Lord of Illusions (1995)

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Philip Swann (Kevin J . O’Connor) is a young trainee magician under the tutorship of fanatical cult leader Nix (Daniel Von Bargen). When Nix goes to far by capturing a young girl called Dorothea, Swann and some other cult members cast Nix down into a grave and seal him away from the world. 13 years later and Swann is a successful stage illusionist who is married to Dorothea (Famke Janssen). Dorothea hires private eye Harry D’Amour (Scott Bakula) to protect Swann, as elsewhere a group of rogue cult members seek to resurrect Nix.

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When Swann and other cult members that buried Nix are killed, Harry and Dorothea must seek to find the killers and stop them from bringing Nix back as it could spell the end for all mankind. Scott Bakula is great as Harry D’Amour. I have always felt he was an under appreciated actor, and he does very well here. Folks who read Clive Barker’s literature and the fantastic Hellraiser comic series will know that there is much more to Harry D’Amour, as he has tackled some truly evil characters, even a man with pins in his head. Hmmm whomever could I mean?

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Famke Janssen is also good as Dorothea who is not quite a damsel in distress, and does learn to hold her own. Kevin J. O’Connor is great as Swann, and I always like the kooky characters he plays in films like Deep Rising and The Mummy. The house that belongs to Dorothea in this movie is actually the house of the director Clive Barker, bit of trivia there.

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This copy of Lord of Illusions was provided by the very kind folks over at http://www.101-films.com. It is available now from all good stockists. The transfer is very nice, and with this release you get the directors cut on DVD too. It’s worth noting that the blu ray version is only of the theatrical cut. I do recommend it for those fans of horror and all things strange. It is a perfect film for a rainy night.

4/5

JM

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Tremors (1990)

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Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward) are two handy men who live in the small, quiet town of Perfection. They get by doing odd jobs, but after one nasty accident involving sewage, they decide it’s time to move on to pastures new. However something is under the ground, something large and very hungry. When people begin to disappear or are found dead, Val and Earl begin to investigate what exactly is going on. Together with seismologist Rhonda (Finn Carter), they discover that there are large, subterranean worms living underground. These large worms can detect the smallest sound and have decided to call the town of Perfection their hunting ground.

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Realising that trying to escape is out of the question, the townsfolk decide to tackle these worms, or Graboids as Walter (Victor Wong) calls them. Together with local gun nut Burt (Michael Gross) and his wife Heather (Reba McIntire), Val and Earl begin to formulate a plan on distracting and dispatching the deadly threat.

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This for me, is one of my all time favourite movies. It has everything. Action, comedy, horror, some excellent lines and is just an all out joy to watch. I have seen this many times since it’s release and it never gets old. The sequel (Tremors 2) was also worth watching, and I will do a review of that in due course. However I would say to steer clear of Tremors 3 & 4 as they are dire. For me this is one of Kevin Bacon’s best roles. He brings warmth and heart to a role that would have probably just been a one dimensional hick in the hands of a lesser actor. Fred Ward is also hilarious as the gruff Earl Bassett. You can see there was some great chemistry between him and Kevin Bacon as it really shines through in the film. I also loved Michael Gross as the gun obsessed Burt Gummer, however I wish he had of given up the role after Tremors 2 as he really just phones it in in the later sequels and subsequent TV series.

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Like I said it’s one of my absolute favourite movies, and is definitely worth a watch. If you have never seen it then you owe it to yourself as a film fan to get it and watch it. It is a classic in every sense of the word and is perfect entertainment for a Saturday night with a drink and some popcorn. Seriously, get it.

5/5

JM

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The Birdcage (1996)

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Armand Goldman (Robin Williams) is the owner of The Birdcage, one of the hottest clubs on Miami Beach. His partner Albert Goldman (Nathan Lane) is the star attraction of the club. Their lives are thrown into disarray when Armand’s son, Val (Dan Futterman), tells his father that he’s getting married…to a woman! Val is getting married to Barbara Keeley (Calista Flockhart), daughter of Senator Kevin Keeley (Gene Hackman). There is however one problem. Barbara’s parents don’t know Val’s dad is gay, and are already embroiled in a scandal.

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Val decides it would be best to keep Albert offside, whilst Barbara and her parents visit. However when Armand realises that doing that would hurt Albert’s feelings, he decides on a plan b. One that causes all sorts of hilarious mishaps. Together with their overly camp housekeeper Agador (Hank Azaria), they all put a plan together to make sure the meeting goes smoothly.

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I just love this movie. It is a remake of the French movie ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ (1978), which has a very similar set-up. I have never seen the original, but this version is hilarious. Nathan Lane steals the show as Albert. Bringing heart, warmth and humour to what could have been a very one dimensional role in the hands of another actor. Gene Hackman is fantastic as the ‘ultra-conservative’ Senator Keeley. He plays the serious, straight lace stiff to perfection, and you can tell he’s having a blast. Robin Williams is also fabulous as Armand. You can tell he really loves Albert and will do anything to see that he feels accepted by the Keeley family. He really is a joy to behold.

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Hank Azaria is fantastically funny as Agador, trying to play it straight when the Keeley’s arrive. Being that the story is centred around Val and Barbara, both Calista Flockhart and Dan Futterman feel wasted. I don’t know whether that’s down to their characters being badly written, or the fact that they just aren’t very good actors. Both fail to breathe any sort of life into their roles. Like I said, I really enjoy this film, and it never fails to brighten my day. Well worth a watch.

5/5

JM

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The 13th Warrior (1999)

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Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan (Antonio Banderas) has been banished from his homeland after sleeping with the wife of another man. On his travels he comes across a group of Norsemen who have been requested to go to the aid of a village that is being terrorised by ‘monsters’. A wise woman tells the Norsemen that 12 of them will be chosen, and that the 13th warrior will be a man not of their land. Ahmed is chosen to join the warriors in their journey.

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Whilst on their journey, Ahmed begins to earn the respect and admiration of the group, who see that he has a lot to offer them in their quest. Upon reaching the village, the group meet with the King. The King tells them that the monsters come when the “worm” has been seen in the mountains. When the ‘monsters’ attack the group, the group find that the ‘monsters’ are in fact ordinary men, albeit cannibals. The group decide that if they are to put a stop to the attacks, they must seek the enemy in their lair.

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However striking at the heart of the enemy, doesn’t quite have the effect the warriors hope for, leading to a brutal and bloody showdown. I absolutely love this movie. It has that old school epic quality to it. The story and acting are top notch. Everyone is clearly enjoying their respective roles. The action itself is visceral stuff, and doesn’t skimp on the gore.

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The film is based on a story by Michael Crichton called ‘The Eaters of the Dead’. Directed by John McTiernan, it truly is pulse pounding stuff. Omar Sharif has an extended cameo as Ahmed’s companion Melchisidek. I did read that there were problems on set and that Michael Crichton had to come in and oversee the directing of the film, but it doesn’t show. It is a brilliantly entertaining movie and one I wholeheartedly recommend.

5/5

JM

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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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Braindead aka Dead Alive (1992)

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Mothers boy Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme) lives at home under the ever watchful eye of his overbearing mother Vera (Elizabeth Moody). Vera hounds Lionel every minute of the day, getting him to do chores and constantly putting him down. Lionel longs for a better life. He gets an idea of what that might be like when he meets Paquita (Diana Penalver) who works at the local store. Lionel and Paquita fall in love and begin to spend as much time as possible together.

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Lionel and Paquita go to the zoo on a date. However not far behind is Vera, snooping and following the couple around a zoo. When Vera gets too close to one of the cages, a rat monkey reaches out and bites her arm. Later Vera begins to get very sick, with bits of her body falling off and her hunger seeking more than mere food. As Vera begins to bite and infect others, Lionely tries to keep a lid on the outbreak from his nosey neighbours and relatives. However when people come round for a party, things take a turn for the worse.

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The house becomes a bloodbath, with zombies breaking out left and right. Lionel is faced with the unenviable task of disposing of the infestation and saving the life of his beloved Paquita. This movie is a gorehound heaven. One of Peter Jackson’s (yes that one) earlier films, this needs to be seen. It’s a horror comedy that surpasses even Evil Dead II for gore and splatter. I laugh when I think of the people that sought out Peter Jackson’s back catalogue after watching Lord of the Rings, only to find this.

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This movie is not for the squeamish it must be said. It is packed to the gills with gore and some truly inventive kills. The cast seem to be having a whale of a time. The script is also brilliant, with some absolute zingers. You really need to check this out, I cannot stress that enough. It is one of the best horror comedies out there, and for a film that’s 21yrs old that ain’t half bad.

4/5

JM

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Out for Justice (1991)

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Gino Felino (Steven Seagal) is a no nonsense New York cop. When his partner Bobby Lupo (Joe Spataro) is gunned down in front of his wife and kids, Gino begins the hunt for the killer. He finds out that the killer is a someone he used to hang around with when they were kids, a man called Richie Madano (William Forsythe). Richie has become a drug crazed murderer, hell bent on causing as much destruction as possible before going out with a bang.

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Both the mafia and the police begin a hunt for Richie, however Gino is hell-bent on finding Richie first and dealing with him his own way. Gino scours every lowlife haunt that Richie could be, including a dingy bar owned by Richie’s younger brother, Vinnie Madano (Anthony DeSando). Gino terrorises the clientèle, including mafia members and drug dealers, getting into fights along the way, both with Richie’s men and other lowlife.

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Gino continues his hunt for Richie even going as far as threatening Richie’s elderly parents. However Gino finds out that there was more to the murder of Bobby Lupo than a simple murder. All culminating in a brutal and bloody showdown with Richie and his men.

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I love Steven Seagal’s earlier stuff. I find that he was doing some decent stuff right up until Glimmer Man. Then he started to believe his own hype and churn out direct to video shit where he is only shot from the waist up so you don’t see his massive gut. The guy has definitely not grown old gracefully. I mean even in Nico/Above the Law he was going bald, with a hairline like someone had his hair in a buggers grip. But watching this you remember a time when he was the ultimate bad ass, kicking seven shades out of random scum. Now he just fat, slow and a bit weird….with hair plugs. Shame really.

3/5

JM

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Mo’ Money (1992)

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This is another one that I file under ‘guilty pleasures’. I like it and I’m not afraid to admit it. I understand that it’s rotten tomato or imdb score might not be the best, but we all have certain movies we like that others don’t, this is one of those movies. I watched it years ago and it made me laugh, and it *still* makes me laugh. The story involves two con artist brothers Johnny Stewart (Damon Wayans) and Seymour Stewart (Marlon Wayans). The brothers have been making a living scamming unsuspecting people for a long time. However when their latest scam gets Johnny arrested they are warned that they need to make an honest living or face serious prison time next time either of them are arrested.

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Johnny gets a job working in the mailroom of a credit card company after he follows one of their employees, Amber Evans (Stacey Dash), into the building to get her number. Amber works in the upstairs offices and Johnny gets a job working their so he can get closer to her. Johnny’s boss Keith Heading (John Diehl) takes notice of Johnny and catches Johnny stealing a returned credit card. Keith calls Johnny to the office and tells Johnny that he planted the card and knew it was a matter of time before Johnny stole it. Johnny had been using the cards with his brother Seymour to pull more scams and get clothes and jewels.

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Keith tells Johnny that he wants Johnny to start using the cards to get certain items, which Keith will then sell so that he can launder money through the company. When Johnny realises he’s in over his head he tries to back out, but Keith won’t leave any witnesses, and gets his men to try take Johnny, Seymour and anyone else who knows what’s going on out of the picture.

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Like I said this film makes me laugh. There are a lot of funny scenes and some great bits of action. The scene in the jewellery shop always has me in stitches of laughter. It’s another one I don’t think a lot of people have seen, but it’s well worth giving a look. It won’t win any awards, but it entertains and that’s what counts.

3/5

JM

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Frailty (2001)

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Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) enters the offices of FBI Agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe). Fenton wants to tell Agent Doyle the information he has on the serial killer the FBI are looking for called the God’s Hand Killer. Fenton tells Doyle that his recently deceased brother Adam is the killer they’re looking for. Agent Doyle asks Fenton how he knows this for certain. Fenton begins by telling Doyle about his father who claimed he had god given powers to see the demons inside ordinary people, and that it was his job to kill them.

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Dad Meiks (Bill Paxton) wakes his young children Fenton and Adam to tell them that an angel visited him in the night. He claimed the angel would give him the power to see the demons inside people and the sins they have committed. The angel also said that Dad would be given tools to help him incapacitate, transport and kill the demons with. Dad would get a name of a demon and find them. He would then touch them and see what they’ve done. The tool he would use to stun them was a metal pole. He would then have to put on gloves to carry them so that he wouldn’t keep seeing their sins. Finally he’d use an axe to kill and dismember the bodies. In order to do this in secret, Dad Meiks has his boys dig a hole in the yard which they can kill in private.

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Young Adam believes his dad has the powers that he claims to have, however young Fenton is not so sure. Fenton thinks his dad is crazy and his making this up. This worry is exacerbated when Dad Meiks claims that the name the angel has given to him is Fenton’s, but that he can’t believe it and thinks he can change the doubts Fenton is having. As thing progress Fenton begins to fear for his life and the safety of any further targets his father claims are demons. Back in the present time Doyle finds the whole story fanciful. However there is one last twist in the tale. You’ll have to watch it to find out.

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This fantastic thriller was directed by Bill Paxton. To my knowledge he has only directed this and one other feature. Based on this film, it’s a shame he doesn’t direct more movies as it really is fantastic. Bill Paxton is on top form as Dad Meiks. Powers Boothe is great as Agent Doyle who really doesn’t buy the story he’s being told, and Matthew McConaughey is great as Fenton Meiks. I know many people haven’t seen this as it was in and out of the cinema faster than a rat up a drainpipe. It is well worth tracking down and watching, the twist is amazing and you won’t see it coming. The definition of cult cinema.

5/5

JM

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