Tagged in: The Too Late Reviews

Twister (1996)

Windy melodrama set among among storm chasers and tornadoes.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

This review was written 21 years too late

THIS post-“Jurassic Park” SFX bongo fest must have had 90s studio execs all in a tizz when the idea was pitched. Attached to Spielberg‘s Amblin, directed by Jan de Bont hot off of “Speed“, the idea that they could toss the audience into the middle of a 300-mph twister and have them bombarded by airborne, cartwheeling trucks and confused cows, the money men gleefully opened their chequebooks.

And “Twister“, to give it a little credit, still looks pretty good considering CGI advances over the past two decades. Wind tears and powers through towns and buildings, wasting everything in its way mercilessly. You can see where the budget went, because it certainly didn’t go on the script.

Pitching estranged stormchasers Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt back into a race to launch measurement probes into a tornado, while Cary Elwes pops up as the bad guy who sold out science for money. As Paxton and Hunt, and Elwes fight to be the first to collect crucial data from inside a tornado, we watch truck convoys tearing across nowheresville America to catch up with the latest twister. There’s lots of loud music, blaring horns and whooping it up from Paxton’s team in ragtag, rusting trucks with home-brew tech. Elwes’ corporate nasties, naturally, are clad in black and drive similarly coloured, shiny 4x4s packed with the cutting-edge tracking gear. Just so you don’t get confused about who to root for,

Meanwhile, Paxton’s fiancee, tagging along for the ride (as exposition for us so we can learn all the weather-related techno-babble), begins to see her new beau’s old passion for stormchasing returning – and maybe he still loves his ex too. All this while tornadoes pop up left, right and centre to keep us from nodding off with scenes of mass destruction. Oh, such things classic films are made of.

But “Twister” is no classic. FX aside, it’s main interest these days is as career cemetery. Bill Paxton has passed on. Ditto a very young Philip Seymour Hoffmann, while the careers of Jan de Bont, Helen Hunt and Ferris Bueller pal Alan Ruck have not really gone anywhere in the intervening years.

Overblown.

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Red State (2011)

Kevin Smith skilfully changes direction with a splendid modern horror about a fanatical cult.220px-Red_State_Poster

Rating: ★★★★☆

This review was written 5 years too late

IF YOU’RE looking for Jay or Silent Bob to make one of their customary visits to a Kevin Smith film, you won’t find them here. And probably good for them, for their toilet humour and easy-living ways would not appeal to murderous preacher Pastor Abin Cooper and his cult of Christian extremists. They’d be trussed up in clingfilm and dealt with in no time for their nefarious ways.

And that’s pretty much what happens to Travis, Jared and Billy Ray, a group of teenagers who get drugged after meeting a woman they believed would bed the three of them simultaneously. Waking up in the Five Points Trinity Church of Pastor Cooper, they realise their end is nigh… As Pastor Cooper’s murderous actions draw more attention, ATF Agent Joe Keenan (an excellent John Goodman) is tasked with closing the church down in a very final way, and much against his will. It’s about then that the guns come out on all sides.

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Red State” is a modern day equivalent of “The Wicker Man”, and unlike that film’s dreadful US remake, Smith’s take on victims of extreme religious sacrifice and wacko cults is rooted in a very believable situation, and comes complete with a pleasing nihilism that is tangible today. Add the dark and dubious actions of Goodman’s government puppet masters, and Smith succeeds in blending commentary on both Church and State in an action-thriller context.

Red-State_3Smith shows he has the directorial chops to handle the action compared to his more usual dialogue-rich situation set-pieces. A visceral, visual flair in a number of scenes, especially when the captured teenagers try to escape, delivers thrillingly, and later too, with a lengthy shoot-out that never gets boring.

Michael Parks as Pastor Cooper is outstanding, while Melissa Leo is very unsettling as his devoted daughter.

A dark, nasty, and very enjoyable thriller, that eschews happy endings.

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Clerks II (2006)

Kevin Smith’s unexpectedly funny revisit to his classic slacker comedy.

Rating: ★★★★½

This review was written 10 years too late

When I first read Kevin Smith had sequelled his debut low budget masterpiece “Clerks“, I sighed in despair at what I thought was a desperate need to cash-in, then took no more notice of it.Clerks_II

Quite why I chose to return to it ten years later, then, I can’t say.

But I am glad I did.

Set 10 years, but made 12 years, after the original, Dante and Randall no longer labour at the Quick Stop convenience store (guess who burnt it down?) and now ply their customer-loathing, barely working trade at Mooby’s fast food restaurant. Dossing around outside are reformed drug peddlers Jay and Silent Bob. They’re still selling, just not using. But Dante has an escape plan – moving to Florida where his fiancee’s family will furnish him with a home and a job. Randall, of course, will be bereft without his foil. And then there’s lovely Rosario Dawson as Mooby’s manager Becky, who seems a little too close to Dante for Randall’s liking.

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Jame Gumb

Smith really pulls the film off. Dante and Randall (and Jay and Bob, in their own way) have matured sufficiently to have adult-sized problems by realising they are at a crossroads where they actually have to do something with their lives. At the same time, they retain enough of their enviable irresponsibility that makes them so appealing – arguing over Star Wars vs. The Lord of the Rings, or Randall’s non-stop misanthropy and filthy mouth. “Clerks II” doesn’t retread. It has developed.

But make no mistake. It’s no coming-of-age/adult drama.

Not by any means.

Not with the donkey-fucking.

Working hard.

Working hard.

Not with a near naked Jay doing his best cock-between-the-legs Jame Gumb dance.

Not with hilarious foul, verbal exchanges between servers and customers (spot Ben Affleck and Jason Lee cameos).

Splendid late-night stuff, you pickle-fuckers.

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Whole movie

Tower of Evil (1972)

Murder and madness in and around an abandoned lighthouse. Oh, and Robin Askwith‘s arse.

Rating: ★★★☆☆91NHdpvciZL._SL1500_

This review was written 44 years too late

Robin Askwith and a few hippyish friends sail up to the remote Snape Island somewhere off the English coast to hang out in the abandoned lighthouse, smoke dope and get laid. His bird gets bad vibes, man, about the place but, hey! It’s a silly horror film so of course they stay the night…

One massacre later, a single catatonic survivor mutters a few words that some archaeologists believe refers to lost Phoenician treasure. So they go back to the island, which is a splendid idea, I’m sure you’ll agree, especially when their boat blows up and someone smashes the radio, leaving them stranded.

Confessions of Lighthouse Lover....

Confessions of Lighthouse Lover….

Tower of Evil“, also known as “Horror on Snape Island”, “Horror of Snape Island”, and “Beyond the Fog”, is a typically early 1970s British horror film. Modestly budgeted, a flash of T&A, and dodgy dialogue are all present and correct. Robin Askwith wearing a T-shirt and jeans with butterflies embroidered on them: check. Dennis Price: check. It’s got some good gore in it, and a fair bit of atmosphere too. The effects are a bit lame, with limbs and heads clearly borrowed from the leftovers room at the London Dungeon, while a boat explosion has all the whack of an impotent firework.

All the cast are as hammy as you’d expect, but Jack Watson as the local sailor who takes the team out to Snape does a good job, reminiscent of an English Private Frazer – all doom, gloom and dire predictions. (Jack Watson, by the way, is best remembered – by me, anyway – as RSM Sandy Young in the splendid “The Wild Geese“. Watson came from a theatrical family, and his father was a music hall entertainer by the stage name of Nosmo King. Get it? Read it again. Oh, those music hall folk were funny, weren’t they, Roy Hudd?).

Very handy.

Very handy.

But it runs an enjoyable hour and a half as the mystery is slowly revealed while people are picked off one by one. There are certainly far worse horror films out there from the same era, and many more from today that are just plain dull. Fun, culty stuff.

 

Trailer

Homefront (2013)

Stath-attack in the deep South as Jason defends his little daughter from rednecks and meth-fiends.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

This review was written 2 years too latehomefront-2013-03

Like Schwarzenegger and Van Damme before him, every action film in the US with Jason Statham has to give a nod to why this foreigner is kicking-ass(arse?) for Uncle Sam. “Homefront” starts with Statham’s DEA agent Phil Broker sporting very long hair posing as biker in drug gang. He duly stops badness but, exposed as a rat, he disappears. Cue a credit sequence that shows various ID cards and documents to show that he was once with Interpol (hence the English accent in Louisiana) together with photos showing him now shaven-headed and in the guise of the Statham we love.

Hiding out in the town where his dead wife grew up, his ten-year-old daughter gets into a schoolyard scrap and, trained by daddy, puts the bully down with a few swift blows. This triggers a series of petty redneck revenge incidents that quickly escalates when James Franco‘s meth-cooking Gator discovers the truth about Stath’s past and grasses him to the biker drug gang. And there we go. No need to say more on the plot. You’ve got it, right?

Stath does Harrelson

Stath does Harrelson

It’s a weird film, “Homefront”, co-produced and screenplayed by Sylvester Stallone, no less, and it has more than a hint of being one of his cast-off projects. His old “Expendables” mucker Statham fills in neatly, while the rest of an impressive cast – the aforementioned Franco, and Kate Bosworth, and despite a miscast Winona Ryder, give the film some acting chops. Gary Fleder directs the action well enough but there are too many daddy-daughter sentimental scenes with horses, trees and sunshine to an acoustic soundtrack that make for a clumsy contrast to the violence.

In its favour, when it looks like it’s about to become a tedious, poor man’s “Straw Dogs” house siege as Statham gears up against an all out assault, it manages to shift direction that concludes with some fun Franco nuttiness. Plus it has a modest scale and bucolic setting. Against it is the fate of Statham’s black pal, Teedo. Hmm, it’s Hollywood and he’s the black sidekick. What could possibly happen? Poor.

Worth a look for Statham fans only.

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Escape from Tomorrow (2013)

The trippiest place on earth.

Rating: ★★★★★

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This review was written 2 years too late

THIS is a terrific film.

Family man Jim is on the last day of his holiday in Disney World/Land (take your pick) when his brain starts to go a little haywire.

And why wouldn’t it?

Never mind the demands of a young family and an uninterested wife, he’s surrounded by Disney madness and all-round fakery. What else could push a ready-made mid-life crisis candidate over the edge?

escape-from-tomorrow-movie

Who is Number one?

As Jim tries to make the best of a day with his kids, he gets distracted by a fantasy over a pair of young, carefree French teenagers, maybe has a midday rendezvous with middle-aged pseudo-dominatrix who might once have been a Disney princess, not to mention finding out just what is going-on inside the Epcot Centre.

Let’s not forget the children’s nurse who breaks down in tears after fixing up the knee of Sarah, Jim’s daughter who has been pushed over by the bullying son of an obese man on a mobility scooter.

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Nothing to see here. Just my zombie eyes. Carry on.

You get the idea yet?

Director Randy Moore has delivered delicious, surreal, fantastical stuff, made all the better by being rooted in the home of such scary, mind-roam madness as a theme park, especially one with mouse ears. Disney upper level staff are all there, smiling and welcoming the kids. Disney low level staff are all there, in mouse-badged overalls taking out the bodies.

Its black and white photography is a crisp and perfect razor-sharp delight, occasionally set-off with a bit of back projection but that goes beautifully in hand with the Bernard Herrmann-esque score, which is an enveloping delight.

Mostly shot, guerrilla-style on-location by a crew pretending to be holidaymakers, “Escape from Tomorrow” really is incredibly well done. It invokes Lynch’s “Eraserhead“, McGoohan’s “The Prisoner“, not to mention a fair bit of Disney itself.

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Time to take out the trash…

A tale of madness, beautiful, Mickey Mouse madness. Watch.

 

 

Trailer

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Night of the Comet (1984)

Cheerful, 80s SF zom-com – comes complete with feminist reading.NightoftheCometPoster

Rating: ★★★☆☆

This review was written 31 years too late.

NIGHT of the Comet” begins in “Day of the Triffids” territory. But whereas Wyndham’s story sees most of mankind blinded after a meteor storm, here we have the passing in the night sky of a comet over LA that turns everyone to red dust. Protected while making out in a steel-lined projection booth, Regina discovers that she, her sister and only a handful of others have survived. But something else has survived too…

Which is to say, don’t get all that excited by imagining some kind of alien invasion or zombie flick here. Just enjoy some nostalgic fun, and if the 80s aren’t nostalgic for you, at the very least take a look at how, back in the day, simple cheap movies could be made and still gross a respectable $14m on a $700,000 budget.

night-of-the-cometMost interesting about the film is putting two strong women at the heart of the story (though Robert Beltran later to star in “Star Trek: Voyager” as Chakotay gets top billing). As sisters Reggie and Sam, Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney get to spout bad dialogue, shoot guns, dance and dress up to a bad cover of “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” as well as lead the show. And they pull it off. They anchor the action, drive the story and make the film their own. It’s the men who play second fiddle here, doing nothing that a woman couldn’t do. Indeed, you could easily remove the male roles without having to change the plot in any way – there are no “get-a-man-to-do-this” scenes.

Its glorious 80s feel includes plenty of sub-John Carpenter synth, Michael Mann colour filters, and glue-on zombie masks. Supporting characters tumblr_mcl3m9oPau1qedb29o1_500look like New Wave left-overs but still get great lines (Willy in the shopping mall: “I’m not crazy! I just don’t give a fuck!”).

Watch “Night of the Comet” with “Strange Invaders” for the authentic Moviedrome experience.

 

 

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Shock Waves (1977)

Sort-of-zombie SS super soldiers rise from the ocean depths to terrorise shipwrecked holidaymakers in an enjoyable low-budget schlocker.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

This review was written 38 years too late.

ANY film that opens with black and white footage of Nazis and an ominous voiceover intoning about super soldier experiments and SS brigades that “no one knew what became of SHOCK-WAVES-1977them” is off to a flyer in my book.

Part of the micro zombie Nazi genre, “Shock Waves” is one of the earlier films to address the idea of Europe’s most hated coming back to life.

Horror veteran John Carradine skippers a barely seaworthy cruiser in the Bahamas that includes holidaymakers Brooke Adams in a bikini, a James Caan lookalike, and a few other zombie-fodder characters not worth mentioning here. A strange sunset triggers supernatural goings-on and soon their ship is crippled by a mysterious wreck, the captain’s vanished and they all row to the safety of an apparently deserted island.

We couldn't afford James Caan. Or Jared Martin.

We couldn’t afford James Caan. Or Jared Martin.

They meet Peter Cushing living alone in an abandoned hotel. He’s an old Nazi who sank the wreck after the war, burying the Nazi super soldiers it was carrying. But now, for no apparent reason, the soldiers are back. He urges the holidaymakers to escape, but do they heed his words? Do they shite.

Gore-hounds, forget about it. There’s barely a drop of blood to be seen here. The super soldiers favour drowning to biting, tearing and eating, and spend most of their time in water slowly submerging or emerging. Ayran-blond, their goggled-eyed faces ridged and weathered after decades locked in a hulk, they look like a union between Andy Warhol and David Bowie’s Thin White Duke.

But what’s lacking in claret is made up, partially, in atmosphere. A handful of shots possess a creepy, unsettling feel, and the underwater photography is rather effective.

Might as well jump

The same can’t be said for the story, cast or editing, but you can just about forgive that if you’re a B-movie aficionado.

There’s no explanation for the sudden return of these undead soldiers, and Peter Cushing’s ten minutes of exposition screen time don’t convince. He and Carradine have the only screen presence; while the cutting is clumsy, both from a continuity perspective and story as characters die but no one seems to be that upset or even aware, probably due to the poor assembly of scenes.

brooke adams in Shock Waves

You can take my butt from your cold, dead hand

Still, director Ken Wiederhorn gives his film just enough to make it watchable. Just.

 

 

 

 

 

Trailer

Push (2009)

Chris Evans demonstrates non-Captain America super powers in an X-Men variation that gets muddled in its own mess.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

This review was written 6 years too late.

It’s a world where among us normal folk are those blessed/cursed with various abilities including seeing the future, telekinesis, mind control and, er, shouting really loud. Needless to say, a shady government organisation called Division has been capturing and experimenting on these mutants to create an army and then, well, they don’t actually say what.

Hiding out in Hong Kong is Nick (Chris Evans), a low-level “mover” earning money by trying to manipulate dice games with his powers. When he meets precognitive Cassie (Dakota Fanning), he gets embroiled in a race to find a suitcase that contains a power-enhancing drug. But Nick and Cassie are not the only ones after it, as the bad guy Djimon Hounsou‘s Division want it too, while a gang of empowered Triads are also in the chase.

And a chase is all “Push” really is. The facets of different powers don’t really distinguish it, and in fact, serve to muddle it. Take Pushers, who can push thoughts and emotions into minds and control people. All this delivers to us are a series of bluffs – did it really happen or am I being tricked? – that quickly become tedious and undermine motivations. Or Watchers, who see varying degrees of accuracy in their predictions depending on what the script demands. The slightly seedy Sniffs, meanwhile, can locate a person simply by smelling something that once belonged to the target, but the dimensions of this ability are cloudy and, like Watchers, suit the plot more than anything. Sploshers I won’t even go into, while the intensely irritating Bleeders and their glass-shattering shrieks are unintentionally comic.

Too many action scenes are devoid of logic: a gunfight between two movers making pistols hover not only looks cheesy (weapons clearly on CG-removed strings) but is just plain silly. Why have the guns slowly move up on their targets, taking cover, and shooting to get closer? Me, I’d send the gun straight across the room and blow my adversary away. Job done. It’s a visual equivalent of monologuing as described in “The Incredibles“.

Evans is acceptable in the lead role. Fanning’s tween Cassie is irritating, and making the character a young adult serves no purpose. Her drinking alcohol or wandering the mean streets of Hong Kong alone late at night are pointless scenes that only serve to undermine an already stretched credibility.

Only one thing to do with this movie: Push the off button.

Trailer

 

Play Dirty (1969)

Michael Caine goes fuel-dump a-raiding with a bunch of cynical irregulars led by Nigel Davenport. Quality war adventure.

Rating: ★★★★☆

This review was written 45 years too late.

p_82592Frequently mentioned alongside Robert Aldrich’s classic “The Dirty Dozen” (1967), “Play Dirty” comfortably sits alongside the daddy of WW2-guys-on-a-mission films, albeit dragging a little in places. But it’s a film that lives up to its title, right up to the final scene as the cynical, expendable nature of war is highlighted superbly.

It’s the second world war, north Africa, and British special forces want to blow up German fuel dumps to hinder Rommel’s progress. Despite having failed numerous times, an irregular unit made up of prisoners is placed under the command of Caine’s Captain Douglas, though in reality the team actually follow the orders of Nigel Davenport’s Colonel Leech, also an ex-con.

The motley crew are, of course, the usual selection of thieves, rapists and ne’er-do-wells, all expendable, and all played by euro actors who learned how to grin and say little from watching too many spaghetti westerns. As a result, there is not much of the camaraderie found in, say, “The Dirty Dozen” as these fellas are here strictly to behave badly.

Plum roles are for Caine and Davenport, and they do a good job antagonising each other, with Davenport especially creating the cynical, moustachioed template for Robert Shaw’s Quint in “Jaws”. Caine leaves his Cockney accent behind and tries to be all proper-like and let Leech know who the boss is. One of the enjoyable things of “Play Dirty” is seeing Caine’s captain repeatedly overruled and saved by the criminal Leech.

As they plod through the desert, they witness massacres, commit their own, overcome booby traps and generally live up to the film’s title.

One-eyed director André de Toth handles things well, and scenes that are initially tedious have a neat habit of developing tension. Example: towing trucks up a rugged hill. Sending up the last truck overloaded, there is still tension to be had despite having watched the last two make it to the top successfully. (De Toth, incidentally, also directed “House of Wax” (1953) in 3D, despite not being able to see the effect himself missing a mince pie.)

Elsewhere, his experience doing 2nd unit work on “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962) clearly pays off as his deserts (actually shot in Spain), look daunting and harsh, while the explosions and carnage have an impressive sense of scale.

Co-scripted by Melvyn Bragg, but don’t let that put you off.

Watch a rather good fan-made trailer:

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