Category Archives: The Too Late Reviews

Things reviewed way too late.

Silverado (1985)

Nostalgic, classy western that hold its own after more than three decades.

Rating: ★★★★☆

This review was written 35 years too late

JOHN Cleese as the sheriff is just one of the pleasures in a terrific western that was made at time when the genre was on its last (four) legs.

Westerns in the 1980s were virtually dead. Compare this list of 80s westerns to the 1960s list and the gulf in quality is clear. Only Eastwood’s “Pale Rider” offers any real quality. And maybe “Young Guns” at a push. So “Silverado” came along mid-decade and reminded everyone just how good the West was — and could be.

Scott Glenn is Emmett, a just-released con who finds himself at the centre of an assassination attempt. After taking care of business in proper western style, Emmett heads for Silverado to meet his brother, played with energy by a youthful Kevin Costner.

Along the way he picks up various strays: Kevin Kline’s enigmatic and amused Paden, Danny Glover as Mal, the dead-shot gunman (Glover looks enormous here. I remember a small, hobbling fellow in “Lethal Weapon”. You wouldn’t mess with Mal in this movie).

Once assembled, they drift through connected adventures leading up to a welcome final showdown against vile rancher Ethan McKendrick

Have you clocked that cast list yet, by the way? And I haven’t even got to Brian Dennehy as the smiling but dodgy Sheriff Cobb. Or Rosanna Arquette, sadly underused in a slightly off-kilter romantic sub-plot. Plus John Cleese. Plus Jeff Goldblum! Even Jeff Fahey, scowling and evil-eyeing it all the way through.

Everyone combines in a mostly tight, classic western story, beautifully shot, that completely holds its thrall over the years.

Quick-draw quality.


The Ritual (2017)

Culty goings-on in Sweden in a not too bad Brit horror

Rating: ★★★☆☆

This review was written 2 years too late

CUDDLY Sweden. Home to Ikea, Volvo and giant goaty-type creatures fond of disembowelment.

Four chaps, mourning the death of an old friend, remember his last wishes by hiking through a remote Swedish landscape. One of them gets knee-knack so they opt for a short cut to civilisation through a scary forest – this film’s equivalent to going down into the basement.

There you go. There’s your set-up. Cue mostly at-night nastiness as the lads get spooked and attacked – mentally and physically – as they try to make it to the other side of the forest.

It’s not a slash-fest though but has a fair amount of antler-styled gore and eviseration. Enjoy the head-fuckery as the gang endure a rough night in a dodgy-looking shack with weirdo effigies. Laugh at the pallid cult-types who seem a salvation but of course are not.

No one of note fills the cast, bar Timothy Spall’s son Rafe and Patrick Troughton’s grandson Sam (they’ll both thank me for referencing them thus) but all involved handle the fun well enough.

All familiar stuff – these films are a bit of a ritual these days (sorry) – I’m sure you’d agree, but pretty well done all the same and worth a look if you like a bit of nastiness.


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.



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.


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.


Space Station 76 (2014)

Well done SF retro comedy-drama that will appeal to genre and non-genre fans.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

This review was written 2 years too lateSpace-Station-76-2014-movie-poster

WHILE the 76 of the title may be an identifier for the titlular ship, it also plays a dual role in locating this pleasant science fiction smirker in a mid-70s environment, or, at least, how mid-70s cinema and TV saw space stations. We have lots of analogue buttons, clunky thick video tapes sat alongside palm-print recognition and futuristic post-Earth tech.

Space Station 76” delivers a few “Airplane!“-style gags early on (cigarette lighter on the flight deck’s dashboard) but quickly drifts into an okay relationship drama between the various fucked-up crew members. You can find closet homosexuals, breaking marriages, and infidelities a-plenty on board, all heard by the the robotic shrink who actually provides the best comedic moments of the entire film as the crew members consult him/her/it and receive a torrent of psycho-babble platitudes or valium prescriptions in return.

Anyone expecting gag-a-second laughs won’t find them here. “Space Station 76” is no “Galaxy Quest” but is not an inferior film because of it. A “Space 1999” influenced production design has enough nods to old school SF (“Silent Running“, “2001“) that is cleverly utilised to present an authentic SF experience on a limited budget, referencing the film’s stage origins. It looks really good, a kind of “Boogie Nights” in space without the porn or Scorsese.

Space – 70s style

Space – 70s style

Cast-wise, Patrick Wilson continues delivering exceptional performances (qv Fargo, season 2“) and Liv Tyler plays the innocent newcomer well enough, while child actor Kylie Rogers is great as neglected space-born kid Sunshine whose parents are oblivious to her as they seek their own needs.

Not a lot happens in “Space Station 76”, and not a lot needs to happen. It’s a relationship comedy-drama that happens to be set in a SF world based on 1970s entertainment. It won’t bowl you over, but there are enough laughs, sadness and smirks to make this a useful spend of 90 or so minutes of your time.



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.


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.


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.



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.



Escape from Tomorrow (2013)

The trippiest place on earth.

Rating: ★★★★★


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?


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.


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.


Time to take out the trash…

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




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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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