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Paul Fogarty "Hopeless film addict!" (LA, United States)
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Sweeney / Sweeney 2 (Widescreen) [2 Discs]
Sweeney / Sweeney 2 (Widescreen) [2 Discs]
DVD ~ John Thaw
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 181.84
7 used & new from CDN$ 88.70

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shut it sunshine you�re nicked!, April 22 2003
If you've never heard of, or seen, "The Sweeney" before, these two films were spun off from an original TV series made in the UK from 1975 - 1978. "The Sweeney" was a hard-hitting - for its time - police series set in the world of the Flying Squad - in Cockney Rhyming Slang "Sweeney Todd" = Flying Squad - a team of plain clothes detectives, based in London's New Scotland Yard, dealing with serious crime. The show mainly concerned itself with the exploits of "Detective Inspector Jack Regan," played by John Thaw, and his sidekick, "Detective Sergeant George Carter," played by Dennis Waterman.
What set this show apart from every cop show that had come before, at least in the UK, were the characters of Regan and Carter themselves. There was no master sleuth solving crimes with the help of a 7% solution, no coldly logical Poirot solving cases with a generous helping of mustache wax, no comical Columbo hiding his intellect behind a shabby raincoat and interminable "last" questions, and no Harry Callahan style uber-cop toting "The most powerful handgun in the World!" Nope, Regan and Carter were just a couple of ordinary blokes, smokin', swearin', gettin' blind drunk - whether on or off duty! - shaggin' birds, and endlessly chasin' skirts... they just happened to be cops!
Of the pair, Regan was by far the most ruthless, he wasn't too concerned if he had to beat a confession out of some slag, or lean on a grass to get what he wanted, which was basically to put the bad guys behind bars. George was just as down to earth and pragmatic in his approach to the "Law," but tried to do things ever so slightly more by the book than his boss, and would often cover for him when things got sticky with the Brass. The show was strong meat for its time, and generated quite a lot of complaints from those who liked their policemen to be seen politely helping little old ladies across the road... I guess you could say it was the "NYPD Blue," or "The Shield," of its day.
"Sweeney!" and "Sweeney 2" are really two extended episodes of the show, but they do reign in the rhyming slang that was such a part of the TV series as the films were obviously intended for a wider audience. "Sweeney!" opened out the usual TV format and involved Regan and Carter in dirty goings on in high places, corrupt politicians, murdered prostitutes, and blackmail, while "Sweeney 2" took them back to their roots, in having to deal with a ruthless team of blaggers - bank robbers. And strangely enough, after watching both films back to back, for only the first time since I saw them in the cinema on their original release, it's "Sweeney!" that, for my money, comes off best.
The film has a great ensemble cast, including the wonderful Ian Bannen as the corrupt politician in question, and Barry Foster - sporting what has to be the Worlds most god-awful American accent! - as his nefarious press agent. The story twists and turns and ends up with Regan on the run, through the streets of London, from a team of well armed hit men, with a high-class prostitute in tow, trying to figure out what on Earth's going on! This story allows Thaw to explore Jack Regan's character in some depth, and the climax of the film shows you just how ruthless he can be.
"Sweeney 2" should've been a blinder; Regan and Carter are chasing 'round London after a gang of blaggers who wave gold-plated sawn-off Purdy shotguns in peoples faces to get what they want, and they're not shy about using them either! But for some reason I can't put my finger on, the film just doesn't gel, it should, but for me it didn't. However, it's saved by some blackly comic scenes, especially the one where a young lady returns Regan's keys to him - in a very "personal" place - while he's sleeping off the booze, and a spectacularly violent ending.
I guess that with the arrival of the lovable "Mockney's," as seen in Guy Ritchies "Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," and "Snatch," plus his burgeoning coterie of imitators, Brit crime dramas have become ever so slightly fashionable. The best of the bunch, in my humble opinion, are the superb "Get Carter," starring Michael Caine, "The Long Good Friday," which was Bob Hoskins' powerhouse debut, and "Sexy Beast" which features a terrifying, blistering performance, by Ben Kingsley.
I'm not so sure how "Sweeney!" and "Sweeney 2" will play to an American audience unfamiliar with the series and the characters, but I gave these films a 5 Star review because, for me, they're a wonderful nostalgia rush, and take me back to my teens in the 70's. Ah yes, the 70's... the "Decade that taste forgot!" An innocent time, when people could wear platform shoes, voluminous flares, migraine inducing tie-dyes, even mullets, and feel no shame. It's said that if you remember the 60's you weren't really there. Well, if you remember the 70's you probably cringe at the tasteless, tacky horror of it all. Punk had yet to really put the boot in, Elton John still had hair, Michael Jackson was recognizably human, and the world was mercifully free of Britney Spears!
But I digress, "The Sweeney," whether it's the TV series or the films, stands or falls on the relationship between Regan and Carter, this is what binds the stories together, as well as tight plotting, and excellent characterization across the board, not only from Thaw and Waterman, but the minor characters as well. In fact, watching these films is like perusing a who's who of British TV actors from the 70's, including the ever dependable Denholm Elliot, in "Sweeney 2," who US viewers will recognize as "Marcus Brody" from the "Indiana Jones" movies.

The Day the Earth Stood Still
The Day the Earth Stood Still
DVD ~ Michael Rennie
Price: CDN$ 11.98
50 used & new from CDN$ 2.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Gort� Klaatu barada nikto�, April 5 2003
To those of us of a "certain" age, those words will surely resonate far more strongly than "Use the Force, Luke," or even "Beam me up, Scotty!" (Hey, I know the Trek line is a misquote, but you know what I mean!) "The Day The Earth Stood Still" is THE seminal Sci Fi film of the 50's, the film that finally treated extraterrestrials as something more than bug-eyed monsters intent on taking over the World, stealing our beer, and our girlfriends, for no other reason than that they could!
The film hits the ground running, through a documentary style montage, we see worldwide reaction to the news that a strange craft is orbiting the Earth at incredible speed. Cut to Washington DC, and said craft, a beautifully classic "saucer," lands in a park, scattering picnickers and baseball players like confetti. The next thing we know, the Military are on hand ASAP to deal with the "threat;" the saucer opens, and out steps Klaatu, an emissary from a "Federation of Planets" type body. They have been observing us with increasing worry; at our endless propensity for self-destruction, our development of nuclear weapons, but more importantly, our first, faltering steps into space.
Klaatu holds out with a gift for the President, and is immediately shot by a trigger-happy GI, thinking the device is an alien "death-ray..." not a particularly good start to interstellar relationships! As Klaatu writhes on the ground, from out of the ship steps the "iron fist" within Klaatu's "velvet glove;" an 8ft tall, indestructible robot named Gort. Now Gort HAS a death-ray, and he unleashes it in short order, not indiscriminately against the troops and civilians, but with precision, as he zaps rifles, artillery pieces, and finally a couple of tanks, into oblivion!
When you think about it, this is an incredibly original, and thoughtful, scene. In just about every film of this kind that had come before - and more than a few that have come since! - this kind of action would have resulted in wholesale destruction...Anyway, Gort's reaction to the attack on Klaatu betrays a superior intelligence at work: a measured response to a threat situation, instead of just nuking the planet to dust and ashes!
Klaatu is taken to hospital for treatment. But frustrated at "our" inability to come together and heed his "message," he transforms himself, with the help of a freshly dry-cleaned suit, and a monogrammed briefcase, into "Mr Carpenter," so he can lose himself within human society, all the better to study us. It is in this part of the film that the 1950's "Reds under the bed" paranoia really comes into focus.
Mr Carpenter befriends a mother, "Helen," wonderfully played by Patricia Neal, and her young son "Bobby" played by Billy Gray. And I think it's this casting, plus the characterization, that does so much to make the film work. The main casting coup was getting Michael Rennie in the role of Klaatu. At the time, Rennie was a stage actor working in Britain, he'd never been seen in the US, so when he walks out of the saucer, he really is, to all intents and purposes, an "alien," unknown and unfamiliar. Tall, almost painfully slim, aesthetic in appearance, urbane in his manner, he really was as far removed from the "alien invader" look and persona as it was possible to get! Patricia Neal's "Helen" is a single mother, an unusual lead role in 50's cinema, and she imparts her character with a great deal of self-sufficiency and "grit." Again, not the usual running/screaming/fainting leading lady. Billy Gray is a joy to watch, he portrays "Bobby" with that breathless wide-eyed innocence - "...can we go see the spaceship mister, can we, huh , can we please mister?!?!?!" - that really only existed, if ever, in 50's America.
Luminous black and white photography, a solid story, a tight, pared-to-the-bone script, naturalistic(!) performances, integral "news broadcasts" and "interviews," plus a gorgeous soundtrack, all come together to tell the fantastical tale of TDTESS in an almost documentary style.
This was one of the first films I looked for on Amazon when I got my hands on a new shiny-disc player last year, and having watched this wonderful film on TV and video over the years, I can say that this DVD release was well worth the wait! The restoration is superb - never having owned a Laser Disc system I can't comment on those versions - and is light years ahead of the last video version I purchased back in the 90's. My one regret is that while restoring the film they didn't take out the "wires" and the "lacing," on Gort's suite, that can be momentarily seen in one pivotal sequence. But that is a minor gripe; this is a superb, intelligent Sci Fi film, fully deserving of its "classic" status, and a must-have for any serious lover of the genre!

Wicker Man [2 Discs] [Widescreen & Wooden Box]
Wicker Man [2 Discs] [Widescreen & Wooden Box]
DVD ~ Edward Woodward
Offered by niff78
Price: CDN$ 114.97
7 used & new from CDN$ 44.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Shocks are so much better absorbed with the knees bent´¿, April 5 2003
So says Lord Summerisle in ´¿The Wicker Man,´¿ a true cinematic rarity, an original, and ´¿intelligent,´¿ horror film, just as Kubrick´¿s ´¿2001´¿ is the quintessential ´¿intelligent´¿ Sci Fi film. Boasting a superbly constructed story, an exemplary caste tailor made for their roles, and a truly shocking and disturbing ending, ´¿The Wicker Man´¿ is a masterful exercise in escalating dread, with a harrowing climax that will leave you drained.
I once heard this film referred to as the ´¿Citizen Kane´¿ of horror films, but if I were to compare it to one of Orson´¿s greats, I would say it bares a closer resemblance to the ´¿Magnificent Ambersons.´¿ The reason for this is plain when you´¿ve searched for the film in the database; you find two listings, ´¿The Wicker Man,´¿ and ´¿The Wicker Man (Limited Edition).´¿ The former is the original cinematic release of the film, butchered and incomplete, the latter is a restored version that gives us 11 minutes of unseen footage, most of it important back story fleshing out the central character of Sergeant Neil Howie, wonderfully played by Edward Woodward. I said ´¿a´¿ restored version, because what´¿s presented to us is still not the complete film, but for more on that you have to watch the excellent documentary included in the ´¿extras.´¿
Without giving too much away for those who haven´¿t seen it, the basic story is as follows. Sergeant Howie - monstrously uptight and VERY Christian - a policeman on the Scottish mainland, receives an anonymous letter from Summerisle, off the Western Coast, telling him about the disappearance of a young girl, Rowan Morrison, and hinting at dire events to come. Howie flies off to the isle alone to investigate, and collides headfirst with the pre-Christian, or Pagan, belief system practiced there.
Everywhere is godless symbolism; pagan fetishes, rampant lasciviousness, a mother putting a frog into a child´¿s mouth to cure a sore throat, the villagers, and even the Rowan´¿s own family, denying all knowledge of the girl. As if that wasn´¿t enough, the good Sergeant Howie discovers something that for him, is absolutely the final straw´¿ a ruined and desecrated church.
With his search for the girl being stonewalled at every turn, and the realization that, from his point of view, the islanders are an utterly godless bunch, our hero turns, in high dudgeon, and extreme exasperation at the islanders beliefs and practices, to the head of the community, Lord Summerisle, played with relish and splendid urbanity by non other than Christopher Lee!
His assumption that a ´¿Lord of the Land´¿ will behave in a civilized and Christian manner is rudely dashed when he sees young girls dancing naked ´¿round a fire in the Manor grounds. Incredulous at this wanton display, he takes his Lordship to task, to which his Lordship calmly replies, ´¿Well naturally! It's much too dangerous to jump through fire with their clothes on!´¿ Poor Sergeant Howie really is out of his depth, his Lordship not only condones the godless rituals of the islanders, he´¿s their spiritual leader, ´¿We are a deeply religious people,´¿ he gently admonishes the blustering police officer.
With the knowledge that he is utterly alone, Sergeant Howie determines to discover the truth about Rowan Morrison. As distasteful as it is to him, he investigates the island religion in the local library, and becomes convinced that young Rowan is being held against her will, to be ´¿used´¿ in some dreadful pagan ritual. From here the story accelerates to its harrowing conclusion, one that made my blood run cold when I saw it first, and still has the power to unsettle, all these years later.
This is an extraordinary film, literate and lyrical, part horror film, part investigative thriller; it is a film I think you could genuinely say is unique, just don´¿t expect any chainsaws or psychos! The performances are all 5 Star, with Christopher Lee in particular stating in the documentary something I have heard often over the years, that it is his favorite performance´¿ an opinion I certainly would NOT disagree with! In fact I would go so far as to say that I think Lee and Woodward have never been better.
As I said before, the ´¿Limited Edition´¿ is, without a doubt, the version to watch, but be warned, whilst the transfer of the film is excellent overall, the restored footage is of noticeably inferior quality´¿ although it does come in a very cool wooden box! Another element of the film that deserves recognition is the soundtrack; written especially for the production, it has a wonderful late 60´¿s/early 70´¿s folk feel about it, which adds immensely to the atmosphere of the film. And the documentary I´¿ve mentioned? Excellent! The makers managed to sit down with all the major player in the film, including Woodward and Lee, indeed, this is one of the most extensive interviews I´¿ve seen with Lee, who has his own theories as to what actually happened to the original ´¿Wicker Man´¿ footage! If you are looking for an intelligent and unsettling film experience, then ´¿The Wicker Man´¿ is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

High Plains Drifter (Widescreen)
High Plains Drifter (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Clint Eastwood
Price: CDN$ 5.00
41 used & new from CDN$ 1.50

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hell is a town named Lago..., Feb. 18 2003
"High Plains Drifter" was only Clint Eastwood's second directorial effort, but already we can see that a master is at work, and if that wasn't enough, he also stared in, and produced the film, through his own "Malpaso" company. The film is very straightforward, at least on the surface. The small, isolated coastal town of Lago doesn't much take to strangers, rather like the desert town in Spencer Tracy's "Bad Day At Black Rock," and for a similar reason; Lago hides dark and dismal secrets that have damned it's residents to a living Hell. Then one day, from out of the desert's shimmering heat-haze, rides "The Stranger," and as it says on the jacket, "They'll never forget the day he drifted into town."
The Stranger, nameless and taciturn, is an obvious twist on the "Man With No Name," but taken here to it's logical extreme; Eastwood has given us, in the character of The Stranger, a figure that is undoubtedly one of the most brutally amoral anti-heroes in film history. With a running time of only 84 minutes, Eastwood doesn't waste a minute of that screen-time in getting the story into high gear. Starting with an eerily atmospheric, deceptively calm, opening sequence, The Stranger arrives in Lago. Within minutes he has gunned down 3 thugs who baited and goaded him, thinking they had an easy mark, and in the films most controversial scene, 'rapes' a woman he meets in the street!
I said that "High Plains Drifter" was a straightforward film, at least on the surface, but to truly understand the actions of The Stranger you have to look beyond the obvious. "High Plains Drifter" plays as a revenger, but it's more than that, it's a psychological western, and one, I think, that stands alongside Brando's "One Eyed Jacks;" The Stranger is as a mirror to the rotten and corrupted soul of Lago.
The town is fearfully awaiting the arrival of three ghosts from its past, convicted killers who were set up and imprisoned on trumped-up charges; soon to be released, their first order of business will be to head back to Lago and extract their pound of flesh from each and every one of the people who betrayed them. And that brings us full-circle, the thugs The Stranger gunned down were hired by the town to protect them from the returning killers!
Most of the townspeople, but especially the mayor and his cronies, are hypocrites and gutless cowards, both morally and physically; unable to live with their past actions, they use weasel words and spurious justifications to salve their collective conscience, and in doing so, Lago itself becomes their prison. After witnessing the speed and accuracy of The Stranger, they beg him to stay and protect them. At first he's not interested, 'til they offer him "anything," an "open check," for his services... he takes them at their word. 3 pairs of hand-tooled boots, a gun belt, a silver-tooled saddle, unlimited gut-rot, beer, and cigars later, The Stranger tells them he won't do their dirty work for them, but he'll teach them how to do it for themselves.
I said that you have to look beyond the obvious to understand the actions of The Stranger. While in the store he gives two jars of candy and a stack of blankets to an old Indian and his grandchildren, not out of any act of kindness towards them, but because he knows it'll upset the racist store owner. Similarly he watches as the boot-maker delightedly calculates his check for the boots etc, only to smile as the man is told it's all free of charge, the bar owner is overjoyed as The Stranger buys him a cigar and orders a round for everyone, only to be crushed by the same news. He then humiliates the mayor and sheriff in front of the whole town by giving their positions to the town joke, a midget named Mordecai. And that brings us to the 'rape' scene that has upset so many people. As I said, The Stranger is a mirror to the towns rotten soul; it's blatantly obvious that the woman wants this powerful and masculine man, but on HER terms, well, she gets what she wants, but on HIS terms. In fact the only character that manages to surprise The Stranger is the Preacher, who shows, in one cynically comical scene, that he's quite capable of serving God and mammon both! An ambush of the killers is planned, and as a final act of degradation, The Stranger has the residents paint the whole town red, renames it "Hell," and sets up a "Welcome Home Boys" street party for the returning killers... needless to say, they return to one HELL of a party!
"High Plains Drifter" is a wonderful film that works on many different levels; watch it for the fun in seeing The Stranger blowing away the bad guys and humiliating the craven townspeople, or delve deep inside the character of The Stranger and see just how far "revenge" can be taken... HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Get Carter (1971) [Import]
Get Carter (1971) [Import]
DVD ~ Michael Caine
Price: CDN$ 18.70
12 used & new from CDN$ 10.50

5.0 out of 5 stars The girl... tell me about, the girl., Jan. 26 2003
This review is from: Get Carter (1971) [Import] (DVD)
"Get Carter" has got to be THE standout performance of Michael Caine's highly variable career. Caine, who was the undisputed "King of Cool" in 60's swinging London, has readily admitted that he took many a script just for the money... something he had in common with Sir Laurence Olivier! Anyway, I guess this is why we not only have the superlative "Carter," plus "Zulu," "The Ipcress File," "The man who would be king," and "Little Voice" amongst others, but we also have "The Swarm" and, "Jaws: The Revenge," 'nuff said?!
Caine's performance in "Carter" is breathtaking; you can't take your eyes off him for a moment as he completely jettisons his likable "cheeky cockney geezer" persona, seen in such films as "The Italian Job," and "Alfie." Here, Caine plays Jack Carter, a cold hearted, cold-blooded killer, an enforcer for the London Mob. I jokingly mentioned "Jaws: The Revenge" in my introduction, but one of the characteristics that makes Caine's portrayal of Jack Carter so memorable are his eyes. Throughout the whole film they're dead, like a sharks, with not a trace of humanity reflected in them; they say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and with that being the case, Jack Carter's soul must be a thing of unmitigated darkness.
Carter is out to discover the truth behind his brother's death in the North of England, and if needs be, to exact bloody revenge on all concerned. The official report is that his brother's death was a suicide, needless to say, Carter doesn't believe that for a second... and with good reason.
The film begins with a prologue set in London, where Jack asks for time off from his enforcing duties to travel north; permission is reluctantly given, and Carter soon finds himself immersed in a desperately sleazy world of pornography and drugs. He starts making waves almost as soon as he arrives, roughing up the locals, asking questions people don't want to answer; "Do you, know a man, named Albert Swift?" It's obvious that no one, from the local porn-king, to his dead brother's girl, who may, or may not know the truth, wants him snooping around.
The story of "Get Carter" is brutally straightforward, and this is reflected in the actions of the title character. As the evidence starts to mount that his brother was in fact murdered, Jack becomes a terrifying angel of death, cutting a bloody swathe through assorted local low-life and scum. And it's this aspect of the film that sets it, and the character of Carter himself, apart from just about every other "gangster" film ever made. With neither pity nor remorse, and driven by the only emotion he can feel, a burning hatred for those who killed his brother and corrupted his family, Jack Carter sets about single-handedly exacting a terrible revenge.
In nearly all gangster movies, big, when it comes to guns, is good, and BIGGER is BETTER. The 'hero' invariably dispatches his adversaries to the grave with a witty quip and a hail of lead, preferably of the .357 or .44 magnum variety, lovingly captured in a hi-definition, slow motion ballet of death. This is a modern cinematic fantasy, and when done well - see nearly anything directed by John Woo - gives the viewer a visceral thrill to be sure, but it's not real.
The violence perpetrated by Jack Carter is real, shockingly so. He has a gun, two actually, a shotgun he uses in a blackly comic scene to warn off a couple of the boys sent from London to bring him back, and a pistol he uses in a brief shoot-out, but mainly shoves in peoples faces to make sure he gets what he wants. When it comes to dealing out retribution, knifing a man to death who's on his knees begging for his life, beating a man almost unconscious and then throwing him off an office block, half drowning a woman in her bath, kidnapping another woman and injecting her with a heroin overdose, or beating a man to death with the stock of his shotgun, Jack definitely prefers the personal touch... he's just that kind of a guy!
There's a rawness to "Get Carter" that is almost unique. The portrayal of the criminal underworld is grim and repellant, with, thankfully, no attempt at all made to mitigate the actions or character of Jack Carter, a very brave move on the part of the director, Mike Hodges, and Michael Caine himself. It would have been easy for Caine to have given us a nod or a wink, something to let us know that Carter isn't all THAT bad, but what we get is Jack, in all his undiluted savagery.
The most telling scene, and a stunning performance by Caine, is one where he's watching a porn film. What we see of the movie is shabby and degrading, and I won't go into details for obvious reasons. Jack watches, a cold, wry smile hovering around his lips as he enjoys a smoke, but his expression slowly changes to one of horror and disgust as he recognizes one of the participants. Then finally, and possibly for the first and only time, Jack Carter cries tears of pain and despair for another human being. This plays out wordlessly; you see it all written on Jack's face, as I said, a stunning performance by Michael Caine. "Get Carter" is an incredible film, it isn't always comfortable to watch, the final scenes will leave you drained and breathless, but it is a film I would recommend without any hesitation whatsoever.

Fail:Safe (Special Edition) (Bilingual)
Fail:Safe (Special Edition) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Henry Fonda
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 24.00
24 used & new from CDN$ 10.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Is it possible..., Jan. 20 2003
"Fail-Safe" has often been described as "Dr Strangelove" without the laughs - even in the Amazon review above! - well, as much as I'm a huge fan of "Strangelove," I feel that this description does "Fail-Safe" a terrible disservice. In "Strangelove" Kubrick took the Cold Ward doctrine of MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction, and turned it into a megaton black farce, whereas "Fail-Safe" takes the same concept and presents it as frighteningly banal reality. And it's this very ordinariness that makes "Fail-Safe," in my humble opinion, the superior and far more chilling film.
The basic set-up is simple; it's the early 1960's and the Cold War is pretty frosty. During the standard investigation of a UFO by the military, a possible incursion into US airspace by the Soviets, the nuclear bombers that are always in the air are sent towards their "Fail-Safe" points, about which they orbit while waiting to be sent to their targets if the UFO turns out to be a pre-emptive attack by the USSR. The alert turns out to be false, an off-course commercial airliner instead of the Red Hoards, and the various flights are recalled. But a technical error occurs, and one flight of 6 aircraft, armed with multiple 20 megaton nuclear weapons, passes beyond its "Fail-Safe" point and heads towards it's assigned target of Moscow.
What happened?! Is this a deliberate act of aggression on behalf of the USA, or is it a "glitch" as they claim, or are they running a double bluff, disguising an act of war as a technical error, or has the situation been engineered by the Russians as a pretext for a devastating counter strike; what are the Americans and the Russians to do, can they possibly trust each other? These are the central questions of the film.
The emotional core of the film is Henry Fonda as "The President;" the decent humanitarian personified. It's as if his character, "Juror No. 8/Mr Davis" from "12 Angry Men," has been made Commander In Chief. As he's desperately trying to convince the Soviet Premier that the nightmare of global destruction they're rushing toward is the result of a dreadful accident, he even uses the same line repeatedly that his character in "12 Angry Men" uses; "Is it possible?!" And these, by far, are the most riveting parts of the film, The President, locked away in his bunker beneath the White House with his interpreter, superbly played by a VERY young Larry Hagman, talking to the Soviet Premier on the Kremlin "Hot-Line."
Knowing that the Russians are watching, the President sends US fighters after the bombers to shoot them down before they can reach Soviet airspace; the attempt fails as each of the fighters runs out of fuel and ditches in arctic waters, losing the crews. He then contacts the Premier and explains the situation, the accident, and discusses what can be done to stop a nuclear war if Moscow is bombed.
And this scene, by far, is one of the most chilling ever filmed. The President, speaking through his interpreter, makes a desperate offer to the Soviets; a terrible sacrifice of blood will be made if even one of the bombers gets through and drops its payload on Moscow. I don't want to say anything else about this wonderful film and ruin it for you if you haven't already seen it, suffice to say, that this scene, almost 40 years on, still has the power to make your blood run cold.
But as superb as Fonda's performance is, the film is not wholly dependent upon him. There is a wonderful ensemble cast headed by Dan O'Herlihy - "The Old Man" from RoboCop - Walter Matthau, Frank Overton, and, in his first staring role, Fritz Weaver. Of the supporting cast, Walter Matthau, as the right wing Hawk, Professor Groeteschele, desperately urging the President to take advantage of the screw-up and nuke the Soviets to dust anyway, thus ensuring the final victory of Capitalism over Communism, almost steals the show; a wonderful performance. And Fritz Weaver, in his first staring role, takes his part and runs with it, as an uptight Colonel, gradually coming undone as the countdown towards WWIII accelerates.
This film, superbly acted by all concerned, even Dom DeLuise in a bit part as a weapons technician, and flawlessly directed by Sidney Lumet, is an almost forgotten masterpiece. Filmed in stark black and white, it has an almost documentary feel about it, and with the story set in just 4 main locations, there's a suffocating feeling of claustrophobia about the whole enterprise. This is, without a doubt, along with 1965's "The Bedford Incident" - WHEN are we going to get a DVD release?!?!?! - the greatest of the Cold War thrillers, and I recommend it without hesitation.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Ultimate Edition)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Ultimate Edition)
DVD ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger
Offered by ethanssgoodies
Price: CDN$ 29.99
36 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Terminator reborn..., Jan. 4 2003
Just like the original "Terminator," I can't imagine anyone reading this review, or looking at the Amazon entry and thinking about buying the film in it's "Ultimate Edition" DVD version, and not actually knowing what the film is about. The original "Terminator" became an icon; it entered our collective memories - "I'll be back!" - became a cultural phenomenon, a cinematic urban legend with a life all it's own, and "T2" is the next step in its evolution.
And 'evolution' is a good way of looking at it. "T2" is not some cheesy installment in a bloated cinematic franchise, designed to generate mega-$'s for all concerned, while shortchanging the viewer with a bland or worthless story line, cardboard FX, and Z-list performances. No, "T2" is a legitimate continuation of the original "Terminator," creating more of the backstory and mythology of the "Terminator" universe, and taking us closer to the day when Skynet achieves consciousness and decides to wage its war of global extermination against Mankind. In fact, the genesis of the "T2" story can be seen in one of the deleted scenes contained on the "Terminator, Special Edition" disc; Sarah Connor, tired of being hunted, decides to take the fight to Skynet's creator, the Cyberdyne Corporation, which, as shown in yet another deleted scene, is where the climactic fight against the original terminator took place!
And this, literally, is the key to "T2." When the original terminator was crushed in the press, the company salvaged its CPU/chip, damaged and inoperable, plus one arm. It's the research done on the CPU that leads to the computing breakthrough that leads to the creation of Skynet, which created the terminators in the first place! And just as Skynet sent a terminator back through time to ensure John Connor couldn't interfere with its plans, Sarah Connor attempts to stop the creation of Skynet itself in the present... you see where this is going? There're probably a couple of pretty nasty time-travel paradoxes involved in all of this - maybe we should ask Dr Who! - but it doesn't matter, the story carries you effortlessly along and doesn't let you start going 'round and 'round in those kinds of ever diminishing circles!
The basic set-up is as follows, having failed in killing Sarah Connor in the original "Terminator," Skynet dispatches yet another terminator, a state of the art T-1000, this time to kill John Connor while he's a young teenager. And just as before, the adult John Connor dispatches a guardian, in the shape of an old T-800 terminator, reprogrammed to protect him at all costs.
And it's the difference between the two terminators that is one of the main joys of the film. The T-1000 is a shape-shifting "liquid metal" creation, able to morph into almost any guise it needs, as long as the end result is the same basic size, or volume, as itself. This basic characteristic is one of the elements that delayed the making of "T2." James Cameron had the idea for the "shape shifter" when making the original "Terminator," but it took the intervening years for cinematic CGI FX to catch up with Cameron's imagination, so the T-1000 could be portrayed convincingly on-screen!
Robert Patrick plays the "human" T-1000, and his performance is as different from the original terminator as is the technology he represents. "Ahnald's" original performance set the standard, relentless and robotic, unstoppable, like a semi spinning out of control on an ice covered freeway; get out of the way or be obliterated. Robert Patrick gives a more subtle, more nuanced, performance; he's smaller, sleeker, faster, his is the relentlessness of a shark moving in for the kill, a thing of terrible beauty that cannot be swayed or negotiated with. But the T-1000 also knows something of human frailty, of pain, and how to use it to its advantage. Whereas the original terminator simply slaughtered anything that got in its way, the T-1000 actually tortures Sarah Connor in one scene in an effort to make her give up her son, telling her, "I know this must hurt..."
"Ahnald's" performance, as the old-tech T-800 model terminator, is also more varied, and this is explained in, what I think is, the most important scene deleted from the original theatrical release, but reinstated in this "Ultimate Edition." Sarah, having been broken out of an asylum by her son and his newest bestest buddy - his very own terminator! - is holed up in a disused gas station with John and the Terminator. The T-800 explains, while Sarah digs bullets out of its back, that it's possible for the terminators to learn, to adapt to their environments, but a switch on the CPU has to be reset to allow this behavior; the default setting is the unstoppable hunter killer, with no need of subtlety. But here's the catch, to make the change, which will allow the Terminator to better protect John, the CPU has to be removed, effectively shutting down the Terminator, then reset and reinstalled. The CPU is removed, but Sarah tries to destroy it, saying it'll be one less terminator, and John, exerting his authority for the first time, convinces his mother that they need the Terminator if they are to survive, and more importantly, stop the creation of Skynet. From here on in, the film roars to its finale as Sarah takes the fight to Cyberdyne by, literally, zeroing in on Dr Miles Dyson, the scientist who obsessively cracks the secret of the original terminator CPU.
"T2" lacks the sheer visceral punch of the original; it's a more refined, mature, and carefully thought out film, but that's no criticism, the set pieces will blow you away, and the CGI, absolutely state of the art at the time, STILL stands up today. This is controlled action and mayhem for grown-ups, and "Ahnald" was true to his word when he said, "I'll be back!"

The Others (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) [Import]
The Others (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) [Import]
DVD ~ Nicole Kidman
Offered by PaperbackshopCA
Price: CDN$ 7.77
31 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars BOO!!!, Jan. 3 2003
"The Others" is a cinematic rarity these days, a good, old fashioned, ghost story! In fact it's so old fashioned that some of the things you won't find in it are killer cyborgs, acid spewing aliens, or genetically engineered puking dog-thing snot-monsters! But don't worry, because what you will find is a superb story, a clutch of breathtaking performances, and a palpable sense of dread that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat 'til the very end.
The story is set during the last years of WWII on an island off the British coast. On this island is a secluded, fog-bound mansion, inhabited by a single mother, who's husband went off to the war, and their two children who suffer from a strange condition, "Xeroderma Pigmentosum," which means they are hyper-sensitive to light. The mansion is permanently shrouded in fog outside, and permanently dark inside, as the heavy drapes in each window are kept permanently shut to protect the children. Any prolonged exposure to full sunlight will result in the children being subjected to blistering, 3rd degree burns, or even death.
The mother, Grace Stewart, a breathtaking performance by Nicole Kidman, is overly protective of the children, to say the very least. She frets and worries incessantly about their condition, and is compulsive in her checking of door-locks, and the security of the drapes over the windows. The children, Anne and Nicholas, luminously portrayed by Alakina Mann and James Bentley, live a stifling twilight existence within the walls of the mansion, dealing as best they can with their medical condition, and the suffocating love of their mother.
As we meet Grace for the first time, screaming herself awake from an unseen nightmare, we can see that she's under incredible pressure, and at the end of her rope. She's barely able to cope with the loss of her husband, the children's condition, and running the mansion single-handedly, the servants having deserted the family a week ago, without even collecting their last weeks pay! But help arrives in the nick-of-time, in the shape of 3 estate workers, a housekeeper, scullery maid, and gardener. Grace is initially suspicious of the 3 as she had yet to post a "Help Wanted" ad in the village shop. The housekeeper, Mrs Mills, wonderfully played by Fionnula Flanagan, explains that they used to work at the mansion in years gone by, and called on the off-chance of finding work, in doubtless trying times.
As if the initial set-up isn't bizarre enough, with the arrival of the new staff things start to get really strange; inexplicable noises, talk of ghosts, a photographic "Book of the Dead," musical instruments playing unaccompanied... and Mrs Mills knows far more than she's letting on, as do the scullery maid and the gardener!
I'm not going to say anything else about the film; I don't want to spoil it for you if you haven't seen it already, I'll just say that I'm not ashamed to say I did NOT guess the final twist in the tale! In fact, I actually saw the film twice when it was first released, because the cinema was evacuated about half way through when there was a tornado warning in the area; I couldn't wait to go back and see it again the next day!!!
Much has been said about Nicole Kidman's performance, and I have to say she is amazing! Highly-strung, brittle, compulsive, fiercely protective of her children...and her accent is wonderful! She drives the film relentlessly, along with the performances of Fionnula Flanagan, and the children; James Bentley, as Nicholas, in particular, gives an incredible, jaw-dropping performance. But it's the writing and directing of Alejandro Amenabar that is the secret of "The Others." The story is wonderful, and the direction exemplary; Amenabar builds the tension and sense of dread relentlessly, 'til you don't think you can stand it any longer!
This is a 2-disc set, and the "extras" disc contains a couple of interesting items. There's the ubiquitous "making of" feature, and a documentary on a family who's children actually suffer from "Xeroderma Pigmentosum," the disease featured in "The Others." There's also an SFX feature... like I said, no killer cyborgs, snot monsters etc, what SFX?!?!?! I was certainly surprised by the explanation; this film just goes to show how subtle modern CGI effects can be.

A Beautiful Mind (Widescreen Awards Edition) (2002) [Import]
A Beautiful Mind (Widescreen Awards Edition) (2002) [Import]
DVD ~ Russell Crowe
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 10.59
43 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A numbers game..., Jan. 1 2003
"A Beautiful Mind" is a truly inspirational film... that really shouldn't work at all! Look at the subject matter: a withdrawn, socially inept mathematical genius comes up with a "Big Idea," has a nervous breakdown, wins a Nobel Prize, and lives happily ever after! (Not the usual mindless "blockbuster" fodder that fills the multiplexes!)
Okay, so that's a rather trite summing up of the film, but the story of John Forbes Nash is an inspiration in itself, and this filmed version, as opposed to the book, which I have not as yet read, has an immediacy that grabs you and immerses you in the troubled mind of our, ultimately, likeable and sympathetic hero.
Nash didn't have a nervous breakdown per-se, but suffered from schizophrenia for most of his adult life. Not wishing to spoil the film for you if you haven't seen it already, all I will say is that Nash saw and experienced people and situations that were pure figments of his imagination, driven by the secrecy and paranoia of a McCarthy era Reds-under-the-Bed state of mind, Nash became unable to distinguish fantasy from reality.
Nash's moment of revelation, his epiphany, came when he almost hurt his wife and child. From that moment on he became 'self-aware' in a way that few people, I suspect, are capable of, he 'reasoned' that he was 'mad' and simply chose ignore the product of his madness, his visions and hallucinations. They remained with him, and as far as I know still do, but through shear force of will, he controlled them and integrated them into his everyday existence. They no longer had any power over him; he was, and is, in control of his life.
His Nobel Prize came about when a later generation of economists and analysts rediscovered his "Big Idea," and he was finally given the recognition that was long overdue. Without us knowing it, Nash's theories and equations touch us all as we live in a free-market economy.
"A Beautiful Mind" is a beautifully made film that I can't recommend highly enough. The difficult mathematical aspect of the film is handled in such a way as to make it immediately accessible to a non-Nash genius, and shouldn't put you off. Nash's life is truly inspirational, and this film should be seen by all, it shows how one man can overcome so much personal adversity, and still contribute so much to his family and friends, and ultimately to us all.

It Doesn't Take a Hero: The Autobiography of General Norman Schwarzkopf
It Doesn't Take a Hero: The Autobiography of General Norman Schwarzkopf
by Norman Schwarzkopf
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.89
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A soldiers story..., Jan. 1 2003
"It doesn't take a Hero" is the remarkable story of a remarkable man, the title of which comes from a quote Schwarzkopf gave during an interview with Barbara Walters in 1991; "It doesn't take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle."
Schwarzkopf's story is very different from his compatriot, the now Secretary of State, Colin Powell. The two men are of completely different temperaments, and their tales are told in ways that reflect their personalities. Powell's book is rather dry, with the occasional flash of self-depreciatory humor... and you get the feeling that this was included on the advice of his co-author!
"It doesn't take a Hero" is full of blunt, sometimes brutal, soldiers wit; one of the funniest examples concerns a Sergeant who swore relentlessly, and had to tell his assembled troops that they were now being commanded by a Colonel - not Schwarzkopf by the way - who didn't take to profanity in any way, shape, or form. The sergeant lined them up, and cursing with practically every other word, told them to cut out the ... swearing or else! Although this may look terribly contrived, when you read the book, you simply know that it happened, just the way Schwarzkopf says it did.
When you read Powell's story you respect him for what he achieved, mainly his rise from immensely humble origins to high political office, but when you read Schwarzkopf's, you can't help but like the man, warts and all.
As well as the brutal humor, Schwarzkopf is also brutally honest about his home life. He came from a well-to-do middle class family, his father was a West Point graduate, who later led the hunt for the Lindbergh kidnappers, and served President Roosevelt on a special assignment in Iran between the Great Wars. They lived in the best house in their town, and even employed a maid, but there was a dark family secret... his mother's alcoholism. The hurt and the pain this caused himself, his father and sisters, is dealt with openly and honestly, and you cannot help but feel that the inclusion of this was a very difficult decision for him to make.
The part of the book that deals with his duties in Vietnam is very well written, and like Powell, he also rails against the stupidity and arrogance of the politicians and 'Brass' who ordered young men to lay down their lives in that far away land for no good reason. And like Powell, he became equally convinced that he had to do something to change the army from within; it was either that or resign. In that respect he and Powell were remarkably similar in their thoughts and actions.
But far and away the most interesting part of the book is his telling of the Gulf War, Desert Storm. It is probably true to say that without "Stormin'" Norman, there wouldn't have been a, successful, Gulf War. His experiences in the Middle East as a young man, he lived with his father when he was posted to Iran, gave him a unique insight into the Arab world that served him personally, and the coalition as a whole, very well indeed.
He was able to play on the links his father had with Arab Royalty, and then forged his own links with the current Saudi Royal Family, working with Crown Princes on a first name basis to get things done, everything from releasing endless millions of dollars in payments to the US - what is the daily rental on an aircraft carrier?! - to arranging for "tent cities" to be erected to shield the incoming troops from the scorching desert sun.
But for me, the most interesting aspect of the Gulf War section was the politics of the coalition, especially in the Arab world, something that was almost completely missing in Colin Powell's telling. In this crucial, although mostly unknown area of the War, Schwarzkopf's experiences in the Middle East were invaluable. Middle Eastern politics are a lethal mine field at the best of times - us Brits have had our fingers burnt on more than one occasion over the years! - and pouring hundreds of thousands of free thinking, free drinking, Western troops of endless religious and moral persuasions into the autocracy that is the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, should have been a recipe for utter disaster!
Schwarzkopf's deft handling of the endless 'difficulties' involving religious services, the consumption of alcohol, the reading of magazines of dubious 'artistic' merit, even the receiving of Christmas cards and the erection of Christmas decorations, were handled with a skill and subtlety that one would not have thought a mere 'soldier' possible. And then of course there was the Israeli question. The one thing above all else that would have blown the coalition apart would have been Israel attacking Iraq in retaliation for the Scuds that fell on Israeli territory. Although much of the efforts to keep Israel out of the action were handled direct from Washington, Schwarzkopf's handling of the Saudi's in particular, on the ground as it were, was masterful.
"It doesn't take a Hero" is a fascinating tale, a real inspiration, it shows what one man can achieve through clear thinking, a positive attitude, boundless enthusiasm, and a profound love, not only of his own country, but of mankind. I would recommend it highly.

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