Thursday, 29 August 2013

No.206 : Wild Geese II

Wild Geese 2 at the IMDb
Few would deny that ‘The Wild Geese’ is the best film ever, but what about its less well known sequel? Can it match the spectacle of Richard Burton puffing in his combat fatigues or Roger Moore looking cool while chewing on a cheroot?

The film follows the same set up as the original, with an evil conglomerate, this time a media one, trying to secure a mercenary for their outlandish mission. They ask Edward Fox, who is the brother of the now late Richard Burton from the first film but he tells them to bugger off. He does however put them in touch with Scott Glenn whom we’ve already witnessed wrestling with men in a public toilet. No, not like that.

They take him without a look at his credentials and advise he can have all the cash he wants if he can deliver them the 90 year old Rudolph Hess who is languishing in Spandau prison in Berlin. They think the old man will have loads of secrets to spill that they can use in their media empire and possibly influence current political figures. They don’t seem to worry that he’s been in jail for 40 years and that most of his tales will involve prison soup and the price of snout.

Glenn heads off to Berlin and is soon joined by Barbara Carrera who, along with her brother, is the representative of the shady American backers. After touring the sights of Berlin and engaging with some of the local troublemakers the plan begins to take shape. As you’d no doubt guess it involves wearing stolen uniforms and engineering a kidnap after a faked medical emergency. As they’ve already got him in the cast they call in the previously reluctant Fox who for unexplained reason now thinks the plan is a goer.

Alas the two hour run time demands some padding so we get Stratford John’s laughable Arab fix it man and Patrick Stewart’s career worst Russian general. The also employ that bloke off casualty and some other hired guns to form their motley crew which they then train up in an old garage for five minutes.

Eventually the plan gets underway and using the cover of drunken football fans the snatch is on. Will they get away and get paid? Will Hess or rather Laurence Olivier survive the whole shoot and will we be able to understand why all these people keep getting shot in the head?

Although it shares a producer and one character name with the original this film is nothing more than a brazen attempt to secure some reflected glory. They also steal some musical cues and the ‘telescope’ end credits but apart from that this is a bog standard thriller with nothing to recommended it.

The plot is basic at best and although they try to mix it up with a few double crosses it just seems too contrived and confusing for its own good. There is a lot of waffle about the British wanting Hess out so they can shift the Russians but there is also a local gang boss who does his own kidnappings and bad line in acting to keep things the wrong side of convoluted.

Scott Glenn has no charisma whatsoever and doesn’t convince as the rock hard leader of men. He manages to bed Carerra in the tamest of love scenes but he is so wooden he should be sprayed for Dutch Elm disease.  Fox is a bit better doing his usual ‘top ho’ English gent bit and he is a bit tasty with his rifle but in truth his whole character is an import from the far superior ‘The Day of the Jackal’. Carerra adds a touch of glamour but her acting is terrible especially when her brother gets his ticket stamped and she yells the place down, in an unconvincing matter.

The big action set piece was really botched with the Red Caps bumbling about and taking orders from Glenn’s obvious doppelganger. It was hard to work out what was happening and why the army hung around for five minutes to allow the switcheroo to take place - maybe the production was confused as to who was the real dead body - the stiff or poor old Larry Olivier who looked on his last legs.

The last scenes made a mockery of all that had gone before, with seismic character changes allowing a totally mystifying ending. All in all this was a shocker that rightfully remains in the shadow of its illustrious predecessor.

Best Bit : hmmm… ‘We’re drunk football supporters, hic!’
W Score 7/23

Sunday, 25 August 2013

No.205 : Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!

Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! at the IMDb
There aren’t enough films with exclamation marks in their titles - off hand I can only thing of ‘Sink the Bismarck!’ and the crappy Michael Winner comedy ‘Bullseye!’. Any more out there?

The exclamation mark here is a bit misleading as there is no real excitement or urgency in this forgettable romantic comedy.

The titular Tad is a Hollywood leading man with image problems. His running about with starlets is alienating his audience and his agent., Nathan Lane, decides that a charity date competition is the best way to get him back on track. Meanwhile the staff at a small town grocery store are gushing over how lovely Tad is. The manager, Topher Grace, is keen on one of the check out girls but is too shy to make a move. The object of Topher’s affections, Kate Bosworth, is unaware of her admirer despite everyone else knowing they are a good match.

Kate enters the Tad contest and, of course, she wins. She’s jetted off to LA with Topher telling her to save her ‘carnal gift’. The date goes well and, although there is no foo-foo, Tad is clearly taken with the small town girl. Later back at the store Topher is readying his move when Tad shows up - he’s only smitten and has decided to up sticks and move to the West Virginia backwater and pursue the lovely lass.

What follows is a predictable game as the two men try to woo the lovely Kate with slight dirty tricks employed but there is no nastiness and the outcome is never in doubt.

This is a hard film to really dislike as a group of attractive people have fun in the sun. It’s just not very substantial with the paper thin characters bumbling towards an inevitable climax. There is no threat or danger with Tad being underwritten and ill defined in his motivations. He seems a decent bloke but there are suggestions he’s a bit sneaky - like him stealing Topher’s tiresome ‘six smiles’ routine - but overall you have no idea if he’s good or bad. Josh Duhamel is fine as Tad to begin with, but once he decants to the small town he loses credibility - smiler Kate or all those hookers and drugs? Come on!

We are expected to root for Topher’s wishy washy store manager but he’s such a wimp that you don’t really care. He does have some good scenes with the slutty bar tender played by Kathryn Hahn, who seems a far better choice than the bland and harmless Kate Bosworth whom everyone else is falling over themselves for.

The cast was filled out with the always great but underused Gary Cole and Nathan Lane as the excitable agent.

Overall you’ll do a lot worse but there is not a lot to recommend this predictable slice of fluff.

THE Tag Line : Six Smiles Out of Ten 14/23

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

No.204 : White Comanche

White Comanche at the IMDb
William Shatner stars in this risible 1967 western playing the role of twins - one cowboy and one Indian. Using the classic theme of duality, one is good while one is bad with Shatner showing his range as being totally wooden as both.

We first meet Shatner as cowboy Johnny Moon, resplendent in double denim. His expert horsemanship is cut short when he’s grabbed by a lynching gang and he only just escapes. Meanwhile the Indian Shatner, Notah,  is whooping it up and attacking stagecoaches. He’s high on the peyote and kills indiscriminately, saving only the lovely Rosanna Yanni for some ravishing.

The Shatners meet at the Indian camp with cowboy Shatner telling his brother he’s tired of being blamed for his crimes. A busybody squaw stops a shootout and the Shatners agree to meet for a showdown in a nearby town in four day’s time.

Cowboy Shatner heads into town but once again his brother’s reputation gets him into trouble. The local villain tries to hire his gun while Joseph Cotten’s sheriff tries to warn him off. After an overlong saloon fight the lady fresh from the ravishing tries to kill our hero. Happily the misunderstanding is soon explained and Rosanna is hanging about Shatner’s bedroom in no time flat.

With the showdown imminent some space is padded by a low rent gunfight complete with people slowly tipping themselves over balconies and slapping ketchup on their bodies. The bad guy is trying to take over the town you see, with only Cotton, Shatner and the mayor ready to take arms against them. Not so much ‘High Noon’ as ‘Low Goon’. Apologies for that.

With the town secure for now Indian Shatner raises the Comanche nation to attack the town. They are indifferent to the muffin top spewing over the top of his jeans and after wiping out some miners the showdown is on. But wait! Some Indians aren’t in agreement with the ‘slaughter everyone’ policy and we can only hope that the brothers and peoples of all nations can learn to live in peace and harmony.

This film is so bad that it defies any criticism. It’s pious and self important while offering nothing in the way of social commentary or insight. Shatner sucks in both roles and they don’t even bother changing his haircut when he’s playing the Indian. They also don’t bother with split screens so the pairs’ meetings are always a flurry of cut shots or of obvious body double.

Shatner is the worst but the acting is uniformly  awful with the mayor possibly the worst bit part actor I’ve seen. Cotten is OK as the sheriff but you don’t buy his homily wisdom or bravery in the face of insurmountable odds.

The film was shot in Spain and it shows in the green valleys and lack of mountainous terrain. The sets and costumes are also poor with Indian Shatner parading about bare chested in jeans much of the time and possibly wearing the same jeans as the cowboy. The soundtrack sounds like it has been lifted from a porno with totally inappropriate jazzy sequences serving only to keep the audience awake.

Some will get a few laughs at this dreadful production but for the rest of us it’s a complete waste of time.

Best Bit : Shatner on Shatner Action  6/23

Saturday, 17 August 2013

No.203 : Where There’s a Will

Where There's A Will at the IMDb

 More schmaltzy Hallmark made for TV fodder now as we get a predictable ,but perfectly decent comedy drama, the plot of which can be guessed from the punny title.

Familiar character actor Frank Whaley gets the lead in an undemanding role as con man Richie who is in debt to a local heavy. As luck would have it he’s been traced as the sole relative of an old lady in Texas, whom we’ve already witnessed checking her bulging bank book. Hard up Richie heads straight to Texas in his Trans-Am making us wonder why he doesn’t sell that to save his legs instead. Still they’ve put some filler on the fender to make him look like he’s on his uppers, so that’s OK then.

The old lady is playing it for laughs with pratfalls off her reclining chair but we know she’s as sharp as a tack and certainly a match for the gormless grifter. Grandma is played by the mum off ‘Happy Days’ and has a blonde helper who looks like Sharon off ‘Eastenders’. Frank and the help hit it off and enjoy a  small kiss but he still has designs on the family fortune and engages a lawyer to have the old bat declared incompetent.

Elsewhere the heavy has tracked Frank down offering a tiny bit of danger that’s soon seen off by far too nice Sheriff Keith Carradine. Frank also has a rival in an aged granny grabber who has designs on the old lady’s bloomers and has sussed our hero for what he is. But wait, the small town friendliness has changed Frank and he has gained love for Granny after her makeover and he's started to look at his own abandonment issues.

Can Granny and Frank both find happiness and will the house go to the most worthy beneficiary?

This was low key stuff but totally inoffensive with a couple of touching moments - or moments of mawkish sentimentality if you’re a cynic like me. Whaley does OK in the lead but I was never convinced with his bad guy persona or of his plans to swindle the old woman. We know from the off that she was more than his match and the only question was whether Frank would fall in line or be chased off the claim by the wily widow.

The romance angle was tacked on and the kisses exchanged looked awkward and unconvincing. Frank’s about turn, which literally happened overnight, was completely unheralded although they did try to use the metaphor of an unfinished jigsaw left by his absentee mother and some sepia shots to convince, I wasn’t buying.

Marion Ross as the Granny was likeable but her slapstick was a bit overdone and scenes with her chair and with a map just looked silly and unconnected to the rest of the drama laid out before. Carradine as the no nonsense but overly wise Sheriff was underused in an underwritten part and his only real scene was unconvincing as he talked the gangster out of knee capping Frank.

To be fair if you are watching a drama on the Hallmark channel about people vying for a will you can't complain about ‘Where There’s a Will’ as it was almost to the moment what I expected.

Best Bit : Vows of Last Rites?  15/23

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

No.202 : What to Expect When You’re Expecting

What to Expect When You're Expecting at the IMDb
The title and premise should give you some clues but for the slow witted, like me, this is a total chick flick that will drain your will to live as it meanders through two hour’s of  feelings and sentimentality.

We meet a variety of couple in various situations who are either pregnant or trying for a baby. If you have turned off already you’re a smarter man than me! We open with a celebrity dance contest with reality show host Cameron Diaz winning the day with her partner, Mr Schu off ‘Glee’. The audience suspect they are sleeping together, speculation that is confirmed when Diaz pukes in the winner’s trophy - she’s up the duff!

Elsewhere photographer Jennifer Lopez is trying in vain to have a baby and instead plans to adopt from Ethiopia. In a familiar scene they try to clean up their act to impress the woman from the adoption agency, but don’t worry; she’s lovely.

We also get Elizabeth Banks as a baby guru having her first child with the dad being the son of Dennis Quaid who is a competitive race car driver who is also expecting twins with his young trophy wife. Down the cast list the young girl off ‘Up in the Air’ is pregnant after a one night stand and Chris Rock is running a dads’ baby walking group in the park.

So far, so dreadful, but don’t worry; we have minor traumas and growth coming our way too!

Of course I’m not the target audience for this kind of stuff but it was mawkish rubbish with nothing to say apart from a lot of twaddle about babies and bonding. There was a miscarriage that was glossed over quickly and a near death on the table giving birth, but for the most part it was high fiving, life affirming stuff that seemed an exercise in exploiting the mumsy set.

Of the couples I’d probably go with Quaid’s as best mainly because he was boorish and not tuned into the paternal vibe. OK he did have some growth with his son who faded in the shadow of his famous father, but Quaid came across as likeable whereas the son was just a wimp.

Most shameful was the once edgy comic Chris Rock who must have cringed with every schmaltzy line he excreted out. His plot strand was very thin with the union of new dads idea poorly formed and terribly executed.

Diaz and Banks were OK with Banks probably taking the laurels, as they were, after her rant about how crappy pregnancy was becoming that old movie staple; the internet sensation.

There was some overlap with Lopez’s photographer photographing Quaid’s wife and Quaid’s son being on Diaz’s weight loss show but these were perfunctory at best and added nothing to the mix which was as weak as school dance orange drink.

Overall this was probably a success in what it intended itself to be. There was never going to be a shoot out or a car chase but they might have offered something for the dedicated ‘W’ movie reviewer. OK Cameron Diaz in a red sequined bikini but that was it.

Best Bit : Diaz shakes it   7/23

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

No.201 : Whole Lotta Sole

Whole Lotta Sole at the IMDb
Fear not spelling fans - we have that title correctly spelt. A fish based pun in the title - this comedy promises plenty!

Set in Belfast, the film follows a variety of characters whose paths are destined to cross. The least appealing but most watchable is Mad Dog a foul mouthed Irish gangster who runs an amusement arcade and illicit casino. He decks his wife for saying he fires blanks and clearly parenthood is a touchy subject.

Meanwhile in his casino, young dad Jimbo is losing his money and getting deep in the hole. Mad Dog threatens to kill him unless he can raise the £5k in two days - his only option may be to rob the titular fish market. To this end he engages his hapless pal and visits his ex-IRA granddad who thinks the troubles are still ongoing. The old man gives them his tommy gun but insists on tagging along.

Elsewhere Bostonian Brendan Fraser is in town minding an antiques shop for his cousin. We know he has a dodgy past but he seems a decent bloke and certainly impresses the local Ethiopian lovely. Added to the mix is cantankerous police chief Colm Meaney and his community policeman son and a gang of gypsies who may or may not be up to no good.

The robbery goes down badly with little money to be found, but a battered case may be the real prize. As the players converge on Brendan’s shop a hostage situation ensues - will the right people go down and will all the relationships be mended? Hope so!

This was a decent slice of fun that lacked any real ambition. They must have netted Brendan Fraser on his holidays because the rest of the production looks like it shared the budget with an episode of ‘Father Ted’. It did start brightly with some colourful characters and situations introduced. Mad Dog played by David O’Hara had some real menace although his baby snatching plan lacked credibility. I liked Jimbo less, mainly because he was played as a loveable scallywag but came across as a feckless arse. His pal and Grandfather offered more laughs and for the most part Jimbo just shouted ‘be quiet’ a lot as his feeble brain checked through his options.

Colm Meaney did his usual stand up job although the subplot involving his relationship with his son could have been jettisoned with no loss whatsoever. It was good that he got experience of sieges as he’s on the opposite side of one in the new Alan Partridge film. Fraser was OK but I didn’t engage with him on any level. He was meant to be sympathetic and bit mysterious but he came across as largely disinterested.

For me the film lost its way when the siege started and given that took up the last hour of the 90 minute film it was always going to struggle to get a positive review. That said it did have a certain charm and at least two laughs which is better than most. I think if this was caught as a TV movie you’d feel you’d done well but as a cinema or DVD outing you can’t help but feel a bit short-changed.

Best Bit : Cod Knows   ‘W’ Score 12/23

Friday, 2 August 2013

No.200 : World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries 2

World of the Dead at the IMDb

 If you thought 2011’s ‘The Zombie Diaries’ was terrible you should see the sequel, or rather you shouldn’t.

In truth it’s not much of a sequel more of a similar premise that they’ve tacked on to the original to give it brand recognition. They’ve also shamefully used the ‘…of the Dead’ title format to suggest it may be an offspring of ‘Dawn’, ‘Day’ or ‘Land’. Of course it isn’t, a fact that is clear from the off with a terrible scene of a family holed up in their house that was taken lock and stock from ‘28 Weeks Later’. In this version a family are having a birthday party for their daughter. The man reminds the woman that they can’t go out due to the infection warning. Literally a minute later he hears something outside and he, soon followed by the wife, head out into the dark to have a look. The whole event is recorded on a shaky camcorder and ends abruptly as a predictable zombie appears.

We then cut to another camcorder - authentic = cheap! - as a solider says they found the tape of the birthday party massacre and are now making their own so ‘people know’. I doubt people are interested as a bunch of poorly drilled squaddies talk in clich├ęs and try to look tough. Their base is secure but someone leaves the gate open and several zombies saunter in. Despite their fire power they soon give the order to ‘Fall Back’ which is heard relentlessly throughout the film. The soldiers take a civilian lady with them, who seems disturbed and a poor collection of hardware that looks like it was raided from a toy box.

The team start heading to the coast where they have heard that boats out of Britain are leaving for Holland. Britain has seemingly got the worst of the outbreak and they’ll be safe in Europe. I guess no one told them the title! As the crew continue their journey we jump to footage of men in haz-mat suits burning bodies and, tearfully, a child’s doll. We see these guys a lot and we are seemingly meant to wonder who they are. The big reveal that they are actually the only people they could be will surprise you not at all.

Our squad soon encounter another group of survivors, but these are nasty people who abuse the zombies - sometimes by dry humping them! They have a couple of encounters including a needlessly graphic one where a special needs man is egged on to rape and then murder a female soldier. I imagine the idea is to show that people are worse than zombies but it just seemed like a tacky way to get some blood and breasts on screen.

As our heroes head towards Hopes Point we all hope it ends soon, but there are two big surprises in store. Actually there are none - only that this tosh managed to secure a release.

To be fair the film didn’t promise much. There is not one familiar face on show and the whole thing is short in a field and a barn with a camcorder. OK it may be a film school project with delusions of grandeur but how can they justify dialogue like “It’s Quiet”, “Yeah, too quiet” and “Something doesn’t feel right”. They should have set it on a dark and stormy night and be done with it!

The zombies were of the slow moving ilk and for the most part looked like pale students dripping taco sauce from their mouths. The kills were the usual mix of screams and spaghetti being pulled from their trousers. There was no attempt at characterisation and the acting was dreadful. It looked like you’d get a starring role if you supplied your own ketchup.

Overall this was a squalid unlikable film with austerity budget visuals and a script that was as interesting and innovating as Dan Brown’s recycling bin. In the worst scene a leering fool, looking at a bound and topless woman, says “ I spy something beginning with ‘T’” - if you answered ‘Terrible film’ you’d get the prize!

Best Bit : Mmmm Low rent chase through field of zombies?  ‘W’ Score 3/23