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since 20/05/2004


Baby Geniuses (DVD) 10/07/2009

Stop Throwing your Toys out the Pram

Baby Geniuses (DVD) 67. Baby Geniuses (1999) There has been a great deal of hatred thrown at this movie. People claiming it the worst ever made, and ready to divorce their wife for renting it. In contrast to my last review I was expecting this to be a truly awful experience, especially as someone who has yet to find babies cute. So I was as surprised as anyone that Baby Geniuses isn’t all that bad. I can’t see what all the fuss is about. In many ways it’s just another middle of the road, goofy and unoriginal family film. Although by virtue of it’s bizarre subject matter alone it was more engaging than many of it’s contemporaries. Elena Kinder (Kathleen Turner) is the CEO of BabyCo, the biggest producer of baby products in the world. Working with Dr Heep (Christopher Lloyd) they have a theory that baby talk is actually a language that can be decoded. Also that babies have within them a gene containing knowledge and secrets of the human race passed down through generations. They are in fact geniuses, but lose the ability to tap that gene when they grow older. Kinder conducts illegal experiments on a group of babies in confinement, harnessing their abilities through the ‘Kinder Method’. One baby is called Sly, who was separated from his twin Wit at birth. Wit was adopted by Robin (Kim Cattrall), whose husband (Peter MacNicol) is also studying to understand baby talk. When Sly escapes from the lab everything gets turned upside down. From the get-go Baby Geniuses lays it’s cards on the ...

Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe 08/07/2009

Save Yourself

Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe 68. Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe (1991) [film only review] Considering I’m watching films from a list of the most disliked ones of all time, what I’m about to say might seem a little odd. I think I went in with too high expectations. For a start, how about that title? Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe. It’s just begging for an exclamation mark. It has the wow factor. I’m thinking epic space battles, swift justice served upon brutal intergalactic criminals, exotic other worldly destinations, advanced technology. Next we have that tobacco chewing, sexual tyrannosaurus, former Mayor and State Governor, of Predator fame himself, Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura. He gets to face off against Danish muscleman Sven-Ole Thorsen, who has played a multitude of tough guys in movies like The Running Man and a memorable role as security guard, La Fours, in Mallrats. Speaking of comedy there’s even a small role for funny man James Belushi. What do I get? A balding middle –aged robot with a ponytail, and a lumberjack running around a snowy Canadian backwater, trying to blow each other up in the woods and fighting over a mute kid. A far cry from any of my hopes. The film got me involved from the start. Sadly this was to rewind the first line of dialogue twice, as I could hardly hear what was being said. The audio quality (for whatever reason) is very poor. After turning up the sound I was met by a great deal of pointless narration and half explained occurrences. Ventura plays ...

Carry On Emmannuelle (DVD) 17/06/2009

Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be?

Carry On Emmannuelle (DVD) 69. Carry on Emmannuelle (1978) I won’t pretend to be the biggest fan of the Carry On films, but due to the number of times most were repeated on television throughout the eighties, I must have seen the bulk of the series’ 31 films. For me, their strengths came from the self aware and bawdy atmosphere, the word play of puns and mild double entendres, sending up conservative suburban Britain, and the sense of familiarity. The continual theme of sexual innuendo made them a little risqué in the sixties, but come the seventies something changed. With a more permissive society came sex comedies like the Confessions series; the first being Confessions of a Window Cleaner in 1974. Boasting more breasts and cruder humour, they made the Carry Ons look tame. Not a problem when catering for a different audience, although the regular producers, writers and actors for the Carry Ons were changing too. Hardly surprising after so many years, but the result seemed to make the films look and sound cheaper. Perhaps trying to compete with their new rivals. Just looking at the four titles preceding Emmanuelle you have Carry On… Girls, Dick, Behind, and England. While England sounds the tamest, many consider it the worst of all for its lack of wit and increased reliance on nudity. I would say Emmannuelle is even worse and hardly feels like a traditional Carry On at all. The basic premise is a parody of the erotic French film Emmanuelle. Kenneth Williams plays French Ambassador Emile Prevert, ...

Primal Species (DVD) 08/05/2009

Roger Corman Ate My Baby

Primal Species (DVD) 70. Primal Species (1996) First of all, let’s get the subject of deceptive marketing out in the open. A quick show of hands should illustrate the point. How many of you would watch a film called Primal Species? And how many would watch a film called Carnosaur 3? Exactly the reason they opted for the former title. Sadly they only thought far enough ahead to change the title of the movie and not the content. Despite that deception, Carnosaur 3: Primal Species has managed to restore my faith of the bottom 100’s ability to throw up unexpectedly amusing films. Right from the blurb on the back of the box I knew this would be a hoot. “Terrorists thought they had stolen a cargo of uranium, but find it’s a man-eating species presumed extinct.” Schoolboy error that one, but the look on their faces as they were torn limb from limb was priceless. Having recently watched Alone in the Dark I was quite struck by the similarities between these two films. It is more the sequence of events than the actual plot, as both movies go through the motions of letting loose some horrific beasties, discovering their abilities and origins, then dropping some quasi-military force in to wipe them out. We see here an earlier version of the instant intelligence kit for women. The expert on Carnosaurs, Dr Hodges (Janet Gunn), is a bold blonde with glasses, pinned up hair, and a suit jacket with shoulder pads to be reckoned with. You know that before the end of the movie she’ll lose the jacket and ...

Nine Lives (DVD) 01/02/2009

One Night in the Highlands

Nine Lives (DVD) 71. Nine Lives (2002) Before saturating the gossip mags, before the TV series, before the album, even before the sex tape, Paris Hilton got a small role in this low budget supernatural slasher flick. If she hadn't there's every chance it would never have been so widely distributed. Produced in the UK in 2002 it didn't get a theatrical release, and it didn't hit the UK shelves until 2005. Now it is on DVD, despite screen time at a quarter or less than the lead characters, Paris Hilton's name is actually larger on the side of the DVD box than the film's title. That should give some indication of the film's quality, and the faith the marketing department had in it. Nine Lives is a British production, set in a rural Scottish mansion as a group of well off socialites have an overnight birthday bash. In a snowy winter setting this batch of twenty somethings look like they were plucked from a mail order catalogue and dropped in a Marks and Spencer's Christmas advert. There's a variety of accents on offer, but this is all there is to really distinguish them as characters. I can't remember any names, and to name them would suggest they had any distinct personalities, so from here on I shall simply refer to them as numbers. As the night draws on we see snippets of the guests chatting, learning about each other. There are attempts at humour, but I didn't like it much. It felt more like the script writer was having trouble finishing his scenes and conversations, so created a ...

Alone In The Dark (DVD) 22/01/2009

Uwe Gotta Be Kidding

Alone In The Dark (DVD) 72. Alone in the Dark (2005) Or more accurately, small groups of people in dimly lit locations, shooting wildly at CGI and random extras with whited out faces. If I were to choose one word to sum up this film it would be 'why'. In fact, why oh why oh why? Really. What makes anyone think that taking a generic computer game that borrows from older films and stories, and turning it into a movie, will produce anything other than an unoriginal generic movie. Although, according to gamers, the film's plot has little to do with the game beyond using the same characters. Add Uwe Boll to direct it and the producers may as well stick all their money on red. The story begins with a long passage of text about a lost Native American civilization called The Abkani. It speaks of two worlds, a gate between them, evil creatures, and ancient artefacts. The usual. Apparently the government have set up a pretty big agency (X files style) called Bureau 713 specifically to investigate this tale. Taxpayers would be shocked, and I can't help but wonder what Bureaus 1 through 712 are doing? One of the Bureau's scientists, Lionel Hudgens, was conducting controversial experiments and was kicked out. He continues by secretly experimenting on how to fuse humans with creatures, using orphaned children as guinea pigs. No, I've no idea why either. Edward Carnby (Christian Slater) was one of those children, and after escaping has grown up to be a paranormal investigator, formerly with Bureau 713. ...

Forest Warrior (DVD) 23/12/2008

Not Fit For Purpose

Forest Warrior (DVD) 73. Forest Warrior (1996) This sure ain't Missing in Action 3. There's something a little disturbing about seeing Chuck Norris so clean, with that neatly combed beard. It's not right - he should be crawling through mud, whilst foreign people run around shooting automatic weapons in the air. Coincidentally MIA3 was Aaron Norris' first break as a director, leading to a series of other films directing his brother Chuck. I would hope Forest Warrior is his worst, but I'm biased because of a slight aversion to these caricature styled family films. It opens with a campfire rendition of the tale of McKenna (Chuck Norris), an American Indian who was killed whilst trying to save his wife from an illness. Then his spirit was brought back by the power of the mountain, and he now roams as a shape-shifting guardian with the power of the bear, wolf and eagle. In other words if you're naughty near the mountain forest, Chuck Norris will appear from thin air, dressed like Grizzly Adams' geeky cousin gone native, and kick your butt. Oh, and he can see into your soul too. Cue the Thorne logging company. Travis Thorne (Terry Kiser) is aggressively seeking logging rights to the mountain forest. His workers even terrorize the local kids from the campfire, as they spend time at a giant tree-house in the forest. It's a classic stand off between small town rural America and big business, and naturally the kids play an integral part. Giving them a chance to go Rambo in the woods, like those in ...

Kickboxer 3 - The Art Of War (DVD) 10/12/2008

Art Attack?

Kickboxer 3 - The Art Of War (DVD) 74. Kickboxer 3: The Art of War (1992) This all feels a little like déjà vu, especially after watching American Ninja 3. Once again there is a fighting tournament in a tropical location. This time Rio De Janeiro. An American kickboxing champion, David Sloan, arrives with his sensei, Xian, in tow. On first sight Xian looked a little like Lee Van Cleef, or maybe that was the spectre of 1984 TV series Master Ninja repeating on me. Either way, it helps signify that this was the tale end of a long running era of budget American martial arts films and television shows. The first classic cliché comes quickly when the hapless heroes are mugged by a small Brazilian boy, Marcos, and his sister, Isabella. Naturally, after a long chase through the back alleys of Rio and the kicking of same random thugs, they befriend the knife wielding thieving children. Onto classic cliché two, when Isabella is kidnapped by a local gangster as part of his people trafficking business. Of course this is just a side line to him being a kickboxer manager, looking to fix the match between David and his own fighter, so as to make a ton of cash. It's seriously average stuff, but at least there's enough action to keep things going. We get street fighting, bar room brawling, and ring matches. They even tool up with automatic weapons in another back alley, making them professional vigilantes. The theme of the film is that Rio is a sort of unruly wild west. Kill or be killed. So that's what they do, ...

The Last Sign (DVD) 07/12/2008

Andie MacDowell Pays the Bills

The Last Sign (DVD) The Last Sign (2004) I wish. Watching Andie MacDowell set up a direct debit would generate greater levels of excitement and tension. Sadly, in reality, MacDowell plays the part of recently widowed Kathy. She finds herself better off without her alcoholic and abusive husband, but has begun receiving anonymous phone calls and experiencing disturbing coincidences and flashbacks. It is affecting her social life and could result in a total breakdown. First up, I was getting mixed messages about how Kathy felt. There was no sense of freedom from her husband's accidental death, and little background to go on. It's never a good sign that you need to refer to the back of the DVD case for a plot point. The slow moving plot feels deliberately vague in an attempt to make something from nothing. Eventually we get round to a few supernatural happenings that create some genuine mystery, but it's all a bit short lived and predictable. The other plotline is that of the rich, intelligent, hunky, neighbour with enough free time to give fatherly advice to Kathy's teenage son, and with a manly voice suitable for sports commercials. What luck, like part exchanging your clapped out nasty husband for a shiny new one from Harrods. As far as I can gather the film's message is essentially get on with your life. Staying on message I would first advise you to avoid this film. I've seen greater wisdom from a fortune cookie. They cost less and taste better too. I found The Last Sign to be a ...

The Smokers (DVD) 03/12/2008

Like a Phoenix

The Smokers (DVD) The Smokers (2000) Yes, like a phoenix, the film makers should have set fire to this script, and with any luck something better would have risen from the ashes. It's been quite some time since I've ventured into the realms of the bottom 100. What happened? The Smokers happened. Take a look at the warning signs. 1. The Box: The cheap cover design is an obvious start, but hardly conclusive as fans of cult hits like Bad Taste will attest. A tagline that tries to emulate a critics positive quotation, and the only actual quotations being attributed to no-one, most likely because the only person who said them was the producer to the marketing team. The listing of as many big movies associated with the actors as possible, even desperately adding Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Also highlighting Thora Birch in order to cash in on American Beauty despite her role here amounting to all of 10 minutes. Speaking of which, Thora Birch looks younger here, hinting that The Smokers was not released for some time after completion. Perhaps it would have sat on the shelf longer if two of it's actors hadn't become bigger stars. (Birch and Dominique Swain) 2. The Subject Matter: The blurb on the back of the box describes it as "a trio of seventeen year old girls surviving teenage life." Hold up a minute. If this is set in Bhagdad then I'll let that phrase go. Otherwise I'd suggest 'surviving teenage life" usually indicates a film trying to hype whatever central unrealistic scenario it has. If ...

Battlefield Earth (DVD) 11/04/2008

Battle Weary

Battlefield Earth (DVD) 77. Battlefield Earth (2000) With the upcoming third worldwide protest against the cult of scientology's abuses this weekend, it seems timely to review Battlefield Earth. Adapted from a novel by L Ron Hubbard, and championed by actor John Travolta for over a decade. It rapidly gained the infamous status of one of the most expensive flops in cinema history, and you need only look at my rating to see whether I agree. This film should carry a public service announcement at the start reading, 'Warning - You are now entering a film where all dramatic moments take place at one third normal speed.' If all the unnecessary and tedious slow motion was cut out, it might shave the lengthy two hour runtime down to something more manageable. I should have been more wary after reading about the "special effects that are completely real" on the back of the box. Do they know what a special effect is exactly? Or were all those green laser beams filmed in claymation by Ray Harryhausen? The shame of it is I was genuinely willing to give it a chance. Having seen it about six years ago, my only recollection was of a lacklustre blockbuster; it could have still been a laugh. Rather than the farcical wreck I just watched. In it's favour the special effects are pretty good. I like the dreadlocked, giant platform booted design of the alien Psychlos, who have taken control of Earth and enslaved it's people to strip mine the planet. Everything has been captured well in terms of picture quality ...

Howling 2: Your Sister is a Werewolf DVD 22/03/2008

Stirba - Werewolf Bitch

Howling 2: Your Sister is a Werewolf DVD 79. Howling 2: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1984) Picking up directly after The Howling (1981) we see the funeral of Karen White, who was shot down after turning into a werewolf. Christopher Lee appears on the scene to inform Karen's brother, Ben, and his girlfriend, Jenny, that because the silver bullets in Karen were removed at the autopsy, he must ritually kill her again before she rises from the dead as a werewolf. After Ben briefly goes on a gun totting frenzy out for Lee's blood, they are quickly convinced and team up with him. Then head out to Transylvania to kick werewolf butt. Namely - Stirba the immortal queen of all werewolves (Sybil Danning). Or as the alternative UK subtitle for the film calls her, 'Stirba - Werewolf Bitch'. My middling rating in part reflects my confusion. Following on from Joe Dante's tongue in cheek style (The Burbs, Gremlins), you'd expect there to be a few laughs in the sequel. However, it all feel surprisingly straight yet woefully put together. The result - absurd hilarity punctuated by incompetence. The theatrical trailer describes it as the "rocking, shocking, new wave of horror", and it's surprisingly accurate. The ever growing MTV video generation was making it's mark. Howling 2's use of modern music, by way of an infectious new romantic song played repeatedly throughout the film, and focus on outlandish current fashions was a response to that. The confusion sets in again with the presence of Christopher Lee and cult like goings ...

Horrors of Spider Island DVD 08/03/2008

Welcome to Sexploitation - Fifties Style

Horrors of Spider Island DVD 80. Horrors of Spider Island (1960) Fans of the old black and white era monster movies hoping for some no frills fun should do a quick about turn. What we have here is a west german nudie picture, spiced up with a brief and tenuous mutant spiders plot, then later having most of the nude scenes cut out. I guess they thought after having toured the 'raincoat' cinemas, they could later try and flog it at some more mainstream places. With or without the nudity the quality of the film isn't really affected; merely it's practical applications. Things kick off seedily enough with a little slow jazz, and the auditions for a dancing troupe, soon to be jetted off for shows in Singapore. In a time where crooners, rock and roll, and exciting dance steps are still the defining trends, the use of dance and music is the first of a few gimmicks. We get a quick glimpse of the sleazy manager Gary Webster (Alexander D'Arcy), and more than a glimpse of stocking from some of the young hopefuls. It's not long until they are jetting off in a private plane and crashing into the ocean. Now stranded on a remote tropical island, the name of the game is survival. Or it would be, if things weren't made so easy for them. The main implication is that Gary and all his helpless girls spend most of their days sunbathing in their underwear, taking swims, and occasionally complaining about rations. All while creepy Gary gets some smooching in. I wasn't aware of the film's nature before watching it, ...

Astro Zombies DVD 22/02/2008

Murders, Mistakes, Misfits

Astro Zombies DVD 81. Astro-Zombies (1968) A women drives home and is stabbed to death by a man in a skull like mask. A group of toy robots and a toy tank battle on the sidewalk by a smoke machine. A seemingly dead man is dragged away from his wrecked car. A tape recorder rewinds. Another man drives down the freeway. In his next feat, director Ted V Mikels will attempt to tie these unrelated plot strands (from the first five minutes of the movie) together. Except for the robots. I mean really, what the heck was that about? Although it made a hilarious title sequence, and is possibly my favourite scene of all. Sadly the promise of a title such as Astro-Zombies isn't lived up to. There are no flesh eating creatures, a la George Romero. Nor are there any direct links to space. The first glimmer of a plot comes when we hear CIA agents talk about a Doctor DeMarco (John Carradine), dismissed from the Space Agency for his experimentation on humans. He was working to create artificial people, using mechanical organs, that could be remotely controlled to conduct space missions. Naturally he continued his misguided experiments in a dungeon like basement, with a mute, short, hairy, immigrant assistant, named Franchot, and using the cadavers of criminals to create these prototpye 'Astro-Zombies'. Maybe those toy robots are a cunning metaphor for these manmade, brainless creatures. I could watch them for hours. When Doctor DeMarco's first creation goes on a murderous rampage, rather than being the ...

Galaxina DVD 20/02/2008

The Hot Bot

Galaxina DVD 82. Galaxina (1980) As I watch my way through some of the most disliked films on the planet, I take care to give them as fair a hearing as possible. One way of doing this is to not research or read anything about the film before actually watching it. It's something I like to do with all films. Without too many expectations or pre-connotations, it allows the film to speak for itself. Galaxina starts with a Star Wars style roll of text setting the scene. Unfortunately set at such an angle that I had significant trouble reading it, admittedly on a smaller television. No problem I thought, as there was a second scene setter from a voice over; introducing us to the police spacecraft Infinity and it's ragtag crew in the year 3008. Along with it's grand classical music, and sweeping shots of model spaceships and space, I wondered if I was in for a 2001 wannabe. However, the crew were quirky to say the least, giving off more of a Dark Star vibe than anything else. Perhaps I've stumbled onto to an under-rated maverick, artsy, low-budget, intellectual film? It wasn't until nearly 15 minutes into the film, and the introduction of a character named Captain Cornelius Butt, I realised this was supposed to be a comedy. Yes, Galaxina is a 'wacky' spoof of popular films of the time, such as Star Wars, Alien, and Star Trek - but not as we know it. Storywise, things are rather sparse, allowing more time to focus on characters for the jokes. Essentially the crew of the Infinity have ...
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