U.S. Army Ranger Sgt Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) accidentally kills a man who has been harassing him and his wife after they are reunited. He serves his time and 8 years later is paroled. To get back to his native Alabama he boards a prison transportation plane. Other criminals are also sharing the flight and are still serving time such as highly intelligent criminal mastermind Cyrus ‘The Virus’ Grissom (John Malkovich), former general of the Black Guerillas Nathan ‘Diamond Dog’ Jones (Ving Rhames) and rapist John ‘Johnny 23’ Baca (Danny Trejo). What could possibly go wrong?!
I love Con Air. It’s a big, fantastic action movie that I regret never having seen in a cinema on a big screen. It’s also very intelligent even though it tries to come across as dumb (I love the armchair film critics on social media who don’t get this). Its homages and pastiches regarding the action genre are very knowing and extremely entertaining. I can’t get enough of those shots of Cage running in slow motion with explosions going off behind him. I also can’t get enough of the soundtrack with its awesome electric guitars. How Do I Live by Trisha Yearwood was also written for the film and received an Oscar nomination. There was also another nomination for Best Sound. The idea of Con Air being nominated for Academy Awards blows my mind.
I also love how each of the baddies in the film has a fleshed-out (pun not intended) backstory and are exceptionally well-acted. It feels like the plane is full of villains en route to a sociopath’s summit meeting. It also feels like any one of these characters was already well-rounded and well-written enough to star in their own film on their own merits.
The action within the film knows no bounds and it feels like ANYTHING could happen. The finale in which a sizable chunk of Las Vegas is levelled is awesome. I love the money raining down on everyone once the action has finally subsided.
Critics at the time were questioning whether the events in Con Air were believable. Who cares? It’s a fantastic film that’s all you need to know. Disregard the mainstream critics with their boring tastes and the armchair critics with their lack of cineliteracy. Con Air is pure cult cinema and a delight from start to finish.
It must be very difficult for a film director to make a sequel to an established masterpiece.
The weight of expectation towards The Exorcist 3 even though it was the second sequel and not the first, must have been massive. Fortunately, the end result is pretty good.
Fifteen years have passed since the events that occurred in the original (the coke frenzy that is The Exorcist 2: The Heretic is disregarded here- something that some would applaud). Lieutenant Kinderman notices that a series of demonically themed killings resemble the work of The Gemini Killer who is actually deceased.
I love the freakier and more surreal moments of this film. There is a humdinger of a scare involving a nurse and a nun brandishing some shears. There’s also a great dream/nightmare sequence that I loved. These moments show true vision that is undeterred by the original.
The Exorcist 3 feels like a highly original TV movie in its tone and visual style which is certainly a departure from Friedkin’s film. It never drags, bores or feels generic. The cast is excellent with such heavyweights as George C Scott, Brad Dourif and even sees Jason Miller returning.
File The Exorcist 3 in the ‘sequels which are actually pretty good’ category.
Fun fact- the back cover of the Siouxsie and the Banshees tour programme from 1991 features the statement ‘It’s a wonderfull life’. When I first saw it I felt embarrassed that they hadn’t seen such a blazingly obvious misspelling. But the joke was on me- the spelling was intentional as Siouxsie is a massive Exorcist 3 fan and kept the Gemini Killer’s original spelling.
I had heard such bad things about John Carpenter’s Vampires that I didn’t even see it when it was released theatrically in 1998. In fact, it was only yesterday that I saw it for the very first time. What’s 25 years to see a film though?!
Is it a bad movie by Carpenter’s standards or, indeed, by anyone’s standards? Neither. In fact, it’s a pretty solid movie. Whoever was calling it an unmitigated disaster back when it was released was way off beam.
A gang led by James Woods hunts vampires. The gang comes to the attention of the most powerful vampire Jan Valek who is trying to gain access to a centuries-old crucifix that would make him even more powerful.
I love the fact that Valek decimates most of Wood’s gang very early on in the film. I also loved the character arcs and dialogue between Daniel Baldwin’s Tony Montoya and Sheryl Lee’s Katrina who was bitten during the confrontation in which most of the gang was killed. And the special effects have aged very well indeed.
There are sequences that feel like they are more suited to a straight-to-video movie, but this was probably due to budget restrictions rather than Carpenter.
Vampires is a million miles away from Carpenter’s recognised masterpieces such as Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing and The Fog. But maybe that’s the problem. When a filmmaker who has made films that are recognised as pioneering examples of a genre makes a film that doesn’t meet the high standards of their previous work then the critics and ‘fans’ will take sadistic glee in falsely reporting that a film is an utter disaster rather than a pretty good film. That’s a shame. But time has been very kind to Vampires indeed.
You’re on tour in the U.S. as the frontperson of one of the biggest bands on the planet. Some people would request a room full of hookers and cocaine. Some would demand that all of the brown M&M’s are removed from the band’s munchies.
Robert Smith of The Cure, on the other hand, is a man after my own heart. He did exactly what I would have done. He requested the films that were either banned or unreleased in the UK due to the overzealous and prudent British Board of Film Classification that were freely available to be seen in America.
The following fax was sent by Robert in the 90’s so that someone could obtain these celluloid goodies for him.
And what a list it is! Cult film fans would swoon at such classics. Not only is Robert a master of pop music but he also has a fantastic taste in movies too.
I remember in one of The Cure’s tour programmes that Robert stated his favourite films as being Taxi Driver, Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Polyester and Grey Gardens amongst others.
Robert- I didn’t think I could love you any more than I already do. I was wrong.
Note- Nico Icon can be found here on YouTube. Please make sure you switch on the English subtitles before watching as some sequences are in French and German.
I first became aware of the singer Nico in 1988, ironically the year the singer passed away. I was becoming a huge fan of Siouxsie and the Banshees and a new book had been published about the band. The first few pages went through the early lives of the band members and the bands they were listening to as they were growing up. Of course one of them was The Velvet Underground and Nico. The picture published to illustrate this however wasn’t one of the iconic monochromatic shots of the band wearing shades, black clothing and looking absolutely cool with it. Instead, the image was of Nico but after see had dyed her hair and wasn’t the glacially beautiful blonde chanteuse anymore. The pic was from 1970 and she was dressed in a cape. ‘What Goth could have become if more people had taken Nico to their hearts’, I thought.
Shortly after this I started listening to and loving The Velvet Underground starting with their iconic first album. Nico’s voice was a revelation. Her teutonic vocals with her own sense of phrasing and meter were mindblowingly original. In fact, after hearing this album I bought The Marble Index and my love for Nico and her career was born.
On seeing the documentary Nico Icon on YouTube I decided to investigate further.
And I’m so glad I did. The film fully explores Nico’s legacy and metamorphosis brilliantly from her time as a model (a profession she hated as she saw herself as a blonde smiling object and nothing more), her introduction to movies with her turn in La Dolce Vita no less, her introduction to singing and then becoming a staple of Warhol’s Factory crowd (Andy famously described her singing style as like that of an IBM computer with a Greta Garbo accent) after being introduced to Warhol by Bob Dylan. Her stint as chanteuse on The Velvet Underground’s iconic first album (not to mention her relationship with The Velvet’s lead singer Lou Reed) followed shortly after this with her solo career as a result.
I wasn’t prepared for the emotional pull that the documentary has. The scene in which Nico’s aunt is listening to I’ll Be Your Mirror and starts crying because of the beauty of the music and her late niece’s vocals is incredibly moving. The fact that Lou Reed’s lyrics are displayed on the screen via the film’s subtitles show just how gorgeous they are.
The melancholic and reflective aspect of Nico’s music is also explored with songs as achingly stirring as You Are Beautiful and You Are Alone acting as a reflection of Nico’s life. She was evidently her own mirror for the world to see.
The transformation of Nico from blonde bombshell to Angel of Death is also examined. With this metamorphosis people who said to her that the change was too drastic and made her look ugly were met with joyous proclamations from the woman herself. She loved the fact that she wasn’t a blonde object of beauty anymore for others to ogle, an object.
She seemed to hate life and to be looking forward to death. She infamously became a junkie with her addiction to heroine (what else for the guest singer with The Velvets) which meant she toured constantly to supplement her habit. James Young is on hand to tell tales of what it was like to be in her band during this period with one incident involving her deliberately handing him a tour’s worth of used needles for him to dispose of when they were approaching border control whilst in their tour bus. ‘She was the Queen of the Bad Girls’, Young states. She also loved the track marks, rotting teeth and bad skin that the drug had bestowed on her body. ‘That was her aesthetic’, Young opines.
Nico’s son Ari from her relationship with French actor Alain Delon (one of Nico’s other former lovers expresses that Delon was descended from sausage makers and even though he became a famous actor there was no getting away from his true family vocation in life) is also interviewed. We hear the shocking revelation that it was her who introduced him to heroine and that whilst he was once in a coma, she came to the hospital to record the noises his life support machine made to utilise on her next album.
But throughout the documentary one thing truly shines through and that is the music itself. There has never been any other artist like Nico in terms of music and image. She was a true individual with a back catalogue that is alarmingly and consistently brilliant. Whilst her first album Chelsea Girl was material written by others for her, her second album and every subsequent album after this starting with The Marble Index, showed that Nico wasn’t just an amazing singer and frontperson but also an astonishing writer. Her imagery and obsessions are just as idiosyncratic as her persona and are utterly intoxicating. Fortunately this is captured in the documentary with all phases of her music career being given an airing. And that’s one of the greatest aspects of the film- it encourages the viewer to investigate further and fall full-on into the disturbing, beautiful and esoteric rabbit-hole that is Nico’s oeuvre. And it’s an amazing place to vacate.
Her transition from the blonde Ice Queen to the Angel of Death is extraordinary enough and reminds me of the transition that Scott Walker made from pop star pin-up to serious artist who made the kind of music that music critics can’t salivate over more. Nico was even more exemplary as when she started writing her own material we were suddenly plunged headlong into her own world with it’s own meanings and rules. It was a sphere of frozen borderlines, friar hermits and janitors of lunacy. What does it all mean? Who knows. But it works beautifully. We were invited into the mindscape of an island, a question mark, a true maverick and, dare I say, a genius.
This documentary is so good that not even the very pretentious device of snippets of dialogue appearing on the screen as text just as a subject is saying them can even ruin or tarnish proceedings. Thankfully this isn’t employed too often but why it was used at all is beyond me.
Proceedings are rounded off with a rendition of Frozen Warnings from the album The Marble Index sung by John Cale at the piano. It’s an apt tribute to a singer who Cale saw as someone truly exceptional even if the world is still catching up on Nico’s genius. But with a new biography coming out soon it appears that the wheels are in motion regarding this. This documentary is a great starting point for the uninitiated and familiar alike.
Essential and one of the best documentaries about one of the best and beguiling subjects ever to grace the arts. Even Siskel and Ebert gave the film two thumbs up. But don’t let that put you off.
This entry into the taboo ‘killer kid’ horror sub-genre involves 9 year old Mikey. The first scene shows him slaughtering his entire adoptive family (yes, really) in one fell swoop. Whats more, hes videotaped the whole thing for his later entertainment. Mikey is found hiding in a closet by the police officers investigating who could have done this. After fobbing them off with a fake description of the perpetrator he is then placed up for adoption.
The majority of the film is centred around Mikey’s new life with his new family. He starts out by looking every bit the model angelic child but then red flags start to appear. Then the number of ‘accidents’ and casualties starts to grow.
The power of this film is that it was filmed and feels like a TV movie. It adheres to this genre’s conventions but subverts it because of it’s controversial subject matter. This juxtaposition works amazingly well especially as the film pulls no punches when it comes to the truly sadistic and brutal deeds of it’s central character. The performance of Brian Bonsall is pitch perfect as the psychopathic child. It’s also great to see Ashley Laurence from Hellraiser fame make an appearance as Mikey’s concerned teacher.
This film was actually made for the ‘straight to video’ market in the US but was then to be released theatrically in the UK. The film was submitted for a certificate to the BBFC and was awarded an 18 cert in November 1992. But then things took an unexpected turn. The abduction of toddler James Bulger by two other children dominated the news in February of the next year and the media was stating how horror films and specifically home videos must be the cause. A number of films that had been released were targetted with Childs Play 3 taking most of the blame. The Daily Mail (who else) noted how Mikey was a future release and involved a child killer. Surely this couldn’t be released now, could it, they opined. Head of the BBFC, James Ferman then took the unprecedented step of taking back the 18 certificate that had been granted to Mikey and banning it outright. It’s hard to believe that this happened but it did. Mikey was resubmitted for a certificate in 1996 but was rejected. The film is still banned in the UK.
A group of teens find themselves the victims of urban legends that come true. These legends range from ‘The Stranger in the Backseat’ to ‘Eating Pop Rocks and Drinking Soda’ (never heard of this but I’m keen to try it).
In the late 90’s there were a slew of teen horror movies made in the wake of one of the most irritating and terrible films ever made, Scream. They involved a group of pretty young actors in movies completely devoid of likeable characters, tension or any kind of intelligence.
Urban Legend is an example of this wave. Stars from recent TV shows were cast to draw in the young audience members who wouldn’t know good from bad in terms of filmmaking. Even Robert Englund can’t save this turkey.
Aside from being a time capsule from the late 90’s this really doesn’t serve any purpose. When I went to see the vile Scream in the 90’s I saw David Cronenberg’s Crash straight after it. So my advice to you is to watch this auto-erotic car fetishist’s wet-dream instead. Crash proved that some great horror movies were being made in that time period.
A comic book type caper in which a posse hunts down vampires for a living.
This is at the lower end of John Carpenter’s filmography. It feels more intent with slick visuals and trying to come across as ‘cool’ than being a thought provoking piece of cinema with any kind of substance. We get nods to the Western genre with the posse. We even get a reference to The Searchers. That’s the deepest and most thought provoking thing in the whole film.
The only people this film is of interest to are the nerdier depths of the horror/sci-fi demographic.
In fact, this feels more like a TV movie than a proper film. The only innovation within this flick is that it’s ahead of it’s time in predicting the dearth of similar fare made to go straight to cable. As a matter of fact I saw this on the Horror Channel. I’m glad it found it’s rightful home.
Not the worst film I’ve ever seen but light years away from Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13, The Fog, Someone’s Watching Me…
A wife fakes her own death to escape from her rich abusive husband. She then flees to the mid-west to try to rebuild her life under a different name so that he can’t trace her. Will she succeed?
This is a Julia Roberts movie. If there isn’t a big enough warning to stay away I don’t know what is (although The Mexican is a great film but that’s an exception in her oeuvre).
Everything from the scenes where she gets a beating (she’s like Bambi in these scenes- innocent and a pure victim) through to the scenes where she is predictably ‘learning to live again’ in her new locale (there is one scene where her and her new boyfriend have great fun trying on different hats. I kid you not. It’s as vomit-inducing as it sounds) to the final scenes where her hubby who has now traced her and seems to have morphed into a really rubbish version of Michael Myers, is big dumb Hollywood crud on every level.
I hate films that don’t warrant their audience with one iota of intelligence. This is one of those films. It took in megabucks at the box-office. In fact how this was made as a film to be shown in cinemas is beyond me. This feels like a Hallmark TV movie.
If you want to see a great, intelligent film about abuse and stalker-esque behaviour in a relationship, please watch Play Misty For Me instead. If you want to see a film about an abused woman who isn’t a victim seek out Ms.45.
I missed this when it was first released. However, at the time I saw clips of the fights scenes and the slow mo bullet sequences and was duly impressed. What would i think of the film on first viewing almost 20 years later?
I never lost interest during this film and I can see why it was such a huge hit in 1999. Its heartening when any highly stylised film which isn’t utter base level bilge to take megabucks at the box office.
But heres where The Matrix succeeds brilliantly. It offers mind blowing concepts- but isn’t too deep. It offers striking visuals- which unfortunately quickly became de rigueur as many other films, commercials and pop videos copied this visual style. Not the fault of the filmmakers and as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Certain parts of the film feel like a comic book fans fapfest. The costumes assumed by the main protagonists would only be thought cool by basement dwelling geeks. Black PVC, long coats and clumpy boots- a cyberpunk’s wet dream. Soo late 90s.
But this film did dare to take to the masses something original and daring. It succeeded. Fair play especially in these times of stale remakes and turgid reboots. But don’t try to interpret things too deeply. Beneath the surface isn’t a whole lot of depth or substance. Precisely why it was so massive.
The scene need the end where we learn that Neo really is ‘the one’ is one of the most bombastic, unintentionally hilarious sequences in modern cinema. I don’t know if its pure cheese, genius or both. Which is noteworthy in itself.
But for a film that tries to show us what the modern world is really like and what it revolves around I’ll still stick with They Live. A film that accomplishes its mission statement with less gloss, has infinitely more depth, substance and charm and does so on a substantially smaller budget than The Matrix.