Monday, 30 September 2013

Man with the Iron Fists (4¾ Stars)

This is a Grindhouse Hong Kong martial arts crossover film. As such it's very successful. The overlayed parody elements are much more effective than in "Kung Fu Hustle".

The story takes place in Jungle Village, China. The date isn't specified, but I estimate the second half of the 19th Century. Let me quote the plot summary from IMDB, because I couldn't put it better myself:

In Jungle Village the leader of the Lions Clan, Gold Lion, is summoned by the Governor and assigned to protect his gold that will be transported through the village. However, he is betrayed and murdered by the greedy Silver Lion. Gold Lion's favourite son, Zen Yi aka The X-Blade, seeks revenge and heads to Jungle Village, but he is defeated by Brass Body and rescued by Thaddeus, the local blacksmith. Meanwhile, the Gemini Killers are protecting the Governor's gold, but they are vanquished by the army of Silver Lion. The blacksmith is abducted by the Lions Clan and has his arms severed by Brass Body. He is saved by the Englishman Jack Knife, who is acting as the emissary of the Emperor, and he manufactures iron arms for himself. Meanwhile, the Governor sends the Jackal army to fight against the Lions, and they hide the gold in the brothel of Madam Blossom. However, Madam Blossom and her girls form an army of black widows and together with Jack, Zen Yi and the blacksmith they fight against the Lions.

Does all  that sound complicated? That's because it is, and yet the film is never bogged down by the details. It's exciting from beginning to end. Just ignore the negative reviews the film has been given by many others. If you enjoy grindhouse action or kung fu films you'll love it.

Billboard Dad (3½ Stars)

Tess and Emily Tyler are twin sisters who live in the coolest place on Earth: Venice, California, close to the beach. They can do all the fantastic things that girls like to do, like swim, surf, roller-skate and most of all check out hunky boys in swimming trunks. Okay, so the girls are only 12, but if they wait too long they'll be too old to find a boy.

The only negative part of their life is that their Dad, a successful sculptor, is still pining over his wife who died two years ago. The girls want him to be happy again, so they put his name, address and photo on a giant billboard over Sunset Strip saying he's single and available.

An Amazon editor calls the Olsen twins the "pre-teen queens of the dead mom genre". That's cute. But now that I come to think of it, I've never seen a mother in any of their films. That doesn't detract from the fact that this is a fun film for the whole family. Parents should watch it with their children to help the family bond. If you're a single Dad you'll wish you had daughters like these. If you're a dead Mom you'll shed a tear and miss your little girls.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Snakeman (3½ Stars)

It often happens that the cover of a DVD has a misleading picture on it. It might be a scene of events that don't happen in the film, or in extreme cases it might be a picture of people who don't appear in the film. This is mostly the case with DVD releases of old films that were made before the invention if DVDs. But I have to say, the UK release of this film sets a new standard in bad packaging. On the back of the cover we read:

When a research physicist working for a pharmaceutical conglomerate realizes that a serum they have developed is 1,000 times more deadly than any chemical or biological weapon, he crosses over to the dark world of international arms dealing. His betrayal leads to his terrible encounter with hundreds of venomous snakes in the laboratory. He survives, but evolves into a half man, half snake.

Exciting stuff, huh? Except that's not what the film's about.

Dr. Susan Elters, played by the beautiful Jayne Heitmeyer, is a biologist leading an expedition into the Amazon rainforest to search for a tribe that has a lifespan of over 300 years. She finds the tribe, but most of her party is killed by a giant seven-headed snake that the tribe worships as a God.

It looks like whoever designed the DVD box didn't take the trouble to watch the film first. I did a bit of research, and I found that the DVD was packaged by Boulevard Entertainment, a company that specialises in repackaging DVDs to create custom versions for supermarkets and similar stores. I hope that all their work isn't as bad as this.

Jayne Heitmeyer, aged 45, looking hotter than girls half her age

Racing Stripes (4¼ Stars)

Ai Shinozaki does not appear in this film. I just felt like posting her photo.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Kung Fu Hustle (3½ Stars)

Two weeks ago I watched "Shaolin Soccer", a film written, produced and directed by Stephen Chow, who also played the leading role. That's why I bought "Kung Fu Hustle", also written, produced and directed by Stephen Chow and featuring him in the main role.

An unnamed city in 1940's China has been taken over by the Axe Gang, whose members all wear black suits and top hats and carry an axe. They ignore poor areas that would bring no advantage to them, such as Pig Sty Alley. Unknown to the gang a few retired martial arts masters are living here. After a third party provokes a fight between the gang and the alley's residents the Axe Gang decides to take over the alley. This leads to a minor war.

Whereas "Shaolin Soccer" is all about soccer, obviously, this film is a parody of the whole Hong Kong martial arts film genre. It has all the set pieces of the kung fu films of the 1960's to the 1990's, such as the fight scene between one man and dozens of opponents. It also has over the top mystical effects, where we see the magical powers of kung fu.

After watching it once I don't enjoy "Kung Fu Hustle" as much as "Shaolin Soccer". Some of the mystical fight scenes were just too extreme for me to accept, even as a parody. Nevertheless, I'll give it another chance. I'll probably watch it again next year.

TV Series: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

He Lives!!!

Friday, 27 September 2013

The Big Bust Theory (4½ Stars)

Despite the name of the film, this isn't a parody of "The Big Bang Theory". The film's story is closer to "Weird Science".

Two nerdy scientists, Stanley (Alexandre Boisvert) and Walter (Eric Masterson), are jealous of their room mate Chad (Tony Marino) because of his success with women. Stanley doesn't notice that his colleague Betty (Christine Nguyen) is in love with him. How can such an intelligent man be so stupid? The two nerds have a solution though. They build a female robot (Jazy Berlin) who will fulfil their every need. The plan backfires when Betty is jealous and reprograms the robot to be a lesbian.

In the past I've criticised Alexandre Boisvert's acting abilities. He seems to be improving as time goes by. Eric Masterson is perfect, of course, as is Christine Nguyen. Tony Marino is the film's weak link. Chad is a shallow person, which makes Tony's wooden acting appropriate, but nothing excuses the way he looks so bored during the sex scenes.

This is Dean McKendrick's second film, and it's so good that it makes me want to see more.

How can anyone not notice Christine?
Walter and Stanley's robot -- every home should have one

Strippers From Another World (4 Stars)

The title of this film is deceptive. It has nothing to do with an alien invasion.

Marge and Anita are two nerdy college girls who want to pledge to the exclusive campus sorority house, Gamma Phi. To prove themselves worthy they have to get a job as strippers. Unfortunately they don't have what it takes. As they're wailing about their failure they're abducted by an alien spaceship. The alien transforms them into sexy women, then sends them back to Earth. With their new appearance and attitude they can get whatever they want. I always knew that visitors from space mean well. Maybe they'll abduct me and improve my looks as well.

This is the first film directed by Dean McKendrick. I know nothing about him, except that he's worked as the film editor for Fred Olen Ray for the last 10 years. Congratulations on a fine piece of work!

Ted Newsom is an awesome teacher.
All the girls love him.

Sci-Fighters (3 Stars)

There are two lessons that film makers should learn:

1. If you set a science fiction film in the future don't specify the year. It's embarrassing if people are still watching the film after that date and the world looks nothing like the film.

2. Don't hire a wrestler as the lead actor. Most wrestlers suck at acting. Some are good enough for supporting roles. None are good enough to carry a lead role.

Maybe I should add another point:

3. Don't pick a silly name for a film unless it's a comedy.

This Canadian made-for-television film takes place in the distant future, the year 2009. The Earth has been turned into eternal night by a series of volcanic eruptions covering the world with dust. Violent criminals are sent to prison colonies on the Moon. A criminal's body is returned to Earth after his death. The problem is that he isn't dead. He's infected with a deadly virus, and he's running around the city raping women, spreading the disease. Detective Cameron Grayson (Roddy Piper) has to hunt him down before the human race is wiped out, aided by microbiologist Dr. Kirbie Younger (Jayne Heitmeyer).

As wrestlers go, Rowdy Roddy Piper isn't the worst actor. He's better than the Rock, and much better than Hulk Hogan. He looks uncannily like Christopher Lambert when he's pacing across the rooftops in his longcoat. Jayne Heitmeyer is a better actress, but I have to say that short hair doesn't suit her. The film isn't too bad, it's worth watching once. In England you can buy it for less than the price of a Blockbuster rental. After that you'll probably forget it. Unless you're a Jayne Heitmeyer fan.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

View of Terror (3½ Stars)

This is a Canadian made-for-television movie about Celeste Timmerman, a young woman who lives and works in Manhattan. After moving into a new apartment she is observed with a telescope by someone who lives opposite. If it had been a secret voyeur he might have got away with it, but he begins to make phone calls, telling her how much she excites him. As if this weren't bad enough, she even finds evidence that he has been entering her apartment while she's at work. She's being stalked, she knows she's being stalked, but she doesn't know by who.

Celeste is played by Shannen Doherty, best known for her role as Prue Halliwell in "Charmed". Of course, my main reason for buying the film is that Jayne Heitmeyer plays Celeste's best friend, Tasha Kingsley. Not only is Jayne far more attractive than Shannen, her character in the film is much sexier and more flirtatious. When Tasha visits Celeste she finds her cowering behind closed curtains. Tasha's reaction is to rip the curtains open and put on a sexy striptease for the secret admirer.

While this might seem comical, it's the best strategy. When a man preys on a woman or even rapes her it's not primarily about sex, it's about power. Men like that feel sexually inadequate and are scared of women, so they pick on timid women as easy targets. If a woman is aggressively self-confident she scares predatory men away.

Jayne Heitmeyer knows what she's doing.
Shannen Doherty doesn't.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Lost World (3½ Stars)

Certain stories grab people's attention so much that they are filmed over and over again. Take, for instance, this film. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's book, "The Lost World", has been filmed seven times, in the years 1925, 1960, 1992, 1998 (twice), 1999 and 2001. This doesn't include television series, spin-offs and films strongly influenced by the book. There's something about dinosaur stories that people like, kids and grown ups alike. This story has influenced the genre by implanting the archetypes into similar films. We have the wise old scientist, the daring explorer, the naive newspaper reporter, the unscrupulous big game hunter, the native girl, and last but not least the anti-damsel-in-distress, i.e. an intelligent, highly educated woman who loudly proclaims women's independence, but becomes weak and helpless as soon as a strong man confronts her. If you watch any film about a "lost world" or "mysterious island" you will find some or all of these six archetypes.

I've seen several of the films over the years, especially the 1960 version which is still frequently shown on television. When I saw this film, one of the 1998 versions, on sale for a ridiculously low price I had to buy it. What attracted me was that Jayne Heitmeyer plays the part of the anti-damsel-in-distress. I really need some way to shorten that word. Maybe Anita Sarkeesian has a better word, but for now I'll call her the antidid. I've recently been watching the fifth season of "Earth Final Conflict", which is probably the most female-centred television series ever made (the fifth season, at least). The world is being threatened by aliens who have lain dormant for 6000 years, and only two women are fighting to save the earth: Jayne Heitmeyer and Melinda Deines. Jayne's amazing action sequences make it difficult to believe she was over 40 years old at the time of filming.

I like strong women, and Jayne (who I also know from the second season of "Nightman") has impressed me enough to want to see more of her. Even as an antidid. As always, her acting is superb and she looks far younger than her real age. Despite being 38, her character Amanda in the film is 25-ish. Overall the film is cheesy, the CGI dinosaurs are unconvincing, and the 1960 version is probably better. But it has Jayne Heitmeyer in it. Nuff said!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Turistas (4 Stars)

"Turistas" is the film's original title. In England it's been released as "Paradise Lost".

This film has been compared with "Hostel". Even the American DVD cover, shown above, mentions "Hostel". I can see the reason for the comparison, but they are very different films, both in content and style. This review will contain more spoilers than usual, so if you think you might watch the film and want to avoid spoilers, please stop reading here. The review continues after the movie poster with the delightful Melissa George, looking much sexier than she did in "Triangle".

The film follows the journey of a group of young holidaymakers in Brazil. Some are travelling together, others are meeting for the first time. After a bus crash they're stranded in a beautiful isolated location. The place is so wonderful that they don't want to leave. The fun turns into terror when they're robbed and left with nothing: no money, no luggage, no passports. Not even shoes. With the help of a native boy they try to find their way back to civilisation, but bigger danger is waiting for them. They're captured by a gang led by a surgeon who makes money from selling body organs. He operates on foreign tourists, removing their internal organs while they're still conscious.

This is, of course, the connection with "Hostel". Both films are about tourists being cut up. However, the gore in this film isn't as exaggerated as in "Hostel". There is only one comparable scene. Rather than relying on torture porn, "Turistas" contains a lot of suspense and action scenes. For me the most terrifying scene is where the surviving tourists have to flee from their pursuers by swimming through underwater caves. Almost instinctively I was holding my breath to test whether I would survive as long.

This is an enjoyable film. Even my dog Buster likes it. He rates it four Head Tilts.

Monday, 23 September 2013

TV Series: Dexter

Newspaper snapshot from Dexter Season 7 Episode 5. Sloppy. Click here to enlarge.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Youth Without Youth (4 Stars)

Who am I? I'm a king who's dreaming that he's a butterfly who's dreaming he's a king. Or maybe I'm a God who's dreaming that he's a man who's dreaming that he's a God who doesn't want to be a God. He dreams about being a man to escape from his burdens as a God, but in his human form he yearns for Godhood and dreams of it when he lies in bed at night.

Tim Roth plays Dominic Matei, a Romanian professor of linguistics. It's 1938, and he's 70 years old. All his life he's been working on a book about the origin of language, but it's now become apparent that he will never complete his life work. He remembers that he gave up the only woman he has ever loved in order to work on his book. Now he has nothing. He travels to Bucurest, a city where nobody knows him, with the intention of committing suicide. While walking from the train station a miracle happens: he's struck by lightning, and his body is transformed. He's a young man once more, and his intelligence has increased to a phenomenal level. He can now learn any language just by listening to it. But it goes further than that: he can now read and memorise whole books just by touching them. Language, written or spoken, is his to command.

Dominic uses his new life to continue with his book. But he doesn't make real progress until 1956, when he meets a young woman who has also been struck by lightning. She is able to speak the languages that she spoke in her former reincarnations, so Dominic works with her while also falling in love with her.

This film, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, is deeply mystical. On the surface it's about language, but it's also about reality and the essence of being. This is not a big step. Branches of philosophy such as logical positivism see a one-to-one relationship between language elements and objects in the real world. To understand language is to understand the world. The film doesn't give any answers about the meaning of life, but it raises a lot of questions.

From Hell (4 Stars)

This is the story of Jack the Ripper, based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore. Maybe I should refer to it as a story, not the story, because the case was never solved, the Ripper was never caught, and as time goes by the speculations get even wilder. I don't say this to criticise the film, not at all. This is a work of fiction, not a true story, even though many of the characters in the film are people who really lived. Nobody, not even Alan Moore himself, would claim that the film represents what really happened. On the other hand, it represents a theory, something thrown into the ring for discussion.

Jack the Ripper is not only the best known serial killer, but arguably the most overrated. Only five murders were attributed to him over a period of two months. After this he stopped. Maybe he died. Maybe he stopped because he was scared of being caught. The film proposes a different theory. It's a grand tale of a conspiracy involving the secret police, the Freemasons and the British royal family. We find out that the prostitutes weren't random victims, they were witnesses of a scandal who needed to be silenced. When these five were killed the work was done.

It's a good film, with an outstanding performance by Johnny Depp as Inspector Abberline. It was interesting to see a scene with the elephant man, even though it had little to do with the story. The atmosphere of Victorian London is impressive, though not as overwhelming as in Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes". It's a film definitely worth watching.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Architect (2 Stars)

Leo Waters has been working as an architect for 20 years. At the beginning of his career he designed a group of buildings that he called Eden Court. Low price mass housing. He was proud of his achievement, so he doesn't understand why the residents are now campaigning to have it ripped down. The problem is that the attractive circular structure and the good visibility across the centre have made it ideal for gangs to develop. In all the years he's kept a model of the court as a trophy, but he's never been back to see what it has become. He lives with his family in a beautiful little house which he also designed. His own family is just as unhappy as the families in Eden Court. His architecture has caused unhappiness for the residents of Eden Court, whereas his personality has caused unhappiness for his own family.

This is a film which I don't quite understand. Of course, I understand what's happening. I understand the conversations, the arguments, and the moral dilemmas of the characters involved. What I don't understand is the message that the director wants to give with the film. The film is based on a successful play by the Scottish playwright David Greig. In listening to the interviews on the DVD it became apparent that one important plot line, Leo's relationship with his daughter, has been omitted from the film apart from small hints. Including it might have improved the film's intelligibility. But as it stands, the film is weak.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

TV Series: Femme Fatales

"All you need for a movie is a girl and a gun".

This quote from the great French director Jean-Luc Goddard could be the motto for this series, if it weren't for the fact that in some episodes it's a girl and a knife.

This is probably the most unique series on television today. It's an anthology series, the episodes unrelated to one another, in the style of "The Twilight Zone". The series' leitmotif is that each episode features one or more powerful women, willing and able to kill men to achieve their selfish aims. Each episode is introduced by a woman called Lilith, usually dressed in character with the episode, giving a warning about the power of Woman. Sometimes she reappears at the end of the episode, laughing at the poor man who has just been killed.

The series has its origins in the magazine "Femme Fatales", which was published from 1991 to 2010. This was a magazine that featured articles about the beautiful women who starred in B-movies, whether they were horror films, sci-fi films or erotic thrillers. The magazine was a success under the control of its original publisher, Frederick S. Clarke, but after his suicide in 2000 sales dropped. Despite several attempts to revive the magazine it was eventually cancelled. One of the frequent writers for "Femme Fatales" was Mark Altman, a screenwriter and producer of low budget horror films. The idea to make a television series to keep the name "Femme Fatales" alive stems from him. He created the concept of the series and acts as its executive producer, together with Steven Kriozere, former executive producer of "V.I.P."

The episodes vary greatly in style, but at their core they are all erotic thrillers. This adds to the nostalgia of the series. As film fans know, the 1990's were the golden age of erotic thrillers. They used to make up a large percentage of the direct-to-video B-movies, but now they've fallen out of fashion. This series helps revive them.

I've noticed that most other reviewers concentrate on the episodes that are made in a film noir style. These are undoubtedly the best episodes, to me at least, but it's wrong to talk about the series as if it were all about film noir. It's about evil women who use their beauty to lure men to their death.

Let this photo be a warning to any man who's ever offered a foursome with three beautiful girls. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

Before anyone says anything, yes, I know that "Femme Fatales" is horrible French. The correct form is "femmes fatales". To excuse it, this is a typical example of the bastardising of foreign words in English. "Femme fatale" is a commonly used expression in English, so it's been pluralised by adding an S, as if it were an English word. I don't like it, but that's the way foreign words are used in English, so it's incorrect for IMDB to call the title a goof.

The first two seaons were broadcast in 2011 and 2012. The series hasn't officially been cancelled, it's just taking a break this year. I sincerely hope it will continue next year. A series with this originality deserves a slot on television. Since it's an anthology and doesn't rely on a fixed cast there's no reason why it shouldn't continue for the next 50 years.

If this were the last sight you saw before being buried alive, be thankful. It could be worse.

P.S. I wrote this post a few hours ago, but there's something I need to add about the DVD release of this series. It's one of the best box sets I've ever seen. Other companies could learn from it. It's packed full of interviews and extra features, and every single episode has a commentary by the cast and crew. I can't think of any other series where every episode has a commentary. Fantastic value for money!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Sleeping Beauty (2 Stars)

Sometimes a film is too arthouse for its own good. That's the impression I get with this film. The director had a screenplay that involved a lot of female nudity, so she decided to film it in a tasteful artistic way to avoid being accused of sexual titillation for the sake of it. The result is incredibly boring. This is Julia Leigh's first film as director. She shows talent, however, and I'm sure she'll improve as time goes on.

The film is about Lucy, a teenage student who is doing a string of part time jobs to pay her bills. We see her wiping tables in a restaurant and making photocopies in an office. But then she has a lucky break. She's given a job as a hostess in an exclusive club. Dressed in lingerie she has to serve drinks at dinner parties for old men. For this she is paid $250 an hour. That's definitely worth the money, even if they occasionally touch her.

After settling in Lucy is offered another job by the club. She has to sleep naked in a large bed, for the same hourly rate. She's given a sleeping potion to make sure she doesn't wake up during the night. While she's asleep an old man remains with her who is talking to her, touching her or just sleeping next to her. The only rule is that he's not allowed to penetrate her. After all, it's not prostitution!

To me this is creepy. It would be easier for me it accept if it had been prostitution. Being able to buy time with an unconscious woman is the ultimate in female objectivisation. It's the last resort for impotent old men who are unable to get female company any other way. It might be better for them than real prostitution, because a normal prostitute might feel too disgusted to touch them. They're much better off with a sleeping beauty. I doubt clubs like this really exist, but maybe the director intended to make a statement about Internet pornography? It's now possible to watch webcam shows of naked women without the women being able to see who is watching.

Despite all the nudity, this isn't a sex film. The nudity is very sterile and unsexual. For this reason the choice of Emily Browning as Lucy is appropriate. She's attractive without being sexy. Nothing about her titillates the viewer. She has small breasts and narrow hips, giving her a boyish quality. Maybe the intention is to present her to the old men as an underage girl, even though she's really over 18? Some men might be turned on by that, but I prefer women to look like women. I find Emily Browning much more attractive in the university scenes when she's dressed normally.

As I mentioned in my post on "Battle Royale", this film is one of the main reasons I signed up for a free trial of Netflix. I was disappointed that it wasn't available, but I found out today that it's just a question of configuring my browser correctly. This makes Netflix much more attractive to me and increases the likelihood that I shall continue to use it after my free trial period runs out.

Off-Topic: Brian Farmer Murder Update, September 17, 2013

After some delay a final date has been set for the trial of those accused of murdering Brian Farmer in his Yardley apartment in May 2012. The jury will be selected on November 12th, and the trial itself will begin on November 13th. The two suspects who were previously unnamed have now been arrested and formally charged with murder, namely Jason Andrews and Peter Knowles. Also charged are Vaughan Davies, John Campion and Lisa Clarke. A motion has been filed to dismiss the case against John Campion. This motion will be heard on September 25th.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Battle Royale (3 Stars)

Yesterday I signed up for a trial account with Netflix. It's free for a month, then £5.99 a month afterwards. (That's about $9.50 a month for you Americans). A lot of people talk about Netflix enthusiastically, as if it's the future of home cinema. Watch whatever you want, whenever you want, in the comfort of your own home. I disagree. It might be an increase in flexibility and ease of use, but as far as the technology goes it's a backwards step, just as MP3's are a backwards step from CD's. I watched my first film today, which I'll get round to discussing soon, and the picture quality was visibly inferior to Blu-ray, the current state of the art. In addition to that, where are the extras that film freaks have grown to love? The commentaries, the making of featurettes, the interviews with the cast? I don't criticise Netflix though, it has its place in our society. Netflix is a hamburger, a Blu-ray is a three-course meal from a top restaurant.

That adequately describes my attitude towards Netflix. I prefer fine food, but every now and then I drop into McDonalds and grab a quick burger if I don't have the time to cook for myself or the money to visit a large restaurant. Nowadays people criticise fast food, but there's nothing wrong with it, as long as you don't eat it every day. That's why I signed up with Netflix. Usually I buy DVDs and Blu-rays, because the prices are so low in England, much lower than in America. Or at least, they're low if I wait a few months after the initial release. Sometimes I'm interested in a film, but it costs more than my usual self-imposed price limit. Sometimes there's a film that I'm not sure whether I'll like it or not. That's why I signed up for Netflix.

I must admit that my first impression is that I'm disappointed with the selection. I had a short list of films and tv series that I wanted to sample, and none of them were available for streaming. Neither "Sleeping Beauty" (2011) nor "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961) is available. I've read in forums that Netflix in the UK offers less films than in the USA. Is that true? If you live in America, please check if those two films are available.

I did find "Battle Royale", the first film that I've watched. This film has achieved cult status, but the film's premise put me off. It's one of those films that other fans of Japanese films say to me, "Why haven't you watched it yet?" Well, today I did.

School Photo

The premise is that in Japan there is a problem with overcrowding and unemployment, so the government has passed an emergency act to alleviate the problems. Under strictly controlled circumstances children are allowed to kill one another. A 10th grade school class goes on a school trip. While in the bus they are knocked out with sleeping gas. They wake up in a military compound on an otherwise deserted island. They are told that they have three days to kill one another. The survivor can go home. If there is more than one survivor they will all be killed.

Girl #13 Chiaki Kuriyama

The film's premise is its greatest weakness. There are 42 children in the contest. We are introduced to about half of them by name, but that's still too many. As viewers we can't get to know and identify with so many characters. In a few cases the director takes the trouble to tell us someone's background story, but oops! A few minutes later he's dead. A similar film was made in 2005, "House of 9", obviously influenced by "Battle Royale", in which nine people have to kill one another to survive. That worked better, but I would have cut the numbers even more and made it a "House of 5".

Girl #13 again -- isn't she cute?

Somehow I doubt I'll continue with Netflix after the free trial ends. I have a month to decide. I'll let you know.

Man from Uncle: The Helicopter Spies (3½ Stars)

U.N.C.L.E. agents Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) witness the aerial destruction of an African village by Dr. Kharmusi using his newly developed “thermal prism”. U.N.C.L.E. then seeks out notorious safe cracker (and former thermal prism researcher himself) Luther Sebastian to help them steal the device from Dr. Kharmusi. Sebastian is on an island with a religious group called “The Third Way”, a mystical organization made up of disciples with white hair, who have the belief that when the “Old Man” in their group finally speaks after twenty years of silence The Third Way will have dominion over the world. Wanted in nearly two dozen countries Sebastian agrees to leave the island and help U.N.C.L.E. in return for world-wide immunity from prosecution.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

TV Series: Tanya X

Beverly Lynne has played the role of Tanya X in three films: "The Girl from BIKINI", "Bikini Royale" and "Bikini Royale 2", all directed by Fred Olen Ray. It's only natural that she should be given her own television series. I didn't realise until I read the credits that Fred doesn't direct the series, he's passed the baton to Dean McKendrick.

The series follows Tanya as she goes on a mission to find out who is using a sex shop to distribute millions of dollars of fake currency. With each episode there are shocks and surprises. Nobody is who he seems to be. The series, like the films, is a James Bond spoof, but it has more naked breasts. Eight of the episodes include music by The Erotics, a band I hadn't heard of before, but they totally rock!

Isn't Christine Nguyen beautiful?

Let's be honest. Beverly Lynne is no world class actress. It's the supporting cast who carry the show, namely Evan 1000-Films Stone, the delightfully beautiful Christine Nguyen and the incredibly talented Eric Masterson. I really must go back and add Christine to my World's Most Beautiful Actresses list. Eric has Hollywood written all over him, he has the talent to make him a star.

Tanya always gets her man...

or men and woman...

and still has time to play with Christine!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Sex Safari (1 Star)

Small Heath Post Office has a large selection of pornographic DVDs on sale for cheap prices. They look primitive, obviously intended for the local Moslem community, but this one film stuck out. It seemed to be classier than the others, so I took a chance and laid my money down.

Big mistake. The film attempts to be classy, but fails miserably. The frequent changes from colour to black and white scenes show that director Brad Armstrong is attempting to be artistic, but all he does is bore me to tears. The film's title suggests that it is set in Africa, but it's actually a world tour starting in Africa, then continuing to Spain, England, China, Egypt and Russia.

Not even Evan Stone's appearance as Tarzan in the Africa segment can save this train wreck. Exceedingly dull. If nobody wants this film from me I'll throw it in the trash.

P.S. For those of you who don't know the area, Small Heath is a Moslem ghetto in Birmingham. The western half of Small Heath is inhabited mostly by Somalians, the eastern half is inhabited mostly by Pakistanis. I live in the east, but the post office is in the west. The post office is in the same road as Birmingham's second largest mosque. A sex shop would be totally inacceptable in a religious area like Small Heath, so the post office has to provide a place where Moslems can discreetly buy pornographic material before they go home after Friday prayers.

20 Million Miles to Earth (5 Stars)

Yesterday I criticised the film "Young Nurses" for being dated. It seemed so old and has no relevance to today. The film I watched today, "20 Million Miles to Earth", is even older. It was made in 1957, so it's 56 years old now, and yet it doesn't seem old at all. I watched it, of course, for Ray Harryhausen's special effects, but the film has much more than that. It's thrilling and exciting from beginning to end. There's not one wasted minute. The action begins in the opening scenes, but that doesn't mean that there's no character development. We get to know the characters, such as the fishermen and the young boy Pepe, in the way they react to the dramatic events. There's a romance in the film, but it's slotted in without taking any time from the action and suspense. The film is a masterpiece, and I attribute it to the skills of the director Nathan Juran, best known for making science fiction and fantasy films in the 1950's and 1960's.

America has sent a manned mission to Venus. The ship returns and crashes into the sea off the coast of Sicily. Only one of the astronauts survives. The team has brought back a creature from Venus to be studied, but it escapes and goes on a rampage in southern Italy.

I'm very impressed with the colour version. As I stated in my review of "It came from beneath the sea" I prefer to watch the original version of films, but once more the coloured version is far superior. Technology certainly has come a long way.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Young Nurses (3 Stars)

Nurses in sunny California at work and play. It's not a bad film, really, but it hasn't stood the test of time. Made in 1973, it's 40 years old this year. I used to like Roger Corman's early films when I was younger, but I've grown out of them now.

I'm amused by the film's R rating. Just because of occasional glimpses of bare breasts? Ridiculous!

Zombie Hunter Rika (3 Stars)

There's something sexy about a schoolgirl with a sword. I think so, at least. Maybe it's best you don't tell my psychiatrist what I said.

This film is about a Japanese girl called Rika, aged about 16. One day she doesn't want to go to school and decides to visit her grandfather, a retired surgeon. Unfortunately the village where he lives has been overrun by zombies. Rika's arm is bitten by a zombie, but her grandfather saves her by cutting off her arm before the infection spreads. Luckily he happens to have a replacement arm lying in his living room, all that remains of a famous zombie hunter. He grafts the arm onto Rika, which imparts her with the sword and martial arts skills of the dead zombie hunter. With these new abilities she sets out to save the world, and she looks cute while she does it. Ah, Japan is such a beautiful country.....