Shutter Island (2010)

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Max von Sydow, Jackie Earle Haley, Ted Levine, John Carroll Lynch, Elias Koteas, Patricia Clarkson

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Expectations: High.


Scorsese’s first film back after winning Best Picture and Director for The Departed is Shutter Island, an adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s novel of the same name. Much as I’d like not to say it, Scorsese’s best films are behind him but Shutter Island is still leagues better than your traditional mainstream fare. His last truly great film in my eyes was Kundun, a long 13 years ago, and while Shutter Island doesn’t even come close to its level, it shows that he still holds the power to make a good film.

The story follows Teddy Daniels, a U.S. Marshall from Boston played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and his partner (Mark Ruffalo) as they make their way to Ashecliff Hospital. Their case is to find Rachel Solando, a patient that somehow escaped from her cell and has gone missing. I will leave it at that as a good portion of the fun comes from unraveling the mystery.

Continue reading Shutter Island (2010) →

Uncle Jasper reviews: The Super Inframan (1975)

The Super Inframan [中國超人] (1975)
AKA Infra-Man

Starring Danny Lee, Terry Lau Wai-Yue, Wang Hsieh, Lin Wen-Wei, Bruce Le

Directed By Hua Shan


LASERS! EXPLOSIONS! PEW, PEW, PEW!!!!!

This is a definite oddity in the Shaw Brothers catalogue. Every now and then the Shaw Studios would greenlight a project that had absolutely nothing to do with flying swordsmen, Shaolin monks, or rival kung fu schools. It didn’t happen often, but when it did the results were almost always amusing. You have unforgettable gems like their attempt at remaking King Kong with 1977’s Mighty Peking Man (expect a review of that one in the near future) and their genuinely twisted foray into the world of horror films with 1975’s Black Magic.

The Super Inframan stands right alongside those wacky classics in what would be the first Chinese superhero film. Viewers will instantly recognize the inspiration drawn from old-school Japanese tokusatsu heroes like Ultraman in this one. You have epileptic-inducing transformation sequences, anatomically implausible rubber monsters, loads of ’70s transistor-laden techno babble, and lasers… a whole shitload of lasers. But this being a Shaw Bros. film you get the added bonus of Tang Chia-choreographed kung fu fights, which although far from his best work, are actually the best you’ll probably see by a bunch of guys in 100-pound rubber monster suits.

Continue reading Uncle Jasper reviews: The Super Inframan (1975) →

The Magic Blade (1976)

The Magic Blade [天涯明月刀] (1976)

Starring Ti Lung, Lo Lieh, Ku Feng, Tang Ching, Ching Li, Lily Li Li-Li, Fan Mei-Sheng, Chan Shen

Directed by Chor Yuen

Expectations: High.


My expectations for this were just soaring after watching Shaolin Intruders. The two films have absolutely nothing to do with each other except that they’re both Shaw Bros. pictures and Tang Chia choreographed the fights, but you could connect most any Shaw Bros. film with that logic. Needless to say, I was let down. The Magic Blade is an interesting movie as it doesn’t really contain a magic blade. You might expect there to be one in a film titled The Magic Blade, but not in this film. There is the rather neato blade that Ti Lung uses throughout the film, but magic isn’t exactly the adjective I’d use to describe it. It’s on a harness attached to his arm that allows it to spin when he wants it to, but it isn’t really used all that much in the film so don’t get too worked up about it. This is possible magic blade candidate number one. Number two is where I’m placing my money though, as the film revolves around everyone trying to get a hold of it. The weapon in question is the mysterious Peacock Dart, a weapon so powerful that — well, I’ll let them explain it.

“The Dart when hurled, emits mysterious and beautiful rays, and the victim dies in a mysterious way.”

“And no one is immune to it.”

After which the dart is thrown, resulting in multiple explosions of light and smoke that very conveniently kill only the hero’s enemies. No one is immune to movie logic either I guess. Anyway I don’t mean to complain, that shit was fun to watch.

Continue reading The Magic Blade (1976) →

Dolls (1987)

Starring Stephen Lee, Guy Rolfe, Hilary Mason, Ian Patrick Williams, Carolyn Purdy Gordon, Cassie Stuart, Bunty Bailey, Carrie Lorraine

Directed by Stuart Gordon

Expectations: Low. I didn’t know this was Empire International before I started watching it, otherwise I would have expected more initially.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


With Dolls, I’m continuing my trek through the Empire International/Full Moon catalog. My girlfriend, after watching Ghoulies with me, felt a strong urge to re-watch this film which she had seen as a kid. As the credits began to roll and I saw Empire and Charles Band’s name, I immediately knew why she was compelled to re-watch Dolls. The power of the Full Moon had struck once again and she was powerless to do anything but watch this again. On the strength of Ghoulies I knew that I wanted to watch more of these films, but I had not expected Dolls to be one of them. I love it when a plan comes together. I happened to post my review of Ghoulies last Tuesday and now with this on Tuesday, I’m thinking of making every Tuesday for a while dedicated to Empire International or Full Moon films. I was trying to think of a snappy name for the day, but all I could come up with was Terror Tuesdays or Tuesday Trash. If anyone can think of something cool, let me know. Anyway, look forward to more of Charles Band’s brand of horror.

Dolls does not live up to the bar that Ghoulies set in my head. I still enjoyed this a great deal, it’s just not nearly as well made or fun as Ghoulies was. With that out of the way, let’s get down to business. Dolls opens with a girl named Judy riding in a car with her dad and stepmother. The parents here are downright evil and verbally abusive to little Judy. While a normal, well-adjusted person might be offended by their insults, I simply thought to myself, “Hmm, I hope they’re doing what I think they’re doing… setting these bastards up for some seriously gratifying death scenes!” The car breaks down and they all start hoofing it down the road in the pouring rain.

Continue reading Dolls (1987) →

Uncle Jasper reviews: The Wild Angels (1966)

Starring Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra, Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd, Buck Taylor, Norman Alden, Michael J. Pollard, Lou Procopio, Joan Shawlee, Marc Cavell, Coby Denton, Frank Maxwell

Gayle Hunnicutt

Directed By Roger Corman


Man, I don’t know what to say about The Wild Angels. Whereas most B-grade biker movies tend to glorify their subject matter, this film does anything but. Being that this movie marked the beginning of the outlaw biker genre, comparisons to Easy Rider are going to be unavoidable, but this film really shares little in common with that film. Instead of a couple of freewheeling drifters, we are dealing with an unruly mob of Hells Angels. And boy are they a bunch of assholes.

Peter Fonda is “Blues,” leader of the gang’s San Pedro chapter. He meets up with fellow member “The Loser” (Bruce Dern) at his day job as a construction worker. Apparently The Loser’s bike had gone missing weeks earlier and Blues has tracked its whereabouts down to some dusty desert crossroads called “Mecca.” The gang takes a day trip down to the small town before concluding that the bike is hidden away in a tiny Mexican chop shop. Now whether it actually is or not is beside the point. The Angels are mean and ugly and are gonna kick the shit out of these Mexican guys regardless.

Continue reading Uncle Jasper reviews: The Wild Angels (1966) →

Mini-Review: Sid and Nancy (1986)

Starring Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb, David Hayman, Debby Bishop, Andrew Schofield

Directed by Alex Cox

Expectations: Low.


I wasn’t expecting much going into this. I liked the film, but I found it a bit on the boring side. Gary Oldman is fantastic as Sid Vicious, the definite star of the show. That’s also part of the problem I had with the film though, as he outshines nearly every other actor in it. He seems to embody not just Vicious but the punk ethos itself, while the majority of the rest of the cast looks like they’re playing dress-up at punk rock school. I’m probably being a bit biased here, but I couldn’t get past it while watching the film. Chloe Webb is pretty good as Nancy but she does get pretty annoying. I suppose that was part of the point though, so I can’t complain too much.

The film showcases the relationship of Sid and Nancy and seeks to give Sex Pistol fans an insight into their world. I’m just okay with the Pistols (personally I’m much more into The Clash), and I was okay never knowing anything about them. Obviously that doesn’t make me the target audience here, but I still liked it well enough thanks to the wonderful Oldman performance. Many people involved with the Pistols, including Johnny Rotten, have spoken at length about how inaccurate the film is, that no one should watch it, etc. I don’t have a clue what is true or not, but regardless, it tells a believable version of the tale. For me the film was on the borderline of okay and good, I kept jumping back and forth between 2 and 2 1/2 stars, but ultimately I decided that as the days moved on after watching this, the images in my head did not. Watch it if you enjoy Gary Oldman and want to see his breakout performance. It was shot by Roger Deakins too, so it looks pretty nice.

As a side note to all the Oldman fans: I’d also recommend Stephen Frear’s Prick Up Your Ears. It’s a very good film from the same time frame featuring a great Oldman performance and also starring Alfred Molina.

Coincidentally, my colleague Dan the Man has also recently watched this one and has got some thoughts up. Go check out his take on it!

Crazy Heart (2009)

Starring Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Jack Nation

Directed by Scott Cooper

Expectations: High.


Crazy Heart tells the story of Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges), an alcoholic country singer whose career is on the decline. We enter his life as he pulls into the parking lot of his next gig: a bowling alley. The last time I saw Bridges at a bowling alley were the final moments of The Big Lebowski, so this was a nice place to start the film for me. I’m sure it wasn’t lost on a lot of other viewers as well. He eventually meets up with a young reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and strikes up a friendship. The heart of the film lies within this relationship. Maggie Gyllenhaal has never looked more beautiful on-screen than she does here and she displays a deep talent for creating a believable character.

I was shocked to learn that this is the debut feature from Scott Cooper. It is a very well-made film with crisp, beautiful cinematography. The film is set all across the American Southwest and it looks gorgeous. The wide, expansive landscapes made me long for a good road trip and the bar interiors perfectly captured the heartbroken neon feeling that local bars always gives me. I look forward to what he comes out with next, because if it’s as well shot as this was, it’ll be something special.

Continue reading Crazy Heart (2009) →

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