Monthly Archives: January 2013

“Dredd” (2012)

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In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO.

Reviewed by Brian

Rating –  6 out of 10

As this movie started, the first thing that entered my mind was, “Oh no, not again.” It has a cheesy chase scene followed by bad one liners from the new Judge Dredd played by Karl Urban. It had an eerily similar feel to the first Robocop film minus the tongue in cheek humor. Then, a great story decision got me hooked and led this to be a solid if unspectacular action film. About a third of the way through the movie, Dredd and his rookie partner investigate a triple murder at a futuristic version of inner city projects. They take a gang member into custody to obtain information and on their way out, the gang leader overrides the security and locks everyone inside.

It then becomes 2 vs an entire gang and the results were predictable but fun. Several key action scenes do build tension to a climax that feels familiar but satisfying for this genre. It is light years better than that pile of shit Stallone starred in way back in the mid 90’s.

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Don’t get you hopes too high though. Several factors keep this from being anything more than fun and forgettable. First off, Judge Dredd is a robotic character. He has zero personality and might as well be a cyborg. His behavior is so lifeless that it reminded me of Robocop. Second, the female gang leader never really struck me as an interesting antagonist. Se snarls, she acts like she’s pissed, and she orders evil deeds. But, I never really bought the character or the performance.

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Don’t let these mild negative annoyances dissuade you from seeing it though. It’s a well made action film that will keep you entertained as long as you temper your expectations.

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The Bond Films – “Moonraker” (1979)

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I’ll be reviewing the Movie not the Beer
– Vic

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“James Bond investigates the mid-air theft of a space shuttle and discovers a plot to commit global genocide.”

Reviewed by Victor

Directed by Lewis Gilbert

7 out of 10

“Any higher Mr Bond and my ears will pop.”

Poor Poor Roger Moore. Well, kind of. I gotta admit he looked like he had fun making this movie but many Bond fans the world over consider his turn as James Bond in “Moonraker” to be one of the most laughable and over the top entries in the 007 canon. As a die hard James Bond fan I, by default, like to find things to like in all of the movies. But no where like I do in Moonraker. I do hold a special place in my heart for Moonraker since it was the first film I saw in the movie theaters here in Rochester, NY. I must confess coming off of the high that was Star Wars and even Disney’s The Black Hole, Moonraker was a fun watch for me. Perhaps it was because I had still to witness the glory days of how Bond was before Moore with the Connery entries. That was to come much later after I had moved back to NYC and my Uncle and Grandfather insisted I watch “Dr. No” and the rest.

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It’s a pretty simple and decent story about a kind of demented “Noah’s Ark” for the space age which involves the uber-rich Mr Hugo Drax, played with cheeky severance by Actor Micheal Lonsdale. Lonsdale also starred in the fabulous action film “Ronin” from director John Frankenheimer. Here, Drax is the problematic megalo-maniac that has a grand scheme to take over the world and make it his own. Sorta like the aquatic dude in The Spy Who Loved Me. In Moonraker,  Drax  is smooth, menacing and very calculating. He wants to steal all the Moonrakers, or space shuttles for us layman, from around the world and start his own race of super-humans on the earth after he’s purged the current occupants off the face of the planet. That means us, people. This doesn’t hold well with her Majesty’s Secret Service and the ever ready for action, James Bond. Here Moore is very comfortable in his own skin as Bond and he has definitely brought his own charm and grace to 007. Yep, there are the near misses, one liners and the ever present copulations with agents of the female persuasion. By now though it is a bit routine and not very endearing. Lois Chile is very cute, stern and capable as Dr. Goodhead but she’s just well…boring. Her chemistry with Moore really just lasts about 10 minutes then it becomes frosty and by the numbers.

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Of course M (Bernard Lee), Q (Llewelyn) and even Moneypenny ( Lois Maxwell) are fun to watch as they each separately engage 007 in order to ready him for his mission. Moore gets a chance to globe hop of course. Rio being one place where we watch him and Jaws get into fisticuffs during on an aborted skytram ride. Pretty funny stuff as we get to watch Jaws bite in a huge cable with his metal teeth. He runs afoul of Bond a few times one being very comical, the waterfall sequence, and the other quite silly, the parachute scene at the beginning. (Jaws actually flaps his arms like wings…ha,  but it doesn’t work, duh. ) The powerboat chase is very cool and some action pieces come across nicely done but when it gets to outer space it turns into a silly bit of hokum which is appealing to Star Wars lovers like myself but will have more die hard Bond fans scratching their heads. One scene of brilliance I need to mention has to be the Close Encounters of the 3rd kind musical cue pop up as a secret code entry for a lab that has been manufacturing the deadly Drax gas that will descimate the earth’s population. A great reference that is one of many.

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Many think Moonraker is under-rated, fast, freshly paced and full of camp and adventure. I sort of agree. It is under-rated in the spy scheme of things and it does feature Moore actually trying to figure out things that are happening and it does occasionally make for a decent spy picture but nowhere on the level of For Your Eyes Only or even The Man with the Golden Gun. Moonraker, though, is fun and it somewhat tongue in cheek. I do hold it in high regard and I will never forget how much fun I had watching it for the first 5-6 times. After that though, I must give in to the slightly warped universe that is this movie which many fans think is Moore’s best. While I do not, I still think it’s a hell of a lot of fun. If anything watch it for Jaws falling in love and becoming 007’s best friend by the end. Kinda like Godzilla having Jet Jaguar as a pal.

NOTE : “Moonraker” is part of the new Bond 50 Boxed Blu Ray Set – Here is the link to the Blu Ray Review of “Moonraker”

http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Moonraker-Blu-ray/3732/#Review

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SM

Brian’s Review – “Ghost Rider – Spirit of Vengeance”

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I have no one to blame for the abysmal, wretched, horrible, pitiful and downright painful experience of watching this pile of shit but myself. I watched the original Ghost Rider and thought that movie sucked and yet somewhere in my mind I said, “Well, let’s give another Ghost Rider movie one more day in court. They can’t possible do worse.” Well, guess what? It’s worse…..a lot worse. This is my pic for the turkey of the year.

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The script is pointless, Nicholas Cage’s acting is laughably horrid as is the rest of the cast, you don’t know what’s going on and when you do you won’t care and the direction is completely rudderless and full of so many bad ideas that I don’t know how the producers green lit it. I cannot overstate for you to avoid this film. I’m sure many of you will have the line, “It’s a Ghost Rider film, what did you expect?” I’ll respond with: A MOVIE!! You know, a reason for me to sit for 2 hours and say that I experienced SOMETHING….ANYTHING!!!

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I would rather sit and stare at a fucking wall! Who in their right mind ever considered this acceptable for a major release? There’s no story, no progression of the characters, terrible special effects, confusing and pointless action scenes, miscast characters, and nothing even resembling a cohesive plot. Do NOT bother with this film even to pique your curiosity as to how bad it may be. It’s a full on exercise of what zero ideas and zero talent can accomplish with millions of dollars…

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Brian’s Review – “Django Unchained” (2012)

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“With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.”

Django Unchained

Rating –  8 out of 10

Tarantino has definitely brought credibility back to the “revenge” genre. His last three films were all based on that subject. “Kill Bill” was classic over the top samurai fun, Inglorious Basterds was the Jewish fantasy of being able to get back at the Nazis, and now “Django” again deals with the historical fictional revenge of what would happen if a slave was able to get back at his owners.

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A lot has been written about this film and little of it focused on its quality. Most of what I read was about its use of the N-word, its over the top violence, and its realistic depiction of torture towards slaves. All of what you’ve heard is true. It constantly uses the N-word, its violence is the most extreme yet for a Tarantino film, and its depiction of slave torture is gruesome and cruel. But, guess what? It’s also a hell of a film! Tarantino and Westerns were bound to cross paths at some point. All of his films have nods to spaghetti westerns, particularly Sergio Leone’s masterpieces. But, while he takes elements from the past, this is definitely an original piece of work with rock solid direction and a pitch perfect cast all the way around.

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Jamie Foxx hold down the lead just fine, Christoph Waltz is utterly brilliant, Leonardo DiCaprio will no doubt get an Oscar nod, and Samuel Jackson should win one. This is the best performance of Jackson’s entire career and you will develop a hatred for him unlike anyone in a film in some time. While DiCaprio’s slave owner is expected to be a cold and heartless piece of shit, Jackson’s turn as the Uncle Tom is really what will piss you off. The script is really terrific as well and I particularly like Tarantino’s use of time. There’s flashbacks and flash forwards several times to explain back story and they’re never confusing or superfluous. In fact, the first hour of the films is pretty damn near perfect.

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So, why not a 10? The middle section bogs it down a bit. There’s a very long stretch where we’re waiting to get to DiCaprio’s plantation that could have been tightened up significantly. There’s also a double ending(I’m trying to stay vague to avoid spoilers) that was fairly unnecessary. It is literally about 25 minutes of cut footage away from being damn near perfect because you really couldn’t ask for much better of a script and certainly not better performances. Highly recommended!

The Bond Films – “Live and Let Die” (1973)

007 is sent to stop a diabolically brilliant heroin magnate armed with a complex organization and a reliable psychic tarot card reader.

Directed by Guy Hamilton

Reviewed by Victor

7 out of 10

“What are you? Some kinda doomsday machine, boy?”  – Sherriff J.W. Pepper

“Let and Let Die” is Roger Moore’s debut film as the iconic spy James Bond. It is actually the 8th Bond over all with Lazenby and Connery having hung up their gadgets. It’s directed by Guy Hamilton who brought us the classic Connery entry Goldfinger and Remo Williams. I really don’t know what happened but the gears changed somewhat and Hamilton (maybe not solely) not only introduces us to the capable Roger Moore but incorporates a comedic and rather campy approach to the Bond movies. The film is based on the Fleming novel of the same name and was written by Tom Mankiewicz (Superman,  Ladyhawke). Unfortunately upon it’s release america was being subjected to films starring mostly African American actors and actresses. Mostly “Blaxploitation” movies. The filmmakers, I feel, in including stereotypes and ethnic cliches doom the film to some mediocrity and causes the movie to feel dated. But the film being dated is not the only thing that makes LALD a “just ok” Bond movie.

It isn’t really Roger Moore’s fault. The culprit is the story, cheesy acting and campy dialog that would cause me to cringe a bit.  “Just being dis-arming, darling” 25 years ago while having some beers with my cousin, we would have a blast at the film’s expense. We loved it. Only back then though. Now? Well, I don’t think I love it as much. Not after some other much tighter, interesting and diverse entries, even by Moore himself. So how does Moore fare, here? Is he great? No. Does he suck? No, not really. Moore is nowhere as rougish or appealing as Connery in his heydey. Moore’s approach is sauve, slippery and sarcastic. At times somewhat being a parody. In his defense though, Connery’s Diamonds are Forever can be blamed for being a bit off the wall, too.When Moore really wants to, though, he can show us that Bond is in his blood. In LALD it happens infrequently though.

Moore’s intro is quite amusing and well done. He is interrupted by none other than “M” played by the incredibly talented Bernard Lee and Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxell) at his home of all places. He tries his best to hide a girl he’s been fooling with but Moneypenny being the curious woman she is catches the young girl scantily dressed and feeling ashamed. I thought as an intro it was unique and gives us a clear cut picture of Moore’s Bond being just as flirtatious as Connery’s once was. A playboy who just happens to be a spy.

Bond (Moore) is sent to investigate the deaths of three of his colleagues (during a parade in New Orleans is one) and is sent to NYC to find out the connection between their deaths and an underworld mob boss called Kananga AKA Mr Big played  by the always awesome Yaphet Kotto. While in NYC Bond is thrust into another world of secret clubs, (There’s a revolving restaurant table, even!) VooDoo and drugs. Seem like Mr Big wants to move some of the happy H around for free to put other rival gangs out of business. He also runs a fictional island called San Monique where the heroin is farmed.  It is while investigating in NYC that he runs into Felix Leiter after having his driver shot and almost getting killed in a crash. Bond then moves on to the previously mentioned restaurant named Fillet of Soul. It’s here that Bond meets the beautiful Tarot Card reader Solitaire. (The beautiful Jane Seymour) She works for Mr Big but is not his concubine. She needs to be a virgin in order for her to “see” using the tarot cards. Or something like that. I just know Mr Big freaks out after he finds out that Bond eventually sleeps with her.

I want to keep the rest spoiler free or this review will turn into a long recap of the movie. By now many have seen it anyway and those who have not could be surprised and entertained while watching the movie. Suffice it to say the film then follows the typical formula of most Bond films. Or just refer to any of the Austin Powers movies and there you go.

Bond continues his globetrotting and in San Monique he hooks up with Rosie Carver,  a very nervous CIA agent played by Gloria Hendry. While there Moore’s act beefs up a bit when he discovers that Kananga is farming Heroin. Moore looks very damn cool in that slick glider of his. So, what follows all of this that works? We get Tee Hee played by Julius Harris who is a deadly foe with a pincer for a hand. He a bit charming too. He is quite menacing especially during some close calls with Bond. The climatic ending with Harris is great! Harris remains above the material though and gives the production some class. Seymour is impressive as Solitaire here as well. She is very pretty, capable and alluring. She plays very well off Moore and handles the material without a hitch. Kotto works here too. He is bad ass, hip, educated and deadly. He knows how to dispatch secret agents and when he resorts to the tried and true method of using sharks (It’s always sharks isn’t it?) he gets this twinkle in his eye that is a gem. The 7-Up dude, Geoffrey Holder as Baron Semedi, the VooDoo priest that is controlled by Kananga is creepy and has that killer laugh that chills to the bone. He hangs out with the bad dudes but he seems like he just doesn’t care what side he’s on. The actors and the performances for the most part bode well in this 007 production.

Now, when we get back to Louisiana, the movie takes a funky turn. It becomes some weird “Smokey and the Bandit” meets “James Bond” hybrid. We get the incredible and inflated Clifton James (Superman 2) as Sherriff JW Pepper. Pepper is loud, boozy looking, rude and is the redneck stereotype in this movie. I have no idea, other than to supply comedy like a hammer to the head, why the Louisiana boat chase with Pepper was done like it was. The action is breezy and well staged with the boat stunts being exciting and dangerous. Clifton James is lovingly over the top and plays the stereotype with laser precision. He even says that they have themselves some “Black Russians” and I don’t mean the drink! I don’t know what to make of it all. I mean it is a Bond movie, no? Not an episode of Dukes of Hazzard. Funny though, these scenes are truly funny and insane to watch if you just let the movie take you for a ride. It’s good for a giggle but in the end it really serves to make LALD a farcical type of film. Hamilton’s direction is curiously tight here though with great cinematography by Ted Moore (Goldfinger). The art direction by Oscar winner Peter Lamont (Titanic) is slick and servicable. The movie is clean and great to look at.

To sum it all up the film is still fun but a bit dated in parts. It is in no way a serious Bond picture and it will take a few more Moore entries to get that. Moore is likable and very believable even though at times he doesn’t sell being in any real trouble very well.  He transitions neatly I must say in his defense. I even love those huge cigars 007 sucks on too. It takes me back to some really fun times watching it with my cousins in NYC on a late Saturday night. LALD is appealing but none too smart and that’s ok just sit back and let Paul McCartney’s killer tunage reel you in. Enjoy.