull it back on track. It's often thrilling and unnerving, and with Corman blending newsreel footage of the era with the fact the pic is filmed on location in Arkansas, there's an earthy docu style feel to the tale - even if as a history lesson it's hokey at best.

Not everybody's idea of enjoyment but from that chilling opening to the blood and thunder of the finale, Bloody Mama holds court with shifty glee. 7.5/10

Fugitivos Rebeldes (The Raid) (DVD (1954) (Spanish Import)
Fugitivos Rebeldes (The Raid) (DVD (1954) (Spanish Import)
Dvd ~ Van Heflin
Offered by robertsmike2005
Price: £24.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars With a rebel yell, I cried more more more., 20 Feb. 2017
"This is a true story...it began on the night of September 26 1864, in a Union prison stockade at Plattsburgh, New York, not many miles from the Canadian border."

Tho director Hugo Fregonese's The Raid opens with the above written statement, it's not entirely accurate. Further research into what became known as "The St. Albans Raid" is required if you want the complete and unembellished story. However, The Raid is in structure and plot significantly in line with what happened back there in 1864. Lifting from the story entitled "Affair At St. Albans" by Herbert Ravenal Sass, The Raid is about seven Confederate prison escapees who infiltrate the community of St. Albans and plot a second front. As the town is gleefully praising General Sherman's march towards Savannah - and throwing auctions to sell off mementos of slain "Rebel" soldiers, the "Rebs" are fashioning bottles of "Greek Fire" with which to torch the town as they plunder the bank of all the town money.

Naturally all doesn't go to plan, as an on the edge soldier puts a spanner in the works; and the "Reb" leader, Maj. Neal Benton (aka Neal Swayze), finds a conflict of interest as his relationship with Katie Bishop and her son starts to form. All of which helps to make The Raid an engrossing picture outside of its already high interest point for being a "Confederate" movie (how many can you name about the "Rebs" winning for example?). More so when one knows that the film doesn't revert to genre formula, it threatens to, but Fregonese and his crew are not interested in serving up standard fare, with the ending a particular point of reference to ram home that opinion.

Van Heflin is excellent as Benton/Swayze, put this along side his work in other Western outings like Shane and 3:10 To Yuma, and he surely is a candidate for the genre's most undervalued actor award. Watch as he has to suppress various forms of emotion - anger as the town around him rejoices in his fellow countrymen's misfortune - affection as he gets close to the mother and son, and torn as he ultimately must abide by his war driven codes. A fine turn from a very fine actor. Anne Bancroft is suitably bright eyed and deep down strong as Katie, while Richard Boone does a nice line as the troubled, and limb absent Captain in desperate need of redemption. Lee Marvin, Claude Akins (uncredited) and Peter Graves man up the support cast, and a nod of approval is warranted for young Tommy Rettig as Larry Bishop.

Filmed on location at Iverson Ranch, Chatsworth, Los Angeles, California, I find myself once again searching for superlatives about Lucien Ballard's cinematography. This is a "gorgeous" film to look at, the Technicolor crisp in tone as the brown and orange hues of St. Albans play host to the shimmering blues of the soldiers uniforms, all of course about to be engulfed by the crackling spurts of the raiders incendiary use of "Greek Fire". I fell in love with this movie quite early on in proceedings, come the finale, I knew I just had to have it in my own collection, I can only hope that this picture finds a new audience from which to give it the love it dearly deserves. 9/10
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 22, 2017 6:20 PM GMT

The Magnificent Seven [Blu-ray] [2016]
The Magnificent Seven [Blu-ray] [2016]
Dvd ~ Denzel Washington
Price: £9.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I seek righteousness. But I'll take revenge., 5 Feb. 2017
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Directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk. Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett and Peter Sarsgard. Music is by Simon Franglen (also working from a James Horner template) and cinematography by Mauro Fiore.

Seven gunmen band together to aid the town of Rose Creek whose inhabitants are being driven out by ruthless capitalist Bartholomew Bogue.

We are now in an age of film making where "tagged classics" are no longer sacrosanct. Any number of these "tagged classics" have been and will become viable for remake - reboot - reimaging for newer audiences. It's here, it happens and really there's nothing we can do about it but moan amongst ourselves. John Sturges' 1960 The Magnificent Seven (itself a remake of Kurosawa pic Yojimbo) is a much loved film, and not just in Western lovers circles, it's a film that non Western fans are known to enjoy - and rightly so, it deserves its place as a "tagged classic" and still enthrals over 50 years since its release. So the big studio big wigs and Antoine Fuqua were taking a major gamble remaking a classic remake with their own remake!

Undeniably the shadows loom large over the 2016 version, so much weight of expectation, in fact to some it was a stinker of a film even before it was released! Well, as those who have seen it will attest, both the fans and the dissenters, it hasn't raised the bar for the "Seven" formula, but, and this is very key here, the makers wasn't setting out to make a film that down the line would be a perceived a "tagged classic", and this is evident in the ream of extras available on the Blu-ray releases. They achieved what they set out to do, to make a blunderbuss Oater for the modern era to sample, and they have done it with much love, much cool and lashings of technical greatness. Add in a cast clearly enjoying themselves and not letting anyone down, and it's a tasty plate of beans.

Fuqua updates things by having his seven as a row of differing ethnicity's, which works a treat, and crucially he and his writers are respectful of those characterisations, even if a bit more fleshing out wouldn't have gone amiss. Yet nothing is at a cost to honouring the great Westerns of old. Beautiful landscapes envelope the players, the musical score bouncing around man and nature with homaged sweetness. There's closeups, silhouetted slices of panache, superb stunt work (man and beast), glorious set design, and then there's the action. The fight sequences are excellently constructed, a feast for the eyes and ears, death and slaughter unfurled in brutal but hunger appeasing strokes. There's comic relief about the place, and while much of the dialogue wouldn't have the great poets of yore troubled, there is deepness to be found. Intelligence, too, the addition of PTSD to one of the main players is a notable piece of worth, while how wonderful to find a Western lady character of great substance (Bennett excellent), so good in fact she could have been one of the seven!

It's a bare bones story, with a pointless motive revelation tagged on for the finale, while some anachronisms will irritate those bothered by such. But if you are able to judge it on its own terms, as a Western entertainment for this era, and to accept it isn't trying to outdo the source of its inspiration, then a good time can readily be had. 8/10

Jane Got A Gun [DVD] [2016]
Jane Got A Gun [DVD] [2016]
Dvd ~ Natalie Portman
Price: £5.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No Plain Jane., 19 Jan. 2017
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This review is from: Jane Got A Gun [DVD] [2016] (DVD)
Jane Got a Gun is directed by Gavin O'Connor and collectively written by Brian Duffield, Anthony Tambakis and Joel Edgerton. It stars Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor, Noah Emmerich, Boyd Holbrook and Rodrigo Santoro. Music is by Marcello De Francisci and Lisa Gerrard and cinematography is by Mandy Walker.

Jane Hammond (Portman) has to turn to her ex lover, Dan Frost (Edgerton), for help when it's revealed that the notorious Bishop gang are heading her way in search of her husband Bill (Emmerich).

It's going to be one of those films more talked about for what it could have been than what it is. Changes in production staff were unbound, from director, writer, photographer and some big name cast changes, it was a production blighted and destined to be on a loser. It hasn't helped that with it being a slow paced character based picture, and a Western at that, the market for a fan base was already running low on potential supporters. So what we left with?

It undoubtedly is one for hard core Western fans only, it's hard to envisage newcomers entering into the genre for the first time, perhaps lured by the casting of Portman, being won over to the point of seeking out other classic Westerns of past and present. Yet it's got a lot going for it, because if you have the want, then it may just take a second viewing to fully absorb and enjoy.

At its core it's a straight Oater of redemption, opportunities waylaid by fate, and of course a good old good versus bad axis. Relying on a flashback structure to set up the character dynamics, it can get a bit disorientating at times, hence the shout out for a second viewing. However, it may not be the perfect way to build the principal characters, but they are worth the investment for there's a big emotional pull there.

Having laid the foundation for the first two thirds of the pic, we shift to good old honest violence, for siege read backs against the wall, and not without invention, in fact there's much resourcefulness on show, with Jane at times very much leading the way. The last third pays off handsomely, even if there's the (arguably) inevitable sugar coated candy to swallow as part of the final deal. Cast are dandy and turning in perfs of note, though it needed more of McGregor's John Bishop, because with what little he gets he does make a villainous mark.

It looks terrific, Walker's photography bringing to mind the genre work of Roger Deakins, with the New Mexico locations blistering in their beauty, and while the sound mix for dialogue exchanges is a little poor, the musical score is thumping in its tonal appreciations. It's tricky to recommend with confidence even to Western fans, especially in a year when "Jane" had to compete with the more rambunctious Magificent Seven reboot, but give it a chance if you liked something like Slow West, and you may just be pleasantly surprised. 7/10

Tokarev [DVD]
Tokarev [DVD]
Dvd ~ Nicolas Cage
Offered by Door2DoorEnt
Price: £2.68

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ooh look, it's another revenge thriller., 26 Aug. 2016
This review is from: Tokarev [DVD] (DVD)
Nicolas Cage stars as a reformed mobster who is forced to go back to his violent ways when his daughter is kidnapped by baddies.

It is what it is really, a Nic Cage starrer that does exactly what the plot synopsis suggests. Does it bring anything new to the revenge formula of genre film making? Absolutely not. But on reflection there are very few that have improved upon originals from as far back as Fritz Lang's Fury in 1936. Sure there is more blood now, more gruesome deaths to put bums on theatre seats, but the majority of them remain soulless, existing only for the point of existing. The market is there for those who either enjoy such genre splatters, or for those who like me just merely wanted a brainless pic to pass the time away with - which of course means leaving said brain at the door.

It's all very preposterous, even insulting at times, but this is actually no worse than some of the more praised revenge thrillers of recent times - but that just makes the point that ultimately the bar hasn't been set high for a considerable time now. So wake up film makers! Give us something new! 5/10

Friday The 13th (Part IV) The Final Chapter [1984] [DVD]
Friday The 13th (Part IV) The Final Chapter [1984] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kimberley Beck
Offered by Revolution Media
Price: £11.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You got the curse?, 25 Aug. 2016
Well we all thought Jason was dead, as he is here taken to the morgue after being mortally killed... But of course he revives and sets about establishing that he is in fact an indestructible killing machine. I wouldn't want to be living near Camp Crystal Lake right now...

In truth it's a good old 1980s slasher pic, but that doesn't necessarily make it worthy to anyone outside of the hardiest of hardest Friday13th franchise fans. The kills and gore quotient are high, bloody and gooey, with the kills not lacking for invention, but plot formula is tired and weary. Crispin Glover makes for something of a curio appearance in the piece, whilst a young Corey Feldman rocks up for a bit of Damien Thorn channelling.

Some series fans love it whilst others abhor it. Question is? We know it wasn't to be the final chapter after all, so how does it hold up against the others that would follow it down the bloody intestine strewn path?

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