Archive for August 7, 2013

The Serpent and the Rainbow

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Ethnobotanist/anthropologist Dennis Alan, in visiting the Amazon, receives a potion connecting him to his protective totem (a jaguar) through a series of visions, and is later guided by a jaguar from the Rainforest itself. Returned to Boston, he is sent to Haiti by a pharmaceutical corporation looking to investigate a drug used in Haitian Vodou, in the hope of using it for anesthesia.

Alan’s exploration in Haiti to find the drug, assisted by the doctor Marielle, draws the attention of the authorities, so that the commander of the Tonton Macoute, Captain Dargent Peytraud, warns Alan to leave Haiti. Alan refuses to leave, and continues to investigate. Eventually, he encounters a local witch doctor, Mozart, who can produce the drug; but Mozart sells him a substitute instead.

Alan is arrested a second time by the Tonton Macoute and tortured; but again refuses to leave. Later he meets again with Mozart to obtain the true poison. A few hours before gaining this, Alan experiences a nightmare planted in his mind by Peytraud, and wakes beside a dead woman. The Tonton Macoutes then frame Alan for murder.

Alan is brought to Peytraud, who places him on an airplane at gunpoint; whereupon Mozart gives him the drug in exchange for international fame. Alan thence returns to Boston to study the components and effects of the drug.

At a celebration dinner, the wife of Alan’s employer is possessed by Peytraud, who warns him of his own imminent death. Thereafter Alan returns to Haiti, where (at Peytraud’s behest) he is buried alive. Having emerged he returns to the Tonton Macoute headquarters looking for Marielle. There, Alan and his jaguar spirit defeat Peytraud, prompting Marielle to say “The nightmare is over”.

REVIEW:

When will people learn to stop messing with voodoo? It never ends well! The Serpent and the Rainbow takes us to the voodoo capitol of the world, Haiti. I don’t need to tell you that this will not end well, do I?

What is this about?

Anthropologist Dennis Alan travels to Haiti in search of a mysterious voodoo powder that turns the living into semiconscious zombies. But as he comes closer to finding the mystical drug, the natives turn Alan’s life into a nightmare.

What did I like?

Buried. Here we go again, another film with people being buried alive. Unlike Buried, no one is buried for the whole film, there is a scene with Bill Pullman being buried alive. You’d think that I would be tired of this, but the way it is used in this film, and the fact that he isn’t down there that long, thanks to help from a certain character, sets up the rest of the picture.

Cerebral. Most horror movies, especially from the 80s, are just scary and/or gross. Well, this is an exception to that rule, as it takes us through a cerebral journey involving jaguar totems, nightmares, and all kinds of things that will cause the audience to take a moment to think about what is truly going on.

Lone Star. I was talking to someone awhile back about Bill Pullman and was surprised that they thought he wasn’t a capable actor. Sure, the guy may have some odd choices on his resume, but he gives everything he has in each role. This is no exception. As the film goes on, his performance gets stronger and stronger, especially when his “woman” is threatened.

What didn’t I like?

Sex. I’m the last person to complain about a sex scene, but about an hour into this, Pullman and his co-star, Cathy Tyson get their freak on, so to speak. Maybe it is just me, but it felt out of place and unnecessary, even for an 80s gratuitous nude scene.

Winnfield. Paul Winnfield isn’t exactly a household name, but he is someone who you’ve seen here and there in bit parts. I just saw him this morning in an episode of Family Matters, for instance. Apparently, he is some kind of voodoo/spiritual expert, but his role isn’t as expanded upon as it probably should be, especially given the fact that the film’s antagonist has some kind of spiritual power of his own.

Walking dead. So, the Haitian government wants to make zombies. They should just do what the US has done for the past 10 or so year, pump reality television into their households! Seriously, though, I like the way they went about making the so-called “zombies”, but I didn’t find it believable, especially when they threw in that it wears off after an hour.

I have to wonder where the rainbow is in The Serpent and the Rainbow. The snake is seen in one of Bill Pullman’s dream sequences, so there is that. Anyway, this is one of those films that a friend recommended I check out, just because they liked it. Unfortunately, I’m not so ecstatic. For me, this was ok, but nothing to write home about. A god chunk of the film feels like a car stuck in the mud spinning its wheels, going nowhere. The rest is just…well, it is just there. Do I recommend this? Not really, but if you’re a fan of these psychological thriller films, you might get some pleasure from a viewing.

3 out of 5 stars

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Ulysses

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2013 by Mystery Man

Ulysses

PLOT:

This very expensive Italian-made adaptation of Homer’s “The Odyssey” stars Kirk Douglas as seafaring hero Ulysses. The story begins, as ever, with Ulysses leaving his faithful wife Penelope (Silvano Magnano) behind as he goes off to fight in the Trojan Wars. Having the poor taste to set himself above the gods after a stunning military victory, Ulysses is doomed to journey aimlessly across the sea until he can make amends. Along the way, our hero battles a cyclops, resists the fatal singing of the Sirens, and enjoys a brief interlude with pig-fancying enchantress Circe (also played by Silvano Magnano). Years and years later, Ulysses returns to Penelope, where he must meet and master a final challenge.

REVIEW:

Well, I have a new project on the horizon, so get ready for lots of films about mythology. To start off, we have the 1955 Italian sword and sandal flick, Ulysses.

What is this about?

Ulysses is the valiant hero doomed to a perilous journey home following his triumph in the Trojan War. Antinous is the suitor who takes advantage of Ulysses’s absence and sets out to win the hand of the general’s faithful wife, Penelope.

What did I like?

Faithful. It is so rare to find a film that keeps close to the source material. Studios seem to believe that they need to change things to make a better movie, which isn’t the case. I guess Italian filmmakers and studios actually have brains, unlike their American counterparts, who only care about money. Watching this made me want to go read The Odyssey again.

Ulysses. Kirk Douglas was the perfect choice to play Ulysses. Then again, he seems to have made a career of playing characters from this era, such as Spartacus and Moses. From what I recall, Ulysses was the kind of guy that was quite intense. Douglas brings that intensity that inspires his men and allows the audience to get behind him as he makes the odyssey back to his homeland.

What didn’t I like?

Cyclops. Par for the course with a film like this, you can expect to see some kind of mythological beast. In this case, we get a Cyclops. Now, perhaps I have been spoiled by the stop-motion genius of Ray Harryhausen, but this guy looked like some cheap creation that someone threw together a few minutes before shooting was to begin.

Dub. It appears that Italian doesn’t line up with English translation very well. As we saw in the Jayne Mansfield picture, The Loves of Hercules, and now with the characters of Circe and Penelope, who are both played by Silvana Mangano, the dubbing is almost as bad as watching an old Godzilla or martial arts film where the actors are speaking Japanese, but it is translated to English and their mouths keep going long after their lines have been said.

Fantasy. Someone on-line called this “a different kind of spaghetti western”. Obviously, this is not a western, but I see where they were going with it. Spaghetti westerns tend to be more dark, gritty, and grounded than others, and this film seemed to lack that fantastical element that you expect from a film dealing in Greek mythology. As such, I wasn’t as invested in it as I possibly could have been, which is a shame, really.

So, how does this 1955 version of Ulysses rate? Well, it has plenty going for it, but in the end this is a film that I had trouble deciding on whether it was truly a great film, or just above average. It is worth seeing, and perhaps could very well be something you should see before you die, but for me, I needed more of the fantasy angle to be brought to the forefront, as in Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans, or the Sinbad films. That being said, I will not dissuade you from seeing this, as it is a very well crafted film. Check it out sometime!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

The Sex Thief

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on August 7, 2013 by Mystery Man

The Sex Thief

PLOT:

Grant Henry (David Warbeck) a writer of trashy paperbacks like The Dirty and the Dying, moonlights as a masked jewel thief who is usually caught in the act but is able to get away with his crimes by luring his female victims to bed. After these women lie to the police about the thief’s identity (“who could disguise himself as a clubfooted coloured midget one week and a 6’6″ Russian with a harelip the next”) and seem to want to get burgled again, the Inspector in charge of the case (Terence Edmond) and a Kung-Fu trained insurance investigator (Diane Keen) decide to lay a trap for the thief.

REVIEW:

What say we take a break from horror and enjoy what is sure to be a cheesy 70s sex romp with The Sex Thief, shall we? Contrary to what you may believe because of the title, this is not some kind of porn, but be warned!!! There is plenty of sex to go around, about as much as you saw in Basic Instinct, give or take a couple of scenes, but the tone is total different.

What is this about?

Martin Campbell directs this sexy 1970s comedy following the exploits of a brazen masked jewel thief who seduces his willing victims — and the two bungling policemen who can’t seem to catch him.

What did I like?

Thief in the night. I don’t think I have ever wanted to be a thief as much as I wanted to be this guy. Not only does he mange to make the cops look like bumbling idiots, he gets every girl he comes across. One of them he has 7 times in one night!!! What a luck guy!

Know your role. I think we’ve all seen movies or TV shows that seem to be made for one particular audience, yet the marketing is for another. Well, with this film, it seems to know who it is going after, because if you take away the sex, this really isn’t that great of a film, but by putting in copious amounts sexual relations, it brings in the horny demographic (what better term is there?)

What didn’t I like?

70s sheik. There is just a look and feel to this film that tells you is from the 70s. Normally, I just blow this off as part of the charm, but this was so blatant that I half expected to hear disco and/or psychedelic rock playing. For some reason, it was a tad distracting from the film itself.

Lighten up. Maybe it is just me, but I felt as if this film should have been lighter in tone. This seems to be the case with this director, though.  Green Lantern, for instance, was way too dark for the source material, at least I thought so. This is also the same guy who directed the Antonio Banderas Zorro films, which actually toe the line between serious and comedic, especially the first one, so the guy does know how to get the correct tone, just maybe not so much in his earlier days.

When I decided to watch The Sex Thief, it was just to get out of the serious film vault that I seem to have been in the last couple of flicks. That didn’t work as well as I thought it would, but this was still a fairly fun film. I’m not so sure I would recommend it, but it is a decent watch if you’re bored. Give it a shot if you get the chance.

3 1/3 out of 5 stars