Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story (3 Stars)

This film tells the story of Han Solo's early years, including his first meeting with Chewbacca. It continues in the long-standing Star Wars tradition of making films in the wrong order. It also tells us how he was given his name. His birth name was only Han, but he couldn't become a pilot for the Empire without a family name. The recruiting officer invented the name Solo for him.

It's partially a love story. Han is separated from his lover Qi'ra and spends three years searching for her. His love for her is the only thing that keeps him going. When he finally meets her the reaction is lukewarm. She's moved on.

Most of the film is full of fast paced action, guns blazing like in the wild west, but it slows to a snail's pace in the last half hour. It looks to me that the director wanted to slap on a few extra scenes to tie in the film with the rest of the Star Wars films. He would have done better to leave them out.

It's a vapid adventure, with a lot of action that will appeal to teenage boys, but not much of a story behind it. I can only recommend it to hardcore Star Wars fans. That doesn't include me.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Child's Play 2 (4½ Stars)

Google's blogger has recently announced some new changes, but today I noticed a change that wasn't listed. Until now, if you accessed "" outside of America it redirected to a mirror site in your own country, such as "" or "". Now it's the other way round. If I type "" I'm redirected to "". I hope this doesn't mean that the foreign domains will be cancelled. The links that I use within my blog posts are a jumble, depending on which country I lived in when I wrote the posts. When I lived in England the links were to the domain, and after I moved to Germany the links were to the domain. Occasional links were to the domain, but they were sporadic.

Moving to the film itself, one of my friends challenged my statement that the first Child's Play film was the weakest in the series. He claimed that the first was the best, and that the sequels don't come close. I disagree with him, but I can understand the reason for his opinion. It depends on what a person expects from a horror film. The first film was a serious horror film. The sequels all have an element of humour, varying in degree from film to film. I personally love the horror comedy genre. If done well, inserting comedy into a film can make it better.

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Monday, 28 May 2018

Child's Play (4 Stars)

Beware! Chucky is coming for you! But do you know why? I sent him! This weekend I was looking at an old post of mine, over a year old, and there was a spelling mistake in it! I was so ashamed that I couldn't correct it fast enough. I shan't even tell you what the post was. I've hidden the evidence now.

It's my fault if I spell a word wrong, but I also hold my readers accountable. If you ever see a spelling mistake in my blog, please tell me in the comments section. If you don't do it Chucky will get you.

This is the first in a series of seven films (so far). The Child's Play aka Chucky films have different availability from country to country. In America there's a Blu-ray box set of the first six films, but the seventh, "Cult of Chucky", has to be bought separately. In England there's a Blu-ray box set of all seven films. In Germany there's no box set, and the first film has only been released on DVD. The links I've listed below are for the best purchase options.

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Sunday, 27 May 2018

The Raid 2 (5 Stars)

It's difficult to understand why I've waited four years since last watching this film. It's one of the best action films ever made.

It's not absolutely necessary to watch this film back to back with "The Raid", but it's recommendable. In future I shall always watch the two films as a pair. "The Raid 2" begins by cleaning up after the events of the first film. Rama's brother Andi is executed. The good cop Bunawar kills the two police officers that Rama rescued from the tower block in the first film because he wants there to be no witnesses that Rama is still alive.

I admit that the film is confusing. There are three rival gangs, and it's sometime difficult to know who's fighting who. I think I finally figured it out today, but that's only because it was the third time I watched the film.

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Saturday, 26 May 2018

The Raid (5 Stars)

I'm short of time this week, so my reviews will probably be shorter than usual. As my regular readers know, my blog is a film diary rather than a film review site, so I'll name all the films that I watch even if I have no time to write about them.

"The Raid" is a very male film. What I mean by that is that there are 116 men in the film (according to the credits) but only three women, and the three women are only shown briefly. The first woman is Rama's pregnant wife, who we see lying in bed at the beginning for about 30 seconds. The second is the wife of the man in room 726 who we see lying in bed sick for about 20 seconds. The third is a drug addict that we see in a catatonic state for less than 10 seconds. That means we see hardly any women, we only see them briefly, and they're all in some way disabled.

Nevertheless, this is an amazing film, one of the most violent films I've ever seen. After watching it for the third time today I've decided to update the rating to five stars.

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Friday, 25 May 2018

Savage Beach (4½ Stars)

This is the fourth film in the Andy Sidaris collection, made in 1989. As far as I know Andy never used the poster that he's holding up in the picture. That's a shame. I find it visually more attractive than the poster he finally picked.

What do you think? Maybe Andy just wanted to pack Hope Marie Carlton into the poster as well. They're both good posters, but I prefer the minimalism of the rejected poster, with its mix of black, white and red instead of a full colour palette.

In his introduction Andy calls "Savage Beach" an unusual film for him, but he doesn't explain why. To me it seems like a typical Andy Sidaris spy thriller. The only change from the previous films is that the women have more action than the men, but that's part of a general drift in his films.

The central characters are once more Donna and Taryn, played by Dona Speir and Hope Marie Carlton. As part of their undercover job as pilots for Molokai Cargo they deliver urgently needed medicine to one of the Marshall Islands. On the way back their plane is struck by lightning and they're forced to crash land on a small uninhabited island. As they soon find out, for an uninhabited island it's very busy.

In 1943 the Japanese stole ten gold bars from the Philippines. It was hidden on this island to be retrieved after the war. Japan lost the war, and the location of the island was forgotten. Ever since then the Philippine government has been trying to find it. Information given by a former Japanese sailor on his death bed has finally helped to locate the island. A representative of the Philippine government called Martinez will travel to the island with two American marines to retrieve the gold.

Martinez is played by Rodrigo Obregon, the actor who manages to get himself killed in every Andy Sidaris film. "Wait", I can hear my readers saying. "Isn't he usually a bad guy?" I'm glad you asked. True to character, he's a traitor. He intends to give the gold bars to a Communist revolutionary group after killing the American marines. That's not so easy. When huge amounts of gold are concerned, nobody can be trusted. There are different groups on the island who turn against one another in their greed. Adding to the confusion, there's a lone Japanese soldier on the island who has been guarding the gold for the last 45 years.

After Cody, Rowdy and Travis there's yet another Abilene in this film: Shane Abilene. It must be a big family. He doesn't take part in the action. He just sits in Hawaii coordinating the missions of the female agents. As they say, a man's place is in the home.

There's one thing you have to say in Donna and Taryn's favour. Even after crash landing in the middle of the Pacific they manage to look good.

And they make it back to Hawaii to drink champagne to celebrate another completed mission. This time they meet at Rocky's club on the beach. I wonder what happened to the yacht. Maybe Travis Abilene sailed away in it after quitting the Agency.

The mysterious Agency isn't mentioned in this film. In the opening scenes Donna claims to be a Drug Enforcement agent. This was already hinted at in previous films, but it's contradicted in the later films. Bruce Penhall, in the blue shirt, is a CIA agent that the girls meet on the island. In "Picasso Trigger" he played a thug called Hondo, but now he's a good guy. It gets confusing keeping track of the rotating actors who get killed in one film and return as someone else in the next, but for the next few films he retains his role as the Agency's CIA liaison.

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Thursday, 24 May 2018

La Liceale nella Classe dei Ripetenti (3 Stars)

This is the second film in the Italian Liceale ("high school") series. I don't speak Italian, but the title means something like "The High School Class for Repeaters". In many European countries, including Germany, children need to score a sufficient grade to advance to the next class. If they don't succeed they have to repeat a school year. In theory a child can repeat a class indefinitely into adulthood, but in practice he will leave school when he reaches school leaving age.

I watched both "La Liceale" and "La Liceale 2" (as I prefer to call it) in German cinemas more than 30 years ago. They were given the imaginative titles "Flotte Teens mit heißen Jeans" ("Saucy Teens in Hot Jeans") and "Flotte Teens jetzt ohne Jeans" ("Saucy Teens without Jeans"), leading the films to be called the Hot Jeans series. That was silly, because we never see any jeans in the first two films. I enjoyed the first film a lot. I remember walking out of the second film feeling disappointed. I didn't bother going to the cinema to see the following films in the series. Years later I bought the third film in the series on DVD, but I don't intend to watch it again. It's awful.

This second film isn't awful, but it isn't particularly good either. It's a slapstick comedy about children in one of the last classes of high school (17 or older) playing pranks on their teachers. There's nothing of the coming-of-age drama that made the first film a masterpiece. Gloria Guida returns, but she's not playing the same character. In "La Liceale" she was Loredana, in "La Liceale 2" she's Angela. Rodolfo Bigotti played an American boy called Billy in the first film, but in the second film he's an Italian boy called Carlo. The German distributors in their unfathomable wisdom decided to change the names back to Loredana and Billy, in both the dubbing and the subtitles. I watched the subtitled German version today, and it was annoying. Whenever anyone said Angela's name it was subtitled as Loredana, while Carlo's name was subtitled as Billy.

The Italians are proud of the Liceale films as if they're a pinnacle of Italian comedy. If this is the best they have to be proud of I feel sorry for them. The first film was brilliant, I'll admit that. The rest are average to poor.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Based on a True Story (4 Stars)

Any new film directed by Roman Polanski is a cause for excitement. His films can be relied upon to have high quality. A problem I used to have is that his films are made alternately in English and in French, and it's not very common for French films to be shown in England. Now I live in Germany, and one of the local cinemas shows French films every week. Today I was able to see "D'après une histoire vraie" in French with German subtitles. My French is good enough that I would have risked watching it without subtitles, if necessary, but I might have missed some of the subtleties by not knowing individual words.

The film is about Delphine Daryieux, a successful French author, played by Roman Polanski's wife Emanuelle Seigner. Her latest novel, a biographical novel about her mother, is her most successful book so far. Many female readers say it has touched them. However, there are backlashes that the public knows nothing about. She has been receiving anonymous letters criticising her for lying about her family.

Against this background Delphine meets a woman called Elle who calls herself Delphine's biggest fan. Elle is also a writer; she's a ghost writer who has written biographies for many famous celebrities. Delphine is suffering from writer's block and can't start her next novel, but Elle becomes a close friend and encourages her to write a book about herself. At the same time Delphine decides to write a book about Elle, but doesn't tell her about her plans.

The relationship becomes ever closer, as Elle weasels her way into Delphine's life. They move together, supposedly for two weeks while Elle is looking for a new apartment, but it becomes permanent. Elle become jealous of everyone else that Delphine has in her life.

The film has obvious overlaps with "Misery", but it tells its own story. It becomes a tale of cat and mouse as each of the two women tries to exploit the other.

For me personally the film took too long to get going. It ran very slowly in the first half, only speeding up in the second half. The other member of the film group that I was sitting with disagreed with me and enjoyed the slow build up.

I can't be sure, but was there a Nicholas Cage cameo at the end? The man who asked for his book to be signed looked like him, but he isn't listed on the IMDB page. Please let me know your opinion if you see the film.

Mad City (5 Stars)

Once more I have to stand up to the serious film critics and tell them they're wrong. This film has had mostly unfavourable reviews, but I consider it to be brilliant, like all the films directed by Costa-Gavras (real name Konstantinos Gavras). He doesn't make many films, but the ones he makes are all masterpieces. This is no exception.

The natural history museum in Madeline, California has been forced to make cutbacks. Sam Baily, one of the two security guards, has been fired. He's so ashamed that he can't tell his wife about it. He goes out every day and sits in a cinema watching films until it's his normal time to go home. He begs his former boss, Mrs. Banks, for another chance. When she refuses he goes back with a gun to persuade her. He's not a bad man. He just wants his job back. That's all.

While talking to Mrs. Banks Sam's gun accidentally goes off, badly injuring his friend, the other security guard. Sam panics and locks the museum's doors. He's locked in the museum with Mrs. Banks, a class of young children and the reporter Max Brackett, who was visiting the museum to interview Mrs. Banks about the cutbacks.

Max used to be a reporter on one of the big national channels. Two years ago he was fired for being a loose cannon, and he now works for a small local television station. He sees this hostage situation as a chance to get his old job back. He talks to Sam, advising him on how to talk to the hostage negotiators. Max thinks that Sam has an important story to tell, so he advises him on what to do to become popular with the American public. He makes Sam no promises. He tells him he'll have to go to jail when he leaves the museum, but if he plays his cards right it'll only be a short sentence, and when he leaves jail he'll be offered a television show.

Sam and Max spend three days together with the "hostages". Max coaches Sam in what to say and do. For instance, when the first two children are released Max tells Sam that one has to be black so that nobody will accuse him of racism.

The children aren't scared of Sam. They sit fascinated when he tells them stories. He unlocks the vending machines to give them snacks. Significantly, when the first children are released they're scared of the reporters who rush to interview them and try to run back into the museum.

John Travolta has never been one of my favourite actors, but he's very impressive in this film. It's probably his best performance ever, even better than his role as Vincent in "Pulp Fiction".

In his earlier years I considered Dustin Hoffman to be the world's best actor. Who else came close to him in the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's? This was his last really great film. He's lost his magic over the last 20 years. Let's hope he can get it back.

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Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Sex Pot (2 Stars)

I don't usually bother with American teenage sex comedies. They're usually not very funny and not very sexy. I made an exception for "Sex Pot" because it stars the wonderful Christine Nguyen. Can you spot her in the film poster above?

Mert and Spanky are two teenage boys. Their biggest interests in life are smoking pot and watching porn. Spanky is staying at Mert's house for the weekend. They discover that Mert's older brother has imported a special type of marijuana from Africa. It doesn't just get people high, it's also a potent aphrodisiac that makes people who smoke it want sex immediately. The boys are both virgins, so they see it as an opportunity. They take it to a party where they hope to offer it to the girls.

Yes, that's a typical plot for a stupid teen sex comedy. So what's good about it?

The good news is: we see Christine Nguyen naked.

The bad news is: Christine Nguyen is a minor character with less than 10 minutes of screen time. As the best known actress in the film she's featured prominently on the Blu-ray cover, but that's it. She plays a small, insignificant role in the film.

I'd give the film itself only one star, because it's not worth watching. I've added a star because of Christine's brief appearance. I'll probably rip a short video of her appearance. I don't want to watch the rest of the film ever again.

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Hick (4 Stars)

After complaining a few days ago about Chloe Grace Moretz's last three films going straight-to-video I thought I would watch one of her older films from her successful years. "Hick" is a film I enjoy a lot, but maybe it was a bad example of her early career. I didn't realise until after I watched it today that it also went straight-to-video. Maybe the film industry has always been biased against her?

She plays Luli, a girl from a poor family in Nebraska. It's no sin to be poor, but her mother should have taken better care of her. Luli never knew her father, and all her life there have been a series of men living with them. On her 13th birthday Luli's mother buys her a gun. A girl needs to defend herself, doesn't she? Then they go to the bar for a drink.

Luli decides to run away from home. She wants to go to Las Vegas to find a sugar daddy. She doesn't get very far. While hitch-hiking she gets involved with a wannabe cowboy called Eddie. He's not the sort of rich man she's looking for, but a romantic involvement begins. He takes her to a friend's house where they can have a love nest. When she tries to leave him he goes crazy. He cuts her hair, dyes it black and keeps her tied to the bed whenever he goes out.

The moral of the story is that a young girl should never trust anyone she meets in the street. It's better to get to know men on the Internet and talk to them for a few months before moving together. It's never explained why he wants her to have short black hair. He's just crazy.

"Hick" was made in 2011, when Chloe Grace Moretz was only 14. Her acting ability at that young age was phenomenal. She deserves more than a straight-to-video career.

The film has only been released on DVD in America and England. You can order it on Blu-ray from Germany, if you're able to play Region B discs.

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Monday, 21 May 2018

Assault on Precinct 13 (5 Stars)

This is, quite simply, one of the best films ever made. The film's premise is simple: a police station is under siege from an anonymous gang. The way the story leads up to the siege is an example of a perfect screenplay: the ice cream van, the father and daughter, the gang riding the streets, the police station, the bus driving prisoners to death row. All these elements seem random and unrelated, but they're woven together to provide a firm foundation for the rest of the film.

For the last 13 years I've been in possession of a somewhat fuzzy DVD. When I watched the film two months ago the picture quality got on my nerves. I did a little research and found that the 2012 Blu-ray release is highly praised. I bought it and watched it today. The remastering is wonderful. I'm amazed that the picture has been cleaned up to such an extent. The studio has put in a lot of work to save this valuable film.

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Sunday, 20 May 2018

Deadpool 2 (5 Stars)

Any worries I may have had about "Deadpool 2" were unfounded. It's brilliant. It surpasses the first film in its excellence. It's my favourite film of 2018 so far. It even surpasses "Avengers: Infinity War" in quality. I can't praise it highly enough.

"Deadpool 2" has the same comic banter as the the first film, complete with dialogue that breaks the third wall, but it also has some very serious scenes, especially in the first half. It's the contrast between these scenes and the comedy that make it a stronger film than the first.

I was particularly happy to see the return of the Juggernaut. He was shown in "X-Men: The Last Stand", but the film didn't do him justice. Vinnie Jones portrayed him as a comic character, which I consider inappropriate. He was one of the most deadly villains of the X-Men in their early years.

The film cleans up the continuity with the first Wolverine film, in which Deadpool appears as a very different character, in both appearance and personality. Deadpool goes back in time and kills his alternative self. Thank you. He also does away with his alter-ego in the DC universe by going back in time and killing Ryan Reynolds before he could star in "Green Lantern".

I can't say anything else without giving away spoilers. This is a film that everyone should watch. Marvel fans will laugh out loud at the subtle in-jokes, but even those less acquainted with the comics will find it hilarious.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Deadpool (5 Stars)

I'm planning to see "Deadpool 2" tomorrow, so I've decided to watch the original film to get myself in the mood. It was a very close second in my top 10 film list for 2016.

It's easy for me to enjoy the film because Deadpool is someone I hardly know from the Marvel comics, so I don't have to compare him with the original. He didn't appear in the comics until what I consider to be the post-canon period, so I don't care what they do with him in the films.

I admit to being nervous about tomorrow's film. Will it live up to the first film? I'll let you know.

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Rampage (4 Stars)

Today, 19th May 2018, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, married the American actress Meghan Markle. I was presented with a difficult choice: should I sit at home and watch the wedding, or should I go to the cinema and watch a film about a big monkey? Anyone who knows me already knows what I decided. I picked the big monkey.

The film begins in a space station orbiting the Earth which is being used as a laboratory for genetic research. One of the subjects escapes from its cage and wrecks the station. A scientist flees in an escape pod, taking with her canisters containing the bacteria that have been developed. The escape pod burns up on reentry into the atmosphere, and the canisters are scattered across North America. In Florida a crocodile swallows a canister. In Wyoming a grey wolf is infected by a broken canister. The third canister infects George in the San Diego nature Preserve.

Who's George? That's the big monkey. He's an albino gorilla who was saved from poachers by the primatologist Davis Okoye. George is a highly intelligent gorilla who converses with Davis using American Sign Language.

The result of the virus is to make the infected animals grow in size, at the same time becoming stronger, more agile and more aggressive. Energyne, the company responsible for the genetic research, transmits a signal to lure all three of the creatures to their headquarters in Chicago. When they arrive in the city Davis tries to reason with George.

There's a hidden joke for people who understand sign language. Whenever Dwayne Johnson talks to George he speaks aloud while making the signs. Whenever he says "It's me" he makes the sign for "rock". That's amusing.

Is it a good film? That depends on what you want to see. Dwayne Johnson has made enough films for us to know what to expect. Any film that he appears in is infeasible and over-the-top, but it's good entertainment. It's not serious cinema, it's good fun. If you want 90 minutes of wild escapism you won't be disappointed.

Verne Troyer does not appear in "Rampage", but since I'm remembering him this week I thought it would be appropriate to share this photo that was taken with Dwayne Johnson. If I'm not mistaken, Verne is attempting to imitate The People's Eyebrow. Sorry, Verne, you can't do it. Very few people can. It takes years of practice.

Friday, 18 May 2018

November Criminals (3 Stars)

Something has gone wrong with Chloe Grace Moretz's career. A few years ago she was the it girl, someone who was obviously a rising star. From the age of seven she was a successful child star, making three or more films a year. She first came to the general public's attention playing the foul-mouthed teenage super-hero Hit Girl in 2010, when she was only 13. She went on to star in even bigger roles, including "Let me in", the remake of Stephen King's "Carrie" and the critically acclaimed "Clouds of Sils Maria". Maybe it was the box office failure of "Clouds of Sils Maria" that was the turning point. After that she was given mostly smaller roles. She seemed to be getting back to star status with two successful films in a row, "The 5th Wave" and "Bad Neighbours 2", but both films were savaged by the critics. Now she's crashed. Her last three films have gone straight-to-video, which is a death knell for anyone's career. Even worse, the films are hardly available on disc. "Brain on Fire" (2016) has only been released on DVD in China and Hungary. "I love you, Daddy" (2017) hasn't been released on DVD anywhere, so it's more accurate to say that it's been released straight-to-trashcan. "November Criminals" has been released on DVD in Germany and a few other European countries, but without an American or English release it's destined to be forgotten.

Added to this, "November Criminals" has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. No films ever score that badly. Even "The Room" has 26%. Is this really one of the worst films ever made?

The answer is a clear No. It's not a great film, but I've seen much worse. The story is interesting – the script is co-written by Steven Knight – and all the actors know how to act. There's just something intangible missing. There's nothing about the film that excites me.

The film is a love story, a coming-of-age story and a murder mystery. Addison Schacht and Phoebe Zeleny are classmates, both 17, both the children of rich parents. The school they go to is filled with rich kids. It's the better side of town. Both have applied to go to university. Addison is an above average student, but Phoebe is brilliant, so they'll be going different ways.

One evening they visit a coffee shop where Addison's best friend Kevin (also a classmate) has a part time job. Phoebe tells Addison she wants to have sex because she doesn't want to go to university as a virgin and she wants her first time to be with another virgin. That's a shock to Addison, because until now they've only been friends, but he doesn't say No. Would any 17-year-old virgin refuse an offer like that? They drive to Phoebe's house to do it. 15 minutes later there's a news report about a shooting in the coffee shop. Kevin is dead.

Understandably, this puts Addison in a crisis. He knows that if he hadn't been in such a rush to lose his virginity he would still have been in the cafe and he might have been able to stop it happening.

Even worse is that the police call it a gang-related shooting. This is a euphemism for "There's nothing we can do about it". Kevin was from an African American family, one of the few black students in the school, so the assumption is that if a black boy gets shot it must be because he was in a gang. Addison knows that this wasn't the case, so he begins to investigate the case himself, with Phoebe's help. At the beginning Addison and Phoebe remain platonic, despite having had sex once, but as the investigations continue their feelings for one another deepen.

This is only a film for fans of Chloe Grace Moretz. That includes me. If you admire her as an actress, don't be put off by the Rotten Tomatoes reviewers. It's not that bad.

Perdita Durango (4 Stars)

This film, also known as "Dance with the Devil", has been released in many different versions, with different scenes being cut in different countries. Both the rated and the unrated American versions are censored. The British release is censored. Even the Australian release which calls itself "uncut" is missing about 10 minutes. It's not only violence that has been censored. Some of the cuts appear to be due to copyright reasons. There are excerpts from other films that are removed in America. Until recently the only uncut version was available in Spain, a dubbed version without the original English dialogue. This year an uncut version was finally released in Germany, complete with the original English dialogue. This is the only version I can recommend.

Perdita Durango is the name of a young prostitute who lives in America. She travels to Mexico to scatter her sister's ashes. On the way back she meets an enigmatic man called Romeo Dolorosa. He's a bank robber, a drug dealer and a Santeria priest. (Wikipedia claims that he's only pretending to be a Santeria priest. It seems like the author didn't pay attention to the film).

Santeria is a variant of voodoo practised in the Caribbean. It's strongly influenced by Catholicism, but its ceremonies involve animal sacrifice. Allegedly human sacrifice has also been practised in past centuries.

The relationship between Perdita and Romeo is a tale of love and obsession. At first she resists Romeo, then she becomes fascinated by his lifestyle, and finally she wants to control him. He has a job to do, transporting frozen fetuses from Mexico to a cosmetics company in Las Vegas, but he wants to perform a Santeria ceremony before crossing the border into America. Perdita suggests that they kidnap a gringo and eat him at the next ceremony. They grab two 17-year-old teenagers in a busy street, Duane and Estelle, who become their companions for the rest of the film. Romero treats Duane as a friend, because he thinks that dying in a Santeria ceremony is the biggest honour a person can have. The two youngsters were previously virgins, but Romero rapes Estelle and Duane has a voluntary sexual relationship with Perdita. A twisted foursome begins.

Romeo is being pursued by an American DEA agent, played by James Gandolfini, who doesn't want to intervene until he crosses the border. After all, Mexico is out of his jurisdiction.

Why is James Ganolfini injured? He was hit by a car. Twice. Estelle's father is also hit by a car. That's my biggest complaint about the film. Seeing someone being accidentally hit by a car twice in one film is a bit weird, but seeing three identical car accidents in one film is ridiculous. It looks like slapstick. These accidents aren't even essential to the plot. All three could have been removed without taking anything away from the story. In fact, they should have been removed, because it would have improved the story.

Alex de la Iglesia is one of my favourite directors. Most of his films have been made in Spanish. He's only made two films in English, "Perdita Durango" and "The Oxford Murders". It's notable that these two films are weaker than any of his Spanish films. Maybe his creativity is lost in translation?

This is the cover of the recent German release, available on Blu-ray and DVD. It's the only version you should buy. I won't even give you links to the American and English releases.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Austin Powers: The Spy who shagged me (4½ Stars)

I admit it. The main reason why I decided to watch the Austin Powers trilogy this week is to remember Verne Troyer, the actor who played Mini-Me and died last month. The exact cause of his death isn't clear. Early reports claimed that it was suicide, but the official cause of death has been recorded as alcohol poisoning. The truth is probably a mixture of the two.

Some epitaphs written online say that it's wrong to concentrate on his size, he should just be judged as a man. I understand what they're saying, but it's impossible to write about him without mentioning his size. At 2'8" (81 cm) he was the world's smallest actor. Peter Dinklage (4'5", 135 cm) is a giant in comparison. Verne Troyer's height is what he'll be remembered for. That's an undeniable fact. But we should also remember him as a good actor. After seeing him at his audition Mike Myers was so impressed with Verne's acting ability that he rewrote the script to give him more screen time. How many actors can say that about themselves?

The first film takes place in the 1990's (1997), while the second film takes place in the 1960's (1969). Dr. Evil has invented a time machine, with which he travels back in time to steal Austin Powers' mojo while he was frozen. This mojo is the essence that makes Austin what he is, including his charm, his sexual prowess and his skill as a secret agent. Austin Powers travels back in time using a Back-To-The-Future-ish car to challenge Dr. Evil. He's at a disadvantage because he's already lost his mojo, but he receives assistance from Agent Felicity Shagwell, a swinging, free-loving sixties girl who is the exact female equivalent of Austin himself.

In the first film Mike Myers played two characters, Austin Powers and Dr. Evil. In this film he also plays the evil henchman Fat Bastard. Yes, that's his name. Yes, that's really Mike Myers. He's hardly recognisable under all that make up, body padding and whatever else was used to disguise him.

Because Dr. Evil's son Scott wasn't evil enough to be the successor to the Evil Empire a clone has been made from Dr. Evil's DNA. The clone is Mini-Me, played by Verne Troyer, identical in every respect except for his size. Dr. Evil immediately appoints him his successor. This annoys Scott, who now wants to try to be more evil, but it's too late.

I made a mistake in my last review of "The Spy who shagged me". I claimed that it was a blunder that Mustafa and Number Two magically reappeared after being killed in the first film. I should pay more attention. Mustafa was killed in 1997, so it's not a mistake to see him in 1969. It all makes sense. As for Number Two, he's thrown into a fire pit in the first film, but we never see him die. When he returns in this film he has burn marks on his cheek, so we can assume that he was somehow rescued from the pit. He might have burn marks in other places that his fine suits hide from sight.

Overall the film is just as good as "International Man of Mystery", but I have a few small problems with it. I find the humour with the Fat Bastard character unnecessarily vulgar. I also find it strange the way Elisabeth Hurley's character is removed from the film by the revelation that she was always a fembot. If you watch the first film you can see that this was impossible.

Verne Troyer
January 1, 1969 – April 21, 2018

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Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (5 Stars)

This is a brilliant spy spoof, maybe one of the best parody films ever made. It was written by the comedian Mike Myers, featuring himself in the two main roles. The film makes fun of 1960's spy films, primarily the James Bond films. For fans of the old films it's an opportunity to sit and spot references, but even for the younger generation who have only limited knowledge of the old films it's hilarious. It's also a comedy about the English hippy culture of the 1960's.

Now to the plot. Austin Powers was England's best secret agent in the 1960's. His nemesis was Dr. Evil, a megalomaniac who wanted to rule the world. Isn't that what they all want to do? After failing in an attempt to kill Austin Powers Dr. Evil flees into space. He puts his body in deep freeze, so he can return when Austin Powers is dead or too old to stop him. Austin foils his plan by also letting himself be frozen, ready to be thawed when Dr. Evil returns.

The return is in 1997, the year when the film was made. While the two opponents prepare to clash we see Austin trying to adjust to the modern world. His biggest problem is that free love is no longer practised. He expects women to have sex with him – he uses the word "shag" – immediately after meeting him. It's not so easy these days. He has to be charming and polite and work hard to get women into bed.

Dr. Evil, also played by Mike Myers, has less problems adjusting. He was never interested in free love. All he wanted to do was rule the world. His biggest problem is building a relationship with his son Scott, who was born during his absence using his frozen semen.

A lot of the humour revolves around Austin Powers' social ineptness, but it's wrong to compare him with Johnny English, who is also inept as a spy. When it comes to his job Austin Powers is highly skilled. He knows exactly what he's doing. He rushes into action to take on his enemies with his trusty Walther PPK/S in his hand. This is one of the film's few errors. He's shown using the gun in 1967, but it wasn't designed until 1968.

Austin Powers is a skilled spy, but he has one fatal weakness. When he meets beautiful women he's too confused to think straight. That's understandable. I would have the same problem.

This film was followed by two sequels, both of which were almost as good as the first film. In 2008 he tried to continue with his success by starring in another self-written comedy film called "The Love Guru", but it didn't have the same magic as the Austin Powers films. Let's see if he's able to get his mojo back one day.

If you want to buy this film you'll have a difficult choice. The full version is only available in England. The American version has cut several scenes, some of which are included as "deleted scenes" in the extra features, but not all. In particular, Christian Slater's scene has been removed entirely from the American version. The American Blu-ray release has the film in its original 2.35:1 ratio, but the DVD releases on both sides of the Atlantic present the film in a cropped 2:1 ratio. In England the film has never been released on Blu-ray.

If you've never seen the film before your best choice is to buy the American Blu-ray. It's the best quality you can get for your money. If you're a fan of the film like me – I saw it in the cinema when it was first released – you'll be annoyed by the missing scenes, so you'll be better buying the English DVD.

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