Stone Cold (1991)

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Joe Huff (Brian Bosworth) is strong-armed by the FBI to infiltrate a dangerous gang of white supremacist bikers who have been drug running. Huff doesn’t want to do it, but he’s on suspension and the FBI leave him no choice. He travels down to Mississippi using the name John Stone. There he comes face to face with the gang leader called Chains Cooper (Lance Henriksen) and his second in command Ice (William Forsythe).

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Stone has to convince Chains that he’s for real before they let him join the gang. He’s told to kill a man as part of his initiation to prove his worth. He uses his agency contact to help him fake the persons death and his accepted. However Ice has his doubts about Stone and begins to spy on him. The whole thing culminates in blood and bullets.

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I must say I found this to be good fun. It’s a typical weekend evening movie, sitting back with a nice takeaway and relaxing. There is lots to love here. The script is cheesy as hell and the acting is questionable in places. However William Forsythe and Lance Henriksen are on scene stealing form as usual. I find that they are always good value for money. Sam McMurray is also great as Joe Huff/John Stone’s FBI contact Lance. Always looking out of place wherever they meet.

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I’ll hold my hands up now and also say I dug Brian Bosworth’s performance here. Honestly. He gives it a good go and he makes for a convincing action hero. He’s built like a brick shithouse and delivers a solid action performance. There are some great shoot-outs and awesome fights. The final third is brilliant. I’ve seen this a few times now. Brian Bosworth never really made good on this early promise, instead was left languishing in DTV hell. Give it a go though, it entertains, and that’s all that matters isn’t it? The poster below is the best poster I’ve seen for this movie, however I could only find the German version. Why they made it look like a Terminator poster is beyond me.

3/5

JM

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Firestorm (1998)

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Ahhh memories. I remember renting this on VHS way back when that was the done thing. I also remember thoroughly enjoying it. It’s not gonna win any awards, but it entertains and that’s all I really ask for. I’ll try to keep the hype to a minimum as I watched it having never heard of it before. The film kicks off with our hero Jesse Graves (Howie Long) who fights forest fires, also known as a ‘Smoke Jumper’, aided by his best buddy Wynt (Scott Glenn). Jesse is essentially one of the best at his job…blah…blah…blah…you get the drift.

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After a major forest fire breaks out, Jesse springs to action, believing that some of his fellow firefighters are trapped in the midst of a fire. Unbeknownst to Jesse the ‘trapped firemen’ are actually a group of dangerous escaped prisoners, led by the villainous Shaye (William Forsythe). The prisoners are using the fire as a distraction while they search for a ton of stolen money. While this is going on Jesse also has to save a trapped ornithologist (Suzy Amis) from the fire.

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Like I said this film will not win any awards. That being said I really did enjoy it. It’s full of cheesy acting, explosions, action and the obligatory ‘Arnie style’ quip. William Forsythe who is the go to bad guy of choice is menacing as Shaye. He is always good value for money in whatever film/show he’s in. Howie Long is decent enough as Jesse. He was never going to hit the dizzy heights that Schwarzenegger did, but he does well regardless.

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Suzy Amis and Scott Glenn are also good in their respective roles. This is the sort of movie you’d catch late at night on something like Channel 5. It’s good fun though and I would recommend giving it a whirl.

3/5

JM

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Altered States (1980)

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The mind is a powerful thing. Very powerful. When you step over that threshold of reality to dream, the longer you stay there the harder it is to differentiate the two. In the 1960’s Eddie Jessup (William Hurt) is pushing his mind to it’s limits. He has been experimenting with an isolation chamber/flotation tank, which causes him to have vivid hallucinations, mostly religious. Years later when he becomes a respected doctor at Harvard, he decides to try the isolation tank again, but using hallucinogenic drugs which will heighten his visions.

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As he continues to use the tank, with the help of his colleagues Arthur Rosenberg (Bob Balaban), Mason Parrish (Charles Haid) and his wife Emily Jessup (Blair Brown) who is also a doctor, he finds that his physical and mental state are beginning to regress to almost primitive levels. Fearing for his safety, his wife and colleagues try to put a stop to it, but Eddie has gone too far to stop and wants to now go all the way.

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I have always found Ken Russell, who directed this brilliant movie, to be a bit of an acquired taste. I have never seen The Devils or Women In Love which are two of his well known movies, but I have seen Tommy which I wasn’t crazy about. I had heard a lot about this movie before watching it, but was always apprehensive. I managed to get a copy of it on Blu Ray and I was just stunned. It had an effect on me that was similar to finding god. I don’t say this lightly. I was close to tears by the end. Not that it’s that sort of movie, but just that all of my emotions were at boiling point that I was literally an emotional wreck. I have always rated William Hurt as an actor and he is right on top of his game here. He really is fantastic.

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The supporting cast of Bob Balaban, Charles Haid and Blair Brown are brilliant. There are also one or two other faces that you may recognise too. The visuals are astonishing for a film made at the beginning of the 80’s. Mainly during Eddie’s hallucinations, some being particularly disturbing. I really do recommend this. Get hold of it if you can and prepare to be stunned.

5/5

JM

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Fist of the North Star (1995)

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Some films are so endearingly shit, that it’s hard to completely hate them. The live action version of Fist of the North Star falls into this niche category. Directed by Tony Randel (Hellraiser II), it’s a mish mash of good intentions and poor execution. I’m sure many geeks know the story, but just to refresh your memories i’ll glaze over it again. Kenshiro (Gary Daniels)  wanders the earth righting wrongs and defending the innocent. Gangs of raiders stalk desolate towns preying on the weak. Ruling this wasteland is Lord Shin (Costas Mandylor) who governs with an iron fist, living in his palace away from the harshness of the wasteland.

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There are lots of things wrong with this film. First off is the total miscasting of Gary Daniels as Kenshiro, Costas Mandylor as Lord Shin, and someone I haven’t mentioned yet…Chris Penn as Jagi, renamed Jackal for some bizarre reason. The choreography is just not up to scratch at all. Any intensity that is evident in the Manga version is completely lost here. Never is this more apparent that when Kenshiro tackles some bandits and does his Hokuto Shinken multiple punch. In the Manga version he obliterates his opponents, here however it’s quite different. Gary Daniels tries his best but the end result is laughable. The bandit laughs and asks a question I think we’re all thinking, “Are you trying to tickle me to death?”.

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Okay I understand that Tony Randel does what he can with the obviously small budget, but it needn’t be so glaringly obvious. Majority of the wasteland scenes look like they have been filmed on a soundstage. The costume design is good however, capturing the apocalypse look well. It’s mainly the cast and dire script that let it down. Even the supporting cast like Malcolm McDowell can’t save it from being just pretty meh. Other supporting cast members like Clint Howard, Dante Basco and Tracey Walter just go to show that the budget wasn’t the biggest.

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The make-up effects are brilliantly cheesy however. Particularly when Jackal removes the strapping that keeps his brain from bulging out. The whole movie is probably best viewed with mates after a night at the pub. Pick up a pizza on the way home, stick this on and just have a laugh. It’s pretty much that sort of movie.

2/5

JM

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The Sting (1973)

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Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) and Luther Coleman (Robert Earl Jones) are two conmen who operate in Joliet, Illinois. They pull a job on a money runner who just happens to be carrying $11,000 of money from an illegal gambling ring. Little do they realise that the money was on its way to feared mob boss Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw). After Lonnegan finds out his money has been taken, he puts a hit out on Hooker and Coleman. Coleman is thrown to his death from a window, but Hooker manages to flee to Chicago to escape Lonnegan.

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While in Chicago Johnny tracks down one of Luther Coleman’s old pals, a man named Henry Gondorff. Johnny informs Henry of Luther’s death, telling Gondorff that he wants to get revenge on Doyle Lonnegan. Henry tells Johnny that if they con Lonnegan, he can’t know he’s been conned or they’ll both be killed. To con Lonnegan they need to pull off a “long con”. The two men go and round up all of the people who knew Luther to help them pull of the perfect sting.

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This film is just a pleasure to watch. It’s one that I have seen many times, and still holds up today with it’s cracking script and brilliantly twisty storyline. Everyone brings their A game here. Paul Newman and Robert Redford are just excellent as the leading conmen. They have excellent camaraderie, and you can tell they like working together. Robert Shaw gives a menacing performance as Doyle Lonnegan. I have always liked the brash characters Shaw plays, and he doesn’t disappoint here.

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The supporting cast is great too. Charles Durning is fabulous as the crooked cop Lt. Snyder. Jack Kehoe is great as Erie Kid and Harold Gould brings wonderful razzmatazz as Kid Twist. The storyline is wonderfully elaborate and it really is brilliant to see how well this film still holds up today. I can’t recommend it enough.

5/5

JM

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Battle Royale (2000)

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Could you kill your best friend? That’s the dilemma that faces a class of 15yr old students in Japan. Their class think they are going on a school trip, however the reality is that they have been chosen at random to take part in a new scheme. The scheme which has been dubbed the ‘Battle Royale Act’ by the government involves the whole class fighting to the death. Their teacher Kitano (Takeshi Kitano) tells them they are all to be tagged with an explosive collar that will detonate if removed. Then they are given a map and a bag containing food and water plus a randomly selected item, which could be a weapon like a gun or a knife, or something useless like a frisbee.

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At first the students think it to be a sick joke, that the government wouldn’t be sick or crazy enough to make them kill each other, but it’s not a joke. Crime is an epidemic and the youth are seen to be the cause of it. The government has been running the scheme with great success, and seem willing to continue it. Now before anyone says this isn’t a rip off of The Hunger Games, as this is over a good ten years older than that rubbish. This is a far more sophisticated beast, and one full of real violence and mayhem.

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At first the students try to resist harming each other, but it’s futile. Mainly down to the fact that the island they are on has been split into sectors. Each day another sector is made unsafe, and if a student remains there, then their collar will explode. So sooner or later they will meet in the centre of the island.

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This is a fantastic film. Directed by the late, brilliant Kinji Fukasaku, it’s bristling with menace. You can’t understand that a government would ever sanction something so bloodthirsty, but you can kind of understand the desperation in tackling youth crime. The sequel which was directed by Fukusaku’s son is terrible. It is just a car crash of a movie and is painful to watch. It’s obvious watching it that the talent for directing ended with Kinji. I definitely recommend this for anyone who has never seen it. If you can, seek out the directors cut which adds a little bit more flavour to proceedings.

5/5

JM

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A book like no other.

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Earlier this week a very, very interesting project was brought to my attention from my buddies over at http://www.thegoresplatteredcorner.com. This project involves some of the great directors of Italian horror and Giallo greatness. Names like Lamberto Bava, Ruggero Deodato and Umberto Lenzi to name but a few. It’s a project that you can help fund and recieve some great goodies if you do. The goodies depend on the amount donated, but there are some fantastic bits, like signed copies of the completed movie, an executive producer credit and even a replica of the mask from Lamberto Bava’s ‘Demons’.

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It really is a brilliant project. If you would like to donate, check out the trailer or find out more information then stop by http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-book-the-italian-masters-return. Honestly come payday, I’m doing my bit. Thanks for listening to me guys. Take care.

JM

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Powder (1995)

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Jeremy ‘Powder’ Reed (Sean Patrick Flanery) is a very unique man. He was born an albino which has made him very sensitive to light. He lives in his grandfather’s basement and doesn’t venture out as he’s subject to ridicule because he looks different. When his grandfather passes away he is found living in the basement by Sheriff Barnum (Lance Henriksen) and a woman named Jessie Caldwell (Mary Steenburgen) who take him to a home for boys.

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Jessie arranges for Powder to take tests to see how intelligent he is and he wows a teacher named Donald Ripley (Jeff Goldblum), who wants to help Powder. The townsfolk treat Powder like a freak however. The other boys in the boys home bully and tease Powder. We fear what we don’t understand, and that has never been more true in this film. Powder does meet a girl who treats him just like he should be, but it’s not long before the other people in town find out and put a stop to it.

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Powder is also asked by Sheriff Barnum if he can visit the Sheriff’s wife who is dying of cancer. His wife can’t speak but is still holding on and the Sheriff wants to know why, as she’s in pain. Powder takes her hand and tells the Sheriff that his wife won’t pas on until the Sheriff makes up with his estranged son. I am not one to readily admit when a film makes me cry. Now it’s not that I’m some double hard bastard that doesn’t ever shed a tear, I just don’t like showing my emotions like that. However, that being said, this film hits me hard. It is very touching, the scene I described above is wear I completely lose my shit and just bawl like a baby. It really is heartbreaking.

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This film is great though. It’s done by Victor Salva who did the Jeepers Creepers movies. Now I like his movies, it’s just a shame that he’s a wrong ‘un. I won’t go into why that is, as it’s not really the place. However should you be curious, I’m sure Wikipedia can tell you everything you need to know.

4/5

JM

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Rabies can be a killer.

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Due to be shown on the Horror channel on Dec 28th at 10:50pm, Israeli horror ‘Rabies’, which is getting its first showing in the UK. Below is a description from the press release.

“In Israel’s first slasher movie, a runaway adult brother and sister stumble into a trap set by a psycho killer in. His sister buried in the ground, the injured brother sets out to get help. What he finds instead is a group of sex-mad teenagers, two sleazy policemen and a forest ranger and his dog. Making great use of collective expectations of where a body count movie is supposed to go, and then not going there, this is as much a fresh vision of fright as a nuanced social and political commentary on Israel today. A big hit at FrightFest, the directors, Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, went on to make the hugely successful BIG BAD WOLVES and have succeeded in revitalising Israel’s horror film industry.”

JM

Angel Heart (1987)

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New York, 1955. Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) is hired by a mysterious businessman named Louis Cypher (Robert De Niro) to find a man named Johnny Favourite who reneged on a deal that he had with Cypher. Apparently Johnny Favourite has been missing for quite some time and Mr. Cypher is eager to find him and collect on his payment.

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Angel’s investigation takes him to the deep south where Voodoo is rife. There he meets a young lady called Epiphany Proudfoot (Lisa Bonet), who was Johnny Favourite’s daughter. She too says she hasn’t seen Johnny in years. As Harry Angel digs deeper, things begin to turn a lot more sinister, as Johnny Favourite’s old associates want him dead, and some of them are turning up dead themselves. To say any more would spoil the story. The whole film has a sense of foreboding running throughout it, and you fear for how things will turn out.

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This film is directed by the brilliant Alan Parker, who also did Bugsy Malone and one of my favourites, The Commitments. He brings a wonderful outsiders view to the city of New York, and later on in the deep south. Everything is shot with saturated colour, with just the smallest glimmer of light shining through. The script is brilliant and everyone is on top form. De Niro as Louis Cypher (Lucifer, geddit?) is menacing, I mean…really. Rourke is great as Harry Angel and shows how good he can be when his heart is really in it.

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I have seen this film many times, and each time it still grips me. I remember reading that Bill Cosby lost his shit at Lisa Bonet when he saw this movie as she was doing The Cosby Show not long before. It really is worth a watch, I definitely recommend it.

5/5

JM

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