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Tom Cruise Vs Paramount: Who’s Telling The Truth? August 24, 2006

Posted by Ian W in : Film News , add a comment

Paramount Pictures and Tom Cruise have parted company and it would seem the split is anything but amicable, with both sides claiming they instigated the parting. So who, if anyone, is telling the truth? Let’s have a look at the evidence. 

Over the past year or so Cruise has come under fire from the media, for several reasons, most notably acting like a fool while professing his love for Katie Holmes on Oprah and being out spoken about the use of certain prescription drugs. This, Paramount have claimed, has affected his pulling power at the box office and caused them some embarrassment as well. While if can’t really be disputed that Cruise hasn’t done his public image a lot of good, just how much has if affected his star pulling power? Not a lot in my opinion. Lets remember we’re talking about Hollywood here, I don’t think a few red faces is going to put a major movie studio off, only money will do that. And in the embarrassment stakes Cruise definitely takes second place to Mel Gibson. 

If you look at Paramount’s most successful films since the year 2001 that didn’t star Tom Cruise, you see an interesting pattern – 

2001 Lara Croft: Tomb Raider No15
2002 The Sum Of All Fears No24
2003 How to Loose a Guy in 10 Days No29
2004 Lemony Snicket’s No18
2005 The Longest Yard No12
 

Paramount haven’t had a top ten box office hit without Tom since 2000 when What Women Want came in at No4 (and the top film that year? Mission Impossible II.) What makes Paramount’s case even funnier is that War of the Worlds a film they pointed to as having its box office takings affected by Cruise) had a worldwide gross of almost $600m, making it Paramount’s biggest hit (based on money taken) since 1997 and Titanic. Even the ‘failure’ Mission Impossible III will almost certainly finish the year in the ten biggest earners.

It seems Paramount needed Cruise far more than Cruise needed them. A major studio needs to score a top 10 hit and without Cruise Paramount have failed to do that.

So what what’s the answer to that question in the title? Probably neither, but then it is Hollywood after all so you can hardly expect honesty. What it probably comes down to is that they couldn’t agree on a new deal and now both want to claim it was their decision. It’s like when you break up with a girlfriend - would you rather be the dumped or the dumper?

I can’t see this affecting Cruise’s career very much; although he may do a smaller film next (possibly the remake of The Eye.) Paramount on the other hand need to find themselves a major star and a vehicle for him that will be a box office smash if they want to continue to be taken seriously as a major studio.

A Big Ape, Horses, Cowboys, Crooks and Mad Germans August 22, 2006

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Fitzcarraldo

Life imitates art; director Herzog’s crazy idea for a film about a man with a crazy idea to move a ship over a mountain. This is probably his most enjoyable film, no doubt due to the similarities between the Fitzcarraldo character and Werner himself; in essence Kinski is playing Herzog.

Fitzcarraldo is a huge opera lover and will do anything to raise the money to bring music to the jungles of Peru. He comes up with an incredible scheme to avoid the rapids of the Amazon River by hauling a huge river boat over a mountain in order to make a fortune from the areas rubber trees.

It’s an insane idea and one they followed through in real life, they actually pulled the boat over the mountain. If that idea alone isn’t enough to show how determined (or mad?) Herzog was to make the film the fact it took three years to make should give you some idea.

Kinski seems to enjoy playing Fitzcarraldo, possibly because he knows he’s really playing his great friend/enemy Herzog. In any case it’s one of his best performances and one of his happiest as well

Cobra Verde

The Kinski/Herzog teams final pairing is very disappointing. Kinski plays the titular bandit who goes to Africa as a slave trader only to find the slave trade outlawed before he can return home to claim his rewards.

The film is just a mess really; the plot is almost nonexistent and what there is meanders all over the place. Having all the black actors dubbed into German also removes much of the feeling of isolation that is so important to understand Kinski’s character.

Having said all that Kinski once again rises above the material to give a great performance.

My Best Fiend

Herzog’s documentary tribute to Kinski is both interesting and enlightening. They say it’s a fine line between genius and madness but with Kinski there was no line. He may have been mad as a march hare but he was also an incredibly gifted actor with tremendous presence.

This is without doubt the most moving thing in the Herzog/Kinski box set. The final scene of Kinski at peace, playing with a butterfly, simple joy written all over his face, is one of the most beautiful pieces of film I’ve ever seen.

King Kong

In this day and age films are much faster paced than they used to be, and yet it takes Peter Jackson over three hours to tell the same tale that this film did in little more than an hour and a half.

What can one say about Kong that hasn’t already been said? One of THE great adventure films and an all time classic. Without this there probably wouldn’t be a Godzilla or Jurassic Park or… well this list goes on. This DVD features one of the best transfers of a film from this era that I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching.

The Ladykillers

A classic British comedy about a gang of crooks and the little old lady who stands between them and the money they’ve stolen.

Peter Sellers’ comic genius is sadly underused but that doesn’t spoil the fun as Alec Guinness delivers one of the all time classic comedy performances as Professor Marcus. Marcus is the leader of the mob and it’s his plans that come unstuck thanks to Katie Johnson. Brilliant as Guinness is without Johnson’s perfect timing as ‘The Old Lady’ it would all fall flat.

They don’t make them like this anymore and (as the Coen’s found out) shouldn’t try. This is a film perfectly of its time and place, much like The Wicker Man, another badly conceived American remake of a beloved British classic.

Ten Wanted Men

A fairly standard Randolph Scott 1950’s western about a range war between two rival cattle barons.

Scott gives a solid but unexceptional performance but thankfully Richard Boone is on hand to liven things up as Scott’s rival. At the start you almost feel sympathy for Boone, as Scott seems to go out of his way to antagonise him, but such feelings soon evaporate as Boone allows his lust for a young Mexican girl to start a confrontation with Scott.

The plot follows a fairly standard pattern and you’re never left in any doubt what the outcome will be. The only puzzle is why they called the film Ten Wanted Men as it bears no relation to the film that I could see.

Dreamer

This is an old-fashioned horse story elevated by an excellent cast.

When a racehorse breaks a leg during a race trainer Kurt Russell finds himself out of a job and with the horse as part payment for his work. His first plan on healing the injured mare is to breed her but…well lets just say things don’t go as planned. Dakota Fanning plays his daughter, who forms a special bond with the horse and through it with her father as well.

The film also features Kris Kristofferson as Russell’s father (needless to say they have ‘issues’ that need to be settled.) Elisabeth Shue plays the wife and mother role but doesn’t get much to do. David Morse is the hissable villain, who was ready to have the horse put down; again, it goes without saying that he’ll get his just deserts.

So no surprises but a nice well acted family film that doesn’t stray into saccharine territory.

The Man Who Knew Too Much

Hitchcock remakes his own 1934 original and improves on it. This time it’s an American family on holiday who get mixed up in an assassination plot.

James Stewart and Doris Day make a great couple. Day is particularly good and must have enjoyed the change of pace from the usual romantic comedies she appeared in. As for Stewart, well this is probably the lesser of his collaborations with Hitch (but then the others are all classics: Rope, Rear Window and Vertigo) and the part of the concerned father hardly stretches his acting muscles.

Not essential Hitchcock but close.

The Stone Tape

Nigel Kneale’s Christmas ghost story from 1972 retains a creepy air even though it looks dated, with that very 70’s BBC studio bound production look.

The setting is the traditional old haunted house but being Kneale that’s as far as being tradional goes. A group of scientists have taken over the house to use as a thinktank to come up with a new recording medium, because tape is dead (how right they were.) When they discover the house is haunted they decide to investigate and discover that the haunting may be stored within the stones.

The performances are all good, all though very much of the time - Jane Asher being female gets to do a lot of crying - and the ending, while not unexpected, is still quite neat.

English Kings, Jewel Thieves, a Superhero and a bit of German Cinema August 14, 2006

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A quiet week

Tower of London

Vincent Price stars in Roger Corman’s entertaining version of Richard III. The finished film is not really the one he wanted to make (it was originally planed to be shot in colour and the final The Battle of Bosworth was cut at the last minute and replaced with footage from the 1939 Tower of London) but it’s still entertaining, with Price having a ball as Richard.

It’s a much better film than it deserves to be given the production problems though it’s not a patch on most of the Corman/Price Poe films. The Haunted Palace / The Tower of London

After The Sunset

Brett Ratner’s affectionate tribute to classic heist movies like The Thomas Crown Affair and To Catch a Thief is a harmless, undemanding piece of fluff. He has a good cast but none of them are taxed to anywhere near the limit of their ability.

The story concerns a retired jewel thief (Brosnan) tempted into one last job by FBI man Woody Harrelson. There are the usual twists and turns you always find in this sort of thing but no real surprises. The best thing about the film is Salma Hayak but that has more to do with her wearing very little than her acting ability. After The Sunset [2004]

Batman Begins

A film that owes as much to the classic 70’s Denny O’Neil/Neil Adams work on the character as it does the more modern take of people like Frank Miller.

It’s nice to have a Batman film that concentrates on him more than the villains for a change and Nolan’s film certainly does that. Bruce Wayne’s parents dieing from an act of random violence works much better than Tim Burton’s too tidy version did but sadly, the scriptwriters cannot resist the urge to tie it tenuously to Ra’s Al Ghul in the end.

Bale is great as both Wayne and Batman and the film is full of first class performances. Watched for a second time even those members of the cast who seemed out of place the first time round now seem to fit (Michael Caine’s Alfred in particular) although Katie Holmes is still weak.

Hopefully things will get even better with the sequel… Batman Begins (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Nosferatu

I have to admit I’ve never really ‘got’ the films of Werner Herzog, they just don’t do much for me. His take on the classic vampire film is visually engaging and the acting is of a high caliber but it seems cold.

The film fails when it comes to scares as well; only the finale with Kinski’s Dracula feasting on Isabella Adjani raises a chill. In fact, Kinski is the best thing about the film and is the perfect choice to step into Max Schreck’s shoes. It’s just a pity the rest of the film wasn’t worthy of his performance. Werner Herzog Box Set 1

Woyzeck

A film version of Georg Büchner’s play about a soldier (Kinski) tortured both physically and mentally to the point of mental breakdown.

I found this too absurd to have any real emotional impact. We are supposed to feel sympathy for Woyzeck but the ridiculousness of the story prevented me from caring what happens. Even the ’shocking’ ending fail to elicit any emotion.

Once again, Herzog leaves me cold.

‘The Official DVD Forums Top 100 Films’ Poll August 9, 2006

Posted by Ian W in : Rants & Raves , 5 comments

There’s a thread running over in the DVD Forums to find ‘The Official DVD Forums Top 100 Films,’ so if you’re a member make sure you vote (and if you’re not a member, why not?) You pick just your top five films for the poll, and that got me thinking - how do you select five films out of all the classics that have been made over the years?

Do you try and spread them out across genres? Or decades? Or maybe your favourite stars/directors? It’s an impossible choice really. It’s the kind of thing that will vary depending on your mood, but somehow it had to be done.

So what are did I vote for and why? I’m glad you asked.

In reverse order -

5. Dirty Harry

The late 60’s through the 70’s was the golden era for thrillers for me, and I knew I had to have one in my list. There were several contenders - Bullitt, The French Connection, Marathon Man, Chinatown to name just a few, but in the end it had to be Clint. When I think of Eastwood characters it’s always Harry Callahan that comes to mind first. The sequels may have gone steadily downhill but the original is the perfect, no frills, cop movie. It’s hard to believe Eastwood wasn’t first choice for the role (actually he was fourth after Sinatra, Wayne and Newman all passed) as it’s become such an iconic part that it’s now impossible to imagine anyone else playing it.

4. The Great Escape

The king of cool in his coolest role. Without Steve McQueen this would still be a good prisoner of war film, with him it’s the ultimate bank holiday movie. When I was growing up this must have been shown at least twice a year, I watched it every time and it never got boring. It still doesn’t. A great cast - Bronson, Coburn, Garner etc, a first class director, John Sturges, who’s always been under appreciated in my view (much like Don Siegel who made Dirty Harry) and the greatest war movie score ever written.

3. Planet of the Apes

I had to have some SF in the list and it was hard to narrow it down to this. Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind were both contenders as were a couple of 50’s SF classics - Forbidden Planet and The Incredible Shrinking Man - but in the end Charlton Heston and those ‘damned dirty’ apes won out. It’s the sort of intelligent, but still action packed SF we rarely see anymore. Heston made a few science fiction films but none of them had a character as good as George Taylor, a man who’s lost all faith in his own kind, only to find what’s replaced them is just as bad. Roddy McDowall will be forever remembered for the Apes films (and spin-off TV series) and rightly so as he’s the heart and soul of the film.

2. The Wild Bunch

The greatest western of the modern era Sam Peckinpah’s masterpiece only gets better with time. William Holden has rarely been this good (Sunset Boulevard and possibly Network come to mind) but everyone in the film is at their very best. I never used to like Robert Ryan (a prejudice inherited from my Father that I’ve now overcome) but this was the one film I’ve always enjoyed him in. Johnson and Oates also deserve mention, both did other great films but nothing that surpasses their work here. But lets not forget Ernest Borgnine, my favourite scene in the film is between him and Holden -

Holden ‘He gave his word.’
Borgnine ‘He gave his word to a railroad.’
Holden ‘It’s his word!’
Borgnine ‘That ain’t what counts! It’s who you give it to!’

It’s not an action packed moment, there’s no gunplay. It’s just too superbly written characters (played by actors at their peak) exchanging words, and it never fails to move me. Those lines cut to the heart of who Pike Bishop is and what he stands for and thus to the heart of the film as well.

 

1. The Searchers

I could have picked a top five list that only included John Wayne films, and all of them would have been worthy of their place, but in the end I decided on just one. The Searchers is, for me, the finest film ever made. Why? That’s a hard one to put down in words but I’ll give it a try.

It’s stunningly beautiful for starters. All of Ford’s westerns are amazing to look at, even when let down by other elements, but this one captures the untamed beauty of the west better than any other. It’s vast open spaces are both a thing of wonder and an alien landscape filled with potential danger. It also has a script that walks the fine line of sentimentality but never strays the wrong side. There are comic moments that can turn dark in the blink of an eye (Wayne having a laugh at the newly ‘married’ Jeffrey Hunter’s expense until he realises his ’squaw’ wife may know where Debbie is.)

But if there’s one single reason this is my all time favourite film it’s down to John Wayne. My Dad was a Duke fanatic, and I’ve been watching Wayne films since I was a little kid. The Alamo used to upset me as a child. No not because of the speeches, but because Wayne ‘died.’ He wasn’t supposed to die he was indestructible, like Superman. When I first saw The Shootist, after he passed away for real, I cried. However it was The Searchers that had the most profound affect on me, not because he died, but because he was so damn mean.

Here was an anti-hero before there were such things. Ethan Edwards is not a nice man but he’s not a bad man either, he’s a ‘real’ character shaped by experience. This is without doubt Wayne’s finest performance, he’s not just playing himself, as he was often accused of, and even said on occasion. He’s inhabiting the skin of another person in the same way as Brando or De Niro are acclaimed for and it’s a performance that deserves to be compared to the best. Eastwood’s Dollars character sprang from Ethan Edwards, and he’d have felt at home with The Wild Bunch’s Pike Bishop. Wayne may not have liked those characters and the films they appeared in but the character he created would have recognised kindred spirits. And, while he disturbed me as a boy, (has anyone ever had scarier eyes than Duke in this?) as a man I think I’ve come to understand him.

So that’s my five, at least for today, tomorrow it could be different. I’m already feeling the urge to put some horror in there. Maybe Carpenter’s The Thing or one of Romero’s Dead trilogy or perhaps The Exorcist…

The Hits and Misses of the Summer August 7, 2006

Posted by Ian W in : Rants & Raves , add a comment

So how have the big summer blockbusters performed this year? Let’s take a look shall we?

First out of the gate was Mission Impossible III, and with a sub $50 million opening this was widely condemned as a major disappointment. But how do things look now its theatrical business is more or less complete? Surprisingly good I think. While it only managed $133m in the US, its takings for the rest of the world are almost double that ($247m) giving it a worldwide gross of almost $381m. With a budget of £150m (small compared to some of the summers other big films) that’s not a bad return at all and I think at some point we’ll see Mission Impossible IV.

Poseidon opened next and must rank as the major flop of the summer. Budgeted at $160m Wolfgang Petersen’s remake only managed $60m in America and, while it did better overseas ($114m) is still a big disappointment. After Troy and now this I wouldn’t expect to see Petersen given this kind of money to play with again any time soon, so don’t hold your breath for his adaptation of the Ender’s Game SF novel.

Up to bat next was The Da Vinci Code, a film that got mostly poor reviews but coming from a bestselling novel should have had a built in audience. It did very nicely in the States (216m) but absolutely amazing everywhere else ($527m) and further cements Ron Howard as one of the most successful and versatile directors working in Hollywood at the moment. His next project should be a remake of East of Eden. The success of this will probably have the knock-on effect of studios looking for other bestselling novels to adapt. They have a core audience almost guaranteed and they are much cheaper to produce than the usual explosive summer action fare.

X-Men: The Last Stand surprised everyone by coming off the blocks like an Olympic sprinter. There were major doubts about this film, most of them stemming from Brett Ratner replacing Bryan Singer in the director’s chair and it received mixed reviews, but it had a monster opening ($103m.) Sadly the film proved to have more in common with a sprinter than just its start and didn’t have the legs for distance running. Still it managed a respectable $233m in the US, but it did better at home than in the rest of the world ($207m). With a budget of $210m it’s made a nice profit and we can no doubt expect to see the spin-off Wolverine film fairly soon.

Cars was the new Pixar film and, as they’ve yet to have a flop, a lot was expected of this. It did well, taking $236m at home and, so far, $111m elsewhere (with more to come) although not quite as well as The Incredibles. Pixar it seems is the only studio that can do no wrong and got a nice return for there relatively small investment (a mere $120m). With the guaranteed hit Toy Story 3 next there’s no stopping them.

Warner’s have had a bad summer, first Poseidon sank with out trace and then Superman Returns failed to fly as high as expected. The film Bryan Singer left the X-Men to make has only taken $190 in America and has already dropped out of the weekly top ten. Its foreign business isn’t outstanding either, just $132m (although there are a few countries it hasn’t opened in yet.) So while Singer may be talking up a sequel don’t expect to see it in the near future, and I’d be surprised if he’s attached if it does get made. Makes you wonder if he regrets abandoning the X-Men.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest has been the US box office champ of the summer with $380m already taken and still doing decent business (11m last weekend.) It’s not done quite so well on foreign turf (302m) but it’s still making money there too. Having exceeded the previous film and with the third a sure fire hit next year it seems fair to say Gore Verbinski can pick any project he wants. The film has also turned Johnny Depp into a major box office draw. It’ll be interesting to see how his career progresses now; I hope we won’t see him playing it safe and that he’ll continue to make the quirky movies he’s always done. His involvement with a big budget version of I Am Legend with Will Smith has me worried though.

Michael Mann’s reworking of his old TV show Miami Vice doesn’t seem to have set the box office alight. Only $45m after its second weekend and its already dropped to number four in the weekly top ten. It’s too early to say how it will fare abroad but it will have to do extremely well to make a profit. Will this relative failure affect Mann’s forthcoming projects? I don’t think so; Miami Vice’s budget was a comparatively small $135m and Mann’s been around so long now he’s weathered flops before and come back. I’d expect him to make something a little smaller for his next film though so probably not his long talked about WWII film, The Few with Tom Cruise.

US Box Office Totals

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest $379,709,000
Cars $237,498,000
X-Men: The Last Stand $233,524,650
The Da Vinci Code $216,385,837
Superman Returns $190,223,000
Mission: Impossible III $133,501,348
Poseidon $60,618,199
Miami Vice $45,740,000

Worldwide Box Office Totals

The Da Vinci Code $744.2m
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest $681.6m
X-Men: The Last Stand $440.6m
Mission: Impossible III $380.9m
Cars $349.2m
Superman Returns $321.8m
Poseidon $175.1m
Miami Vice $46.8m

Worldwide Box Office less Production Budget

The Da Vinci Code $619m
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest $457
X-Men: The Last Stand $231
Mission: Impossible III $231
Cars $229
Superman Returns $61m
Poseidon $15
Miami Vice -$88m

The production budget is only the cost of making the film and doesn’t include various other expenses that a film incurs, most notably advertising. Warner’s probably spent over £60m pushing Superman Returns so it’s doubtful the film is in the black yet. It does give some idea of how well a film has done though.

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Evil Computer Tycoons, Transvestite Spies, Vampire Acrobats and lots more… August 6, 2006

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Antitrust

Average techno thriller enlivened by Tim Robbins as Bill Gates Gary Winstone. Bill’s Gary’s company has a new communications system in development and due to launch very soon and he will do anything to meet his deadline. Ryan Phillippe is the new techno wiz he hires who soon realises that everything may not be as it seems.

There are few real surprises, although the plot takes a couple of twists towards the end. The performances with the exception of Robbins are adequate though uninspired as is the direction by Peter Howitt. However, Robbins makes it worth a watch for his Bill Gates impression, although of course he can’t be based on Gates because the film mentions him as one of Gary Winstone’s competitors. At least that must have been the filmmaker’s escape clause if Gates tried to sue. Anti-Trust [2001]

All the Queen’s Men

World War II set comedy starring Matt Le Blanc and Eddie Izzard. Who wins in this transatlantic battle of the comedians? Not the viewer that’s for sure.

The film deals with a secret mission to steal an Enigma coding machine by a team of cross-dressing allied agents. This may sound like the plot of a Carry On film but there are less laughs you’d usually find there. In fact, I can’t remember laughing once.

Let Him Have It

True story starring Christopher Eccleston as Derek Bentley who was hanged for murder in 1953. While the story is a worthy one, concerning a miscarriage of justice that saw Bentley sentenced to death for a murder he didn’t commit, it’s not stunning cinema.

Peter Medak’s direction is flat and uninspired, he may be trying for a documentary feel but ends up with a film that’s just dull to look at. One can only imagine what first choice Alex Cox would have done but based on his other films it certainly wouldn’t have been dull. Ecclestone does well in the sort of role an actor loves (Bentley had a mental age of 11 and suffered from epilepsy) and the acting overall is very good but sadly not enough to make this anything special.

Along For the Ride

Three Hollywood stars, Melanie Griffith, Patrick Swayze and Penelope Ann Miller, all past there prime and a plot that sounds like a TV Movie of the Week.

Griffith plays Lulu, an escaped mental patient, who fifteen years before had a child with Swayze. Thing is he doesn’t know about the kid because they broke up and she never told him she was pregnant. He is now married to Miller, who’s a psychiatrist (very handy when you’re ex is a nutcase.) Griffith tells Swayze about the kid, they head off on a road trip across country to see him, and Miller follows.

You see what I mean about the plot. The performances are pretty good (particularly Miller) but when you’re saddled with such a ridiculous premise even a great performance wouldn’t be enough. Along for the Ride

Buena Vista Social Club

Some nice music, I just wish Wim Wenders wouldn’t keep cutting away to interviews during the songs. It’s not that these incredible Cuban musicians aren’t interesting but it gets a little annoying when you keep getting torn away from concert footage or studio recordings for interviews that could have been put in after the songs finished.

 

Twins of Evil

Peter Cushing had the amazing ability to be good in even the most unworthy films. When given a really juicy role, as he is here, he could be magnificent. He plays Gustav Weil a puritanical zealot who is not adverse to a spot of witch burning. Into his care come his orphaned twin nieces, played by the lovely Collinson twins. When one of them becomes enamoured of the local Count, who happens to be a vampire (are there any Counts who aren’t vampires?) the trouble really starts.

Cushing gives real depth to Weil, a man who believes what he is doing is for the good of the people; he’s not evil just misguided. It’s possibly his best Hammer role of the 70’s and one of his best ever.

Vampire Circus

The central idea of a circus that’s run by vampires is actually quite a good one, but this early 70’s Hammer horror fails to make the most of it.

After villagers kill off the Count Mitterhouse his lover escapes, only to return years later with the circus to exact revenge and resurrect the dead Count.
This was only director Robert Young’s second film and he seems out of his depth. The film is badly structured with characters appearing and disappearing with out reason or explanation although this could have more to do with problems during production than a fault of the director. Key scenes were apparently never filmed when the project went over schedule, and that would explain the narrative lapses.

What the film really lacks is a strong central performance, a Cushing or Lee, who could make even a substandard film watchable.

25th Hour

Spike Lee’s film about a drug dealer’s last day on the outside before doing a seven-year prison term. Edward Norton is Monty Brogan, the man facing time and he plays the complex character to perfection. He’s a drug dealer who makes money from other peoples addiction but, as we see at the start of the film, he’ll put himself out to help an abandoned dog.

It is his journey through his last day of freedom that the film revolves around. Along the way we meat his friends Jacob Elinsky (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a teacher who lusts after one of his students (Anna Paquin) and Frank Slaughtery (Barry Pepper) a stockbroker whose known Monty since they were kids. Both are excellent as is Brian Cox as his father. In fact you can’t fault any of the performances.

If anything lets the film down its Lee’s directorial flourishes, his repetition of certain shots from different angels jars you out of the film when you should be pulled in. Certain scenes are also a little choppy in the editing, they look like two takes have been edited together and it breaks up the flow of the scene. These are minor problems though and don’t lessen the films impact. Its a moving, shocking, powerful piece of cinema. 25th Hour

Agent Cody Banks

If this junior James Bond movie had been made in the eighties with a Back to the Future era Michael J Fox as Banks it would have been a lot of fun. But it was made in 2003 and we get the incredibly annoying Frankie Muniz instead. And of course Hilary Duff who doesn’t really have much to do apart from look pretty.

The adult actors make things slightly more bearable. Keith David’s C.I.A. boss is a poor man’s Sam Jackson from XXX but at least he can act. Ian McShane is the evil mastermind and it’s a pity they’ve never used him in a real Bond film as his talents are wasted here. Arnold Vosloo plays McShane’s henchman and does a good job even though he’s hampered by a really stupid haircut.

This was a missed opportunity for a fun family action movie. Hopefully the recent similarly themed Stormbreaker will do a better job. Agent Cody Banks [2003]

The Haunted Palace

Roger Corman wanted a break from Edgar Allan Poe and found it in H.P. Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. American International wanted another Poe film so they tagged a title and a few lines from a Poe poem onto the film.

Vincent Price gets to play dual roles as Charles Dexter Ward and his evil ancestor Joseph Curwen. Curwen was burned by villagers (Twins of Evil’s Gustav Weil would have felt right at home there) for his evil ways and vowed to have his revenge on the townsfolk and there descendants. Lon Chaney Jr plays his creepy partner in crime and Corman makes the most of him, on several occasions his hulking frame appears out of the shadows to great edffect.

It’s not a classic but Price and Chaney are always fun to watch. The Haunted Palace / The Tower of London

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