Film Reviews by RD

Welcome to RD's film reviews page. RD has written 13 reviews and rated 576 films.

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Boxing Helena

Both worse than its reptuation and better

(Edit) 27/12/2020

Boxing Helena, being rather notorious for being terrible and true, the first 40 odd minutes are purgatory, following our two protagonists, neither of which garner our sympathy. It doesn't help that Sands tells us a lot about his obsession with Fenn, but beyond some voyeuristic watching of her, given no particular reason to understand why he is obsessed except that he is, cos he is, and did you know that he is? Oh and he has some issues due to his parents, which are don't really add anything except to suggest, well, he has deep seated issues. Meanwhile, Fenn's Helena begins as a woman who clearly doesn't care a fig for what anyone else thinks or wants, and you suspect you maybe are meant to be consider her a free spirit, someone who lives in the moment but she comes across a spoiled brat who has grown up to be a spoiled brat. (Noticeably, she lives in a swanky apartment but doesn't seem to need to earn money, lucky Helena). At least you have some vague sympathy for Helena as Sands' Nick truly is unpleasantly obsessive and his attempts to please Helena are so clearly misplaced and you can understand Helena wanting him to just [expletive deleted] off and leave her alone. The latter half of the movie mainly improves, as it delves deeply into counterpointing how men obsess and try and control women (Sands obsequious obsessiveness vs Helena's ex in the shape of Bill Paxton, the more aggressive male who sees Helena as his property), yet despite what happens to her, Helena remains her own person - containing the strength they both lack in terms of character and self-assurance.

Then, sadly, like a film noir from the 40s with an enforced happy ending, Boxing Helena cops out. (You can probably guess how.)

That said the latter half of the film does provide an interesting view of disturbed masculinity and for those expecting violence, gore, explicit sex (though there's a bit of that but all a bit woolly soft-core) considering the subject matter it's mainly absent and mainly a character study.

Sadly though, Jennifer Chambers Lynch hasn't her father's ability as a director, but an ounce - at least as evidenced here. The performances are fine, in some ways better than you might think (though Art Garfunkel's character is utterly redundant) but Sands especially has a character that is so unsympathetic it's easy to consider his performance terrible when he is actually playing the part very well. Sadly, it's not a character that is compelling but it's the one that Lynch wants, the same applies to Fenn. Both do well, but their characters as written, are not the most appealing.

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Cypher

Excellent, overlooked sci-fi thriller

(Edit) 22/12/2020

I saw Cypher at the cinema expecting a decent film on the back of the director's first film, Cube. Cypher was better. Ostensibly a sci-fi espionage thriller with more than the occasional twist, it's a film that works as much because of its mood and the skill of its actors. For all that it's occasionally slightly absurd nevertheless, Cypher is thoroughly compelling, sometimes thrilling and especially Northam and Liu are excellent and share genuine screen chemistry. For all that it is a relatively low budget film it's a real diamond in the rough and deserves more and your attention.

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Perfectly underwhelming

(Edit) 11/12/2020

About all that can be said about Valerian is I watched it until the end. That said, the whole film is an exercise in average. The performances, even from Clive Owen, go nowhere but there's nothing for any of the actors to invest in. The characters are flaccid, plot insipid and action dull. The CGI has that gnawing unreality to it that works against the film and the sense fun and wonder that it so desperate wants, and so desperately fails, to provide. The leads have so little chemistry it's almost impossible to imagine why they were cast except it's obvious considering Besson's continued obsession with young models. At least Flash Gordon (4K restoration or no) though never a great film, generated a sense of outlandish fun, whereas Valerian (the film and the character) barely generates a shrug of the shoulders. Some might wonder if this film might in twenty years be re-evaluated but don't bet on it, it's just too average. It's not so bad it's bad, it's so average it's just plodding.

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Gonks Go Beat

Cheap puppets and sets and a strange charm

(Edit) Updated 23/02/2020

To be fair the distributor, Network, in the run up to releasing this film didn't suggest it was any lost classic. They may have called it demented and observed a fair few of the cast looked more than a little bit embarrassed and they'd probably be right. Nevertheless, Gonks go Beat does have a bizarrely charming titled sequence - arguably the best bit of the film and is somewhere between Saul Bass and The Clangers - the remainder of the film are a series of musical acts with some sequences that try and tell some form of story. Does the story matter? Not really, but there's some 60s R&B energy to some of the Beatland acts (Beatland? you ask, well the story is about a conflict between Beatland and Balladisle that needs resolving), and some quite average Balladisle balladry but there are some pleasing inventive moments, like the musical invasion and all in all it's an intriguing historical relic. Relic it is, because the story itself isn't good enough and nor is the music, but at least for all it's cheapness, it's never staid. It's not dated though very much of its time and an intriguing bit of cinematic history. As long as you take it for what it is and expect no more, than it's a somewhat bewildering 90 minutes but at least the film tried to do something - even if it has some terribly judged moments, the dance sequence anyone? - different and for that better than another 100 superhero movies.

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Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41

The masterpiece of the series

(Edit) 01/10/2019

Considering that the Female Prisoner Scorpion movies are essentially exploitation films (though interestingly it seems the concept doesn't exist in Japan), Jailhouse 41 is the one that breaks all the rules. It functions certainly as an exploitation film but moreover is startlingly art-house and innovative, for instance in how it tells the back-stories of lead characters. (I won't spoil how.) And at the centre is a near silent Meiko Kaji who does more with her expression than a million lines of dialogue could ever hope to convey. True, there are some scenes that are not pleasant (but intentionally so) and the men are almost all cartoonishly terrible human beings but this a true diamond in the rough and a film that you hope to find: unique, remarkable and that you want to watch time and again.

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Defence of the Realm

Sleeper

(Edit) 24/08/2019

Defence of the Realm is a real sleeper. It has a cast that most people would die for, including the underrated Byrne as the lead but most importantly it's in many ways an old fashioned thriller. Despite the 80s action-thriller boom, this eschews action for plot and for character. It's not perfect though, the main offender being the film has a bizarre 80s soundtrack that doesn't really fit with the film but otherwise I've always felt this to film to be a real diamond in the rough.

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Masque of the Red Death

Surprisingly...

(Edit) 10/08/2019

...perverse and hypnotic, for a Corman production. Masque of the Red Death is for me a real diamond in the rough, it's a film that belies its low cost interior and manages to seduce, in part because Price lowers some of the hamminess and what's there fits with the feel of the film. It also has an appropriate perverseness to it, again helped by the performances from Court, Asher and Magee, especially Asher. The 'hero, well, ignore him, he doesn't matter in the least, just sit back and enjoy a surprisingly hypnotic Corman movie that is far more than the sum of its parts and actually, its parts are pretty damn good.

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Gangsta.

Starts well...

(Edit) 05/08/2019

Gangsta shows real promise in the first two thirds. It treats its subject in a more adult manner than most, with focus on characters and a life lived skating on thin ice. Sadly towards the very end it degenerates into anime tropes and blandly generic storytelling that suggests no one really knew what to do with all the treads the story had started to weave. Maybe it's best described as: the first disc made me think this was buy it territory but by the end I was fast forwarding as I was so frustrated at how they could suddenly get it all so... ploddingly generic.

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The Fifth Cord

Moments of brilliance

(Edit) 28/03/2019

It's not quite your average Gialli, which is unsurprising coming from the director of Footsteps on the Moon and The Possessed, though this film feels more in tune with that genre than say The Possessed, which is as much arthouse as it is a thriller. The performances are definitely a cut above in The Fifth Cord and there's more than a hint of Argento at his best about the film though it is a bit slow to get going, but nevertheless there are moments of visual brilliance throughout. Despite its slight shortcomings it is a film that definitely leaves you feeling enriched for having watched it, which is more than you can say for most films than exist as entertainment. Alongside his other work, it is a film that makes you wish Bazzoni had just made more films.

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Philip Marlowe: Private Eye

Decent, and with Boothe an excellent Marlowe

(Edit) 09/03/2019

It seems this is actually the second series, the first not yet released and is meant to be superior to this. Nevertheless a good dose of 30s Marlowe, no attempt to update the stories, which is definitely a good thing. The best thing though is Boothe, who plays a Marlowe somewhere between Mitchum and Bogart - but never tries to imitate them. There's something in Boothe's manner that fits the part. You can tell that there's been some money spent on the series by the nascent HBO, no wobbly sets and the acting is mainly fine - occasionally there's the odd weakness of scripting but it hits the right feel. Generally I found this got better as it went along, with the best episode being the final one, the claustrophobic Red Wind. What lets it down though is the print is very much early DVD better than VHS but not crisp like we'd expect if this was pressed today. Shame, really. 3 1/2 out of five.

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Laurin

Has potential...

(Edit) 24/01/2019

...but flawed here by a poor print and only a terrible English dub, though a German film. Disappointing because there is a lot of well sustained mood but eventually undermined by a poor release. Though to be fair, some people call this twisty and it's not. the Who Did It is obvious not that that matters because it feels to me to be more of a mood piece. Still worth watching for the atmosphere, you just wish you could watch it in the original German and in a shiny new transfer that the film probably deserves.

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Mikey and Nicky

Could be a great film but terrible print

(Edit) 09/11/2018

The title says it all. The print is an unwatchable, sub-VHS rip. it's shaky, blurry, the sound is bad. Wait till someone releases a version of the film that deserves viewing.

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The Last Man on Earth

Could be a great film but unwatchable print

(Edit) 11/08/2018

I was looking forward to what seemed to be a more faithful version of the novel I Am Legend but sadly this print is terrible, like someone has taken a poor VHS print and directly applied it to the DVD. Avoid, like the plague.

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