A big Oscar winner in 1975, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest still holds up remarkably well. Ken Kesey's novel, an allegory of repression and rebellion set in a...... more
A big Oscar winner in 1975, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest still holds up remarkably well. Ken Kesey's novel, an allegory of repression and rebellion set in a mental hospital in the early 1960s, is cannily adapted by Czech director Milos Forman into a comedy drama with a cool, unassuming, near-documentary look. Jack Nicholson has his most jacknicholsonian role as Randle P McMurphy, a livewire troublemaker who unwisely cons his way out of prison and into a mental institution without realising he has switched from serving a sentence with a release date to being committed until adjudged sane by the same people he is winding up on a daily basis. Louise Fletcher, in a career-defining turn, is Nurse Ratched, the soft-spoken sadist who represents the worst type of matronly authoritarianism and clashes with Randle all down the line. Taking another look at the picture after all these years, it's a surprise that all the unknown actors who seemed like real mental patients have graduated to becoming prolific character actor stars: Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, Vincent Schiavelli, Brad Dourif, the late Will Sampson, Sidney Lassick, Michael Berryman. Unlike many Best Picture Oscar winners, this deals with profound subject matter without seeming self-important: Forman's approach and all-round great acting make it play as a small character story as well as a Big Statement about the human condition. Full marks also for Jack Nitzsche's musical saw-based score. On the DVD:One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest comes to DVD in a two-disc special edition with a great-looking anamorphic 1.85:1 print and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack, plus tracks in French and Italian and optional subtitles in half a dozen languages. Disc 2 has the trailer, about 13 minutes of deleted scenes (mostly from the first third of the film, and all pretty good) and a making-of retrospective documentary with interesting material from producers Michael Douglas (who inherited the rights from Kirk) and Saul Zaentz, Forman, screenwriter Bo Goldman and many cast-members (though not Nicholson). There's also a commentary track by Forman, Douglas and others which repeats a few things from the documentary but also goes into more scene-specific detail about the development and shooting. --Kim Newman
Young Dorothy Gale (played by Judy Garland), her dog, Toto, and her three companions on the yellow brick road to Oz -- the Tin Man (Jack Haley), the Cowardly...... more
Young Dorothy Gale (played by Judy Garland), her dog, Toto, and her three companions on the yellow brick road to Oz -- the Tin Man (Jack Haley), the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr), and the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) -- have become pop-culture icons and central figures in the legacy of fantasy for children. Actress Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch who covets Dorothy's enchanted ruby slippers, has had the singular honour of scaring the wits out of children for more than six decades. The film's still as fresh, frightening and funny as it was when first released in 1939. It may take some liberal detours from the original story by L. Frank Baum, but it's loyal to the Baum legacy while charting its own course as a spectacular film. Partly shot in glorious Technicolor, befitting its dynamic production design (Munchkinland alone is a psychedelic explosion of colour and decor), The Wizard of Oz may not appeal to every taste as the years go by, but it's nonetheless required viewing for kids of all ages. --Jeff Shannon
When people think of James Dean, they probably think first of the troubled teen from Rebel Without a Cause: nervous, volatile, soulful, a kid lost in a world...... more
When people think of James Dean, they probably think first of the troubled teen from Rebel Without a Cause: nervous, volatile, soulful, a kid lost in a world that does not understand him. Made between his only other starring roles, in East of Eden and Giant, Rebel sums up the jangly, alienated image of Dean, but also happens to be one of the key films of the 1950s. Director Nicholas Ray takes a strikingly sympathetic look at the teenagers standing outside the white-picket-fence '50s dream of America: juvenile delinquent (that's what they called them then) Jim Stark (Dean), fast girl Judy (Natalie Wood), lost boy Plato (Sal Mineo), slick hot-rodder Buzz (Corey Allen). At the time, it was unusual for a movie to endorse the point of view of teenagers, but Ray and screenwriter Stewart Stern captured the youthful angst that was erupting at the same time in rock & roll. Dean is heartbreaking, following the method acting style of Marlon Brando but staking out a nakedly emotional honesty of his own. Going too fast, in every way, he was killed in a car crash on September 30, 1955, a month before Rebel opened. He was no longer an actor, but an icon, and Rebel is a lasting monument. --Robert Horton, Amazon.com
Showdown in Little Tokyo is a 1991 martial arts action comedy which, in pitting Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee as LA cops against Japanese drug dealers, plays...... more
Showdown in Little Tokyo is a 1991 martial arts action comedy which, in pitting Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee as LA cops against Japanese drug dealers, plays like a B-movie Tango and Cash or Lethal Weapon 2 (both released just two years before). Between career highs in Rocky IV (1985) and Universal Soldier (1992) it looked as if Lundgren might make it big at the box-office, and clearly wanting to be the new Schwarzenegger he is here directed by Mark L Lester, who had earlier helmed Arnie's Commando (1985). In the event both actor and director headed for straight-to-video territory. The 75-minute running time suggests the studio lost confidence and seriously cut the movie though, as the space between the action is filled with nothing but cringe-inducing dialogue, thriller clichés and Lundgren "romancing" Tia Carrere, it still makes sense. Basing its title on John Carpenter's 1986 fantasy-comedy Big Trouble in Little China and anticipating Rush Hour (1998), Showdown in Little Tokyo alternates between crude tongue-in-cheek moments and action so ludicrous it's unintentionally hilarious . A camp disaster which simply defies belief, this is stupidly entertaining so-bad-its-good six-pack entertainment.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof offers a smouldering, angry Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie, the feline in question. Paul Newman is her ex-athlete husband, Brick Pollitt, an...... more
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof offers a smouldering, angry Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie, the feline in question. Paul Newman is her ex-athlete husband, Brick Pollitt, an alcoholic who frustrates and disappoints his wife and his overbearing father, Burl Ives, the vulgar patriarch of this positively Gothic Southern family whose children return to the nest like vultures when they learn he is dying of cancer. Infidelities, addictions, latent homosexuality, depression, unrequited love and mendacity are woven into this powerful adaptation of Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Though it was somewhat whitewashed by Hollywood, the sentiment remains powerful due to the provocative performances. The film was nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor and Actress for Newman and Taylor. --Rochelle O'Gorman, Amazon.com
The last film completed by Bruce Lee before his untimely death, Enter the Dragon was his entrée into Hollywood. The American-Hong Kong co-production, shot in...... more
The last film completed by Bruce Lee before his untimely death, Enter the Dragon was his entrée into Hollywood. The American-Hong Kong co-production, shot in Asia by American director Robert Clouse, stars Lee as a British agent sent to infiltrate the criminal empire of bloodthirsty Asian crime lord Han (Shih Kien) through his annual international martial arts tournament. Lee spends his days taking on tournament combatants and nights breaking into the heavily guarded underground fortress, kicking the living tar out of anyone who stands in his way. The mix of kung fu fighting (choreographed by Lee himself) and James Bond intrigue (the plot has more than a passing resemblance to Dr. No) is pulpy by any standard, but the generous budget and talented cast of world-class martial artists puts this film in a category well above Lee's primitive Hong Kong productions. Unfortunately he's off the screen for large chunks of time as American maverick competitors (and champion martial artists) John Saxon and Jim Kelly take centre stage, but once the fighting starts Lee takes over. The tournament setting provides an ample display of martial arts mastery of many styles and climaxes with a huge free-for-all, but the highlight is Lee's brutal one-on-one with the claw-fisted Han in the dynamic hall-of-mirrors battle. Lee narrows his eyes and tenses into a wiry force of sinew, speed and ruthless determination. --Sean Axmaker
This 1987 thriller was a predictable hit with the teen audience it worked overtime to attract. Like most of director Joel Schumacher's films, it's conspicuously...... more
This 1987 thriller was a predictable hit with the teen audience it worked overtime to attract. Like most of director Joel Schumacher's films, it's conspicuously designed to push the right marketing and demographic buttons and, granted, there's some pretty cool stuff going on here and there. Take Kiefer Sutherland, for instance. In Stand by Me he played a memorable bully, but here he goes one step further as a memorable bully vampire who leads a tribe of teenage vampires on their nocturnal spree of bloodsucking havoc. Jason Patric plays the new guy in town, who quickly attracts a lovely girlfriend (Jami Gertz), only to find that she might be recruiting him into the vampire fold. The movie gets sillier as it goes along, and resorts to a routine action-movie showdown, but it's a visual knockout (featuring great cinematography by Michael Chapman) and boasts a cast that's eminently able (pardon the pun) to sink their teeth into the best parts of an uneven screenplay. --Jeff Shannon
A lush retelling of the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Excalibur is a dark and engrossing tale. Director John Boorman (Deliverance)...... more
A lush retelling of the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Excalibur is a dark and engrossing tale. Director John Boorman (Deliverance) masterfully handles the tale of the mythical sword Excalibur, and its passing from the wizard Merlin to the future king of England. Arthur pulls the famed sword from a stone and is destined to be crowned king. As the king embarks on a passionate love affair with Guenevere, an illegitimate son, and Merlin's designs on power, threaten Arthur's reign. The film is visually stunning and unflinching in its scenes of combat and black magic. Featuring an impressive supporting cast, including early work from the likes of Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne, Excalibur is an adaptation of the legend both faithful and bold. --Robert Lane
Little did Tom Cruise know that he would become a box-office superstar after he cranked up some Bob Seeger and played air guitar in his underwear. But there's...... more
Little did Tom Cruise know that he would become a box-office superstar after he cranked up some Bob Seeger and played air guitar in his underwear. But there's more to this 1983 hit than the arrival of a hot young star. Making a stylish debut, writer-director Paul Brickman crafted a subtle satire of crass materialism wrapped in an irresistible plot about a crafty high schooler named Joel (Cruise) who goes into risky business with the beguiling prostitute Lana (Rebecca De Mornay) while his parents are out of town. Joel turns his affluent Chicago-suburb home into a lucrative bordello and forms a steamy personal and professional partnership with Lana, but only as long as the two can avoid the vengeful pimp Guido (Joe Pantoliano) and keep their customers happy. A signature film of the 1980s, Risky Business still holds up thanks to Cruise's effortless charm and the movie's timeless appeal as an adolescent male fantasy. --Jeff Shannon
Don't waste this one on your children: buy it for yourself. A spectacular adaptation of the Anna Sewell novel, this is faithful to the source material but...... more
Don't waste this one on your children: buy it for yourself. A spectacular adaptation of the Anna Sewell novel, this is faithful to the source material but creates a life of its own on the screen. Told from the point of view of the horse, it recalls a time and a place that could be both beautiful and cruel. Black Beauty faced both hardship and kindness as he passed through the hands of many owners throughout his life. Some are generous, but the agonies endured by the title character may be too harsh for small children. Unfortunately, director Caroline Thompson did not resurrect her magical touch a few years later with another animal tale, Buddy. --Rochelle O'Gorman, Amazon.com
San Francisco has been the setting of a lot of exciting movie car chases over the years, but this 1968 police thriller is still the one to beat when it comes to...... more
San Francisco has been the setting of a lot of exciting movie car chases over the years, but this 1968 police thriller is still the one to beat when it comes to high-octane action on the steep hills of the city by the Bay. The outstanding car chase earned an Oscar for best editing, but the rest of the movie is pretty good, too. Bullitt is a perfect star vehicle for cool guy Steve McQueen, who stars as a tenacious detective (is there any other kind?) determined to track down the killers of the star witness in an important trial. Director Peter Yates (Breaking Away) approached the story with an emphasis on absolute authenticity, using a variety of San Francisco locations. Jacqueline Bisset and Robert Duvall appear in early roles, and Robert Vaughn plays the criminal kingpin who pulls the deadly strings of the tightly wound plot. --Jeff Shannon
Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is less an adaptation of Stephen King's best-selling horror novel than a complete re-imagining of it from the inside out. In...... more
Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is less an adaptation of Stephen King's best-selling horror novel than a complete re-imagining of it from the inside out. In King's book, the Overlook Hotel is a haunted place that takes possession of its off-season caretaker and provokes him to murderous rage against his wife and young son. Kubrick's film is an existential Road Runner cartoon (his steadicam scurrying through the hotel's labyrinthine hallways), in which the cavernously empty spaces inside the Overlook Hotel mirror the emptiness in the soul of the blocked writer settled in for a long winter's hibernation. As many have pointed out, King's protagonist goes mad, but Kubrick's Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is Looney Tunes from the moment we meet him--all arching eyebrows and mischievous grin. (Both Nicholson and Shelley Duvall reach new levels of hysteria in their performances, driven to extremes by the director's fanatical demand s for take after take after take.) The Shining is terrifying--but not in the way fans of the novel might expect. When it was redone as a TV mini-series (reportedly because of King's dissatisfaction with the Kubrick film), the famous topiary-animal attack (which was deemed impossible to film in 1980) was there--but the deeper horror was lost. Kubrick's The Shining gets under your skin and chills your bones; it stays with you, inhabits you, haunts you. And there's no place to hide... --Jim Emerson, Amazon.com
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Advantages: Lingering camera shots Disadvantages: Everything else
...the suspense is actually rather gripping.
The film essentially takes place in a storage lockup in Battersea. A plane has crashed into it, sealing in those who were already in there, including Clarke's character. From the start, we're given this back story featuring Clarke and his ex-girlfriend and his best friend and the other friend - I don't know, I sort of got lost in the reasoning behind a lot...
Advantages: Reasonable effects and good suspense Disadvantages: Poor acting
..., but it sounded like the sort I was looking for so I recorded it and decided to give it a go. I watched it with my boyfriend and my sister, feeling a bit guilty as she had expressed a preference not to watch anything too bloody.
After a plane crashes into a storage facility, the people just happening to be there at the time find themselves locked inside. Among them is recently dumped...
Advantages: Can store lots of CD's in one place, transportable. Disadvantages: None for me.
In my opinion this is a good quality case for storing CD's or DVD's if you prefer, instead of having shelves and shelves of music that needs dusting each week I have all my music collection safely stored in one place and only need to dust the case every now and again.
Searching through my music collection is relatively simple as I am not one for looking through the booklets or admiring...