Sunday, 31 October 2010

The American Soldier (3½ Stars)

This is a gritty story filmed in the style of 1930's American gangster films, but set in Germany. Being filmed in b/w adds to the atmosphere. The soldier in the title is a German who emigrated to America and fought in the Vietnam war. After his discharge he took up a career as a professional hit man. He returns to Germany when he's hired for a series of kills in his home town of Munich. Unknown to him the ones who have hired him are police detectives.

This film will certainly strike a chord with fans of film noir. I found it too slow-paced, and some of the supporting characters, such as the killer's brother Kurt, are too grotesque.

Cannibal Women in the Avacado Jungle of Death (3 Stars)

A film with a name like this sounds like it has the makings of becoming a cult classic. Seeing Shannon Tweeds's photo on the cover promises sultry erotic scenes in steamy jungle settings. Adrienne Barbeau as well? Then it has to be good. Any B-Movie fan like myself has to be trembling with expectation.

Unfortunately, the film fails to deliver. The most action and eroticism the film has too offer is in the first five minutes, when two lost American soldiers are killed while watching naked women bathing. After that the film settles into dullness, and Shannon Tweed (who is incidentally the wife of Kiss's Gene Simmons) keeps her clothes buttoned up throughout the film. The whole point of the film seems to be to make fun of feminism, but after the first half hour of feminist jokes I was screaming "Enough". The film has so many missed chances. I've read a lot of good reviews of this film, but I can't agree with them, even as a Shannon Tweed fan. Watch her other films, not this one.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Beyond the Rave (3½ Stars)

This film is a significant release. It's the first film made by the legendary film studios Hammer since 1979, and their first horror film since 1976. In the 1980's Hammer made two tv series. Since 1986 they seemingly disappeared, but never closed down. They were earning enough from their old films to continue to exist, but they didn't have enough money to make a new film. Any other film company -- in fact any type of company at all -- would have shut down after 20 years of doing nothing. But not Hammer. As a symbol of the British film industry it wasn't allowed to die.

And now, finally, Hammer has raised its head again, thanks to an infusion of foreign capital. "Beyond the Rave" is the first new film to be made. It was released in an unusual way. 20 episodes of four minutes each were released free on YouTube before the DVD was released. A bold marketing strategy to get publicity for the revived studios. Does this mean the advent of a new category of films? We've had direct-to-video films for the last 25 years, and now we have direct-to-YouTube.

Having said all of this, I'm disappointed with this film. It lacks the sexuality of the classic Hammer films from the sixties and seventies. Hammer is famous for its gothic horror films, and the setting of a rave on a remote English farm doesn't have the same appeal as a castle in Transylvania. Still, it's early days. Hammer has promised to release three films per year from now on, so let's give them a chance.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Question for my readers

Out of curiosity, how many films have you watched twice in a row? What I mean is, you watched a film, and as soon as it ended you started it again from the beginning with no more than a pee pee break in between? I'll start the ball rolling. I've only done this twice in my life.

- "Downfall" (original title "Der Untergang")
- "Inland Empire"

Family (2 Stars)

I've never really appreciated Japanese gangster films, which are a genre in themselves. While the mob bosses have the same cool nature as their American equivalents, the killing is more violent and exaggerated, as in the example of a mobster using a tank to rescue his wife from a rival boss. "Family" is an interesting film, the first of a pair of films, but I can't relate to it, and I find the extremely loud volume of the music in the action scenes (in comparison to the volume of the dialog) grating.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

A Room for Romeo Brass (4 Stars)

This is a very enjoyable film. Two young boys, best friends and next-door neighbours, are being beat up in the park, when a man comes to their rescue. The man soon becomes a part of their lives, but they discover he's not as benevolent as he seems. The strength of this film isn't in its plot, but in the atmosphere it conjures up.

Frank Harper, who plays Romeo's father, deserves special mention. He delivers an award-winning performance as a man trying to keep his temper under control.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Nightmare on Elm Street (2 Stars)

I've never understood the cult status this film enjoys. And yes, I'm talking about the original version with Robert Englund. I find Wes Craven's "Scream" films much better. My main problem with the "Nightmare on Elm Street" films is the premiss that things happen in a dream. There are no rules, anything can happen. The end of the first film is particularly distressing for me, from a critic's point of view. One snap of the fingers and everything is back as it was. Wonderful!

Monday, 25 October 2010

My Girlfriend's Boyfriend (3½ Stars)

A few years ago I went through a phase when I was crazy about Eric Rohmer's films. I loved them because he broke all the rules about how to make a good film. He never uses backing music. There are long conversations. Emotions aren't shown, or at least they're under-played. There is rarely any action. Overall, his films are very "normal". Rather than show us the excitement of fantasy worlds, he holds up a mirror so we can see ourselves.

This film starts very simply. Two women meet by chance in a restaurant. They become friends. A love triangle develops, which turns into a love square. This is an intellectual film on many levels. Watch especially for the way the colours blue and white are contrasted.

It's no coincidence that her name is Blanche, the French word for white. When windsurfing with her friend's boyfriend she wears blue. At the party they share the colours.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

West Side Story (3 Stars)

While I can see the attraction of this film, it doesn't stand the test of time. It seems more dated than older musicals from the 1950's or even the 1940's. As a modern (i.e. modern for 1961) adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet" it's an attractive story, but it needs retelling today, in a new environment with new music.

Incidentally, what's the five minutes still picture at the beginning about? Is that to help people who arrived too late for the film?

Saturday, 23 October 2010

District 9 (4½ Stars)

I didn't watch this film until months after it had been released. Sure, I'm a big sci-fi fan, but I didn't expect to like it. Then it was broadcast on television one day... I watched it... and immediately loved it. The semi-documentary filming style adds to the film's impact. This film is an answer to those who complain that alien invaders always arrive in Manhattan.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Fearless (5 Stars)

Let me state for the record that I don't consider Jet Li to be a good actor. I rate him on a level with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Keanu Reeves, and slightly better than Kyle MacLachlan. But the old proverb says that every dog has its day. Arnold had his "Terminator", Keanu had his "Matrix", and even Kyle had his "Twin Peaks". Jet Li, on the other hand, has made a few good films, such as "Hero", "Fist of Legend" and "Fearless". So what sets him apart from other second rate actors? Why does he star in good films more often than the others?

I see two reasons. First, he can fight. If it's possible to call what he does fighting. When he battles he's as graceful as a ballet dancer. He's amazing to watch. Second, he's given the chance to star in large budget, well written, lusciously produced Chinese films. The smorgasboard of colours is breathtaking. This lifts all of his Chinese films into a class of their own. His American films, on the other hand, are embarrassing.

To briefly summarise the film... "Fearless" is the true story of Huo Yuanjia, who restored Chinese national pride by defeating a series of foreign opponents in combat. The film shows his development from his early years of selfishness to his final years as a true Chinese patriot. This is a film worth watching.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Desperation (3½ Stars)

In the middle of Nevada there are subterranean monsters, mistreated Chinese workers seeking revenge, shapeshifters, doubtful Christian theology... this is a mixed up story. I haven't read the book, but the film certainly doesn't make much sense. Too many non-cohesive ideas.

On the plus side, Ron Perlman is an excellent actor. I've always liked him, but he seems to be getting better with age.

88 Minutes (4 Stars)

This film is a gem that deserves to be watched more than once. A forensic psychologist is caught in a cat and mouse game with a serial killer sitting in death row. While watching it the first time I felt unhappy, because the killer seemed to be omniscient and omnipotent, but the conclusion wrapped up everything tidily. Other reviewers criticize Al Pacino's acting in this film, but I find his cool under-stated approach to his role perfect. The supporting characters also shine, especially the incomparable Leelee Sobieski.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Ju-On: The Grudge (3 Stars)

I just watched this film for the third time. It's a film that I think I ought to like, since I usually enjoy Japanese ghost stories, but something is wrong with it in my eyes. It doesn't seem to go anywhere. The film makers set out to scare the audience, but there is no resolution for the problems. The ghosts never find satisfaction, they just keep increasing their numbers. Maybe someone who likes this film can explain it to me.

Monday, 18 October 2010

General: Remakes

I stirred up some dust when I made my remarks about film remakes in my post about
"Dark Water". Let me make it clear that I wasn't saying the three examples I named were better than the originals, I was just saying they were good. So let me name a few remakes that I consider to be clearly better than the originals.

1. "The Ring" (2002). This is the only one of my three examples that I consider better. I know this is a controversial opinion, so if you disagree, post a comment.

2. "The postman always rings twice" (1981). The remake is superior due to Jack Nicholson. The 1946 original is dull in comparison.

3. "The Razor's Edge". Both versions (1946 and 1984) suffer from simplifying the Somerset Maugham novel too much, but the remake is improved by the bigger budget and better sets.

4. "The Bourne Identity" (2002). Does anyone even remember the original 1988 version starring Richard Chamberlain as Jason Bourne? Just as well. It deserves to be forgotten.

5. "Cape Fear" (1991). The 1962 original starring Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck is a classic in its own right, but Martin Scorcese succeeded in making a great film even better.

6. "The Fly". This is another example of an already magnificent film being improved. The 1958 version was superb, but David Cronenberg's directing, Jeff Goldblum's acting and the improved special effects made the 1986 remake breathtaking.

7. "The Mummy". I'm going out on a limb here. I know a lot of people prefer the 1932 original, claiming that the 1999 remake is too comical. I like the comedy. This was a good platform for Brendan Fraser to present himself as a not-so-serious version of Indiana Jones.

8. "King Kong". The 1933 original was a classic. The 1976 remake was an embarrassing failure, but Peter Jackson's 2005 re-remake is astounding. His choice to reject the previous remake's changes and keep the story as close as possible to the original film, even setting it in the 1930's, is one of the main reasons for its success.

9. "Red Dragon". This 2002 film is a remake of "Manhunter" (1986). "Silence of the Lambs" (1991) was the sequel of "Manhunter", but it was a good decision to go back and refilm the first book later. The main problem with "Manhunter" is that Hannibal Lecter wasn't played by Anthony Hopkins.

10. "Nosferatu". I hope I don't offend purists by saying that Werner Herzog's 1979 remake is better than Friedrich Murnau's groundbreaking 1922 film. The remake keeps very close to the original, the main difference being the use of sound, but Klaus Kinski's performance as the vampire is stunning. This film is the peak of his acting career.

That's all I can think of at the moment. I'm hoping my readers will leave comments naming other better-than-the-original remakes.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Sin (2 Stars)

A tale of morality. After 15 years pursuing a successful career in England Orestes returns to the poor Greek island where he grew up for his father's funeral. Annoyed that the only thing he inherits is his father's worthless house he persuades the local priest to assist him in a scam to make the land seem valuable. After this he commits one sin after another, corrupting the innocent people around him. Or maybe the evil was always in them, waiting to be let out?

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Pearl Harbor (5 Stars)

Forget all the bad reviews this film got for its supposed triteness and superficiality. It's a gripping story from beginning to end. It has everything: romance, action, tragedy, hope in the face of defeat. If I remember correctly, today was the third time I watched this film, and it had me sitting on the edge of my seat as much as it did the first time. I grew up hating war films because my father sat watching them for years on television. But I recognise quality when I see it. This film is a classic.

"Pearl Harbor" has been compared with "Titanic", as if that were a bad thing. Both films follow the same format. A love triangle evolves against the background of a big catastrophe. Contrasting large scale events with the personal interest of a few individuals is good story-telling.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Catacombs (2 Stars)

The film has its scary moments, but it lacks that certain something, it failed to win my interest. I can't recommend it.

Dark Water (5 Stars)

This review refers to the original 2002 Japanese version of "Dark Water", not the 2005 American remake. It's the scariest film I've ever seen. However often I watch it the moments of suspense still make me jump in my chair. I'm not sure what makes it so successful, but maybe it's the mixture of natural horror that everyone can relate to (the leaking roof) and the supernatural elements.

I saw this film when it was new, and I was excited when I heard it would be remade with Jennifer Connelly, Tim Roth and Pete Postlethwaite. Okay, I admit that Jennifer Connelly has a very rigid unemotional way of acting which doesn't work in every role, but Tim Roth and Pete Postlethwaite are two of my favorite actors, so the remake would have to be good, right?


The remake was a mess. It followed the original relatively closely, but it just didn't have the soul of the original. Where the original was scary, the remake was boring.

This raises the question of what the point of remakes is. The Hollywood executives can answer this best. Every film is a risk. Millions might be spent on making a film, and then it flops at the box office. So if they discover a foreign film that was a success in its country of production they think they can just duplicate it to be certain of success. And to make even more sure it'll be a hit they can throw in a few top actors, as in the case of "Dark Water".

But if a film is going to be duplicated, why not just dub the vocals of the original? Jennifer Connelly's voice could have been imprinted on the Japanese film. I know that dubbing is much criticised among film fans, but I have no problems with dubbing if it's done well. I prefer to look at the picture during a film, not be forced to read the dialog. Films with a lot of fast speech (such as "Run Lola Run") are impossible to enjoy with subtitles. Dubbing can be an advantage if done well. The problem is that it's usually done badly.

Remaking is more than dubbing. The locations are usually changed to make the film more relevant to the new audience. For instance, the remake of "Dark Water" changes the story's location from Japan to New York (Roosevelt Island). In many films plot changes are made because they are thought to make the films more attractive to American viewers. In particular, many remakes of foreign films have a "happy ending" missing in the original. A good example is "The Vanishing".

Rather than dwell on failures, let me name a few films that have been successfully remade.

"Insomnia" (2002) is a remake of a 1997 Norwegian film with the same name. The action is relocated from Tromso to Alaska. The remake is a success due to the high quality of acting by Robin Williams and Al Pacino, but it lacks the moral ambiguities of the original, in which the detective is more of a "bad guy".

"The Ring" (2002) is faster paced that the 1998 Japanese film with the same name. The original has too many red herrings to mislead the viewer, whereas the remake is very straight forward.

"City of Angels" (1998) is a curious remake of the 1987 German film, "The Heavens over Berlin". Probably the main reason for its success is that very few Americans know the original. Patches of dialog are repeated 1-to-1 in the remake which only make sense if you have seen the original. The original is very complex, with subplots about the division of Berlin and the history of story-telling, but the remake is simplified to its core as a love story.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Robin B Hood (4 Stars)

Another enjoyable film from the Buster Keaton of Kung Fu. A man called Thongs -- is that a typical Chinese name? -- is a successful burglar until his life is turned around when he's hired to kidnap a baby. No further explanation is needed. Jackie Chan's name guarantees quality.

Bound (5 Stars)

This film is stunning in its simplicity. Two girls decide to rob $2 million from the mob. The plot is great, but the acting carries it. Jennifer Tilly (who I've hardly seen apart from "Bride of Chucky") plays her role perfectly, as a woman who's trying to hide her emotions. But the real star of this film is Joe Pantoliano. I've always admired him, but this is his best film. Every twitch on his face or flicker of his eyes shows his madness.

Yes, this is a lesbian film. Yes, this is a mob film. But even if you don't like either of these film genres, watch this. It's brilliant.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Little Nicky (5 Stars)

This film defies description. It doesn't fit neatly into any genre. Maybe the best way to describe it is as a demonic romantic comedy. And it has one of the best soundtracks ever!

I expect most of my readers have already seen this film, but I'll give a brief plot summary for those who haven't. Satan has three sons; two of them are evil, but one of them is a sweet little boy. The two evil boys go to New York to upset the balance between good and evil and bring about Hell on Earth; Nicky is sent to bring them back.

The supporting characters in this film are so rich that it's a joy to watch them. While Cassius is frighteningly evil, Adrian is the coolest bad guy ever. (Isn't Rhys Ifans cool in anything he stars in?) Then there are the heavy metal fans, the gay actor, the horny bulldog, and Ozzy Osbourne before he appeared in "The Osbournes", just to name a few. The film has so many highlights that it's impossible to name them all, but my personal favorites are the dog pissing on the actor's rug and the pillow fight between Adrian and Nicky for the fate of the Earth. Sheer brilliance!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

TV Series: Unhappily Ever After

I've never been a fan of American comedy shows. People rave about "Seinfeld" and "Friends", but they make me yawn. This is the one exception. "Unhappily Ever After" is a sitcom about a family whose father relaxes by locking himself in the cellar to talk to a chain-smoking stuffed rabbit called Mr. Floppy. The humour is very repetitive, in a good way. Every episode ends with Mr. Floppy replying to his fan mail. Usually when I say I love this show people look at me like I'm crazy. Sorry, I like it.

It was broadcast from 1995 to 1999 and has never been released on DVD, but luckily it's still being shown on UK comedy channels. Who do we have to write to to get a proper DVD release of this classic sitcom?

The Eye Infinity (3½ Stars)

This film, which is also called "The Eye 10", can hardly be called the final film in the trilogy, because the three films have practically nothing to do with one another. This is a spooky ghost story, in which eyes have no significance. It's also the only film in the series which doesn't follow the pattern of Japanese ghost films. The film is quite good, even though it doesn't really make sense. Enjoyable escapism.

On another note, I think I'll be recalibrating my film ratings from now on. I'll be reserving 5-star ratings for exceptional films, and giving more 4's, pushing all my other ratings down accordingly. To be fair, I should modify the ratings I've already given, but I'm too lazy. So sue me!

TV Series: Highlander the Raven

How many of you remember this tv series from the late 90's? It was a Highlander spin-off that only lasted one season, running from 1998 to 1999. Instead of Duncan Macleod it follows the adventures of the 1200-year-old immortal Amanda Montrose.

It started shakily, the writers having trouble finding a direction for the first few episodes, but after two months they did the best thing they could have done: instead of trying to be "different" the series was put into the style of the original Highlander series. Okay, I'll admit that it never quite hit the heights of the fourth and fifth seasons of the original series, but it continually presented episodes that were a match for the second and third seasons. And it was far better than the awful sixth season.

If you've never seen this series, give it a try. It's recently been released in Germany for the first time as a PAL box set -- the Germans have always been the biggest Highlander fans -- and the American box set can still be bought from Amazon for less than $20.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

The Eye 2 (4 Stars)

Interesting. This film has so little in common with "The Eye" that I suspect it was only named "The Eye 2" to cash in on the popularity of the earlier film. That's a cheap marketing trick, and in this case totally unnecessary. "The Eye 2" has value in its own right. It's an excellent Japanese-style ghost story. The main difference is that this film pushes Buddhist philosophy. Maybe the Chinese are more religious than the Japanese?

The Eye (5 Stars)

So it isn't only the Japanese who can tell ghost stories? This film is an instant classic. The American remake is quite good, but the original is better.

Casino (3 Stars)

This is an example of the subjective nature of my film blog, in case anybody hadn't noticed yet. Yes, I know this is a highly respected film, but it just doesn't speak to me. The voice-over and the fast passing of time makes this film too documentary in style. At the end of the film I felt that I didn't really know any of the three main characters. They hadn't been developed in any depth.

If you enjoy this film, good for you... I can't give it more than 3 stars.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Fausto 5.0 (4 Stars)

Have you ever watched a film and sat down afterwards realising you don't know whether you liked it or not? This film haunts me. On the one hand it's unsatisfying because it ends with so many questions left unanswered. On the other hand it's the mysteries in the film that make it appealing.

It's obviously based on the old German legend of Dr. Faust, but it lacks the strict moral causality. The Doctor Fausto in this film is given the chance to have a taste of evil, seemingly as a reward for his good deeds in the past, but he can leave the path of evil at any time without consequences.

TV Series: Black Scorpion

At the time of its filming, Roger Corman described the Black Scorpion tv series as his ultimate life's work. He believed in it so much that he poured his life savings into making all 22 episodes without going through the usual procedure of making a pilot episode and approaching television channels. As a result there was a two-year gap between the filming of the series and its first airing. Was it worth it?

First of all, what was the goal of the series? It was meant as a respectful homage to the 60's Batman series, combined with the sexy fighting females so common in Corman's films. The bat became a scorpion, the man became a woman. The tongue-in-cheek humour and camp nature of Batman were to be retained.

As a crime-fighting icon, Black Scorpion is an immediate success. While the 60's needed a male hero, our 21st Century is better fitted with a powerful female to bring law and order. Michelle Lintel proves to be an adequate replacement for Joan Severance, who played Black Scorpion in the previous films. Her self-confident entrances with corny jokes are the equal of Batman at his best. The colourful villains are made even better by their inherant lack of credibility. This is escapism at its best, not reality! The references to Batman are strengthened by casting Adam West as Breathtaker and Frank Gorshin as Clockwise. Other elements used as sub-plots to the series are the incompetent police force, the corrupt politicians, and the budding love affair between Black Scorpion's alter-ego and a police detective.

However, the series has weaknesses that need to be addressed. Despite the large budget, the car chase scenes are constantly re-used, which I find grating. Gangster Prankster's character is based so closely on the Joker that Corman can be accused of plagiarism. But the greatest weakness is that the comic elements are overdone. It's one thing that the police are incapable of dealing with super-villains -- that's why Black Scorpion is needed -- but it's another to portray the police as layabouts who throw baseballs around in the station instead of trying to solve crimes. Scott Valentine is a credible detective, but Shane Powers and Steven Kravitz are totally out of place. The running humour between the scientific genius (B.T.) and his scatty girlfriend (Enya Flack) is so silly that it just isn't funny. How could a man like that love a woman like that?

Overall, the series is a success, but the DVD box set is now out of print and only available at collectors prices. It's a crime that until now Black Scorpion has rarely been aired and still remains unknown. If Roger Corman has any money left, he should make a second, improved series of Black Scorpion, toning down the sillier humour. The series has the potential to become a classic, but based on the evidence of the first series, it isn't quite there yet.

Jungle 2 Jungle (3½ Stars)

Life is a jungle, wherever you are. But some jungles are more civilised than others.

The plot is predictable, but nevertheless funny.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Star Trek XXX 2: The Butterfly Effect (4½ Stars)

This is Axel Braun's second Star Trek sex parody. If you're new to this blog you can find my general thoughts on Mr. Braun's work in my reviews of Batman XXX and Star Trek XXX.

Overall this is an improvement on the first film. My only criticism is that the Kennedy assassination subplot wasn't played out sufficiently. I was disappointed that it was "wrapped up" with a few casual remarks, when I was expecting a second journey into the past to repair Sulu and Chekov's meddling. For me this is another example of a film which has been shortened to keep it within "acceptable limits", rather than adding an extra hour to the story.

Just a few words about the actor who plays Captain Kirk, Evan Stone. If you've never heard of him you'll be surprised to know that he's the most prolific actor ever, having starred in about 850 films. Before you say "that doesn't count, because they were mainly porn films" I'd like to point out that even among porn stars this is exceptional. No other porn star comes even close to this achievement, and he's still making 70 or more films a year. The last chapter in his life story has still to be written. He may not earn as much money as Brad Pitt, but he has a lot more sex.

What makes Evan so special? Why does he stand out above all the other porn stars today? Apart from having the usual attributes that men need in the porn business, he can act, he's hard working and he's an overall nice guy. He's the sort of guy a girl can take home to meet her parents, although she'd probably be in a hurry to get him alone after dinner. If you've never seen any of his films, the best place to start is any of his films directed by Fred Olen Ray, for instance "Teenage Cavegirl" or "Ghost in a Teeny Bikini".

TV Mini-Series: The Prisoner

As you can see by the picture I'm talking about the 2009 mini-series, not the original ground-breaking tv series starring Patrick McGoohan. The mini-series is a new telling of the story about a man abducted and taken to a place where people are numbered, not named. Let me state for the record that I'm not principally opposed to remakes. Yet even the presence of top rate actors like Ian McKellen and Jim Caviezel can't save this catastrophe.

There are many changes from the original, certainly made with good intentions, because the writers didn't want to be accused of just copying the original, but in my opinion the changes are all detrimental. Let's just name a few:

1. The Village is situated in the middle of a desert, not on an island.
2. The Village is much bigger, more like a small town, with thousands of citizens.
3. In the original series lower numbers meant a higher rank, but in the new series Number 6 isn't given any special respect due to his number.
4. The new series concentrates too much on Number 6's history before coming to the Village.
5. In the new series there are groups of dissidents, but in the original series it was Number 6 vs the world. Much more Kafka-esque!
6. In the original Number 2 was exchanged in almost every episode, but in the new series it's the same character.

Even if you're a die-hard Prisoner fan, I can't recommend strongly enough that you give this mini-series a miss. It's a waste of time watching it. Don't say I didn't warn you. The original series is a masterpiece so if you haven't seen it yet, give it a try. It was recently released on Blu-ray. I haven't seen the remastered version yet, but I've read a lot of praise about the new image quality.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Mutiny On The Buses (4½ Stars)

The second film based on the tv series. Watch it!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Housewives From Another World (4½ Stars)

This is yet another film by Fred Olen Ray, one of my favorite directors. He's a very busy man. Apart from making films he owns a wrestling company called ACW and wrestles under the name Freddie Valentine. The fourth season of his vampire tv series, "The Lair", is currently being filmed. He's most famous for his 1988 film, "Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers".

"Housewives from another world" is a soft porn comedy, like most of his films released on the Retromedia label (which he owns himself). It's a simple plot, but well written and performed. Aliens from another planet come to Earth to prevent the development of a new deep space probe that will discover them and endanger their race. They take over the bodies of women and discover the joys of sex.

When I read reviews of Fred Olen Ray's films people are always saying, "What's the point of soft porn? The sex isn't real." I personally don't see a problem. Soft porn is an art form which exists within its own parameters. Complaining about soft porn is the same as complaining that wrestling is fake. The wannabe critics just don't get it. Hmmm, maybe Fred's career combination isn't just a coincidence.....

Saturday, 2 October 2010

On The Buses (5 Stars)

Empire Magazine recently called "On The Buses" the nadir of Hammer Films. I give it 5 stars. Why the big difference in opinion?

Hammer had a reputation for making very good gothic horror films in the 1960's. I agree that they were some of the best horror films ever made. My guess is that the Empire reviewer judged "On the Buses" against those films. That's not just unfair, it's impossible. How can you compare a comedy with horror films?

Judging this film on its own merit, it's a comedy masterpiece. The sequels don't live up to the quality of the first film, but they are still excellent samples of British humour. Though filmed in 1971, the film has a distinct mid-sixties atmosphere, both the clothing and the sexism. This is a film that I'd recommend to anyone who likes comedy.

However, it's another example of the inequality of British and American DVD prices. In England I bought a box set containing the three "On The Buses" films for £5.50. In America the films are sold separately for $25 each. Please, can someone tell me what's wrong with prices in America?

Star Trek XXX (4 Stars)

The full title of this film is "This ain't Star Trek XXX", which seems to be a contradiction. It would make more sense to call it either "This ain't Star Trek" or "This is Star Trek XXX", since it obviously   is   an XXX version of Star Trek. I guess I'm the only person in the universe pedantic enough to argue about something like this, so I'll just call it "Star Trek XXX" and move on.

Yes, this is another Axel Braun porn parody. In this case it's appropriate to call it a parody, due to comic moments unlike anything in the original series. Let's look at the casting. My first impression was to criticise Braun's choice of actors as not being identical in appearance to the cast of the original series. But then I said to myself  "Hold on" and compared them with the cast of  "Star Trek XI". I have to conclude that Axel Braun made much better casting choices than J. J. Abrams. Chris Pine was an awful choice as Captain Kirk, with very little resemblance to William Shatner in appearance or mannerisms. Evan Stone is admittedly more rugged than Shatner, but he's a more believable Kirk. Tony De Sergio is a poor choice as Spock -- could anyone ever replace Leonard Nimoy? -- but Zachary Quinto was even worse. Braun's best choice was Jada Fire to play Uhura, who's made up to be practically a carbon copy of Nichelle Nichols. Zoe Saldana was awful for the role. If he ever thinks about making a "Star Trek XII" Abrams needs to sit down with Braun to get advice.

"Star Trek XXX" is a retelling of the original series episode "Space Seed". Nick Manning strides through the episode magnificently, his arrogance making him more Khan than Khan. This is what a parody should be like, with or without the sex.