Film Review: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Release Date: July 7th, 1977 (London premiere)
Directed by: Lewis Gilbert
Written by: Christopher Wood, Richard Maibaum
Based on: the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming
Music by: Marvin Hamlisch
Cast: Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curd Jürgens, Richard Kiel, Caroline Munro, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell

Eon Productions, United Artists, 125 Minutes

Review:

“Mmm, maybe I misjudged Stromberg. Any man who drinks Dom Perignon ’52 can’t be all bad.” – James Bond

It has been a really long time since I’ve seen this particular James Bond movie, which is why I wanted to pop it into the DVD player. My memories of it weren’t spectacular but I really enjoyed it this time around and I now rank it really high in the Roger Moore era.

But what’s not to like?

You have Roger Moore, who is Roger friggin’ Moore. Then you have Barbara Bach as the female Soviet equivalent to Bond. This film also introduces Jaws, played by my favorite giant (after Peter Mayhew), Richard Kiel. Plus Curd Jürgens’ Karl Stromberg is one of the best non-SPECTRE villains in the entire Bond franchise. And I certainly can’t forget the apple of my eye, Caroline Munro.

One thing that also makes this entry into the massive Bond franchise so great is the locations. I loved all the stuff that was filmed in Egypt. The scene with Bond and Amasova tracking Jaws through the giant pillars is one of the best sequences in the entire film series. Also, the scene during the pyramid light show has some of the coolest shots and cinematography in the franchise.

Additionally, the set of Stromberg’s underwater fortress was well built and designed. The place looked sinister as hell and had a very brooding vibe, as it sprouted from the ocean surface.

This film, looking at it now, features the best tandem of Bond girls, in my opinion. Bach is perfect in her role as Major Anya Amasova a.k.a. Agent XXX. She owned the part and was much more than just a pretty face needing to be rescued. Of course, she did need to be rescued in the end. Caroline Munro, who is incredibly stunning, looked like she was having a blast as the helicopter pilot trying to kill Bond and Amasova. She had the right mix of sexual allure and sadism. I just wish she had more time to shine in the picture.

The fights between Bond and Jaws were well executed and the fisticuffs played out well. I was glad that they created Jaws as this unstoppable character that survives the craziest situations only to stand and fight, again and again. I was really glad to see him return for this film’s direct sequel Moonraker.

My memories of this movie weren’t great but this is one of the Bond films I have seen the least. I’m glad that my memory was wrong and that I got to see this in a different light. Or maybe I’ve been watching so much crap lately, that anything with a semblance of quality would’ve made me happy.

Film Review: The First Power (1990)

Release Date: April 6th, 1990
Directed by: Robert Resnikoff
Written by: Robert Resnikoff
Music by: Stewart Copeland
Cast: Lou Diamond Phillips, Tracy Griffith, Jeff Kober, Mykel T. Williamson. Elizabeth Arlen

Nelson Entertainment, Interscope, Orion Pictures, 98 Minutes

Review:

“See you around, buddy-boy.” – Patrick Channing

I remember seeing this film when I was in sixth grade. I rented it from the video store because kids could do that shit in America back before parent groups ruined our culture and started coddling children into pussies suckling the teat for participation trophies.

I also remember thinking that this movie was cool as hell and it burned Jeff Kober’s face into my mind due to how terrifying and creepy he was in this as the killer. So whenever I see him pop up in things now, like Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead, I return to the fond feeling I had for this movie when I was in my first year of middle school.

The film also made me have an even deeper appreciation for Lou Diamond Phillips, a guy I really liked in Stand and DeliverYoung Guns and La Bamba. Nowadays, he’s a guy whose work I absolutely love because of how great he is on Longmire and how much I enjoyed him popping up in The Ranch.

Unfortunately, The First Power is not as good as I remembered it. Give me a break, I was like eleven when I saw it. It is still entertaining and effective though but so many similar films have come and gone that are much better in the genre.

Basically, you have a cop (Phillips) that is in pursuit of a Satanic killer (Kober). He catches the killer and sees him killed in the gas chamber. However, the killer has made some sort of unholy deal and is basically an unstoppable, unkillable force of nature like Jason Voorhees but with more personality and a broader objective.

The cop teams up with a psychic (Griffith) and a nun (Arlen) and they try to stop the killer. In the process, a lot of crazy shit happens and there is a cool scene where the killer rips a ceiling fan down and somehow electrically animates it to use as a shield and to repel our heroes away, as they don’t want to be sawed in half.

The killer’s mask is also pretty cool, even though he doesn’t wear it nearly enough and spends most of his time showing his face or possessing some random person in an effort to surprise the heroes.

I still liked this movie, not having seen it in like twenty-five years, but it wasn’t as dark and insane as I thought it would be. It hasn’t aged well but it also hasn’t aged so poorly that it is a bad film.

Film Review: Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Release Date: January 21st, 1992 (Sundance)
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Lawrence Tierney, Michael Madsen, Edward Bunker, Quentin Tarantino

Live America Inc., Dog Eat Dog Productions, Miramax Films, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Hey, why am I Mr. Pink?” – Mr. Pink

Every great director has to start somewhere and this is where Quentin Tarantino’s career truly began. This is his origin story and for a first real attempt at creating a full-fledged motion picture, the young director absolutely nailed it and gave the world something exceptional.

The film also has a great ensemble of actors who would go on to do great things, as well as Harvey Keitel, who was already established as a master of his craft, especially in crime pictures.

The bulk of the movie, from a performance standpoint, mostly falls on the shoulders of Keitel and Tim Roth. While Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn and Lawrence Tierney were all perfect, it is the bond between Keitel and Roth that drives the picture and gives it the needed emotional weight and purpose.

The majority of this film takes place in one room. It actually only leaves this room when the actors walk out into its parking lot or during a flashback sequence. It is a very confined film but that works to its advantage and for its building of tension.

Reservoir Dogs also showcases Tarantino’s mastery of dialogue. While I feel that his dialogue tends to get really carried away in his later films and almost ruins them, in this picture he has the perfect balance of great dialogue, pivotal plot developments and overall motion. The conversations may go on for a bit but they are the driving force of the film. But never does it go on too long or go off on drawn out unnecessary tangents that don’t work as well on a second viewing. Every scene says what it needs to say and serves a purpose. The film just moves, flows and keeps you on edge in the right way. It is witty and it is fast in a way that Tarantino’s later pictures aren’t.

Now the film is also surrounded in some minor controversy, as people have gone on to notice that this film seems to borrow quite heavily from the 80s Hong Kong film City On Fire. Ringo Lam’s well-known picture in the Hong Kong crime genre predates Reservoir Dog by five years. It features an undercover cop infiltrating a group of jewel thieves, tension around the fact that no one knows who the cop is, a Mexican standoff finale and a whole laundry list of other similar plot points. Tarantino has casually denied that Reservoir Dogs is a sort of remake of City On Fire but it is hard to deny the myriad of similarities when you have seen both films.

The thing is, even if Tarantino ripped it off to launch his career, the fact remains that he made a much better picture than Ringo Lam’s City On Fire. Also, Reservoir Dogs, despite its inspiration, is very much a Tarantino picture. Also, hasn’t Quentin Tarantino’s entire career just been made up of artistic homages to all the things he thinks are cool? But I guess the thing that bothers people is that he won’t admit he lifted the plot when he very honestly states that Kill Bill was his version of Lady Snowblood or when he just borrows titles from other movies for his films like using Django in the title of Django Unchained or taking Inglorious Bastards and stylizing it Inglourious Basterds.

At the end of the day, I don’t care how Tarantino came to create Reservoir Dogs. It is still very much his and a work of modern cinematic art. It was, by far, one of the greatest debuts of any director in history and it will always be considered one of the greatest indie films of the 1990s.

Film Review: The Loved Ones (2009)

Release Date: Septmeber 23th, 2009 (TIFF)
Directed by: Sean Byrne
Written by: Sean Byrne
Music by: Ollie Olsen
Cast: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, Richard Wilson, John Brumpton, Victoria Thaine, Jessica McNamee

Screen Australia, Madman Entertainment, Mars Distribution, Optimum Releasing, Paramount Pictures, Insurge Pictures, 84 Minutes

Review:

“I’m gonna go to your house now and stab your mummy just like you did my Daddy. Then I’m gonna go find Holly and stab her in the heart just like you did to me.” – Lola

I mostly wanted to check out The Loved Ones because I really liked Robin McLeavy in Hell On Wheels. She’s a damn good actress that I feel should be getting a lot more work now that she isn’t tied up in that fantastic show. Also, I’ve always loved Australian movies and I am a fan of horror, in general. Plus, people have talked this film up quite a bit since it came out.

When I first saw the trailer for this a few years back, I wanted to see it. Unfortunately, it did not show up in my town and then it got lost in the shuffle of the million other movies that came and went. I always have a lot that I want to see on my list and if I am not vigilant enough, the tide of new stuff washes away the old. Luckily, I saw a post about this on a blog and made it a point to watch it that day.

While I’m glad that I have now seen the movie, I wouldn’t consider it anything exceptional. Enjoyable, sure… but not exceptional.

The trailer really gives too much away and while there are a few extra layers of madness thrown into the narrative towards the end, this is pretty predictable and doesn’t really do anything to set it apart from other psycho killer family hostage torture movies. Maybe I’ll just start referring to this sub-genre as PKFHT.

In the story, we see a girl named Lola ask a boy named Brent to the school dance. Brent declines, as he has a girlfriend and is going with her. Brent is then abducted and wakes up tied to a chair at a dinner table with the girl, her father and her father’s lobotomized love interest referred to as “Bright Eyes”. The rest of the film features torture, power drill lobotomies, some moderate gore, a lot of hints at incest and a creepy surprise in the hidden cellar. I’d prefer not to give away too much, as the trailer does just that.

The Loved Ones is only 84 minutes, which is short but you really don’t need more time than that. In fact, it could have been even shorter and still have been effective. There’s a whole side story about Brent’s friend and the girl he takes to the dance, which is mostly unnecessary other than to show she is emotionally broken due to her brother being one of Lola’s victims. Without this side story, you could cut a third off of the film.

The acting is solid, especially from McLeavy and Xavier Samuel and it really is up to them to carry the picture. Despite their best and great efforts, there just isn’t much here that you haven’t seen before. I was sort of expecting some big twist or surprise, considering that the trailer mapped out the entire plot and because the Australians typically surprise me.

The Loved Ones is a better than decent horror flick but it doesn’t deliver anything new or fresh. Although, it is worth your time if you like these sort of pictures.

Film Review: Hatchet For the Honeymoon (1970)

Also known as: Il rosso segno della follia, lit. The Red Mark of Madness (Italy), Blood Brides (UK), An Axe for the Honeymoon (alternate)
Release Date: June 2nd, 1970 (Italy)
Directed by: Mario Bava
Written by: Mario Bava, Santiago Moncada
Music by: Sante Maria Romitelli
Cast: Stephen Forsyth, Dagmar Lassander, Laura Betti, Femi Benussi

Manuel Caño Sanciriaco, Mercury Films, Pan Latina Films, Películas Ibarra y Cía., 105 Minutes

Review:

“My name is John Harrington. I’m 30 years old. I’m a paranoiac. Paranoiac. An enchanting word, so civilized, full of possibilities. The truth is, I am completely mad. The realization which annoys me at first, but is now amusing to me. Quite amusing. Nobody suspects I am a madman. A dangerous murderer. Not Mildred, my wife. Nor the employees of my fashion center. Nor of course my customers.” – John Harrington

For those who read this site fairly regularly, my love of Mario Bava and the giallo genre in general should be pretty apparent. As I’ve been working my way through Bava’s oeuvre, I have come across several films I know and some I have never seen. Hatchet For the Honeymoon is one I have known of but never had the pleasure of experiencing.

While it is generally a giallo, it differs from what I’m used to in that the identity of the killer is known upfront. There is no mystery about the killer’s identity, although the motive isn’t entirely clear until the end and there is still a bit of mystery thrown in. In fact, this film takes some crazy twists and turns in the narrative, as you never really know what’s real or if the main character is just imagining things.

This film plays kind of like American Psycho well before American Psycho, the novel by Brett Easton Ellis, was even written. Our killer here is a high society type, incredibly insane and violently kills those around him. Except our main character isn’t a successful Wall Street player, he is the head of a very successful fashion house in Europe.

He has an obsession with brides and wedding dresses and believes that a woman should love once and die before marriage. While he is in a disastrous marriage himself, he often times seduces beautiful women he comes in contact with through his work. It doesn’t end well for these women.

Hatchet For the Honeymoon is an alluring picture. It uses the vibrant colors of a typical Italian giallo, employing the visual style that Bava helped to create and that several other directors have tried to emulate for decades. While this isn’t as overtly colorful as Bava’s Blood and Black Lace, it still looks like a painting come to life.

Mario Bava weaved an interesting tale with this picture. While it isn’t my favorite of his films, it still enchants like Bava’s more superior work. It draws you in with its strong grip and doesn’t let go until the final moments. It is engaging and beautiful in all the right ways.

Film Review: The Hellcats (1968)

Also known as: Biker Babes
Release Date: May 8th, 1968 (Sweden)
Directed by: Robert F. Slatzer
Written by: Tony Huston, Robert F. Slatzer
Music by: Jerry Roberts
Cast: Ross Hagen, Dee Duffy, Sharyn Kinzie, Del ‘Sonny’ West, Robert F. Slatzer, Tony Lorea, Eric Lidberg, Shannon Summers

Crown International Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“They look as confused by the film as we are.” – Crow T. Robot, Mystery Science Theater 3000

The Hellcats is an exploitation biker flick that came out in the heyday of exploitation biker flicks. While most of these movies are bad, this one’s awfulness is pretty astounding. This was obviously a film made by people who had no business making movies.

To be honest, I’m never really sure what’s happening in this movie half the time. There are biker parties, biker games, biker fights and biker stunts. None of it makes much sense but I guess the highlight is some tough ass biker chicks. But even then, this movie doesn’t, in any way, resemble something one could label as exciting.

I’ve seen uglier pictures but this is still an ugly picture. The camera work and editing are not well done. The direction is nonexistent but maybe they wanted this biker picture to look like pure chaos for authenticity. It’s pretty unauthentic though.

This is a hard flick to watch and it is even harder to sit through this whole thing in one go. Thankfully, it appeared in the second season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the riffing at least makes it enjoyable and much easier to handle.

If you are an MST3K completist, you have to watch this. If you aren’t, don’t bother yourself with this sack of crap.

So let me fire up the Cinespiria Shitometer to see where this ranks amongst all the other awful dreck I’ve watched. Aha! This movie is a “Type 1 Stool: Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass)”.

TV Review: Daredevil (2015- )

Original Run: April 10th, 2015 – current
Created by: Drew Goddard
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: John Paesano, Braden Kimball
Cast: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Toby Leonard Moore, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Bob Gunton, Ayelet Zurer, Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jon Bernthal, Élodie Yung, Stephen Rider

ABC Studios, Marvel, DeKnight Productions, Goddard Textiles, Netflix, 26 Episodes (so far), 48-61 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

If you haven’t watched Daredevil at some point over the last week, you have been severely missing out.

Marvel, now teaming up with Netflix, has given hardcore old school comic book fans a television show that they deserve. Being that it is on Netflix and not ABC or some other network, Daredevil has a lot of creative freedom. It also isn’t catered to the younger viewer, which can often times be a pretty tedious and annoying factor in regards to Marvel’s other live-action outings. What we’ve got is something very close to the source material and as dark as the stellar Frank Miller stories were in the early 80s. What we don’t have is a two-plus hour toy commercial accented by Tony Stark witticisms. For the record, I like Tony Stark witticisms but this isn’t the place for them.

Now I am not going to completely fan boy out like most of the people praising this show. It isn’t perfect and could improve in various areas but it is one of the best Marvel adaptations of all-time.

The positives are pretty abundant though.

To start, the tone of the show is perfect. The lighting is amazing, as it conveys the same color palette as the comic book from its most iconic runs. The cast, for the most part, is perfect. And the evolution of Daredevil throughout the first season of this series is very well done. We don’t have a hero that immediately kicks ass and looks invincible. We have a normal guy who is generally a bad ass but still gets his head kicked in a lot. The show just feels more real and more organic than any other live-action comic book property ever has and that in and of itself is a great feat.

The show also benefits by the fact that it isn’t stuffed full of characters and villains. The only real major Daredevil villains that even appear are Wilson Fisk (a.k.a. the Kingpin) and Leland Owlsley (a.k.a. the Owl). Kudos on the producers for holding off on Bullseye, Typhoid Mary, Elektra, Mr. Fear and the rest.

Although, the amount of time focusing on the inevitable confrontation between Daredevil and Fisk is pretty drawn out. The pace of the show is a bit slow and lacking energy in areas. I feel like the bulk of everything important could have been covered in six-to-eight episodes. What we’ve got instead is thirteen episodes with too much filler material.

The one performance that I question is Vincent D’Onofrio’s portrayal of Wilson Fisk. It isn’t bad but there are times where his voice is odd and out of place. I get that the character is written as a sort of fucked up kid turned “kingpin” but at this stage of his life, he should be more sure of himself and confident in his abilities. And I am not saying that he isn’t confident but his bizarre tone just seems out of whack for what the character needs to be. The Kingpin is not some emo child in a fat suit, he is an exacting, ruthless and very motivated evil genius that isn’t intimidated by anything. Maybe that makes him one dimensional but I’d rather have a caricature of pure evil than what we have with this character on the show. Besides, the comic book version of Kingpin has been fleshed out so well over the years that there is a lot to work with without some new and unnecessary spin on the character.

Daredevil is fantastic though. It is worth your time and as an avid reader of Daredevil in the comics, I think that this show truly hits the mark. It can be improved upon but it is a step above everything else Marvel has done thus far.