Review: From Dusk Till Dawn (dir. Robert Rodriguez, 1996)

At first From Dusk Till Dawn looks like it might strike a balance between Quentin Tarantino’s savvy scriptwriting and the kinetic camerawork and adrenaline editing that are Robert Rodriguez’s forte. Indeed, the opening shoot-out, which segues smoothly from snappy dialogue to airborne hemoglobin, is a masterful fusion of talents. But after that, their styles prove to be as insoluble as oil and water. This is not one movie but two half-movies; one might call it Two Rooms.

The defining moment comes halfway through the story. Two American bank robbers and their hostages, having escaped to Mexico, enter a strip club called the Titty Twister, an opulent den of iniquity that leaves most other saloons choking in the dust. The camera lingers lasciviously on a neverending cascade of flesh, beer, flesh, Mayan architecture, flesh and six-shooting codpieces (did I mention flesh?) that vie for our attention as the criminals take their seats. One stripper takes centre stage — or table, as the case may be — and begins to flirt shamelessly with one of the slack-jawed gringos.

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Review: Priest (dir. Antonia Bird, 1994)

THE MAKERS of Priest claim that their film is meant to be a catalyst for change within the Catholic church, but their confrontational approach does more harm than good to their cause.

Worse, they have mounted the assault on too many fronts at once. In the space of 100 minutes, Priest tries to address issues as diverse as homosexuality, celibacy, the secrecy of the confessional, child abuse, liberation theology, the problem of evil … even a pinch of animal rights. It’s a wonder the ordination of women never comes up.

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Review: Star Trek: Generations (dir. David Carson, 1994)

My ex-roommates and I used to have a little ritual. Every Sunday night, we would gather around a TV set with as many friends as possible to watch the latest episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and, time permitting, Deep Space Nine. The liturgy of our humble adoration was punctuated by commercial breaks that enabled us to dissect each act of each teleplay with the loving care that one normally reserves for picking at watermelon seeds. Critical ejaculations — “Book reference!” here, “Run another diagnostic!” there — were permitted like so many amens, so long as these outbursts did not snowball into fully-scripted distractions from the pageantry before us.

But lately there were grumblings. The ritual had grown stale, boring, and the post mortem on each episode seemed to expose a malignant complacency.

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Review: The Shawshank Redemption (dir. Frank Darabont, 1994)

Prison films are a tricky genre. The prisons themselves become metaphors for the shackles of authority, society, or psychological inhibitions that prevent people from being completely free human beings. We empathize with the prisoners, and never the warden (unless, as in Brubaker, he fights for the prisoners’ rights), because they are supposed to represent that nebulous quality known as “the human spirit”.

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Arnold wimps out / Terminator 2 lacks the brains and brawn of the original

WARNING!: If you have not seen T2 and wish to keep its story a surprise, do not read any further!

Terminator 2: Judgment Day opened to big box office returns and a great deal of hullabaloo over its precedent-shattering special effects. A few of you have even confessed to paying to see the spectacle a second or third time within a week of its opening. It’s rumoured to have cost over $100 million to produce, and there’s no doubt that the money is on the screen (unlike recent cheap big-budget films like Batman). Nobody seems to mind that the sequel is terribly inconsistent with the original film, both in its concept of time-travel and in its overall tone.

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