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Product Reviews

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  1.  Classic Carpenter.


    Even mediocre Carpenter is interesting but Halloween is up there with The Thing and Escape From New York. From the steadicam opening and its crane shot reveal of Michael; Carpenter sets the framework for the modern day slasher movie.

  2.  The Sopranos.


    What else is there to say about this sublime series? Its like watching the best film in the world and there's hours of it. So many brilliant characters come and go but Ralph has to be the standout lunatic amongst the many psychos that Tony has to negotiate-including himself.

  3.  Virgin on the ridiculous.


    Liz the second looks good but that's about it. The narrative is as preposterous as Owen's facial hair and even Rush's Walsingham can't save the day. Makes you wish the Armada succeeded.

  4.  "Don't be shy."


    The daddy of all serial killer films and the most intelligent is a technicolor nightmare full of dark deep focus fantasies. Powell was vilified for taking on such disturbing material, but he had tapped into the grubby underbelly of a Great Britain just emerging from post-war poverty and into a bright consumer world, gaudily represented by the corner shop in which Mark films Paris Hilton lookalike Milly for under the counter soft porn.
    In fact Powell and screenwriter Leo Marks predicted the dark side of the 60s and its relationship with sex and celebrity. In a couple of short years the Profumo affair would shock the nation and by the end of the decade revelations from the Krays' convictions would further repel and fascinate it in equal measure.
    The softly spoken Mark is a classic British eccentric; bullied by his father, socially inept, and fanatical about his work/hobby, he stalks his female prey looking for the ultimate look of fear from his victims. His father used him in his twisted academic experiments but is Mark really trying to find his dead mother's final expression and in it some connection with her? Or is he punishing his victims for her failure to protect him as a child?
    Mark's dedication to cinema in the dawn of the television age is another interesting theme developed by Powell. A producer at Mark's studio announces that all directors are to cut back on takes to save money. Powell immediately cuts to the director of the aptly named feature, "The Walls Are Closing In" who cranks up an astonishing amount of footage. It is this classic clash of business and art in cinema that drives Mark as much as anything else. He is more akin to his director than his producer but identifies more with the French New Wave and their techniques, especially the long take that introduces the film.
    Powell shows television what it can't do by his heavily stylized use of mise-en-scene especially his masterful manipulation of colour. Mark's room is both sinister and sorrowful, Tardis in size it is his safe haven and his death trap. As soon as he opens his room and thus his life to Helen he is doomed. In many ways this relationship matches Powell's with Britain after Peeping Tom was released. He opens his real feelings about cinema and we killed him for it.

  5.  "You're quite a literary character Sir."


    What a joy Oliver Twist is. Bereft of sentimentality and thankfully not a show-tune in sight; Polanski has made the definitive Dickens movie and sets a new standard for family films. Polanski wanted to make a film that he could show his children after the difficult personal journey he undertook with the Oscar winning Pianist; the irony being that he has more in common with Oliver than perhaps even Wladyslaw Szpilman.
    Both he and Oliver were orphans on the streets, Oliver in London and Polanski in Krakow. Polanski knew what it was to steal to survive and evade death at every turn. Like Oliver a kind benefactor in the Polish countryside took him in. This is embodied in the film by the warm, golden sheen the cinematography has when Oliver is travelling to London. The city itself is cramped, dark and suitably Dickensian, a fitting tribute to the etchings of Gustave Dore and George Cruikshank.
    Polanski has trimmed out the very contrived Victorian sub-plots so that the narrative is more accessible to contemporary audiences and dare one say, works better as a result. The cast are universally excellent, from Barney Clarks' impressionable but resilient Oliver to Jamie Foreman's sinister take on Bill Sykes, no doubt drawing on his infamous father's connection with those real life Dickensian monsters-the Krays. But it is Ben Kingsley's heartbreaking turn as a softly spoken Fagin that will sit with the audience long after the finish.

  6.  Kwaidan.


    There is no doubt that Kobayashi has produced a technical masterpiece; beautifully surreal in the way it hypnotizes the audience with its stunningly realized sets and experimental soundtrack by Takemitsu. The problem is for all its grandeur, for all of its splendor, and for all that makes Kwaidan a modern classic; you really wish you were watching an episode of Monkey.

  7.  "I've probably slept longer than you've lived."


    The cinema screen is littered with drunken writers; those self-obsessed creatures who booze and moan and feel the world owes them a pass so they can articulate what everyone else is feeling. The normal person is too busy making ends meet and feeding a family to wax lyrical about the drabness of everyday life.
    So do we need another exploration of sorrow and self-pity? The answer is yes and no. Yes because of an excellent low key performance by Matt Dillon as Charles Bukowski's alter-ego Henry Chinaski, the poetic loafer of his transgressional fiction novels. Dillon reminds us why he was the most exciting and talented of his brat-pack peers in the 80s and treads similar ground as he did in Gus Van Sant's Drugstore Cowboy.
    No because as good a wordsmith as Bukowski was there is only so much self indulgence one can take before taking the view that his screen father does in the film; stop drinking and get a job.

  8.  "A man's got to know his limitations."


    Bigger, stronger, faster! Dirty Harry is given the movie brat treatment in a script from John Milius and Michael Cimino and boy does it show from the off. Lalo Schifrin's frantic score booms out over a blood-red background with only the now iconic 44 Magnum visible against it. Eastwood's Harry doesn't need to be seen as the gun says it all for him; powerful, deadly, and reliable.
    This time round, just as in the recent Dark Knight, the violence has escalated and Harry like Batman is partly to blame. Rogue cops are systematically executing untouchable crime bosses and anyone remotely linked to them. Milius and Cimino massacre an entire pool party instead of one just one person in the original Dirty Harry. Harry has to deal with multiple villains instead of 1, much like the superhero sequels of recent years, and like most superheroes he is responsible for the creation of his latest nemesis.
    Ted Post directs with a machine gun-verve keeping each set-piece tight and functional; a trait no doubt perfected from directing hundreds of episodes of T.V. series. The two writers open out Harry's character with scenes featuring his personal life and have him ultimately conform to the system he so despises because the alternative would truly be a Nazi police state. Magnum Force is gripping, funny, and shocking by turns and a much underrated sequel.

  9.  "Yeah, incentives are important. I learned that in rehab."


    Captain Ron is a watery tale of family fun and adventure with a great turn from Kurt Russell as the titular captain. Lightweight it maybe but it is suitably inoffensive to keep kids and parents alike amused throughout.

  10.  If you can't do the time, don't do the crime.


    The late Brad Davis is sensational as Billy Hayes; he has a Brad Pitt quality about him, going from beautiful to wretched at the drop of a hat. But even with his performance, Oliver Stone's clever but dangerously xenophobic script, and assured direction from Parker; one can't help but to think that Hayes deserved what he got and cried about it afterwards.
    The stunning opening section shows Hayes as arrogant, foolish, and just plain idiotic to attempt to smuggle drugs out of Turkey in the first place. Even in a time when foreign travel was not as common as today or local customs couldn't be googled on the net, running away from the Turkish police after you've been caught, doesn't take a brain surgeon to work out that matters are only going to get worse. Hayes even cracks a smile when he thinks he has outwitted the locals-a comment on American ignorance when dealing with an Islamic country that still rings true today.
    The scenes of torture, suffering and degradation are almost a forerunner of Eli Roth's goreoraphy in his Hostel films. Americans abroad falling foul of nasty foreign types teaching them a harsh lesson for their perceived ignorance. In fact Midnight Express helped prisoner exchange programs start to run effectively such was the outrage of public opinion at the atrocities shown. 30 years later it is interesting to see the boot on the other foot with the controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.