It was all a dream.
I wish I’d slept through this dull film, like the main character did. Dull story, awful script, no tension, no excitement, and only connected to the fairy tale by the presence of an evil stepmother.
It was all a dream.
I wish I’d slept through this dull film, like the main character did. Dull story, awful script, no tension, no excitement, and only connected to the fairy tale by the presence of an evil stepmother.
This five film series- based very loosely on a Yakuza member’s prison memoirs- traces gangland conflicts in Hiroshima and neighbouring Kure from teh late forties to early seventies. Shozo Hirono is the character based upon the author, but not the lead in every one of the films. Calm and honourable, he’s permanently being undermined by the hot-headed behaviour and back stabbing of Yakuza in his own and others’ families.
The Yakuza life, is presented as less than glamorous, shabby, even. Violence, when it breaks out, is realistically gritty, clumsy and brutal, more scuffle and brawl than bullet ballet. If, like me, you have problems keeping track of characters’ names, it gets tricky following exactly which factions are working with or against each other. But that’s just me.
The series is- Battles without Honour And Humanity, Hiroshima Death Match, Proxy Wars, Police Tactics and Final Episode. Special features on the Arrow Video releases include some interesting featurette documentaries, interviewing the series’ fight co-ordinator, one of the script writers and an assistant director, as well as revealing the ‘Piranha Army’ of bit players who kept the backgrounds full of activity.
The lowest I can price my books on Amazon is 99 cents. In the UK and Eurozone, because of VAT, they price match to 0.99 (pounds or Euros). In other shops- India, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Canada- it matches the local currency. But, in all those places, I could price them lower. So, I just went through my catalogue and lowered the prices of my cheapest books. The following are now available at bargain prices, if you’re in the right place-
Rick is a Lupan- human/wolf hybrid, whose forebears were created for war- tending his small bar on the lowest levels of a dead end station in neutral space. When he comes into possession of a small vial of genuine Earth water, he sees a way home and away from the dangerous situation he’s put himself in. But is the water a McGuffin? Are there more important things at stake?
This is a universe, and characters, you could happily find more and more about. It’s almost a shame it’s self-contained and doesn’t appear to be setting up further stories.
This was a fun film, playing with the power of optimism and futurist visions, past and present.
Teen prodigy Casey wants to solve all the world’s problems, when no-one else seems to care. Given a mysterious pin badge that gives her visions of an incredible alternate world, she sets out to track it down. Along the way, she teams up with kid robot Athena and former child genius turned recluse Frank. I won’t give away the reasons Athena wants to recruit Casey, or why Frank- somewhat reluctantly- helps her. The journey is a big part of the joy of the film.
Highlights include a crazy fight in a memorabilia store, a character who calls himself Hugo Gernsback and some lovely retro-futurist production design. I don’t think this film did as well as it ought to in the cinema, so I recommend it if you’re looking for something that’s light and fun, but still with substance.
You’ve gotta love a Ray Harryhausen movie. This retrospective takes you from his first garage made dinosaur films all the way through his career. With anecdotes about each movie mixed with interviews, it’s a fun trip. Nice to find I’ve seen most of his films as well.
The classic star story, with ioncredible talents breaking big and not coping with everything fame brings. The film focusses on Ice Cube, Easy E and Dr Dre more than the other members of NWA, framing the band’s story as being all about the trajectory of their friendships. Powerful stuff, with one hell of a soundtrack.
A bit meh, if I’m honest. Sandler’s last Netflix original Ridiculous 6 wasn’t hilarious, but had some fun bits, but this one misfired for most of its length.
Sandler’s Max fakes his, and childhood friend Charlie’s, death, takes on another man’s identity and runs in loose circles until the plot gets dizzy and asks to be let off. There were a few little bits that could have been funny, and we’re not really let into Sandler’s character until far too late in the tale.
Another John Carpenter classic, though it suffers in comparison to The Thing. Antonio Bay is celebrating its centenary, but a grim secret from its past is about to drift ashore with the fog.
This is a classic ghostly revenge story, with a little bit more gore. Unfortunately, stating early on just how many must die undercuts the tension. The events feel disconnected as well, taking place in so many different locations it sacrifices tension.
I suppose this is fallout from the Expendables films, giving Dolph Lundgren his career back and teaming him with a newer action star. He’s a lumbering, solid presence, and his mass seems to slow tiny, kinetic Tony Jaa down whenever they share the screen.
Dolph (I forget his character’s name) is a tough cop who busts a people smuggling ring run by Serb gangsters, with victims from Thailand. In the process, he kills one of the chief baddies sons. Retribution sees his home blown up, his wife and daughter killed, and him shot.
Busting out of the hospital, Dolph goes on a rampage, ending up in Thailand, where he first fights, then teams up with, Tony Jaa’s fast kicking cop. Lots of shooting, lots of fighting, blah, blah, blah.
The film starts with acknowledgement of Dolph’s age, as he foregoes a chase across the rooftops when chasing a suspect. Then it ignores it for the rest of the film, as he is blown up, shot, beaten and knifed, and just keeps on going.
Cooper was an astronaut, but now he’s grounded, raising corn- last of the blight free crops- and his two children somewhere in the Midwest. That is, until he coded gravitational signals that lead him to underground NASA, and a chance to leave the planet, and find new ones- through a wormhole.
The problem is, the further from Earth the story gets, the less interesting it gets. Particularly once the twist ending becomes blindingly obvious, and all the tension drains away. There was a more interesting, and challenging, story to be told about Cooper and family fighting climate change and a nascent anti-science fundamentalism to do a proper job of saving humanity.
Jupiter Jones is a princess, or queen, or something, in an intergalactic empire. Or, at least, she’s the exact genetic reincarnation of one. As such, she stands to inherit Earth, and save its inhabitants. If she can survive the attention of her ‘children’.
There was one Gilliam-esque sequence, as Jupiter battled bureaucracy to claim her planet, but the rest of the film just sort of washed by in an excess of effects and explosions.
A prime slice of Polizietezza action, following the exploit of a pair of pretty boy cops in a special fast response unit. Almost as dangerous, and just as brutal, as the crooks they chase, they burn, screw and shoot their way to the big boss who had a colleague killed. Not the most tightly plotted tale, it’s enjoyable providing you can stomach some very seventies attitudes and fashions.
This week’s viewing-
An anthropomorphised Police droid has a consciousness program uploaded onto it, is adopted by a gang of punk rock criminals and causes all hell to break loose.
Another typically stunning tale from Neill Blomkamp, tackling big questions on a human level, And with special effects that are stunning because of the way you don’t notice them. The eponymoius robot is played by long time Blomkamp collaborator Sharlto Copley, who disappears behind motion capture, delivering a fine performance in gestures and voice acting.
John Carpenter’s top remake of the fifties’ original is a neat mix of claustrophobia and body horror. The occupants of a polar research station realise they are trapped by a snowstorm, with a shape changing creature hiding amongst them.
The pre-digital effects still look good, the creature morphing into ever more bizarre and grotesque shapes. The chest cracking scene, in particular, will always be a classic.
It’s interesting, watching the making of featurettes on The Thing and Chappie, to compare the digital trickery of today to the one-chance animatronics of the eighties.
I lost touch with Spooks, the series, some time ago. So I don’t know how many of the characters in this big screen outing came over from the TV.
Harry Pearce is still there- gruff, indestructible, and one step ahead of almost everyone- as he tries to find the traitor in MI5 who helped a terrorist escape, and may be plotting to destroy the service completely. Kit Harrington is the Jon Snow of espionage- tough and resourceful, but too decent for his world.
Low-key and brutal, just like the TV series, this was, no doubt, a disappointment to many who wanted lots of shooting and explosions.
This is supposed to be a horror comedy, but fails to deliver laughs or shocks.
With a nod to the ‘true’ story behind Night Of The Living Dead, a batch of military grade reanimation juice is released on an abandoned cemetery. The dead rise, and wreak havoc on a bunch of punks and the employees of a medical supplies company. There’s some good makeup and animatronics effects, but they’re wasted on this film. Not even the naked presence of ‘scream queen’ Linnea Quigley (wearing some sort of flesh coloured merkin, apparently) can make a difference.
It’s time to try to keep a record of all the films I watch. So, on as near as possible to a weekly basis, it begins now.
Tightly wound American teen Daisy is sent to spend some time in Britain with her aunt and eccentric cousins. It could be any tale of self discovery in an idyllic countryside setting, but there are hints of darkness from the off. An excessive number of soldiers patrol the airport, and the aunt is off to Geneva to a desperate sounding peace conference.
Soon, a nuclear device going off in London leaves the youngsters without adult supervision, having to fend for themselves. Love blossoms between Daisy and her hunky cousin. However, their brief, glorious freedom is curtailed by army intervention, and the boys and girls are separated.
Daisy and her cousin Piper escape the militarised suburb they’re held in, and begin a trek back to the farm. This section- discovering the heart of darkness in a suddenly threatening English countryside- was hard going, being unrelentingly grim. Somehow, however, the ending was able to redeem all the pain without being twee. Bittersweet and holding some hope as life settled into a new kind of normal.
Planting the horrors of a civil war in familiar locations is an interesting exercise. It’s never explained what’s going on, the characters threatened by events they can’t begin to understand.
The old high-school-is-a-battlefield and cute-teen-is-a-trained-killer tropes meet up and have a little fun. I’m sure it’s not the first time.
Highly trained assassin Number 83 fakes her death after a mission, and sets off to have a normal life. Calling herself Megan and posing as a Canadian exchange student, she finds herself a surrogate family and heads to the US. Obviously, her training makes fitting in tricky, and her old boss- and others- are after her.
It’s a fun film, but seems to be lacking something- the last bit of energy, or a final polish- to be a stand out. Samuel L. Jackson is his usual gruff presence, Jessica Alba is a sexually ambiguous baddy who doesn’t get enough time to develop into a plausible threat, and Sophie Turner as Number 84 makes you wish Sansa Stark wasn’t such a flat character.
Bryan Mills uses his particular set of skills to find out who killed his ex-wife and framed him for the murder. Fun to watch for the action scenes, which, by the law of sequels, are required to be bigger and more ludicrous than in the previous films. There’s a twist at the end that’s been coming since the first Taken, but it doesn’t really mean much. The expanded roles for Bryan’s black-ops friends were nice, though.
This is a thin book, and I had the time to spare, so I read it in a day. And it’s taken me over a month to write up the review.
Fradley aerodrome was built, and then abandoned during the war, and, at the start of the book, has been functioning as a storage space and makeout spot. In the prologue, we get a hint of the evil that resides on the site, as a young woman is whisked away to be sacrificed by hooded figures.
Fast forward a little while, and the aerodrome has been purchased by Flyways (Guy N Smith wasn’t great at making up company and product names) to be turned into a major airport for the Midlands. Even before the first sod is cut, the deaths start. But, despite the mortalities, and local opposition, construction continues.
The problem is, the airport has been built on the site of an old stone circle. It’s even larger than Stonehenge, and still guarded by the spirits of the evil followers of the Old Religion who worshipped there. The grotesque Druids are able to bend space and time, or seriously cloud the minds of their victims, to kill people in recreations of their old domain.
When the airport is built, the deaths ramp up even more, with plane crashes, hotel fires, virgin sacrifices and more. There’s so much chaos that one whole plane crash is skipped, and you only find out about it several pages later when it’s mentioned in passing.
It’s all fun, and a bit gruesome, but, as a whole, the book felt unfocussed. Just what the Druids wanted, or expected to achieve, was never explained. The reactions, of staff and public, aren’t too deeply explored, and it ends with an event which feels unrelated, which was prophesied a mere few pages earlier.
Despite my misgivings above, I still enjoy these seventies vintage horror potboilers, so I’m going to give it a good score.
B-Movie Night, the collection of book and movie reviews from Spinneyhead, has been revised and expanded.As well as a new layout, there are now improved links, that will redirect to your local Amazon, rather than only going to Amazon.co.uk. I can’t promise that every film is available in every country- some of them are quite obscure- but it will be easier for you to find out. If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can get it for free.
B-Movie Night is an ongoing project, with new reviews added every so often, so there’ll be further revisions in the future as well.
The disturbingly dull story of one man’s unhealthy relationship with his snake.
(A real snake, not what you were thinking. You people disgust me.)
Traumatised Vietnam vet Tim is back in the swamps after suffering two years of “The white man telling the red man to kill the yellow man.”* He avoids his old tribe, preferring to live in a shack with just the snakes he catches- to be milked for their venom- for company. He’s taken to talking to them, and treating them as pets or friends. Particularly the eponymous Stanley, a rattler ‘married’ to another snake and about to be a father.
Suffering from terrible headaches, the cause of which is never explained, Tim wanders around behaving bizarrely and building up to a confrontation with the animal skin trader/poacher responsible for his father’s death. He has increasingly deranged conversations with Stanley, builds a crib for the baby snakes and provides snakes for an aging stripper to use in her show
When Tim does snap, it’s not just the snake skin belt selling rustler who suffers, but his lackeys and the stripper and her husband, as well. They’re all despatched, obviously, by snake bite, Stanley killing a drugged up psycho who has killed the snake’s wife and kids. Then there’s even more dullness as Tim kidnaps the poacher’s hot daughter to be his swamp-Eve, only to have the snakes turn on him when he tries to have them kill her.
It’s possible the film had something to say about man’s appalling attitude to nature and cruelty to animals, but, if it did, it’s terribly undercut by the way some of the snake co-stars are killed on screen (I’m quite certain they took a shotgun to one of the rattlers, because this isn’t a film that could afford prosthetics that convincing). I’d say you shouldn’t watch this film if you’re sensitive about that sort of thing. In fact, I’d go so far as to say you just shouldn’t watch this film, sensitive or not.
Another film from the Gorehouse Greats collection.
*The only good line of the movie, and I’m sure that they stole it from Mohammed Ali.
This film features Hitler’s head in a jar.
Really, what more do you need to know.
Hitler’s head. In a jar.
The Fuhrer-bust is quite well done, considering the cheapness of the rest of the film. There’s one bit where has a bit of a rant, where they probably sat an actor in the boxes under the jar, but the rest of the time, it appears to be a basic animatronic that swivels its eyes and leers creepily.
At first, the film has nothing at all to do with Hitler’s head in a jar. A rather nasty nerve gas has been developed, and only one scientist knows the antidote. Rather than spread this information far and wide, he decides to keep it to himself for a while. No sooner has he told a bunch of Government types about this plan than he finds his younger daughter has been kidnapped. Rushing to her apartment, he and her fiancee are also captured.
The scientist’s eldest daughter and her husband are then accosted at gunpoint by a man who wants to take them to the country of Mandoras, where the scientist has been taken by latter-day Nazis. After the stranger is shot dead, the couple decide to follow his advice, and head to South America.
Mandoras consists of a Mexican town square set, some back roads and a ravine. The couple rotate through them all, meeting rebels, local politicians, an American oilman going along with the Nazis to get some prime oilwells and, finally, the Nazis themselves. All twelve of them. There’s a showdown, and Hitler’s head suffers a suitably gruesome end.
The film, also called They Saved Hitler’s Brain, doesn’t, and couldn’t, live up to the promise of Hitler’s head in a jar, but it has its own campy charm. I got it on the Gorehouse Greats DVD set, which is Region 1, so you’ll need a machine that can play it. It promises some more gems, so look out for more.
author: Richard Hubert Francis Cox
Written in 1977, you could look at this as a precursor of all the technothrillers that flourished in the 80s and 90s. It’s a what-if tale loaded with technical details.
The book starts strong, with Mossad hitting a Palestinian terror cell in Paris and stealing paperwork about planned attacks. There’s then a lot of shuffling of characters across the globe to get them into place. This bit ground on a bit, with far too much telling rather than showing, and, I admit, there were moments when I thought about putting the book down. But I didn’t, and was rewarded. The last two thirds to three quarters of the tale used all the setting up very well.
With all the characters and equipment in place, the main event takes place. A DC10 airliner coming in to land at Heathrow, is shot down and crashes onto central London, specifically, Victoria station at rush hour. As the emergency services do what they can, the politicians start looking for scapegoats and the media act like ghouls.
It’s all very convincing, and, in some ways, still contemporary. The conflict that the act of terror springs from- Israel and Palestine- is still going on. In fact, the biggest and strangest difference for me from the jet set age of the mid seventies was the way that airline passengers could happily light up a cigarette in flight.
author: Ian Fleming
Bond is back!
There is no way to read this book sixty years on and not conclude that it’s a bit racist. Bond is working amongst, and mostly against, “the negroes” of the USA and Jamaica, trying to bring down Mister Big, a Russian spy-cum-crime lord. Big has taken to using voodoo trappings to bolster his control over the whole of the USA’s black population, who are almost all depicted as weak willed and superstitious enough to fall for the old time religion. With the exception of Big, a giant, grey-skinned sadistic genius, the black characters all come across as cartoony caricatures or faceless parts of the herd.
The plot kicks off because Big is sneaking pirate treasure into the States to fund his crime and spying activities. It’s thought it all originates from the lost horde of pirate Captain Morgan, and it would be good if Bond could cut off the supply and dispose of Big whilst he’s about it. In the States, Bond teams up with Felix Leiter again, who proves to be much more progressive than British intelligence or New York’s Police department when he takes Bond for a tour through Harlem and into the heart of Big’s operation. Leiter’s love and knowledge of the jazz greats even gets him out of a beating as he so impresses one of his captors with it. He doesn’t get away so lightly later in the book, though….
The requisite beautiful woman is introduced in the shape of Domino, who immediately falls for Bond and escapes Big’s clutches to run away with him to Florida as he moves on to the next stage of his investigation. She gets recaptured just as quickly, and Bond has to hustle on to Jamaica to catch up with her again.
The book’s resolution is something of an anticlimax, though it is built up to with great care. After all the films, you come to expect a grand finale, with a shootout and explosions, but it’s not delivered. As with all the Bond books, it’s hard not to compare book and film. The movie Live and Let Die was one of Roger Moore’s first, and filtered the story through blaxploitation and added topless double deckers and motor boat chases. It also left out at least two scenes which turned up, with modifications, in later films.
Yes, the book is racist in tone and depiction, but if you can accept that, it’s pretty much the template for the films and all those other larger than life thrillers which came after it.
B-Movie Night was released last week. From this Friday to next Monday it’s going to be available for free on Amazon.
It’s been a long time since I saw a children’s film that wasn’t a cgi animation or laden with special effects. I am aware of High School Musical, Hannah Montana and the work of the Olsen twins, but have managed to avoid them so far. Surely they can’t be the only live action, sfx free fare on offer to kids these days? Is there a modern equivalent to BMX Bandits?
In a very early role, Nicole Kidman is Judy, a BMX mad young lady working in the local market to raise enough money to get herself a new bike. She meets Goose and
Maverick P.J., equally bike mad boys, when they wreck their bikes at the store. Though the accident was neither their fault nor hers, it costs her her job. Bonding over their shared love of cycling, the three become fast friends and set out to make their money by more creative means.
Fishing for mussels, Judy, P.J. and Goose find a mysterious box which contains walkie-talkies. With little thought to the legality of their salvage, they proceed to sell the radios. The problem is, there were destined for an armed gang who are planning a big payroll job and need them to communicate. They’re also on the Police band, so both cops and criminals are hunting them. Cue ‘mild peril’ and car chases.
Perhaps because it’s Australian, or maybe because it was the Eighties and they didn’t focus group things to death as often back then, there’s a refreshing coarseness to the film. The kids are self reliant and rebellious and in the end they benefit from these qualities, rather than having to learn important life lessons about how they must conform. There’s no cheesy romance sub plot, though they do cheekily play with it a couple of times. Trapped in a freshly dug grave, Goose tries to kiss Judy and, after dodging it, she tells him that she likes him just as much as P.J. but…. All the while unaware that the radio is on and P.J. can hear their conversation. Later, when jealousy looks like rearing its ugly head again, she comes out with the great line- “Two’s company, three…. Gets us talked about.”
Production values are quite high and the chases are well choreographed. The goons sent to recover the radios are buffoons but still manage, when needed, to be threatening, and the holes in the story aren’t big enough to care about.
I really enjoyed this film, and not just for nostalgic reasons. I don’t know how a modern tween or teen might feel about it. If you’ve got one lying around would you find out for me? Thanks.
You can buy BMX Bandits from Amazon.
This should have been so much better. It’s got strippers, werewolves, East End gangsters, a dopey paranormal investigator, sexy vampires and a bunch of familiar faces in it. It shouldn’t have been put together so poorly.
When a punter gets hairy and lairy during a private dance at Club Vixen, Justice the stripper defends herself with the nearest thing to hand- a fountain pen which is conveniently silver. Convenient because the hirsute chap is a werewolf. As the club bouncer and Justice dispose of the body, the club owner remembers events from twenty years earlier. She’s encountered lycans before, and knows what they’re like.
The wolf pack hunt down their fallen member, then set about getting revenge, leading to a show down with one of the least exciting fight sequences ever. There are also some sub-plots about the goofy vampire hunter dating a Russian goth stripper and some dumb connections between the girls and the wolves.
It’s all a bit dull, really. The acting, direction and script are all flat. Most of the shots look like they did one take and decided that was good enough, they couldn’t be bothered to try again. The worst part has to be the fights and werewolf attacks, which are static and confusing- nothing seems to be happening, but you can’t tell who it’s not happening to.
Considering the amount of sleazy, gory fun that could be had by mixing strippers and werewolves, this film is incredibly disappointing.
You could, though I don’t recommend it, buy Strippers vs Werewolves from Amazon.
Some time during the second world war, a German convoy crosses the African desert carrying six million dollars worth of looted gold and killing everyone they meet so as to keep their course secret. Until they meet a British Long Range Desert Group attachment in an oasis.
Only one man survives the battle. After being rescued by a local sheik he vows to never return to the haunted oasis. Pausing only to shag the sheik’s daughter, he heads back to the war. Returning two years later, he finds his lover has died giving birth to his son.
Fast forward 37 years and the boy, now in his late teens, is told his father is dead. Reading the old man’s diaries he learns about the raid and sets off with a few friends to find the oasis, which is now guarded by zombies.
This film might have been passable if the transfer had been done properly or from a better quality source. Sound and picture quality were apalling, such that, in some key night time scenes, the picture resembled white noise more than anything else.
You can get Oasis of the Zombies on DVD from Amazon, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Mark Hardin* is The Penetrator. He was a star school athlete, until he was nobbled and had his knee damaged so badly he could never compete again. Then he joined the Army and became a top special forces operative and investigator- until he uncovered the wrong piece of corruption and was beaten almost to death. Returning to the States, he fell in love with his mentor’s niece, but when the Mafia tried to kill him, she was collateral damage.
Now Hardin is waging a secret war on crime and corruption in the USA.
In Blood on the Strip, Hardin goes to Vegas after a friend has her face disfigured by knife wielding thugs. He’s after a corrupt talent agency which is tricking dancers into prostitution as well as strong-arming debtors.
Hijacking Manhattan sees a violent offshoot of the Black Panthers (funded by Communist Chinese drugs) holding New York City to ransom with bombs and a very nasty virus.
Both stories are a bit repetitive- Hardin heads off to a site of interest, meaning to just look around, but getting into a shootout. The scale of the violence escalates and one or more sexy women is put in danger (maybe even killed) before The Penetrator kills all of the bad guys and returns to his desert retreat.
I’m being unfair, there are a few gimmicks that are quite cool, such as the super fine gloves printed with anonymous prints so that Hardin cannot be so easily tracked, and the writing isn’t too bad. It’s a diverting enough book with a lot of the old ultra-violence but not much sex.
You can buy Double Penetrator from Amazon.
*Yeah, I know.