Monday, 28 November 2011

Buck Privates (1941)

Unlike their previous movie outing, One Night In The Tropics, this film features Bud Abbott and Lou Costello as the main attraction and never spends too much time away from some of their enjoyable banter and comedy routines. Our wiseguys make a big mistake this time when they evade the police and accidentally sign themselves up to the army. There's no way out but a lot of fun to be had, for viewers, as the pair find out just how much they don't fit in with the standard recruits of Uncle Sam. With versions of the "the dice game" and "the loan" and, of course, "army drill" this movie should keep fans of the duo entertained despite the weaker aspects that continually appear throughout the runtime.

Directed by Arthur Lubin and written by Arthur T. Horman, with special material for Abbott & Costello written by John Grant, Buck Privates zips along from decent comedic moment to decent comedic moment but it's hampered by three big negatives - The Andrews Sisters. I'm sorry, I know that some people love these ladies and they've never done anything to me personally, but I just can't stand their brand of jingoistic, creepily wholesome, bland attempts at razzle dazzle entertainment. Now I may have thought differently if I'd seen them performing live back in their heyday but I didn't . . . . . . . . . so I don't.

Everyone else is fine. Lee Bowman is very good as the man just expecting to kill some time in the army until his father extricates him from this terrible mix-up, Alan Curtis is fine as Bowman's ex-employee who can now tell him what he really thinks of him, Jane Frazee is bubbly and lovely as the lady who becomes the centre of attention for the rival men and Nat Pendleton is good fun as the weary Sergeant stuck with two of the worst possible recruits (Abbott & Costello).

There are a couple of decent songs here and there, one performed by Frazee and one by Costello, but most of them come from The Andrews Sisters and therefore didn't do anything for me (though even I admit that Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy is a toe-tapping and irresistible classic).

The boys still had a way to go until they would reach their cinematic peak but Buck Privates (aka Rookies) remains a solid outing thanks to the time given over to their quickfire, verbally dextrous, routines.

7/10

http://www.amazon.com/Buck-Privates-Bud-Abbott/dp/6305077959







Friday, 25 November 2011

Into The Sun (2005)

Steven Seagal stars in this movie co-written by Steven Seagal and based on a story by Steven Seagal (with Joe Halpin). It also has one Steven Seagal listed as producer and on the soundtrack you can hear the musical stylings, on occasion, of Steven Seagal. Yet, despite that overabundance of Seagal, it's actually not that bad.

The essence of the story is all about a man who can deal with the Yakuza and sort out a spiralling crime problem before everyone ends up losing. That one man is, as you may have guessed, Steven Seagal. Nobody else really matters because, as Seagal fans well know by now, everything will succeed or fail as Seagal wants it.

Directed by someone who calls himself Mink (but who was born Christopher Wingfield Morrison and who should stop trying to evade that fact with such a silly pseudonym), Into The Sun is a bit of a muddled mess but is also surprisingly entertaining throughout, mainly due to some brutal and straightforward violence that recalls the no-nonsense style that Seagal used to promote in his earliest movies.

The acting is quite bad but well above the quality of the last few Seagal movies. The main man himself does okay, Matthew Davis is enjoyable enough as an FBI agent partnered up with our gruff hero and the ever-wonderful William Atherton is as wonderful as ever. Some other people do okay, some other people are terrible - it didn't actually matter to me all that much as I watched the occasional fight sequence and the frequent arterial sprays of blood.

While not actually a great movie, this should provide some relief to Seagal fans who have continued to support the man throughout his career and received nothing but almost consistently slapdash and lazy movies since the turn of the 21st century.

5/10.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Into-Sun-DVD-Steven-Seagal/dp/B0007LYDGO/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1322262169&sr=1-1



Wednesday, 23 November 2011

One Night In The Tropics (1940)

The cinematic debut for the great double act of Abbott & Costello, One Night In The Tropics is mediocre entertainment elevated a notch or two whenever Bud and Lou are onscreen and squeezing in one of their famous routines.

The basic plot is actually as amusing as it is nonsensical. Jim Moore (Allan Jones) is in the insurance game and his company will insure everything. When his friend Steve Harper (Robert Cummings) starts to get himself flustered about things not going according to plan as he attempts to wed the woman he loves (Cynthia Merrick, played by Nancy Kelly), Jim manages to somehow sell him on the idea of an insurance policy for love. IF Steve and Cynthia don't get married when planned then Steve stands to gain a million dollars. Of course, Jim can't afford to pay out that kind of money so he goes to great lengths to keep things on track despite the efforts of a disapproving aunt (Mary Boland), another woman (Peggy Moran) in love with Steve and the unfortunate fact that Jim himself finds Cynthia pretty darned attractive. Things get farcical while Abbott & Costello stay on hand to also ensure that the wedding goes as planned. So you can probably guess how ill-fated the whole thing seems.

Based on the novel "Love Insurance" by Earl Derr Biggers, One Night In The Tropics is actually a decent enough old movie that I wouldn't mind seeing updated and remade for 21st century audiences. The central idea is a high-concept one and has potential but this film has been made as both a general comedy, with occasional musical moments, and a showcase for Abbott & Costello and it's the scenes that allow the comedy duo to show their strengths that ended up providing the most entertainment.

The screenplay, worked on by a number of folk, is okay for the material, the acting is perfectly acceptable for a 1940 film and the direction by A. Edward Sutherland does enough to put this on a par with many other lightweight movies of the time but let's make no bones about it - this movie would be forgotten and consigned to the wastebin of cinema if it didn't have some superb, slick comedy routines in there, including a version of the legendary (and rightly so) "Who's on first?" routine.


So, overall, it's no bona fide classic but because of the few scenes interspersed throughout including some absolutely wonderful A & C skits it remains well worth a watch to comedy fans.
6/10.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Abbott-Costello-Privates-Night-Tropics/dp/B000H5VDYK


Sunday, 20 November 2011

Out Of Reach (2004)

There are very few things that surprise me, in terms of just what I can tolerate inthe world of the movies. There are even fewer things that surprise me as I wind my way through the murky filmography of Steven Seagal, a prime example of a career that had a definite high point and then self-imploded to such a degree that almost every film from 2001 onwards has provided what can only be described as "that car crash sensation". You know that it's going to be horrid but you can't help having a look as you pass it by.

By 2004 I wouldn't be surprised if Seagal somehow placed himself in a movie that celebrated his presence on our planet as the second coming. He looks after the young and the vulnerable, loves animals, can always do everything ever needed in any situation and seems to be indestructible. All tension is gone as we watch a movie that serves no other purpose than massaging the ego of Steven Seagal. The guy can't even be bothered to do his own ADR at this point (an audio "nuance" that occurs in many of his 21st century outings).

So here is the plot, try not to laugh. Seagal has, somehow, befriended a young girl who lives in an orphanage. They exchange letters and wishes of wellbeing and Seagal even helps the young girl to learn numerous codes so that they can give each other secret messages. Are you getting creeped out yet? To be fair, this is all depicted as a very innocent relationship and it's clear that all Seagal wants to do is help provide some happiness to every single child in the world. This becomes a bit more difficult when his young friend is taken away from the orphanage and offered to a number of internet bidders as part of some large human trafficking ring.

The script here is by Trevor Miller and James Townsend and I certainly won't be looking for their names on any other movies I seek out. It's almost as if they just looked at the last few Seagal movies and went by a template that desperately needs broken and recast.

Director Po-Chih Leong does nothing to excite viewers. The pacing isn't too bad but there just isn't enough to care about in between the few action beats. Worst of all, a lot of the work is sloppy and doesn't show that the movie had a reasonable budget.

Do I need to mention the cast? Seagal is worse than usual and he's surrounded by a cast made up of mostly Polish performers who, I imagine, cost a lot less money than people with actual acting skills. I actually felt sorry for Matt Schulze (an actor I have enjoyed in a number of entertaining franchises including Blade, The Fast & The Furious and The Transporter) but I hope he at least managed to get a decent pay packet for some minimal effort. Because that's obviously all that Seagal was after.
3/10.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Out-Reach-DVD-Steven-Seagal/dp/B0002849I4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1321825180&sr=8-1



Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Clementine (2004)

Sad news for anyone hoping to read the weekly Seagal spot (if there's anyone insane enough to be in that situation). There's no place for the slap-happy chappy this week.

I tried and tried and tried but all to no avail - I just couldn't find Clementine anywhere at all (well, except for about £18 on Amazon and I'll be damned if I'm going to pay out that kind of cash just for a potential stinker of a film). Who would have guessed that a Seagal movie would be harder to find than some ex-video nasties? Apparently, he only appears in the thing for about 5 minutes but I'm still disappointed at missing this one out and will endeavour to get to it if/when the opportunity arises.

So, for the benefit of anyone mad enough to want some kind of Seagal fix, I present you with my very own Seagal megamix.

Steven Seagal stars in The Foreigner Is Marked Out To Deal Death To Justice.

Act 1: Seagal is leading a bunch of men who are wearing dark clothing and hold guns as if they've been trained by some of the best, and cheapest, weapons handlers in Hollywood. A building is stormed. Lots of stuntmen earn their paychecks. Seagal looks stern. He disregards some important order to save the lives of others but this just ends up leading to the explodification of the whole building with all of Seagal's men dead and a big baddie who has managed to flee.
Seagal turns to look at his unbelievably beautiful wife and lovely daughter, who have both come to stand and watch him do his stuff (it's "bring your family to work day" in his Black Ops unit, others are also crowded around and some are eating cookies). Seagal looks concerned. Two bricks that have been blown from the building land on the smiling faces of his family. And they're dead.

Act 2: (5 years later) Seagal is no longer a violent man and has, in fact, become the best children's entertainer the world has ever known. Because Seagal is the bestest ever at everything he fucking does. His clown persona, Loose Brie the cheese-loving fool, is a hit wherever he goes. But bad memories arise when Loose Brie turns up to entertain some kids and realises that the father is the baddie who fled the exploding house that accidentally on purpose killed his family. The painted smile hides growing anger. When the party is over, Seagal tries to contact his old bosses and get them to take action but they're not interested. A house was blown up, people died, they're not even allowed any more "bring your family to work" days. Move on. Seagal refuses.

Act 3: Seagal tries to get closer to the big baddie who evaded him all those years ago. Meanwhile, everyone he has ever known and worked with tries to kill him. And the same thing happens in the movie.

Act 4: Seagal helps a poor woman who then falls in love with him but he tells her that he has one last job to do before he can return to what he does best: raising smiles on the faces of children and curing cancer with the power of his chi (oh, this isn't specified but only implied, as it is in every Seagal movie). He then goes into a whirling slo-mo, choppily edited frenzy of destruction and man-slapping before facing up to the baddie who escaped at the very beginning. The baddie hides behind his youngest child. Seagal jumps up in the air and spinning roundhouse kicks the villain out of the window to land with a crunch outside, deadified. The child begins to cry and asks why he would do such a thing. Seagal replies: "your father had a face painted in lies and greed, nobody gets to clown around forever".

Seagal walks out in slow motion.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Among The Fallen (2011)

Okay, before I get to a main review here let me start with a few words about writer-director-star Jay Shatzer. I only know of Jay, and his film, now because he appeared on the IMDb Horror boards and politely informed people about his work. He wasn't pushing it down our throats, he didn't pretend to be an unconnected fan to a "new masterpiece of horror" and he didn't mind chatting to people who politely declined to view the movie. He was, in short, a very well-mannered and polite individual who had managed to create something he hoped others would like. After seeing the behaviour of some others promoting their work online (people I won't even bother to name again because they don't deserve to be mentioned) I can say that Jay's approach was a breath of fresh air.

So when he put the movie up online last week, available to view for all (I will place a link at the bottom of the review and hope some of you, at least, check it out) I was both pleased and apprehensive. What if I watched the movie and hated it? What if it was just some gore-filled, boring amateur effort that I would have to be polite about while also being relatively unkind? I didn't want to do that, I didn't want to be one guy at a keyboard criticising a fellow horror fan who'd gone out and tried to make something he thought was worthwhile. Thankfully, it didn't come to that.

I really enjoyed Among The Fallen. It's not a genre-shaking film and it's not a debut that signifies writer-director-star-editor-composer (motivational speaker and teamaker?) Jay Shatzer as the new messiah of horror cinema but it's competent and has a LOT of nicely atmospheric moments. Clocking it at 60 minutes, some may qualify it as a feature and some may not, but however you view it . . . . . . . . . . do view it.

The plot is really quite simple. Jay plays Will Ashford (according to the credits), a man who finds himself attacked by zombies. As Will slides in and out of various bewildering episodes he moves from being confused and questioning his own sanity to becoming determined and ruthlessly efficient at cutting down the undead.

Let's get this done as efficiently and professionally as possible then. The good . Jay certainly does well with his construction of the movie and he's not too bad in the lead role (though I did wish for his character to be a bit more vocal, it's practically a non-speaking part). The atmosphere is fantastic, the audio is nice and polished and I really didn't spot any major mistakes anywhere in the film (and I was looking hard). The zombies, when they appear, are actually pretty spooky and the make-up is great. Fans of the classic shambling type of zombie will also be pleased to know that there are no fast movers here. The soundtrack is also impressive with some nice, running themes that aren't overused.

The bad. It's a shame that Jay decided to keep dialogue at a minimum because the atmosphere carries you along for many portions of the movie but doesn't get you through every single minute without some testing of viewer patience. While the zombies are spooky and threatening as they are introduced (with an especially effective scene showing Will surrounded by the deceased) they seem to have less fight in them as they get closer to the main character and the tension quickly begins to fade away. There's also a ten minute period in the second half of the movie that feels like a misjudged attempt to take things a bit more in the direction of The Evil Dead (both with the actions of our hero and one or two audio cues, intentional or not) as opposed to the wonderfully spooky zombie outings created by the likes of Fulci and co. To put it simply, Jay does much better when he's trying to show his own vision than when he's trying to emulate others. Then there's the ending, which is a mix of good and bad. I'm sure many other fans will find themselves with the same reaction, it's too easy to see it coming over the horizon once the movie gets in to the second half. But it's still well executed and contains a really nice emotional core that you don't often get in such genre fare.

Even looking at those paragraphs above, I've written more about the bad than the good, I feel as if I've done Jay a disservice. The good points are, for a low-budget debut feature, very good indeed and outweigh the negatives. There is some really nice camerawork on display and a refreshing approach to the material that values tone and a certain poetry above the standard jumps and easy scares. I'm glad that I took note of Jay's name and got to see this film, I wish him the best of luck with it and look forward to anything that he gets to do in the future.
6/10.

Here is the link to the movie on YouTube. If one or two people go and watch this I'll be most appreciative. If one or two people view the film and also enjoy it I may hand out cookies.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Deathstalker IV: Match Of Titans (1991)

Well, if you're expecting anything in the fourth Deathstalker movie that hasn't been in any of the previous three movies you've clearly never viewed any low-budget b-movie franchise before. But if you're expecting more of the same then you're in the right place. The second film in the series remains the best but this one easily sits alongside the original with a mix of fights, magic and gratuitous nudity.

Rick Hill returns to the title role and the character once again finds himself in an adventure that puts him in danger while also placing him in close proximity to a princess. That's honestly all you need to know.

Howard R. Cohen returns to the writing duties but also directs this instalment and he's clearly been taking notes as this film is charmingly cheap as the three that preceded it. There's quite a bit of footage reused from the earlier movies and everything is done, as usual, with more exuberance than actual skill.

The poor editing, ridiculous plot development and unconvincing acting are all still as endearing here as they were throughout the franchise and this time round the cast helps. The return of Rick Hill actually feels like the role is nicely back in the hands of the man who started things off (even though the second movie featured the best portrayal of the character by John Terlesky) while the lovely ladies this time round include the attractive Maria Ford as Dionara, the even more attractive Michelle Moffett as the sly Kana and the also attractive Anya Pencheva as a fighting woman who cares not where her clothes fly as the violence rises. Brett Baxter Clark provides some amusement as a dedicated warrior who hasn't allowed himself to be distracted by women.

Moving along at a fair pace, and clocking in at just about 80 minutes, the film doesn't outstay it's welcome although it does already feel rather dated (considering it was released in 1991). It's nothing unmissable but it's certainly a decent last outing for the character that fans should enjoy as much as the first film.
5/10.

http://www.amazon.com/Deathstalker-4-Rick-Hill/dp/B000068MAW



Sunday, 6 November 2011

Deathstalker III: Deathstalker And The Warriors From Hell (1988)

Well, a third Deathstalker movie and a third actor in the titular role (this time it's John Allen Nelson) means that it's more of the same antics for anyone who enjoyed the first movie. While not on a par with the fantastic second outing, this movie does just enough to put itself on a level pegging with the original. Nearly.

Deathstalker this time gets himself mixed up with yet another princess (Carla Herd) and there's yet another nasty magic man (Troxartas, played by Thom Christopher) who wants a lot of power for himself. There's a magic stone to be found and pieced together, a bunch of warriors brought back from the dead, an attractive woman who dabbles in a bit of torture (the beautiful Terri Treas) and another attractive woman (Claudia Inchaurregui) who actually kinda stalks Deathstalker and keeps popping up at just the right time.

Howard R. Cohen returns to the writing duties (and would return to write AND direct the next instalment) and isn't afraid of repeating himself. Sadly, the film forgets to aim low and so doesn't really cram in enough big fight sequences or gratuitous nudity considering what audiences were given in the first two movies.

Director Alfonso Corona does reasonably well with the material and tries to keep you distracted from the details, like castle walls only being an inch thick, but he can't do too much with material that's pretty weak in the first place.

John Allen Nelson is okay in the main role, but not half as much fun as John Terlesky (who, let's face it, completely owned the role in the last movie), while nobody else makes much of an impression. Even the ladies doing their best onscreen fail to match anyone in the previous film. Carla Herd is especially bland, outshone by both Terri Treas and Claudia Inchaurregui for the entire movie. Thom Christopher is given a pretty weak villain to portray and the action in the last half hour or so feels like it's being played out by people with no interest in making it look realistic. Which is a shame.

It's still watchable though, which may say more about my tolerance levels than the film itself.
4/10.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Deathstalker-VHS-John-Allen-Nelson/dp/B00008T5T9/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1320604524&sr=8-9


Saturday, 5 November 2011

Deathstalker II (1987)

AKA Deathstalker II: Duel Of The Titans.

Well, here's a turn up for the books. I thought that Deathstalker was an okay slice of hokum so I approached the sequels with more than a pinch of pessimism - the usual pattern tends to be that the sequels go down and down in quality until you get to the very end and simply have to pray that the franchise runs out of breath before you do. I perked up slightly when I saw that the film was directed by Jim Wynorski. And, only a few minutes into the proceedings, when I heard the line "ordinarily I don't mind seeing a woman get a good beating, if she deserves it, but this doesn't look like much of a contest to me" I knew I was in for a treat.

Deathstalker II is full of action, one-liners delivered with a cocky style by John Terlesky that puts him almost up there with the mighty Bruce Campbell, gratuitous nudity from the lovely Monique Gabrielle and just a neverending supply of fun, fun, fun. The fact that this is set in olde worlde times and you can easily see both a trailer in the background and a streetlight (or film light) quite clearly just adds to the fun, reminding you that all of this entertainment was brought to you on a budget that probably barely stretched to include a decent lunch for everyone.

The plot sees Deathstalker (played this time by the aforementioned Terlesky) urged to go on a quest by Reena The Seer (Monique Gabrielle). She foretells great rewards and fame for Deathstalker and that's the kind of talk that he likes. But what she doesn't tell him is that she is actually Princess Evie, ousted from her position by Jarek The Sorcerer (John Lazar), a man who has created a doppelganger of her to hold the throne. Toni Naples plays a woman who wants Deathstalker to die at her hands while Maria Socas is the Amazon Queen who wants Deathstalker to be physically tested in more ways than one.

It's full of numerous random moments, though not quite as random as the first movie, and cheekily re-uses footage from part one but this movie is really just overflowing with enough energy and humour to make it one of the better b-movies I've seen in some time. As well as the standard swordplay we also get to enjoy some wrestling (with Dee Booher, billed here as Queen Kong, playing the formidable opponent), a scene with lots of zombies posing a threat and did I mention the gratuitous nudity from the lovely Monique Gabrielle?

John Terlesky is superb in the leading role, John Lazar is okay as the villain (though it's a shame that he stays remarkably restrained), Toni Naples and Maria Socas are both attractive and strong women and . . . . . . . . . . . . . . did I mention the gratuitous nudity from the lovely Monique Gabrielle?

The technical side isn't really up to much but Wynorski directs with his usual competence, energy and enthusiasm standing in for any major resources, and the screenplay has a lot of wit, even if most of the gags are amusingly lame ones. There's also some great, rousing, music by Chuck Cirino. It may be a little overused but it had me tapping my toes every time it was played.
7/10

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sword-Sorcery-Set-Region-NTSC/dp/B004ZKKKXI/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1320508855&sr=1-1


Friday, 4 November 2011

Deathstalker (1983)

Remember the movie Big? A young lad makes a wish and then goes to sleep only to wake up the next day in the body of a Tom Hanks-shaped adult. And that adult ends up producing some great ideas for a toy company. Well, if that kid had gone to bed and then woken up the next day in the body of a Tom Hanks-shaped adult and immediately managed to get a job with a movie studio then I'm pretty sure that he would have created a movie like Deathstalker. Because Deathstalker is a fantasy tale in every sense.

The plot is just a bit of nonsense to cram some stuff into. Deathstalker (Rick Hill) fights some people and goes about his life happily enough until he is asked to get a powerful sword and to use that sword to overthrow the wicked Munkar (Bernard Erhard), a magic man who made himself king and isn't known for his benevolence and kindness.

No, that really is all of the main plot. Really. Which means that we get just under 80 minutes of swordplay, women being either naked or covered in flimsy flimsy garments, occasional menace in the form of puppets and a healthy dose of bad acting.

Thankfully, Rick Hill carries a sword as if he knows how to use the thing so he's not all that bad in the main role. Richard Brooker is almost adequate in the role of someone who ends up tagging along with our hero. Bernard Erhard is appropriately displeased about any efforts being made to end his rule. The ladies do much better, though that may just be my own bias, with Lana Clarkson proving to be a highlight as a swordswoman who gives no thought to underclothes and Barbi Benton quite gorgeous and up to the task of portraying someone in need of help who is also quite gorgeous.

The script by Howard R. Cohen and direction by James Sbardellati are both as slapdash as they are entertaining. The fight scenes aren't all that bad, though I've seen much better, and everything moves along so quickly that this brief adventure never outstays it's welcome. It's certainly one to watch if, like me, you have fond memories of staring up at the lurid VHS cover and wondering how amazing the movie itself would be.
5/10.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sword-Sorcery-Set-Region-NTSC/dp/B004ZKKKXI/ref=sr_1_3?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1320444403&sr=1-3

 


Thursday, 3 November 2011

Belly Of The Beast (2003)

I'm sure that very few people will be surprised to learn that Steven Seagal is an ex-CIA agent in this movie. When his daughter (Sara Malakul Lane) is kidnapped, he sets out on a mission to retrieve her and deal with the bad guys because the authorities never do these things properly. With the help of some friends, Seagal kicks ass as he gets closer and closer to finding out where his daughter is being held.

What might surprise a few people is the fact that this is a surprisingly enjoyable Seagal movie. Oh, don't get me wrong and think that all of his movies have finally worn me down, by most normal standards this is still quite a bad film but as a vehicle for Seagal and his particular brand of martial arts it delivers the goods and manages to pretend that it almost had a decent budget.

The acting isn't great but everyone does what's required of them. Seagal isn't too bad, for a change, but his voice is dubbed over on one or two occasions by someone that doesn't manage to sound like him at all. Byron Mann is enjoyable to watch as his friend, Sunti, and Monica Lo just scrapes by as Lulu. The baddies are all either sneaky and wretched (and so deserving of their ass-whooping) or cool and over-cocky (and so deserving of their ass-whooping) so no complaints there.

The script by James Townsend is no great shakes (it's developed from a story by Seagal so that should tell you all that you need to know) but the direction from Ching Siu Tung is pretty solid. The action beats are plentiful and also nicely spaced out, a lively soundtrack accompanies the lively fights and everything zips along nicely enough to keep fans more than happy.

It's not up there with any of Seagal's top tier movies but Belly Of The Beast easily sits a notch or two above his bottom-of-the-barrel fare.
5/10.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Belly-Beast-DVD-Steven-Seagal/dp/B0000WSTMO/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1320339500&sr=8-2


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Campfire Tales (1997)

Campfire Tales is, as you might expect, a horror anthology movie based around some pretty well-known urban legends that are given a fun twist. While it's not all that scary, the tense moments somehow lack any real tension, it's certainly fun while it's on and benefits from a decent wraparound that ends things nicely.

Jay R. Ferguson, Christine Taylor, Christopher Masterson and Kim Murphy play people who have to kill some time after their car goes off the road. They set up some flares and then move into the woods to build a campfire and scare each other with some urban legends. As the movie opens we get a version of "The Hook" but then the car passengers go off road and settle down to tell the three main tales: "The Honeymoon", one that I won't name because the title gives away the punchline and "The Locket".

The direction by Matt Cooper, Martin Kunert and David Semel is okay. There's nothing too flashy here and nothing too terrible but the movie does feel a bit slow in places, despite coming in at just under the 90 minute mark. The script, by Cooper and Kunert and Eric Manes, doesn't really sizzle either, which is a shame because if the material had been handled better then the overall outcome would have been a significant improvement. The middle of the three tales is so badly fumbled that it's robbed of any tension it should have but the strength of the punchline is too good to be completely undone by the poor execution.

The cast assembled is a big plus. As well as those mentioned, there are small roles for James Marsden and Amy Smart. Ron Livingston (who appears in "The Honeymoon") will also be familiar to viewers while even those who aren't so well known acquit themselves reasonably well.

It's not a bad little movie but there are better urban legends to choose from and better ways to showcase the material.
6/10.

http://www.amazon.com/Campfire-Tales-Hawthorne-James/dp/B0009S4IFG


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Cheerleader Camp AKA Bloody Pom Poms (1988)

A mildly amusing slasher movie from the late 80s, Cheerleader Camp falls far behind many other examples from the decade but holds up not too badly nowadays thanks to some cast choices that should interest horror fans and enough gratuitous nudity to keep undemanding viewers pleased (it's just a shame that the same can't be said of the bloodshed).

Betsy Russell plays Alison Wentworth, a troubled young woman who has been plagued by nightmares for some time. When she goes with her friends to a cheerleader camp she tries to relax but finds that there are too many people around her raising her stress levels. The stress just keeps rising when people start dying, Alison starts to suspect that she may very well be the killer.

Written by David Lee Fein and R. L. O'Keefe, and directed by John Quinn, the technical aspects of this movie are the least pleasing aspects. Despite the occasional nudity, the pacing is a bit slow and none of the characters are all that interesting. There's some humour here and there, albeit clumsy stuff, but no real thrills or excitement.

Thankfully, we have that cast. Betsy Russell is just fine in her role, as is Leif Garrett, but the real pleasure here is in the supporting cast. Best of all, in my view, is quite a decent amount of screentime for the legendary George 'Buck' Flower but people who would rather ogle some pretty young women will not be displeased Teri Weigl's ability to shed skimpy clothing. Teri went on to quite a number of proper adult movies but here has a nice mix of the freshness of youth with her sexiness. Lucinda Dickey does well, Lorie Griffin is fine and Rebecca Ferratti is a nice enough addition. Vickie Benson and Jeff Prettyman get a number of good moments, including one hilarious scene together, and Travis McKenna is the loud and overweight guy who will do anything to get close to naked female flesh.

Fans of the subgenre, and particularly the 80s output within the subgenre, will find enough here to enjoy but it barely scrapes a pass. At least it also has a fun ending.
5/10.

http://www.amazon.com/Cheerleader-Camp-Vickie-Benson/dp/B0001ZX0FG