Tag Archives: The Keep

A Week In Film #031: Never talk politics with the in-laws after a day of drinking

Man With The Screaming Brain title screen

Man With The Screaming Brain
Bruce Campbell writes, directs and stars, as an American businessman in Bulgaria (cheap to film there, apparently) who is killed by a treacherous Gypsy woman, before being brought back to life by loony doctor Stacy Keach, who bulks up Campbell’s broken brain with bits cut out of the ex-KGB taxi driver who is also the former boyfriend of our Romani assailant. Could have been better, but points for effort, though possibly not for services to settled/traveller relations.

The Punisher (1989) title screen

The Punisher (1989)
Very silly adaptation of the dark Marvel comic about Nam vet Frank Castle who turns vigilante after his family is executed by the Mafia. Here Castle is changed to a cop, and he is played by Dolphin Lundgren. It is silly. Very violent, with some rubbish and occasionally dull action scenes, but at least it doesn’t take itself seriously.

Punisher: War Zone title screen

Punisher: War Zone
Charmless reboot of the 2004 reboot of the 1989 flick. Ray Stephenson is now Frank Castle, and yet despite not being a stranger to acting, ends up with little to do other than brutally execute anyone who steps in his way, with a moody expression on his fizzog. Directed by that Lexi Alexander, with the same skill and delicacy she applied to Green Street.

Canadian Bacon title screen

Canadian Bacon
Hamfisted (LOL) Michael Moore black comedy (shamelessly stealing from Dr Strangelove) about a lameduck US President who conjures up an imaginary threat from Canada. John Candy is great though. Prefigures the superior Wag The Dog, though the premise is wittier.

One Crazy Summer title screen

One Crazy Summer
Minor 80s teen comedy with John Cusack the wannabe animator on vacation before college. Harmless fun, pleasant performances.

The Whole Nine Yards title screen

The Whole Nine Yards
Him from Friends as a neurotic dentist, him from Die Hard as a mob hitman who moves next door. Fun, but inconsequential. Director Jonathan Lynn definitely has a thing about women smoking cigarettes – Rosanna Arquette, Natasha Henstridge.

The Whole Ten Yards title screen

The Whole Ten Yards
Somewhat pointless sequel, whose principal purpose appears to be to give Kevin Pollak – the Hungarian crime boss who didn’t survive the first film – the chance to work out as his character’s own father. Howard Deutch fumbles the direction.

The Deal (2008) title screen

The Deal (2008)
William H Macy as a past-his-prime Hollywood producer who sees one last chance when his talented but naîve nephew turns up on his doorstep with Bill And Ben, a sensitive script about Benjamin D’Israeli’s relationship with WIlliam Gladstone. Naturally this one last chance involves tweaking it into Ben Disraeli: Freedom Fighter, a guns ‘n’ girls blockbuster with recently converted action star Bobby Mason (LL Cool J) in the starring role. Silly and derivative (and the whole WHM/Meg Ryan romance is a bit meh), but warm and cosy.

The Keep title screen

The Keep
Michael Mann does supernatural war movie – Jürgen Prochnow is an honourable Wehrmacht officer, Gabriel Byrne is a comedy BOO! HISS! black uniformed SS rotter, Ian McKellen is a wheelchair-bound Jewish academic, Alberta Watson is his daughter, Scott Glenn is a shiny-eyed mysterious stranger, and they’re all stuck in a magic castle in WW2 Romania with a scary Golem-type monster. Tangerine Dream supplies the music, and it’s all a bit silly.

The Bourne Identity title screen

The Bourne Identity
Robert Ludlum holiday bricks rarely entertain once adapted for the screen (The Osterman Weekend, The Holcroft Covenant), but Doug Go Liman’s reboot (after the 80s version which had Dr Kildare in the lead) makes a meaty fist of challenging yer Bond as preeminent movie spook.

Matt Damon is an excellent against-type casting choice, and he develops an excellent rapport with the flaky German wanderer he latches onto, played by Franke Potente.

The fight-in-a-room (or park, or field) sequences – notably the Swiss ones, and one in the Paris apartment – are for the most part exemplary, though Liman has more trouble with the car chase. In terms of action and tension it is very effective.

Casting is a little more mixed: Brian Cox is superb as a creepy CIA chieftain, but Julia Stiles? How did she end up in a frontline role in the Company? And you can’t help but chuckle at Adebisi from Oz hamming it up, or the shitkicker from The Shield being all whitecollar and shit. But mostly it’s a breezy, exciting ride.

A few queries though: do all Italian trawlers have as well packed a medical kit as here? And how did Bourne make it from France into Switzerland – Switzerland, FFS, Switzerland!! – without papers?

A Week In Film #028: Sunburnt & beer-soaked

The Bunker (2001) title screen

The Bunker (2001)
Now this had potential – a small group of German soldiers in the Ardennes in 1944 holed up in a pill box above a series of dark and foreboding tunnels, which proves to be a portent to terror. It could have been The Keep; it turned out more Deathwatch. A shame, because there were interesting themes and a pretty good cast (Andrew Tiernan, Chris Fairbank, Simon Kunz, Andrew Lee Potts, and, erm, Jack Davenport, Jason Flemyng and Charley Boorman; I guess Eddie Marsan could have swung either way). Tighter directorial attention to the acting than to the shadows would have done this film the world of good, I suspect. Too much of it involves conscious acting rather than natural reacting. The flashback sequences are very efficient.

Anzio title screen

Anzio
Bloody awful and uninvolving war movie featuring two of my favourite screen actors, Robert Mitchum and Peter Falk, about 1944’s lesser known amphibious invasion of Europe. Not seen this since I was a nipper, and in my memory I always associated the Operation Shingle landings at Anzio with the Ardennes offensive of the Battle of the Bulge, possibly because they each spawned bloated, boring films. Horrible 60s score too!

Charlie Wilson's War title screen

Charlie Wilson’s War
Tom Hanks as a US Congressman who funds the mujahideen fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan. Interesting, but possibly not one that is going to be remembered as a classic. Philip Seymour Hoffman continues in his life mission to PSHify every supporting role in Hollywood to jittery mumblers who talk over other actors’ lines as a maverick CIA agent who breaks the rules and does things his way, etc.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith title screen

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith
Never seen it before, and I don’t think I will again, willingly. A clumsy mess of dull exposition, extended toy adverts and shonky CGI. Though the scenes with Palpatine and Anakin did have promise. As I said to the LLF, they took a wrong turning tracing back the Skywalker story, when Han Solo was what people liked the most about the original films.

Hart's War title screen

Hart’s War
Colin Farrell is a rear echelon Ivy Leaguer who accidentally ends up captured during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944; Bruce Willis is the Westpoint career soldier running the POW camp he ends up in. All about moral codes and sense of duty, with Tuskegee airmen the real life point of interest. Sort of a grittier, less pleasant modern retelling of Stalag 17, with a strong theme of racism supplanting class antagonism. Not great, but certainly impressive. But then at a cost of $70million, would anything less be acceptable?

88 Minutes title screen

88 Minutes
Honestly, this is not a good film. For once the IMDb comments seem mostly on the nail. Pacino is a raspy, rascally, randy professor of forensic psychiatry who moonlights as a profiler for the FBI. A man he helped convict for multiple murders and rapes is about to die in the execution chamber… But wait! A bunch of fresh victims have all just been found killed in circumstances similar to his modus operandi! Maybe he’s not really the killer! And to top it all off, our horny prof has received a phonecall telling him he has eighty-eight minutes left to live! Etc, etc, etc… The poster for this film unforgivably harks back to those for Scarface and Carlito’s Way, which both – for each their flaws – are far superior to this lifeless pile of cinematic afterbirth.

Frost/Nixon title screen

Frost/Nixon
Michael Sheen (the slow dude from Gallowglass and latterly your go-to guy anytime you want a Tony Blair) is playboy talk show host David Frost, Frank ‘Skeletor’ Langella is disgraced warmongering Quaker president Tricky Dicky Nixon. Ron Howard directs, and for the first half it’s good, gripping stuff, but the contrived structure of the third act – trying to create a false ‘victory’ – lets it down.

Runaway Jury title screen

Runaway Jury
Actually rather a good, fun, exciting John Grisham legal twist thriller – John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Rachel Weisz and Dustin Hoffman all ham things up nicely in this New Orleans courtroomer about a lawsuit filed against a gun company and the latter’s recourse to an amoral jury consultant to win them the case. The Jeremy Piven character seems somewhat pointless though.

Star Wars title screen

Star Wars (or Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope if you really must)
Special Edition CGI sucks.

The Empire Strikes Back title screen

The Empire Strikes Back (or Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back if you insist)
Icy Hoth, sleeping in a dead tauntaun, wampa attack, AT-ATs, Boba Fett (ship looks like a prawn), Lando, betrayal, Yoda on Dagobah, hand losing, “I am your father”, carbonite sleep, etc.

Return Of The Jedi title screen

Return Of The Jedi (or Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi, though I can’t say I approve)
Bounty hunters, metal bikini, Jabba the Hutt, skiff, Sarlacc, Yoda dying, new Death Star, teddy bears Ewoks, speeder bikes, etc.

Semi-Pro title screen

Semi-Pro
Yet another Will Ferrell jockcom, this time round about a crappy basketball team trying to secure a place in the NBA. Woody Harrelson, André ‘3000’ Benjamin and Maura Tierney (Abby the ER nurse/doctor who looks like a stroke-ridden cousin of Friends‘ Rachel) add a little class, Will Arnett and Andrew Daly are in the Waldorf/Statler chairs.

Defiance title screen

Defiance
Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber as battling Bielski brothers, running a band of Jewish partisans in the forests of Eastern Poland in WW2. An interesting story but a plodding film. Interesting to see director Edward Zwick borrowing/homaging visual and sound motifs from Elem Klimov’s Idi I Smotri.

Aliens Versus Predator: Requiem title screen

Alien Versus Predator: Requiem
Honestly, avoid. The first AvsP flick was bad enough. Yautja hunts xenomorphs in contemporary America; lots of dull septics die.