Brooklyn Rules

Brooklyn Rules is a mix of coming of age drama and typical mafia film- comparisons with such classics as Goodfellas, Once Upon A Time In America, and even The Godfather will inevitably be made. True, the film does try to be a lighter, more commercial, less complicated version of Goodfellas- with fewer characters, a simpler plot, and less violence and swearing. The opening scenes comprise of voiceovers by the main character, played by Freddie Prince Jr, as he tells us briefly about his childhood growing up in Brooklyn, his friends, and his experiences with the mafia- like Goodfellas. The movie is set in the eighties with music, clothes, and expressions of the era all handled authentically- like Goodfellas, different decade. There are sudden flashes of violence with traitors and shady characters all being punished in over the top fashion- just like Goodfellas. There is something wrong with a film with so many comparisons to Goodfellas, and this is perfectly watchable. It just feels at times that the film is not a whole- like it is a smaller part of a bigger film.

The film centres on three friends in Brooklyn, the seedy underbelly of a larger city which seems foreign to those on either side. Michael (Jr) wants to get out of Brooklyn by studying Law. Bobby (Jerry Ferrara) is an underachiever whose main concerns are saving every penny and looking after his girlfriend, all under the watchful eye of Our Lord. Carmine (Scott Cann) is enamoured with mob life, and against the advice of his friends begins to hang out with local mob king Caesar (Alec Baldwin). The acting is of high enough quality, though no-one stands out, and the only unconvincing relationship is between Michael and Mena Suvari’s character Ellen. There seems to be no reason for the pair to like each other, although the way their different backgrounds seem so alien to one another is interesting. Certain unfortunate incidents occur which unravel the story, but the ending (predictably cheesy) feels too sudden, like nothing has been resolved. Certain characters come in such a way that make the film feel rushed and unfinished.

The film is worth watching for fans of mob dramas, it is interesting, holds the attention, and is not particularly offensive. Most scenes of violence are off screen or not as brutal as other films of this kind. There are a few interesting moments and themes which could ha

Brooklyn Rules

ve been expanded upon, and a few characters who deserved more screen time, but overall this is a watchable smaller brother of much greater films.

Night Of The Living Dead: Wax On; Brains Out

I remembrance when this was first show- none of the big studios wanted it so Romeo had to travel on his scooter with copies of it to local cinemas. On his first few attempts he told the owners that it was a film about zomboids munching human flysh and flesh- understandably most were horrified by this plot and spat in his face. Romeo, being an intelligent, bearded gentleman knew that he would have to lie in order for his film to be shown. He began to tell people it was about a group of dancers called the Living Dead who were from ‘the streets’ and had to fight prejudice and poverty just so they could dance together. A heartwarming story, it featured the tag line ‘They’re coming to get down, Barbara!’ The main character is a shy girl who learns what it is to live, love, and dance and ends up having the time of her life, like she’s never felt before. The Living Dead recruit her by repeatedly dancing on her lawn and banging on her doors and windows- she tries to keep them out, but you can’t stop the groove, baby!. The beats get more intense, the clothes get more lesser, and soon she succumbs to the ancient art of waving your arms and legs about. The group scrape together enough money to enter the (arm)Pittsburgh dance contest and finally get a stage on which they can showcase their talents. After rough treatment from rich rival dance troupe, Kobra Kyle, they find a wizened old trainer called Mr Umaga. Through him getting them to paint his house, wax his carts, clean his many chimbleys etc they learn valuable life lessons which will ensure they can form important social relationships and gain self confidence when they eventually start employment. Suffice to say, the film has a wonderfully tender ending as the group, just as it looks like they have thrown away the final dance, manage to pull off the mythic 5 metre Qwop twirl dance move and get a 10 from Brucie. Paralleled with the Vietnam war which was entertaining America at the time, Romeo’s impressive social commentary manages to convey the joyous spirit of the time- before there was mistrust, before there was paranoia, and when everyone loved each other regardless of the colour of their skin, or the ugly of their face.

Best Scene: The naked zomboid ass.

Last Action Hero

Last Action Hero

This is quite an underrated movie, even amongst Arnie fans, and one which few people understand, or try to. Last Actio Hero is a spoof of action movies, primarily those starring Arnie and Stallone, ones which director McTiernen has made a living from: The films that have loose plots built around stunts, explosions, fights, and spectacular and over the top set pieces. That said, the action, stunts, and effects are good; the cast, especially Arnie, ham it up as much as possible, the cameo appearances are witty and accurate, and the plot is pretty clever.

Arnie plays Jack Slater, a ficticious cop/action hero who lives in movie land- a place where everything is super sized, and hyper real (a little punch in the gut of Hollywood). His daily routine, usually involving chasing bad guys, and wrecking huge portions of cities is disturbed- mid chase, by the mysterious appearance of a teenage boy called Danny. Danny is from the real world- our world, the world which gorges itself on the exploits of such larger than life characters as Jack Slater. Danny is just about Slater’s biggest fan, and no-one could be happier than he to be meeting his hero for real. Slater, naturally is less than pleased. Danny explained how he was given a magical golden ticket which opens a gateway been the real world, and the movie world, and tries to convince Slater that his life is a movie. This leads to some inspired jokes about the film industry, and Arnie’s own career- the ‘I’ll be back’ scene and the scene where Danny tries to make Slater swear. Meanwhile, Big Bad (English) guy Benedict hears about the golden ticket, and sees the potential for chaos, and the psychotic Ripper plots more carnage against Slater.

Tons of in-jokes make this an entertaining film, and I’ll admit that’s all it is. But that’s all it is trying to be. There is no need to criticize it for lacking artistic merit, character development, internal meditations on life etc. It’s an action movie, where the bad guys are supposed to die, cars are meant to explode when scratched, the good guy is untouchable, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. The soundtrach, featuring AC DC adds to this thoroughly enjoyable throwback to 80’s action classics.

Extras unfortunately are light- a trailer, a music video, and a short featurette. The nineties was a revisionist time for movies, and this film was one of the best examples of the movement- self referential, self mocking, while pushing the boundaries of what was expected from the genre. A documentary discussing this and the making of, or a commentary or interview with cast would have been great.

As always, feel free to leave your comments on the movie- was this one of the better 90s Arnie efforts?

Ichi The Killer

Ichi The Killer

Takashi Miike, currently the world’s best, most innovative and prominent director is not one for shying away from taboos or controversy. With the amount of films he makes you may expect them to be little more than B-movie trash. But he continues to defy conventions, pushing the benchmark higher. Audition, Happiness of Katakuris, Visitor Q all prove his endless abilities, and Ichi is no different.

Ichi is an awesome assassin. However, he has his own problems, haunted by a violent past which continually torments him. He does not want to kill, but it is all he can do. He tries to love, but it always seems to end in brutal, bloody death. When a Yakuza boss disappears with lots of money, his men search, creating havoc, killing many and unsettling other bosses. The sadistic and masochistic Kakihara leads them, looking for someone who can give him what he wants-extreme torture. He cuts off part of his tongue, and frequently chops at himself for amusement and to disgust others. Both characters are brilliant, and extremely well acted. They soon run into each other and Kakihara tries to make Ichi give him the pain he desires, while Ichi struggles to work out what is real and what has been fabricated to make him what he is. Many are killed in a very gory, though comic fashion and eventually the two fight on top of a building.

This is a breathtakingly violent film, sometimes hard to watch- particularly the rape scenes, and it is gritty enough that we twitch in our seats each time someone is hurt. However, it is also very funny, Miike transcending genres as always, and the plot is complex at times, though strangely basic in the end. Good acting, cool sets and costumes, excellent effects all make it good to watch, but if you do not like blood or having to work when watching a film, it may be best to avoid this one. Everyone else partake of its bloody goodness, as it is not entirely shocking, but will definitely stay with us.

This DVD (while not the fully uncut version) has plenty of good extra features which many recent foreign DVDs lack. There is a good commentary by critics (not Miike unfortunately), extra footage, and interviews with Miike and some of the cast. A must for fans of extreme cinema, a good introduction to Miike for anyone who is interested, and for anyone braving to see something a bit different-one to give a go.

As always, feel free to leave your comments- what did you make of the controversy surrounding the movie?

Hunter S Thompson: July 18, 1937 – February 20, 2005

Hunter S Thompson

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

One of the sharpest, most ferocious minds of the past hundred years, Thompson was a novelist, journalist, and retained a singular writing style through some of North America’s most torrid times. A breathless, gifted writer whose Gonzo approach has been emulated and never equalled, Thompson’s rhetoric is fiery and timeless, yet entrenched in the 20th Century.

Kill Bill Vol. 1

Kill Bill Vol. 1

Billed as Tarantino’s fourth film, Kill Bill Vol 1 is both a departure from what he has done before, and a mix of all previous films. It is primarily a Kung Fu revenge movie with many nods to past martial arts classics. Uma Thurman plays The Bride, a pregnant woman shot and left for dead at her wedding by Bill and his gang, the people she used to work for. After lying in a coma for four years, she wakes and immediately begins her quest for revenge. She is a killer, and all of her abilities remain, so she travels to Japan to get herself the greatest sword ever made and pick off her old gang one by one by one…

All the trademarks of the Auteur are here, the dialogue, the non-linear story-telling, the clever camera angles and the violence, but while his past films appealed to smart-ass critics, this is one for the fans, for himself, for all the kids like me who grew up watching Martial Arts movies. There is a great amount of blood-shed, although it is all brilliantly and stylishly filmed, and of course it is all done in a humorous way. As usual, Tarantino gets the best out of his cast, and they all seem to feel that it is an honour to work with him. Thurman is back to her best, old favourites like Sonny Chiba and Kenji Ohba are excellent, Lucy Liu is very good, and all the smaller parts are filled admirably. Julie Dreyfuss is also good, and Chiaki Kuriyama of Battle Royale, Gonin, and Shikoku fame. Tarantino is clearly having fun making this, experimenting with a variety of styles, from manga and anime to filtering between black and white and colour, the soundtrack is as effective as all his previous films, the instrumental mixing well with the songs and noises.

Kill Bill Vol.1 works mainly, through all the impressive violence, fun and games because of the Bride and her quest. We want to see her get revenge, we want to see her destroy all the murdering mah-fah’s who get in her way, and we want to see her Kill Bill. For that though you may have to wait for part two, unless you’ve wisely purchased that as well. There are a few twists, saving the biggest till last, but overall this is a fun movie, particularly for fans of fight films, setting us up well for the more emotive Vol 2, the Chinese Western part. At the time, a good return for the best new American director of the nineties.

The extras on the DVD are disappointingly sparse- a short making of and a music video. Where’s the manic commentary we have come to expect from the man who loves nothing more than talking about movies? A few extras in this day in age are almost a necessity.

Feel free to comment on the movie- is this Tarantino’s best or nothing more than a mish mash of other movies?

From Russia With Love

From Russia With Love

Another dark outing for Connery, FRWL sees Bond lured by SPECTRE into their territory as revenge for his interference with Dr. No. Along for the ride is Donald Grant (The cooly ruthless Shaw) who is not what he seems. Naturally Bond realises what is happening just in time and, in a brilliant fight sequence (one of the best in the series) he takes one Grant, who may be his match in every way. However, SPECTRE will not give up so easily and will stop at nothing to make the Secret Agent pay.

This has probably one of the best scripts for a Bond film, full of twists and surprises, not pandering to any audience, and before the time when every Bond film had to have very certain themes planted into it. It seems like a thriller with strong action elements, rather than an action with strong comic elements as the series would progress to, but unfortunately the film is not as good as it should have been. The Bond girls are instantly forgettable, the theme song is awful, and there are few good set pieces. What lifts it though is Rosa Klebb (another strong performance, by Lotte Lenya), helped by a couple of shoe gadgets, and the pre-title sequence which, although not one of the best, would continue in all following Bond movies. The introduction of Q, rather than Boothroyd sparks the beginning of Bond’s use of gadgets and another good relationship in the films. Not memorable enough, difficult when Goldfinger was next, but scores points for being gritty and realistic.

This DVD has a wonderful restoration job in terms of sound and picture quality, making the film seem like a modern action flick. The extras include interviews and commentaries, and are equally as interesting as each other in the series.

As always, leave your comments on the movie and the review- is this one of the more underrated Bond films? Where does in place in your Bond list? Don’t forget to check out my other Bond reviews in the DVD section.

Goldfinger

Goldfinger

This is the point where the Bond series really fired into action-terrific stunts, explosive action, good set pieces, memorable villains, car chases, gadgets, and feisty, strong willed women. Probably deserving of being called the best Bond movie, though it is not my favourite, as it has everything a Bond movie should have. It also stands beside other action films for its excitement levels, is full of one-liners and memorable images, and has a very good plot and strong performances from everyone.

Bond is investigating a gold smuggler, in a brief turn away from the full blown SPECTRE plots of previous films, and uncovers a plan to destroy the world’s economy. Bond meets Auric Goldfinger, the man believed to be responsible, and soon is struggling to stop the plan and save the world.

Goldfinger has many famous moments which have become more than simply memorable movie scenes- The Jill Masterson ‘turns to gold’ scene, the ‘Shocking’ bath moment, the famous Aston Martin’s ejector seat scene. The laser scene. Pussy Galore, as her name may suggest is Bond’s ‘girl’ this time, and is easily the strongest female character to date in the series. We have Oddjob, a terrifying silent assassin who uses his steel rimmed bowler hat to dispatch of his enemies, one of the best bad guys in any Bond movie, and Goldfinger himself is the archetypal Bond Villain- smart but…dumb. The theme tune is one of the strongest, and the film made sure that Bond had a place in movie and cultural history.

The DVD has sparkling visuals restored for modern viewing, and the same can be said for the sound. The 2nd disc is full of interesting features which will satisfy all Bond fans- from the nerds to the passing enthusiasts.

As always, please leave your comments on the movie and the review- is this the best Bond ever? And don’t forget to check out my other Bond reviews in the DVD section.

Goldeneye

Goldeneye

Brosnan’s first outing as Bond is easily his best, but also one of the best of the series yet. It has the perfect mix of humour and darkness, not overly serious like Dalton’s films, not overly funny like Moore’s. Not only is it a new Bond, but of course it is a new era, Cold War over, girl power starting etc. All of these themes are covered- we have a villain who simply wants revenge, while surrounded by the fading images of the Soviet Union, and several strong female characters who make Bond earn his money rather than simply making them do what he tells them to. M is dead-long live M- as Judi Dench takes over as Bond’s boss, making sure he knows exactly who is in charge. Natalya, a computer programmer is feisty and capable of surviving many fights on her own, while Xenia Onotopp is like nothing Bond has faced before, and probably the best female Bond villain so far. No, definitely the best.

The story begins a few years in the past, with Bond and his fellow agent and friend Alec Trevelyn tackling the evil General Oromov in Russia. However, Trevelyn is killed and Oromov escapes, leaving Bond with another lost friend. Flash forward a few years, and Bond is investigating Oromov’s whereabouts, and his involvement with a new uprising in Russia. Bond investigates, finding Natalya along the way, as her Satellite base was destroyed in a missile attack by Oromov and Onotopp, leaving her the only survivor. Bond hears that Oromov’s boss wishes to meet with him, and in a shock revelation, we see that it is Trevelyn! He wants revenge for his family’s treatment by Britian, as he was a Lienz Cossack. Bond is horrified. The race begins to stop Trevelyn as his new warhead becomes functional, and Bond has to decide whether he can kill his friend. ‘For England James?’ Trevelyn asks, leading Bond to question his part in Britain’s game- he, like all the agents are after all, simply pawns, no matter what they might think or achieve.

The chemistry between Bond and Bean is excellent, making Goldeneye one of the most emotional films to date. He genuinely seems to like Natalya, and the scene where she tells him he will always be alone is both stark and beautiful, and one of the best scenes in the Bond series. Oromov is a great villain also, Onotopp is so good we almost want her to kill Bond, and Alan Cummings as Boris adds some comic relief. In the game, everyone loves killing Boris. The song is OK, the revamped Bond theme is not as good as the original, but the incidental music is the best since You Only Live Twice.

There are many memorable set pieces and stunts including the Dam jump, the plan jump, the Tank chase, and the final fight, and makes you wonder how Die another Day could have been so awful. The film is almost flawless, as the game was, and should be considered as one of the best films of the nineties.

The DVD has all the features you would expect- documentaries about a new Bond for a new era, deleted scenes, and other interesting bits and pieces. The restoration work on picture and sound is, naturally, without fault.

As always, please leave your comments on the movie and the review- was this the best Bond for a  long time or was it a sign that Brosnan wasn’t going to be a great secret agent? Don’t forget to check out my other Bond reviews in the DVD section.

For Your Eyes Only

For Your Eyes Only

Roger Moore is always seen as the ‘funny’ or slapstick Bond, as his films featured even more preposterous situations than usual and the overall tone is not as serious as Connery or Dalton’s. However, Moore’s films are the one’s I remember most vividly from childhood as they had the best gadgets and bad guys like Jaws and Baron Samedi. So it is strange then that this film should be one of my favourites, as it is low on gadgets and memorable bad guys.

After the space capering of Moonraker, this was advertised as Bond’s return to earth, dealing with more serious subjects and is darker than usual. It takes us back to the early days and themes of Bond. Bond visits the grave of his dead wife during the start of the movie, setting the tone, but also showing us that the Secret Agent will always be haunted by the past, and will never be at peace. Aside from the main plot of Bond trying to race the Soviets to the possession of a powerful device capable of messing with submarines (i think), we have a joint revenge tale. Melina (played brilliantly by Carole Bouquet) is in search of those who killed her parents, the same people who want ‘the device’, while Bond is on a quest for the psychotic ‘Dove’ assassin who kills a fellow agent, and one of Bond’s women-Lisle (played by Pierce Brosnan’s wife at the time, Cassandra Harris). Harris would tragically die before Brosnan picked up the Walther. The scene in which Bond kills the Dove is dually one of the most ruthless and satisfying deaths in any Bond film, and Moore plays the scene with great skill.

Another reason for my enjoyment of the film, and ironically this is a central reason for why many dislike it, is the inclusion of Bibi Dahl. The character may be pointless, but Johnson plays it perfectly, making both Bond and the audience cringe. Plus she is one of the most attractive Bond girls…Topol is charismatic, the one-liners do not get in the way of the film or make us turn away in shame like those in Die another Day, and the stunts and car chases are simple but outstanding, refusing to resort to an over-abundance of gadgets. For Your Eyes Only then is the most Connery-like Moore film, is often bleak and full of anger, but because of the emotional content is one of the best Bond films for involving the audience.

The DVD as with the rest of the series has perfect sound and picture quality, contains all the extras from the special edition as well as new ones- deleted scenes, documentaries etc.

Feel free to comment on the movie and my review- do I give it too much credit or do you agree? Check out my other Bond reviews in the DVD section too!