Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Murphy's Law (1986)

*Unfortunately this review will be image-less, due to my DVD not playing the movie on my computer.

Jack Murphy is a cop feeling burnt out after a messy divorce. He's drinking a bit too much, and is none too happy with his ex-wife's new vocation as a stripper. Meanwhile, the mysterious Joan Freeman is gunning for Murphy. She murders his ex-wife and her new spouse, and frames the killing on Murphy, who's immediately arrested, with all evidence seemingly pointing to him as the culprit. He's soon able to escape the police, but he has the extreme displeasure of being handcuffed to Arabella McGee, a foulmouthed carjacker and thief who hates Murphy's guts, just like everyone else. Together, the two have to clear Murphy's name before either the police, the vengeful mafia, or the evil Freeman herself catch up with them...

If you're watching a Charles Bronson movie, especially one from the 80's, you can pretty confidently assume that it's gonna be an action-packed bloodbath, and Murphy's Law, despite not being the darkest of films, is the same, although not to the level of stuff like 10 to Midnight or The Evil That Men Do. It's a serious and very violent movie, but it has humour, and it's more of a buddy chase flick than grim police movie. There's not a whole lot of action, given this is more of a chase movie. but what there is is good, and spread evenly across the film. As for the buddy aspect, it's done well! Neither of the lead characters are cardboard buddy cop cutouts, like the tired and cliched old/young, serious/goofy, or by-the-book/maverick pairs, and their relationship is well written, with the two leads sharing decent chemistry, despite being such wildly different characters. They're also not at each-other's throats for the whole movie, which is doubly appreciated. It also helps the movie be less cliched that they're not paired romantically, aside from a bit of flirting later on (and implication at the end).

Murphy's Law has a sense of humour to it that many other Bronson films don't have, and it serves the movie well. It's not hilarious, but the comedy, mainly courtesy of Kathlee Wilhoite's character, is definitely worth a laugh, with a whole barrage of ridiculous insults! Are they good ones? Hell no, but phrases like "snot licking donkey fart", "jizm breath", "scrotum cheeks", "bug sucking booger", "Kiss my pantyhose, spermbank", "Why don't you watch your asshole, asshole!" and "dinosaur dork" are certainly entertaining, especially that last one! The funniest part of the movie is the oddly amusing scene of Bronson proclaiming his dislike for mayonnaise! I don't know what it is about that scene that's so amusing, as it's not anything mindblowing. I guess it's just chuckleworthy hearing Chuck Bronson saying something so mundane with as much passion.

The acting in Murphy's Law is all good. Charles Bronson is obviously in top form here with a fine performance, and delivers Bronson Justice to those who have it coming! You don't fuck with Jack Murphy!

Your mileage may very on whether you find her dialogue funny or irritating, but regardless, Kathleen Wilhoite is a likeable sidekick. Then there's Carrie Snodgress as the villain. She does a great job playing the psycho antagonist! However, while we do get scenes with her sprinkled throughout the movie, they're few and far between, and only one helps flesh her out. Also, when her character's backstory is revealed, it's a little underwhelming. All she did was snap and murder her boyfriend. That's it. That's not exactly the stuff of villainous legend. It's also a bit irksome that Bronson only encounters her at the climax, but thankfully mob boss Vincenzo acts as an extra baddie for Bronson to be at odds with for the majority of the movie's running time. Another annoying aspect is that Freeman is dispatched way too quickly by Bronson at the end when they finally move from the tense cat-and-mouse section of the scene to the actual fight. He just kicks her in the face and she dies almost instantly!

One last thing, I find it amusing that despite having regular sessions with a psychiatric parole officer presumably keeping tabs on her, Freeman is still able to plan her complicated plan for revenge, as well as go on a cross country murder rampage!

Another problem with Murphy's Law is the ending, which is pretty abrupt-There's no real denouement. Attached to this is the fact that the movie ends before we see the main duo being exonerated, and when you think about it, almost everyone who knows of their innocence, be they good or evil, are dead! These two are going to jail!...I kid. I'm sure things turned out fine offscreen, but it is a bit annoying that that aspect is never given proper resolution.

Finally, the score to this movie is very good! It's a fine 80's soundtrack that carries the film well through moments both tense, and low-key. The song that plays over the ending credits is ok, but not all that great though.

Murphy's Law is a typical Charles Bronson vehicle, which is to say it's a damn good movie! I recommend it if you're an action fan!...

The Guardian (1990)

Phil and Kate are a married couple with a newborn son. To cope with their jobs, they hire a nanny to take care of their baby, and at first, things seem to be going well, as the nanny Camilla seems to be a nice and caring woman. Her sinister motivations soon come to light, however, and Phil and Kate will have to fight to keep their baby alive from this supernatural menace...

William Friedkin's The Guardian is a pretty good horror film, but not without many flaws. The movie keeps a good tone, and for a movie that's about a killer tree, it's rarely unintentionally hilarious,  despite amusing things like middle-aged punks who try to rape women in public when in broad daylight, some over-the-top gore scenes, and a character who displays confusion when trying to describe a British accent-"She has an accent, I think. European...British, maybe". Because Dutch or Greek is apparently totally indistinguishable from one of the two most recognizable accents on Earth!

Unfortunately, the movie's leads do barely anything for the first hour! The husband just has a few wet nightmares, and the wife barely does much of anything. The only character in the first two thirds to really be proactive is their architect friend Ned, but unfortunately he's killed off. It's a shame, too, as he goes through so much, yet still dies. Nuts to the others, I want this guy to be the lead! It really is a shame that the movie doesn't focus more on the couple, as a parents' connection to their baby, and the horror of something trying to kill it is a powerful theme to utilize when done correctly. Thankfully when the movie goes in that direction come the last 30 minutes, it's handled pretty well, although having two climaxes was a bit unnecessary.

The Guardian's plot is very lacking, and that's its biggest fault. Who the hell is Camilla?! What is she? What are her plans? Why does she sacrifice babies? What's her connection to the mysterious evil tree? Does she like pina coladas, and all that jazz! With as many rewrites as this film went through, it's extremely annoying that the villain was never given any character! Outside of that, the script is also full of characters we really know nothing about, and there are some elements that are almost brought up, then dropped. The film also has trouble meshing at points, presumably due to the script rewrites making it feel like two separate movies sometimes.

Finally, the title card at the start of the film isn't really appreciated, as the film could have worked better had we not know exactly what's behind the villain's intentions. We know right out of the gate that she's apparently some druid or dryad who sacrifices babies to an evil tree, which is a shame, as that could've been kept a mystery at first, to lend the film some mystique, and make Camilla a more compelling character, with the audience learning her malevolent intentions as the movie goes on, along with the protagonists.

The acting in The Guardian is mostly fine, although the punks are pretty over-the-top. Dwier Brown, Cary Lowell, and Brad Hall are serviceable protagonists, while Jenny Seagrove is the movie's star! She's a great villain, even if the writing doesn't help her along. Seagrove plays the role of the mysterious, deadly, and alluring Camilla well!

William Friedkin's direction here is quite good, with some definitely tense moments! The score also complements the movie well for the most part, lending some eerie moments, while the woodsy/fantasy-ish main theme is decent, and thankfully falls just this short from sounding ill-fitting.

There aren't that many death scenes in The Guardian, but the gore is certainly good! We get plenty of the red stuff with people getting crushed and eaten by trees, or devoured by coyotes. And then there's the gloriously over the top finale, which feels like something right out of an Evil Dead movie, what with the chainsaws, trees, and extremely copious bloodflow!

I'm not sure if I recommend The Guardian. It's certainly watchable, although it doesn't leave much of an impression come the end. You should probably just watch The Hand That Rocks the Cradle instead...

Friday, June 12, 2015

R.I.P. Christopher Lee

We've lost the last of the great horror icons. Christopher Lee was one of the greatest actors to have ever lived, and not only was he a titan in horror (particularly Dracula to a repeated extent, much to his displeasure), but he was also phenomenal in movies of all other genres. Known for his imposing height and strong voice, Lee appeared in films such as the horror classics Dracula, and The Wicker Man, to James Bond entry The Man with the Golden Gun, the Fu Manchu series (he was the best actor to play the character since Karloff), oddball musicals, multiple performances in various different movies as both Sherlock Holmes, and Watson, amusingly bad fare that will go unnamed here, and modern films such as Lord of the Rings. That's only the tip of the iceberg to the hundreds of movies Lee starred or appeared in. The man was not only an incredibly versatile actor, but a fascinating person, with a rich life! Even in his 80's and 90's, he was using his iconic booming voice for heavy metal albums! Have you ever stopped and thought to yourself that there needs to be a heavy metal rendition of My Way or occult versions of Christmas carols sung by Christopher Lee? Well wonder no longer, because Lee, descendant of the great Charlemagne himself, was up for the idea! The world has lost one of its greats, but at least Christopher Lee lived a full and storied life to a ripe old age. I'm sure that right now, he's up in some afterlife having drinks with Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price, and most importantly, Peter Cushing...