Showing posts with label blu ray review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blu ray review. Show all posts

31 March 2015

Blu-ray Review - Rosselini: The War Trilogy

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Genre:
War, Drama
Distributor:
BFI
BD Release Date:
6th April 2015
Rating:15
Director:
Roberto Rossellini
Cast:
Anna Magnani, Federico Fellini, Aldo Fabrizi, Carmela Sazio, Gar Moore, Edmund Moeschke, Ernst Pittschau, Ingetraud Hinze
Buy: Rossellini: The War Trilogy - [Blu-ray]

Wes Anderson once said, “There are only two kinds of filmmakers, Rossellini's and Fellinis"  and Wes is certainly of the Fellini kind. Rossellini is most associated with the Italian neorealism of the 40s and 50s (Fellini made a few but he had a different calling) which incorporated humanist stories about working class people for the most part. BFI has compiled a new Blu-Ray boxset of his most celebrated War Trilogy that consists of Rome, Open City, Paisan, and Germany Year Zero and also thrown in is L’Amour.

Rome, Open City was not the first neorealist film but was certainly the first one to be widely seen across the globe. It was made directly after the liberation of Rome from the fascists and it’s a startling achievement. The whole film is a snapshot of the struggles the resistance against the Nazis faced, in the horrid conditions they lived in. Fellini, along with Sergio Amidei, wrote the script and they declared the film to be “the history of the Roman people under Nazi occupation”. Originally Rossellini wanted to make a documentary but Fellini convinced him otherwise.

It still packs a punch 70 years later; it’s brutal at times. The interrogation scenes in the last 20 minutes are insanely grim at moments. The film has an extremely cynical take on everything, which considering everything that transpired before they made it, is understandable - the film ends with an execution after all. The film is a bitter and angry piece of political cinema, which really needs to be seen even if it’s simplistic, because the Italians are portrayed as “the good guys” and the Germans as “the bad guys”, and we know they were really allies. It also won the most prestigious award in film, The Palme D’Or.

The weakest of the 3 films in the War Trilogy is by far Paisan. It’s an anthology film of 6 individual stories about the war and I’ve never been a fan of anthology films or short films in general, with obviously some exceptions. All of the stories are around 20 minutes long (the film is a little over 2 hours) and none of them really have the time to truly develop their characters, so you quickly lose interest with some of the stories. It’s still a good film and is considered by many as Rossellini’s crowning achievement, but it simply didn’t work for me at times.

Germany Year Zero, for my money, is the masterpiece of the three (even though Rome, Open City comes very close) and sadly seems to be neglected in favourite of the other two films. One of my favourite sub-genres are films about childhood during wartime, and this fits perfectly into that. Unlike the other two films, it’s set in a post-war Germany and it’s about a 13 year old boy, Edmund Kohler, who has to try to make ends meet doing small jobs to help his family survive.

When Germany Year Zero came out critics in Italy and Germany despised the film, it used studios and near-projection which in the so-called rules of neorealism was sacrilege. It’s pessimistic to it’s core, the Germany Rossellini portrays is devastatingly damaged, corruption runs rampant. Edmund gets involved with former schoolteacher Herr Henning, and it’s implied he is a paedophile and still a local Nazi who is only letting him sell stuff to help his family for sexual favours. The French critic Andre Bazin also disliked the film, but Charles Chaplin (a man often misunderstood in his time) called it "the most beautiful Italian film".

It is one of the finest films I’ve ever seen on the loss of innocence, it’s up there with such masterpieces as Come and See and Empire of the Sun. It has one of the most shocking endings of any film and paves the way for the French New Wave and especially Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. It still seems to be a divisive film for fans of Italian neorealism, but along with Bicycle Thieves is the best to come out of the movement.

The final film included is not a war film but a film he made at the same time as Germany Year Zero called L’Amour. It’s an anthology film that consists of 2 short films around 40 minutes each. The first one is a one-act play by Jean Cocteau, which is about a woman trying to salvage a relationship over the phone. It’s extremely claustrophobic and stagey, but has a powerhouse performance by Rossellini’s frequent muse and lover Anna Magnani who also appears in the other segment.

The second segment takes a more allegorical turn. The young Federico Fellini makes a rare appearance in front of screen as Saint Joseph who impregnates a crazy peasant (Anna Magnani) who he believes to be the Virgin Mary. It’s a fascinating short at the time and was condemned by “The National Legion of Decency” as being Anti-Catholic but it’s anything but.

BFI has compiled a package that is very impressive, as you would expect from them. Germany Year Zero is a total masterpiece and really needs to be seen to be believed, and despite some reservations, the other films are very good as well. The discs include a documentary on Rome, Open City and a visual essay on the trilogy by Tag Gallagher. The boxset includes a booklet with essays by Jonathan Rosenbaum, Gallagher and more.


Rome, Open City★★★★1/2
Paisan ★★★1/2
Germany Year Zero ★★★★★
L'Amore ★★★1/2


Ian Schultz

30 March 2015

Blu-ray Review - Darling (1965)

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Genre:
Satire
Distributor:
Studiocanal;
BD Release Date:
30th March 2015
Rating:15
Director:
John Schlesinger
Cast:
Julie Christie, Dirk Bogarde, Laurence Harvey, Roland Curram, Alex Scott
Buy: Darling - [Blu-ray]

Darling stars Julie Christie at the height of her fame during the 1960s. John Schlesinger, who would go on to make other classic films later like Midnight Cowboy and Marathon Man, directed it. It’s a terribly dated, but fascinating slice of the swinging 60s.

Christie plays the model/actress Diane Scott in the midst of the changing values of the swinging 60s. She is married to an immature yet perfectly decent bloke, but she meets a literary interview/TV personality Robert Gold (Dirk Bogarde) and they start an affair. Both of their respective marriages end and they end up getting married. Scott however isn’t faithful to her husband and screws the advertising executive Myles Brand (Laurence Harvey) so she can get a part in a euro trash thriller. The rest of the film is basically the inner conflicts she has with herself, and the relationships she has with both men and eventually a third while she rises in her fame. Near the end of the film she is hounded by a paparazzi.

Julie Christie of course looks great in the film; one of the film’s Oscars was for best costume design. Bogarde who as everyone knows was a tormented man (he was gay) gives a performance of world-weariness and dissatisfaction with his middle class life and brings some much-needed darkness. Laurence Harvey however is the standout as Gold, he is a amoral and corrupt to the core, he is so twisted and evil it reminds me of the Bill Hicks routine where he tell anyone in advertising to “kill yourself, it’s the only way to save your fucking soul”.

The film attempts to be a satire on the emptiness of the rich white middle class lifestyle. The film has an extremely unsubtle opening where a poster of Diane covers a charity poster of poverty stricken kids in Africa. However the satire never really works, there is a scene where they are upper class ball/dinner and black kids are dressed up in servants’ costumes. It’s obviously supposed to show up the hosts as racist bigots but it just left a bad taste in my mouth.

The film does look best as a dark cynical slice of British New Wave cinema. It is taking it’s cues from Truffaut, Godard and most overtly Antonioni. The 3 leads are outstanding in this forward thinking film. At the time it was a daring film that touched on abortion, homosexuality, infidelity, the changing sexual roles in society etc. The hipness of the film is too knowing for it’s own good, and the lack of knowledge of popular music is strange, there is like one pop song in the whole film despite the mention of Diane’s large record collection early on. It’s certainly doesn’t nail the zeitgeist as much as the later Blow-Up, or even Schlesinger’s game changer Midnight Cowboy, but it’s a solid film.

★★★★
Ian Schultz

23 March 2015

Blu-ray Review - Man of the West (1958)

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Genre:
Western
Distributor:
Eureka Entertainment
Release Date:
23rd March 2015 (UK)
Rating: 12
Director:
Anthony Mann
Cast:
Gary Cooper, Lee J. Cobb, Julie London
Buy: Man of the West - [Blu-ray]

Anthony Mann is considered by many to be one of the masters of American Cinema to come out of the studio age. He was one of those old time directors who had a crack at pretty much every genre under the sun, but he is best known for his historical epics and most famously his westerns. Man of the West was the second to last western he would direct, and it’s often cited as his finest along with the earlier The Furies.

Man of the West is one of the most startling westerns I’ve seen from the “classic” era of the genre. Around this time (1958) around 20% of films made were westerns -this was before the revisionist westerns of the 60s and onwards. Gary Cooper plays former outlaw Link Jones who has saved some money to help a schoolteacher, but the train he was on gets held up by outlaws. He is stuck with two others passengers and ends up finding his old uncle Dock Tobin (Lee J. Cobb), who he lost contact with after he attempted to go straight, and just happens to be leading the gang of outlaws who hold up the train.

Gary Cooper was as dignified an actor as you can get, he perfectly captures the conflict the role requires. Cooper also has the right level of darkness needed for the film’s sense of dread that runs through it, until the film’s final shootout, which is darker than almost any western of the classic era. Lee J. Cobb’s performance is the kind you sometimes find in westerns where you can almost just smell the liquor on them. The lounge singer Julie London also appears and for a kick check out her version of The Doors’ Light My Fire, you won’t be disappointed.

The late 50s were a period where studio films were becoming darker because of a more sophisticated audience and the initial advent of foreign language films. Man of the West came out in 1958 the same year as two of the darkest film noirs of the era, Vertigo and Touch of Evil. Film noir and the western are two of the most closely linked genres due to their similar themes of violence, masculinity etc. and that’s sometimes forgotten. Man of the West and the earlier Gary Cooper film High Noon are both films influenced by what was happening in film noir, so they have a darker bent to the proceedings. It’s also no surprise Mann, in between his famous westerns, also directed a handful of noirs as well.

Masters of Cinema's release includes a new HD transfer which looks gorgeous in all its Technicolour glory. The two features on the disc are a commentary by Glenn Kenny and Farran Nehme, and a video interview with Douglas Pye. This is finished with a booklet that includes writing by Jean-Luc Godard who was enamoured with the film saying “I have seen nothing so completely new since — why not? — Griffith… With Anthony Mann, one rediscovers the western, as one discovers arithmetic in an elementary maths class. Which is to say that Man of the West is the most intelligent of films, and at the same time the most simple.” Which is very high praise indeed.


★★★★
Ian Schultz

Blu-ray Review - Network (1976)

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Genre:
Drama, Satire
Distributor:
Arrow Academy
Release Date:
23rd March 2015 (UK)
Rating: 15
Director:
Sidney Lumet
Cast:
Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Beatrice Straight, Robert Duvall
Buy: Network - [Blu-ray]

Sidney Lumet is the link between old Hollywood and New Hollywood. He got his start doing live television like his contemporary John Frankenheimer. He made a splash in the late 50s with his debut film 12 Angry Men, and throughout the 60s made gems like The Pawnbroker, The Fugitive Kind, and The Hill. He is best known however, for a handful of extraordinary films he made in the 1970s, with films like the experimental police drama The Offence with Sean Connery, the taboo busting Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, and finally the prophetic Network, which with each passing year becomes more relevant.

Network is a satire about cynical television executives who exploit a mentally unstable man Howard Beale (Peter Finch) to get higher ratings, after he states he will commit suicide on air and the ratings raise considerably. The crazed conspiracy right-wing nut job Glenn Beck recently admitted live on air that he suffered from a neurological illness that “made him look crazy”. The right-wing grassroots US movement The Tea Party incorporated the famous "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more!" speech by Howard Beale which is funny considering the film’s cynical leftist message is as far away from their beliefs as it can get.

Despite being a film that predicted aspects of reality television, 24-hour news and the Glenn Becks of the world; Network was actually inspired by the story of Christine Chubbuck who committed suicide live on-air. This put a seed in the mind of writer Paddy Chayefsky who wrote the screenplay (he won the Oscar for the script), and is considered one of the finest writers of his generation, both on film and on stage, however, sadly he died of cancer at a young age.

Sometimes Network is considered to be a writer’s film more so than a director’s film, which I find completely unfair to Sidney Lumet’s work. Lumet always put performance and story above everything else but in Network it’s one of his most visually inventive films, especially during the film’s last half - the “explosive” final. The performances as expected from Lumet are all brilliant. The actors completely inhabit their characters so it’s no wonder Finch won the first posthumous Oscar and Faye Dunaway and Beatrice Straight also collected Oscars for their performances as well. It’s often reported that Tim Robbins is an assassin in the film but the guy just bares an uncanny resemblance, it’s not Robbins he was still a senior in high school during the shoot.

In a decade that in retrospective is now considered by many to be the second Golden age of Hollywood, Network stills remains a high water mark. It’s shocking to think Rocky beat it for Best Picture but Americans always love a sentimental underdog story after all. Network was in good company - Taxi Driver and All the President’s Men also lost, and all stand the test of time more so than the winner.

The package from Arrow, I have to admit, falls below their normal average when it comes to special features. It has two lengthy, but overall disappointing special features; the first one is Sidney Lumet episode of The Directors series, I’m not a fan of the series because I consider them little more than puff pieces. The other, meatier, feature is a visual essay by Dave Itzkoff, the author of Mad as Hell: The Making of Network, that is more insightful and the better of two features. It’s shame due to rights issues it couldn’t use the impressive features on the US WB disc which includes a feature length documentary along with other documentaries.

★★★★★
Ian Schultz

18 March 2015

Blu-ray Review - Rollerball (1975)

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Genre:
Drama
Distributor:
Arrow Films
Release Date:
23rd March 2015 (UK)
Rating: 15
Director:
Norman Jewison
Cast:
James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams, John Beck, Moses Gunn
Buy: Rollerball - [Blu-ray]

Rollerball falls smack into the middle of the 1970s. It’s remained one of the most revered, dystopian science fictions to come out in that decade. Over the passing years it seems to become increasingly prophetic, with it’s tale of corporate control run amok in a not so distant future, even though 40 years later, the future just looks like the film’s release year, 1975.

The film’s concept comes from the short story The Rollerball Murders by William Harrison, that first appeared in an issue of Esquire. He would eventually be hired to write the film’s screenplay. In Rollerball, violence has been eradicated from society and in it’s place corporations are running everything. In order to satisfy humanity’s urge for violence, the corporations have designed a game that is a mixture of roller derby and the gladiator games of Ancient Rome.

James Caan, hot off the heels of the enormous success of his role in The Godfather, plays the game’s star player, Jonathan E. The corporate executives however, want him to retire due to their desire to not have individuality on show. Caan has done some very momentous work through the ‘70s, which culminates, in many peoples’ eyes, in his most striking performance in Thief in 1981. Despite saying once in an interview that he "couldn't do much with the character" in regards to his character in Rollerball, he does embody the conflicted Jonathan E with characteristic virtuosity.

One of the film’s many intriguing aspects is the choice of Norman Jewison as director of the film. He is mostly well known for In the Heat of the Night, which is one of the few winners of the Best Film Oscar that still packs a punch. The other films he is mostly widely known for are as far field from the dystopian mayhem of Rollerball as you can get - they are the extremely early ‘70s musicals Fiddler on the Roof and Jesus Christ Superstar. However, despite the difference in story, his work in the musicals has gave him a discipline over the dazzlingly shot scenes of the Rollerball game.

The film is not devoid of flaws; the largest problem it faces is a poor pacing that should have been tightened in the editing room. The film runs at 125 minutes but it lacks the focused editing of Jewison’s previous editor Hal Ashby, who had already started making the many tremendous films he directed throughout the 1970s. Jewison relied on Anthony Gibbs who was a British editor who edited many of the early British “New Wave” films. In these films, Gibbs did some pioneering work in the editing room, and was inspired by the cut-up method created by writers William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin for Nicolas Roeg on Performance and Walkabout. He takes a much more traditional route here and it suffers as a result.

It might not quite have the political gravitas of something like Richard Fleischer's Soylent Green, which holds up better than any other dystopian films that came out in ‘70s such as, The Omega Man or Logan’s Run (though I happen to enjoy both of those films very much). Rollerball has a powerful message on corporate greed and enough genre thrills to satisfy both the action-genre needs of some viewers, and the more intellectual needs of other viewers.

The new blu-ray is the most definitive package available in either the US or UK at the moment, and I don’t see that altering in the future. Commentary tracks by both Jewison and the writer, William Harrison are included. Arrow not only commissioned a newly filmed interview with James Caan, who reflects with fond memories on the film’s production, but also made a new featurette following some of the crew revisiting the film’s locations in Germany. Rollerball was one of, if not the first film to properly credit it’s stunt team which is reflected in the interview with the stuntman Craig B. Baxley. There is also an old documentary on the film, which was included in the old MGM Special Edition release, along with a vintage making of that was made at the time. This is all rounded off by trailers, TV spots, and a booklet with new writing on the film.

★★★★
Ian Schultz

26 January 2015

Blu-ray Review - Bad Timing (1980)

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Genre:
Psychological Drama
Distributor:
Network
Release Date:
26th January 2015
Rating: 18
Director:
Nicolas Roeg
Cast: Art Garfunkel, Theresa Russell, Harvey Keitel
Buy: Blu-ray - Bad Timing

Bad Timing is a film that marks the end of an extraordinary run of films by director Nicolas Roeg. He made his name being a cinematographer in the 1960s but through a series of films such as Performance, Walkabout, Don’t Look Now, and The Man Who Fell to Earth he became quite arguably the finest British director of the 1970s. The 1980s would become an extremely difficult time for Roeg, but Bad Timing is there among his best.

Art Garfunkel plays the extremely creepy psychoanalyst (but is there really a different kind?) Alex Linden, who is having a very complicated but passion love affair with Milena Flaherty (Theresa Russell) in Vienna. Milena has overdosed in an apparent suicide attempt and a local detective is trying to piece together what happened. The audience also tries to piece it together, as they discover the relationship between Alex and Milena though non-linear flashbacks. Alex is a suspect in some form of foul play and he is forced to come to terms with his motives.

The casting of Art Garfunkel is fascinating; Roeg is a master of getting strong performances out of musicians like David Bowie and Mick Jagger. Garfunkel certainly has an air of a creepy intellectual, which was what Roeg wanted - he was his first and only choice for the role. He also has a strange off-kilter smugness that is reminiscent of Jesse Eisenberg. Garfunkel only did a handful of films and it’s a shame cause he certainly had some ability as an actor.

This was the first major role of Theresa Russell and she brings a rare intensity to her portrayal of the troubled Milena. She would marry and divorce Nicolas Roeg and star in much of his work from Bad Timing onwards. Harvey Keitel also co-stars as the inspector on the case, and despite not even attempting to do an Austrian accent, it is strong early role of his that is not from a Martin Scorsese film.

Overall, Bad Timing is a fascinating, fractured psychosexual thriller which two strong leads. The cinematography by Anthony Richmond is quite gorgeous, it’s a shame he shoots terrible comedies now. The film was extremely controversial on release, with some branding it’s sexual content ‘tasteless’, however it has become a minor classic in the rich career of Nicolas Roeg. The disc contains an interview with Jeremy Thomas, one of the few film producers who continuously takes risks, along with the trailers and deleted scenes.

★★★★
Ian Schultz

24 October 2013

Red River (1948) Masters Of Cinema Blu-Ray Review

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Rating:
PG
Release Date:
28th October 2013 (UK)
Distributor:
Eureka! Video
Director:
Howard Hawks
Cast:
Montgomery Clift, John Wayne, Joanne Dru,
buy:Blu-ray

Red River is one of the finest classic Hollywood westerns ever made. The jack of all genres Howard Hawks, who also directed the great western Rio Bravo, directs it. John Wayne starred in both; he probably gives his finest performance in Red River.

The film unlike many pre-60s westerns doesn’t have the racial stereotypes that populate the film of let’s say John Ford. That’s not a dig at John Ford who was a mighty fine director in his own right but Hawks was a much more sophisticated director when it came to his subject matter. Orson Welles once perfectly described the different between Hawks and Ford “Hawks is great prose; Ford is poetry". Ford’s films were more about the poetry and mythology of the west while Hawks’ films were based on the true west.

Red River is based on a news article about the first cattle drive from Texas to Kansas along the Chisholm Trail. It’s set after the end of the American civil war and the South is too poor after loosing the war. Thomas Dunson must lead a group of men including his adopted son Matthew Garth (Montgomery Clift) to move his massive herd of cattle to Missouri.

Dunson is determined to get to Missouri but he is told by many people on the way that the railroad has reach Abilene, Kansas. He instantly dismisses these claims because none of the people have actually seen the railroad. He becomes increasingly merciless in his control over the men and naturally a rebellion starts to grow.

The film is expertly told by Hawks with book passages to fill you in, it moves a very solid pace though out. Hawks after all directed one of the fastest moving films ever made His Girl Friday. The cinematography by Russell B. Harlan is outstanding with stunning point of view shots from inside the carriages. The only real flaw in photography is some of the rear projection is bit dodgy at times; it was clearly shot as pick-up after the location shootss. Harlan also shot To Kill a Mockingbird later in his career along with many films for Hawks like The Thing.

John Wayne’s performance is widely considered one of his finest if not his finest. He was never known for his great acting ability but he gives a fascinating psychological portrayal of a tyrant. The only other performance he gave that comes close would be The Searchers. Red River was only Montgomery Clift’s 2nd film role and was the one that really made him a star and it’s a great performance. Walter Brennan is great as usual; he is really the quintessential character actor of the first half of the 20th century he was literally in everything from Bride of Frankenstein, Swamp Water, Meet John Doe, To Have and Have Not and countless westerns.

The film has some hilarious gay subtext to a modern audience. It’s widely known now that Montgomery Clift was bisexual. The scene that makes the gay subtext very overt is when Cherry Valance (John Ireland) appears and is clearly eying up Matt and they have an exchange involving such lines as “Can I see your gun?” and “Would you like to see mine?” Dunson and Matt’s relationship is also rather suspect especially with the line at the end after a fight between the 2 a woman says “Everybody can see you love each other” There is also barely any women in the film and even they appear and the love interest is basically there just to verbalise the tension between Dunson and Matt.

Red River is possibly the finest western of the Golden age of Hollywood with great performance, expert storytelling, fantastic cinematography and priceless gay subtext. Masters of Cinema has done a very fine Blu-ray release even though a few more bonus features would have been nice.

★★★★★

Ian Schultz

23 October 2013

Tobe Hooper Double Bill - Lifeforce & Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 Blu-Ray Reviews

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Rating:
18
Release Date:
14th October 2013
Director:
Tobe Hopper
Cast:
Steve Railsback, Mathilda May, Peter Firth
Buy Lifeforce: Blu-ray



Rating:
18
Release Date:
11th November 2013
Director:
Tobe Hooper
Cast:
Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Jim Siedow
Buy Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: Blu-ray


The great Arrow Video has re-released two mid 80s Tobe Hopper films, both were part of his 3 picture deal with Cannon films. The films in question are Lifeforce and the unthinkable sequel to his masterpiece The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He got the deal after the massive success of the overrated Poltergeist, which we all know Steven Spielberg really directed anyway.

Noted British occult, sci-fi and crime writer Colin Wilson novel The Space Vampires is the basis for Lifeforce. When he saw the finished film he famously called up John Fowles who cited his the adaptation of his book The Magus as the worst film adaptation ever, he told him there was a new one Lifeforce. I have never read Wilson’s source novel so I can’t comment if that’s the case.

Anyhow the film is a pretty naff bit of horror sci-fi, it was suppose to be a big budget franchise starter but it bombed quite badly. It’s about a group of astronauts who discover some space vampires in this spaceship hidden in the corona of Hailey’s Comet. Everything goes to shit and a rescue mission is launched and the 3 bodies they found in the spaceship but they look human.

They start to operate on them but they are actually still alive. Despite everything going to shit and the rest of the crew dying, one escape pod gets back to earth (it all seems to be a matter of days) with Colonel Tom Carlson. The Colonel is flown to London (which seems to be only a matter of hours) and warms them of what happened and has a psychic connection to the girl who is one of the bodies. The Space vampire girl breaks free and sucks the souls out of people for energy and England brings in Martial law. It’s called Space Vampires but they more resemble Zombies than vampires.

It’s a passable bit of sci-fi/horror fluff. It has some nice matte paintings and special effects, some terrible acting but it’s about 30 minutes too long for it’s good and is quite a chore at times to get though. The end space vamp zombie apocalypse is gleefully batshit crazy which it gets some props for that. It’s one of many misfires in Tobe Hopper’s career every since his made such a splash with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which brings us too…



The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is one of the strangest sequels ever made. It is much in tune with something like Evil Dead 2 than its almost cinema vérité style of the source material. It takes place 13 years after the events of the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It starts with almost parody voice over of the first film which gets increasing fast telling you what has happened in the 13 years. It many ways like Evil Dead 2, it’s a retread of the first film. The family having a chainsaw killing spree across Texas and it even has a redo the famous dinner scene from the original.

The film starts with Leatherface killing a bunch of yuppies on the freeway an obvious political statement. The yuppies are harassing a local female radio dj called Strech (Caroline Williams) who records their death on tape. Dennis Hopper than shows up in probably one of his most unhinged performances ever and this is a guy who made a career out of them. He is Lieutenant Boude "Lefty" Enright who is the uncle of Sally and her brother (the guy in the wheelchair) from the original film. The police have been incompetent in bringing the Sawyer family so he is on a mission to find the killers of his niece and nephew.

Strech plays the tape on air so the police are forced to listen to it but the Sawyers hear it and Leatherface and his acid casualty Nam’ veteran Chop Top comes to kill her at the radio station. The film becomes a total bloodbath from this point onwards. She survives and teams up Lefty to finish the Sawyer family for once and for all. Lefty brings a lot of chainsaws.

The film is fascinating mess of a film in the best possible way. It’s a deliberately surreal film from the get-go, which is as different as you can from the original. This may be one of the many reasons why the film was probably panned when it first came out. It has a great 80s aesthetic, which is partly inspired by his previous film The Funhouse, The Sawyers live a disused theme pack out in the desert. It’s all day-glow and obvious a good chunk of the budget when on the almost German expressionist esq. design of their underground home.

TCM2 is a deciding more political film as well even though the original is very much a post-Nam/Watergate film as much as any other 70s film. It is damning on everything from the treatment of veterans, 80s greed, consumerism and so on. In an interview with Tobe Hooper says he considers it one of the finest political films of the 80s and the guy has a point. Horror a genre not known for being particularly political if not somewhat dodgy politically it’s refreshing for a film of this kind to be so political. The award winning human chilli scene definitely brings back memories of Soylent Green.

Dennis Hopper is so insanely unhinged it’s almost mindblowing he was directed if at all. It’s also worth noting this was after he got “sober” he seems to have had a cocktail of blow and Frank Booth’s helium. It’s kind of a glorious bit of over acting to other side and then some. This was after all the same year as Blue Velvet.

It’s misfires often with it’s zany but extremely black humour. It often does Felliniesq retrends of scenes from the original film but it has a certain bizarre 80s charm that make it worth while and it’s only like 90 minutes. It’s probably his best film since the original film as well.

Both discs include loads of bonus material including feature length docs on Lifeforce and TCM2, numerous interviews, 2 different cuts of Lifeforce (theatrical and director’s), commentaries. TCM2 also includes early films made by Hooper including a rare bland comedic short and feature length film on hippies. I recommend TCM2 but if you’re a fan of Lifeforce you will be overjoyed with it’s blu-ray.

Ian Schultz


Lifeforce


★★½☆☆



Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2


★★★½

29 October 2012

The Hunter Blu-Ray Review

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When it comes to films starring Willem Dafoe his performances are nothing more but mesmeric, outstanding even when the film he stars in is truly awful. The actor is one of films great gems who delivers wonderful performances that are deserving of awards but the true professional he is he doesn't complain just gets on with the job. Past 20 years or so Willem Dafoe has been making big noises in arthouse / world cinema and his latest film The Hunter the actor excels once again as a hired hand to find one of the world's rarest commodities whilst battling his own morality.

The Hunter is based on a novel by Julia Leigh that tells the story of Martin(Willem Dafoe) a mercenary sent from Europe to Australia by mysterious Biotech company.Martin heads to Tasmanian wilderness to embark on a dramatic hunt for the so called last Tasmanian Tiger despite the creature been reported extinct since 1982. As he searches the elusive creature he discovers the mysteries hidden within the wild landscape, triggering long forgotten emotions, but can a human who has led an immoral life find connection and redemption too?

What really grabs your attention in The Hunter is the central performance of Willem Dafoe. As I mentioned earlier in the review the actor rarely disappoints, he also rarely gets a chance to a lead a film and when he gets he grabs the bull by the horns delivering something truly fantastic. Martin is a charismatic emotionless man but when he's on his own especially in the wilderness he's in his element becoming part of the land, a predator, animalistic with frightening tenacity. When there's no dialogue you really do get drawn into something rather haunting,atmospheric gving you a chance to appreciate the surroundings he's in as well as his predatory skills.

We have to also give a mention to Morgana Davies and Finn Woodlock who play the children at the farm Martin stays at, they deliver a performance so naturalistic as they are given a chance to be..children. They bring out the parental side of Martin as they adopt him as a father figure with their own father lost in the wilderness, this makes Martin feel awkward. Even the children's mother Lucy (Frances O'Connor) whose in a depressive state drugged up, constantly sleeping greets Martin's presence within her home she embraces him when he sorts out the power and when he becomes more comfortable it then his morality is questioned even his loneliness.

It's Films like The Hunter that make you think twice at how small the world is becoming at a frightening pace. This is a film that doesn't just question the morality but environmental issues but the allegorical message of the film is terrifying and throughout the film thanks to the smartly written script reminders of the world changing drastically are scattered throughout the film: the desrruction of the Tasmanian rain forest (like many other forests globally), job losses that impact local towns as they loose jobs, conservation groups been harassed by multi-national companies but most of all hunting a extinct creatures. The latter sort of ask you why do you hunt these 'mythical' creatures and why should we only read about these creatures in books and for the sake of the creature and it's environment maybe they should stay 'extinct'?

The Hunter is an beautifully shot film thanks to Robert Humphrey's breath taking cinematography that captivates the desolation and beauty of the wild terrain of Tasmania. The world is getting smaller and these hidden tranquil treasures are becoming as elusive tiger asking you what can you do to make sure these lands don't disappear?

The Hunter wont be a film which will appeal to everyone as it's a slow burning psychological thriller will keep you engaged until the end.It's atmospheric, beautifully shot and masterfully performed by an underrated esteemed actor in the industry today.

Paul Devine 

★★★★

Rating:15
DVD/BD Rating: 29th October 2012 (UK)
Directed By: Daniel Nettheim
Cast:Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill , Morgana Davies, Frances O'Connor
Buy The Hunter:Blu-ray / DVD
Win The Hunter on DVD here



21 October 2012

Your Sister's Sister Blu-Ray Review

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Any one who says love isn't complicated must be reading too many Mills 'n' Boon novels need to get a grip of reality. Life is complicated but is also beautiful in it's simplest form just like relationships, so introduce Lynn Shelton the director of Humpaday to the mix. Take those simple conventions of life make them complex going on farcical but most of all situations become truly believable resulting in the charming Your Sister's Sister.

Lost in emotional slump for the past year due to his brothers death Jack (Mark Duplass) takes the advice of his best friend Iris (Emily Blunt) to spend a week at her family's remote island retreat for a week of solitude and reflection. Upon arrival at the house Jack discovers some one is already there, Hannah (Rose Marie De Witt) Iris Sister who is also there for reflection with the end result the pair spending an awkward night together. The following morning the pair get an unexpected guest when Iris arrives at their front door setting off boundless revelations, complicated secrets and emotionally twisted tale of siblings and best friends, loyalty and love.

When you have a film that has improvisation or even improvisation in any form it can be a risky move. In Your Sister's Sister what we get is something that's brutally honest most of all very sincere.Everything is kept believable thanks to the characters who are likeable as well as creating a nice chemistry between the three leads which never feels forced. To highlight how natural and flowing things where Shelton captures the moment with scenes were shot in one shot which is a rarity these days.

Your Sister's Sister isn't a laugh out loud a minute film nor a romantic comedy in the same description as the Romcoms we get these days a dime a dozen. I would go as far as calling this more a sitcom as it's all in the dialogue and the rapport of the characters, also we don't get bombarded with long winding info on each character just enough to know she was with him, he is a slacker, she was with her then with him and Bob is your uncle.

Everything seems to work thanks to the performances of the cast. Mark Duplass despite the one been lumbered at times with the films 'awkward moments' handles Jack's part masterfully balancing his character's mischievous buffoonery with endless insecurities. His handling of the character probably thanks to him been one of the founders of Mumblecore sub-genre, so if Duplass is Ying Rose Marie De Witt must be Yang. As Hannah she is cheekily manipulative , homewrecker of sorts but also a fragile troubled soul too.Emily Blunt as Iris delivers a safe performance and been the bigger name of the three cast members credit goes to her as she proves she has the ability to improvise an area many other bigger names have either tried and failed miserably or don't even go near. You may also ask how come Iris and Hannah are sisters whilst one is American the other British? Don't have to Sherlock Holmes to figure it out but I won't spoil the moment as it's a funny scene but it gives the film an extra dimension. With De Witt been a late replacement for Rachel Weisz you wonder if this film would have worked with 2 British female leads?

In words of a former Colleague Your Sisters Sister is also a film that will be enjoyed 'by dudes' just as much as women.There's no fantasy fairytale scenarios just 3 normal fragile souls in need of some 'me time' but now finding themselves in a rather crowded retreat,a crowed house that leads to some farcical results. For all it's charms Your Sisters Sister does at times fell a little stretched , even flat at times but thanks to the simplicity of the plot and great performances from the cast it keeps the film interesting but most of all entertaining. The end scene may frustrate some of you but as improvisation is the name of the game here Lynn Shelton leaves this point of the film for you to improvise.

Paul Devine


★★★1/2


Rating:15 (UK)
DVD/BD Release Date: 29th October 2012
Directed By: Lynn Shelton
Cast: Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt , Rosemarie DeWitt
Buy/Pre-Order Your Sister's Sister:DVD / Blu-ray

5 August 2012

The Octagon Blu-Ray Review

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★★★☆☆


Chuck Norris can do anything: he's been a Texas Ranger, a Delta Force Major, an Expendable, a New York Cop - but now it is time to see him as a ninja warrior in the remastered edition of 1980 martial arts thriller, The Octagon.

Norris plays Scott James (often pronounced so fast it sounds like Scotch Eggs), a man plagued by nightmares of a mysterious and intense combat training routine that he and his best friend received as youths. Scott is dragged back into this former life when a terrorist organisation (known as The Octagon) lead by deadly ninjas, starts making strikes towards him and those he cares for.

The Octagon is filled with kitsch appeal - for example, for the most part of the film we are given an insight into Scott James' thoughts, which consists of a whispering Chuck Norris voice-over, whilst the star stares intently on into the distance. This hilarious/creepy/wonderful technique also helps fill in the patchy plot holes that tend to appear, whilst also furthering Chuck's persona as a ninja master. Very clever. Chuck's moustache, which we all remember and love from A Force Of One is back, alongside some cringe-worthy dialogue, which adds to the camp charm of The Octagon.

Despite this, The Octagon is a thoroughly watchable film, never becoming tiresome or dull. There may be some questionable elements in Leigh Chapman's script (see above), but it's a strong, original concept which hits a perfect balance between espionage-infused thrills and bare-bones martial arts. Eric Karson's feature does not particularly depend on special effects, but rather on the martial arts skill and precision of leading man, Norris. Like A Force Of One, Chuck's young brother, Aaron choreographs these brutal fight sequences with a sense of precision and realism. Norris once again proves to be a highly capable leading actor, excelling in the combat-heavy sequences as well more emotionally based material. Whether he is kicking hissing ninjas in the face or mourning the loss of his best friend, Chuck is a pro. Although, I'm not sure whether even Chuck could convincingly handle the voicing over of his "inner-thoughts".

Chapman's script features some entertaining, well-produced action set-pieces from Chuck taking down an entire ninja camp whilst it is in flames to the epic sword fights in The Octagon's conclusion. A particular favourite scene of mine involved a poisoned Chuck kicking a ninja into a wall of fire. In addition to these action packed spectaculars, The Octagon features well-cast supporting turns from Lee Van Cleef, Art Hindle and Karen Carlson.

Whilst it may appear slightly dated and it does feature some questionable plot devices, The Octagon is a thoroughly entertaining watch. It has been remastered to visual perfection - which exemplifies the well-crafted action sequences and impressive martial arts. Chuck proves that he is the master of the cult action film in this original and likeable combat-thriller.

Andrew McArthur

Stars: Chuck Norris, Lee Van Cleef ,Karen Carlson
Director: Eric Karson
Release: 6th August (UK)
Certificate: 15 (UK)