Archive | April, 2013

I Watched… (#49)

30 Apr


White Men Can’t Jump (1992)

Sidney (Wesley Snipes) and Billy (Woody Harrelson), two hustlers who join together on the streets of LA to play some hoops and win some money, which they both desperately need.

The premise is good for this cult 90s basketball film yet it never really gets high enough off the ground for a slam-dunk. The frantic basketball scenes are great fun to watch, from the undoubted skill being shown on the street courts to the witty insults traded around during the games. Everything else though is a bit of drag, especially as the the runtime is too long for its own good. The sub-plots explaining why they need the money in the first place seem forced and distracting, and the abrupt ending leaves a lot to be desired.

No 3-pointer, but when the basketball is in play, it is a lot of fun to watch. Just a shame about the, unfortunately substantial, off-court drama.



I Watched… (#48)

29 Apr


In the Heat of the Night (1967)

Best-Picture winner at the Oscars in 1968, In the Heat of the Night plays out in a small town in the deep south, Sparta in Mississipi. An African-American detective, Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), finds himself in the racist town just as a murder investigation is getting under way, and he is part intrigued, part coerced into helping the local police force. Though being the only African-American in “white-man’s clothes” in town means a murder investigation is not the only problem Mr Tibbs has to worry about in this racially-charged mystery thriller.

A truly gripping story and brilliant performances by Poitier (ironically not Oscar nominated) and Rod Steiger, as Police Chief Gillespie, help to create a powerful film that explores racial tensions in the South, at a time when the Civil Rights movement was a major talking point in the USA and indeed the world.

Profoundly shocking at times and driven by strong characters and a mysterious narrative, In the Heat of the Night compels and enchants in equal measure. Powerful stuff indeed.


Worst Superhero Films – Top 5 (Courier #21)

29 Apr

5) The Green Lantern


Ryan Reynolds as a superhero was always going to be a tough sell, and he never really quite fits into the tight green spandex of TheGreen Lantern. It isn’t awful but rather a fairly dismal adaption of the classic comics that left many fans bitterly disappointed.

4) Fantastic Four


Both Fantastic Four films are spectacularly un-fantastic but the first one is particularly poorly done with clumsy CGI, dodgy acting and only mild entertainment. It’s no wonder that Chris Evans ditched his ‘Human Torch’ alias to become Captain America, a wise getaway from a forgettable franchise.

3) Daredevil


Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner and Colin Farrell – a solid cast yet even they are incapable of lifting this film beyond mediocrity. The film unfortunately resembles the toxic waste that blinds Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil, and with its main character blinded it is no wonder this superhero flick misfires.

2) Catwoman


There are many ways to butcher a comic book character and Catwoman does a pretty good job of it, with Halle Berry at the helm steering it into the rocks. Catwoman playing basketball and licking tuna cans are a few of the worst moments in this simply awful film.

1) Batman and Robin


The film that almost destroyed Batman on the silver screen seemed to get worse with each viewing. Until Nolan’s reboot of the franchise, this was the last Batman film at the cinemas and occupied a particularly painful place in every fan’s memory. Cheesy, ridiculous and stupid are some of the kinder words that can be used to describe this abomination.

I Watched… (#47)

28 Apr


End of Days (1999)

Arnie’s back and trying to cash in on the millenium fever that was sweeping the world back in 1999.
Ex-cop turned security guard Jericho Cane (Arnold Schwarzenegger) gets dragged into stopping Satan’s (Gabriel Byrne) nefarious plans. Having taken over a banker’s body in New York, who is trying to find a bride (Robin Tunney) and end the world. It is up to Jericho to stop Satan and save the world from the ‘end of days’.

A rather ridiculous premise provides shaky foundations from the get-go, yet despite this the film starts of quite well; interest rapidly wanes as the film drags on and becomes increasingly more ridiculous. Schwarzenegger’s acting doesn’t help the cause, his wooden and one-dimensional performance pulling you even further out of the experience. The ropey special-effects are the final nail in the coffin of this ridiculous religious thriller.

Being ridiculously dumb, a shame after a mildly promising start, condemns this thriller to movie hell; in good company with a few other broken Schwarzenegger vehicles.


I Watched… (#46)

27 Apr


For a Few Dollars More (1965)

The second part of Sergio Leone’s glorious Man With No Name spaghetti-western trilogy follows Clint Eastwood as the nameless bounty hunter – known as ‘Monco’ in this chapter of the trilogy – as he teams up with Colonel Douglas Mortimer (Lee Van Cleef) to track down a crazy outlaw, known as ‘El Indio’.

The sweeping landscapes and stunning cinematography set the tone for this truly beautiful and remarkable piece of cinema, a pure Western in all senses of the term. Strong characters, including Eastwood as Monco, who exudes coolness only a stubbled, cigar-smoking, poncho-wearing antihero can. Van Cleef provides a worthy partner, dressed in black and with more guns and gadgets than James Bond’s cowboy grandfather would ever have.
The soundtrack fits together like a jigsaw, perfected as usual by the brilliant Morricone, who Leone always worked with on his Westerns. The soundtrack alone is so substantial the film owes much of its greatness to Morricone.
The narrative winds and twists its way through the hot, dusty landscapes and sparks into life with memorable scenes and incredible gunplay from two of the sharpest bounty hunters in the wild west.

Richly detailed from start to finish, For a Few Dollars More is a worthy middle-part to a trilogy that established a sub-genre and created the foundation of Sergio Leone’s astonishing directing legacy.


I Watched… (#45)

27 Apr


Say Anything (1989)

John Cusack plays high school graduate Lloyd Dobler, with a laudable boyish charm, in this romantic-comedy from popular director Cameron Crowe.

In the summer after graduation, perennial underachiever Lloyd falls in love with the bright Diane Court (Ione Skye); the ups and downs of a romantic relationship soon follow, even with time running out before university begins. Diane’s caring but overbearing father James (John Mahoney) brings his own problems to the table as Lloyd starts influencing ‘daddy’s little girl’ in this  charming suburban tale.

Genuinely sweet and funny, this film delivers a lot more than your average teen rom-com due to Crowe’s directing prowess as well as great performances by Cusack and Skye, whose polar-opposite characters share a wonderful chemistry.
The sub-plot involving Diane’s father and an IRS tax investigation feels rather unnecessary, as it drags on throughout the film and takes focus away from the two graduates’ summer of love. This, and a relatively weak soundtrack, create a stumbling block on the film’s path to greatness, which it doesn’t quite recover from.

Crowe delivers once again with another sweet-natured film that provides a good warm-up to his later (and better) work. Enjoyable but this production doesn’t quite graduate with honours.


I Watched… (#44)

26 Apr


Hard Boiled (1992)

John Woo’s infamous action flick stars Chow Yun-Fat as ‘hard boiled’ Hong-Kong cop Tequila. He teams up with an undercover agent (Tony Leung), to take down a notorious arms dealer who killed his old partner.

The action, from the first minute to the last, is breathtaking and masterly done thanks to brilliant choreography and lots of guns, and then some. The story is engaging if simplistic and Yun-Fat gives a great performance as the hard-as-nails cop Tequila –  so tough he never needs to reload.
The finale does get a tad farcical, the highlight being a baby’s pee extinguishing a fire, but as a whole the film’s slick action – laced with slow-mo, freeze frames and bullets – creates a memorable ride through Hong-Kong’s tea rooms and hospitals.

Stylish action and great characters combine to great a whirlwind only John Woo could tame. Here Woo is at his best, before his move to Hollywood, and at a time when he was the master of unadulterated fun.