Commando (1985)

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When John Matrix’s (Arnold Schwarzenegger) daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano) is kidnapped by a group of mercenaries led by Bennett (Vernon Wells), John is faced with a race against the clock if he wants to see her alive again. John and Bennett used to be army buddies before John had Bennett kicked from the unit as he seemed to enjoy killing a bit too much. Now Bennett has joined forces with ex-president of Val Verde, Arius (Dan Hedaya). Arius was ousted from power by John and his team, and now wants John to help him stage a coup and win back his presidency.

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Bennett and his goons have kidnapped Jenny as an incentive for John to do as they say. John is escorted to the plane by Sully (David Patrick Kelly) and accompanied on the plane by another one of Bennett’s men. John kills the man he’s with and manages to decamp the plane before it takes off. He then sets his watch to the time it will take the plane to reach Val Verde. Knowing that once the dead body is discovered, word will get back to Bennett and he’ll kill Jenny.

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Assisting John in his plight, albeit reluctantly, is flight attendant Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong). Cindy is coerced by John to help him track Sully and try get some information on where they took Jenny. Using Sully, John slowly begins to track down the rest of the men, leading to a brutal and bloody showdown with Bennett and his small army.

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This movie is fucking awesome!!! I’m not overstating it. I just love it. For me it’s Arnie’s best role. He just cuts a bloody swathe through close to 100 men, and it rocks. No it’s not highly realistic. I mean the soldiers fire shots and nothing hits Arnie, yet he hits the target every time. But it’s fun. Fun because it’s just balls out action, and the sort of kick ass popcorn flick that sadly, I feel, Hollywood doesn’t make any more. It’s full of the obligatory cringe worthy one liners from Arnie. Vernon Wells is great as Bennett. He overacts big time and it’s wonderful. His costume however leaves a lot to be desired. Some dodgy porno tash, coupled with an ill fitting mesh vest and leather trousers and you have one of the least intimidating villains in history. Alyssa Milano doesn’t really have much to as Jenny, but Rae Dawn Chong is great as the whiny Cindy, who slowly warms to John.

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It’s good old friday night entertainment. Definitely one for a few beers and a pizza. Like I said they sadly don’t make movies like this any more as it’s all business with Hollywood. They would rather water shit down for teens, just to increase ticket sales, than give the people what they want. So enjoy this, and remember the good times.

3/5

JM

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The Name of the Rose (1986)

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William of Baskerville (Sean Connery) and his young apprentice Adso of Melk (Christian Slater) are called to an isolated abbey in the north of Italy, to investigate the mysterious death of a monk. William is greeted by the Abbot (Michael Lonsdale) and taken to the point where the body was said to have died. William investigates the death and attributes it to suicide. He is set to leave when another monk is found dead, however in circumstances which make it seem like foul play was involved.

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When the body of the victim is checked over, it shows that he has black finger tips and a black tongue. William becomes suspicious as he believes monks are being poisoned to protect a secret the abbey has kept for years. As the bodies begin to pile up, a group of inquisitor monks are called in to investigate claims of heresy, led by Bernado Gui (F. Murray Abraham). Bernado and William once worked together, but became enemies when Bernado tried to have William executed.

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William’s investigation takes him to the labyrinthine catacombs of the abbey, where all of the books are hidden. William believes that it’s man that is committing these killings, and not the work of the Devil as Bernado Gui would try to have others believe. However because William refuses to believe that it’s the work of the Devil, he too becomes a target of the inquisition, resulting in a race against time to save himself and others from being burned at the stake.

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I dig this movie. I love how bleak and desolate the landscape is, almost giving it a post-apocalyptic feel to the movie. Sean Connery is always worth watching in my opinion. He brings a real sense of intellect to the role, really drawing you into his world of somebody that really knows their shit. There are a lot of familiar faces on show here, even Ron Perlman who plays a mentally handicapped man living outside the abbey. Christian Slater is good enough in one of his early roles, although everyone pretty much plays second fiddle to Sean Connery who is just mesmerising. F. Murray Abraham is great as Bernado Gui, and really shows just how terrifying religion was back in the old days. Give it a watch.

4/5

JM

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Lady in White (1988)

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One Halloween a young boy named Frankie Scarlatti (Lukas Haas) tells a scary story to his classmates. Frankie has a vivid imagination and likes to write stories. After school, two bullies grab Frankie’s hat and throw it into the class cloakroom. The bullies tell Frankie where he can find it. However when Frankie goes to get his hat, the bullies lock the door behind him. Frankie is locked inside the cloakroom where it begins to get dark. As it gets dark Frankie sees the ghost of a young girl being attacked by an unseen force then vanish. Somebody comes into the cloakroom and begins to look around. When Frankie makes a noise, the unknown person attacks Frankie and he blacks out.

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Frankie finds out that the spirit he saw was of a little girl that was taken from the school years before and murdered. Several other children were also murdered in the following years but the killer was never found. When Frankie blacked out he had a vision of the girl whom he spoke to. She asked Frankie to help her find her mother.

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As Frankie begins to dig further into the vision of the spirit and the other murdered children, he realises that the killer might be someone very close to home. All of it having something to do with the mysterious ‘Lady in White’ who lives by the cliffs. This movie is very eerie. I remember seeing it a very long time ago now, and I remember it scaring me. Not that it has many jumpy moments, but rather it’s just a really well put together ghost story.

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Lukas Haas is brilliant as Frankie. Alex Rocco is also great as Frankie’s dad Angelo, and the great Len Cariou plays the family friend Phil. The effects of the ghosts can be a bit ropey in places, but the story is so well told that it would be cruel of me to really mark it down for that. If you have never seen this movie, then I urge you to track down a copy and give it a watch. It really is a creepily good movie.

4/5

JM

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Black Rain (1989)

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God I love this movie! One of Ridley Scott’s most underrated movies in my opinion. Nick Conklin (Michael Douglas) is a cop in New York City who is under investigation from Internal Affairs for his part in a bust where drug money went missing. Nick and his partner Charlie Vincent (Andy Garcia) are in a cafe when some Japanese men enter and begin to hassle some mafia members. One of them, Sato (Yusaku Matsuda), steals a wooden box and kills the men. Nick and Charlie give pursuit to Sato and his men. Nick manages to catch up to Sato and over powers him.

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Nick is told that Sato is wanted in Tokyo and that he is to be brought back immediately. Nick tells his superiors that he wants to be the one to bring Sato back and that Charlie is to accompany him. Nick, Charlie and Sato reach Tokyo where they are met by a group of policemen who have been ordered to collect Sato. Nick and Charlie hand Sato over and begin to get off the plane. Another group of policemen show up and say they are there to collect Sato, Nick realises that he’s been duped and gives chase. After losing Sato, Nick tells the chief of the police in Tokyo that he wants to retrieve Sato. Nick is told that he is not a Japanese policeman and that it will be left to Masahiro (Ken Takakura), a detective in the Tokyo police force, to catch Sato.

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Not willing to accept to simply be an idle bystander, Nick teams up with Masa and they both work together to catch Sato. Also helping them is an American working girl in Japan called Joyce (Kate Capshaw). As the case goes on, things happen that cause it to be more personal to Nick, giving him a chance at redemption.

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I really do love this movie. Tokyo looks like such a brilliantly vibrant city, I would love to visit one day. Everybody is on top form. Michael Douglas is brilliant as Nick, Andy Garcia brings a level head as Charlie and Ken Takakura is fantastic as the honourable Masa. However Kate Capshaw feels wasted in her role as Joyce, not really contributing anything to the story that I felt was needed. Yusaku Matsuda is menacing as Sato, bringing a real intensity to the role. Sadly he was dying of cancer during the making of this movie. Definitely worth a watch if you dig 80’s action with a kick ass synthy score.

4/5

JM

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Videodrome (1983)

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Max Renn (James Woods) runs a sleazy late night cable channel called CIVIC-TV. Max believes he gives the viewing public what they want. Sex, violence, nudity, you can find it on CIVIC-TV. However Max feels that his latest acquisition of Japanese softcore porn just doesn’t cut it. He wants something harder, something dirtier…something that will really pique his viewers interest. Max asks his tech guy Harlan (Peter Dvorsky) to find something for him. Peter tells Max he has just the thing. Peter operates the CIVIC-TV pirate dish and has found a signal broadcasting something called ‘Videodrome’, a kinky show which has no plot, just torture and sado-masochistic sex. Max thinks it’s just what is viewers want.

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Max appears on a talk show where he defends his programme decisions, feeling he provides a decent service. There he meets a a philosopher called Brian O’Blivion (Jack Creley) who never appears in person, and a radio psychiatrist called Nikki Brand (Debbie Harry) who he begins to have a relationship with. He shows her Videodrome and the begin to experiment in S&M. Later strange things begin to happen to Max. He sees a broadcast from Brian O’Blivion who tells him that soon television will take the place of every aspect of a persons life. Max also begins to have strange things happen physically. He learns that Videodrome was created to weed out the filth of society so that only the decent folk remain, since it’s only the filth and perverts that will watch Videodrome. All leading to a bloody conclusion.

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Directed by David Cronenberg when he was still heavily into his whole ‘body-horror’ phase, Videodrome is a movie that needs to be seen. It is a mind-fuck in every sense of the word. The effects for a movie that is 30yrs old are brilliant. I have always been a purist, so I just adore practical effects and this movie delivers.

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This is seriously worth a watch. If you’ve never seen it, then give it a go. It’s pretty crazy yes, but I have a feeling many will like it. If you’re into the weird shit, then you’ll dig this.

4/5

JM

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The Dead Zone (1983)

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Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) is driving home from his fiancée’ Sarah’s (Brooke Adams) house when he is involved in a horrific car accident. He wakes up from a coma several years later to find things have changed drastically. His fiancée Sarah has moved on and found love with a new man. However the most drastic of changes occurs when Johnny grabs the wrist of his nurses hand. He says to her that “Amy needs your help”. Amy is the nurses daughter and she rushes home to find that her house has burned down but her daughter is safe.

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Later Johnny begins to have terrifying visions of things that have happened or have yet to happen. The police use Johnny’s skill to help them catch a serial killer stalking the town. Johnny becomes somewhat of a town celebrity as others call on him for help. However it’s not until Johnny meets and touches the hand of Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen), a man running for Senator, that things take an even more sinister turn.

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Johnny catches a glimpse of a possible future where Stillson is president and close to starting World War III. Johnny realises his power to see things was given for a reason. Most Stephen King adaptations are utter shite, lets face it. The ones that Stephen King hates, like Stanley Kubrick’s version of ‘The Shining’, are the only ones worth watching. He may be able to write horror, but he knows dick about any adaptations of his book. The one time he tried to give people a taste of his version of a horror movie we got ‘Maximum Overdrive, do with that information what you will.

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However that being said, this is one of the better King adaptations. For starters we have a great director taking the reins in David Cronenberg. Next you have two of the finest actors in Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen which just make this infinitely more watchable. You have a supporting cast of Tom Skerrit, Brooke Adams, Herbert Lom and Anthony Zerbe and you have a brilliant  movie all round. The script is brilliant, and Cronenberg ratchets up the tension in all the right places. It really is a fantastic movie, and one I’ll definitely watch again.

5/5

JM

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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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The Punisher (1989)

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My wife has been saying I should do a review of the Dolph Lundgren version of The Punisher, so here it is. I’ve got a lot of love for this movie. I understand it gets a lot of shit because The Punisher in this version doesn’t have a skull emblem on his shirt. Many people have said that’s like having Superman without the S, and I used to agree. However I noticed something after all these years. To the untrained eye it looks like Dolph is rocking some serious mascara and fake stubble, but now I see there was a method to the madness. Rather than have a skull on his shirt, the director Mark Goldblatt wanted to have Frank Castle’s face look like a skull, hence the dodgy looking make-up.

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For many years a shadowy vigilante called The Punisher has been killing criminals all over the city. Many believe he is a myth but there is one police officer, Jake Berkowitz (Louis Gossett Jr.) who believes he knows the identity of The Punisher. Det. Berkowitz believes that The Punisher is his ex-partner Frank Castle who supposedly died in a car bomb along with his family. Berkowitz believes he is close to catching The Punisher and is given help by a young police woman named Sam Leary (Nancy Everhard). Some new criminals from Japan have surfaced and are looking to take over all of the Mafia’s business interests, forcing The Punisher to join forces with an enemy in order to bring the Yakuza down.

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I really do like this film. I remember watching it in early ’92, so it evokes some great memories for me. Dolph Lundgren is great as The Punisher. He cuts an imposing figure and is the closest to the comic Frank Castle in my opinion. Jeroen Kraabe is ok as Gianni Franco, though doesn’t really make a convincing Italian mobster. Louis Gossett Jr. is always worth watching as he always gives 100% in whatever film he’s in. There are some fantastic action sequences, particularly when The Punisher attacks a shipment at the docks.

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If you have only ever seen the Thomas Jane and Ray Stevenson versions, then I can definitely recommend watching this one too. The script is a bit stilted in places, but overall it’s perfect beer and pizza entertainment!

4/5

JM

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Cruising (1980)

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Steve Burns (Al Pacino) is a New York police officer. He is young, handsome and has a great girlfriend called Nancy (Karen Allen). Steve has aspirations  to get higher up in the NYPD and wants to be a detective. He is informed by his captain, (Paul Sorvino), that dismembered body parts are turning up around the city and that someone is murdering young gay men using S&M methods. Steve is asked by his captain if he’ll go undercover into the gay club scene to catch the killer, as he fits the victim profile. Steve is told that going undercover will help his chances of becoming a detective, so he accepts.

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Steve begins to trawl the gay nightclubs and leather bars looking for anyone that could be the killer. As he delves deeper and deeper into the seedy world of sex he begins to doubt his abilities to continue as he feels the job is changing him. You get the impression here that his character is fighting his own sexuality. The reaction to the murders from Steve’s colleagues also prompts Steve to think twice about continuing, plus the fact that he never gets to see his girlfriend Nancy.

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The face of the killer is never revealed. He just whistles a tune and sings “who’s here…..I’m here”. There are clues later on as to who the killer could or couldn’t be, so it’s definitely worth paying attention. I did hear from William Friedkin who is the director that the film was heavily cut, so this does have an effect on the narrative as you feel some information may be missing. There is also a disclaimer at the start of the movie as some gay men found the film very offensive, though there are many people that do like the movie. The film is very ambiguous in places, leaving you to decide as to the identity of the killer.

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The film is pretty full on. The scenes in the clubs are very explicit. This is down to the fact that Friedkin filmed in the real clubs around the meat packing district in New York, so the background extras are real club goers doing what they’d normally do. If the subject matter of this movie makes you uncomfortable, then steer clear. If however, like me, you are an open minded film fan and like to try new movies out, then jump in. I would recommend it to most people. As far as I know there are no plans for an uncut/extended release, so you’ll have to make do with this one. Enjoy!

4/5

JM

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Outland (1981)

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Outland is a sci-fi in appearance, but it doesn’t play like a typical sci-fi and is all the better for it. Outland is more of a western in the vein of ‘High Noon’ than any sci-fi released around the same time. It was made in 1980 and released in 1981. Back when practical effects were the norm and the film world was a brighter, more interesting place. The story involves Marshall William T. O’Neil (Sean Connery). Marshall O’Neil has been sent to a shit hole mining colony on the Jupiter moon of Io. He’s been sent there as punishment because nobody will work with him as he’s too headstrong.

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When he first gets to Io he is greeted by the mining boss Sheppard (Peter Boyle). He is told by Sheppard that his boys work hard, so they like to play hard. Essentially asking O’Neil to turn a blind eye to any grief he might come across. O’Neil warns Sheppard that he won’t be intimidated or bossed and will do things his way, despite Sheppard warning O’Neil that he may make enemies if he does. After a miner apparently commits suicide, O’Neil is informed by the colony doctor, Dr. Lazarus (Frances Sternhagen) that the man may have been taking narcotics which led to his death. O’Neil finds out that Sheppard is running a drug ring and that the company don’t mind as it helps drive up the work rate.

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As O’Neil digs deeper and begins to cause trouble for Sheppard and his gang, assassins are hired to kill O’Neil and will arrive in 70hrs. As nobody will help O’Neil defend himself against the assassins, except Dr. Lazarus, O’Neil must do what he can if he intends to survive .

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I love this movie. I love everything about it. The set design is just amazing and evokes memories of Alien, the same too with the costume design. The script is great and Connery is fantastic as O’Neil. My only real gripe is in regards to O’Neil’s family. His son’s voice is dubbed over by another actor for what reason I don’t know. Thankfully his son isn’t in the movie for long, but grates when he is. The film is well worth watching. If you like your sci-fi movies gritty and well acted, then this is for you.

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The film is available on Blu Ray from Warner Bros. Fear not if you don’t have a multi-region Blu Ray player as Warner never region lock their Blu Ray’s. Happy days.

4/5

JM

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