Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Archive for May, 2011

Clint Eastwood

Icon and a living legend, Clint Eastwood is a superstar in international cinema. Born in San Francisco 81 years ago today, he is the son of steelworker Clinton Eastwood Sr. (1906-1970), and factor worker Ruth Eastwood-Belden (nee Runner, 1909-2006). The family moved around Northern California before settling in Oregon. After graduating high school, he moved to Seattle and worked as a lifeguard before training as a lifeguard for the military in 1951. After completing his service, he moved to Los Angeles where he found work digging swimming pools. Clint started trying out for bit parts in B-movies, and was signed as a contract player for Universal. He found work as an actor with brief, uncredited appearances in ‘Tarantula’ (1955) and ‘Revenge of the Creature’ (1955), which led to credited supporting roles in more various b-movies. He got his breakthrough at the end of the decade with the TV series ‘Rawhide’ (1959), where he was a cast member for six years. As Rowdy Yates, he made the show his own and became a household name around the country.

But Eastwood found even bigger and better things with ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ (1964), ‘For A Few Dollars More’ (1965) an ‘The Good, The Bad & The Ugly’ (1966). Clint became synonymous with the character the Man With No Name and the movies were a big hits, with the latter turning him into an international star. Eastwood got some excellent roles thereafter. He starred in ‘Coogans Bluff’ (1968), the western   ‘Hang ‘Em High’ (1968) and the musical ‘Paint Your Wagon’ (1969). Eastwood went in an experimental direction again with ‘Kellys Heroes’ (1970) and ‘Two Mules For Sister Sara’ (1970), both of which combined tough-guy action with offbeat humor.

1971 proved to be his best year in film, or at least one of his best. He directed his first movie, the thriller ‘Play Misty For Me’ (1971), in which he played a man being stalked by a crazed female admirer whose obsession with him turns from seductive to violent. That same year, he starred for his mentor, director Don Siegel in ‘The Beguiled’ (1971) an played the hard edge police inspector in ‘Dirty Harry’ (1971) that gave Eastwood another one of his signature roles and invented the loose-cannon cop genre that has been imitated even to this day. Eastwood also found work in American revisionist westerns like ‘High Plains Drifter’ (1973), which he also directed. He had constant quality films over the next few years, teaming up with Jeff Bridges in Michael Cimino’s directorial debut, the buddy-acton flick ‘Thunderbolt and Lightfoot’ (1974), and starring the “Dirty Harry” sequels ‘Magnum Force’ (1973) and ‘The Enforcer’ (1976), the quintessential western and my personal favourite ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ (1976), action flick ‘The Gauntlet’ (1977), and the hugely successful comedy ‘Every Which Way But Loose’ (1978) with Clyde the orangutan.

Eastwood found even more solid work with the fact-based thriller ‘Escape From Alcatraz’ (1979). The sequel to “Every Which Way but Loose”, ‘Any Which Way You Can’ (1980), was also a blockbuster despite negative reviews from critics. It was the fourth ‘Dirty Harry’ sequel, ‘Sudden Impact’ (1983) (the highest grossing film of the series) that made him a viable star for the eighties and gave to world a new catchphrase: “Go ahead, make my day”. Clint also starred in ‘Firefox’ (1982), ‘Tightrope’ (1984), ‘Pale Rider’  (1985), and ‘Heartbreak Ridge’ (1986), which were all big hits but did not become classics. His fifth and final “Dirty Harry” movie, ‘The Dead Pool’ (1988), was a minor commercial hit but severely panned by critics. Shortly after his career declined with the outright bomb comedy ‘Pink Cadillac’ (1989) and the disappointing cop adventure ‘The Rookie’ (1990). It was fairly obvious Eastwood’s star was declining as it never had before.

But Eastwood surprised yet again. First with his western, ‘Unforgiven’ (1992), which garnered him an Oscar for best director and producer of the best picture, and nomination for best actor. Then he took on the secret service in ‘In The Line of Fire’ (1993), another huge hit. Next up was ‘The Bridges of madison Couty’ (1995), a popular love story with Meryl Streep. Over the next few years, the quality of his films was up and down. He directed and starred in the well-received ‘Absolute Power’ (1997) and ‘Space Cowboys’ (2000), and the poorly received ‘True Crime’ (1999) and ‘Blood Work’ (2002).

However, Eastwood rose to prominence once again, first as director with ‘Mystic river’ (2004) and then directing and starring opposite Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman in what is arguably the best made film of his career: the boxing drama ‘Million Dollar Baby’ (2004). A critical and commercial triumph, the movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as earning Eastwood a nomination for Best Actor and a win for Best Director. He directed ‘Flags of Our Fathers’ and ‘Letters From Iwo Jima’ (2006) for producer Steven Speilberg. He then directed the Angelina Jolie starring ‘The Changeling’ before breaking his four-year acting hiatus by starring in ‘Gran Torino’ (2008). This film grossed $30 million during its opening weekend in 2009, making him the oldest leading man to reach #1 at the box office, and another one of his biggest hits.
After starring in iconic movies for four decades, Clint Eastwood has proved himself to be the longest-running movie star. Although he is aging now and focusing more on directing, his career continues to thrive. Clint Eastwood has been one of my idols for as long as I can remember, as a kid watching him on TV, seeing him at the cinema to replaying VHS copies of his movies throughout the 80’s and now on DVD. I love the image, his westerns, the dry humour and dark heart in his work; he’s priceless and irreplacable. LEGEND.

Phil Spector – Al Pacino

Al Pacino is set to star alongside Bette Midler in a TV film about the Phil Spector murder trial. Al will take on the lead role. The film will chronicle the relationship between Spector and his defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden (Midler). Phil Spector was famous for creating the Wall of Sound production technique and producing the excellent Ramones album End of the Century. He was sentenced to 19 years in jail for murdering actress Lana Clarkson in 2003.

After.Life *½

Anna Taylor (Christina Ricci) is a bored and depressed young woman. She attends a funeral and for a split second thinks that she may have seen the body move; Funeral director Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson) catches a glimpse of Anna’s reaction. Anna isn’t having a good day; she’s unhappy in her relationship with her wealthy boyfriend Paul (Justin Long) he doesn’t understand her wants and needs and it appears that she doesn’t either. After an argument at a fancy restaurant Anna flees into the stormy night and promptly crashes her car into a truck.

Anna ‘wakes up’ on the morticians slab only to be told by Eliot that she is in fact dead and he has a gift, the ability to communicate with the dead before their crossing over fully to the other side. He prepares Anna for her imminent burial; her wounds are dressed, she is stripped and indulges Eliot in clichéd conversations about what it means to be alive.

For the next hour or so Ricci spends the movie naked, drugged and wavering between accepting her fate and half-heartedly trying to escape.

Anna’s boyfriend believes that she’s still alive and tries to find out exactly what is going on at the funeral home. As he delves deeper into Anna’s death his own life starts to unravel.

Is Anna alive, kept in a semi-conscious state by the drugs administered by Eliot or is she really dead? The images thrown at us over the course lead us in different directions and towards differing conclusions as to what is happening. Anna experiences the supernatural in the form of an elderly female corpse in the movies freakiest and only real horror themed scene. However the fact that she is being drugged and leaves condensation on the various mirrors she breathes onto leads us to believe that she is still alive.

The film makers obviously believe that they have made or at the very least set out to make a serious look at life, death and what happens between. However the script is riddled with clichés and is barely sustained by some decent performances from an understated Neeson and Ricci who spends most of the movie completely naked, if they’d used that as a selling point it may have done better!

The result is an incredibly melodramatic and self-conscious film that takes itself far too seriously. Is Anna dead or alive… or in the space between? That’s up to you to decide, I for one didn’t care either way.  

Quality: 2 out of 5 stars

Any good: 1 out of 5 stars     

Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper was born on May 17, 1936, in Dodge City, Kansas. The young Hopper first appeared in a slew of 1950s television shows, including ‘Medic’ (1954) with Richard Boone and ‘Cheyanne’ (1955) with Clint Walker. His first film role was in the western ‘Johnny Guitar’ (1954), which was quickly followed by roles in ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ (1955), ‘Giant’ (1956) and ‘Gunfight At The OK Corral’ (1957). Hopper became good friends with James Dean and was devastated when Dean was killed in a car crash in September, 1955. He regularly appeared on screen throughout the 1960s, often in rather undemanding parts as a villain in westerns such as ‘True Grit’ (1969) and ‘Hang ‘Em High’ (1968). Then in early 1969, Hopper, fellow actor Peter Fonda and writer Terry Southern, wrote a counterculture road movie script and managed to scrape together $400,000 in financial backing, the film was called “Easy Rider’. Hopper directed the low-budget film which starred Fonda, Hopper and a young Jack Nicholson. The film was a phenomenal box-office success, appealing to the anti-establishment youth culture of the times. It changed the Hollywood landscape almost overnight and major studios all jumped onto the anti-establishment bandwagon, pumping out low-budget films about rebellious hippies, bikers, draft dodgers and pot smokers.

Hopper’s next directorial effort, ‘The Last Movie’ (1971), was a critical and financial failure, and he has admitted that during the 1970s he was seriously abusing various substances, both legal and illegal, which led to a downturn in the quality of his work. He appeared in a sparse collection of European-produced films over the next eight years, before cropping up in a memorable performance as a pot-smoking photographer in the Vietnam War epic ‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979). He also received acclaim for his work in both acting and direction for ‘Out of the Blue’ (1980).

With the recognition from these two movies he made a slow comeback, stealing the limelight in roles in ‘RumbleFish’ (1983) and ‘Rivers Edge’ (1986) before making headlines as the despicable Frank in David Lynch’s ‘Blue Velvet’ (1986).  With the support of Sean Penn, Hopper returned to directing with the controversial L.A. gang movie ‘Colors’ (1988) which was well received. He continued to steal movies as an excellent supporting actor in ‘True Romance’ (1993), ‘Speed’ (1994) and ‘Waterworld’ (1986). He was a multi-talented and unconventional actor/director regarded by many as one of the true “enfant terribles” of Hollywood; he managed to work both within and outside the system for more than five decades. As well as his acting/directing talents, Hopper was a skilled photographer and painter, having had his works displayed in galleries in both the US and overseas. Dennis Hopper died a year ago today on May 29th 2010.

Dark Shadows is filming

“Dark Shadows” by Tim Burton and Johnny Depp is officially underway. A gothic-horror tale centering on the life of vampire Barnabas Collins and his run-ins with various monsters, witches, werewolves and ghosts. The cast features Depp as Barnabas Collins, Chloe Moretz, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Lee Miller and of course Helena Bonham Carter. Hopefully this will be a return to form for Burton who has always been more at home in the gothic realm. 

Based on the popular “Dark Shadows” TV series, Warner brothers official press release describe the movie as follows:

In the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. But even an ocean was not enough to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued their family. Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet-or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy…until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Brouchard (Eva Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive. Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin. The dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family have fared little better…

Troll Hunter – Coming Soon

If you enjoyed ‘Cloverfield’ and I’m not judging you… then you should enjoy this, check it out here

Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet *½

Sometimes when you rent a cheap horror DVD you’re pleasantly surprised, it’s rare that you unearth a gem, usually you get what you expect. With Blood Night you get what you expect, in fact the quotes on the cover leave you in no doubt: “The kick-ass splatter film of the year” and “Gratuitous violence and gore”. That’s exactly what it is.

Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet to give it its full title starts with Mary Mattock, nicknamed ‘Hatchet’, killing her parents after having her first period. She is sentenced to life in a mental institution where she spends her time naked; she’s raped by a night shift guard and gives birth to a still-born baby. One night she escapes from the institution and kills nurses, orderlies and beheads the guard who raped her before eventually being shot dead by two Policemen. All of this is shown before the opening titles, all 12 minutes of it, for a 78 minute movie that’s a fair chunk of premise.

20 years later a group of teenagers get together for a séance and party on the anniversary of Blood Night. The characters are basically a slasher movie check list, there’s the town nutter, Graveyard Gus (Bill Moseley) who knows all the stories and has seen Mary’s ghost; the sporty guy, the geeky guy, the party guy, the hot chick, the couple who head off early to have sex, you know what’s coming… Mary turns up and proceeds to chop off heads and generally kill the teenagers in fairly bloody ways.

The surviving kids escape from their party and run into Graveyard Gus, he drives them to the old mental asylum, informing them that Mary is searching for her dead baby. If they reunite mother and child Mary should be able to rest, however when they dig up the child’s grave they discover that the coffin is empty. Searching through the asylum records they discover that the child didn’t die, a girl, she was adopted by a local family..!

This is the type of horror flick where you have to check your brain at the door or spend the movie picking holes in the quality of the script, direction, performances, effects and all manner of production flaws. No one sets out to make a bad movie and lack of budget isn’t an excuse anymore. A good idea works no matter what, good direction and performance shine through, and there is no excuse for splatter effects given the great work done on a budget in the past. It could have been an entertaining, nasty little slasher flick but the ‘stylistic’ camera angles and horrible CGI additions to the gore ruin what chance the movie had on that score.

Quality: 1 out of 5 stars

Any good: 2 out of 5 stars