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Monday, 14 October 2019

Based on a novel by Stephen King, “The Dark Half” is an attempt by zombie maestro George A. Romero to make a more commercial, studio-produced horror movie. Timothy Hutton (The Haunting of Hill House, “Ordinary People”) plays author and university tutor Thad Beaumont. Unbeknownst to Thad, as a child he had remnants of a partially-absorbed twin removed from his brain after experiencing a series of debilitating headaches.

Some twenty years later, grown up Thad is married with two baby children and is doing rather well for himself thanks to the success of some grizzly horror novels, released under the secret pseudonym George Stark. A blackmailing incident forces Thad to go public and abandon his alternate career, but this triggers the onset of some horrific murders, with all the evidence pointing to Thad himself. Is the writer going crazy or is some supernatural force emerging?

Sunday, 06 October 2019

Gary Cooper won an Oscar for his starring role in this taut Western. He plays Will Kane, a newly-retired marshal who is brimming with joy after his marriage to a beautiful woman (Grace Kelly), but who finds himself obliged to return to duty when a ghost from his past threatens his home and civilised way of life. Kane turns to the townsfolk for support but struggles to find anyone willing to stick their neck on the line.

The movie collected a further three Oscars for Editing, Music and Original Song ‘High Noon (“Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’”)’, but was vilified by some who perceived it as a critique of the McCarthyite, anti-Communist witch-hunts going on at the time. The narrative was based on an idea by writer Carl Foreman combined with a short story by John W. Cunningham called ‘The Tin Star’, and directed by Fred Zinnemann (“From Here to Eternity”, “The Day of the Jackal”).

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Sylvester Stallone and Donald Sutherland star in this prison thriller from the late 1980s. Stallone (“Rocky”, “First Blood”) plays Frank, essentially a good man seeing out the end of his sentence for protecting a friend in danger. Frank is transferred to a max security facility where Sutherland (“Don’t Look Now”, “The Hunger Games”) is Warden Drumgoole, a man bent on revenge against Frank for a past escape that harmed his career.

Drumgoole rigs the system so that Frank’s life is made a living hell, manipulating the guards and inmates in a bid to force him into committing an act that extends his stay indefinitely. Meanwhile, Frank tries to form a small group of trustworthy, like-minded cell mates who will look out for each other and make the experience tolerable. John Amos (“Die Hard 2”), Sonny Landham (“Predator”) and Tom Sizemore (“Saving Private Ryan”) also star.

Friday, 13 September 2019

“Jimmie Blacksmith” is a movie that puts Australia’s struggle with institutionalised racism and colonialism at the turn of the 20th Century under a microscope. Jimmie (newcomer Tommy Lewis – “The Proposition”) is the son of a white father and Aborigine mother, fostered by missionary parents who educate him and send him out into the world, hoping their charge can break free of the perceived backwardness of the indigenous people

Jimmie is highly motivated and refuses to let a few rejections break his will to succeed. He gets a series of menial jobs but is persistently exploited and mistreated by his white bosses. Marriage to a white girlfriend only serves to stir tensions up further, and when some of his Aborigine family come visiting, events take a bloody, tragic turn. The story is based on real-life events which were fictionalised by author Thomas Keneally.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Martin Sheen and Tony Musante make their feature film debuts in this hard-hitting, urban thriller from 1967. Sheen (“Apocalypse Now”, “Badlands”) and Musante (“The Last Run”, Oz) play a couple of street thugs who terrorise the passengers on a New York subway train in the middle of the night. Drunk and unruly, the pair block the exits and work their way around the coach, mentally and physically poking and prodding their fellow travellers to try to provoke a reaction.

The cast also includes Beau Bridges (“The Fabulous Baker Boys”) as an injured army Private, Brock Peters (“To Kill a Mockingbird”, Admiral Cartwright in the 4th and 6th “Star Trek” movies and DS9’s Joseph Sisko) as an angry, anti-white rights activist, Ruby Dee (“American Gangster”, “Do the Right Thing”) as his quiet wife, Jack Gilford (the “Cocoon” movies) as one half of an older couple and Robert Fields (“The Stepford Wives”, “The Blob”) as an awkward gay man seeking friendship.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Eureka Entertainment has released “Used Cars”, for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK. John Milius and Steven Spielberg originally had the idea of making a comedy about second-hand car salesmen. They pitched it to Spielberg’s protégé at Universal, Robert Zemeckis, and his writing partner Bob Gale (“Back to the Future” trilogy, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”). The duo had just written the script for “1941” for Spielberg, and they were all enamoured with pop-culture.

The film takes a swipe at the salesmen whose persuasive pitches transformed rattling wrecks into prized items, something they most certainly are not. Kurt Russell (“Escape from New York”, “Big Trouble in Little China”) is Rudy Russo, the top salesmen at the ‘New Deal’ used car lot run by Luke Fuchs (Jack Warden). Caught up in a family feud between Luke and his brother Roy (also played by Warden) who runs the flashier rival ‘Auto Emporium’ across the street, Rudy must put his grifting skills into overdrive as the battle for sales supremacy escalates into all-out war!

Monday, 22 July 2019

“Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” is considered one of the highlights of a particular chapter of director Robert Altman’s career. Between the box office disappointment of “Popeye” (1980) and the explosive comeback of “The Player” (1992), Altman returned to low-budget independent film-making, often experimenting with how adapting theatre texts could be made to work for cinema and television.

This film also jump-started the acting career of Cher, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role as Sissy, one of the “Disciples of James Dean,” an all-female fan club devoted to the late icon. They are meeting for a 20-year reunion at a crumbling FW Woolworth’s ‘Five and Dime’ in a small Texas town, noted as September 30, 1975 on the banners put up in the store. Reuniting Altman with his previous stars Sandy Dennis (“That Cold Day in the Park”) and Karen Black (“Nashville”), and providing Kathy Bates with an early feature role, “Come Back…” is a study of nostalgia’s ability to distort the past, and another of the director’s portraits of the friendships between women.

Friday, 19 July 2019

First announced in 2003 and a labour of love for James Cameron before he handed over directorial reins to Robert Rodriquez, “Alita” is a wondrous movie about a cyborg rescued from a scrap heap who goes on a quest to find out who she is, and who she used to be. Floating above the Earth is Zalem, the only sky city to survive a devastating war with Mars. Only the privileged live there, whilst those down on the planet’s surface face a daily struggle to survive.

In this dystopia, Alita (Rosa Salazar – “Bird Box”, “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”) is rebuilt by altruistic Dr Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz – “Spectre”, “Django Unchained”). She befriends a friendly lad called Hugo (Keean Johnson – Nashville, Euphoria) and soon realises that although she is suffering from amnesia, she has very special fighting and acrobatic skills that will come in handy in such a competitive and dangerous environment.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Triple Oscar winner “Coming Home” is an emotional drama about the impact of the Vietnam War on U.S. soldiers mentally and/or physically injured in battle, and their families back home. Jane Fonda, John Voight and Bruce Dern headline the cast. Sally (Fonda – “Klute”, “Barbarella”) says goodbye to her slightly starchy husband, Captain Bob Hyde (Dern – “Silent Running”, “Nebraska”) as he heads off to join the conflict.

Forced to move off the military base, Sally befriends the girlfriend of another soldier, and takes a job in a local hospital caring for wounded troops. She hits it off with Luke (Voight – “Midnight Cowboy”, “Deliverance”), a furious and immensely frustrated spinal injury victim who she went to college with and helps him find a new purpose in life. As the reacquainted friends grow closer, the distance between Sally and her absent husband increases.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

It’s bizarre to think that a war film owes a little of its high profile to mentions in a Spike Milligan sketch show, but it’s true in the case of “The Cockleshell Heroes”. This is an action thriller based on true events, making its debut on Blu-ray as part of the Eureka Classics range. Co-star David Lodge was one of the company for Spike’s BBC series Q, and Spike would delight in frequently telling the audience that Lodge was “in Cockleshell Heroes” – where he played Marine Ruddock.

The film, released in 1955, was directed by and starred Oscar-winning José Ferrer as Major Geoffrey Stringer. He also played Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV in “Dune”, had guest roles in the likes of Matlock, The Love Boat, Newhart, Quincy ME, Fantasy Island and Magnum PI, and was also uncredited as a narrator for Bewitched. He was supported in “Cockleshell” by Oscar-nominated Trevor Howard as Captain Hugh Thompson. A famous actor, he appeared in the likes of “Ghandi”, “The Third Man”, and was one of the Elders in “Superman”.

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