Soldier (1998)

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Todd 3465 (Kurt Russell) is the best of a group of genetically engineered soldiers, bred to kill from a very early age. He is a decorated war hero, with hundreds of kills to his name. Now…he is obsolete. A new group have soldiers have been created by the villainous Colonel Mekum (Jason Isaacs). The soldiers are led by Caine 607 (Jason Scott Lee) who is the best soldier. He is faster, stronger and meaner than Todd 3465 or any of his team. Colonel Mekum orders Todd’s superior, Church (Gary Busey), to dispose of Todd and his crew. They are all slaughtered and dumped on a planet which basically used as one big dump.

 

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However Todd does not die. He finds that the planet he is on is inhabited by friendly people just trying to survive. At first they are weary of Todd, but slowly begin to accept him. He stays with Mace (Sean Pertwee) and Sandra (Connie Nielsen) and begins to bond with their son. Colonel Mekum decides to test his new batch of soldiers on the planet where Todd was dumped. However he never banked on Todd being alive. Now Todd will show these new killers what a real soldier is.

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I really dig this film. However it got absolutely panned on release and I don’t know why. To me it’s like a futuristic version of Shane. I remember also reading that Kurt Russell had offered his fee back to Paul WS Anderson has he felt bad that the film didn’t do well. I think people expected it to be balls out action and that’s not what it is. It’s more restrained than that, showing an inhuman killer like Todd what it means to really feel and to have something worth fighting for.

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Don’t listen to the hate. Give it a watch and be prepared for a subtle story with bursts of violence. The final 3rd is one of my favourite bits in any movie. Todd is just a bad ass and to watch him teach these upstarts what it’s like to be a real soldier really is a sight to behold. Well worth a watch in my book.

4/5

JM

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The Venus Complex (2012)

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Michael Friday is an art professor. His life is drastically altered whilst driving home with his wife, when he finds out that she has been sleeping with another man. Michael flies into a fit of rage, and floors the accelerator, driving the car straight into a tree. Michael survives, his wife does not. Michael is then hospitalised with his injuries. Upon leaving hospital Michael finds that everything in his life no longer has the same meaning it once did. Michael’s desire to work, and study art leaves him. A different side emerges to Michael. A darker side. Michael begins having perverse sexual dreams, involving necrophilia and murder, which he starts to enjoy. To fill the gap his job once took, Michael decides to find another project, one that sees him plunge head first into insanity.

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People will most likely remember the author Barbie Wilde as the female Cenobite in Hellbound: Hellraiser II. For this first novel she has delivered a brilliant tale of lust and perversion. The story consists of Michael’s diary entries in which he speaks of his disgust and disdain for society and how it has become. He describes, in vivid detail I may add, his dreams and fantasies as they become increasingly violent in nature. Barbie Wilde has an imagination that is wonderfully vivid, creating a disturbing image of a man’s decent into madness. Yet we empathise  in places with Michael. He is not a thoroughly despicable person, despite his perversions. We understand his frustration for society and how materialistic we have all become. Credit for this goes to the author. Barbie Wilde gives heart and wit to a character that may have been overcome by his failings in the hands of other authors. If this is what she delivered for her first novel, then roll on the next one.

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This copy of The Venus Complex was graciously provided by Barbie Wilde. You can purchase your copy now from http://www.amazon.co.uk and all other major stockists.

5/5

JM

 

 

Hellgate (1989)

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It’s the 1950’s. A biker gang stop off at a roadside diner, just to cause havoc. A beautiful girl called Josie comes in to the diner and is set upon by the bikers. She is then kidnapped by the bikers and taken to the town of Hellgate. When they get to Hellgate, Josie manages to get off the bike and run away. However she is chased down and ruthlessly murdered by the bikers. Her father who lives in Hellgate witnesses the murder and kills some of the bikers.

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One of the workers in Hellgate is down in a mine when he finds a mysterious blue crystal. The crystal carries a strange aura and has the power to bring the dead back to life. When Josie’s father his handed the crystal, he uses it to bring his daughter back to life. He instructs Josie to lure people to Hellgate so that he can kill them.

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Fast forward 30yrs and we are now presented with three college kids telling ghost stories. They are in a cabin near Hellgate and one girl recounts the story to her friends. Another friend called Matt (Ron Palillo) is on his way to the cabin, when he comes across the alluring image of Josie. He stops to ask her if she’s ok, only for Josie to invite him back to her fathers house. Josie’s father discovers Matt and Josie kissing, becoming angry at the sight. Through some stroke of luck Josie convinces her father to spare Matt, leaving Matt to run screaming from the house. Matt tells his friends what happened and they head to Hellgate to investigate.

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Now if I’ve made that sound at all interesting, believe me when I say it isn’t. There are so many things wrong with this film that I don’t know where to start. Firstly, the acting is just abysmal. I mean laughably bad. It’s like the cast are just mumbling through their lines, no interest whatsoever. Any attempt at drama or danger is so cackhanded that it’s hard to maintain interest. The script is terrible too, which for me just amplifies how bad the acting is. Ron Palillo who plays one of the ‘college kids’ was 39 at the time of filming, which doesn’t help matters at all. There is some clever gore, but it’s let down by some shoddy effects in other places. For instance when a bat springs to life after being struck by the crystal, you can clearly see the strings holding it up. I don’t know if all of the bad things are intentional, but judging from the director’s back catalogue, I’m gonna guess not.

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However if the film itself isn’t quite up to snuff, fear not as there is a silver lining. Arrow Films never fail when it comes to delivering great extras and a sumptuous transfer. The picture is immaculate. There is no grain, and this is just from the DVD version which I tested. The extras are, as always, entertaining and informative. On this DVD we have three interviews. The first ‘Road To Perdition, B-Movie style: An extensive interview with director William A. Levey’ is a mixed bag. This is mainly down to the rambling nature of Mr. Levey. He begins talking about the film, then deviates into a discussion on the Apartheid, as the film was filmed in South Africa at the time. William A. Levey however just lets his brain run riot. He is obviously proud of his movie, though I’m sad to say I don’t share that sentiment.

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The second interview, ‘Alien invasion, Blaxploitation and Ghost-Busting Mayhem: Scholar, Filmmaker and fan Howard S. Berger reflects on intriguing film career of William A. Levey’, is not much different in terms of having a rambling individual comment on Hellgate and other movies of William A. Levey’s career. This is not to the detriment of Mr. Waddell, it’s purely down to Mr. Berger, who mumbles and stutters his way through an interview, commenting on things such as how Ron Palillo was oddly cast as the male lead, and how Hellgate is a movie that should be shown to 6yr olds. I agree with the first comment, but not the second. The final interview is more like it. ‘Video Nasty: Interview with Kenneth Hall, writer of the Puppet Master series’. Kenneth Hall comes across as a likeable fellow indeed. He talks about the direct to video era of the mid 80’s to early 90’s where the lesser known film makers had to make do with moderate budgets and instead use gore and nudity to their favour, helping them sell movies that might not make it on story and acting alone. There is a lot to like in the interviews, some great trivia but some questionable topics of discussion too. This copy of Hellgate was graciously provided by the fine folks over at Arrow Films. If you’d like to purchase your own copy, then you can do so over at http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk.

1/5

JM

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The Phantom returns.

From the fine folks over at http://www.ArrowFilms.co.uk on February 24th is Brian DePalma’s cult extravaganza ‘Phantom of the Paradise’. This remastered release will be available in a standard AMRAY case with reversible sleeve, and also in a limited edition steelbook with brand new artwork. Pre order your copy today from Arrow Films.

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JM

Darkman (1990)

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I am Darkman obsessed. I collect anything I can on Darkman, so it’s quite strange that it’s taken me so long to actually do a review, but here it is. Dr. Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) is a brilliant scientist. He is working on a synthetic skin which will be used to help burn victims in covering their scars. However the skin only lasts 99mins before disintegrating. Peyton discovers that it’s the skins exposure to light that causes it to disintegrate. As he gets closer to a solution, a vicious gang, led by the evil Robert Durant (Larry Drake), break into Peyton’s lab looking for a memo that Peyton’s girlfriend Julie (Frances McDormand) has come into possession of. They trash the lab and leave Peyton for dead. When the lab explodes in a ball of flames, Peyton is thrown from the building but left horribly scarred.

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Julie, believing Peyton to be dead, grieves and tries to move on with her life. Peyton however is deep in a coma at hospital. All of his nerve endings have been completely destroyed meaning he feels no pain and his strength has increased. Peyton escapes from the hospital eager for revenge. He takes on the mantle of Darkman and one by one, tracks down those responsible for his condition. Using the synthetic skin he created, Peyton takes on the faces of those he is seeking to destroy, working his way through the gang until he reaches Durant.

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Peyton reaches out to Julie to let her know he is still alive, however when Durant realises Julie’s relationship to Peyton/Darkman, he uses that as a way of luring Darkman out of hiding. I love this film. Directed by Sam Raimi it really is great fun. The reason Raimi made this movie was actually because he couldn’t get the rights to The Shadow. So he decided to do a hero of his own, someone who fights for those that can’t protect themselves. I for one am glad he did.

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Liam Neeson is brilliant as Darkman. Yes he does tend to overact in places, but I find that just adds to the cheesy comic book feel of the movie. Frances McDormand however is sadly miscast as Julie. There is zero chemistry between her and Peyton, and it’s almost like she doesn’t even want to be there. Larry Drake is brilliant as the cackling villain Durant, with a few strange habits of his own. Also watch out for a blink and you’ll miss it cameo from Bruce Campbell at the end.

4/5

JM

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Breakdown (1997)

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Jeffrey Taylor (Kurt Russell) and his wife Amy are driving cross country to California when their car stutters and grinds to a halt at the side of the road. Stranded and with no phone signal, they can’t call for a tow truck. As they are trying to figure out what to do a truck comes down the road. The driver, Red (J.T. Walsh) offers to take Amy to the next town so she can call for a tow truck. Amy gets into Red’s truck while Jeff waits with the car.

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Hours pass and there is still no sign of Amy returning with a tow truck. Jeff becomes worried and manages to get his car working. He drives to the next stop to see if his wife is there. The folks inside the cafe say that there was no woman fitting the description of Amy that passed through. Jeff goes to the police to report his wife missing. Later on when Jeff is driving he sees Red’s truck. He gets Red to pull over. Only when Jeff asks Red where Amy is, Red claims he has never met Jeff before in his life. Jeff leaves puzzled. He is then contacted and told that if he ever wants to see his wife alive he will have to pay a ransom.

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Jeff is then faced with a race against time to get the money, which he doesn’t have, and pay it to the kidnappers. The only problem is he doesn’t know who to trust, as the police could be in on it too. Jeff knows he must take matters into his own hands if Amy stands a chance of surviving her ordeal.

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I really dig this movie. First reason is that the story is very plausible. It’s done in such a way that you really think something like this could happen to anyone. Everything is played to such believable effect, that it just heightens the suspense that already permeates throughout the movie. Kurt Russell is always worth watching, and he really lends Jeff a really believable everyman quality, that you are urging him to succeed. The late  J.T. Walsh was always brilliantly cast as the sneering villain, and he delivers again here. As Red he really gives the film a sense of menace, that you doubt if Jeff will succeed in his plight. I really, really recommend this movie. It is a solid little thriller that is well worth a watch.

4/5

JM

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Mr. Brooks (2007)

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Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner) has it all. A beautiful wife, a talented and gorgeous daughter and his own business, he wants for nothing. However Earl has a secret. He has an addiction which he finds hard to keep under control, regardless of how many AA meetings he attends. Earl is a killer, and the urge is getting stronger.

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Earl’s alter ego Marshall (William Hurt) is always there. Always taunting Earl, telling him he deserves a ‘treat’. After much badgering from Marshall, Earl gives in. He is meticulous in his planning. Everything is done to perfection. However when Earl kills a couple he makes a big mistake. The curtains were open and someone has seen him at work. A photographer called Mr. Smith (Dane Cook) lives in the apartment block opposite Earl’s latest victims, and he has seen everything. Mr. Smith approaches Earl and tells him he wants to go on a kill with Earl or he’ll tell the police everything.

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Hot on Earl’s trail is Det. Tracy Atwood (Demi Moore). She knows that she’s looking for the ‘Thumbprint Killer’, but doesn’t yet know that his name is Earl Brooks. Adding to Earl’s woes is his daughter who has left college after the death of a student. Earl begins to suspect that he isn’t the only one with a murderous alter ego. Earl struggles to cope with his daughter’s lies, Mr. Smith’s blackmail and the persistence of Det. Atwood.

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I love this movie. I remember first seeing it when I worked in Blockbuster Video. I was drawn to the idea of Kevin Costner playing a serial killer, the change of role really intrigued me. After I saw it I recommended it to everyone who came into the store, with a lot of positive feedback. I will do so again. You need to see this. It’s one of the finest thrillers in years, and everyone is on top form. Extra mention must go to William Hurt who is clearly revelling in his role as the murderous Marshall. I remember reading that this was supposed to be the first in a trilogy, and I must say it’s a massive shame that the other two movies have not been made. The movie is tightly plotted and really grabs your attention. Just watching how much preparation Earl Brooks goes into before a kill is astounding. You can see that he sees killing as an addiction very similar to drugs or alcohol, and that he really wants to get a handle on it. Find yourself a copy and dig in.

5/5

JM

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Nurse Betty (2000)

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Betty Sizemore (Renee Zellweger) is a waitress at a local diner. She spends every moment she can watching her favourite soap opera and swooning over the main character Dr. David Ravell (Greg Kinnear). Betty is married to a sleazy used car salesman called Del (Aaron Eckhart). Del has been involved in a deal with some very shady people, and now two hitmen, Charlie (Morgan Freeman) and his son Wesley (Chris Rock) have come to pay him a visit.

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When Betty witnesses the brutal murder of Del at the hands of Charlie and Wesley she goes into complete shock. She then starts to imagine that Dr. Ravell is real and wants to be with her. She travels to LA in her shocked state to be with Dr. Ravell, not realising that he’s just an actor in a TV show.

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When Charlie and Wesley find out that Betty witnessed the murder, they follow her to LA knowing that she needs to be silenced. However along the way Charlie begins to develop a fascination for Betty and slowly falls for her. Also on Betty’s tail are two friends from her home town, Ballard (Pruitt Taylor-Vince) and Roy Ostery (Crispin Glover), who are worried for Betty’s state of mind. Betty’s journey for love takes some startling and humorous turns, one I thoroughly enjoyed. She meets some brilliantly outlandish people, who all fall for Betty in their own way.

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Directed by Neil LaBute this is a blackly funny movie. It is at times startlingly violent, but still has a mischievous streak running throughout it. Everyone is on top form here. Even Chris Rock who usually gets on my nerves, is good in his role as the unhinged Wesley. I can wholeheartedly recommend this movie. There are many that have never heard of it when I ask them, but they become fans in the end. It is definitely worth a watch.

4/5

JM

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“Your suit is ready Master Bruce.”

Available via http://www.sideshowtoy.com is this stunningly detailed Batman armoury from Hot Toys. Hot Toys put so much effort into these models that it is nothing short of astonishing. Click the link below for pictures and info on where you can acquire one for yourself.

<a href=”http://affiliates.sideshowtoy.com/Tracker.aspx?aid=3286&sku=902169&cid=-1&#8243; target=”_blank”>DC Comics Batman Armory with Batman DC Comics Sixth Scale Figure</a>

JM

The Field (1990)

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Bull McCabe (Richard Harris) has worked the field all his life. His family have toiled over the field for many years, turning it from a rock filled piece of uneven land, to the lush green field Bull and his son Tadgh (Sean Bean) work in now. However Bull doesn’t own the field, he only rents it from a lonely widow (Frances Tomelty) who is the true owner.

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When the widow decides to sell the field via a public auction, Bull knows that nobody in the village would even dare bid against him. Even though the widow owns the field, everyone believes it’s Bull that should be the owner. However when an American called Peter (Tom Berenger) comes to to town he decides to bid against Bull for the field, as he needs the land to build a highway through. The American doesn’t know the customs or the towns history, so has no idea of the mess he is walking into in bidding against Bull.

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When the American beats Bull in bidding for the field he kick starts a battle of wills between him and Bull. Bull and Tadgh go to visit the American to explain the situation of the field, and how Bull has worked it all his life. However things go horribly wrong and secrets of Bull’s past are pulled to the fore.

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I adore this movie. It is amazingly scenic for starters. The camera drains the landscape of colour, yet it still looks beautiful. The story is compelling. Richard Harris is absolutely mesmerising as Bull. His passion for the field brings out the worst in him and you see the fear he holds over his family and the people in the village. The supporting cast are great too. Sean Bean does the best with the role he has as Tadgh. John Hurt is fantastic as the weasel faced Bird O’Donnell, hopping about the screen. Brenda Fricker is always brilliant, even in the small role here as Bull’s wife Maggie. Tom Berenger is also great as the American who kicks a hornets nest when he bids for the field. This really is a fantastic film. If you are looking for some compelling drama, from one of the best actors that ever lived, then give this a watch. I know you’ll like it.

5/5

JM

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