Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Big Girls Don't Cry (4 Stars)

This is a film that has more in common with "Dangerous Liaisons"/"Cruel Intentions" than typical American teenager stories. Kati and Steffi are two 16-year-old girls who go to school in Berlin. They are from affluent families and have been friends since childhood. Their peaceful life is shattered when Steffi finds out her father is having an affair. The two girls set out to take revenge on the father's lover, and in the process their friendship with one another deteriorates.

This is an intriguing psychological drama that I saw for the first time today. I've given it 4 stars for now, but I might revise my rating after watching it again. Anna Maria Mühe, 16 at the time the film was made, was chosen for the role of Kati when the director saw her sitting with friends in a cafe, and has since become a very successful actress. Miracles happen.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Take Me High (4½ Stars)

This is a film that I doubt many people have seen. It marks the end of Cliff Richard's acting career. The very few reviews I've seen of "Take me high" label it as a disaster. So why do I like it so much?

I have to confess that I'm biased. The film is set almost entirely in the centre of Birmingham, the city where I live. It was filmed in 1973, so it shows Birmingham as it was before the major city centre redevelopments of the early 1990's. This is Birmingham as it was when I was young. It brings back fond memories.

Cliff plays a young merchant banker who is expecting to be sent to New York, but instead is sent to Birmingham. Despite his initial disappointment, this is where he finds true happiness. He falls in love with the city and a girl. He lives on a barge in Gas Street basin and goes to business meetings by speedboat. Together with his lover he creates a new Birmingham food that he calls the Brumburger. Oh, and did I mention that the film is a musical? I can understand why the film has drawn so much negative criticism, but I love it.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Scream 2 (5 Stars)

"Scream" was an important film because it revitalised the slasher genre. So could the sequel (or rather, the second part of the trilogy) live up to it? The answer is a resounding Yes. "Scream 2" continues with the parody ideas from the first film, but they're portrayed in a less comical way. It's still a film about films, but it has more of the character of an homage than a parody. In fact, we see things from the other side here. "Scream 2" starts with a film called "Stab", which is a film based on the events of the first film. A portion of "Stab", which contains dialog identical to the words spoken in "Scream", is shown on television within "Scream 2", which lifts us a further level from reality. So we're watching a film in which the characters know they're in a film, and in the film the events are filmed to be watched by the film characters. Confusing, huh? Only if you sit down and think about it. Most people prefer to just sit down and be scared.

The finale takes place on stage within a film school. The theatre in a school in a film? We also see the killer videotaping his victims. This is an intelligent film on so many different levels. And it's scary! This is a must-watch film, whether you're a horror movie fan or an intellectual who likes to analyse everything.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Scream (5 Stars)

When this film was made in 1996 director Wes Craven was poking fun not just at himself, but at the whole horror film genre. The "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise which he had created had become stale after endless sequels. He created a parody called "Scream" in which the characters openly stated that they were in a horror movie and were governed by the rules of horror films. And yet this parody succeeded in evoking more terror than the serious films before it had done. Despite being intended as a parody, "Scream" has become the template for all teen slasher flicks that have followed it.

The killer may have one particular victim in his sights, but anyone can die. Everyone is a suspect. Even when the killer dies he can return, maybe supernaturally, maybe in the guise of a copycat killer. "Scream" revived the serial killer genre, maybe even the whole horror film genre. It will always stand as a landmark film.

Hells Angels '69 (4 Stars)

This film is more than anything intended to portray the Hells Angels "as they really are". Several films had been made about the Hells Angels, and some had even starred Angels members as extras, but this film was the first to feature Hells Angels members in major speaking roles, including Sonny Barger, head of the Oakland, California chapter.

Two bored, rich hippies pretend to be bikers from Boston to gain acceptance by Oakland Hells Angels. Once they have gained their trust they use the Angels to create a diversion when they go to Las Vegas to rob Caesar's Palace. When the Angels discover they have been used they hunt down the tricksters to carry out their own harsh justice.

This is an enjoyable biker film, and I strongly recommend listening to Joe Bob Briggs' informative and insightful commentary, which is incorrectly called a "comedy commentary".

On an aside note: the film's title spells "Hells" with an apostrophe, which I know from my schooldays would be correct. However, the motorcycle group itself spells its name without an apostrophe. Sigh... there's no respect for the English language any more.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Count Dracula (4 Stars)

Bram Stoker's "Dracula" has been filmed more often than any other story, supposedly 43 times so far. I own 9 versions of the Dracula story in my DVD collection. German film director Werner Herzog was so obsessed that he filmed the story twice with the same cast. There has even been a Japanese ballet version. What is it about this story that captures people's fantasy? Why does it never lose its appeal? Maybe it's because it's a story about eternal life, something that everyone wants. Maybe because it's a tale of good and evil. I can't give a definitive answer, I can only speculate.

The version that I'm reviewing here was filmed by the BBC for television broadcast in 1977 and split into two parts because of its length. Of all the versions I've seen it keeps closest to the original novel. It lacks the romantic pathos of Friedrich Murnau's 1922 version, and it isn't as sexual as Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 version, but it lacks none of the suspense. By remaining accurate to the original book, even quoting snippets of dialogue, it stands as a masterpiece. The BBC evidently didn't invest much money in the film, but that's not a problem, except in the scenes where they attempted to produce special effects, which all turned out shoddy looking. If they had omitted the special effects altogether the film would have been better. I also have to chuckle about Richard Barnes' awful American accent, which is almost as bad as Tom Cruise's pathetic Irish accent. When casting an American character it would be wise to choose an American actor.

Nevertheless, this is a competent retelling of the tale. This is worth watching and comparing with all the other versions available.

I dream of Jeannie XXX (5 Stars)

Let's try to refrain from my usual rant about the title. This film is just amazing. It's the most successful of Axel Braun's parodies so far. The details and the casting are perfect. I'm particularly impressed with Alex Knight's performance as Major Healey. He stutters his way effortlessly from the comedy moments to the sex scenes. In addition I have to say that this is the sexiest film I've ever seen. If all porn films were this good I'd be a porn fan.

The plot is simple, but no more simple than any of the original TV series' episodes. Two lesbians move into the house next door to Major Nelson. Jeannie has no idea what lesbians are, Major Healey is excited ("Lesbians are God's gift to man"), and Major Nelson himself, admirably played by Dale Dabone, doesn't really care. When it turns out that the lesbians are really bisexual Jeannie gets jealous, turning them into dildos and trapping the two majors in her bottle.

Even if you have prejudices against pornographic films, this film is worth watching.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Charmed XXX (3½ Stars)

The film name on the box is "This ain't Charmed XXX", but I've shortened the name because that's nonsense. It should be either "This ain't Charmed" or "This is Charmed XXX", because it obviously   is   an XXX version of "Charmed".

Having got that off my chest, I have to admit that I didn't enjoy this film as much as Axel Braun's other porn parodies. Part of the problem is that I've never been a "Charmed" fan and haven't seen many episodes, so I can't judge how close to the original series the film is. The plot is scantier than in Axel's other films. The two black actors are probably included because they represent someone in the series, but in the film their part is totally superfluous. If you're a "Charmed" fan give this a watch and tell me what you think.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Mars Attacks (5 Stars)

This is one of my favorite films. It's sheer brilliance from beginning to end, from the burning herd of cattle to Tom Jones singing with the birds. Tim Burton had a huge budget at his disposal, which he spent on an array of world class actors to make the most ambitious B-Movie of all time.

"Mars Attacks" started with a set of trading cards published in 1962. In 1984 the cards were reprinted. In 1994 the set was reprinted again with additional cards. A fan following was beginning to build up, so Tim Burton tackled the film in 1996. While he certainly had enough money for realistic special effects, he chose to stick to a B-Movie style throughout, for instance by giving the Martians weapons that looked like water pistols.

Despite being a deliberate spoof, the film stands head and shoulders above the other big alien invasion film made in the same year. "Independence Day" was intended to be serious, but ended up being a ridiculous farce.

Friday, 17 December 2010

The Rape of the Vampire (3½ Stars)

This 1968 film was the first full length film made by French director Jean Rollin. Maybe we can excuse him for packing a five-hour plot into a 90-minute film. So much is going on, and there are so many characters that it's difficult to follow all the details. But let's try to summarize it:

Four sisters have been living in an old French castle for 500 years. In the old days noblemen used to practise their swordsplay with them because they knew the girls would stay alive if they were stabbed. They are hated by the superstitious villagers. Fifty years ago the villagers attacked them, raping one of the vampires and blinding another.

A psychiatrist and his two assistants visit the castle to persuade the sisters that they aren't really vampires. He proves to them that they can't be harmed by sunlight or crosses. He then asks one of the sisters to bite him as the final proof, but this turns him into a vampire. The villagers attack the castle killing all the vampires... or so they think.

After the slaughter at the castle a vampire queen arrives from overseas. One sister is saved after an operation in a private clinic where the surgeon specialises in treating vampires. Another sister and the psychiatrist are revived when blood from a corpse drips onto them. At this point it becomes confusing. The vampire queen is planning a wedding which will somehow assure the ultimate victory of vampires over mortals. The surgeon is betraying the queen by searching for an antidote to turn vampires back into mortals. I won't even talk about subplots which run alongside, distracting us from the final battle between the vampire queen and the surgeon.

Is it a good film? Yes and No. It's very artistic, and we see examples of the psychedelic imagery that Rollin uses to perfection in his later films. But the plot is much too confusing. Rollin could have made it a better film by throwing out half of the characters and the minor plotlines. Even the rape itself, after which the film is named, is irrelevant to the later happenings in the film. Rollin fans, such as myself, will want to have this film in their collection, but his later films are better, such as "The Nude Vampire" (1970), "Lips of Blood" (1975), "Two Orphan Vampires" (1997) and "Dracula's Fiancee" (2002).

But Jean Rollin's career is now over. He passed away on December 15th, 2010. He was a unique artist of cinema who can never be replaced. Rest In Peace.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Shame (3 Stars)

A man and his wife, both concert violinists, flee to a remote island to escape a war. They make a new life as farmers selling vegetables. Four years later the war reaches their island and opposing troops battle around them. Rather than take sides their only interest is survival, but as they struggle the couple become alienated from one another, because the husband is willing to kill to survive and the wife isn't. A psychological drama in a world of chaos and lawlessness.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Darkness Falls (4½ Stars)

150 years ago a woman in a town called Darkness Falls gave children a gold coin in exchange for their last tooth to fall out. One day she is wrongly accused of murder and swears revenge before she is hanged. Since then she has been visiting children in the night they lose their last tooth and killing them if they dare to look at her.

In many ways this is an old-fashioned horror film. There is very little gore. The horror is created by suspense. That is what makes this film so good. More films should be made like this today.

I have to ask something though. The film lasts 71:49 minutes, which is the perfect length for the story. So why do the final credits have to last 10:20 minutes? That's longer than most films, and a disproportionate length for such a short film. The longest credits I know are the first part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, "The Fellowship of the Ring". They run 26:24 minutes, after the film ran for 192:23 minutes.

To put it proportionately: LOTR's credits make up 12.1% of the total film length, whereas Darkness Falls' credits make up 12.6%. Was the film's producer trying to set a record? I suspect that he wanted to puff the film's length out to 82:09 to stop it looking too short. It wasn't necessary. The film was just right as it was. I've been told that the watershed is 70 minutes. A film that lasts at least 70 minutes from the beginning to the start of the credits is a full length film, whereas a film that is 69:59 minutes or less is a short film. The one second difference might not make any difference to the average film fan, but it determines which category a film is placed in for film awards, such as the Academy Awards.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Brides of Dracula (4 Stars)

This is an excellent Hammer film from 1960. Unfortunately they got the name wrong. Dracula isn't in it, and nobody gets married. The correct title would be "Baron Meinster's Girlfriends". But somehow that doesn't sound quite as menacing, does it?

A young schoolteacher is travelling to take up a new job in Badstein, Transylvania. On the way she encounters an old baroness who is keeping her son locked up because she claims he is mad. She releases him, and we soon find out that he's a vampire. Luckily Dr. Van Helsing is in the town and takes up the fight against him.

The plot has as many holes as Swiss cheese, but just turn the lights down, suspend your disbelief and watch this classic horror film. Oh how I long for the days when horror films will once more rely on suspense instead of gore.

Monday, 13 December 2010

American Virgin (4 Stars)

A girl who has sworn to remain a virgin till marriage gets drunk and is filmed topless at a student party. Together with her friends she chases the men who filmed her to Detroit to prevent the footage being published on a "Girls Go Crazy" DVD. The story is a type of coming-of-age comedy. It might be full of cliches, but it's a fun film to watch.

There are a few films with this name. I'm referring to the 2009 version that stars Jenna Dewan as the young virgin.

P.S. That picture above is a screenshot from the film. Honest!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Fifty Dead Men Walking (4 Stars)

This is the true story of Martin McGartland, a young Irishman who acted as an informer within the IRA from 1988 to 1992. The film avoids politics and concentrates on the atrocities committed by the IRA. It's an exciting film, but I confess I had difficulties understanding the accents in places and needed subtitles. Ben Kingsley's acting is excellent, as always.

Night of the Ghouls (4 Stars)

This is Ed Wood's last film, made in 1959, but not released until after his death in 1983. It is a sequel to "Bride of the Monster". A phony psychic has hired actors to pretend to be ghosts in order to con money out of wealthy customers. Unknown to him his house is haunted by real ghosts.

Despite the technical faults typical in Ed Wood's films, this is an enjoyable film. I don't care how many people say he was the world's worst director. He wasn't.

TV Series: Danger Man

This series was known as "Secret Agent" in America. It ran from 1960 to 1966. The first season's episodes were 25 minutes each, the later episodes were 45 minutes. It amazes me how much adventure and action were packed into each 25 minute story. The plots are as intricate as most 90-minute films. I doubt anybody could create television shows like this today. It's a testimony to the brilliance of the writer, Brian Clemens, who later went on to write "The Avengers".

The show's main character is John Drake, played by Patrick McGoohan. In the first seeason he's described as an agent for a secret Nato organisation based in Washington. From the second season on he works for the British secret service. He is a gentleman spy who treats friends and enemies with respect. He is frequently sent on missions to fictional counties, such as Baravia, San Pablo and Slavosk.

After the end of "Danger Man" Patrick McGoohan starred as Nr. 6 in "The Prisoner". Even though he frequently shouts, "I am not a number, I am a free man!" we never find out 6's name. Fans of the series speculate that 6 was John Drake. While there is no definite proof, there are many clues that support this theory, and no evidence against it. For me there is no doubt that 6's real name was John Drake. 6 was a British secret agent who was abducted after he quit his job. The two characters played by Patrick McGoohan have identical personalities. The song "Secret Agent Man", that was used as the theme tune from the second season on, has as its chorus, "Secret agent man, they've given you a number and taken away your name". As far as I'm concerned "The Prisoner" is the fourth season of "Danger Man".

One of the things Patrick McGoohan will be remembered for is what he didn't do. He was the man who refused to be Bond. When "Dr. No" was to be filmed, Patrick McGoohan was offered the role, but he turned it down and Sean Connery was given the job. McGoohan refused to be James Bond due his moral convictions. He didn't want to be a secret agent who was living a promiscuous lifestyle. When Sean Connery quit the job was offered to McGoohan a second time, and he refused again.

Would McGoohan have been a good James Bond? Definitely! He would have been similar to Sean Connery, in my opinion, in everything but looks. When watching the early Bond films I can't help feeling that Connery was imitating McGoohan, since "Danger Man" was a well known TV series at the time. The standard introduction "My name is Bond, James Bond" is a copy of the opening line from the TV series, "My name is Drake, John Drake".

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Lust for a Vampire (4½ Stars)

This is the second film in Hammer's Karnstein Trilogy. It takes place in the 19th Century. Its connection to the first film is unclear. The Carmilla/Mircalla character in this film may either be the same person as in the first film, or a descendant. Nevertheless, this film is my personal favorite out of all of Hammer's gothic horror films.

A beautiful young woman joins a boarding school for young ladies in Germany. Soon deaths begin to occur. The young woman is, as we soon realise, Carmilla Karnstein, who has been raised from the dead. Carmilla is played by the Danish actress Yutte Stensgaard, who is the most beautiful actress I have ever seen. After an acting career that lasted only three years she became a Christian and retired to a life of anonymity. She still has many fans today.

I would have given this film 5 stars, if it had not been for the annoying voiceover in the opening scenes and the awful theme song that blends in at 53 minutes, ruining the erotic atmosphere and sending me scurrying for the mute button on my remote control.

Friday, 10 December 2010

TV Series: The Tribe

"The Tribe" is a New Zealand TV series that ran for five years from 1999 to 2003. It was a real New Zealand series, not an American series filmed in New Zealand like "Hercules" or "Xena". It is set in the near future after a virus has wiped out the whole of the world's adult population. Only the children have survived.

The subject matter of the series makes it very difficult to classify. It also means that the series trod a dangerous line, and was eventually cancelled because it was too daring. Most of the actors in the series were aged between 10 and 16 when they entered the show. Optically this made it look like a children's show. This is the impression I had of it when I first saw it on television. Indeed, on British television it was shown at 4pm in the afternoon, in the middle of children's shows. But wait! Look at the show's subject matter.

Despite all the actors being children, it's a very adult oriented show. The children realise that the human race needs to survive, so sex is a necessity. Don't worry, the show isn't tasteless enough to portray children in intimate situations, but it's common to see young girls carrying babies on their arms. The whole story asks the question what would happen if the adults who had made the laws suddenly disappeared. The children have to stand for themselves and make their own laws.

Unfortunately, the new society isn't as perfect as young teenagers might expect. Instead of law and order the new society's motto is "Power and chaos". The school bullies soon become the leaders, murdering those who oppose them. Other children are made slaves and sent out to work tilling the fields. Rather than a centralised government a series of small tribes arise, each with their own style and face painting, and all at war with one another. A new religious cult arises which is more brutal than any of the tribes. While most of the resistance is based around terror attacks, a young girl has more success seducing the cult's leader to weaken the movement from within.

One of the main companies funding the series was Channel 4, a British television channel. There were constant complaints from Channel 4 about the content, but the final straw was a lesbian relationship in the fifth season. Channel 4 said that this was unsuitable for a children's show and should be stopped. The Tribe's producers said that it wasn't intended to be a children's show and refused to back down. Channel 4 withdrew their funding, and it was cancelled.

If you want to watch "The Tribe" you will have to buy the English DVD boxsets, Region 2 PAL. It's doubtful the series will ever be released in America.

The Vampire Lovers (4½ Stars)

Now this is what cinema is all about. After being bored silly by films like "The Social Network" and "Sex and the City 2" you should watch "The Vampire Lovers" to remind yourself that cinema is an art form. Although it's 40 years old the film still shines as a masterpiece of storytelling today.

This is the first part of Hammer's Karnstein Trilogy. A vampire hunter has wiped out a family of vampires apart from one woman, Mircalla Karnstein, whose grave he couldn't find. Decades later a mysterious young woman stays at the houses of aristocrats, and wherever she goes young women die.

Ingrid Pitt plays the lead character, Mircalla. Her beauty is stunning throughout, though I find her character too cold. I realise that this is deliberate, but I would have preferred more warmth. I only found out today that Ingrid died last month, on November 23rd. Her life story would be good film material in itself. She was born in 1937 in Poland, and spent three years living with her mother in a German concentration camp. After the war she became a successful theatre actress in East Berlin. She suffered harrassment because she was an open critic of the Communist regime, and eventually she escaped to the West by swimming across the River Spree. She married the American soldier who rescued her from the water, and moved to California where she made her first films. After the break-up of her marriage she returned to Europe where she made a few films in Spain before settling in England. Apart from her film career she wrote about a dozen books, some of them horror novels, others biographical works. I bid farewell to a beautiful vampire. May she live forever in our hearts and on film.

Peter Cushing has a relatively small role in the film as General von Spielsdorf. Although he's a one-sided actor, he always manages to be placed in roles that fit his personality. There's no shame in only being able to play one type of role if you're the best there is for those roles.

Jon Finch is a brilliant but tragically underrated actor. Whenever he walks onto the screen in a film the other characters fade into the background. He claims that his lack of public recognition is deliberate. "I never wanted to be a big star. I usually do one film a year, so I always have enough money to enjoy myself and keep myself out of the public eye. It's a very pleasant life, not one of great ambition". This is our loss.

Madeline Smith could hardly be described as a good actress, but she's one of the most beautiful British actresses ever, and nobody can portray an innocent virgin as well as she can. Madeline boasts that she remained a virgin until marriage, so we can assume she was just acting naturally.

Baba Yaga (3 Stars)

This slow-moving supernatural horror film is more of a tapestry of images than a logical story. When a photographer rescues a dog on a dark night she meets a witch called Baba Yaga who takes control of her life. Her camera becomes a weapon, killing those that she photographs, and a doll dressed in BSDM gear comes to life.

The uncut version of this film has only been released in the UK. I advise against buying the American edition.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Off-Topic: Barclaycard APR Increase

I try to keep my off-topic rants to a minimum, but Barclaycard has recently made my blood boil. Last month I received the following letter concerning my Bhs Mastercard, which is operated by Barclaycard:

Let me quote the important part: "Your interest rate for purchases is changing from 18.9% to 23.9% from 31st January 2011. This is happening because we've taken a closer look at how you've been managing your account lately, as well as other financial information we have."

Well, this was like a slap in the face to me. I've been mismanaging my account? They have other negative financial information about me? Let me state for the record that the APR doesn't matter to me because I pay back my credit card balance in full every month. But when a credit card company tells me I'm doing something wrong I want an explanation.

I wrote to Barclaycard and asked for the reasons for their APR increase. I received a reply which was very vague, not answering my questions. In retrospect I suspect that it was a standard letter. Because of this I rang the Barclaycard customer support today. There was a special extension to answer enquiries about the APR increase. The person on the phone, probably a junior employee, stuttered around, and it seemed to me he was repeating standard phrases he had memorised. I kept pressuring him, insisting on finding out how I had mismanaged my account, and eventually he said, "Mr. Hood, it has nothing to do with you. We raised the APR for all our customers."

This left me speechless. So the truth is that Barclaycard had to increase the APR due to their own financial difficulties. Rather than admit this they sent a letter insulting their customers. This is the most disgraceful way I have ever been treated by any financial institution.

Comments are welcome from anyone else who has had problems with Barclays Bank, Barclaycard or any other credit card companies.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Shifty (3½ Stars)

24 hours in the life of a Moslem drug dealer. But that's not what it's really about. This is the story of two friends who have grown apart because one still sells drugs while the other has changed his life. The action is slow and the acting is unconvincing.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Carry On England (4½ Stars)

This is the 28th film in the Carry On series. Though made in 1976, the film is typical of British 1960's humour, as are all the Carry On films. The story is set in England in 1940 and deals with an incompetent army regiment that a new captain is attempting to discipline.

Apart from the usual cast, this was the only Carry On film which features Patrick Mower, who was cast in minor television and film roles for decades, but has recently become well known for playing Rodney Blackstock in the soap opera "Emmerdale". Windsor Davies plays the sergeant major, a role that he was destined to play. Diane Langton was obviously being groomed as a replacement for Barbara Windsor, but she never returned after this film.

Although 29 Carry On films where made, I like to think of this as the last. Two years later the disastrous "Carry on Emmanuelle" was made. "Carry on England" is one of the best films in the series and is an example of the fine humour that the Carry On series should be remembered for.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Carry On Behind (4½ Stars)

This is the 27th film in the Carry On series. An arcaeology professor and his Russian assistant go on an excavation to find Roman relics. The site is adjacent to a camping site in south England. This is one of the funniest films in the series.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Grudge (4 Stars)

After careful consideration I have to say that this is better than the original Japanese version. The American version is more linear and less episodic. It makes better sense. The subplot about Americans living in Tokyo spices up the film. I also find the film scarier. I felt at home with it as soon as I saw Bill Pullman do his Lost Highway stare in the opening scene. Now I need to watch the sequels.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Invasion of the Bee Girls (3 Stars)

In a government research centre women are turned into human bees who kill their lovers during mating. An interesting concept that would have turned out well with a bigger budget and better cinematography. This looks like a prime candidate for a remake.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Hannibal (4½ Stars)

Although "Silence of the Lambs" is the most famous film about Hannibal Lecter, I find "Hannibal" better. The main reason is that we see more of the good doctor, but I also find that Julianne Moore is a better choice to play Clarice Starling. Giancarlo Giannini, an actor not well known outside Italy, delivers a moving performance as the police detective blinded by greed. The film moves slowly, but when the action kicks in you jump in your seat. A great film all round.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

TV Soap: Coronation Street

While I almost never watch "Coronation Street", I think that I should pay respect to it as the world's longest running television soap that is still being shown. Next Thursday, December 9th, will be its fiftieth anniversary. It's also the anniversary of William Roache who has played Ken Barlow in the soap since the first episode, and is the actor who has played a role for the longest time continuously.

I won't say much about the soap, since I know too little about it, and merely refer anyone who's interested to the Wikipedia page. On December 9th the anniversary episode will be broadcast live. While not a soap fan I'll be sitting watching it with a glass of wine in my hand, taking part in this special occasion and celebrating William Roache's performance as a British icon.

If any of my readers are Coronation Street fans I invite you to write something about it and I'll publish it here.

P.S. The soaps "Guiding Light" and "As the world turns" ran on American television for 57 and 54 years respectively, but have both been discontinued.

P.P.S. Helen Wagner played Nancy Hughes McClosky in "As the world turns" from 1956 to 2010, but she took a four year break from 1981 to 1985.

Exte (4 Stars)

Even after watching "Exte" (Japanese for "Hair Extentions") I'm not sure whether it's meant as a parody or not. Maybe it isn't a parody, but it does subtly make fun of the obsession of Japanese ghost films with long hair.

A man who works in a morgue has the habit of cutting the hair off dead women and selling it as hair extensions. When the body of a murder victim is delivered whose hair is still growing rapidly after death he steals the body and keeps it at home. He now has an endless supply of hair extensions to deliver to the local hair salons. Unfortunately the hair is possessed and kills whoever wears the extensions. A young hairdressing assistant, played by the beautiful Chiaki Kuriyama, is forced to do battle with this evil force.

Star Wreck (2 Stars)

Captain Pirk is stranded on Earth in the 21st Century. Realising that history has been changed, he attempts to change it back by making himself the Earth's emperor. Drunk with power he wages war on all alien life.

This is a parody of Star Trek (various series) with elements of Babylon 5 and Stargate mixed in. The plot is clever and the humour is well conceived, but it's spoilt by poor acting. The characters are all wooden and interchangeable. If you want to see a good Star Trek parody watch Star Trek XXX instead.

Hell High (4 Stars)

Advertised as a slasher movie, this is really an anti-slasher film. The first hour is spent showing us how utterly depraved high school students can be. It isn't till the last 15 minutes that we see the persecuted school teacher go mad and stalk her students dressed only in her lingerie.

A very enjoyable film, and even if it weren't any DVD with a Joe Bob Briggs commentary is worth buying for the commentary alone!