Abandoned, The (2006, GBR/SPA/BUL) C-99m. Scope **½ D: Nacho Cerdà. Starring Anastasia Hille, Karel Roden, Valentin Ganev, Paraskeva Djukelova, Carlos Reig-Plaza. A 40-year-old woman travels to her birth-place in Russia to investigate the mystery behind her childhood. She hires a truck driver to drive her out into the wilderness, to the house of her parents. Once there, her life becomes a nightmare. The cottage seems strangely alive, with doppelgangers, eerie sounds and a man who claims to be her twin brother. It seems the past is prying its way back into reality and it’s bringing murder and mayhem. At first confusing and illogical, but this surreal horror film becomes scary as hell and is stylishly shot. The plot is less thrilling, but horror fans won’t mind, considering the retro-style effects and atmospheric sets. Cowritten by Richard Stanley (HARDWARE, DUST DEVIL).

Aberration (1997, NZL) C-93m. **½ D: Tim Boxell. Starring Pamela Gidley, Simon Bossell, Valeri Nikolayev, Helen Moulder, Norman Forsey. Amusing, if nonsensical, horror comedy about Gidley, who moves into a small hut in the middle of nowhere and soon finds herself under attack by mutated lizards. Self-proclaimed scientist Bossell is out to help. Not your ordinary run-of-the-mill splatter movie, it shows the weaknesses of a beginner’s film (little continuity, uneven plotting) but deliciously steps over the line, especially in the finale which will have you chuckle at the improbabilty of the going-ons. Not bad, has cult possibilities.

Able Edwards (2004, USA) B&W-81m. **½ D: Graham Robertson. Starring Scott Kelly Galbreath, Keri Bruno, David Ury, Steve Beaumont Jones, Michael Shamus Wiles. Independent feature executive produced by Steven Soderbergh has an intriguing story set in the future, after the Earth has become uninhabitable and people orbit the planet in so-called Civilization Pods. During a court hearing, we learn of an entertainment mogul (modelled after Walt Disney), who has been cloned to revive his ailing company. In the testimonials we learn of the clone’s life and career. Occasionally pretentious (all of this was shot against a green screen), but film’s biggest weaknesses are the self-conscious direction and the variable acting. An interesting experiment nevertheless, worth watching for the curious. The score is good.

About a Boy (2002, GBR/USA) C-101m. *** D: Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz. Starring Hugh Grant, Toni Collette, Nicholas Hoult, Rachel Weisz, Sharon Small. Well-written drama from the novel by Nick Hornby about Grant, a bachelor who is pushing forty but does not feel like taking a commitment at all. All this changes, when a troubled 12-year-old boy enters his life. Cliché-free, refreshing film with a sense of humor. Adapted by the directors and Peter Hedges.

About Adam (2000, USA/GBR/EIR) C-98m. **½ D: Gerard Stembridge. Starring Stuart Townsend, Frances O’Connor, Charlotte Bradley, Kate Hudson, Alan Maher. Quite pleasant romantic comedy with a twist: Townsend is Hudson’s hot new lover, but as it turns out he also creates emotional responses in her sisters – quite willingly. Same story is told from several perspectives, which makes it interesting, if not original enough. Fans of Hudson (pre-ALMOST FAMOUS) should give it a look. Written by the director.

Abre los Ojos (1997, SPA/FRA/ITA) C-117m. *** D: Alejandro Amenábar. Starring Edoardo Noriega, Penélope Cruz, Chete Lera, Fele Martinez, Najwa Nimri, Alejandro Amenábar. Amenábar’s follow-up to his debut stunner TESIS (1996) is equally fascinating if admittedly outrageous psycho fantasy. Rich and handsome Noriega can get any girl he wants, but shies away from commitments. When he meets his friend’s latest acquaintance Cruz, he is immediately infatuated, but does not live to see the romance bud, as his ex-girlfriend crashes their car deliberately – which kills her and leaves him disfigured. From then on, it’s anyone’s guess what’s real and what’s a dream or imagination. At least the frame narrative, where Noriega tells his story to a psychiatrist in prison, seems real. Unique thriller is not for all tastes, but Amenábar keeps things bubbling and makes some interesting observations about individual perception Have you ever really opened your eyes? Fine score by Mariano Marín and the director, who also coscripted with Mateo Gil. Remade by Cameron Crowe in 2001 as VANILLA SKY, which also starred Cruz. English title: OPEN YOUR EYES.

Abrafaxe – Unter Schwarzer Flagge (2001, GER/KOR) C-81m. *** D: Gerhard Hahn, Tony Power. Starring (the voices of) Nena Kerner, Kim Hasper, David Turber, Ilona Schulz, Helmut Krauss. Entertaining kids movie, an animated feature based on a comic book series (previously adapted for East German TV in 1980!). Three pals stay behind in a museum one night and with the help of an ancient gold plate are transported to the time of the pirates, where they become involved in the search for the legendary treasure of El Dorado. Colorful animation captures the pirate spirit, and the three boys fit in very well. English title: THE PIRATES OF TORTUGA: UNDER THE BLACK FLAG.

Abre tu Fosa, Amigo, llega Sábata! (1971, SPA/ITA) C-78m. M D: John Wood (=Juan Bosch). Starring Richard Harrison, Fernando Sancho, Raf Baldassare, Alejandro Ulloa, Tania Alvarado, Gustavo Re, Luis Induni. Extremely cheap, weakly made spaghetti western about unlikely duo Harrison and Sancho, who ultimately team up to avenge the murder of Harrison’s father. For the most undemanding brood of fans. Uncut print runs 90m. English title: DIG YOUR GRAVE FRIEND… SABATA’S COMING.

Absolute Power (1997, USA) C-121m. Scope **½ D: Clint Eastwood. Starring Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Scott Glenn, Dennis Haysbert, Judy Davis, Buddy Van Horn. Eastwood plays a brilliant thief who accidentally witnesses a murder involving none other than the U.S. President (Hackman). He soon realizes that he must serve as a scapegoat but uses all of his wit to clear himself. Implausibilites are overcome by good storytelling, but the ending is not satisfying. Eastwood fans should stick to TRUE CRIME (1999).

Accident (1967, GBR) C-105m. ***½ D: Joseph Losey. Starring Dirk Bogarde, Stanley Baker, Jacqueline Sassard, Michael York, Vivien Merchant, Delphine Seyrig, Brian Phelan, Terence Rigby, Harold Pinter, Nicholas Mosley. Oxford professor Bogarde contemplates cheating on his wife with nephew York’s latest girlfriend Sassard, who is also one of his students. Meanwhile, his wife is pregnant with their third child. Subtle, intelligent handling of a man’s midlife-crisis and adultery, superbly performed, superbly written by Harold Pinter. Based on Nicholas Mosley’s novel. Director Losey followed this with the even more fascinating SECRET CEREMONY (1968).

Accidental Husband, The (2008, USA) C-90m. ** D: Griffin Dunne. Starring Uma Thurman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Colin Firth, Sam Shepard, Lindsay Sloane, Brooke Adams, Isabella Rossellini. Successful radio therapist and novelist Thurman is getting ready to marry her fiance Firth, when she falls prey to a prank by Morgan, whose girlfriend left him because of Thurman’s advice. All of a sudden the computer says he is married to her and when she tries to get the divorce papers signed, their lives intertwine. Completely contrived and none too funny. Thurman keeps wasting herself in subpar romantic comedies.

Accused, The (1988, USA) C-110m. *** D: Jonathan Kaplan. Starring Kelly McGillis, Jodie Foster, Bernie Coulson, Leo Rossi, Ann Hearn. Fine drama about woman (Foster) who has been gang-raped and gets her revenge in court. McGillis plays her attorney. Well-acted (Foster won an Oscar for her multi-facetted performance) and also well-scripted (based on a real case).

A Cena col Vampiro (1988, ITA) C-92m. M D: Lamberto Bava. Starring George Hilton, Isabel Russinova, Patrizia Pellegrino, Riccardo Rossi, Yvonne Sciò. Apart from quite creepy chillers like FINO ALLA MORTE and UNA NOTTE AL CIMITERO, Lamberto Bava also made crap like this for television: A horror director with fangs invites four would-be actors to his mansion to spend the night. Harmless, amateurishly acted, completely unfunny. Reportedly, Bava left the project before production was finished. Also known as DINNER WITH A VAMPIRE.

A Ciascuno il Suo (1967, ITA) C-93m. *** D: Elio Petri. Starring Gian Maria Volonté, Irene Papas, Gabriele Ferzetti, Salvo Randone, Luigi Pistilli. Understated, low-key but rewarding crime drama about teacher (Volonté) who investigates the murder of two men on Sicily. He soon discovers that politicians were involved in the murder scheme. Well-acted, well-photographed (by Luigi Kuveiller), and the score by Luis Enrique Bakalov is especially good. Based on the novel by Leonardo Sciascia. Winner of the best screenplay award in Cannes.

Adaptation. (2002, USA) C-114m. ***½ D: Spike Jonze. Starring Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Cara Seymour, Tilda Swinton, Ron Livingston, Brian Cox, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Curtis Hanson, David O. Russell. Astounding, typically eccentric film by the director of BEING JOHN MALKOVICH (1999). Cage is featured in a double role as screenwriter Charles Kaufman and his twin brother Donald. Terminally self-conscious Charles struggles to adapt book The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean (Streep), which is about colorful character Cooper, an orchid expert, whose extraordinary life is traced. Streep’s own struggles with the book are dealt with in second plot strand (three years before the adaptation). Intellectually challenging, unique movie with a brilliant script by real-life writers Charles and (the fictional) Donald Kaufman (adapting Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief). In a way, this movie could be compared to a snake that is eating itself. Get it?!? Its success may depend on your personal response to it. Coproduced by Jonathan Demme. Score by Carter Burwell.

Addams Family, The (1991, USA) C-102m. *** D: Barry Sonnenfeld. Starring Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Elizabeth Wilson, Christina Ricci, Judith Malina, Dan Hedaya, Paul Benedict. Fine black comedy about well-known Addams family, who live in a sinister villa and indulge in all kinds of macabre doings. One day, their lawyer tries to trick them out of a fortune by introducing their long-lost uncle, who is in fact the son of one of his creditors. Intelligent script, excellent performances, a funny homage to the TV series. Sonnenfeld’s directorial debut after photographing some films for the Coen brothers. Followed by ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES in 1993 and a TV sequel in 1998.

Addicted to Love (1997, USA) C-100m. **½ D: Griffin Dunne. Starring Meg Ryan, Matthew Broderick, Kelly Preston, Tchéky Karyo, Maureen Stapleton, Dominick Dunne. A romantic comedy, and a quite black one. When Ryan and Broderick are dumped by their lovers, they team up to make Ryan’s lover’s life hell, spying on him with the help of Broderick’s telescope. And that’s not the end of their tricks. Amusing, if you can take the mean gags, mostly for the Meg Ryan cult (and she is at her loveliest). Dunne’s directorial debut.

Addiction, The (1995, USA) B&W-82m. *** D: Abel Ferrara. Starring Lili Taylor, Christopher Walken, Annabella Sciorra, Edie Falco, Paul Calderon, Kathryn Erbe, Michael Imperioli, Fredro Starr. Difficult but fascinating allegory on addiction, evil and spirituality by cult director Ferrara. Taylor is good as philosophy student who is bitten by a female vampire and sees her life transformed, as her surfaced personal evil conflicts with her condemnation of human cruelties committed in the wars. Slow-moving and awfully meta-physical, but stylish black-and-white photography and intelligent approach to the material make this an intellectually challenging picture for cineastes. Multiple viewing recommended.

Addio, Fratello Crudele (1971, ITA) C-105m. **½ D: Giuseppe Patroni Griffi. Starring Charlotte Rampling, Oliver Tobias, Fabio Testi, Antonio Falsi, Rik Battaglia. Occasionally hypnotic film version of the play by the Shakespeare contemporary John Ford. Rampling (breathtakingly beautiful) falls in love with her brother Tobias, who returns from his studies. However, she must marry nobleman Testi. It all ends in tragedy when she becomes pregnant from her brother. Rather stagy and redundant, but dreamy photography by Vittorio Storaro and medieval Ennio Morricone score help. Remade for TV in in 1978 and 1980. English title: ‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE.

Ad Ogni Costo (1968, ITA/SPA/GER) C-114m. Scope *** D: Giuliano Montaldo. Starring Edward G. Robinson, Janet Leigh, Adolfo Celi, Klaus Kinski, Georges Rigaud, Robert Hoffman. Agreeable TOPKAPI clone with a fine cast. School teacher Robinson has masterminded a plan to steal diamonds worth $10 million from a top security mansion in Rio de Janeiro. Among the recruitees for this job are Kinski, Rigaud and Hoffman. Will they succeed? Suspenseful time-capsule isn’t perfect and neglects characterization but remains entertaining and highly watchable. Also known as TOP JOB and GRAND SLAM. Score by Ennio Morricone.

A Doppia Faccia (1969, ITA/GER) C-81m. ** D: Riccardo Freda. Starring Klaus Kinski, Christiane Krüger, Günther Stoll, Annabella Incontrera, Sydney Chaplin, Barbara Nelli, Margaret Lee, Alice Arno. Unspectacular sex-and-crime thriller with Kinski (cast against type) as a businessman who is accused of having killed his wife Lee. When he sees her act in a lurid sex movie, he is convinced that she is still alive and tries to find her. Very slowly-paced mystery, based on an Edgar Wallace novel. The twisted ending helps. Among the writers: Director Freda and Lucio Fulci. Runs 88m. in Italy. Also known as DOUBLE FACE, PUZZLE OF HORRORS and DAS GESICHT IM DUNKELN.

A Double Tour (1959, FRA/ITA) C-94m. *** D: Claude Chabrol. Starring Madeleine Robinson, Antonella Lualdi, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jacques Dacqmine, Jeanne Valérie, Bernadette Lafont, Claude Chabrol. Highly interesting early Chabrol (his third movie) examines upper-class mores in contemporary country setting. Belmondo has a key role as a free-spirited vagabond, who breaks the harmony of a family, as his friend, gorgeous Lualdi, starts an affair with the patriarch. All this will expectedly lead to a crime. Chabrol’s direction is remarkable, as he further develops his spatial style and  camera moves. Excellent color cinematography (by Henri Decae) further enhances beautiful scenery, score adds melodramatic touch to the proceedings. Chabrol coscripted with Paul Gégauff, adapting Stanley Ellin’s The Key to Nicholas Street. Philippe de Broca was assistant director. Also known as LEDA, WEB OF PASSION.

Adventurers, The (1995, HGK) C-110m. *** D: Ringo Lam. Starring Andy Lau, Rosamund Kwan, Paul Chu, George Cheung, David Chiang, John Ching, Phillip Ko, Victor Wong. First-rate action melodrama by cowriter-director Lam. Andy Lau plays a Cambodian orphan, who lives with his uncle in Thailand. When he meets the man responsible for the massacre of his family, he feels his chance at revenge has come. He starts working for the CIA, in order to get familiar with the wealthy crimelord. Plot is hardly above-average, but direction and photography are stunning. Long and difficult to watch at times, but packs a wallop most of the times. Aka GREAT ADVENTURERS.

Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The (1988, GBR/GER/ITA) C-125m. ** D: Terry Gilliam. Starring John Neville, Eric Idle, Sarah Polley, Oliver Reed, Charles McKeown, Valentina Cortese, Jonathan Price, Uma Thurman, Ray di Tutto (=Robin Williams), Sting, Terry Gilliam. Big, overblown production, a disappointment considering that this was Gilliam’s follow-up to BRAZIL (1985). The story (about the famous lying Baron and his quest to find his friends again) is episodic and uneven, the slapstick scenes are only occasionally funny. For a family film, this is far too violent and profane. For adults, there is sumptuous production design and enough star cameos to keep you watching. Some consider this to form a trilogy with TIME BANDITS (1981) and BRAZIL (1985). The other two films had more plot. Filmed before in Germany as MÜNCHHAUSEN (1943).

Adventures of Pinocchio, The (1996, GBR/USA/FRA/GER) C-99m. Scope *** D: Steve Barron. Starring Martin Landau, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Geneviève Bujold, Udo Kier, Bebe Neuwirth, Rob Schneider, Corey Carrier, John Sessions, voice of David Doyle. Well-produced, highly visual adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s popular story about a wooden puppet who lives through many adventures on his way to become human. Episodic and poorly paced but creates some moments of genuine movie magic, thanks to fine Animatronics special effects and good photography. Kids aged 6 to 10 should love the film.

Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D (2005, USA) C-93m. *** D: Robert Rodriguez. Starring Taylor Lautner, Taylor Dooley, Cayden Boyd, George Lopez, David Arquette, Kristin Davis, Jacob Davich. After the SPY KIDS movies (and especially after the computer game-like third one), Rodriguez delivers another eye-popping action adventure with plenty of CGI. Story is about a boy, who’d rather escape from his boring life and dreams up the title characters, who take him on an adventure to Planet Drool. Filled with non-stop action, film works because of director Rodriguez’ directing style. He just cuts it loose from minute one. Script is based on his own son’s stories and dreams. Good score by the director himself.

Aenigma (1987, ITA/YUG) C-89m. ** D: Lucio Fulci. Starring Jared Martin, Suzy Kendall, Kathi Wise, Ulli Reinthaler, Riccardo Acerbi, Lucio Fulci. One of Fulci’s latter-day works, this horror thriller is a cross between CARRIE and PHENOMENA/SUSPIRIA. When a young student at a girl’s school falls into a coma after having been bullied by classmates, her substitute (Kendall) proves to have a spiritual tie to her and takes gruesome revenge. Derivative, almost plot-heavy thriller is nothing special. Fulci’s trademark gore effects are not the film’s raison d’etre this time. 

Afraid of the Dark (1991, GBR/FRA) C-92m. **½ D: Mark Peploe. Starring James Fox, Fanny Ardant, Paul McGann, Clare Holman, Robert Stephens, Susan Wooldridge, Ben Keyworth. Ambitious but not quite successful psycho thriller drama about a little boy, who fears his blind mother may be killed by serial killer who kills only blind women. A surprising twist half-way through is a plus, but otherwise this film is too slowly paced to score a higher rating. Some effective scenes amidst general lethargy.

After Hours (1985, USA) C-96m. *** D: Martin Scorsese. Starring Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Verna Bloom, Tommy Chong, Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, John Heard, Cheech Marin, Catherine O’Hara, Dick Miller, Will Patton, Robert Plunket, Bronson Pinchot, Martin Scorsese. Computer specialist Dunne spends his evening at a bar and meets a mysterious woman (Arquette), who only leaves her phone number. When he gets in touch with her that same night, he enters the New York netherworld – and embarks on a nightly odyssey through the city. Increasingly bizarre comedy with oddball characters has become a cult film and can be regarded as the PULP FICTION of the 1980s. Best enjoyed at night. Written by Joseph Minion. Score by Howard Shore (though classical music is featured more prominently). Photographed by Michael Ballhaus, edited by Thelma Schoonmaker.

Aftermath, The (1982, USA) C-95m. ** D: Steve Barkett. Starring Steve Barkett, Lynne Margulies, Sid Haig, Christopher Barkett, Forrest J. Ackerman. Another MAD MAX-inspired post-apocalyptic horror film about two astronauts who return to a devastated planet Earth. As the astronauts go in search of civilization, they realize that mob gangs have taken over the rule in the derelict landscape. Ambitious, but rather poorly directed and acted, with some potent gore effects reminiscent of Tom Savini. Worth a look for horror fans, but the level of expertise is quite low. Over-elaborate score sounds like it is lifted off another (bigger-budgeted) movie. Written and produced by the director. Also known as NUCLEAR AFTERMATH, and ZOMBIE AFTERMATH.

Agatha (1978, USA) C-104m. Scope *** D: Michael Apted. Starring Vanessa Redgrave, Dustin Hoffman, Timothy Dalton, Helen Morse, Celia Gregory, Paul Brooke. In December 1926 famed mystery writer Agatha Christie disappeared for eleven days, this film suggests where she was while everybody was looking for her. Redgrave, as Christie, is remarkable in this good drama, Hoffman okay as American reporter. Works better as a period piece than as a mystery.

Agente 077 dall’Oriente con Furore (1965, ITA/FRA/SPA) C-102m. Scope ** D: Sergio Grieco. Starring Ken Clark, Margaret Lee, Philippe Hersent, Fabienne Dali, Fernando Sancho, Franco Ressel, Calisto Calisti. Early James Bond rip-off, as serious, but generally a far cry from the originals. Clark lacks the charisma of Sean Connery to make his secret agent role work. Here, he has to find abducted scientist Hersent, who has invented a dangerous ray gun. Leisurely paced, low-budget, most of the action is in brawls. Followed the same year by AGENTE 077: MISSIONE BLOODY MARY. Also known as AGENT 077 OPERATION ISTANBUL, FURY IN THE ORIENT, and FROM THE ORIENT WITH FURY(!).

Agression, L’ (1975, FRA) C-96m. ** D: Gerard Pires. Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Catherine Deneuve, Claude Brasseur,

Revenge drama about Trintignant, who insults some motorbikers on the highway, who proceed to rape and kill his wife and son. A broken man, he is obsessed with finding them and getting his revenge. Thematically similar to Chabrol’s QUE LA BETE MEURE (1969), but does not have its depth. The storytelling is also second-rate, as the film seems much longer than it is. Deneuve is wasted. English title: ACT OF AGGRESSION.

Aile ou la Cuisse, L’ (1976, FRA) C-105m. Scope *** D: Claude Zidi. Starring Louis de Funès, (Michel) Coluche, Ann Zacharias, Julien Guiomar, Claude Gensac. Enjoyable comedy about restaurant critic Duchemin (de Funès), whose adversary (Guiomar), a fast-food producer, does everything to ruin his reputation. Duchemin’s son (Coluche) is also causing him headaches, because he would rather become a circus clown than follow in his father’s footsteps. Well-acted satire, with Louis de Funès in great form. The factory sequence is a highlight. Photographed by Claude Renoir.

Aimée & Jaguar (1999, GER) C-126m. *** D: Max Färberböck. Starring Maria Schrader, Juliane Köhler, Johanna Wokalek, Heike Makatsch, Elisabeth Degen, Detlev Buck, Inge Keller, Kyra Mladeck, Peter Weck. Meticulously produced historical drama set in  the latter years of World War Two. Schrader plays a lesbian who falls in love with “straight” Köhler, whose marraieg to soldier Buck hasn’t prevented her from having several affairs. Film sensitively depicts their budding relationship. Fine production values, assured direction by Färberböck make the difference. Good period piece (with a narrative frame set in the present day) might have been slightly more dramatic (and shorter). Based on the novel by Erica Fischer.

Ai No Borei (1978, JAP/FRA) C-104m. **½ D: Nagisa Oshima. Starring Tatsuya Fuji, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Takahiro Tamura, Takuzo Kawatani. Follow-up to AI NO CORRIDA (1976) examines the guilt experienced by Fuji, who has killed her husband with her lover. The husband returns as a ghost and haunts the woman. Slowly paced, but horror buffs will find this satisfying as fine photography creates a spooky atmosphere. A definite influence on RINGU (1998). Director Oshima adapted the novel by Itoko Namura. Filmed in VistaVision (approx. 2.0:1). Also known as EMPIRE OF PASSION, IN THE REALM OF PASSION, PHANTOM LOVE, and THE GHOST OF LOVE.

Ai No Corrida (1976, JAP/FRA) C-102m. **½ D: Nagisa Oshima. Starring Tatsuya Fuji, Eiko Matsuda, Aoi Nakajima, Yasuko Matsui, Meika Seri. Classic Japanese sex drama focusing on the obsessive love affair between Fuji and Matsuda. Especially the woman becomes addicted to sex and develops an obsession with the male sex organ. Openly sexual, erotic character study may be considered pornography by some, though there is some value in the going-ons. Written by the director. Based on a true story that took place in 1936, previously filmed as JITSUROKU ABE SADA (1975). Followed by a sequel, AI NO BOREI (1978). English title: IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES, and EMPIRE OF THE SENSES.

Air Force One (1997, USA) C-124m. Scope ***½ D: Wolfgang Petersen. Starring Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, Dean Stockwell, William H. Macy, Xander Berkeley, Jürgen Prochnow. Presidents die hard too: Harrison Ford plays the U.S. president, whose plane is hijacked by a group of Kazachian terrorists headed by merciless Oldman. Although an escape pod might have easily rescued Ford he prefers to stay aboard because his wife and daughter are in the hands of the hijackers. If you accept this terribly American premise and go along with the thrills, this DIE HARD-meets-SPEED action blockbuster will keep you on the edge of your seat for the whole running time. The script is occasionally mean and manipulative but superbly entertaining nonetheless.

Airplane! (1980, USA) C-88m. **½ D: Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker. Starring Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Peter Graves, Lorna Patterson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Abrahams, James Hong, Nicholas Pryor, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker. After a decade of disaster films, it was only a matter of time when AIRPORT spoofs like this were made. Gag-filled comedy details transatlantic flight with shell-shocked ex-pilot Hays trying to win back stewardess Hagerty’s affection. The only problem may be the fish that was served for dinner… Contains some funny, laugh-out-loud bits but also more than its share of gratuitious gags and a few tasteless ones, like pilot Graves’ fondness for little boys and a suffering girl who is waiting for an organ transplantation. Still, has achieved cult status over the years. Enjoy in company. Good score by Elmer Bernstein. Followed by AIRPLANE II: THE SEQUEL (1982).

Airport (1970, USA) C-137m. Scope ***½ D: George Seaton, Henry Hathaway. Starring Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Jean Seberg, Jacqueline Bisset, George Kennedy, Helen Hayes, Van Heflin, Maureen Stapleton, Barry Nelson. Top-notch thriller set in stormy winter night at a metropolitan airport, where several characters and their problems are introduced: Worried chief of air traffic control Lancaster, his number-one technician Kennedy, smooth pilot Martin and his pregnant lover, stewardess Bisset, old stowaway Hayes, and suicidal, nervous Heflin. Professionally done, with great dialogues and most of the film operating on an emotional level. First-rate entertainment, from the novel by Arthur Hailey, also became the blueprint for more than a dozen disaster films to follow in the 1970s and was itself followed by three sequels, starting with AIRPORT 1975. Dramatic score by Alfred Newman. Uncredited Hathaway directed some of the outdoor scenes.

Airport 1975 (1974, USA) C-106m. Scope M D: Jack Smight. Starring Charlton Heston, Karen Black, George Kennedy, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Susan Clark, Helen Reddy, Gloria Swanson, Linda Blair, Dana Andrews, Sid Caesar, Myrna Loy, Nancy Olson. Terrible sequel to AIRPORT takes 45m. for anything to happen (pilots are killed when jumbo jet collides with private plane) and goes absolutely nowhere from then on. Good cast is wasted, including Swanson in her last film.

Airport ’77 (1977, USA) C-114m. Scope **½ D: Jerry Jameson. Starring Jack Lemmon, Lee Grant, Brenda Vaccaro, Joseph Cotton, Olivia De Havilland, James Stewart, George Kennedy, Darren McGavin, Christopher Lee, Robert Foxworth, Robert Hooks, Monte Markham, Kathleen Quinlan, M. Emmet Walsh. Best of the AIRPORT sequels, this disaster thriller is about the maiden flight of billionaire Stewart’s new airplane, which is carrying his daughter and grandson among other celebrities. When a trio of hijackers attempt to get contol over the aircraft, it crashes into the sea and sinks slowly. Will the rescue teams be there on time? Plot is only so-so, but cast is interesting and score (by John Cacavas) is excellent. Photographed by Philip H. Lathrop. Followed by THE CONCORDE: AIRPORT ’79.

Akarui Mirai (2003, JAP) C-115m. ** D: Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Starring Jô Odagiri, Tadanobu Asano, Tatsuya Fuji, Takashi Sasano. Marumi Shiraishi. Difficult, slowly-paced drama from acclaimed director Kurosawa, about the friendship between two alienated young workers in Tokyo. One of them runs amok, and the other sees it his task to take care of his pet jellyfish that ultimately escapes into the sewage system. Not a horror film a la ALLIGATOR (1980), this one is more a character study and a study of loss and alienation. See for yourself if you can make any sense of it. English title: BRIGHT FUTURE.

Akira (1988, JAP) C-124m. *** D: Katsuhiro Otomo. Impressive animated feature set in Neo-Tokyo after World War III, where a group of motorbikers battle a rival gang, while the government is conducting secret experiments with human beings, which give them strange hallucinatory powers. One day a gang-member is kidnapped, undergoes such a treatment and turns into a vicious destroyer. Violent adult animation is very uneven in terms of plot but visually dazzling. Based on the graphic novel Akira by the director. Contributed largely to the popularity of so-called Mangas, Japanese animation movies.

Akumu Tantei (2006, JAP) C-106m. **½ D: Shinya Tsukamoto. Starring Ryuhei Matsuda, Hitomi, Masanobu Ando, Ren Osugi, Yoshio Harada, Shinya Tsukamoto. Stylish supernatural horror thriller from cult director Tsukamoto about mysterious suicides which happen while sleeping. The suicidal victims dream of someone stalking them and proceed to knife themselves in their sleep. Female detective Hitomi tries to solve these cases with the help of depressed ‘nightmare detective’, who can enter people’s dreams but is suicidal himself. Interesting storyline never catches fire, and the three main characters (including Tsukamoto’s own) are just not right in their roles. So what’s left is the stylistic value, which is good. Tsukamoto also wrote, photographed, edited, produced and designed the production.  Followed by a sequel in 2008. English title: NIGHTMARE DETECTIVE.

Albatros, L’ (1971, FRA) C-92m. **½ D: Jean-Pierre Mocky. Starring Jean-Pierre Mocky, Marion Game, Paul Muller, André Le Gall, R.J. Chauffard, Dominique Zardi. Unusual, unconventional thriller about the headhunt for a copkiller (Mocky), who has escaped from prison and taken the daughter of a prominent politician hostage. Apart from following their fates, film also looks at the political repercussions of the kidnapping, since preparations for the elections have already begun. Screenplay, cowritten by Mocky, is ambitious and quite lyrical but also very uneven. Of interest mostly to cineastes, others beware.

Aldila, L’ (1980, ITA) C-86m. Scope ** D: Lucio Fulci. Starring Katherine McColl, Lucio Fulci. Absolutely senseless story of a woman who moves into a house - unaware of the fact that there’s one of the ‘seven doors of death’ in the basement - is the excuse this time for unmotivated scenes of slaughter and over-the-top gore. Horror fanatics will surely go for it, but even they will need a strong stomach to endure it. One of the goriest and slimiest pictures ever made. Released as SEVEN DOORS OF DEATH in the U.S., film is also known as THE BEYOND.

Al di là della Legge (1968, ITA/GER) C-89m. Scope **½ D: Giorgio Stegani. Starring Lee Van Cleef, Antonio Sabato, Gordon Mitchell, Lionel Stander, Bud Spencer, Graziella Granata, Herbert Fux, Romano Puppo, Günther Stoll. Okay spaghetti western about outlaw Van Cleef, who wins the trust of young manager Sabato despite having just robbed a lot of money from him. He even becomes sheriff to fight the bad guys. Interesting cast (with Van Cleef and Spencer cast against type) in fairish western. Nice Riz Ortolani score. Fernando Di Leo was among the writers. Runs 111m. in uncut version. English title: BEYOND THE LAW, BLOODSILVER, and THE GOOD DIE FIRST.

Alexander (2004, USA/GBR/GER/NED) C-175m. Scope *** D: Oliver Stone. Starring Colin Farrell, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Christopher Plummer, Jared Leto. Technically faultless epic about the life of Alexander the Great, played by Farrell. Told in flashback style by Hopkins, film deals with the conqueror’s relationship to his parents (Jolie, Kilmer), and his rise to greatness when he conquered many parts of the world. Well-directed, superbly photographed (Rodrigo Prieto), remains a worthwhile view throughout its 3 hours. Fine symphonic score by Vangelis (his first in a long time).

Ali (2001, USA) C-159m. Scope **½ D: Michael Mann. Starring Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight, Mario Van Peebles, Ron Silver, Jeffrey Wright, Jada Pinkett Smith, Giancarlo Esposito, Ted Levine. Glossy attempt at a screen biography of the great boxer Muhammad Ali, with Smith in the title role. Script covers the years 1964-1974 (a pivotal period in which Ali had contact with Malcolm X and converted to the Islam), but film wallows in flashy depictions instead of providing descriptions. For people less familiar with the star, this may seem superficial. Partly redeemed by Smith’s performance and Emmanuel Lubezki’s brilliant cinematography. Also notable for Mann’s unconventional directorial style (if only his script was better).

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974, USA) C-112m. *** D: Martin Scorsese. Starring Ellen Burstyn, Kris Kristofferson, Billy Green Bush, Diane Ladd, Lelia Goldoni, Harvey Keitel, Jodie Foster, Laura Dern. Early Scorsese drama about widowed 35-year-old mother Burstyn, who, after the death of her brutish spouse, promises her son to take him to Monterey – in search of a better life. Moody, authentic, well-acted drama isn’t among Scorsese’s top achievements; he tries too hard to imitate the Nouvelle Vague and keeps movie slightly too episodic. Still, some found this excellent. Burstyn won Best Actress Oscar, Scorsese went on to direct TAXI DRIVER (1976). Larry Cohen is credited as production executive. Followed by a TV series.

Alice in Wonderland (1951, USA) C-72m. *** D: Claude Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske. Starring (the voices of) Kathryn Beaumont, Ed Wynn, Richard Haydn, Sterling Holloway,   Good Lewis Carroll adaptation from Disney, not among their masterpieces but well-worth watching. Young girl Alice is bored with her life, then follows a rabbit (with a watch, no less) into a rabbithole and stumbles (or falls) into a wondrous land which seems toh ave its own laws. Rather episodic, and so fast-paced that it becomes annoying at times, but well-animated, with many delightful sequences. Legend has it that Aldous Huxley contributed to the script.

Alice in Wonderland (2010, USA) C-108m. *** D: Tim Burton. Starring Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Marton Csokas, Tim Pigott-Smith, voices of Christopher Lee, Michael Gough. Extravagant filmization of Lewis Carrol’s novels sends a 19-year-old Alice, on the brink of an unwanted engagement, back to Wonderland, where she has encounters with well-known characters and goes on a mission to defeat the Jabberwocky. Beautifully designed, like any Burton movie, this one almost misses the mark plotwise – becoming far too LORD OF THE RINGS-like – but Danny Elfman’s fine score and an engaging finale pull it off. Also released in 3D, but the effects are nothing special.

Alice ou la Dernière Fugue (1976, FRA) C-93m. ** D: Claude Chabrol. Starring Sylvia Kristel, Charles Vanel, André Dussollier, Fernand Ledoux, Thomas Chabrol, Jean Carmet. After leaving her husband Alice Carol (Sylvia Kristel - star of EMMANUELLE) stumbles into a strange mansion where time seems to stand still. When she wakes up the following morning she discovers that she cannot leave the premise. Strange psycho drama, oddly fascinating at its best, terribly slow and redundant at its worst. An experiment which is almost impossible to rate, but only recommended to followers of the director, others may find this parable too slow or difficult to decipher. Obviously inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. English title: ALICE OR THE LAST ESCAPADE.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1972, GBR) C-101m. SCOPE **½ D: William Sterling. Starring Fiona Fullerton, Michael Jayston, Hywel Bennett, Michael Crawford, Ralph Richardson, Fred Cox, Roy Kinnear, Peter Sellers, Dudley Moore, Dennis Price, Spike Milligan. Interesting – to say the least – musical version of Lewis Carrol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is fairly close to its source. Alice (Fullerton) follows a white rabbit into a magical, bizarre land, where nothing is as it seems. Even if the movie itself may not fully succeed, some of its components are truly facinating: Beautiful set decoration, fine special effects, excellent camerawork (by Geoffrey Unsworth), good score (by John Barry), and appealing performances by a stellar cast, with Sellers a stand-out as the March Hare. Well-worth tracking down, also as a companion piece to Tim Burton’s remake of 2010.

Alien (1979, USA) C-117m. Scope *** D: Ridley Scott. Starring Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto. One of the most acclaimed sci-fi horror movies of all time: On their way back to Earth, Skerritt and Weaver’s spacecraft is intercepted by an S.O.S. signal. When they are out to investigate, an evil organism attacks Hurt and is brought on board. Soon the crew must combat an alien life form that seems indestructible. Top cinematography, art direction, production design, film’s plot is of secondary interest (it’s actually based on the 1958 low-budgeter IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE), but suspense doesn’t give you much time to think anyway. A modern classic and perhaps the most intense science-fiction film of all time. Watch it in a theater for maximum effect. Alien design by H. R. Giger. Story by Dan O’Bannon, co-produced by Walter Hill. Score by Jerry Goldsmith. Followed by three sequels, starting with ALIENS. Director Scott went on to make another sci-fi classic, BLADE RUNNER.

Alien Dead, The (1980, USA) C-73m. M D: Fred Olen Ray. Starring Buster Crabbe, Raymond Roberts, Linda Lewis, George Kelsey, Fred Olen Ray. Amateurish horror movie made on a shoe-string about an alien invasion in rural Southern community. The ‘aliens’ walk around like zombies attacking people. Ed Wood-ish director Ray obviously gathered his friends and family to make this inept mess after watching DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978). Also known as IT FELL FROM THE SKY, and SWAMP OF THE BLOOD LEECHES. ‘Movie Dead’ is more like it.

Alien from the Deep (1989, USA/ITA) C-92m. ** D: Anthony M. Dawson (=Antonio Margheriti). Starring Daniel Bosch, Julia MacKay, Alan Collins, Robert Marius, Charles Napier. Two Greenpeace activists stumble upon a monster created by radioactive waste which a ruthless company has been dumping into a volcano. Trashy but fast-moving ecological thriller that turns into a sci-fi-horror flick in the second half. The monster is not convincing, however. Nearly all of director Dawson’s films are watchable if you can accept the worthless plots. Italian title: ALIEN DEGLI ABISSI.

Alien Predator (1987, USA) C-90m. ** D: Deran Sarafian. Starring Dennis Christopher, Martin Hewitt, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Luis Prendes, J.O. Bosso. Trashy but not unexciting sci-fi horror film in the ALIEN-vein, about an alien organism which fell from space with the SkyLab and is threatening to take over a small Spanish town – and then the world. Not very intelligent, but quite well-made and contains enough gore to please genre fans. Written and coproduced by director Sarafian. Filmed in 1984. Some consider this to be a sequel to NIGHT SHADOWS.

Alien Resurrection (1997, USA) C-109m. Scope ** D: Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Starring Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon, Dan Hedaya, J.E. Freeman, Brad Dourif, Raymond Cruz, Michael Wincott. On a space vessel, Ltd. Ripley (the character from the original ALIEN) is cloned by some scientists in order to get hold of the alien organism that started to breed in her before her death at the end of ALIEN³. When a bunch of outlaws board the ship - wouldn’t you know it - the alien queen escapes from the lab, and Ripley must do her best to kill it. Muddled script bombs, no doubt, but special effects are explosive (and quite gory). A telling comment about this film is made in the movie itself: ‘How can you bear this life?’ (Ryder to Weaver). So, non-science-fiction/horror fans beware!   

Aliens (1986, USA) C-137m. *** D: James Cameron. Starring Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein. Ltd. Ripley returns to Earth after floating in space for 80 years. When she learns that settlers have established a colony on the Alien’s planet, she is willing to travel back – only to find that all the settlers have been used as cocoons for breeding new aliens. Unlike Scott, director Cameron (THE TERMINATOR) places the emphasis on action. The sequel is less subtly stomach-churning than the original but contains some excellent sequences, especially the finale. Also shown in a 154m. Director’s Cut version. Like the first part (ALIEN), this won a Special Effects Oscar. Followed by ALIEN3.

Aliens in the Attic (2009, USA/CDN) C-86m. *** D: John Schultz. Starring Carter Jenkins, Austin Butler, Ashley Tisdale, Ahsley Boettcher, Doris Roberts, Robert Hoffman, Kevin Nealon, voices of Thomas Haden Church, Josh Peck, Kari Wahlgren J.K. Simmons. When the family is going for a summer break in their recently leased holiday home, they haven’t reckoned with an invasion of imp-sized aliens, who are planning to take over the planet. How can you stop the creatures, when they use mind-control techniques and your parents won’t believe you? Fast-paced, exciting, funny popcorn movie that never takes itself seriously. Hoffman is a hoot as Tisdale’s remote-controlled boyfriend. A nice throwback to THE GOONIES and CRITTERS days.

Alla Ricerca del Piacere (1972, ITA) C-98m. **½ D: Silvio Amadio. Starring Farley Granger, Barbara Bouchet, Rosalba Neri, Umberto Raho. Bouchet is writer Granger’s new secretary, but she only applied for the job because her friend, Granger’s old secretary, has mysteriously disappeared. Soon she finds herself entagled in all-night parties, sex and drugs. Quite interesting, well-mounted giallo bogs down a little in mid-section but is worth watching alone for seeing Neri and Bouchet make love in slow motion. Hypnotic score by Teo Usuelli. Alternative titles: AMUCK!, HOT BED OF SEX, LEATHER AND WHIPS, REPLICA DI UN DELITTO, and MANIAC MANSION.

Allegro Non Troppo (1977, ITA) C/B&W-85m. *** D: Bruno Bozzetto. Starring Marialuisa Giovannini, Néstor Garay, Maurizio Micheli, Maurizio Nichetti. Italian animation classic rivals Disney’s FANTASIA (1940), albeit this is not for children. Frame story is awkward, even off-putting as it is set during an orchestra rehearsal, with a presenter talking straight into the camera. The conductor is the animator who turns pieces of classical music (by Debussy, Dvorak, Vivaldi etc.) into visual poems. Some sequences show off Bozzetto’s artistic mastery, especially the rhythmical one set to Maurice Ravel’s Bolero. Recommended to buffs. The director’s most famous character, Signor Rossi, makes a cameo appearance.

Aller Simple, Un (1971, FRA/ITA/SPA) C-102m. ** D: José Giovanni. Starring Jean-Claude Bouillon, Nicoletta, Maurice Garrel, Jean Gaven, Paul Beauvais, Alain Mottet, Rufus, Giancarlo Giannini, Ottavia Piccolo. Typically ponderous crime drama by Giovanni, a former crook himself. Bouillon is a small-time gangster, who robs a jeweller’s shop, then shoots a policeman in self defense. In hospital, he realizes that he hardly stands a chance against the accusations. Makes one point – again and again and again. Based on the novel by Henry Edward Helseth. English title: ONE WAY TICKET.

Alligator (1980, USA) C-91m. **½ D: Lewis Teague. Starring Robert Forster, Robin Riker, Michael V. Gazzo, Dean Jagger, Henry Silva. A monster alligator kills humans in the sewers of Chicago, cop Forster is investigating the murders with zoologist Riker. It turns out that hormone experiments are responsible for the unnatural growth of the reptile. Monster movie doesn’t take itself seriously and offers some nice shock scenes. This okay animal horror was written by John Sayles and directed Lewis ‘CUJO’ Teague. Followed by ALLIGATOR II: THE MUTATION in 1991.

Al Límite (1997, SPA) C-94m. Scope **½ D: Eduardo Campoy. Starring Juanjo Puigcorbé, Lydia Bosch, Béatrice Dalle, Bud Spencer, Mabel Lozano, José Manuel Lorenzo, Rafael Romero Marchent, Rosanna Yanni. Slickly made if familiar thriller about a serial killer on the loose in Madrid and state attorney Bosch’s attempt to catch him. Her rival: Radio celebrity Dalle, who’d do anything to get him on the show. Attractive Bosch is good, but thriller remains too obvious. English title: TO THE LIMIT.

Almost Famous (2000, USA) C-123m. ***½ D: Cameron Crowe. Starring Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Patrick Fugit, Zooey Deschanel, Fairuza Balk, Anna Paquin, Philip Seymour Hoffman. Bijou Phillips. Fugit plays a 15-year-old who gets inspired by his sister’s records to become a rock’n’roll journalist in 1973. He goes on the road with an up-and-coming rock band and finds himself torn between the budding love for ‘band-aid’ Hudson, the band’s extravagance and his over-protective mother McDormand. Superior cast, heart-felt (semi-autobiographical) script by the director make this a winner from start to finish. Hudson and McDormand give Oscar-worthy performances (both were nominated). Crowe’s screenplay won the Academy Award.

Along Came Polly (2004, USA) C-90m. **½ D: John Hamburg. Starring Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Debra Messing, Alec Baldwin, Hank Azaria, Bryan Brown. Thoroughly clichéd but still quite enjoyable romantic comedy about risk manager Stiller, who’s an ace with statistics, and his bride Messing, who cheats on the poor guy on their honeymoon and calls their relationship off. Devastated Stiller questions his entire existence, but then… along comes Polly (Aniston), who’s a chaotic friend from junior high. Scriptwriters make this completely artificial, but Stiller is funny (especially when dancing Salsa).

Alouette, Je Te Plumerai (1987, FRA) C-93m. *** D: Philippe Zucca. Starring Claude Chabrol, Valérie Allan, Fabrice Luchini, Micheline Presle, Jean-Paul Roussilllon. Film director Chabrol is well-cast as a cunning old man who moves from an old people’s home into the flat of a young couple who hope that they’ll inherit a vast fortune. However, the old man only pretends to be sick, which he cannot hide forever. Sometimes funny, sometimes serious satire on money and human relationships, intelligently scripted by the director. Acting, direction, score uniformly fine. In fact, film comes close to being a ‘Chabrol’ itself. English title: THE LARK.

Alphaville (1965, FRA/ITA) 99m. D: Jean-Luc Godard. Starring Eddie Constantine, Anna Karina, Akim Tamiroff, Howard Vernon, Laszló Szábó, Michel Delahaye, Christa Lang, Jean-Pierre Léaud. Very strange science-fiction film about private eye Lemmy Caution (Constantine), who is called to futuristic city of Alphaville, where a computer is controlling everything. He is supposed to rescue an abducted scientist. Or something like that. Seems dated and pretentious, hardly makes sense. Still, a cult film in some circles. Based on Paul Eluard’s novel Le Capitale de la Douleur. Full title: ALPHAVILLE, UNE ETRANGE AVENTURE DE LEMMY CAUTION.

Altrimenti Ci Arrabbiamo (1973, ITA/SPA) C-96m. Scope **½ D: Marcello Fondato. Starring Terence Hill, Bud Spencer, John Sharp, Donald Pleasance, Patty Shepard. Typical Hill/Spencer comedy, made after their spaghetti western days, about two friends who have just won a nice buggy, which is destroyed by “villain” Sharp’s gang. His adviser and psychologist (Pleasance, in a rare comic turn) wants to demolish a theme park, which the boys happen to like. Slapstick comedy is quite engaging and funny (and also rather silly). Some scenes go on for too long. For kids. English title: WATCH OUT, WE’RE MAD.

Al Tropico del Cancro (1972, ITA) C-85m. Scope ** D: Eduardo Mulargia, Gian Paolo Lomi. Starring Anthony Steffen, Anita Strindberg, Gabriele Tinti, Umberto Raho, Stelio Candelli, Alfio Nicolosi. Just okay giallo about doctor Steffen, who has developed an important serum or drug on Haiti that many businessmen are after. When people around him turn up dead, it becomes clear that the formula is worth more than a human life. Interesting setting, replete with voodoo references, but plot is too vague for too long and hardly exciting. Some bizzarre slow-motion scenes involving Strindberg almost make it worthwhile. Spaghetti western actor Steffen also co-authored the story. Nice period soundtrack by Piero Umiliani. English titles: DEATH IN HAITI, PEACOCK’S PLACE, TROPIC OF CANCER.

Amanti del Mostro, Le (1974, ITA) C-84m. **½ D: Sergio Garrone. Starring Klaus Kinski, Katia Christine, Marzia Damon, Stella Calderoni. After her father’s death, Christine goes to claim her inheritance, a castle. Her husband Kinski is about to discover the laboratory downstairs, where Christine’s father used to conduct experiments with animal blood, resulting in a kind of Jekyll/Hyde schizophrenia. One of the last gothic horror chillers produced in Italy, this one is unusually soft-spoken but eventually too low-key for its own good. Still, this obscure title is worth seeking out for genre fans and those of Kinski, who seems ideally suited to this role. Director Garrone made a similar film simultaneously, which is called MANO CHE NUTRE LE MORTE (1974). The two films are sometimes mixed up. English title: LOVER OF THE MONSTER.

Amanti d’Oltretomba (1965, ITA) 104m. ** D: Allan Grünewald (=Mario Caiano). Starring Barbara Steele, Paul Miller (=Paul Müller), Helga Liné, Laurence Clift, Rik Battaglia. Doctor Müller conducts secret experiments in his castle’s dungeon in order to rejuvenate the blood of his lover Liné. His wife Steele, who is having an affair with Battaglia, may be his first victim. It turns out that Steele has a sister that looks exactly like her. Euro-cult horror has atmospheric setting and the likes of Barbara Steele (twice!), but film is poorly paced and written. Still, it’s a quite famous example of its subgenre, the Italian Gothic horror chiller, which was – as this one clearly shows – influenced by the Poe adaptations by Roger Corman from the early 60s. Score by Ennio Morricone. Also shown in 90m. version. Alternative titles include THE FACELESS MONSTER, LOVERS BEYOND THE TOMB, NIGHTMARE CASTLE, NIGHT OF THE DOOMED and even ORGASMO (for no obvious reason).

Amazing Captain Nemo (1978, USA) C-103m. *½ D: Alex March. Starring José Ferrer, Burgess Meredith, Lynda Day George, Tom Hallick, Mel Ferrer, Horst Buchholz. Juvenile fantasy with Ferrer rather looking like Captain Birdseye than Captain Nemo. He goes aginst a mad scientist (Meredith) who threatens to blow up Washington, D.C. Along the way they also visit Atlantis. Pretty unspectacular, only kids will find this an okay view. Received only limited theatrical release.

Amazing Mr. Blunden, The (1972, GBR) C-99m. *** D: Lionel Jeffries. Starring Laurence Naismith, Lynne Frederick, Garry Miller, Rosalyn Landor, Marc Granger, Diana Dors, James Villiers, Madeleine Smith. Delightful children’s fantasy about poor London family, who are visited one day by a mysterious stranger by the name of Mr. Blunden, who offers the mother a job as a housekeeper in an allegedly haunted house. The single parent accepts and along with her three children (one of whom is a toddler) moves into the derelict mansion. Soon the children learn that two kids died in the house a hundred years ago, and Mr Blunden may be a ghost! Short of effects, but fine, old-fashioned story (based on The Ghosts by Antonia Barber) offers enough joy. Fine score by Elmer Bernstein. Produced by Barry Levinson.

Amazing Spider-Man, The (1977, USA) C-92m. ** D: E.W. Swackhamer. Starrinbg Nicholas Hammond, David White, Michael Pataki, Hilly Hicks, Lisa Eilbacher, Dick Balduzzi. Corny, naive, rather cheap comic book adaptation made for television about photographer Peter Parker, who is bitten by a spider and turns into the title character, a kind of superhero. Doesn’t hold up well today, but is quite engaging, best for kids. Followed by two sequels and a TV series.

Amazzoni – Donne d’Amore e di Guerra, Le (1973, ITA/SPA) C-103m. Scope D: Alfonso Brescia. Starring Lincoln Tate, Lucretia Love, Paola Tedesco, Robert Widmark (=Alberto dell’Acqua), Frank Brana, Solvi Stubing. Tired, pointless actioner, an Italian-Spanish co-production set in ancient Greece, where the Amazon women (called the Devil Women here) are terrorizing the countryside. Enter a few tough men, who teach the local farmers to defend themselves a la THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960). Pretty ridiculous, only surprise is how professional the score is amid this inept mess of a movie. Cowritten by Bruno Corrucci. English titles: THE DEVIL WOMEN, BATTLE OF THE AMAZONS, BEAUTY OF THE BARBARIAN.

Ambulance, The (1990, USA) C-91m. *½ D: Larry Cohen. Starring Eric Roberts, James Earl Jones, Megan Gallagher, Red Buttons, Janine Turner, Eric Braeden, Stan Lee. Barely believable thriller about Roberts, who discovers that there are ambulance cars in New York City that abduct patients. It turns out some doctor is using them for his evil schemes. Film starts out quite well, but some self-conscious (unintentional?) comic touches, slow pace and dumb plotting ruin it. Who advised Jones and Buttons to be in this? Director Cohen also scripted.

American Beauty (1999, USA) C-117m. Scope **½ D: Sam Mendes. Starring Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening. Laced-in-acid satirical drama about ‘typical’ American suburban family, consisting of sexually frustrated, forty-ish Spacey and hysterical, equally frustrated wife Bening. Their daughter N.N. currently lives through the pangs of puberty, until her classmate, precocious N.N. enters the scene and turns Spacey’s life upside down. And disturbed teenager N.N. has just moved into the neighborhood with his apathic mother and shell-shocked vietnam-vet father. Study of mid-life crisis is buoyed by fine performances but remains unpleasant throughout. Actually no more than a paraphrase of the much more atmospheric and moody THE ICE STORM. Several surreal scenes make it worthwhile, but ultimately film fails to make a point, except that American beauty can be found in a plastic bag dancing in the wind. Depressing. Oscar winner for Best Picture, Best Actor, Screenplay, Photography.

American Dreamz (2006, USA) C-107m. *** D: Paul Weitz. Starring Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid, Mandy Moore, Willem Dafoe, Chris Klein, Jennifer Coolidge, Sam Golzari, Marcia Gay Harden, Seth Meyers, John Cho, Bernard White, Lawrence Pressman, Chao Li Chi, Carmen Electra, Judy Greer. Amusing satire of American values follows two contestants to a talent competition hosted by Grant (the highest rated show on TV), one of them bumbling Arab terrorist Golzari, who is supposed to explode himself and the confused President (Quaid) at the finale. A bit obvious and not always credible, but stars (especially Grant and Quaid) make up for it. Another solid piece of entertainment, written and produced by director Weitz (AMERICAN PIE, ABOUT A BOY).

American History X (1998, USA) C/B&W-119m. *** D: Tony Kaye. Starring Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Beverly D’Angelo, Jennifer Lien, Ethan Suplee, Fairuza Balk, Avery Brooks, Elliott Gould, Stacy Keach, Paul Le Mat. Engrossing, at times powerful drama about racist, neo-Nazi Norton, who is sent to prison after killing two blacks, leaving his desolate family – especially his teenage brother Furlong – to themselves. The boy eagerly embraces his ideology, but when Norton is released from prison completely changed, conflicts break open. Told in flashbacks, film’s best scenes deal with the family, but it also has important things to say about racism and hatred in general. Good performances. Score tends to be too overblown. Photographed by first-time director Kaye.

American Nightmare, The (2000, USA/GBR) C-73m. *** D: Adam Simon. Featuring interviews with John Carpenter, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, Tobe Hooper, John Landis, George A. Romero, Tom Savini. Interesting look at the influence of real-life events on American horror films of the late 1960s and 1970s. Famous directors are interviewed about why they made the films, some experts discuss the phenomenon in general. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972), THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974), SHIVERS (1975), DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) and HALLOWEEN (1978) are discussed in detail, clips are shown from these movies and others. Very informative documentary, although the endings of the movies are also shown and/or explained (spoiler alert!).

American Perfekt (1997, USA) C-100m. **½ D: Paul Chart. Starring Amanda Plummer, Robert Forster, David Thewlis, Fairuza Balk, Paul Sorvino, Joanna Gleason, Geoffrey Lewis, Chris Sarandon, Jay Patterson. Odd, intriguing road movie with Plummer reprising the neurotic character from earlier roles. A maniac causes her to have an accident on the road in the desert, and by chance she is helped by passing-by Forster, who claims to be psychiatrist. He evades decisions by tossing a coin each time he is unsure what to do. And yes, there's a serial killer on the loose. Interesting, to say the least, but not very believable and exciting. The ending disappoints a little. Still, this thriller is recommended to all lovers of the bizarre cinema. Produced by Irvin Kershner. Score by Simon Boswell. Written by director Chart.

American Pie (1999, USA) C-96m. *** D: Paul Weitz. Starring Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Alysno Hannigan, Chris Klein, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Seann W. Scott, Eugene Levy, Lawrence Pressman, Mena Suvari. Formulaic but very funny teen comedy about four college pals who decide Prom Night’s the deadline for losing their virginity. More profane and explicit than others of its kind (and not exactly credible) but also more entertaining and likable. Fast-paced fun. Followed by a sequel.

American Pie 2 (2001, USA) C-104m. *** D: James B. Rogers. Starring Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Alyson Hannigan, Steve Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Natasha Lyonne, Mena Suvari, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Casey Affleck. Hilarious sequel to the 1999 box-office hit follows the exploits of Biggs and his friends as they rent a beach house during the holidays and try to get laid by as many chicks as possible. Full of amusing vignettes (the lesbian house sequence is a scream!), good performances by an enjoyable cast. Scott is especially fun to watch. Followed by AMERICAN WEDDING (2003).

American Psycho (2000, USA) C-102m. Scope **½ D: Mary Harron. Starring Christopher Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Josh Lucas, Samantha Mathis, Matt Ross, William Sage, Chloë Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon. Adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ cult novel about a Wall Street yuppie whose luxurios but ultimately meaningless existence drives him to brutal murder. Bale succeeds in breathing life into the main character and, though not as violent as the book,  director Harron captures the tone of the novel quite well. However, the final third offers no novelties, and the film peters out without a satisfying climax. All in all, not a bad stab at filming the unfilmable. Cowritten by diretor Harron.

American Wedding (2003, USA) C-103m. Scope **½ D: Jesse Dylan. Starring Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Alyson Hannigan, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Thomas Ian Nicholas, January Jones, Eugene Levy, Lawrence Pressman. Conclusion of the AMERICAN PIE films follows the preparations to Biggs and Hannigan’s wedding. Needless to say, Stiffler (Scott) is fouling things up, while trying to score on Hannigan’s best friend Jones. More episodic, with a weaker plot, but fans should still get their share of belly laughs.

American Werewolf in London, An (1981, USA) C-97m. *** D: John Landis. Starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne, John Woodvine, Brian Glover, John Landis. Two American tourists travelling through Scotland are attacked by a werewolf one night. One of them dies, the other (Naughton) is brought to a London hospital. He eventually moves in with nurse Agutter, but must learn that he is now a werewolf and his transformation is pending. Effective, well-directed horror movie manages to be both funny and serious, and quite violent, too. A cult hit. Rick Baker won an Oscar for his good, bloody effects. Score by Elmer Bernstein. Followed by a loosely related sequel in 1997.

American Werewolf in Paris, An (1997, USA/FRA) C-98m. **½ D: Anthony Waller. Starring Tom Everett Scott, Julie Delpy, Vince Vieluf, Phil Buckman, Julie Bowen, Pierre Cosso, Thierry Lhermitte, Anthony Waller. American Scott, touring Europe with two friends, meets a young woman (Delpy) in Paris under unusual circumstances and falls in love with her. Little does he know that she is a werewolf, and there are more of her kind roaming the streets at night. Well-paced, effective comic horror thriller with atmospheric sets suffers from a second-rate plot that has a few good ideas but not enough of them. This sequel to John Landis’ AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is better than expected, however, and horror fans will boost the rating by half a star.

Amiche Mie (1982, ITA) C-79m. *½ D: Michele Massimo Tarantini. Starring Nadia Cassini, Carmen Russo, Olivia Link (=Olinka Hardiman), Michele Gammino, Gianfranco D’Angelo, Carla Gravina. In the late 1970s and early 1980s there was obviously a market (in Italy) for silly erotic comedies like this one: Three sexy friends will only receive the inheritance of 1 billion Lire if they cheat on their husbands within three days. If you expect something titillating, forget it.

Amityville Horror, The (1979, USA) C-101m. ** D: Stuart Rosenberg. Starring James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger, Don Stroud, Murray Hamilton, Helen Shaver. Obviously plotted horror film about a young family who moves into a house where a gruesome murder has taken place. Soon they discover that the house is haunted as terrible things start to happen. Pretty dull, but technically okay and well-scored (by Lalo Schifrin). Steiger is much too dramatic in a pointless role as a priest. Based on a novel by Jay Anson, who claims that this things happened to him in real life! Followed by seven sequels (so far), starting with AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION. U.S. version runs 117m.

Amityville II: The Possession (1982, USA) C-98m. ** D: Damiano Damiani. Starring Burt Young, Rutanya Alda, James Olson, Jack Magner, Diane Franklin, Andrew Prine, Ted Ross, Moses Gunn. Young moves into the notorious house with his family and is confronted with eerie going-ons. Sequel to the above retreads the familiar path (haunted house/exorcism) but is competently made and has better production values. Based on the novel Murder in Amityville by Hans Holzer. Score by Lalo Schifrin. Produced by Dino de Laurentiis. U.S. version runs 104m. Followed by AMITYVILLE 3-D.

Amityville 3-D (1983, USA) C-92m. Scope M D: Richard Fleischer. Starring Tony Roberts, Tess Harper, Robert Joy, Candy Clark, John Beal, Leora Dana, John Harkins, Lori Loughlin, Meg Ryan. Third film of the series was shot in widescreen and 3D, but this is about the only novelty in this tired horror movie. Roberts moves into haunted house, is faced with paranormal going-ons. Tame and unconvincing; horror fans should stay away. Ran 105m. in U.S. theaters. Followed by AMITYVILLE 4: THE EVIL ESCAPES (a TV-movie), THE AMITYVILLE CURSE, AMITYVILLE 1992: IT’S ABOUT TIME, and AMITYVILLE: A NEW GENERATION.

Amore Amaro (1974, ITA) C-104m. **½ D: Florestano Vancini. Starring Lisa Gastoni, Leonard Mann, Maurizio Fiori, Rita Livesi, Franco Patano. Quiet, serious drama, set in Italy of the 1930s, about 26-year-old Mann, who falls in love with an older woman, while beginning to be critical of the emerging Fascist movement. In prolepses (flash-forwards), we see the protagonists at an advanced age). This film ought to have been better, it wavers too undecidedly between the two plot strands. Based on the novel by Carlo Bernari. Beautiful score by Armando Trovajoli, who also collaborated with Mario Bava. From the director of the intense spaghetti western I LUNGHI GIORNI DELLA VENDETTA. English title: BITTER LOVE.

Amore, Piobo e Furore (1978, ITA/SPA) C-98m. **½ D: Monte Hellman. Starring Warren Oates, Fabio Testi, Jenny Agutter, Sam Peckinpah, Isabel Mestres, Richard C. Adams, Romano Puppo, Helga Liné, Tony Brandt. Interesting spaghetti western, one of the genre’s last gasps, and clearly influenced by American hands. Hellman tries to create a hybrid of PAT GARRETT & BILL THE KID (1973) and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968) with a prevailing, lumbering melancholic tone, but story fails to ignite sparks. Testi is saved from the gallows and given a chance to survive if he kills gunfighter-turned-farmer Oates, who is opposing the railroad. Testi falls in love with his wife Agutter and together they conspire to kill him. Slow but fairly meaningless, endowed with a beautiful Pino Donaggio score, film will only interest you if you like that cast. Peckinpah has an impressive cameo role. Also known as GUNFIRE, CLAYTON & CATHERINE, CLAYTON DRUMM, LOVE, BULLETS AND FRENZY, and most commonly CHINA 9, LIBERTY 37.

Anaconda (1997, USA) C-90m. Scope ** D: Luis Llosa. Starring Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Jon Voight, Eric Stoltz, Jonathan Hyde, Kari Wuhrer, Owen Wilson, Vincent Castellanos, Danny Trejo. Standard monster horror film about a giant snake which terrorizes a documentary film crew in the Amazon jungle. Some exciting moments and Voight's over-the-top performance as the bad guy save this flick from a worse rating. The snake is all too obviously made of rubber, when not animated by computer graphics.

Analyze This (1999, USA) C-103m. *** D: Harold Ramis. Starring Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow, Chazz Palmintieri. Witty comedy about mafia kingpin De Niro, who seeks out psychiatrist Crystal to be cured from his sudden shifts in mood that make it impossible for him to do his job. Crystal is about to be married to Kudrow, but De Niro considers his problems to be more important than her - and the shrink's other patients. Funny, hilarious at times, this comedy's biggest drawing card is the chemistry between De Niro and his suffering psychotherapist Crystal.

Anastasia (1997, USA) C-94m. Scope **½ D: Don Bluth, Gary Goldman. Voices of Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Lloyd, Hank Azaria, Bernadette Peters, Kirsten Dunst. In 1916, little Anastasia, the Russian Czar's daughter, gets lost during revolution and is rediscovered ten years later... but she doesn't remember her heritage and may fall prey to two loafers, who are eager to cash in the money promised by Anastasia's grandmother to those who find her. However, there's love to be found and the evil spirit of Rasputin to be contended with. Fanciful entertainment for kids, though some dramatic and graphic scenes may make it unsuitable for very small ones. Adults may fret about 1990s dialogue and gestures in a movie that is supposed to be set in 1926. The fluid animation is complemented by (all too visible) computer graphics.

Anatomie (2000, GER) C-99m. Scope D: Stefan Ruzowitzky. Starring Franka Potente, Benno Fürmann, Anna Loos, Sebastian Blomberg, Holger Speckhahn, Rüdiger Vogler. Young medical student Potente discovers a secret society of doctors, who conduct illegal experiments on live victims, and from then on must fear for her life. Poor thriller lacks style, atmosphere, suspense and credibility. Artificial plot situations prevail. You’re better advised with watching COMA, NATTEVAGTEN or RE-ANIMATOR. A major disappointment from the director of the acclaimed DIE SIEBTELBAUERN.

Anaza Hevun (2000, JAP) C-132m. ** D: Jôji Iida. Starring Yôsuke Eguchi, Miwako Ichikawa, Takashi Kashiwabara, Yukiko Okamoto, Haruhiko Katô. A serial killer is baffling police detectives in Japan. He removes his victims‘ brains, then cooks them. It turns out the killer is not human but a supernatural force that moves from host to host. Detective Ichikawa is trying to catch and eliminate it. Fairly good thriller is well-made but a bit overlong, by the finale your interest will have waned. From the producer of RINGU (1997) and the director of the RINGU sequel RASEN (1998). English title: ANOTHER HEAVEN.

Anche gli Angeli Mangiano Fagioli (1973, ITA/FRA/SPA) C-123m. Scope **½ D: E.B. Clucher (=Enzo Barboni). Starring Giuliano Gemma, Bud Spencer, Robert Middleton, Bill Vanders, Georges Rigaud. Parody of gangster movies, with wrestler Spencer and petty criminal Gemma teaming up to find work in Middleton’s syndicate. However, they are much too lenient and give more money to the poor than they earn. Amusing comedy with typical Spencer brawls. Good production values (recreating Chicago of the 1920s) put this a notch above the usual Italian slapstick comedy. English title: EVEN ANGELS EAT BEANS. Followed by a sequel (without Spencer): ANCHE GLI ANGELI TIRANO DI DESTRO (1974).

Anderson Tapes, The (1972, USA) C-98m. *** D: Sidney Lumet. Starring Sean Connery, Dyan Cannon, Martin Balsam, Ralph Meeker, Alan King, Margaret Hamilton, Christopher Walken, Garrett Morris. Good thriller, based on Lawrence Sanders’ novel, about plan of ex-convict Connery to rob an entire apartment building. However, he has been under (illegal) surveillance ever since he left prison. Film really comes to life in last 30 minutes, when the heist is actually performed. Good cast, good score (by Quincy Jones), superior entertainment. Adaptation is not flawless, though. It never becomes clear that the surveil-lance tapes are the reason why we know about the details of the story in the first place. Walken’s first film.

Andromeda Strain, The (1971, USA) C-130m. Scope *** D: Robert Wise. Starring Arthur Hill, David Wayne, James Olson, Kate Reid, Paula Kelly, George Mitchell, Michael Crichton. Suspenseful story about mysterious organism from space that is discovered to have wiped out entire village in New Mexico. A group of scientists gather in ultra-sophisticated laboratory to isolate virus and study it. Good widescreen photography, expert direction by Wise, one of the first science-fiction movies of an incredibly innovative decade. Written by Nelson Gidding, from the novel by Michael Crichton. Douglas Trumbull did the special effects.

Andromeda Strain, The (2008, USA) C-180m. **½ D: Mikael Salomon. Starring Benjamin Bratt, Eric McCormack, Christa Miller, Daniel Dae Kim, Viola Davis, Justin Louis, Barry Flatman, Ted Whittall, Ted Atherton. Made-for-TV remake of the 1971 disaster movie (based on Michael Crichton’s novel) about an alien organism that falls on Earth and kills the population of a small Utah town within minutes. The army are trying to contain it, while scientists are studying the virus, and politicians are discussing the use of a small atom bomb. Quite exciting first half, with touches of potent horror, but film bogs down in the second half, especially in its dialogues, which don’t convey the panic convincingly and are rather complicated and stilted. Also, the subplot involving a renegade reporter is rather silly. Co-executive produced by Ridley and Tony Scott.

And Soon the Darkness (1970, GBR) C-98m. ** D: Robert Fuest. Starring Pamela Franklin, Michèle Dotrice, Sandor Elès, John Nettleton, Clare Kelly, Hana-Maria Pravda, John Franklyn, Claude Bertrand, Jean Carmet. Potentially intriguing thriller about two British girls cycling through the French countryside, unaware of the fact that there is a sex murderer at large, falls flat because of unimaginative direction, tired plotting. Score is appropriately eerie but film leaves you wondering what Claude Chabrol would have made of the material. At the very least you’ll get a chance to brush up on your French in some dialogues. 

And Then There Were None (1974, GBR/ITA/FRA/SPA/GER) C-92m. ** D Peter Collinson. Starring Oliver Reed, Richard Attenborough, Gert Fröbe, Elke Sommer, Adolfo Celi, Herbert Lom, Charles Aznavour, Stéphane Audran, Alberto de Mendoza, Maria Rohm, Rik Battaglia, voice of Orson Welles. Rather uninspired retelling of Agatha Christie’s fine story of ten guests in remote mansion, who all have committed a crime which they are now about to be punished for by a mystery host. Some 70s style, interesting cast, but film will please only those that haven’t seen the earlier versions. Score by Carlo Rustichelli. Also known as TEN LITTLE INDIANS.

Angel Heart (1987, USA/CDN/GBR) C-113m. ***½ D: Alan Parker. Starring Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, Lisa Bonet, Charlotte Rampling, Stocker Fontelieu, Pruitt Taylor Vince. Impressive exercise in noir filmmaking, an atmospheric maelstrom. Rourke is worn-down private eye Harry Angel, whose latest case puts him in search of a missing singer in the netherworld of 1950s New Orleans. Rourke’s mysterious client De Niro obviously has a score to settle with the elusive man. Soon, people around Harry start dying gruesome deaths. Great mystery plot, brilliant use of settings and fine camerawork make this one of the best mysteries of the 1980s. A highly interesting, well-made movie about identities and finding yourself, might be considered as a link between BLADE RUNNER (1982) and JACOB’S LADDER (1990). It also has a great soundtrack. Written by the director, based on the novel Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg, who wrote Ridley Scott’s LEGEND (1985).

Angelo con la Pistola, L’ (1992, ITA) C-115m. **½ D: Damiano Damiani. Starring Tahnee Welch, Remo Girone, Eva Grimaldi, Nicola D’Eramo, Franco Scaccia. Another one of director Damiani’s political thrillers, this one focuses on unlikely couple Welch and police inspector Girone, who find themselves attracted to each other, as they have different motives for taking (merciless) revenge on corrupt politicians. Interesting subject matter, but too tame, too slow. This stuff belongs to a 1970s potboiler (it was coscripted by Dardano Sacchetti). Score by Riz Ortolani is a little reminiscent of the one for HENRY – PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER. English titles: ANGEL OF DEATH, ANGEL WITH A GUN.

Angelo per Satana, Un (1966, ITA) 90m. *** D: Camillo Mastrocinque. Starring Barbara Steele, Anthony Steffen, Betty Delon, Mario Brega, Claudio Gora. Steele is at her best as woman who may be the reincarnation of a witch who died centuries ago. She manipulates the population of a small village using her natural beauty. Good photography, score, atmosphere in superior, typically European horror film, highlighted by suggestive eroticism. English title: AN ANGEL FOR SATAN.

Anguilla da Trecento Millioni, Un’ (1971, ITA) C-95m. Scope **½ D: Salvatore Samperi. Starring Ottavia Piccolo, Lino Toffolo, Mario Adorf, Rodolfo Baldini, Gabriele Ferzetti, Senta Berger. Light-weight crime comedy, pretty much a relic of its time. Toffolo is dim-witted eel thief who constantly angers Adorf. One day he and his friend help out a wealthy friend by looking after his spoilt daughter. Only it turns out that she is not his daughter but his kidnap victim! Some funny twists make this worthwhile, but pace slows down considerably at times. Berger's role as a sex-hungry contessa is one big joke. Cowritten by Aldo Lado, who also assisted director Samperi (MALIZIA). English title: AN EEL WORTH 300 MILLION.

Angulimala (2003, THA) C-105m. **½ D: Sutape Tunnirut. Starring Jayanama Nopachai, Stella Malucchi, John Rattanaveroj, Kamron Gunatilaka. Another Thai film (presumably) based on an ancient legend about a young man, who receives a prediction from a mountain god that he is destined to kill all unbelieving people and he then sets out to kill one thousand after which he thinks he will find redemption. Stylish enough to make this oartly gory fantasy an okay view, but the storytelling has very little energy.

Anguria (1987, SPA) C-85m. Scope *** D: Bigas Luna. Starring Zelda Rubinstein, Michael Lerner, Talia Paul, Clara Pastor, Craig Hill. Clever horror thriller about psychopath Lerner, who is under the spell of his wicked mother Rubinstein and kills people by cutting out their eyes. Puzzling twist after twenty minutes: Everything that has been shown is actually a movie (within the movie) and there is an imitation killer loose in the cinema! Minimal plot but good suspense in effective shocker, scripted by the director. Alternative Spanish title: ANGUSTIA. Released abroad as ANGUISH.

Animal Factory (2000, USA) C-95m. *** D: Steve Buscemi. Starring Willem Dafoe, Edward Furlong, Seymour Cassel, Mickey Rourke, Steve Buscemi, Tom Arnold, John Heard, Danny Trejo. Realistic prison drama focusing on young delinquent Furlong and his association with hardened inmate Defoe, who has acquired special status and knows the tricks of the trade. Not an artistic milestone, but good acting, unpretentious handling of the material make this a winner. Cowritten by Edward Bunker, based on his novel.

Anna and the King (1999, USA) C-147m. Scope **½ D: Andy Tennant. Starring Jodie Foster, Chow Yun-Fat, Bai Ling, Tom Felton. Expensive remake of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical casts Chow Yun-Fat as the proud prince and Foster as the headstrong English teacher, who learns a great deal more than she teaches in exotic Siam. Majestic, pompous, lavishly decorated epic falls flat dramatically as Foster and Chow’s romance never really rings true. Ambitious but overlong and less engrossing than it purports to be. First-rate photography and production design used as a camouflage for dramatic flaws.

Anna Karenina (1935, USA) 94m. *** D: Clarence Brown. Starring Greta Garbo, Fredric March, Freddie Bartholomew, Maureen O’Sullivan, May Robson, Basil Rathbone. Hollywood adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic love drama casts Garbo as the title character, a woman who is torn between the love for General March and her son, who is protected by her estranged husband. Well-acted, swiftly paced, although film is clearly in need of a more stylish direction and a more compelling script. Filmed before as LOVE (with Garbo) and remade three times, most recently as LEO TOLSTOY’S ANNA KARENINA.

Anna, quel Particolare Piacere (1973, ITA) C-95m. SCOPE **½ D: Giuliano Carnimeo. Starring Edwige Fenech, Corrado Pani, Richard Conte, John Richardson, Laura Bonaparte, Ettore Manni, Corrado Gaipa, Antonio Casale, Umberto Raho, Tom Felleghy, John Bartha. Drama with crime elements (not a giallo) starring attractive Fenech as a simple cashier, who falls in love with crook Pani, is abused and battered, even sent to work as a prostitute but somehow can't get away from him or his criminal circles. Sweeping score by Luciano Michelini, Fenech and Pani’s acting (and looks) make this appealing B-movie fare. Script cowritten by Ernesto Gastaldi. English title: SECRETS OF A CALL GIRL, and ANNA: THE PLEASURE, THE TORMENT.

Année Dernière à Marienbad, L’ (1961, FRA/ITA) 94m. Scope *** D: Alain Resnais. Starring Delphine Seyrig, Giorgio Albertazzi, Sacha Pitoeff. French art-house classic uses a stream-of-consciousness narrative to ponder upon the passing of time and the power of recollection. At an anonymous hotel, in an anonymous society, whose conversations are presented in fragments, gentleman Albertazzi tries to persuade lady Seyrig that they met before once – last year at Frederiksbad or Marienbad. Slowly she allows the memory of their encounter to come back. Unconventional movie can best be described as a cinematic poem, with excellent black-and-white cinematography by Sacha Vierny. Not for all tastes, slightly pretentious, but intriguing, even fascinating. Recommended to cineastes and readers of Marcel Proust or Virginia Woolf. Director Resnais also scripted with Alain Robbe-Grillet, Volker Schlöndorff was his assistant. Reportedly based on a novel by Adolfo Bioy Casares, which was filmed again in 1974 (as L’INVENZIONE DI MOREL). English titles: LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, LAST YEAR IN MARIENBAD.

Another Day in Paradise (1998, USA) C-101m. *** D: Larry Clark. Starring James Woods, Melanie Griffith, Vincent Kartheiser, Natalie Gregson Wagner, James Otis, Brandon Williams, Brent Briscoe, Peter Sarsgaard, Lou Diamond Phillips. Grittily realistic look at the downfall of a teenage couple, who become involved with drugs and crime. They join drug dealer Woods and his wasted girlfriend Griffith to rob some pharmacy stores. Clark’s direction creates an immediacy not found in many other films of this kind. A well-acted, realistic (and violent) drama reminiscent of HENRY – PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (1986), PULP FICTION (1994), and any version of Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET. Based on the book by Eddie Little. From the director of the controversial KIDS (1995).

Anrakkî Monkî (1998, JAP) C-111m. *** D: Sabu (=Hiroyuki Tanaka). Starring Shin’ichi Tsutsumi, Hiroshi Shimizu, Akira Yamamoto, Ikko Suzuki. Kimika Yoshino. Tsutsumi is on his way to rob a bank, when a robber comes running out with a bag full of money. When the police kills the guy and his partner, Tsutsumi ends up with the money and manages to escape. During his flight he accidentally stabs a young woman, which haunts him for the rest of the film. In another (related) plot strand, three bumbling criminals also accidentally kill someone: a gangland boss. Funny, black crime comedy plays much like Quentin Tarantino’s violence fantasies, but instead of ripping them off, remains quirkily unique, with rich texture and good performances. Another cult movie from the director of DANGAN RUNNER (1996). English title: UNLUCKY MONKEY.

Ant Bully, The (2006, USA) C-88m. **½ D: John A. Davis. Starring (the voices of) Julia Roberts, Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep, Paul Giamatti, Zach Tyler, Regina King, Bruce Campbell, Lily Tomlin, Ricardo Montalban, John A. Davis. Ambitious, star-studded animation feature about a boy, who’s constantly bullied and resorts to flooding ant hills. One day he is shrunk to ant size and must try to survive in an ant colony. Some good animation, but plot is not compelling enough, despite obvious educational value. Based on the book by John Nickle.

Antefatto (1971, ITA) C-85m. *** D: Mario Bava. Starring Claudine Auger, Luigi Pistilli, Claudio Volonté, Anna Maria Rosati, Chris Avram, Leopoldo Trieste, Laura Betti, Brigitte Skay, Isa Miranda, Paola Rubens, Guido Boccaccini, Roberto Bonanni, Giovanni Nuvoletti, Nicoletta Elmi. Bava’s follow-up to CINQUE BAMBOLE PER LA LUNA D’AGOSTO is a gory slasher movie which anticipated the renaissance of the horror film in the late 1970s and early 1980s. When an old woman is killed, several characters fight for the inheritance, a beautiful bay in the countryside. Greed soon drives them to murder. Typically stylish and colorful, with a nice score by Stelvio Cipriani. Some of the gore effects are breath-taking. Screenplay by Mario Bava, Joseph McLee and Filippo Ottoni, from a story by Dardano Sacchetti, Franco Barberi. Mario’s son Lamberto was assistant director. Alternative titles: L’ECOLOGIA DEL DELITTO, TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE, BAY OF BLOOD, CARNAGE, and LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT PART II (to name a few). Also shown at 90m. (allegedly). Shot in Panoramic (1,85:1).

Anthropophagus II (1982, ITA) C-87m. M D: Peter Newton (=Joe d’Amato). Starring George East-man, Edmund Purdom, Ian Danby. Intoxicated Greek goes on a rampage in this boring slasher movie. It’s painfully unexciting, all attempts at suspense are drowned out by sheer stupidity. Direction is somewhat OK, but otherwise film is unbearable. This follow-up to the director’s ANTHROPOPHAGUS (English title: THE GRIM REAPER) is also known as ABSURD.

Antichrist (2009, DAN/SWE/POL/GER/FRA/ITA) C/B&W-104m. SCOPE **** D: Lars von Trier. Starring Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg. Disturbing psycho drama reflects upon the aftermath of a tragic accident. Dafoe and Gainsbourg’s toddler son falls to his death while they are having sex in another room of the house. She becomes mentally undone, and he, a psychotherapist, tries to cure her. Together they make a trip to Eden, a cabin in the woods, where she used to spend time with her son. She is soon overcome by fear, which she thinks is caused by the woods around her. Danish master director von Trier has fashioned a psycho horror drama of raw power, with incredibly brave performances by its stars. Film offers an examination of the link between eros and thanatos (sex and death) – much like it is a theme in Japanese pinku movies – with rampant animal symbolism, a dark, broodingly atmospheric score, and brilliant cinematography (by Anthony Dod Mantle) that makes stylish use of ultra-slow motion, black-and-white and a soft lens. Requires multiple viewing – if you are strong enough. Dedicated to Andrei Tarkovsky, one of von Trier’s idols. Also worth comparing to Robert Altman’s IMAGES (1972). Gainsbourg won Best Actress at Cannes.

Anticristo, L’ (1974, ITA) C-112m. Scope **½ D: Alberto De Martino. Starring Carla Gravina, Mel Ferrer, Arthur Kennedy, George Coulouris, Alida Valli, Mario Scaccia, Umbero Orsini, Anita Strindberg. Unjustly dismissed Italian EXORCIST-clone about Ferrer’s daughter Gravina, who has frightening visions of a witch trial. The paralyzed young woman is suffering from a childhood trauma and slowly starts showing signs of a demonic possession. Her uncle Kennedy, a priest, knows what to do…  Some good, effective sequences highlight this chiller that is not really that similar to the Friedkin classic. Unsettling score by Ennio Morricone, who – like director De Martino – pulls all the stops at the thrilling finale. Photographed by Joe D’Amato! Released in the U.S. as THE TEMPTER. Other title: THE ANTICHRIST.

Antonio è Placido Attenti Ragazzi… Chi Rompe Paga (1975, ITA/TUR) C-79m. *½ D: Giorgio Ferroni. Starring Giancarlo Prete, Gianni Rizzo, Lars Bloch, Brad Harris. Italian buddy movie, typical of that time. Two machos team up in driving a tomato truck and battle a local wanna-be gangster boss. Obscure action comedy is pretty much obsolete and irrelevant today. Director Ferroni’s last film. English title: WHO BREAKS… PAYS.

Antz (1998, USA) C-82m. *** D: E. Darnell, L. Guterman. Voices of Woody Allen, Sharon Stone. Delightful computer-animated feature from Spielberg’s Dreamworks Studios about ‘Z’, an ant living in a giant colony, who is unhappy with his life as a worker but soon stumbles into an incredible adventure with a beautiful princess. Together they embark on a journey to find ‘Insectopia’, a legendary place somewhere outside their ant-hill. Stunning animation, especially the facial expressions of the characters are meticulous. Kids will find the film even more appealing.

Anywhere But Here (1999, USA) C-114m. Scope **½ D: Wayne Wang. Starring Susan Sarandon, Natalie Portman, Hart Bochner, Shawn Hatosy, Bonnie Bedelia, John Diehl. Neurotic mother Sarandon decides to leave her home town in Minnesota to find happiness in Bevery Hills and drags her frustrated 14-year-old daughter Portman along. Their love-hate relationship slowly develops into a friendship. Sensitively handled, bittersweet drama unfortunately lacks dramatic impact. Based on the novel by Mona Simpson.

Any Which Way You Can (1980, USA) C-116m. *½ D: Buddy Van Horn. Starring Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Geoffrey Lewis, William Smith, Harry Guardino, Ruth Gordon, Glen Campbell, Anne Ramsey, Logan Ramsey, Barry Corbin, James Gammon. Rather stupid, annoying comedy, a sequel to EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE. Eastwood plays a street fighter, who travels through the country with an Orang-Utan. Plot simply an excuse for final fight. Pointless, hardly funny action film.

Apartment Zero (1988, GBR) C-124m. *** D: Martin Donovan. Starring Colin Firth, Hart Bochner, Dora Bryan, Liz Smith, Fabrizio Bentivoglio. Absorbing psycho drama about homophobic film buff Firth, who is forced to take a tenant in his flat in Buenos Aires when his movie theater threatens to go bankrupt. He seems to have found the perfect man in Bochner, an American who works for a local computer firm. But is he really the man he pretends to be? And who is responsible for the gruesome murder series that has taken the lives of nine innocent people? Somewhat aloof atmosphere is completely overcome by brilliant acting, especially by Firth as the nervous, fastidious movie expert. The script by director Donovan and David Koepp is fine, the characterizations psychologically valid. The ending is a little bit of a letdown, though. This does not lag far behind films like THE TENANT and BARTON FINK. The director cut the film by eight minutes for video release.

Apocalypse Domani (1980, ITA/SPA) C-91m. *½ D: Anthony M. Dawson (=Antonio Margheriti). Starring John Saxon, Elizabeth Turner, John Morghen (=Giovanni Lombardo Radice), Cinzia De Carolis, Tony King, Wallace Wilkinson, Venantino Venantini. Sloppy, grungy actioner filmed in Atlanta about a bunch of Vietnam vets who must realize that they have returned to the States with a virus that slowly turns them into cannibals! Saxon is actually quite good as one of the vets, and script is certainly ambitious (by Italian B-movie standards), but result is a mess. A subplot involving a precocious girl is completely pointless. Some typical gore scenes may make it worthwhile for gorehounds. Australian video version is said to run 97m. Has a slew of alternative titles, the most common being CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE or APOCALYPSE CANNIBAL, HUNTER OF THE APOCALYPSE, INVASION OF THE FLESH HUNTERS and SAVAGE APOCALYPSE.

Apollo 13 (1995, USA) C-139m. Scope *** D: Ron Howard. Starring Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, Kathleen Quinlan, Miko Hughes, David Andrews, Xander Berkeley. The Apollo 13 mission was to be the second time human beings should walk on the Earth’s moon. This film reenacts the dramatic rescue operation after an electric error in the shuttle puts the crew in danger. Will the astronauts make it back to Earth before their oxygen runs out? The outcome is no surprise. Well-made, quite dramatic space drama isn’t very compelling to non-Americans, who might wonder what the fuss is all about. Like NIXON, this is a film mostly for U.S. American audiences. Based on real-life astronaut Jim Lovell’s and Jeffrey Kluger’s book Lost Moon. Oscar winner for Best Film Editing and Best Sound.

Appointment, The (1981, GBR) C-90m. *½ D: Lindsey C. Vickers. Starring Edward Woodward, Jane Merrow, Samantha Weysom, John Judd. Three years after a girl is found murdered in the woods, apparently by a mysterious entity, Woodward’s 14-year-old daughter might be in contact with that force and might just use it against her father. After a promising start, this horror mystery goes absolutely nowhere, with tiresome, unconvincing family scenes and seemingly endless scenes of Woodward on the road. Some unusual special effects don’t redeem it. Written by the director.

Apt Pupil (1998, USA) C-111m. Scope **½ D: Bryan Singer. Starring Ian McKellen, Brad Renfro, Bruce Davison, David Schwimmer, Elias Koteas. A high-school student (Renfro) discovers one of his neighbors (McKellen) to be a wanted Nazi criminal. The boy blackmails him into telling him everything about his job in the Third Reich - and the old man complies - but it turns out it’s not just the boy that controls the situation. Intriguing but terribly uneven, well-paced but lacking valuable characterization of the boy. Director Singer shows talent (again) in this adaptation of a Stephen King novella.

Aquarius (1986, ITA) C-90m. *** D: Michele Soavi. Starring David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti, Robert Gligorov, Martin Philips, Ulrike Schwerk, Mary Sellers, Joanne Smith. Soavi’s debut feature is a classic slash-and-stalk picture about a group of rehearsing actors trapped in a theatre where an escaped maniac is about to kill them all. Story is ordinary but Soavi provides enough gimmicks in order to make this fun: The killer is wearing a huge owl’s mask (a Boschian fantasy) and is using all kinds of tools to kill (axe, drill, chainsaw). The final third is really good, with some stylish, even poetic touches. Good score by Simon Boswell. Alternative titles: STAGE FRIGHT, DELIRIA, BLOODY BIRD.

Aquella Casa en las Afueras (1980, SPA) C-96m. *** D: Eugenio Martín. Starring Javier Escrivá, Silvia Aguilar, Alida Valli, Mara Goyanes, Carmen Maura. Mystery drama from the maker of HORROR EXPRESS (1972). Pregnant Aguilar moves with her husband into a villa outside of Madrid, Spain. Almost immediately she recognizes the place and believes she has been there before. What is the secret of the house and does sinister caretaker Valli know more than she pretends? Intriguing sleeper holds up almost to the very end. English title: THAT HOUSE IN THE OUTSKIRTS.

Arachnophobia (1990, USA) C-109m. *** D: Frank Marshall. Starring Jeff Daniels, Harley Jane Kozak, John Goodman, Julian Sands, Staurt Pankin, Brian McNamara. A venomous Venezuelan spider chances to travel to rural village in a coffin and puts up cobwebs in General Practitioner Daniels’ barn. Only after several deaths does scientist Sands suspect that his newest eight-legged discovery has found its way to the States. Scary, effective horror thriller with a welcome sense of humor. Goodman is funny as the exterminator. Produced by Amblin Entertainment, a company owned by Steven Spielberg.

Arbalète, L’ (1984, FRA) C-90m. *½ D: Sergio Gobbi. Starring Daniel Auteuil, Michel Beaune, Marisa Berenson, Marcel Bozzuffi, Didier Sauvegrain. Parisian drug lords and their warring gangs have run out of drugs and cop Auteuil considers this the best opportunity to go undercover and nail them for good. Ordinary, boring action thriller without highlights. Jacques Revaux’s score is quite good. English title: ASPHALT WARRIORS.

Arena, The (1974, USA/ITA) C-83m. Scope ** D: Steve Carver, Joe D’Amato. Starring Margaret Markov, Pam Grier, Lucretia Love, Paul Muller, Daniele Vargas, Marie Louise, Sara Bay (=Rosalba Neri), Mimmo Palmara, Tom Felleghy. Change of setting for usual WIP formula as Markov, Grier and other women are enslaved and become gladiators in Rome. Weak plot made watchable by Grier’s physique. The score by Francesco de Masi is also not bad. Co-director D’Amato also photographed the picture. Produced by Roger Corman and Mark Damon. Co-edited by Joe Dante! Remade in 2001. Alternative title: NAKED WARRIORS.

Argent des Autres, L’ (1978, FRA) C-106m. ** D: Christian de Chalonge. Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Catherine Deneuve, Claude Brasseur, Michel Serrault, Umberto Orsini, Juliet Berto. Bank exec Trintignant is suddenly fired, because the loan he granted to Brasseur vanished into thin air. His situation seems hopeless, when Brasseur re-appears and suggests a deal. Much too talky, none-too-interesting drama has good production values to offer but little more. The bizarre sound effects are unsuitable. Based on the novel by Nancy Markham. César winner for Best Film, Best Director. English titles: DIRTY MONEY, OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY.

Ari-Baba to Yonjuppiki no Tozoku (1971, JAP) C-55m. n/r D: Akira Daikuhara, Hiroshi Shidara. Children’s fairy tale about a king called Ali Baba (who is the 33rd generation after the original ‘Open Sesame’ one) and a little boy, who tries to cheat him with an army of cats. Obnoxious, loud, this anime is not worth rediscovering, despite having had Hayao Miyazaki as a key animator. English titles: ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES, and ALIBABA’S REVENGE.

Arizona Si Scatenò… e li Fece Fuori Tutti (1970, ITA/SPA) C-94m. Scope ** D: Sergio Martino. Starring Anthony Steffen, Rosalba Neri, Aldo Sambrell, Roberto Camardiel, Raf Baldassarre. Boring spaghetti western about gunslinger Steffen, who is double-crossed by a bad guy and after escaping his hanging proceeds to get his revenge. Rather uninteresting western, at least it’s technically okay. Score by Bruno Nicolai. English titles: ARIZONA, ARIZONA COLT RETURNS (hinting at a 1966 western), ARIZONA LETS FLY AND KILLS EVERYBODY, and IF YOU GOTTA SHOOT SOMEBODY… BANG! BANG! Wow!

Arlington Road (1999, USA) C-118m. Scope *** D: Mark Pellington. Starring Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Hope Davis, Robert Gossett, Mason Gamble. History professor Bridges, whose wife was killed in a failed FBI operation, lives with his 10 year-old son in a quiet suburb. He befriends neighbor Robbins' family and soon starts wondering why his son starts talking about his dead mother with them. Research about Robbins shows that he may not be the man he claims to be, and the blueprints in his home office further add to Bridges' puzzlement. Who is the man across the street and what is he planning to do? Multi-layered story is undermined by some improbable twists (mainly concerned with Bridges' motivation), but Pellington's direction is first-rate, and a pulsating score by Angelo Badalamenti adds to the excitement. Your reaction to this film will mostly depend on your acceptance of the unusual ending.

Armageddon (1998, USA) C-143m. Scope *** D: Michael Bay. Starring Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Steve Buscemi. Crackerjack disaster thriller about attempts to change course - or destroy - giant asteroid that is headed towards Earth. Oil rig worker Willis is sent to the menace from outer space to avert the end of the world. Credibility is abandoned early on, but film is so quickly paced - thanks to breathless direction, tight editing and beautiful photography - that you won't notice until the film is over. The action is superb. Title song 'I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing' by Aerosmith among the film's highlights.

Armaguedon (1976, FRA/ITA) C-93m. **½ D: Alain Jessua. Starring Alain Delon, Jean Yanne, Renato Salvatori, Michel Duchaussoy, Michel Creton. Uneven drama about working class guy Yanne, who suddenly inherits a lot of money and dreams of an extravagant existence. To achieve international fame he becomes a dangerous blackmailer (calling himself Armaguedon), and with the help of his dim-witted assistant Salvatori soon attracts the attention of psychologist Delon. Well-intended drama is too slow at the beginning but ends intriguingly. A showcase much more for Yanne than Delon, who produced the film and shows himself in an impeccable light. Director Jessua scripted, from a novel by David Lippincott. Also known as ARMAGEDDON.

Armitage III: Poly-Matrix (1995, JAP) C-95m. **½ D: Hiroyuki Ochi. Well-paced manga about a detective and his cocky friend Armitage, who have allied to battle evil syndicates on Mars. This time they go against a mysterious stranger who murders female androids. When they find out what’s behind all this, Armitage is in for a surprise. Quite good animation, acceptable story. At the very least this one goes to show how influential Ridley Scott’s BLADE RUNNER still is. For fans of Japanese mangas. Subtitled ELECTRO BLOOD in the U.S.

Armour of God, The (1986, HGK) C-87m. **½ D: Jackie Chan. Starring Jackie Chan, Rosamund Kwan, Alan Tam, Lola Forna, Maria Dolores. What starts out as an amusing Indiana Jones-spoof turns out to be an ordinary adventure Jackie Chan-style, with our hero trying to rescue his girlfriend from an evil sect that is also in possession of some valuable antiques. The action scenes and stunts are fine as usual. Chan nearly got himself killed when performing one (see the outtakes at the end of the film). Filmed in Yugoslavia, France, Austria and Hong Kong. Also shown at 94m. Followed by a sequel in 1991.

Armour of God 2: Operation Condor, The (1991, HGK) C-106m. Scope ** D: Jackie Chan. Starring Jackie Chan, Carol Cheng, Eva Cobo de Garcia, Shoko Ikeda, Alfredo Brel Sanchez. Jackie Chan (playing himself) is hired to find Nazi gold hidden somewhere in the African desert. This ‘Indiana Jones’ parody is reportedly the most expensive Hong Kong film ever, but production values alone can’t camouflage the poor script (co-authored by Chan). Childish humor won’t have anyone laughing but kids, Jackie’s female costars are positively annoying with their yelling and screaming. Some eye-popping stunt work makes film endurable. The first 20 minutes are good, from then on silly slapstick takes over.

Army of Darkness (1993, USA) C-89m. *** D: Sam Raimi. Starring Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert, Ian Abercrombie, Richard Grove, Bridget Fonda, Ted Raimi, Bill Moseley, Josh Becker, Harley Cokeliss, William Lustig, Bernard Rose, Sam Raimi. THE EVIL DEAD (1982) was pure horror, EVIL DEAD II (1987) was comic horror, and this third part in Sam Raimi’s trilogy is pure comedy with splatter elements. Plot starts right where the previous film ended: Ash (Campbell) has landed in a medieval country and must get the Necronomicon (Book of the Dead) in order to be able to travel back in time. Lots of fights with monsters ensue. Episodic, occasionally silly, but predominantly hilarious horror comedy steps deliciously over the line. Originally released at 81m., later extended to 96m. Two different endings of the movie exist. The ‘potion ending’ is less corny and should be preferred over the ‘supermarket ending’. Raimi also cowrote with his brother Ivan and coedited the picture. Campbell coproduced.

Arnold (1973, USA) C-94m. **½ D: Georg Fenady. Starring Stella Stevens, Roddy McDowall, Elsa Lanchester, Shani Wallis, Farley Granger, Victor Buono, John McGiver, Bernard Fox, Patric Knowles, Norman Stuart. Black horror comedy about recently deceased, super-rich Stuart, who weds his lover Stevens during his funeral(!), and returns from the grave (somewhat) to kill off his greedy heirs. Atmospheric, amusing, but unevenly plotted, badly timed. Still, an interesting, well-cast predecessor to MURDER BY DEATH (1976), which also starred Lanchester. Worth seeking out for cult movie buffs.

Around the World in 80 Days (2004, USA/GBR/EIR/GER) C-120m. Scope **½ D: Frank Coraci. Starring Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cécile De France, Jim Broadbent, Ian McNeice, Richard Branson, Macy Gray, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maggie Q, Sammo Hung, Rob Schneider, Frank Coraci, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, John Keogh, Mark Addy, John Cleese, Kathy Bates. Engaging remake of the Jules Verne adventure about inventor Phileas Fogg (Coogan) and his agile but bumbling valet Passepartout (Chan), who accept a wager to travel around the world in 80 days (all that at the turn of the century!). Juvenile humor well-balanced by trademark Chan-action. A diverting view. Was a major disappointment at the box-office, though.

Arrivano i Titani (1961, ITA/FRA) C-115m. Scope **½ D: Ducio Tessari. Starring Pedro Armendáriz, Giuliano Gemma, Antonella Lualdi, Serge Nubret, Jacqueline Sassard, Fernando Rey. Peplum epic, a bit better than your usual Italian one. Gemma plays one of the Titans, trapped in the underworld, who is sent up to Earth to fetch evil ruler Armendáriz. The despot’s daughter Sassard has never seen a man before, since he has received a warning by an oracle. Sword-and-sandal fare is like a tour through Greek mythology and has a funny performance by Gemma. Sassard is lovely. Overlength and general silliness hem above-average efforts. English titles: MY SON, THE HERO, SONS OF THUNDER, and THE TITANS.

Arrivederci Amore, Ciao (2006, ITA/FRA) C-107m. Scope **½ D: Michele Soavi. Starring Alessio Boni, Michele Placido, Isabella Ferrari, Alina Nadelea, Carlo Cecchi. Director Soavi’s theatrical comeback (made more than 10 years after the cult movie DELLAMORTE, DELLAMORE) is okay thriller about cold-blooded opportunist Boni, who returns from a mercenary job in South America only to clash with police inspector Placido, who puts him behind bars for two years. Then he becomes a nightclub collaborator and ultimately joins forces with Placido, as an undercover agent. Soavi’s direction is quite good, but otherwise this is standard crime drama fare, with several plot deficiencies. Works best as a character study. Placido gives a towering performance. Based on the novel by Massimo Carlotto. English title: THE GOODBYE KISS.

Arsène Lupin (2004, FRA/ITA/SPA/GBR) C-131m. Scope ** D: Jean-Paul Salomé. Starring Romain Duris, Kristin Scott Thomas, Pascal Greggory, Eva Green, Robin Renucci, Patrick Toomey. Mathieu Carrière. Adaptation of several of author Maurice Leblanc’s Arsène Lupin stories about a French master thief, who investigates the murder of his father in 19th century France. Well-produced and visually appealing, but not storywise; its main character leaves us cold. From the director of BELPHEGOR – LE FANTOME DU LOUVRE (2001).

Arthur et les Minimoys (2006, FRA) C-102m. SCOPE *** D: Luc Besson. Starring Freddie Highmore, Mia Farrow, Penny Balfour, Doug Rand, Adam LeFevre. Quite endearing fantasy story about a young boy (Highmore) who stays with his grandmother Farrow (who looks incredibly young!) in the countryside. She keeps telling him stories of his grandfather, who disappeared three years ago. Now as they face eviction the boy sets out to retrieve a legendary treasure his granddad was after - but has to enter the land of the Minimoys for that - fantasy creatures that are even smaller than ants. Underground, film is computer-animated and provides adequate action and high adventure. Some story flaws offset by Besson's expert direction. Thrilling for kids - and adults will savor movie references from STAR WARS to LORD OF THE RINGS, and even PULP FICTION! Filmed in English (with even the animation fitting to English dialogue). English version features voice talents of Madonna, Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Chazz Palminteri, Emilio Estevez, and David Bowie. English title: ARTHUR AND THE MINIMOYS / AND THE INVISIBLES.

Arthur et la Vengeance de Maltazard (2009, FRA) C-93m. SCOPE ** D: Luc Besson. Starring Freddie Highmore, Mia Farrow, Jimmy Fallon, Logan Miller, Ron Crawford. Still appealing but basically disappointing sequel to ARTHUR ET LES MINIMOYS (2006). Highmore has waited ten months to return to his Minimoy princess, but then he receives a call for help and his parents won’t let him stay on his grandmother’s farm. He still enters the underground world and tries to find his princess. It turns out the villain from the first film is back with a vengeance. Expertly made fantasy by Besson, but it turns out film only advertises part three, ARTHUR ET LA GUERRE DE DEUX MONDES (2010) and ends on a cliffhanger. English title: ARTHUR 2: THE REVENGE OF MALTAZARD.

Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001, USA) C-145m. Scope *** D: Steven Spielberg. Starring Haley Joel Osment, Frances O’Connor, Sam Robards, Jake Thomas, Jude Law, William Hurt, Ken Leung, Brendan Gleeson, voices of Ben Kingsley, Robin Williams, Meryl Streep, Chris Klein. None other than Steven Spielberg tries his hand at Stanley Kubrick’s legacy, the story the cinematic genius always wanted to film. Set in the future, film deals with creation of a revolutionary, incredibly life-like kind of android, a boy (Osment), who can be adopted and brought up like your own son. Osment’s new family are skeptical at first and only slowly get accustomed to their new offspring. Problems are about to arise soon, however. This adaptation of Brian Aldiss’ short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” is long, not always easy to digest but intelligent and ultimately worthwhile, thanks to a remarkable performance by the young Osment and John Williams’ heart-felt score. Reminiscent of the classic BLADE RUNNER (1982) in many respects, and film’s reputation and reception may also improve over the years. Multiple viewing recommended. This was the first film Spielberg wrote since the 1982 POLTERGEIST!

Arts of the Snake & Crane (1977, HGK) C-80m. Scope **½ D: Lo Wei. Starring Jackie Chan, Lee Yin-Kuo, Kim Chin-Lan. Eight Shaolin masters develop a new fighting style and write it down in a book. When they mysteriously disappear and with them the book, Chan enters the scene, claiming that he has it. Soon, all kinds of clans (Black Tiger, Black Lion) are trying to get hold of it. Jackie is in top form in this well-directed eastern that is hampered by an undramatic plot. The fight scenes are good, especially the last fight. Produced and cowritten by director Wei (FIST OF FURY). Original version runs longer and may also be titled SNAKE & CRANE ARTS OF SHAOLIN.

As Good As It Gets (1997, USA) C-138m. ***½ D: James L. Brooks. Starring Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Skeet Ulrich, Shirley Knight, Yeardley Smith, Jamie Kennedy, Harold Ramis, Lawrence Kasdan, Shane Black, Todd Solondz. Marvelous romantic comedy drama about ultra-neurotic writer Nicholson, who takes a liking to his regular waitress Hunt and finds himself taking unvoluntary commitments, even with his homosexual next-door neighbor Kinnear. Simply wonderful. Script by Brooks and Mark Andrus presents true-to-life characters, whose problems the viewer is willing to accept and share. Funny and sad, one of director Brooks’ best achievements.

Ash Wednesday (1973, USA) C-85m. *½ D: Larry Peerce. Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Henry Fonda, Helmut Berger, Keith Baxter, Maurice Teynac. Turgid soaper about rich but unhappy Taylor and her disintegrating marriage to Fonda (who appears at film’s resolution). She goes to Europe for a face lift, has doubts about herself and the world, meets gigolo Berger and contemplates cheating on her hubby. Maurice Jarre’s score is appropriately melancholy and best thing about this ultra-boring misfire. Can’t believe they made films like this (that pretty much disappeared despite star presence). Long live the 1970s. Original version ran 99m.

Asphyx, The (1973, GBR/USA) C-99m. Scope *** D: Peter Newbrook. Starring Robert Stephens, Robert Powell, Jane Lapotaire, Alex Scott, Ralph Arliss. Stephens is convincing as a man obsessed with capturing the Asphyx, a demon which appears at the moment of death. By trapping it, he intends to become immortal. Well-scripted, chilling horror, one of the best period shockers of that time. Good widescreen photography by Freddie Young. Former cinematographer Newbrook’s only film as a director. Alternative title: SPIRIT OF THE DEAD.

Assassin, The (1993, HGK) C-84m. ** D: Chung Siu-Hung. Starring Zheng Feng Yi, Rosamund Kwan, Max Mok. An outlaw is trained to be an assassin for a Ming ruler. He becomes an emotionless fighting machine, until he meets an old love again and switches sides. Impressively directed and photographed martial-arts action is weighed down by a weak plot.

Assassination Bureau, The (1969, GBR/USA) C-110m. *** D: Basil Dearden. Starring Oliver Reed, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, Curd Jürgens, Philippe Noiret, Warren Mitchell, Beryl Reid. Fast-paced, colorful comedy about journalist Rigg’s attempts to ruin title organisation, an international syndicate that specializes on murder. Brilliant set design, wonderful actors (Jürgens is especially funny), although story takes too long to get where it’s going. That same year, Rigg and Savalas were adversaries in the James Bond adventure ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (eight years later Jürgens also played the Bond villain). Based on a story by Jack London.

Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The (2007, USA) C-160m. Scope *** D: Andrew Dominik. Starring Casey Affleck, Brad Pitt, Sam Rockwell, Paul Schneider, Jeremy Renner, Sam Shepard, Garret Dillahunt, Zooey Deschanel, Michael Parks, Nick Cave, narrated by Hugh Ross. Epic demystification of the infamous bandit Jesse James (Pitt), whose fading ‘career’ is depicted here. His relationship to family and friends, fellow bandits, is elaborated, everything is set to marvelous photography (by Roger Deakins) and a fine score (by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, who also scored THE PROPOSITION). With the outcome given away by the title, there is no hurry getting to the end of this languid western. A remarkable achievement, despite mammoth length. Based on the novel by Ron Hansen, adapted by director Dominik (CHOPPER). Ridley Scott, Tony Scott and Brad Pitt were among the film’s producers. Director’s Cut runs four hours.

Assassini Sono Nostri Ospiti, Gli (1974, ITA) C-90m. ** D: Vincenzo Rigo. Starring Anthony Steffen, Margaret Lee, Luigi Pistilli, Gianni Dei, Livia Cerini. Bleak, unpleasant thriller about a group of jewel robbers, who find refuge at the villa of doctor Steffen, who should help a wounded gang member. Things get more complicated when Steffen’s estranged wife Cerini returns home. Poorly directed by Rigo, whose editing ideas are the only redeeming feature of this relatively style-less film. Steffen and (luscious) Lee are not bad, but this giallo only becomes watchable in the final third. English title: THE KILLERS ARE OUR GUESTS.

Assassino è Costretto ad Uccidere Ancora, Il (1975, ITA/FRA) C-90m. Scope **½ D: Luigi Cozzi. Starring George Hilton, Michel Antoine (=Antoine Saint-John), Femi Benussi, Cristina Galbó, Eduardo Fajardo, Teresa Velasquez. Argento protégé Cozzi's only foray into the giallo is quite good: Hilton is tired of his wife's neurotic behavior and when he chances to witness a killer disposing of a victim, he asks him to kill his wife, too. However, things get complicated when two lovers steal the car with the body inside. Interesting script has some pacing flaws, but there are also some striking moments (one wonders if Argento wasn’t actually involved somehow). For fans. Produced by Umberto Lenzi. English titles: THE KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN, THE KILLER MUST STRIKE AGAIN, THE DARK IS DEATH'S FRIEND.

Assassino Ha le Mani Pulite, L’ (1968, ITA) C-80m. ** D: Vittorio Sindoni. Starring Tom Drake, Femi Benussi, Ernesto Colli, Ivo Garrani. Early giallo entry about the death of a deaf (!) train station attendant, which leads to the reading of his will. It turns out his savings of 1 million Francs will go to his son, in three years, leaving the other relatives empty-handed. When the son is killed, all the others are suddenly being knocked off, too. Rather tame, style-less crime movie. Not bad, but far from exciting. Some period flavor. Also known as OMICIDIO PER VOCAZIONE and DEADLY INHERITANCE.

Assault on Precinct 13 (2005, USA/FRA) C-109m. Scope **½ D: Jean-Francois Richet. Starring Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, Gabriel Byrne, Maria Bello, Drea de Matteo, John Leguizamo, Brian Dennehy, Ja Rule, Matt Craven, Peter Bryant, Kim Coates. Fair remake of the 1976 John Carpenter classic about a small police station which is under attack one snowy night, as there’s criminal and copkiller Fishburne among the inmates. Lacks the original’s authenticity and atmosphere, but if you’re new to it, it’s an okay view. Score by Graeme Revell.

Astérix et les Vikings (2006, FRA/DEN) C-78m. **½ D : Stefan Fjeldmark, Jesper Möller. Starring (the voices of) Roger Carel, Lorànt Deutsch, Sara Forestier, Jacques Frantz, narrated by Pierre Tchnernia. Adequate continuation of the comic strip series about a Gallic community (among them the super-strong Astérix and Obelix), which has managed to resist the Romans around Caesar’s time. Here, they are faced with a hip relative who is kidnapped by invading Vikings. Not bad, quite well-animated adventure also adds modern touches. The 10th entry in the series (not counting the live-action movies). English title: ASTERIX AND THE VIKINGS.

Astro Boy (2009, USA/HGK/JAP) C-94m. SCOPE **½ D: David Bowers. Starring (the voices of) Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Samuel L. Jackson, Charlize Theron, Elle Fanning, Bill Nighy, Donald Sutherland, Freddie Highmore, Matt Lucas, Nathan Lane, Eugene Levy, David Bowers. Nicely animated, fairly exciting science-fiction movie for kids about a science whizz kidd, who dies in a accident and is cloned by his inventor father as a robot. He falls off his city in the clouds and falls onto the polluted world below. PINOCCHIO meets FRANKENSTEIN in this manga adaptation, entertaining, fascinating for kids, adults might fret about occasionally careless plotting.

Astronaut’s Wife, The (1999, USA) C-109m. **½ D: Rand Ravich. Starring Johnny Depp, Charlize Theron, Joe Morton, Clea DuVall, Donna Murphy, Nick Cassavetes, Samantha Eggar, Gary Grubbs. After a near-fatal accident in space where he lost contact with the NASA base for two minutes astronaut Depp returns to his wife Theron on Earth. Slowly Theron realizes that her husband has changed, but what exactly this change implies she is unable to figure out, until his colleague’s wife kills herself… Slow build-up, little logic, surreal touches due to storytelling perspective, sci-fi is chilling and highly suspenseful but falters at the conclusion. Depp seems miscast. Definitely NOT recommended to pregnant women and astronauts.

Asylum (1972, GBR) C-88m. *** D: Roy Ward Baker. Starring Peter Cushing, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom, Patrick Magee, Barry Morse, Barbara Parkins, Robert Powell, Charlotte Rampling. Satisfying chiller about four tales of the macabre, told by inmates of an insane asylum. Frame narrative has doctor Powell trying to decide which of the inmates is the former chief. Well-handled by expert director Baker, good dramatic score. Written by Robert Bloch (PSYCHO). Aka HOUSE OF CRAZIES.

Ataque de los Muertes Sin Ojos, El (1973, SPA/GER) C-82m. ** D: Amando de Ossorio. Starring Tony Kendall, Fernando Sancho, Esther Roy, Frank Brana, Lone Fleming. Sequel to LA NOCHE DEL TERROR CIEGO is an improvement, thanks to better writing, quicker pace. The Templar Knights (a mix between zombies and vampires) rise from their graves and attack a small village, whose inhabitants killed them 500 years ago. There seems to be no escape. Pretty tepid stuff, for fans of the series. English title: RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD. Followed by EL BUQUE MALDITO.

At First Sight (1998, USA) C-128m. ** D: Irwin Winkler. Starring Val Kilmer, Mira Sorvino, Kelly McGillis. Tear-jerker about bling masseur Kilmer and stressed New Yorker Sorvino, who falls in love and wants to help him to an operation which would restore his sight. But will he be able to deal with this new situation? Fatally overlong, clichéd, only sometimes endearing, you have seen this many times before.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001, USA) C-95m. Scope **½ D: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise. Starring (the voices of) Michael J. Fox, Corey Burton, Claudia Christian, James Garner, John Mahoney, Phil Morris, Leonard Nimoy, Jim Varney. Disney cartoon feature aimed at slightly older audiences than usual. Linguist fox is a dreamer, whose greatest wish is to make an expedition to the fabled Atlantis. When a friend of his dead grandfather comes forth and offers him a place in his submarine, the young man is eager to go. What will they find? More comic-book like than other Disney features, but also more cold-blooded and much too quickly paced. It’s difficult to follow the action, even for adults. Followed by a direct-to-video sequel in 2003.

Atonement (2007, GBR/FRA) C-124m. ***½ D: Joe Wright. Starring Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Brenda Blethyn, Saoirse Ronan, Julia West, Harriet Walter, Romola Garai, Vanessa Redgrave, Anthony Minghella. Outstanding drama based on the Ian McEwan novel about 13-year-old girl in 1930s England, who is inspired by the events around her and misinterprets the affair between her sister Knightley and McAvoy. After she catches them making love she uses an incident thereafter to accuse him of rape, thus forcing him to leave and take part in WW2. Wright, director of PRIDE & PREJUDICE (2005) has fashioned an artistic triumph. Irresistibly told period drama hypnotizes you with its stunning direction, interesting use of different time levels and good performances (though child actress Ronan owes her Oscar nomination to Wright’s brilliant directorial touches). One of the most artistic films in recent memory, recalling the work of some stalwart directors of the 1970s. Screenplay by Christopher Hampton. Oscar winner for Best Score (by Dario Marianelli).

Ator, l’Invincibile (1982, ITA) C-96m. *½´D: David Hills (=Joe D’Amato). Starring Miles O’Keeffe, Sabrina Siani, Ritza Brown, Edmund Purdom, Laura Gemser. Pretty ridiculous CONAN rip-off features incompetent O’Keeffe in a prehistoric setting as a prince destined for greatness, who must defeat evil spider sect. Must be seen to be believed. Score by Carlo Maria Cordio is rousing but belongs into another genre (the song during the closing credits is plagiarized from the FOR YOUR EYES ONLY title song!). Michele Soavi allegedly collaborated on the script with Joe D’Amato, who also photographed (as Federico Slonisco). Followed by three sequels! Also known as ATOR, THE FIGHTING EAGLE.

Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959, USA) B&W-62m. ** D: Bernard L. Kowalski. Starring Ken Clark, Yvette Vickers, Jan Shepard, Michael Emmet. Quite atmospheric monster movie about the title creatures which terrorize a small community. Nothing exceptional here, in fact, the monsters are rather unconvincing. Clark soon after went to Italy to make more than a dozen B-movies there (mostly Bond clones). Also known as ATTACK OF THE BLOOD LEECHES, DEMONS OF THE SWAMP, SHE DEMONS OF THE SWAMP, THE GIANT LEECHES.

Attention, les Enfants Regardent (1977, FRA) C-102m. ** D: Serge Leroy. Starring Alain Delon, Richard Constantini, Tiphaine Leroux, Sophie Renoir, Thierry Turchet, Françoise Brion. Psycho thriller about four children who spend their summer holidays in their parents’ villa at the sea, with only their nanny to look after them. One day they accidentally kill her, and a mysterious stranger (Delon) may be the only witness to the crime. However, it seems he won’t tell the police. Intriguing premise, downed by ludicrous dialogue and altogether unbelievable plot development. Director Leroy coscripted, from the novel The Children Are Watching by Laird Koenig and Peter Dixon. Delon, who is quite good in the lead, also produced the film. Photographed by Claude Renoir. English title: THE CHILDREN ARE WATCHING.

At the Earth’s Core (1976, GBR/USA) C-89m. **½ D: Kevin Connor. Starring Doug McClure, Peter Cushing, Caroline Munro, Cy Grant, Godfrey James, Sean Lynch, Keith Barron. Fantasy adventure based on the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs. American McClure and British scientist Cushing board a drill that is supposed to bring them to the center of the Earth; instead, they come out in prehistoric land where a deformed species sacrifices humans to monsters. Effects are reminiscent of Japanese monster movies of the time and quite cheap, but direction is engaging and maintains a sense of excitement to the end. Cushing looks incredibly foolish, but he may have been playing for it. Sort of a mid-quel to Connor’s THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (1975) and THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT (1977), which both also starred McClure.

Au Coeur du Mensonge (1999, FRA) C-113m. **½ D: Claude Chabrol. Starring Sandrine Bonnaire, Jacques Gamblin, Antoine de Caunes, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Bernard Verley, Dominique Zardi. Low-key crime drama from master Chabrol. Bonnaire’s husband, an introvert arts teacher is suspected by the local community of having raped and killed a young girl (one of his students). Meanwhile, Bonnaire is about to start an affair with a TV celebrity. Drama is well-acted but has very little dramatic or emotional impact. Recommended to Chabrol adepts, others will find it hardly worth the effort. Cowritten by the director. English title: THE COLOR OF LIES.

Au-delà de la Peur (1975, FRA/ITA) C-92m. *** D: Yannick Andréi. Starring Michel Bouquet, Michel Constantin, Marilù Tolo, Jean-Pierre Darras, Paul Crauchet, Michel Creton, Moustache, Paolo Bonacelli. Underworld gangster Constantin accidentally reveals his plans to businessman Bouquet. When he realizes his mistake, he quickly takes Bouquet’s wife and son hostage, lest the man reveal any details to the police. Dramatic thriller is well-acted, especially by Bouquet, whose intense, brilliant performance must be seen to be believed. Director Andréi also scripted this interesting film. English title: BEYOND FEAR.

Au-delà des Grilles (1949, FRA/ITA) B&W-87m. *** D: René Clément. Starring Isa Miranda, Jean Gabin, Andrea Checchi, Vera Talchi, Robert Dalban. Drama about luckless and penniless French immigrant Gabin and frustrated waitress Miranda, who hopes for a better future. Gabin, however, seems to have lost all hope. Pessimistic atmosphere, combined with good use of setting makes this worth watching. It’s closely related in tone to the Italian Neorealismo. Won an Honorary Oscar for Best Foreign Film and the Best Director and Best Actress prizes in Cannes. English title: BEYOND THE GATES, THE WALLS OF MALAPAGA.

Audrey Rose (1977, USA) C-113m. ** D: Robert Wise. Starring Marsha Mason, John Beck, Anthony Hopkins, Susan Swift, Norman Lloyd, John Hillerman. Well-acted but only occasionally effective chiller about scientist Hopkins, who believes that Mason and Beck’s nine year-old daughter is the reincarnation of his dead child. The girl suffers from nightmares, which only he seems to keep away. Soon their life is brought into turmoil, since they are afraid to lose their only child. Film’s attempt at realism makes it all the more silly, and it offers neither a satisfying explanation nor resolution. The initial family scenes seem like a complete contrivance. Based on the novel by Frank De Felitta, who also wrote the screenplay.

Aussi Longue Absence, Une (1961, FRA/ITA) 88m. Scope ** D: Henri Colpi. Starring Alida Valli, Georges Wilson. An amnesiac clochard that is wandering the streets of a small town reminds café owner Valli of her husband, who was deported by the Gestapo 17 years ago. She seeks his company and has to discover that it is impossible to make his absence forgotten and win him back. Well-acted but very slowly paced psycho drama isn’t up to the complexity of the situation and only hints at the problems involved. Script co-written by famed author Marguérite Duras. Winner of the Palme D’Or in Cannes.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997, USA) C-95m. Scope ** D: Jay Roach. Starring Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Mimi Rogers, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Fabiana Udenio, Charles Napier. Myers plays both hero and villain in this James Bond-spoof, which is not as funny as expected: Austin Powers, a superagent from the Swinging 60s, is thawed in 1997 to do battle with super villain Dr. Evil. Potentially funny premise gets lost in tired, plotless parody. Myers is fun, but too few jokes really work. Cameos by Tom Arnold, Carrie Fisher, Rob Lowe and Christian Slater. Followed by two sequels.

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999, USA) C-98m. Scope ** D: Jay Roach. Starring Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Rob Lowe, Seth Green, Mindy Sterling, Verne Troyer, Elizabeth Hurley, Burt Bacharach, Elvis Costello, Willie Nelson, Tim Robbins, Charles Napier, Woody Harrelson. Yeah, baby, yeah! Austin Powers, super-spy from the 60s is back, battling his arch-enemy Dr. Evil, who has stolen his mojo (libido) and threatens to destroy Washington with a laser installed on the moon. Starts very weakly, but second half contains enough low-brow humor to satisfy fans. Myers has fun playing three roles, Graham is breathtaking. A huge box-office success.

Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002, USA) C-94m. Scope **½ D: Jay Roach. Starring Mike Myers, Beyoncé Knowles, Seth Green, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Mindy Sterling, Verne Troyer, Michael Caine, Fred Savage, cameos by Tom Cruise, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, Steven Spielberg, Quincey Jones, Britney Spears, Nathan Lane, The Osbournes, John Travolta, Burt Bacharach, Rob Lowe. The shagadelic spy is at it again, this time he must rescue his father (Caine), who was abducted by Dr. Evil. Helping the megalomaniac to flood our planet with a golden meteorite is a 1975 Dutch villain with a golden member, who was transported to the present time. Perhaps the funniest outing yet, this one loses its mojo in some tasteless gags, but Austin’s fans won’t mind. Knowles is a real find.

Australia (2008, AUS/USA) C-165m. SCOPE ***½ D: Baz Luhrmann. Starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, David Wenham, Brandon Walters, Bryan Brown, Ben Mendelsohn, Jack Thompson, Bruce Spence, Yuen Wah. Brilliantly cinematic epic set in 1930s Australia, where uptight British noblewoman Kidman travels to be with her cattle-ranching husband, only to find him dead. She joins forces with drover Jackman to continue her husband’s work and protects a half-breed Aboriginal child from being deported to Mission Island. Irresistible story-telling despite massive length, film offers award-caliber work in many departments: editing, directing, camerawork, even acting all superb. Child actor Walters’ performance is so intuitive, so real, he makes the film his own. Film has striking parallels to GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) while referencing another classic 1939 film, THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Autostop Rosso Sangue (1977, ITA) C-104m. ** D: Pasquale Festa Campanile. Starring Franco Nero, Corinne Clery, David Hess, Gianni Loffredo, Carlo Puri. After a hunting trip, married couple Nero and Clery travel home to L.A. On the road they pick up hitchhiker Hess, not knowing that he’s an escaped lunatic. Pretty perverted thriller is overlong and has too many endings, but generally not bad – if you can take the sadistic touch. Based on the novel The Violence and the Fury by Peter Kane. Interesting score by Ennio Morricone. Also known as HITCH HIKE, DEATH DRIVE, and HITCHHIKE: LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (alluding to Hess’ role in the Wes Craven film).

Autumn in New York (2000, USA) C-105m. **½ D: Joan Chen. Starring Richard Gere, Winona Ryder, Anthony LaPaglia, Elaine Stritch, Sherry Stringfield, Mary Beth Hurt. 48-year-old Gere falls in love with 21-year-old Ryder in this old-fashioned, simplistic love drama. The twist is that Ryder is terminally ill and may die any moment. Beautiful location photography and sensitive handling keep this afloat, although repeated type-casting of Gere is getting tiresome.

Avalanche (1978, USA) C-91m. *½ D: Corey Allen. Starring Rock Hudson, Mia Farrow, Robet Forster, Jeanette Nolan, Rick Moses, Steve Franken, Barry Primus. Roger Corman produced this disaster film about Hudson’s luxury ski resort in Colorado, which is threatened by an impending avalanche. Poorly done, even for late 70s disaster movie standards. Farrow and Hudson are wasted. Lewis Teague reportedly edited the avalanche sequence.

Avaleuses, Les (1973, FRA/BEL) C-101m. Scope ** D: Jess Franco. Starring Lina Romay, Jack Taylor, Alice Arno, Monica Swinn, Jess Franco. Sex film with horror elements about mute vampire countess Romay, who drains men of all their bodily fluids. Inspector Franco investigates the killings. Almost no plot, but Romay is sexy and the score moody, enticing. Film exists in several versions (some featuring hard-core scenes). Alternative titles: BARE BREASTED COUNTESS, THE BLACK COUNTESS, EROTIKILL, EROTIC KILL, FEMALE VAMPIRE, INSATIABLE LUST, JACULA, YACULA, LAST THRILL, THE LOVES OF IRINA, and SICARIUS – THE MIDNIGHT PARTY.

Avalon (2001, JAP/POL) C-106m. *½ D: Mamoru Ishii. Starring Malgorzata Foremniak, Wladyslaw Kowalski, Jerzy Gudejko, Dariusz Biskupski. Post-apocalyptic science-fiction film about a virtual-reality computer game that can really kill its players. Foremniak is one of the game’s champions, but she cannot access the  highest level and suddenly finds herself facing a competitor. Fatally boring sci-fi may have seemed avantgarde at its initial release, but when it comes to the important points in filmmaking (plot, characters, pace), it fails. The computer effects might catch your attention, the plot doesn’t. It slows down to a screeching halt again and again. This was Ishii’s first film after the acclaimed 1995 anime KOKAKU KIDOTAI (GHOST IN THE SHELL). Also known as GATE TO AVALON.

Avanti! (1972, USA) C-144m. Scope *** D: Billy Wilder. Starring Jack Lemmon, Juliet Mills, Clive Revill, Edward Andrews, Gianfranco Barra, Janet Agren. Beautifully realised comedy written by director Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond. American Millionaire Lemmon goes to Italy to bring back body of his deceased father, is surprised to learn that he had a lover there, meets that woman’s daughter (Mills). Romantic entaglements are the consequence. Good location work, photography by Luigi Kuveiller (PROFONDO ROSSO). Some dialogue is outstanding; still, not quite in the league of Wilder’s earlier comedies. Based on the play by Samuel A. Taylor.

Avare, L’ (1979, FRA) C-77m. *** D: Louis de Funès, Jean Girault. Starring Louis de Funès, Michel Galabru, Claude Gensac. De Funès gives one of his most erratic performances as a greedy father, who intends his children to marry out of financial reason, not love. Madcap situations, simply hilarious. De Funès’ most ambitious project, he codirected with Jean Girault and cowrote the screenplay. Strange score, but compact and funny, especially recommended to fans of the French star.

Avatar (2009, USA) C-162m. *** D: James Cameron. Starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel Moore, CCH Pounder, Wes Studi. James Cameron’s return to the (movie) director’s chair after 12 years is an expectedly overblown science-fiction fantasy set in a distant world, where mankind is hoping to set up a mining operation – despite the resistance of the planet’s native population, 10 feet tall humanoid creatures that will do anything to defend their forests. A team of scientists has found a way of entering the bodies of so-called avatars, artificially created aliens, and using them to become friends with the tribe. Wheelchair-bound ex-marine Worthington enters the mission quite unexpectedly for his deceased twin brother and manages to win the aliens’ trust. Visually overwhelming film delves us into a magical fantasy world with creatures and places often reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki films (although Cameron also quotes himself throughout). After an intriguing introduction, plot treads a familiar path, however, and Cameron’s criticism of the destruction of (rain) forests, exploitation of developing countries and America’s affinity to war makes its point again and again. There’s too little suspense and too much predictability in the proceedings, right down to the clichéd one-on-one finale. Still, an eye-popping achievement (even more so in 3D), if not the masterpiece expected, at least a movie that one has to have seen. Cameron also wrote, produced and coedited this picture. Sweeping score by James Horner.

Aventures de Rabbi Jacob, Les (1973, FRA) C-95m. ***½ D: Gérard Oury. Starring Louis de Funès, Suzy Delair, Marcel Dalio, Claude Giraud, Renzo Montagnani. André Falcon, Miou-Miou, Jacques Francois, Claude Piéplu, Dominique Zardi. One of comedy star de Funès’ best films, this one casts him as an antisemitic businessman, who is taught a lesson when he is taken hostage and forced to disguise as a Rabbi. Mad-cap slapstick comedy was one of Louis’ biggest hits (it was even given theatrical release in the U.S. and nominated for a Golden Globe). Intelligent script, unforgettable scenes in the chewing gum factory. Photographed by Henri Decae. English title: THE MAD ADVENTURES OF ‘RABBI’ JACOB.

Aventuriers, Les (1967, FRA/ITA) C-112m. Scope **½ D: Robert Enrico. Starring Lino Ventura, Alain Delon, Joanna Shimkus, Serge Reggiani, Hans Meyer. Melancholy, almost pessimistic adventure drama, a cult film for some. In a bleak suburb of Paris, three friends aim for higher things (mostly doing stunt work), and think their chance has come when they learn of a treasure lying on the sea floor just off the coast of the Congo. Uneven, slightly overlong but oddly engrossing. A typically faulty adaptation of a novel (José Giovanni’s Les Aventuriers). Major asset is memorable score by Francois de Roubaix (LE SAMOURAI, LE ROUGE AUX LEVRES). English title: THE LAST ADVENTURE.

Avventure di Pinocchio, Le (1947, ITA) 89m. *** D: Gianetto Guardone. Starring Alessandro Tommei, Mariella Lotti, Vittorio Gassman, Erminio Spalla, Luigi Pavese. Charming version of the Carlo Collodi classic about a wooden puppet that runs away from his maker and has some wild adventures before becoming a real boy. Interesting fantasy touches, almost bizarre costumes. Not a great film, like the Disney version for example, but quite entertaining and well-acted by Tommei. English title: THE ADVENTURES OF PINOCCHIO.

Avventure di Pinocchio, Le (1972, ITA/FRA/GER) C-131m. *** D: Luigi Comencini. Starring Nino Manfredi, Gina Lollobrigida, Franco Franchi, Ciccio Ingrassia, Andrea Balestri, Mario Adorf, Ugo D’Alessio, Lionel Stander, Jacques Herlin, Vittorio de Sica. Carlo Collodi’s classic story gets a heavy dose of 1970s rural realism in this estimable adaptation. Film sticks relatively close to its source and has some fine actors to compensate for slight overlength. Cowritten by Comencini (LA DONNA DELLA DOMENICA). English title: THE ADVENTURES OF PINOCCHIO.

Awakenings (1990, USA) C-121m. *** D: Penny Marshall. Starring Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, Julie Kavner, Ruth Nelson, John Heard, Penelope Ann Miller, Max von Sydow. Moving true story, set in 1969, about a shy doctor (Williams) and his work in a hospital ward with seemingly catatonic, narcoleptic people. When he they start showing reactions, he thinks to have made a breakthrough, but most of them are unable to deal with the fact that they have missed half of their life. Williams is fine as usual, and so is De Niro as one of his most important patients. Script by Steve Zaillian, based on the book by Dr. Oliver Sacks.