Robin Williams – (1951 – 2014)

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I toyed with writing this piece today. Hesitated because I didn’t want a surge of traffic in the sense that folks would feel I was exploiting a sad situation. However, this man played such a pivotal role in my growing up, in my love for movies and in my ability to make people laugh that I felt I had to say something.

I think the first movie I ever remember seeing that starred Robin Williams was Hook. It amazed me and Robin was perfectly cast as an adult Peter Pan. If you’re going to travel to a magical land then you need someone magical to take you there, and Robin Williams was a kind of magic. He had the ability to always make people smile, to light up a room and instantly turn the mundane into the spectacular. All this I got from just seeing him on screen. I never knew him personally, but his passing has left such a weight in my heart that I find it hard to breathe. It’s like losing a relative, and that is no exaggeration. I too suffer with depression so I have some inkling as to what this wonderful man went through. I just hope that he now has the peace in death that he never had in life. God bless you mate, you will be greatly missed.

JM

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

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Vincent Price has always been the go to guy for strange and kooky roles. He’s dependable and doesn’t mind hamming it up on occasion. He does so with real gusto as Dr. Phibes. Dr. Phibes is a tortured genius seeking revenge on 9 people he deems responsible for the death of his darling wife on the operating table. He devises a devilish scheme to exact the most painful and fiendish deaths on the his targets.

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Using the ten plagues inflicted on Egypt in biblical times as a template, Dr. Phibes, with the help of his glamorous assistant Vulnavia (Virginia North), goes about his ghastly business. I won’t spoil the death scenes, as they are very inventive, almost displaying a creativity not seen till the Saw movies came out many years later.  Hot on Dr. Phibes’ trail is Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffrey) who slowly begins to unravel the evil plan and Dr. Vesalius (Joseph Cotten), one of the men Dr. Phibes seeks to kill.

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The whole movie moves along at a fairly brisk pace and doesn’t hold back on the hideous leftovers of the victims once they are attacked. There are some very funny moments too, and cameo roles from many famous faces of yesteryear. Vincent Price is brilliant as Dr. Phibes, really letting loose and genuinely having fun in the role. Peter Jeffrey is great as the world weary Inspector Trout, always one step behind Phibes and also suffering the wrath of his inept superiors. Joseph Cotten is great as Dr. Vesalius, really getting into the role when things heat up.

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The transfer from Arrow Films is nothing short of astonishing. The picture is beautifully crisp, really letting you appreciate the wonderful set design. Although the sound is only Mono 1.0, it is still clear as a bell and I never once felt I had to put the volume up. I do recommend this film for all horror and Vincent Price fans, you won’t be disappointed. This copy of The Abominable Dr. Phibes was provided by the very kind folks at Arrow Films. You can get the box set containing this film and Dr. Phibes Rises Again now over at http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk.

4/5

JM

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Bride of Re-Animator (1989)

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Those docs are at it again. Still toying with life after death, doctors Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) and Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) are looking to further their research and not only reanimate death bodies, but to actually create life from a number of parts. Fleeing from a civil war in South America where they have been since the events of the first movie, they have now set up home in a caretakers house next to a cemetery. There they can work in peace, or so they think.

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As now there are two flies in the ointment. One is Dr. Graves (Mel Stewart) who has been toying with the re-agent that was left behind after the hospital massacre in part one. Second is Lt. Leslie Chapman (Claude Earl Jones), who has his own reasons for wanting to find out what Herbert West and Dan Cain are up to. Bride of Re-Animator also sees the return of Dr. Hill (David Gale), or his head at least. After being reanimated by Dr. Graves, Dr. Hill tells him he wants revenge on Herbert West.

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Dr. West and Dr. Cain however are solely concentrated on bringing together body parts, to give life. However it will not be as easy as they hope, all leading to a bloody showdown with Dr. Hill and his assortment of freaks. This for me was a weaker movie than the first. It just took too long to get going in my book, and resulted in everything been thrown at the wall towards the end, hoping something would stick. I lay blame at Brian Yuzna, who I just don’t rate at all as a director. For me this series should have always been directed by Stuart Gordon, who just seems to understand the material better. Although this is a weak sequel, the worst in the series is Beyond Re-Animator, which is part 3. That film is also directed by Yuzna, having Spain double for America.

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This film is not terrible, but in comparison to the first movie it is clearly inferior. There is some great gore and some funny moments with mischievous reanimated body parts. I would say it’s worth a watch if you have a few mates round as I’m sure you’d enjoy it. As always Jeffrey Combs is always worth watching, he just gives his all in whatever role he is in.

3/5

JM

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Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)

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This is a movie that wastes no time whatsoever in getting off the starting block. It immediately begins with Thunderbolt (Clint Eastwood) dressed as a church minister delivering a sermon. Suddenly a strange man walks into the church and begins to open fire on Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt runs for his life when he is almost knocked over by Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges), who has just stolen a car off a lot. Thunderbolt hitches a ride and the two slowly become friends. However two men from Thunderbolt’s past want to find him, believing he stole from them. Red Leary (George Kennedy) and Eddie Goody (Geoffrey Lewis) have a score to settle with Thunderbolt.

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When the two men catch up to Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, they learn of the truth to the heist that Thunderbolt carried out many years prior. Together the four men decide to carry out a new heist on a security deposit vault, though the animosity that Red feels for Lightfoot threatens to throw the whole plan into disarray. The plan is very elaborate, but to get the money needed the men must find jobs to finance it. This for me is where I felt the film kind of slowed down. It was a monotonous section, that almost felt like what a real job would feel like…boring. However it doesn’t last long.

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The plan even involves Lightfoot in drag, forcing Jeff Bridges to show a little leg, which to be fair to the guy doesn’t look half bad. To say any more would spoil what I felt was a great final third. The chemistry between the two leads is great, and you can tell they enjoyed themselves whilst filming. The support from George Kennedy as the volatile Red Leary is brilliant. He really does let rip with his short temper and is a menacing presence. Geoffrey Lewis is also funny as the slightly simple Eddie Goody, just looking to impress Red.

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The film is directed by Michael Cimino, and was his first feature before he directed ‘The Deer Hunter’ four years later. Cimino was a director that never really delivered after ‘The Deer Hunter’, with ‘Year of the Dragon’ and ‘The Sicilian’ being disappointments. He does well in his first directorial role here however, also serving as the writer too with what isn’t too bad a script. I would recommend this, as it’s definitely worth a watch. This copy of the film was graciously provided by the kind folks at http://www.secondsightfilms.co.uk. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is released on 23rd June and is available now for pre-order.

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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Tourist Trap (1979)

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Five friends are travelling along the back roads of America looking for tourist spots to hang out at and enjoy. After one friend goes missing whilst looking for a spare wheel to replace a flat, the other four friends get in a car and go look for him. As they’re driving they come across a small hidden oasis on private property. Mr. Slausen (Chuck Connors) who owns the land the oasis is on, finds them and asks where they have come from. He invites them into his home, telling them they can wait there while he helps repair their car.

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Mr. Slausen also runs a roadside museum, full of an assortment of wax dummies. He tells the group that he used to run it with his brother who left long ago to make dummies for some of the bigger companies. He asks that while he goes with one of the group, Jerry (Jon Van Ness), that the girls don’t wander off and poke around the property.

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Which is just about the time things take a turn for the worse. A masked maniac with what appears to be telepathic powers, begins to stalk the girls, slowly making them apart of the roadside attraction. This is the sort of movie killer that just happens to always be in two places at once, whatever could it mean? Yes that was sarcasm. This is a dire movie by all accounts. Chuck Connors is good as the elderly farmer Mr. Slausen, but the rest of the cast really just can’t act. The opening 10 minutes of the film was creepy I will admit, but it rapidly goes downhill from there. The voice of the ‘killer’ is just ridiculous, and jettisons any hint of fear or menace the killer may have brought to the film. Going the Michael Myers/Halloween route and keeping the killer silent would, in my opinion, have been the better way to go.

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As with all these films, the scantily clad ladies are all dispatched in variously gruesome ways, but as a viewer you really don’t care. I did hear that the blu ray version is actually five minutes shorter than all the other versions, due to some underhanded tactics by Charles Band and the group at Full Moon. That said, I really fail to see how an extra five minutes of footage would make this abysmal film any better. One for the bargain bin I feel. This copy of Tourist Trap was kindly provided by the very kind folks over at http://www.88films.co.uk.

1/5

JM

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The Untold Story (1993)

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Wong Chi Hang (Anthony Wong) is the owner of the Eight Immortals Restaurant in Macao. His establishment makes the finest pork buns anywhere, but just what exactly *is* inside those tasty buns? After a slew of body parts wash up on the beach Officer Lee (Danny Lee) and his team are led to the Eight Immortals Restaurant, and begin to wonder just how Wong Chi Hang came to be the proprietor.

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A series of flashbacks shed some light on the grisly reality of how Wong Chi Hang came to run the restaurant. After cheating the owner at Mahjong, he butchered the owner, his wife and their kids, so that he could own the restaurant. As the police investigate what happened to the previous owners, Wong tries to cover his tracks, dispatching anyone that might expose him.

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This is one seriously twisted movie. I have long heard of the extreme nature of the Category III movies from Asia, but never expected them to be like this. Seriously, the things that are shown here would never be allowed in Hollywood. Anthony Wong is a tour-de-force as Wong Chi Hang, so it comes as no surprise that he won an award for his role. The movie pulls no punches in terms of gore, bodies are gutted and mutilated by Wong, and you don’t even want to know what he does with a bunch of chopsticks, honestly, I knew there was a reason I use a knife and fork. The team of officers do come off as bumbling, and they’re more like the comic relief. Danny Lee begins every scene he is in with some bit of skirt on his arm, which was funny, but didn’t fit in with the overall tone of the movie. I found that it was quite jarring in terms of tone, and that the film would have worked better if it was all played straight.

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It is definitely worth a watch if you can get your hands on it. It is really shocking though, the raw intensity that Anthony Wong brings to his role really is a sight to behold. The guy is a legend of Asian cinema, and he is hands down one of my favourite Asian actors. However it is not for the squeamish, so if you don’t like gore, steer well clear.

4/5

JM

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Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)

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Years ago Richard (Paddy Considine) left his home town and his younger brother Anthony (Toby Kebbell), who is mentally challenged, to join the army. He returns to his home town to find that while he was away a group led by Sonny (Gary Stretch) tortured and bullied his brother. Now that he’s back, he goes around town with his brother, finding those responsible and making them pay.

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The treatment suffered by Anthony is told in flashbacks, which are interspersed with the main story. When the gang hear that Richard has returned, the look of fear that rushes across their faces suggest something far darker than what is being shown. As Richard works his way through the gang we slowly see the horrifying extent of the terrible treatment Anthony suffered, all leading to one of the most gut punching endings to any movie ever.

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This is without a doubt one of my favourite movies. Directed by Shane Meadows (This Is England), is brilliantly acted and full of menace throughout. The acting is top notch. Having actors from the area the film was made really lends a sense of realism to proceedings. Paddy Considine as Richard has never been better. Toby Kebbell’s acting as Anthony is so believable that I actually thought he had mental health issues, partly down to the fact that this was the first movie I had seen him in.

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The scenes of violence, though few, are brutal and bloody. Watching Anthony suffer the torment at the hands of Sonny and his gang really is heartbreaking. This is all down to the fantastic acting of everyone involved. There are also some brilliant bits of comedy which go some way to alleviating some of the overwhelming darkness that permeates through the movie. Like I said it is one of my favourite movies, and one that I wholeheartedly recommend. I had been meaning to review this film for so long but just never got round to it. I cannot recommend it enough, it really is a brilliant movie. Brual, gritty and fantastically acted.

5/5

JM

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Escape Plan (2013)

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Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) and his business partner Lester Clark (Vincent D’Onofrio) run a company which tests prisons all across America. Ray is put into various prisons and exposes their weaknesses and escapes, thus helping future prisons to be designed so that they are escape proof. Ray is asked by the CIA to test out a new super max prison. The prison is designed to hold the most dangerous terrorists still waiting to be interrogated by the government.

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Ray agrees to take the job,and within a day is bound and gagged to be transported to the new prison. There Ray meets the sadistic Warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel), who duly informs Ray that he will not be leaving the prison. Ray is told that someone has paid good money to ensure he never sees the light of day again. Whilst in prison, Ray meets a man called Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who tells Ray that Hobbes has been keeping him in prison as Rottmayer has information on the whereabouts of someone who could rock the financial world.

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Together Ray and Rottmayer hatch a plan to escape the prison. Seeking the help of other prisoners and the prison doctor, Dr. Kyrie (Sam Neill), they come up with a way to escape and bring the prison down. There are bit parts for Vinnie Jones who plays a sadistic prison guard, and also Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson who plays a computer tech, looking to help find out where Ray has been taken. The story is not nearly as ingenious as it thinks it is. It has some clever moments, like when Ray escapes the prison at the start of the movie, but for the most part it feels very tame. Arnie is still finding his feet after being out of the acting game for so long, and looks uncomfortable in some scenes. Stallone is also a bit wooden, but it’s Stallone so he gets a pass. Jim Caviezel is wonderfully as the hammy almost camp Warden Hobbes. He delivers his lines with understated menace and seems to be having a blast.

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Folks like 50 Cent and Vincent D’Onofrio feel wasted in the small roles they have, and don’t really have much to do. There is also the obligatory scene in which Arnie holds a massive machine gun, which happens so often it feels like it’s a clause in his contract. The action is so-so, but the setting means there’s not as much as you’d expect when two action titans meet. Overall however it is worth a watch, and is perfect beer and pizza fodder.

3/5

JM

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The General (1998)

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Martin Cahill (Brendan Gleeson) was a notorious Dublin criminal who was shot dead in 1994. This movie charts his life from lowly shoplifter, to one of the most prolific armed robbers in Ireland. It opens up with Cahill’s death, and is then played through from his childhood through to his adult life. Martin Cahill is shown to be a very clever criminal, and enormously charismatic. This I feel is down to the talent of Brendan Gleeson, who plays Cahill with a mischievous streak.

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Cahill’s nemesis was an inspector called Ned Kenny (Jon Voight). I must say I was a bit unsure at first that an American actor was playing this character, but Voight’s Irish accent is spot on. He dogs Cahill at every turn, leaving Cahill to come up with ever ingenious ways to foil the police. Martin Cahill would always walk around Dublin with his hood up and his face covered by his hand. All of these little traits are employed here by Brendan Gleeson, who really gets into the character.

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However this film does leave a bitter taste in my mouth. It has some really funny moments, and the way Martin Cahill used to outwit the police was hilarious. However in the movie he is displayed as a loveable rogue, a Robin Hood type man of the people, which he wasn’t. Yes he used to help some of the less fortunate out, but he was also a violent armed robber, who even tortured his own gang. Biopics such as this can be hard when the main focus is somebody that you wouldn’t have much sympathy for. However I feel the director John Boorman does his best with the material at hand.

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The supporting cast such as Adrian Dunbar, Sean McGinley and Maria Doyle Kennedy are brilliant. The acting on whole, is fantastic. So my rating will reflect that. It’s a film I do enjoy watching, but I do feel that Martin Cahill should have been more accurately displayed. Overall however it is worth visiting if you have never seen it.

4/5

JM

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