Review


In between drugs, fights, sexual assaults, loud revving Harley chopper engines and bongo drums, the leader Heavenly Blues (Peter Fonda) of a group of Hells Angels ride out to Mecca, California in the desert to look for Joe ‘Loser’ Kearns (Bruce Dern) stolen motorcycle. They blame a group of Mexicans in a repair shop, and the two groups brawl. The police arrive, chasing the Angels on foot, and the Loser escapes by stealing a police motorcycle. After a chase on mountain roads, one of the officers shoots the Loser in the back, putting him in the hospital. Eventually Blues and his Angel cohorts sneaks him out of the hospital, and one of them begins to sexually attack a black nurse until Blues pulls him away. The nurse identifies Blues to police though he stopped the attack. Without proper medical care, the Loser goes into shock and dies. His cohorts forge a death certificate and arrange a church funeral in the Loser’s rural hometown. But, the funeral ends up in a drug fuelled party with all sorts of consequences…

“The Wild Angels” is a 1966 low-budget Roger Corman film, made on location in Southern California. “The Wild Angels” was made three years before “Easy Rider” and was the first film to associate actor Peter Fonda with Harley-Davidson motorcycles and 1960s counterculture. It was also the film that inspired the outlaw biker film genre that continued into the early 1970s. Corman´s way of making movies is somewhat stale and static (but yet contains great cinematography and dynamic scenes) with a lot of long sequences that never seems to end which I reckon acts as a substitute for a too short script and less interest in character development. Corman does as much as he can in terms of trying to shock the audience back in 1966 with swastikas, drugs, rape, blasphemy, violence etc. Then again that is more or less his trademark and focus per se. Peter Fonda is quite stiff as Blues (he´s quite stiff in general in his acting in my opinion), Bruce Dern fits as Loser and the lovely Nancy Sinatra doesn´t get much to work with. “The Wild Angels” portrays the counterculture of the 1960s and the anti-establishment cultural phenomenon which is interesting. But, Fonda´s and Dennis Hopper`s “Easy Rider” takes this counterculture a level higher both in production, story and execution.

3 out of 5

Wild

A group of people start a business where they impersonate recently deceased in order to help their clients through the grieving process…

Giorgos Lanthimos “Alps” is a static, absurd, patchy, surreal, sad, bleak, theatrical and slightly boring dark drama penetrating the psyche of a group of people longing to be loved and fit in. It´s not a direct film and nor is the message during the first half of the movie. The idea is there of someone impersonating a recently deceased person in order to help a family for example through the grieving process, but Lanthimos handles the topic in such an “arty farty smarty pants” way it falls on it´s own legs when he simply refuses to invite you to at least build some sort of understanding of the film in my opinion. I dislike the fact that he use way too many prolonged silent static scenes killing the dynamics that shines through at times. However, I do think that that actors are truly convincing in their roles, specially the leading actress Aggeliki Papoulia.

3 out of 5

Alps

It´s the Oklahoma Territory in 1889. Jed Cooper (Clint Eastwood) drives a small herd of cattle across a stream. Suddenly a posse containing of Captain Wilson (Ed Begley), Reno (Joseph Sirola), Miller (Bruce Dern), Jenkins (Bob Steele), Matt Stone (Alan Hale, Jr.), Charlie Blackfoot (Ned Romero), Maddow (Russell Thorson), Tommy (Jonathan Lippe) and Loomis (L. Q. Jones) surround him and accuse him of having stolen the herd. He shows them a receipt for the cattle, but the man he bought them from was a rustler who killed the herd’s owners. Cooper explains that he knew nothing about the murder, but only Jenkins expresses doubts about his guilt. After Reno takes Cooper’s saddle and Miller takes his wallet, the men hang him from a tree and ride away, leaving him for dead. Federal Marshal Dave Bliss (Ben Johnson) sees Cooper in the distance and cuts him down while he is still alive. Bliss puts him in irons and takes him to Fort Grant, where the territorial judge, Adam Fenton (Pat Hingle), determines that Cooper is innocent, sets him free and warns him not to become a vigilante. He then shows Cooper the man who is responsible for the crime he was accused of. The man, Mcloud, is immediately hung for the murders and rustling. As an alternative, Fenton offers Cooper, a former lawman, the badge of a Deputy U.S. Marshal. Cooper accepts, and Fenton warns him not to kill the men who lynched him. During his first assignment as a marshal, Cooper sees his saddle on a horse in front of a small-town saloon. He finds Reno inside and tries to arrest him, but Reno reaches for his gun, forcing Cooper to shoot him dead. When word of this becomes public, Jenkins turns himself in and provides the names of the rest of the hanging posse. Cooper is determined to hunt down his lynchers and bring them to justice in any which way…

“Hang ‘Em High” is a 1968 American Revisionist Western film and the first film produced by Clint Eastwood’s Malpaso Company. The Revisionist Western, Modern Western or Anti-Western traces to the mid 1960s and early 1970s as a subgenre of the Western movie. Some post-WWII Western films began to question the ideals and style of the traditional Western. Elements include a darker, more cynical tone, with focus on the lawlessness of the time period, favouring realism over romanticism. Anti-heroes are still common, but with stronger roles for women and more-sympathetic portrayal of Native Americans and Mexicans. Regarding power and authority, these depictions favour critical views of big business, the American government, masculine figures (including the military and their policies), and a turn to greater historical authenticity. The film became a major success after release in July 1968, and with an opening day revenue of $5,241 in Baltimore alone, it became the biggest United Artists opening in history, exceeding all of the James Bond films at that time. It debuted at number five on Variety?’ s weekly survey of top films and had made its money back within two weeks of screening. It eventually grossed $6.8 million in the U.S. It was widely praised by critics, including Arthur Winsten of the New York Post, who described “Hang ‘Em High” as “a Western of quality, courage, danger and excitement”. Variety gave the film a negative review, calling it “a poor American-made imitation of a poor Italian-made imitation of an American-made western”.

“Hang ‘Em High” is yet another revenge themed western amongst Clint Eastwood´s film catalogue, and in one way nothing new except maybe the cynical look on the law and justice. In general it´s an ok western with interesting point of views on justice and vigilantism, but yet there´s nothing that really stands out or that truly engage you. Not one of Clint Eastwood´s best in my opinion.

3 out of 5

Hang

While praying at an altar with his traveling companion and fellow thief Malak (Tracey Walter), Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is confronted by Queen Taramis (Sarah Douglas) of Shadizar, who tests the pair in combat with several of her guards. She tells him that she has a quest for him, but he initially refuses her until she uses her power to learn his greatest desire: his beloved Valeria. Promised Valeria’s resurrection, Conan agrees to the quest which is to escort the Queen’s niece, Jehnna (Olivia d’Abo), who destined to find a special jewel that can be used to obtain the jeweled horn of the dreaming god Dagoth. Conan and Malak are joined by captain of Taramis’s guard Bombaata (Wilt Chamberlain), who is instructed to kill Conan once the jewel is obtained. Because the gem is secured in the fortress of a powerful wizard, Conan seeks the help Akiro (Mako), the Wizard of the Mounds who aided him before. After saving Akiro from a tribe of cannibals who plan to eat him to absorb his magic, Conan’s group encounter Zula (Grace Jones), a powerful warrior and bandit being tortured by vengeful villagers. Freeing Zula at Jehnna’s request, Conan accepts the indebted warrior’s offer to join their quest. The group then sets out to find the jewel…

John Milius, the director of “Conan the Barbarian” (1982) was unavailable to direct “Conan the Destroyer” (1984). The studio took a more active role than they had on the first film, which led to some serious mistakes, according to Schwarzenegger in his latest autobiography. After the phenomenon of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Universal thought Conan the Destroyer (1984) would make more money if it were family entertainment. Schwarzenegger argued against this change but they overruled him. Director Richard Fleischer agreed with Schwarzenegger, but complied with Universal’s wishes to make Conan the Destroyer (1984) more like a comic book. Although it out-grossed Conan the Barbarian (1982), it didn’t do as well in the US, because it was more family-friendly, just as Schwarzenegger and Fleischer feared. He later expressed the same fears in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) when the Terminator was forbidden from killing anyone. Both Schwarzenegger and Dino De Laurentiis washed their hands of the series, with Schwarzenegger opting to only do contemporary movies from now on. The third film in the Conan trilogy had been planned for a 1987 release with the title Conan the Conqueror. The director was to have been either Guy Hamilton or John Guillermin. Arnold Schwarzenegger, however, was committed to the film Predator, and De Laurentiis’s contract with the star had expired after his obligation to Red Sonja and Raw Deal, and he was not keen to negotiate a new one. The third Conan film thus sank into development hell. The script was eventually turned into Kull the Conqueror.turned into Kull the Conqueror. Grace Jones put two stuntmen in the hospital by accident with a fighting stick; she trained for 18 months to prepare for the film. “Conan the Destroyer” received mixed to negative reviews from critics. Despite some lukewarm critical response, the film succeeded at the box-office upon its 1984 release, grossing a respectable $31,042,035 in the U.S. and an additional $69 million in international markets, with the film grossing a combined total of $100,042,035. This success led Schwarzenegger, Fleischer, and De Laurentiis to team up again to make “Red Sonja” a year later; however, “Red Sonja” was a critical and commercial disappointment and ended Schwarzenegger’s involvement in sword-and-sorcery films. “Conan the Destroyer” was nominated for two Razzie Awards, including Worst Supporting Actress and won Worst New Star for D’Abo. After the success of “Conan the Barbarian” it was written in stone that there would be a second one, then again Milius had already set out to do a trilogy, but as already mentioned, Milius didn´t get to direct the second one and we got more of a family oriented Conan adventure.

“Conan the Destroyer” is as campy as the first one, but there´s maybe a glimpse of something better and I would actually give that credit to the fierce Zula, intensively played by Grace Jones. She´s great in her scenes in my opinion. Yes, there´s more “jokes”, more silliness with less violence and less sex/eroticism, which is quite Conan unlike so to say. Conan is made more silly and less the barbarian he is. Of course that´s a minus. The plus in “Conan the Destroyer” are Grace Jones, Sarah Douglas and the cute Olivia d’Abo in her first role. In June 2013, Schwarzenegger said he still had plans to make “The Legend of Conan”, so I assume then that we actually will be able to see a hopefully great Conan movie with the CGI of today.

2 and a half out of 5

Conan 2

Four small-time Copenhagen criminals; Torkild (Søren Pilmark), Peter (Ulrich Thomsen), Arne (Mads Mikkelsen) and Stefan (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) met during their teens and they all share a tragic childhood with abuse and sad consequences. They are assigned by the crime kingpin Færingen (Peter Andersson) to break into a house and retrieve a briefcase for him, a briefcase that proves to contain 4 million. The leader of the four, Torkild see this as his way out of a criminal life and become a normal citizen. He takes the decision to flee to Barcelona with the money and his three companions. But, already on Jylland their car breakes down and they seek refuge in an abandoned house. Because of a gunshot wound Peter got during the break in, the four have to wait to proceed with their journey to Barcelona until he recovers. In order to not create too much attention from the locals, they pretend that they are renovating the house to open a restaurant. But, their past eventually catches up with them…

This sort of black action comedy genre became popular in Denmark with “In China They Eat Dogs” that came out in 1999 based on a screenplay by Anders Thomas Jensen, whom also wrote and directed “Flickering Lights”. We see a similar sort of set up with a lot of dark humour and quite violent sequences in “Flickering Lights”. The story is based on the main characters tragic upbringing and what they became and how certain events in the movie change their view on life and what sort of life they want to live future wise. Meaning the moral here is that despite a tough life and a criminal background there´s always a way out for a better life that won´t make you end up dead. And with the combination of friendship, love, happiness and identity the story becomes rich and endearing. Certain scenes are really over the top and absurd (and at times you simply can´t help but burst out in loud laughter), but due to the fact that Jensen has a great cast at his hands with Pilmark, Thomsen, Mikkelsen and Kaas (all magnificent in their roles) they manage to balance it perfectly and never drops the ball. The dialogue is witty and funny as well within all the complexity. I reckon you can see a touch of Tarantino in this as well, which I think Jensen would be happy to hear. You might even call it an homage to Tarantino. It still holds up pretty well 14 years later. And once you´ve seen “Flickering Lights” you will never forget Mikkelsen´s gun toting psychopath Arne…

3 and a half out of 5

Blinkende

Thugs working for big-time miner Coy LaHood (Richard Dysart) ride in and destroy the camp of a group of struggling gold miners and their families who have settled in nearby Carbon Canyon of Lahood, California. In leaving, they also shoot the little dog of fourteen-year-old Megan Wheeler (Sydney Penny). As Megan buries it in the woods and prays for a miracle, a stranger is heading to the town on horseback. Megan’s mother, Sarah (Carrie Snodgress), is keeping company with Hull Barret (Michael Moriarty), the leader of the miners. Hull heads off into town to pick up supplies, where the same thugs start to beat him up and he is rescued by the stranger (Clint Eastwood), who takes the men on single-handedly. Hull invites him to his house, and shortly after, he appears wearing a clerical collar and thereafter is called Preacher. Coy LaHood’s son Josh (Chris Penn) attempts to scare Preacher with a show of strength from his giant work hand, Club (Richard Kiel), who with one hammer blow smashes a large rock that Preacher and Hull had been laboring over. When Club attempts to attack Preacher, he hits him in the face with his hammer and delivers a blow to Club’s groin. Coy LaHood has been away in Sacramento and is furious to learn about Preacher’s arrival through his son, since this will stiffen the resistance of the tin-panners. When Preacher arrives in town and confronts LaHood, he offers to buy the miners out, initially for $100, then $125 and then the Preacher goads him into raising his offer to $1,000 per claim, but only if they leave within 24 hours; otherwise LaHood threatens to hire a corrupt Marshal named Stockburn to clear them out. The miners initially want to take the offer but, when Hull reminds them why they came and what they have sacrificed, they decide to stay and fight. The next morning, however, the Preacher disappears. Megan, who has grown fond of the Preacher, heads out looking for him, but Josh captures her on LaHood´s premises and attempts to rape her, whilst his cohorts look on and encourage him. Club sees what is happening and moves forward to help her before Josh can do anything serious. At this moment the Preacher arrives on horseback armed with a revolver and after having shot Josh in the hand when he goes for his gun, he takes Megan back to her mother in the mining camp. Preacher will finally set the score with Stockburn and LaHood…

“Pale Rider” was the highest grossing western at the box-office made and released during the 1980s. In an audio interview, Clint Eastwood said that his character Preacher “is an out-and-out ghost”. But whereas “High Plains Drifter” resolves its story-line by means of a series of unfolding flash back narratives (although ambiguity still remains), “Pale Rider” does not include any such obvious clues to the nature and past of the ‘Preacher’. One is left to draw one’s own conclusions regarding the overall story line and its meaning. The movie’s title is taken from The Book of Revelation, chapter 6, verse 8: “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.” The reading of the biblical passage describing this character is neatly choreographed to correspond with the sudden appearance of the Preacher, who arrived as a result of a prayer from Megan, in which she quoted Psalm 23. So, this was the return of Eastwood´s classic “Man with no name” character and with that said this is a classic Eastwood western with revenge and retribution as the main theme, with other words nothing new per say, but in this case the “Man with no name” embody elements of the supernatural and is supposedly dead appearing as a ghost to take revenge on the man who killed him. I do like the biblical side message as it works, but at the same time Preacher becomes a bit too much of a knight in shining armour in my opinion. The cinematography is nice and the acting solid. Eastwood is however playing on a fine line with having Megan offering herself to him and being in love with him as she see him as a message from God. I don´t think that part works and the same goes for Megan´s final lines in the end. “Pale Rider” is not Eastwood’s best western, but not bad either.

3 out of 5

Pale Rider

The four Newton brothers comes from a poor farmer family in Uvalde/Texas in the 1920s. The oldest of them, Willis (Matthew McConaughey), has just gotten out of prison after having done a stint due to a miscarriage of justice and comes to the fact that there’s no future in the fields and offers his brothers, Joe (Skeet Ulrich) and Jess (Ethan Hawke) to become a bank robbers together with him. Willis dream is to make as much money he can and then become an oilman with his own oil well. Soon enough the brothers are joined by the fourth brother Dock (Vincent D’Onofrio) whom just escaped prison. Willis has already befriended a criminal named Brentwood Glasscock (Dwight Yoakam), a man with a lot of knowledge of nitroglycerin… The Newton Gang is very prolific and make headlines wherever they go. However, the law is on their tail and the banks have suddenly invested in enhanced safes. It´s up to Willis and his gang to figure out how they can execute the big final robbery that can settle them for life…

Richard Linklater stepped out of his indieshoes and tried a different genre with “The Newton Boys” (based on the true story of the Newton Gang) and the result is varied in my eyes. The acting is in general ok and the performances as well, but at the same time all the main characters are not defined properly in my opinion. I reckon my biggest issue with “The Newton Boys” is the comedy angle that is just annoying and it simply doesn´t work in the mix with the drama. It becomes to much of a “slip on a banana peel” vibe & feel and I just can´t shake the fact that this angle is just wrong or wrongly done. I reckon Linklater was inspired by “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Sting”, but is nowhere near the mentioned films as “The Newton Boys” simply don´t have the weight in the script, direction or actors. I do love a period piece film and this is set in one of the nicer periods and everything that comes along with it. Yes, the production is well made, and the cinematography is quite nice, but that is not enough. “The Newton Boys” is just neither or nor and it fades the minute it´s over.

2 and a half out of 5

Newton

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