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Snakehead Terror (2004)
Lame underwater killer goldfish run amok!
No way, a small seaside resort, some lethal murder fish killing innocent campers, fishers and tourists, an old sheriff and lots of underwater hassle... no, not Jaws, Part 26 again, but Snakehead, a new kind of killer fish, is striking this time.
The monster is a bunch of chemically mutilated shellfish with Piranha teeth that can also live underwater as creeping on land and kills everything from dogs to curious campers or stupid, drunken teenagers during their funny beach parties... and now it's Sheriff Bruce Boxleitner's turn to fight the creeping death and a skeptical mayor, accompanied by beautiful Carol Alt.
Okay, there are some really thrilling and shocking moments, but also too many fish horror standards from classics like Jaws up to contemporary copies like Lake Placid (such as point-of-view cameras and even a rip-off of John Williams' Jaws theme). Some moments are even too ridiculous and over the top and would rather fit into a Scary Movie comedy, just like a bunch of killer fish (that sometimes look like snakes or mini alligators) attacking the driver of a car or some girls in a block house by eating wholes into the wood. But if you are out for some simple underwater horror action, this flick is for you.
Slow train to nowhere!
Okay, all-time b-movie action hero Richard Grieco (remember Booker and 20 Jump Street?) meets up with some rich European and American people on a luxury train for a New Year's Eve trip across Europe, and of course a bunch of Islamic terrorists takes the train and blackmails the poor Western citizens... and of course it's Grieco's and some well-looking model's turn to find some bombs on the train and fight the foreign terrorist power...
It's sometimes impressing how the casting people decide for a film's actors. This time, German non-actor Christoph Waltz, notorious for his never-moving face expressions, plays an Islamic terrorist leader. Grieco rather looks like an early nineties' Seattle grunge guitarist and is really misplaced on a high-society luxury train, and the rest of the actors... well, after the film is over, you're lucky that you have survived the big express to boredom. Nor a highlight amongst the terrorists on a train movies, neither an entertaining action flick really... skip it!
Once there was a time - in the nineties of the last century - when a supernatural fighter, armed with a sword and long hair and played by Adrian Paul - took the heritage of "Highlander" Christopher Lambert and fought supernatural enemies on earth in a TV Series of the same name.
Ten years later on, the same actor, this time with short hair and without the sword, has to track down more supernatural enemies again on TV. This time, he's the "Tracker", comes from another time and space again, and has a super brain, super weapons and super power and tracks down several gangsters and killers with the same attributes all over the country... again, he's accompanied by some good-looking earthy Blondes and has to face the weirdest enemies in hard-fought fights after 45 minutes.
While the "Highlander" TV series was a big hit in Germany and was broadcast on RTL Television at prime time, "Tracker" runs on a smaller station early in the morning at 5am. It looks like a sci-fi remix of "Highlander" with some elements of "The X-Files", "Profiler", "Quantum Leap" and also with some "Star Trek" and cyberspace utopia. But all in all, it's a nice and entertaining series with some good ideas and a relaxed and cool Adrian Paul, whose biggest success will always be the long-haired man with the sword from the hills...
Bad Day on the Block (1997)
Very scary suburban psycho-drama
A white middle-class family, married, two kids, and living in a beautiful house in an apparently perfect suburb you already know from several Steven Spielberg and Wes Craven movies. A sinister neighbor and violent fireman, played by real-time psyche Charlie Sheen, watching and threatening the perfect picture family. And of course it won't take long until hell breaks loose...
Nothing new really, but well done. The family actors are doing a fine job, but the credits go to Charlie Sheen this time who plays the psycho neighbor not as an over-the-top weirdo killer, but in a rather silent and retarded way and increasing the thrills of the story by his outstanding performance.
No stupid dialogue and exaggerated over-acting, but just a man sitting in his dark and lonely house and watching old family pictures and his neighborer before his violent feelings are erupting like a volcano. A good thriller, recommended especially for Sheen's disturbing performance.
Moving Target (2000)
Stupid actors in a stupid story in a beautiful country!
If you've ever been to Ireland you will never forget it. The wide and green landscapes, the beautiful coasts and mountains, the friendly people, the traditional pubs and places... and there have been many good film coming from or being located in Ireland. So one might wonder why this stupid action movies has been filmed and produced in Ireland? No word about the story, but as martial arts b-movie fighter Don "The Dragon" Wilson - not the youngest actor anymore - gets into a stupid plot with mafia clans, FBI agents, martial arts gangsters and hostages, you really wonder why it didn't take place in L.A. or other well-known American action movie settings.
The locations are the only outstanding facts about this film. Whenever one of the stupidly acting muscle fighters appears, you just wish them away and would like to see more of the lovely harbors and landscapes and sheep... and when the film is over, you wonder why they haven't shown more of the beautiful sites of Ireland and just haven't erased the whole plot and actors from the film... the whole film could have been a really nice holiday documentary.
My suggestion - skip this movie and get a more interesting documentary about Ireland from your video store. You won't regret it.
A really weird Greek trash fantasy
No way, what do you expect from a self-declared trash-b-movie from Greece that is called "The Attack of the Killer Moussaka"? If you're not aware what a Moussaka is just ask the next Greek around, and he will tell you - it's a very spicy meat dish with lots of vegetable.
It's very big in Greece, and even bigger in this very strange movie, as a big Moussaka is blown up to a 20 feet tall monster meal that develops a life on its own and raids the city of Athens by killing several people with it's deadly, spicy ingredients.
Now it's the turn of several strange people such as some gays, several drag queen and transsexuals, an female reporter and a bunch of stupidly acting Playboy bunnies from outer space to fight the spicy power...
This film is really weird, has a really stupid plot, no acting at all and is completely non-thrilling, but it's fun to watch if you're into John Water, Russ Meyer, Ed Wood or Roger Corman movies. The film doesn't take itself seriously at all, and the wooden actors have really fun playing their roles.
Next to the legendary "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes", there are some nice references to the mentioned trash movie icons, too. The fat transvestite looks like Divine in his/her John Waters comedies and some nice boobs in white bras are shown very Russ-Meyer-like style. The attacking moussaka monster is pasted into the picture like the monsters in an old Jack Arnold or Ray Harryhausen monster movie, and there even a funny reminiscence to Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Don't expect too much from this movie, except for lots of fun and a healthy appetite for a tasty Greek moussaka afterward.
Who's afraid of the big, bad paper tooth tiger?
No way, this is a really bad movie... just like a millennium version of Roger Corman's, Samuel Z. Arkoff's or Ed Wood's monster oddities from the Fifties and Sixties... a bunch of scientists are fighting a genetic built sabretooth tiger on a lonely island... yawn, another Jurassic Park rip-off, but really, really bad this time.
The story is dull, the actors seem to be cast from the spot with no acting experiences at all, although movie veteran David Keith has the "honor" to play the big hunter here... his girlfriend, the mad female scientist, is played by Vanessa Angel, who tries to threaten the monster tiger with words like "Piss off!" and has offending silicon lips that make even Ann Nicole Smith look naturally. There's another young couple with a sweet blonde who looks a bit like Poppy Montgomery and wears sexy shorts all the time, but that's not scaring the evil tiger, too.
The worst thing about this movie is the really badly animated sabretooth tiger that looks like an early computer draft of an update for the Jungle Book's Balu or like an early nineties' video game animation or Kyoto Date internet avatar... every movement of this paper tiger looks so artificial and ridiculous that you expected our frightened heroes to burst out in laughter every second of the film...
In the end of the movie... well, I guess you know what happens, but after having watched this nonsense you'd certainly like to see that fifty-year old monster highlights of Jack Arnold like "Tarantula" or "The Creature of the Black Lagoon" again that have much more thrills and better special effects than everything in this c-movie. Recommended for a good laugh only!
Last Run (2001)
Thrilling post cold war action
Although Last Run is just another spy/secret agent/cold war movie, it's working pretty well. A team of American and Russian agents try to bring a Russian agent over the borders of the east into the West... of course the Iron Wall doesn't exist anymore in 2001, and Americans and Russians work together, so there are lots of more Gangsters and double agents kicking the butts of our heroes...
The film is thrilling, and the action scenes (lots of great shoot outs) are photographed very well. The score reminds me a lot of John Barry's old James Bond movie soundtracks and adds a certain sixties' feeling to the film. The locations are also unusual, being filmed in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria and Germany, mostly on the beautiful countryside.
The actors are also well chosen. Instead of taking dumb non-actors like Michael Dudikoff, Dolph Lundgren or Jean-Claude Van Damme for this movie, the director and producers chose mature actors like Armande Assante, Ornela Muti and Juergen Prochnow of "Das Boot" fame as main actors. Assante plays the cool and disillusioned U.S. agent very convincing, and pretty Ornela Muti looks like a stunning, red-haired version of The Avenger's Diana Rigg.
A good secret agent thriller in the wake of Ian Fleming's, Frederik Forsythe's and Colin Forbes' political thrillers that proves that cold war plots are still worth a good movie in the new millennium.
Legion of Fire: Killer Ants! (1998)
A home-made Formicula rip-off
I really like animal horror movies, even nonsense like this one. Marabunta, as it was titled on German T.V., tells us something about the silent invasion of a big wave of Brazilian killer ants(!) in a small town in Alaska(!!), and of course it's the same bunch of people since "Jaws" who are fighting the menace - a hard-edged sheriff (played by X-Files' Mitch Pileggi), a well-looking L.A. insect scientist (Eric Lutes) and a scream-queen teacher (Julia Campbell) who falls in love with the latter...
Of course it starts slowly with some killed animals, but after the first human corpses appear, our heroes know that something wicked this way comes... and it's the start of a tour de force of some thrilling action moments and lots of bad special effects like close-ups of burning wood or ants with cheap dramatic library music and a stupidly-looking main actress ...
All in all it's not a masterpiece at all like other ants dramas like the far better Formicula or Phase IV, but it's a nice filler for two hours of cheap T.V. thrills and laughs. And please, serve Julia Campbell some boiled Brazilian ants for her next meal!
Cold emotions, frozen story, icy actors
Nothing really new and spectacular in this British-American 2001 co-production. A bunch of gangsters are robbing a bank, but during their escape they have got a fatal car accident, only a few survive. Later on, they find together again and are planning their next coup... and all those things are gonna happen that you except from such a standard gangster coup movie - brothers in arms, a blonde femme fatale, a groovy sex scene, a well-planned coup with too many people involved, some more gangsters and shootings lots of revenge, of course...
At least "Cold Revenge", as the movie was titled on German TV, avoids copying the fake coolness and hipness of many post Tarantino gangster movies of the last ten years, and Peter Weller and Bryan Brown are doing a fine job, too, but the director fails to find an own, individual style for his gangster drama. There are some nice camera ankles and a thrilling bank robbery in the beginning of the movie, but later on, it all becomes boring and standard in this movie... and just like the tired Weller and Brown, who had their best points of their careers in the late eighties when they starred in the successful "Robocop" and "FX" movies, you are losing interest during this movie... and even Weller's cool Robocop sunglasses can't change that. A missed opportunity.
Spiders II: Breeding Ground (2001)
Beyond all levels of entertainment
OK, there are some mad scientists entering a ship and forcing the crew and some more good scientists to experiment with spiders until they become large, blown-up rubber monsters running amok and diminishing the crew one by one until the final showdown.
What could have been a horror classic in 1931 and a trash pearl in 1961 is just a joke in 2001. You wonder how producers can do such a movie in this decade... I really like all kind of trash movies like this, but the story is to thin, the acting just wooden, with only non-screaming heroine Stephanie Niznik showing some acting abilities and sex appeal, and a really dull direction.
The worst of this movie with the great title "Spiders 2" (where have been the first spiders?) is the lack of special effect. While it's rather easy to produce great special effect with today's computer technology, you can see very special effects that where found somewhere beyond the sea probably... a stupidly looking rubber spider that has already been fighting against your Action Man figures back in the seventies, enlarged and dubbed over some ocean pictures... nonsense explosions, unrealistic and really stupid stunts, and smaller or bigger plastic spiders being dragged and pushed all around the burning ship.
You wonder if the actors and crew were on dope all the time, or if they had great fun and a big laugh doing this picture... this could be a logical explanation for this baddie that otherwise has no real reason to exist, except if you're looking for another cheap movie for a retro trash film night with your friends a some cans of lager beer, next to, let's say, Van Damme's "The Order" and "Maura's Sexual Fantasies"... in fact, all these three movies were running on German TV last weekend. Have fun!
Ocean's Twelve (2004)
Funny, stylish, brilliant!
It was just a question of time until Steven Soderbergh directed the next chapter of his 2001 remake of "Ocean's Eleven". Instead of adding another "let's get quickly into the next casino or bank" story like Rififi, Topkapi, Mission Impossible and, of course, Ocean's Eleven (old and new), Soderbergh's film rather pays tribute to Norman Jewison stylish luxury crime comedy "The Thomas Crown Affair" (1968), that was rather focusing on flashbacks, split screen action and a stylish surrounding instead of an extended plot.
The story itself is not that important for the movie, but instead the film is battered with great scenes, witty dialogues, funny encounters, stylish settings, creative editing and camera ankles (check out the great sideway shot of an incoming airplane). The pacing is fast, and if you get lost within the sometimes illogical storyline you won't miss it, as there is always much going on here.
The main actors Clooney, Damon, Pitt and Co. have much funny playing their roles, and even the rather boring and dull Julia Roberts has one really great scene when her character Tess is pretending to be.. guess... Julia Roberts in a hotel and museum scene. Bruce Willis (who has turned down Andy Garcia's role as casino owner in the first part) has a nice cameo in that scene, playing himself. Really funny! The supporting actors are also well-chosen. Catherine Zeta-Jones, playing a successful Europole inspector with leather coat, high heels and sexy hairstyle, is always bright and elegant. European actors Robbie Coltrane and Jerome Krabbe have also witty supporting appearances, and another big highlight is French actor Vincent Cassel, playing the elegant and arrogant master thief Night Fox (check out his great "laser beam dance" in the museum robbery!).
The settings of Amsterdam, Paris, Rome and the Lake Come in Italy are also well-chosen and add weight to Danny Ocean's stylish gang. Pay attention to the score, too - David Holmes, who also provided the scores for Ocean's Eleven and Out Of Sight, has composed the definite "sixties retro easy listening lounge sound track" - just like an acid version of Ennio Morricone or Lalo Schifrin in 1969... great stuff and very original so that you don't realize when some of the older compositions of John Schroeder, Piero Umiliani or Roland Vincent can be heard in between!
Enough for now, Ocean's Twelve is big fun to watch and one of my cinema highlights of 2004! I just wonder why it got so many bad reviews in the U.S.A. while the critics and audiences in Europe were much more positive and even enthusiastic about the film. Maybe they are more familiar with the settings, the style and the way of film making that Soderbergh chose for Ocean's Twelve... It's not just another conventional gangster movie rip-off, but a class of its own. I can't get enough of that... thank you, Mr Soderbergh!
Pointless, but fascinating journey to nowhere
Germany, 1977. A mature, rich and bored woman called Elisabeth (Elke Aufderheide) is taking a ride with the "Rheingold", a first-class high-speed train of the seventies along the river Rhine. In the train she is meeting her old school mate and lover who is working as a waiter and falls in love with him again. Her husband, a busy politician, realizes what's going on and tries to catch the train to face his wife and her lover in a fatal showdown.
That's the whole storyline of this well-shot German independent movie, but director Niklaus Schilling ("Nachtschatten", "Der Westen leuchtet" and "Der Willi-Busch-Report") uses weird editing techniques and lots of flashbacks and dream-like sequences to explain what going on - and what could have happened. This is sometimes to much for the viewer, and you fastly get lost within the narration and plot, as Schilling becomes to fascinated by the sheer contrast between the fast-running train (perfectly shot in the beautiful Rhine valley landscapes) and the slow and paralyzed acting of the persons involved.
In the last 30 minutes, Schilling only shows the nameless woman sitting in her cabin, bleeding to death after a knife attack by her husband and staring out of the window while being watched by another well-looking woman and listening to the narration of an older passenger about the Rhinestone tale. This long-lasting sequence is only interrupted by moody flashbacks of her first encounters with her husband and lover and surreal love and sex scenes.
This extreme movie style is the strength of this movie as well as its weakness at the same time - the thrilling story and the beautiful pictures get lost in the slow pacing and the sometimes too lame direction. In the end you will fall asleep during the film is running, or you will stay awake and be confused and fascinated at the same time. "Rheingold" is not as good as "Nachtschatten", but still one of Schilling's better movies. Give it a try.
Der Menschenfresser (1996)
Cannibal train running through Germany
A middle aged female crime novel writer called Rosa meets a middle aged man called Otto in a lonely cabin of a empty midnight express. As the train (an old steam engine of the Deutsche Reichsbahn!) runs through the German countryside, the couple starts a conversation, and Otto tells Rosa that he is a cannibal. While rosa thinks about her new crime story about a female detective investigating the missing of several people in a lonely village, she realizes that her mysterious companion is really a passionate man eater. The situation becomes wicked, as Otto threatens her to eat her alive as soon as she falls asleep...
What could have been an American b-movie horror film became an odd and surreal theatre play within a train under the direction of Alexander Otto Jahrreiss. The director avoids standards thrills and story lines, but reduces the horror situation on the two actors (brilliantly played by Irene Kugler and Helmut Lorin), accompanied by surreal flashbacks, dream sequences and a hallucination like cannibal dinner and slaughterhouse subplot that could have been taken from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
The film focuses on the silent psycho duel between the two actors, and the plot with its many sexual sub tones becomes weirder and more twisted until the very bloody ending. Especially Irene Kugler's transformation from a boring looking wallflower to a naked, sexy, killing slaughterhouse Vampirella is fascinating and outstanding. A really unusual German art house movie from 1993 apart from all movie trends and genres that is a real sleeper and doesn't seem too unreal after the shocking gay cannibal slayings of German man eater Armin Meiwes in 2003.
El cantor (1978)
Interesting but flat propaganda biography
This East Germany production from 1973 is about the the life and times of Victor Jara, a popular socialist singer and songwriter from Chile who was an important supporter of the left-winged communist government of president Allende before brutal dictator Pinochet became the leader of the country in 1973 and Allende and Jara were brutally killed during the violent revolution riots.
The films was written and directed by Dean Reed (who also plays Jara), a popular communist American singer and actor who left the United States and became a citizen of the German Democratic Republic in the early seventies and did many records and films with one-sided anti-west propaganda messages.
"El Cantor" from 1978 is one of them, and it's an interesting biography of a political icon of the cold war era, but it's also too biased, naive and sometimes even ridiculous. The acting isn't also the best except for Dean's solid performance of a broken hero, and the musical scored features lots of Jara's hymns and ballads and a strange synthesized-action score. The typical tidy German "Reihenhaus" suburbs are not a really suitable background for the exotic plains and mountains of Santiago de Chile, and all in all this film is really dated, but still an interesting remain of a long forgotten country and era.
Silvester Countdown (1997)
Uninspired German psychodrama
A young, wild and sex-addicted Berlin artist couple is spending the turn of the year in Warsaw with some friends, and during their drug parties and trips through the bars and streets of the Eastern European city, their relationship becomes difficult more and more, resulting in fights and struggles until they return to Berlin on New Year's Eve.
There's no real plot here in this cheaply made student film, and the focus is based on the extreme young characters, funnily named Romeo and Julia here. The beginning is really weird and inspiring, presenting the couple as a really unconventional, spontaneous and sex-crazed pair of outsiders living together in a big and empty Berlin flat. With the running of the film, the plot becomes a bit to boring and uninspired and the characters much too difficult and unrealistic to follow for the audience.
The soundtrack is pretty cool, and there are some nice sex scenes and a funny masturbation sequence of main actor Kahle in front of a bathroom mirror, but all in all this example of young German cinema of the nineties is too much doomed by the fate of the dreadful seventies'/eighties' art house psycho dramas and the equally bad German "Beziehungskomoedien" (relationship comedies) of the early nineties so that you're often about to change the TV program and choose one of your old "Die Hard" videos instead for the rest of the night.
A new kid from the block...
I really like this movie, although many people say it's too much stereotype. The story is simple - a wealthy middle class family consisting of star architect William "C.S.I." Petersen, his beautiful wife and car and house and two kids, one of them beautiful young Reese Witherstone, are threatened by a wicked high school dude, played by Mark Wahlberg. As Wahlberg starts dating Witherspoon, she realizes too late that her new flame is a violent and weird psycho, killer and gang leader who soon becomes a real threat to the whole family... and it didn't last long until good and evil faces in an all destroying fight...
The story is quite simple, but it really works. The direction is thrilling and fast-pacing, Carter Burwell's soundtrack is a menacing, gloomy score in the wake of Bernhard Herrmann, and the actors are really good, especially Petersen, Witherspoon and Mark Wahlberg who portraits a really disturbing character miles away from his former New Kids On The Block and Markie Mark pop star image.
The songs featured in this film are also really great and a good selection of groovy mid-nineties dance and indie rock tunes. The end is really dramatic and a nice rip-off of "Rio Bravo", "Assault on Precinct 13" and "Straw Dogs". Sit back and be thrilled, and after watching "Fear" you won't listen to you old NKOTB records anymore like you did it during your teenage years. Recommended.
Der Todesrächer von Soho (1972)
Weird and entertaining eurotrash thriller!
Swiss director Jess Franco (credited "Jess Frank" here) is a real institution in the European b-movie scene for over fourty years now. Producing lots of cheap, stylish, weird and fastly-shot exploitation movies off all kinds of genres like sex films, thrillers, action, horror, science fiction, jailhouse dramas, war and adventure movies and detective fiction, he is some kind of European Hershell Gordon Lewis or Ed Wood, although still unknown in the mainstream media.
"Der Todesraecher von Soho" (The deadly avenger of Soho) from 1972 is such a fastly shot production. This German-Spanish co-production is a rip-off of the popular German Edgar Wallace movies, a series of 32 London-based detective fiction movies produced from 1959 to 1972 with elements of serial thrillers, 19th century gothic novels and horror/crime fiction elements, mostly about weird killers.
Based on a novel of Bryan Edgar Wallace, the son of the British detective fiction author who never had such a big reputation in England than in Germany, this movie is something about a killer in London slashing several innocent women. There's also some kidnapping of half-nude women involved as well as mad scientists, giallo rippers, handsome Scotland Yard detectives, gothic castles, leather dominas, etc., but the script isn't really based on a logical plot.
The pacing is sometimes really boring, but really funny because of the typical Jess Franco style of film making - restless steadycams, fast zooms, weird camera ankles, surreal atmospheres, many empty places like in an old "Avengers" (sic!) TV episode and a timeless mixture of 19th and 20th century literary and movie styles. In the end, the showdown becomes really weird just like a psychedelic acid trip without any colours as there is only black and white and grey everywhere. No way!
The groovy easy listening and crime jazz soundtrack was composed by German jazz musician Rolf Kuehn, who provided the scores for many more Franco productions, and the cast features German b-movie star Fred Williams, stunning Barbara Ruettig, Wolfgang Kieling, Siegfried Schuerenberg (who played Scotland Yard chief "Sir John" in many Edgar Wallace movies), and famous "Derrick" actor Horst Tappert, playing a maniac villain here. Sit back and enjoy this weird and entertaining German seventies' trip that must have been big fun to shoot...
Office Killer (1997)
Nice idea, weak direction
Dorine is a real wallflower - a middle-aged, shy, ugly single woman living at home with her mum and working as an editor for a small newspaper, she's a real outsider. After she has killed a colleague by accident in a lonely late night shift, she hides his corpse in her cellar. This "accident" changes her mind, and she starts having fun killing her mobbing colleagues one by one and hiding them all in her dark cellar...
Photographer Cindy Sherman's directional debut has a very nice plot idea, but that's all. The direction is too weak and boring, and the actors - Carol Kane as Dorine and Molly Ringwald, Jeanette Tripplehorn and stunning Barbara Sukowa as her colleagues can't bring their roles to life. The acting is often exaggerated, the dialogues are too ridiculous, Kane is screaming much too often, and Evan Lurie's pseudo avantgarde score sounds like a bland, cheap home keyboard recording. It would have been a nice try to produce this kind of home office version of the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" in a real comedy or horror style, but his movie doesn't know where to go. Too pointless, too boring, and too much over the top unfortunately.
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
The good, the bad and an ugly movie
Rob Cohen's "The Fast And The Furious" has been a box office hit, but is just a disappointment. It's much sight and sound, but like switching through the TV channels with a remote control with no contents at all. There's no hint of a story, just something about some bad young guys driving around in very fast cars, doing illegal and cool things like car races, tuning their turbo killing machines and doing very male stuff like beating the s*** out of themselves. There are some pretty girls as well in sweaty black t-shirts and a good guy who's in fact an undercover police officer who's searching for something and falls in love with the girls of the gang.
Director Cohen's doesn't care at all about a script, a good story and good actors, he's just interested in the straight, fast and loud action of popcorn cinema, and you're getting a lot of that. There are dozens of well-shot car chases, showdowns, gun and fist fights, etc., but it all remains a heartless spectacle with too many stupid dialogues that should be only used in a Spinal Tap movie. The villain is bald and bad and played by Vin Diesel, the hero is blond and bright and played by Paul Walker, the other gang members have beards and are shouting like hell, and the girls are just there for completing the crew. Even the conflict of a policeman investigating undercover and becoming fascinated by a counter culture isn't developed well and explored at all like in William Friedkin's "Cruising" or Katheryn Bigelow's "Point Break" - it's just one more vague cliché presented on an assembly line, fastly running of course.
If you like some mindless highway action you might find some good and entertaining scenes in this movie, but there are lots of better movies built around car chases and vehicle action - check out cult movies like the groovy "Vanishing Point", Steven Spielberg's "Duel", Walter Hill's "Driver", Norman Jewison's great "Rollerball" or the odd "The Cars That Ate Paris" by Peter Weir. "The Fast And The Furious" mainly quotes scenes from these movies and from other car chasing classics like "French Connection", "Bullitt", the "Mad Max", "Terminator" and "Lethal Weapon" series, and even James Dean's legendary car race in "Rebels Without A Cause" is ripped off here. But all in all you're just asking what it is all about and will find the answer in Shakespeare again - much ado about nothing.
Blue in the Face (1995)
Joyful meditation about life
"Blue in the Face" was a fastly produced follow-up of director Wayne Wang's and writer Paul Auster's 1994 art house hit "Smoke". While "Smoke" was produced in the usual way with script, casts, etc., this movie was a quickly shot within less than a month, just containing vague ideas, interviews and improvisations with the same production unit and main actor Harvey Keitel, but without a script and with lots of popular supporting actors who were improvising their performance straight in front of the camera. And it works.
Focused on Keitel's smoke shop in Brooklyn, his customers and visitors are telling stories about their lives, views, ideas, dream, relationships and carreers, all focused around the topic of smoking. Lou Reed can't remember his first cigarette, but presents his self-constructed glasses, Jim Jarmusch celebrates his last cigarette, Harvey Keitel reminds which war movie made him a cigarette smoker, and there are several more famous guests in the shop. Michael J. Fox plays a weird insurance guy, Madonna appears as a singing telegram girl, and John Lurie, Mia Sorvino, Paul Keith and the whole NYC artist's scene appear on the screen.
Although the pointless composition of independent scenes and interviews might become a bit out of tune or boring sometimes, the movie works really well. There are lots of interesting (real life?) stories told by the actors, a great rare groove soundtrack that could fit into every Tarantino production, and some really good jokes too. "Blue in the Face" become a minor art house classic in Europe in the nineties, and one could wonder if this movie would have been the same ten years later in the times of anti-smoking laws and campaigns. Nice independent movie.
Golden Girl (2001)
Stylish French millennium erotica
During the last few years, there's been a new wave of erotic movies in France, combining the classic exotic seventies' "Emmanuelle" exotica with the blurred romanticism of David Hamilton movies, the harsh techno style of eighties and nineties erotic productions like "9 1/2 Weeks" and even science fiction and genre movie topics. It's often about strong, sensual and bi-sexual women discovering new horizons of lust and love between the reality of working life, high society settings and the timeless surrealism of a stimulating photographed sleeping room....
"Golden Girl" is a good example for that - it's not just a soft sex movie about sexual intercourse, but also a tale of human behaviors and the dependence on other people. A young and attractive female stock broker starts an affair with her arrogant, mobbing boss, but gets mental and sexual advices by her female friend how to handle her life with more self-confidence and how to become more seductive and irresistible. The "heroine" becomes stronger and more powerful to her male and female lovers, but also realizes the effects of her new egoist way of life...
Of course the erotic side of the movie is dominating over the weak storyline, but it's well photographed, with lots of beautiful people all around and a groovy millennium electronic soundtrack in the wake of Air's "Moon Safari" record and several trip hop and chill out sounds. The rhythm of the editing and musical beats is perfectly fitting to the grooves of the swinging hips, and it is always notable that the Frenchmen do understand their work... a nice bi-sexual erotic movie with a slight contemporary social edge that adds some interesting topics to the story without disturbing it. Stimulating.
Der Joker (1987)
Hard German revenge thriller
Peter Maffay is not the guy you expect to see in a hard-boiled detective revenge movie. The Romanian-born greasy ballad singer with a certain pseudo-rock and macho image who is a big music star in Germany for 35 years now tried a step into the movies with this German crime movie from 1987.
Maffay plays Jan Bogdan, a police detective in Hamburg who becomes seriously hurt during a bomb attack in a restaurant by a brutal killer gang. His good friend has been killed, and Bogdan is bound to the wheelchair now. Filled with anger and thirst for revenge he quits the police and kills his opponents one by one until he finds the heads of the gang... of course there's a good buddy involved, too, and a well-looking dark-haired seduction that both guys are falling in love with, some corrupt policemen, conspiracies, brutal henchmen with black gloves, assassinations, killings, showdowns etc.
The direction of crime movie veteran Peter Patzak is well done, but shows some boring lengths in the middle of the plot. The script combines elements of seventies crime action with hard-boiled detective stories, revenge dramas, Italian giallos and mafia movies and of course a lot of bad 80's hard rock ballads... the cast is fine with Tahnee Welch as the sexy girlfriend and first class actors like Armin Mueller-Stahl, Michael York and Elliot Gould (all of them playing bad guys here).
Only the choice of Peter Maffay was a big misstep, as his range of acting is limited to the face expressions of a goldfish. Bearing his never changing forced macho style all the time and especially listening to his bad way of stumbling his dialogues together is a pure pain in the ass! Fortunately for movie-goes, Maffay returned only once again on the screens - except for some cameos - in the cliche-ladden adventure drama "Verschollen im Jemen" (Missing in Yemen) in 1999, directed by Patzak, too.
Some more details for movie buffs - the bad soundtrack, consisting of greasy digital keyboard tunes and bad 80's "Scorpions" style hard rock ballads, was composed by Maffay and former Rainbow keyboard player Tony Carey who had a short musical career in Germany 20 years ago. Production assistant Otto Retzer later became the director of the cheesy soap opera "Ein Schloss am Woerthersee" and several b-movie adventures such as the strange "Der schwarze Fluch". A nice movie for Maffay worshippers, but not the big jewel to discover for crime genre and film retro fans.
A witty view on the American way of life
"Pecker" is a young, unknown photographer from Baltimore who becomes a big star in the public, the media and the local art scene with his pictures showing the dirty reality of all-day life just as dirty underwear or human excrements. It's a typical topic of John Waters Baltimore-based independent comedies to show the weird sides of the American way of life between political correctness fashion and conservative backlashes by exploring the backgrounds of the middle class society of his hometown.
Edward Furlong of "Terminator 2" fame plays Pecker, supported by Christina Ricchi, photographer Cindy Sherman, legendary Patricia Hearst and Water's long-time actress Mink Stole. Although the pacing of the plot becomes a big flaw sometimes and can't compete with the fast and furious joke attacks of Water's brilliant "Serial Mom", it's still has some good laughs in it and some unforgettable scenes like a former junkie-girl who became a vegetarian by sniffing peas from a vegetable dish... "Pecker" is a great comedy about the arrogance of the art scene, media hypes, middle-class sex angst and the strange ways of how to become a pop star without realizing it. Recommended!
Groovy Italian-German mafia action
"Poliziotti solitudine e rabbia" or "Ein Mann namens Venedig" (A Man called Venice), as it was called in Germany, is an Italian-German crime drama co-production from 1979, filmed mainly in the snowy winter of bleak West-Berlin. Italian cop Nick, played by gangster movie veteran Maurizio Merli, goes to Berlin to find the head of an International European blackmailing gang who has murdered several people. He investigates undercover as a contract killer for the gangsters, but of course becomes immediately the target of his enemies and has to fight hard to save his life...
The plot is not really new, but it really work well here. The pacing is good, there are some thrilling moments as well as good car chases, fighting and shooting scenes, and the film shows a lot of the isolated situation and dark atmosphere of Iron Wall Berlin of the seventies.
The cast is fine, too, with Merli being a very good Franco Nero lookalike, combining the sarcastic humor of Terence Hill with the hard avenging edge of Clint Eastwood and Sean Connery. German actors Jutta Speidel and Arthur Brauss have some supporting roles. There's a nice and groovy disco synthesizer jazz funk score, and the director continued doing all kinds of Italian b-movies until his death in March, 2004. A well-made and entertaining "spaghetti mafia movie"!