1981 / Director Allan Arkush
In the late 70s comedian Andy Kaufman wanted to make a feature film about his alter ego Tony Clifton. No studio had confidence in the idea, however, Universal promised to make that film on the provisor that Kaufman star in Heartbeeps. It was a script that had floating around and with Star Wars being a global phenomenon at the time, Universal assumed that kids would lap up a story about two robots on an adventure (ala C-3PO & R2-D2). If Heartbeeps were to be a success Kaufman would be given the green light for his Tony Clifton movie. And so Heartbeeps was made and is now notorious for being one of the worst movies ever made. It was a monumental flop and Kaufman publicly apologised and pledged to refund every ticket sold. Alongside Bernadette Peters he plays a robot stuck in a warehouse with views to a serene mountain landscape. They break out and embark on an adventure to collect samples of the outside world. I watched the movie with its reputation in mind and thus keeping my expectations minimal. Wow, it sure is crap! Poor Andy... he's practically playing his Latka character from Taxi (a character he hated but the world loved) and his lines feel so forced that you wonder if he was actually at gun-point to deliver them. Biologically speaking faces contains nutrients, i.e. goodness and so to dissect this turd of a movie I will mention some of it's pros... there is a charm to it. It's aimed at children and has a lot of cute moments. The character make up and FX are well done thanks to the legendary Stan Winston and its shot well. Preceding Short Circuit I can't help but think perhaps this influenced Johnny 5's adventures to some extent. There are certainly similarities... but Short Circuit got it right. And so if you're looking for one of those really really bad movies for nostalgic and/or cult cinema reasons then Heartbeeps will guarantee discussion (possibly instead of watching). I prefer to call it "Heartbreaking" because with it's sinking went Kaufman's ambitions and passion for the Tony Clifton movie.
2012 / Director. Juan Antonia Bayona
Over 200,000 people perished in the Boxing Day Tsunami and so making a film about one family who survived can't possibly be called anything but The Impossible. The title alone must convey a respect to those who died so tragically as well as the families who've suffered... telling this story of survival could have come across as arrogant and disrespectful but their story is true and it's exceptional. It is simply impossible and if it were a fictional story the audience wouldn't buy into it. I am almost lost for words having just watched it and the words that do come to mind are bold. Extroadinary. Amazing. Astonishing... and Heartbreaking. The Impossible is one of the best and most sincere disaster film's I have ever seen. It is so vivid and raw. The special FX are incredible and director JA Bayona (The Orphanage) brilliantly makes use of practical special FX. A combination of miniatures, simulations and digital effects are blended seamlessly to create an absolutely terrifying tsunami. The film's greatest strength is the performances. Naomi Watts has never been better and Ewan McGregor digs deep to raise some highly emotional stuff. Above all, the children steal the show. Their portrayal of innocence lost is gut wrenching and I challenge anyone to come away dry-eyed. The Impossible impressed the hell out of me and it really is a tribute to all of the lives affected by the tsunami. This might be one family's story but it represents all of the victims. It horrifies me to think of what their experiences were like.
1997 / Director. Stuart Gillard.
There are films that are universally panned by critics and yet become absolute cult essentials to fans. UHF and Freddy Got Fingered are good examples and coincidentally, Harland Williams was in Freddy. In the late 90s Disney decided to take a chance on him and gave him a starring role in their G rated comedy, Rocketman. At the time of it's release it was picking up a heap of bad reviews and if my memory serves me, it was nominated for a Razzie or two... and yet despite all of this Rocketman is HILARIOUS! Easily amongst my top 10 favourite comedies of all time it is an absolute must-see for anyone uninitiated. The movie tells of an annoying and eccentric software programmer who inadvertently finds himself on the crew of a lunar mission. The plot is one gag after another and every joke hits the mark. If you watch it with mates, you will hurt from laughter and will probably recommend it to others. It's disappointing that William's career didn't take off after Rocketman. His on screen presence is clearly unique and there must be so many original and skewed scripts out there... and yet he's been relinquished to crap like Bachelor Party 2 and Spooky Buddies. The man is a comical legend and he needs some cred! If you haven't seen Rocketman then do. It appreciates with time and gets funnier with every viewing!
1991 / Director. Albert Pyun Movie #12
My affection for 80s & 90s B-movies is obvious and Dollman fills me with nostalgia. This is a wonderful movie about a hardened cop from a distant planet who crash lands on Earth after chasing a fugitive across space. When he awakens and emerges from his ship he faces the dilemma of being only 13 inches tall against our gigantic species of humans. Finding himself in a neighbourhood being over-run by thugs and crime, he is taken in by a friendly mother and son and he helps defend them from a drug dealing gang. This is my favourite type of filmmaking, before CGI, when special FX were practical. It might look a little hokey but it's magical stuff. With the use of miniature sets & props and Chroma key, director Albert Pyun pulls every trick in his bag to showcase this tiny hero against giant foes. Forced perspective and sneaky pull-away shots all come together to make Dollman a super fun and delightful sci-fi action. The movie is one of Charles Band's countless Full Moon Features productions and it crosses over in subsequent films such as Demonic Toys, Dollman Vs Demonic Toys and Bad Channels (as well as its own comic book) The average viewer might dismiss movies like this but I think they're fundamentally important. They're independent and visionary and aren't bound by Hollywood constraints. Cinema is all about escapism and these movies are made as pure entertainment. If you're the type of film lover that I am then you will have a great ability to suspend disbelief... watching movies without it is practically pointless. Dollman. Love it.
2012 / Director. Enrique Gato.
Tad The Lost Explorer is a Spanish animated adventure that borrows (steals) most of its set-ups from Indiana Jones. In fact the Spanish title translates to Tadeo Jones and the movie's lead character of Tad actually wears the real hat from the Indiana Jones movies (it's given to him in that context). The thing is that the movie ain't bad at all. Sure, it's full of cliches but the adventure is wonderful and the animation is fantastic. This animation actually rivals Disney and gives Pixar a run for it's money and so you can expect a quality family flick from this. The English translation is good, a lot of the gags are funny and the running time is nice and lean. I'm a big sucker for treasure-hunt movies, regardless of how contrived the are and so Tad The Lost Explorer won me over pretty easily. Being a non-English film, it does dive into some areas that American animation wouldn't touch. Some edgy violence and sexual innuendos (they'll fly over kids heads) and amusingly it would seem that whoever was in charge of animating the heroine's character was a bit of a perv. LOL. Her boobs are huge & revealing and you can even see her panty-line through her short-shorts when she bends over. Ah the Spanish (thank you).
1988 / Director. Mark Joffe.
Here's a few things I love. Australian cinema of the 80s, John Waters, Colin Friels, Kim Gyngell and Bruno Lawrence... the 1988 film Grievous Bodily Harm showcases all of them. This is a slick and competent psycho thriller about a man's obsession with his wife's death. He believes she's still alive contrary to conflicting stories and driven to mania by his fixation, he embarks on a murder spree, killing anyone who obstructs his personal investigation. The story also introduces a detective and an ambitious journalist, lending way to a taut and suspenseful psycho thriller. This is a fantastic film and its possibly the best of John Water's career. He plays the serial killer and his performance is absolutely chilling. Devoid of emotion with a stone cold compulsion, he is so convincing as a maniac... one home invasion scene in particular is haunting. All of the other players are great too and the script is well constructed, with an international appeal. I honestly don't know why Australia doesn't produce many films like this any more. In the 80s and 90s we had so many fantastic films... some titles like Hunting, Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Dangerous Game. Back then we didn't have a chip on our shoulder and we dared to produce high quality genre films. I reckon we've lost a certain audacity nowadays with a lot more pretentious and wanky art films (not to say they're all crap). Every few months I return to classic Aussie cinema because its some of the best. The late 80s and early 90s was particularly awesome and Grievous Bodily Harm rates!!!
2012 / Director. Roel Reine.
The first two Death Race movies were guilty pleasures for me... heck, I don't feel guilty at all... They were good fun. The second movie was a prequel, which told the story of the villainous racer, Frankenstein who took on Jason Statham in the first instalment. It gave the character a back story and turned him into a good guy... and now picking up where that movie finished, Death Race 3 manages to wedge another caper in before the events of the original. My expectations were low, however, I was immediately impressed with the production value. This was made on a fraction of the original's budget yet looks almost as good. Its shot surprisingly well, the action is staged barring no holds and all of the players from the last movie (and the original) have returned. A new multi-millionaire media entrepreneur arrives on the scene and poaches the Death Race concept from Ving Rhame's character. With an all new franchise in mind he relocates Frankenstein and his team to South Africa where a new death race is held in the Kalahari desert. This time the cars are beefed up for off road action and the races play out like a supercharged Road Warrior. This 3rd chapter doesn't quite reach the fun of the previous ones but there's still plenty to enjoy. Paul W Anderson has stuck with the series since the get go and is experience with the genre helps give DR3 credit where it wouldn't have got it otherwise. Like I said, its a fun and fast paced slice of hooey. Expect nothing more and you will probably like it... but only bother with it if you have enjoyed the franchise so far.
1984 / Director. Hugh Wilson.
I think the Police Academy franchise is hardly done-by. It's the series that everyone loves to bag out and YET almost everyone knows... and could probably name each of the movie's subtitles (i.e. Citizens On Patrol). I will openly admit to being a fan and aside from the truly atrocious 7th instalment (Mission to Moscow) each of them has their own appeal... some better than others but all fun. It all began with the original 1984 classic. At the time it was competing with a whole line of screwball sex-romp movies and its police academy setting made it a little more unique. Written by legendary comedy writer Pat Proft and directed by Hugh Wilson the movie ultimately played down the sex stuff and went for the situation gags. They gave themselves a fantastic concept & setting and the jokes were ripe for picking. Credit has to be given to the cast also, with Steve Guttenberg headlining an ensemble including Kim Cattrell, Donovan Scott, George Gaynes, GW Bailey and David Graf... each character has their own quirk and every actor nails it. Kudos to the rest of the franchise, too because some of the best characters don't appear until later films (Zed and Proctor for example). Less screwball than it's sequels, Police Academy is a winner and don't believe most people when they tell you that it's shit (they've seen it more than once).
1998 / Director. Daniel Zelik Berk
In most territories this film was released as a second sequel to Sometimes They Come Back. That film was a decent little telemovie based on a Stephen King short story, which spawned a carbon copy sequel (so carbon copied that the region 4 cover art is identical). Those movies told of dead murderers who come back to haunt their victims. How the hell this 3rd installment is related to those movies is beyond me. The working title for this was originally Ice Station Erabus and it seems like it was clearly made as a stand-alone. It's essentially a low-rent version of The Thing. Two military cops are sent to Antarctica to investigate a mass murder at an illegal military mine. When they arrive they meet two survivors and soon discover that demons have been unearthed and have the ability to possess bodies. Its a blatant imitation of The Thing and makes every attempt to recreate that film's moments. Funny enough, its fairly decent. It might be riddled with cliches but the script, design and pacing is competent. I have a soft spot for Max Perlich and his role in the movie sells it a little more for me. I'm still scratching my head as to WHY the producers would choose to associate it with the Stephen King franchise instead of some other more compatible movie... if anyone has an answer to this, let me know.
Ghost in the Shell is the cyber-punk sci-fi anime that changed the game. James Cameron has declared it a favourite and the Wachowski's modelled The Matrix after it. Based on the popular manga, it tells of a distant future where everyone is interconnected in an expansive network of cybernetics. It's a complex story about a hacker on the run and the cops chasing him down. The hacker is using a ghost to infiltrate other bodies (shells). A ghost is essentially a human spirit but it's a complicated concept to describe... watch the movie LOL. It sounds confusing but the film is easy to follow. It's so well made. The script is fluent, the dialogue is excellent and the design is phenomenal. This is such a vivid and fantastical vision... with a beautiful score it has a gracefulness that most other anime at the time lacked. The action dances across the screen in a symphonic way and you feel like you are watching an futuristic opera... Eight years after it's release it was given an alternative edit with newly re-created digital animation and a rearranged score. That version is also beautiful and you can take your pic of which one you watch, or watch both. A TV series followed in 2002 and a sequel was released in 2004. The sequel looked as amazing but didn't reach the elegance of this original. I read recently that a 3rd movie is due out later in the year called 'Arise' and Steven Spielberg has purchased the rights to make a live action version. As much as I idolise the guy, I'd advise against it. The Matrix was enough.
Riddle of the Stinson is the remarkable true story of a Stinson aeroplane, which crashed into the thick wilderness of the Lamington National Park in Queensland. The story made all of the headlines at the time and when a wide-scale search couldn't locate them, the pilot and passengers were presumed dead. With the search called off, a local man in the area had his suspicions that the search was conducted in the wrong areas and so he takes off into the dense bush to find the crash-site. Miraculously he finds the site and after weeks lost, there are survivors. This is a film I cannot regard any higher. A true story that's so beautifully captured on film with a gorgeous score and magnificent photography. The film notably stars Jack Thompson and Richard Roxburgh and was directed by Chris Noonan who went on to make Babe and Miss Potter. Tragically the master print of the film was destroyed in a warehouse flood at the Kennedy-Miller production house (so I was told) and so the film is unlikely to ever receive an official release. I am fortunate to have possibly the best quality version of the film that exists. If this is a film that interests you then visit the shop section of this site and grab a copy for just $5. It's one of my favourite Australian films and I wish more people could see it.
What strikes me about Judd Apatow's movies is the earnestness. He's made a name for himself with lowbrow comedies full of cheap gags, yet most of his films have an emotional anchor and a realism, which allows the viewer to engage on a deeper level. A lot of folk dismiss his work and don't give him the credit he deserves and it does seem to me that his films are becoming more personal. He's starting to favour the drama over the comedy as he get older, which I think is an endearing thing (the opposite direction to John Hughes' career). THIS IS 40 is a spin-off of Knocked-Up and we catch up with Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann's characters are they struggle to cope with age and family responsibilities. Rudd and Mann have a wonderful kinship on screen and successfully deliver characters that most people their age could relate to in one way or another. Their screen dynamics are a testament to Apatow's relationship with his actors. Obviously he's married to Mann in real life and the kids in the film are also his own, but Rudd (along with previous actors in his films) have all shared a close friendship with the man and share most of his sentiments. I enjoyed This Is 40 a lot and its strength lies in repeat viewings. It does suffer the same misfortune of most of Apatow's films in that it overstays it's welcome by 20(ish) minutes but there's enough reason to like the movie anyway. The fact alone that Paul Rudd is sporting a Ween t-shirt in this poster is enough to praise the movie, but with that factor aside it remains a funny and honest glimpse into the woes of family life.
The premise: 26 directors were each given a letter of the alphabet. They were then able to choose any word beginning with that better and create a film about death with no restraint. Absolute and total freedom to be as depraved as they want within a 5 minute time frame.
It's an anthology film. An experiment. A project... and above all, a celebration!
I have nothing negative to say about The ABCs of Death. It is one of the most joyous films I've seen in years. While some segments are stronger than others It is nonetheless clear that every director had a ball. There is so much affection for the genre on display and the movie is not what most people would expect it to be. Sure, there's some depravity... gruesome, gory and disturbing images... but there's a hell of a lot of laughs too. From deadly farts to monstrous toilets... stripped flesh, giant robots and Nazi felines. This movie will have you laughing one minute and cringing the next. The standout letters for me were easily D, Q and T.
The actual titles for each short are left until the conclusion of each story, which is a masterstroke because it allows each filmmaker to toy with the audience. You know what letter you're up to and you spend your time trying to guess what the word will be. Some are obvious and others not so. Its a really clever concept.
I think the success of the film is that it's simple and ingenious. With each story no more than 5 minutes long, the entire 125 minute running time flies by and when the awesome credits roll (FUCKING SKYHOOKS) you are craving more... well I was, anyway. The good news is that a sequel has recently been announced and so I am personally hoping that it leads to 26 movies to really round it off. Great fun.... SUPER FUN!! (Horror rules)
In April 1988 I visited several islands in the South Pacific. I was 9 years old at the time and the one vivid memory I have of that trip was our time in New Caledonia. The place was heavily occupied by the military and I will never forget being faced with heavily armed soldiers at every turn. My father reassured us that we were safe and so being 9 years old I believed him and never thought much of it. But those images have stuck with me and it's only now, 25 years later, that I realise that a major rebellion was taking place and an international situation was unfolding. Rebellion is a French film that chronicles this event. Being a French territory, a group of Kanaka (indigenous people) separatists killed 4 officials and took another 27 hostage in the jungle. In response the French government launched an attack and killed the insurgents and the incident became a significant moment in the people's fight for independence. The film's main strength lies in it's opening scenes. It begins with the bloody attack, letting the viewer know exactly how the story ends and we are then taken back to follow the 9 days leading to this point. Director and actor Mathieu Kassovitz plays the lead role of a French negotiator who attempts to fine a peaceful resolution. He's caught between and rock and hard place and Kassovitz's performance is outstanding. In fact the entire film is outstanding. It's a true story that the French government would prefer people not know about and the film undertook several years of talks with both French and Kanakas representatives. At the time the world press were reporting the Kanakas to be a savage terrorist organisation when they were actually peaceful freedom fighters who's 1988 infiltration of a military base turned to bloodshed out of panic. This film represents them. Echoes of the Balibo incident come to mind when watching Rebellion and while there's not a lot of information to be found about the events on the internet, you feel that the story is being told faithfully. Excellent script, well paced and incredible combat sequences make Rebellin essential viewing. Check it out.
The 80s and 90s were the best decades for cheesy martial arts movies. I was a kid glued to the stuff. Bloodsport, Kickboxer, No Retreat No Surrender etc... and so Jean Claude Van Damme was a bloody legend to me. Surprisingly his best movie didn't come until 2003 when he teamed up with director Ringo Lam to make In Hell. This was a real sleeper movie at the time. Most of us were expecting another el-cheapo straight to video piece of shit but instead were treated to a hard-ass, no holds barred prison film. Most of the movie sticks to formula and all of the usual prison movie conventions are still there... but there's an authenticity to its aesthetic. Set in Russia and presumedly filmed there (I'll have to look into that), director Lam has made use of real locations and stripped the script back to it's gritty bare bones and avoids it being too Hollywood. The fight scenes are brutal and the acting is surprisingly good. Van Damme has made a shit load of movies (some good, many bad) but I personally consider In Hell to be his best. He's given an emotional character arc to work with that relies more on drama than it does action. If you're into macho fight flicks then this one will give you more than you bargained for.