Baba Yaga (1973, ITA/FRA) C-85m. *** D: Corrado Farina. Starring Carroll Baker, George Eastman, Isabelle de Funès, Ely Galleani. Moody pop-art mystery, based on a comic strip by Guido Crepax. Avantgarde photographer de Funès (niece of Louis!) is approached by mysterious lady Baker, who seems to have a special interest in the young woman. De Funès soon starts having hallucinatory nightmares of a kinky kind, and something seems to be wrong with her camera ever since Baker touched it. Is the lady really a witch? With the help of film director Eastman, she sets out to solve the mystery. Slightly pretentious, bafflingly surreal film, creatively directed by writer-director Farina, who has a brief role in the surreal Nazi sequences. A little gem whose reputation should soar in future years. Great score by Piero Umiliani. Watch for Ely Galleani, who had a key role in Mario Bava’s CINQUE BAMBOLE PER LA LUNA D’AGOSTO (1970). Contains a reference to German expressionist cinema and shows a clip from the classic DER GOLEM, WIE ER IN DIE WELT KAM (1920). Alternative titles: KISS ME KILL ME, THE DEVIL WITCH and BLACK MAGIC.

Babe (1995, AUS/USA) C-89m. **½ D: Chris Noonan. Starring James Cromwell, Magda Szubanski, voices of Christine Cavanaugh, Miriam Margolyes, Hugo Weaving, narrated by Roscoe Lee Browne. Family film that traces the life of a pig, as it is “won” by quiet farmer Cromwell and his wife Szubanski. Soon the pig learns that its life on the farm is anything but easy. Good, Oscar-winning effects make you believe in the animals’ conversations, but plotting is without momentum or cleverness. Cute for kids, immensely successful in theaters. George Miller (MAD MAX) produced and coscripted, from the novel The Sheep Pig by Dick King-Smith. Followed by a sequel.

Babel (2006, USA/MEX/FRA) C-143m. ***½ D: Alejandro González Inárritu. Starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Mohamed Akhzam, Peter Wight, Harriet Walter, Trevor Martin, Matyelok Gibbs, Georges Bousquet, Nathan Gamble, Gael García Bernal, Rinko Kikuchi, Kôji Yakusho. Impressive thriller drama from the director of AMORES PERROS (2000) and 21 GRAMS (2003) interlocks four different stories: Pitt and his wife Blanchett are mourning the death of their infant child and have gone on a holiday to Morocco. During a bus ride she is accidentally shot by two Moroccan children, who have just received a gun from their father (story 2). In the third segment, Pitt and Blanchett’s other children, back at home in San Diego, are taken to a wedding in Mexico by their nanny. Finally, in Tokyo, Japan, an aimless, deaf teenager desperately looking for love and attention is also linked to the other stories. Complex, engrossing drama showing tragedy in all corners of the world, superbly directed and extremely well-edited. Oscar winner for Best Score, also won the Best Director and Best Editing (Technical Grand Prize) awards at Cannes.

Babe: Pig in the City (1998, AUS/USA) C-97m. **½ D: George Miller. Starring Magda Szubanski, James Cromwell, Mary Stein, Mickey Rooney, voices of Elizabeth Daily, Danny Mann, Glenne Headley, Hugo Weaving, Roscoe Lee Browne, Naomi Watts. Sort of… different sequel to the charmer BABE (1995) forces the farmer’s wife Szubanski and the pig to travel to Los Angeles, in order to save the farm. Babe meets many odd characters (monkeys, dogs, you name it) and has more than enough scary adventures. Dark, almost bizarre film recalls films of Jodorowsky, Burton, if only it wasn’t a children’s adventure! Excellent score and cinematography (by Andrew Lesnie, who also shot THE LORD OF THE RINGS films). Made by the director of the MAD MAX movies (and cowriter of the original BABE). Too gloomy for children, interesting for buffs.

Baby Blood (1989, FRA) C-87m. **½ D: Alain Robak. Starring Emmanuelle Escourrou, Christian Sinniger. Woman becomes impregnated by African monster and develops a relationship with the baby creature in her womb by speaking to it(!). French horror with comic undertones is a mix between ROSEMARY’S BABY and BRAIN DAMAGE and as such comes up with few ideas of its own. American version, titled EVIL WITHIN, (purportedly) runs 1m. longer.

Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (1985, USA) C-93m. SCOPE **½ D: Bill L. Norton. Starring William Katt, Sean Young, Patrick McGoohan, Julian Fellowes, Hugh Quarshie. Fantasy adventure about two scientists (Katt, Young), who go in search of legendary jungle monster, which turns out to be a dinosaur with a family. A fellow scientist wants to take it home to study it, but he hasn’t reckoned with the couple’s resistance. Not bad despite superficial plot, lively score by Jerry Goldsmith, photography by John Alcott. Also known as DINOSAUR... SECRET OF THE LOST LEGEND.

Back in the USSR (1991, USA) C-88m. ** D: Deran Sarafian. Starring Frank Whaley, Natalya Negoda, Roman Polanski, Ravil Issyanov, Dey Young, Andrew Divof, Brian Blessed, Harry Ditson. The first film made entirely in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union is a meandering thriller about American tourist Whaley and his coincidental involvement with the stealing of a valuable icon. He is forced to cooperate with the underworld figures and finds himself running for his life. Idea is not bad, but script is hardly credible. Main interest springs from Polanski’s role as a seedy smuggler.

Back to Back (1996, USA) C-90m. M D: Roger Nygard. Starring Michael Rooker, Ryo Ishibashi, Danielle Harris, John Laughlin, Koh Takasugi, Bobcat Goldthwait, Vincent Schiavelli, Tim Thomerson. Violent action trash produced for the video market about ex-cop Rooker who somehow gets to team up with Ishibashi, a Japanese Yakuza killer assigned to kill a Los Angeles mafia boss. Plot is highly improbable, the action scenes are strictly standard. Harris (as Rooker’s daughter) has the most offensively stupid role.

Back to Gaya (2004, GBR/GER/SPA) C-101m. Scope *** D: Lenard Fritz Krawinkel, Holger Tappe. Starring (the voices of) Patrick Stewart, Emily Watson, Glenn Wrage, Alan Marriott, Bob Saker. Computer-animated fantasy adventure set in the land of the Gayans (pint-sized creatures with large ears), where life depends on a crystal that is stolen by a villain from the real world. A group of Gayans is transported there as well, and they must fend for themselves in a huge city of humans. Exciting, atmospheric adventure doesn’t give you much time to breathe; when it does, its lack of a consistent plot slows it down a lot. Still, a great roller-coaster ride for kids. Films like this deserve more attention. Excellent score by Michael Kamen, who died of a heart attack before film’s premiere  International version is shorter by a few minutes. Also known as THE SNURKS, and BOO, ZINO & THE SNURKS.

Backyard, The (2002, USA) C-80m. ** D: Paul Hough. Starring The Lizard, Scar, Chaos, Heartless, Bongo, The Retarded Butcher, Rob Van Dam, James Weston. Straight-forward documentary (an attempted shockumentary) takes a look at the phenomenon of Backyard wrestling, which is done by kids who dream of making it in the wrestling business and try to imitate their idols and their shows. However, this is done in improvised rings in the backyard, and in ultra-violent fashion, with barb-wire fences, light bulbs, etc. and people are even set on fire. Sometimes shocking, but not because of the violence portrayed but because of the aimless youths who waste their childhoods injuring each other. Low-key narration should have made much more of the topic.

Bad Company (2002, USA/CZE) C-116m. Scope ** D: Joel Schumacher. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Chris Rock, Matthew Marsh, Gabriel Macht, Peter Stormare. Another lame-brained Hollywood concoction that somehow stays afloat because of competent direction. After losing his CIA colleague in a shoot-out, Hopkins turns to that man’s twin brother (Rock), who has to function as a stand-in to make a major weapons deal (and subsequent bust) work. The problem is that the twins are completely different, and Hopkins has nine days to transform a street-smart hustler into an educated upper-class gentleman. Rock has some very funny lines, but script is improbable (to say the least) and action thriller becomes ludicrously overlong.

Badlands (1973, USA) C-94m. *** D: Terrence Malick. Starring Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates, Ramon Bieri, Alan Vint. A garbage man (Sheen) falls in love with a naive 15 year-old (Spacek), and they take it on the lam after he kills her father and burns down their house. The dream of living happily together ends for them in the Badlands of Montana. A well-scored, stylishly photographed, altogether highly lyrical road movie that is not entirely successful due a lack of psychological depth. Spacek’s voice-overs, commenting on the events in retrospect, are effective, though. This directorial debut of Terrence Malick (DAYS OF HEAVEN, THE THIN RED LINE) has gained a cult reputation. Inspired by the real-life Starkweather-Fugate killings in the 1950s; more or less remade 20 years later as TRUE ROMANCE. Written and produced by the director, who has a cameo as a salesman. Film debut of first-rate cinematographer Tak Fujimoto (THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS).

Bad Moon (1996, USA) C-80m. Scope ** D: Eric Red. Starring  Muriel Hemingway, Michael Paré, Mason Gamble, Ken Pogue, Hrothgar Mathews. Standard werewolf movie with Paré visiting his sister Hemingway and her little son, keeping a secret that he was bitten by a wolf-like creature in the jungle. Their dog Thor senses the danger and begins following the man into the wood, where he transforms into a werewolf ... every night. Not really bad but unimaginative, apart from some attack scenes and the visceral finale. Based on Wayne Smith's novel Thor, which reportedly had the dog tell the story(!).

Bad News Bears, The (1976, USA) C-102m. *** D: Michael Ritchie. Starring Walter Matthau, Chris Barnes, Tatum O’Neal, Ben Piazza, Vic Morrow. Popular sports comedy about down-and-out baseball coach Matthau, who gets the chance to coach team of 10-year-old losers and teaches them self-respect and courage. Funny, foul-mouthed film, a hit with kids. That rousing score is from George Bizet’s opera Carmen. Followed by two sequels and a TV series.

Bad Religion - Along the Way (1989, GER) C-75m. *** D: Matthias Kollek, Thorsten Bach. Early concert footage of punk rock band Bad Religion is worth seeing alone for its phenomenal editing, which makes us believe that film was shot during one show; as a matter of fact, it contains material of fourteen gigs! Check out at what speed the singer changes his T-shirts! The band members give interviews between the musical numbers.

Bad Ronald (1974, USA) C-78m. *** D: Buzz Kulik. Starring Scott Jacoby, Pippa Scott, John Larch, Dabney Coleman, Kim Huner, John Fiedler. Small but fine thriller about Jacoby, a teenage boy who has accidentally killed a little girl and now hides in a secret room of his dead mother’s house. Everything seems to work out fine, until ... Based on a novel by John Holbrooke Vance and originally made for television. One thing to add: Ronald is not really ‘bad’, he is a victim of circumstances.

Bad Taste (1987, NZL) C-90m. **½ D: Peter Jackson. Starring Peter Jackson, Terry Potter, Craig Smith, Mike Minett, Doug Wren. Peter Jackson’s first feature was realized between 1983 and 1987 and shot its director to (splatter-)stardom. The story: Aliens (disguising as farmers and walking around like zombies) have invaded a small coastal village in New Zealand, intending to bring human flesh (delicatessen) back to their planet. Scientist Derek (Jackson) and his “boys” must stop them. Outrageous gore effects, funny lines and slapstick (or, splatshtick), unfortunately outweighed by too many slow spots in the script. Still, rightfully put Jackson on the map, and provided him with the reputation (and money) to film his next movies, MEET THE FEEBLES and BRAINDEAD (thank God). Warning: The title of this movie is an apt description of it. Do not view, if in doubt. This was even shown at the Cannes Film Festival!

Ballad of Cable Hogue, The (1970, USA) C-121m. *** D: Sam Peckinpah. Starring Jason Robards, Stella Stevens, David Warner, Strother Martin, Slim Pickens, L.Q. Jones, R.G. Armstrong. Peckinpah’s follow-up to THE WILD BUNCH is a completely different western. Robards plays a simple-minded but determined drifter who finds water in the desert and decides to build a stop for stagecoaches. Stevens is a hooker who falls in love with him. Not very credible or realistic, and lacking Peckinpah’s trademark directorial style, but fine performances, lyrical scenes make it worthwhile. Score by Jerry Goldsmith.

Bambi (1942, USA) C-70m. **** D: David Hand. Starring (the voices of) Hardy Albright, Stan Alexander, Tim Davis, Paula Winslowe. Timeless, brilliant Disney classic detailing the life of deer Bambi, from childhood to adulthood, in beautiful, haunting images. Full of delightful sequences, with the death of Bambi’s mother and the forest fire standing out. This true masterpiece entails a message that withstands time. An awe-inspiring achievement, right up there with the best films of all time. Based on the novel by Felix Salten. Richly orchestrated score by Edward Plumb. This was Disney’s follow-up to DUMBO (1941).

Bambi II (2006, USA) C-72m. *** D: Brian Pimental. Starring (the voices of) Patrick Stewart, Alexander Gould, Brendan Baerg, Carolyn Hennesy, Nicky Jones. Sequel to the 1942 Disney classic forgets the ending of the original and takes off where the deer is left alone with his father, the great prince of the forest. The stag (voiced by Stewart) is looking for someone to raise his son, while Bambi is waking up to the adventures of the world around him. Many memorable characters return in this spin-off. The animation – lovingly designed, with the original in mind – compensates for modest plotting.

Banda del Gobbo, La (1977, ITA) C-99m. Scope D: Umberto Lenzi. Starring Tomas Milian, Pino Colizzi, Isa Danieli, Sal Borgese, Luciano Catenacci, Tom Felleghy. Crime drama with Milian in a double role: he plays a ruthless hunchback and his twin brother, a mentally retarded mechanic. When Il Gobbo (=the hunchback) is double-crossed at a hold-up he seeks revenge on his partners who’d rather see him dead. Solidly filmed but boring, not funny and trivial. There’s not even enough action to keep you entertained. Milian had played a hunchback before in Lenzi’s ROMA A MANO ARMATA (1976). English title: BROTHERS TILL WE DIE.

Bande à Part (1964, FRA) 97m. ** D: Jean-Luc Godard. Starring Anna Karina, Sami Frey, Claude Brasseur, Michel Delahaye, narrated by Jean-Luc Godard. French art-house icon Godard attempts to repeat the success of his instant classic A BOUT DE SOUFFLE (1960) but result is unmemorable and largely uninspired. Two no-gooders Frey and Brasseur get involved with Karina and decide to rob her aunt. Largely (completely?) improvised crime film goes nowhere with its characters, maintaining a paper-thin pretence. Highly regarded by many Godard enthusiasts, Quentin Tarantino even named his production company ‘Band Apart’ after this movie. See for yourself if this appeals to you. Based on the novel Fool’s Gold by Dolores Hitchens. Score by Michel Legrand. English titles: BAND OF OUTSIDERS, THE OUTSIDERS.

Bandidas (2006, USA/MEX/FRA) C-93m. Scope **½ D: Joachim Roenning, Espen Sandberg. Starring Penélope Cruz, Salma Hayek, Steve Zahn, Dwight Yoakam, Denis Arndt, Sam Shepard. Quite attractive western comedy about Cruz, a farmer’s daughter, and Hayek, a landowner’s daughter, who in turn-of-the-century Mexico join forces in battling ruthless enforcer Yoakam, who steals land for the railway. Filmed with gusto and fervor, but plot is less engaging.  Cowritten and coproduced by Luc Besson, who may have been inspired by the Louis Malle classic VIVA MARIA! (1965).

Bandits (2001, USA) C-123m. Scope **½ D: Barry Levinson. Starring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett, Troy Garity, Brian F. O’Byrne, January Jones, Barry Levinson. Off-beat comedy, told in flashback style, about criminals Willis and Thornton (both with funny characterizations), who escape from the joint and perform clever bank robberies. Blanchett, a neurotic married woman, then complicates their relationship considerably. Tries hard to be unusual, but material isn’t tightly woven or funny enough. Written by Harley Peyton, who wrote several Twin Peaks episodes. Photographed by Dante Spinotti.

Bangkok Dangerous (1999, THA) C-105m. *** D: Danny and Oxide Pang. Starring Pawalit Mongkolpisit, Premsinee Ratanasopha, Patharawarin Timkul, Pisek Intrakanchit. Uncompromising, stunningly stylish debut feature from the Pang Brothers about a deaf-mute hitman in Bangkok, who drifts from job to job. When he falls in love with a shopgirl, he finds his life at a crossroads. When his partner falls prey to a syndicate, he also must run for his life. Uneven plot outdone by frenzied direction, editing. Written by the directors, who are twin brothers. Remade by Hollywood in 2008.

Bangkok Dangerous (2008, USA) C-99m. *** D: The Pang Brothers. Starring Nicolas Cage, Shahkrit Yamnarm, Charlie Yeung, Panward Hemmanee, Jame With. Gripping remake of the Pang’s 1999 breakthrough hit, with Hollywood star power. Cage plays a hitman in Bangkok, who does his jobs with great precision, until he allows himself to become involved with two people, his messenger Yamnarm and a deaf-mute shop assistant, who he falls in love with. Extremely well-made, stylish action thriller, though finale is not its strongest part. Excellent score by Brian Tyler adds to great atmosphere. Cage also produced.

Barbarella (1968, FRA/ITA) C-98m. Scope **½ D: Roger Vadim. Starring Jane Fonda, John Phillip Law, Anita Pallenberg, Milo O’ Shea, Marcel Marceau, Claude Dauphin, Veronique Vendell, David Hemmings, Ugo Tognazzi. Perfect late 60s time capsule about sexy astronaut Fonda, who is assigned to track down a mega-criminal that wants to change this peaceful, love-oriented galaxy. Totally corny, at times embarrassingly so, with not-to-be-believed (studio) sets and costumes; a cult classic, also due to Fonda’s striptease during title sequence. From a comic book by Jean-Claude Forest. Script by Terry Southern and Roger Vadim, who was married to Fonda at the time. Photographed by Claude Renoir. Produced by Dina De Laurentiis. Also released as BARBARELLA: QUEEN OF THE GALAXY.

Bare Behind Bars (1977, SPA/GER) C-94m. *½ D: Osvaldo de Oliveira. Starring Maria Stella Splendor. Prison exploitation doesn’t bother with plot, but turns out to be “study“ of lesbianism in prisons. After 90m. this has a rather deadening effect. “Nude show“ is more like it. Uncut print has hardcore footage.

Barnyard (2006, USA/GER) C-90m. *** D: Steve Oedekerk. Starring (the voices of) Kevin James, Courteney Cox, Sam Elliott, Danny Glover, Wanda Sykes, Andie McDowell, David Koechner, Steve Oedekerk. Entertaining animated feature about irresponsible party cow James, who is forced to take his foster father’s role as protector of their barnyard, when a band of coyotes take his life. Not exactly BAMBI (1942), but funny and enjoyable, slightly anarchic, though not as much as SHREK (2001). Written by the director.

Barton Fink (1991, USA) C-116m. **** D: Joel Coen. Starring John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis, Michael Lerner, John Mahoney, Tony Shalhoub, Jon Polito, Steve Buscemi. Dark, brilliant satirical drama, the Coens’ fourth film and perhaps their best. Barton Fink (Turturro), a successful dramatist from New York is called to Hollywood to write a screenplay for a wrestling picture. From his arrival at the Hotel Earle in Los Angeles, nothing goes as planned. Barton is suffering a writer’s block and his next-door neighbor, insurance salesman Charlie Meadows (Goodman) keeps him from concentrating properly. Is experienced novelist Mahoney going to help? And why is the wallpaper peeling? Stylish, surreal masterpiece of filmmaking identifies Hollywood with hell for someone who fails to play according to its rules. BARTON FINK will “show you the life of a mind!”. Turturro and Goodman are excellent, so is Carter Burwell’s theme. Winner of several awards, including all of the important prizes at the Cannes film festival (the first film to accomplish this). One of the best films of the decade.

Basic Instinct (1992, USA) C-128m. Scope *** D: Paul Verhoeven. Starring Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, George Dzundza, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Daniel von Bargen, James Rebhorn. Fine erotic thriller with Douglas a frustrated cop on the search for an ice-pick killer and his involvement with prime suspect Stone, who’s the prototypical femme fatale. Director Verhoeven creates a maelstrom of sex and violence and keeps the viewer involved at all times. This Hitchcockian thriller was written by Joe Eszterhas. Enticing score by Jerry Goldsmith. Photographed by Jan De Bont.

Basket Case (1982, USA) C-91m. **½ D: Frank Henenlotter. Starring Kevin VanHentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner, Robert Vogel, Diana Browne. A young man, carrying his mutated siamese twin around in a basket, comes to N.Y.C. to exact revenge on the doctors who separated them as children. Truly grotesque horror with tongue-in-cheek is well-made (despite the low-budget) but may be too disturbing for some viewers. A cult favorite, followed by two sequels. Written and edited by director Henenlotter.

Basket Case 2 (1990, USA) C-90m. **½ D: Frank Henenlotter. Starring Kevin VanHentenryck, Judy Grafe, Annie Ross, Heather Rattray, Chad Brown, Ted Sorel, David Emge. Sequel to the 1982 cult favorite starts right where the original left off and follows VanHentenryck and his deformed twin to a house of freaks, where they find temporary refuge. Less original plotwise but still ambitious, with a twisted sense of humor and some astounding make-up creations that are reason alone to watch this film (credits list a “man with 37 noses”!). Written by the director. Followed by BASKET CASE 3 in 1992.

Basket Case 3: The Progeny (1992, USA) C-84m. **½ D: Frank Henenlotter. Starring Kevin VanHentenryck, Annie Ross, Gil Roper, Dan Biggers, Jim O’Doherty. Final entry in the BASKET CASE series is similar to second film, as Van Hentenryck and his brother Belial are still protected by Ross’s family of freaks. This time, Belial is about to become a father, and Van Hentenryck finally goes completely crazy. Again, quite enjoyable thanks to some very good make-up effects and a perverted sense of humor. For series fans, others should not bother. Produced by James Glickenhaus, coscripted by the director.

Basquiat (1996, USA) C-106m. **½ D: Julian Schnabel. Starring Jeffrey Wright, David Bowie, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Willem Dafoe, Michael Wincott, Benicio del Toro, Claire Forlani, Parker Posey, Christopher Walken, Courtney Love, Tatum O’Neal, Paul Bartel. Screen-bio of Warhol contemporary Jean-Michel Basquiat (Wright), who made an incredible career, starting out as a grafitti artist and growing to a respected expressionist painter. First half is fine, but film loses dramatic momentum in the second as it becomes all too clear that Basquiat’s lifestyle will inevitably lead to self-destruction. Well-filmed by first-time director Schnabel, but the biggest interest springs from the cast (including Bowie as Andy Warhol). Demonstrates how closely art and drugs are related, though SID AND NANCY was more consequent in that respect. Isabella Rossellini appears unbilled.

Batman (1966, USA) C-105m. ** D: Leslie H. Martinson. Starring Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin, Alan Napier, Neil Hamilton, Stafford Repp. Madge Blake, Reginald Denny, Milton Frome, voice of Van Williams. ‘Holy Batman!’ Movie spin-off from the 1966-1968 TV series (120 episodes), premiered between the first and second season. Batman and his sidekick Robin go against four super-villains (The Penguin, The Joker, The Riddler, and Catwoman), who are planning to sabotage U.N. meeting and take over the world. Rather slowly-paced and weakly plotted, worked better in the TV episodes, although it’s colorful and nostalgic. Meredith as the Penguin comes off best.

Batman (1989, USA) C-126m. **½ D: Tim Burton. Starring Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Jack Palance, Jerry Hall. Long-awaited big-screen debut of the caped crusader (not counting the Adam West TV spin-off) has Batman (Keaton) lock horns with super-criminal The Joker (Nicholson). Impressive production design and special effects almost outshine unspectacular plotting. Keaton is a poor Bruce Wayne, the story setup longish; film finally hits its stride in bombastic finale. All in all slightly more disappointing than impressive … a near miss. Danny Elfman’s score is excellent. Oscar winner for Anthony First’s production design. Prince contributed some songs to the soundtrack. Followed by BATMAN RETURNS.

Batman & Robin (1997, USA) C-120m. *** D: Joel Schumacher. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Uma Thurman, Chris O’Donnel, Alicia Silverstone, Elle MacPherson, Michael Gough. Over-the-top thrill ride featuring Clooney as the new Batman, who has to contend with two super-villains, Mr. Freeze (Arnie) and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman). Well-directed fourth Batman-film takes some time to get going, but when it does it never lets up. Brilliantly cast, with Schwarzenegger a hyper-cool Mr. Freeze and Thurman a seductive Poison Ivy, film’s breathless pace matches the best action pictures of the 80s and 90s. Its success is mainly due to the fact that the movie is conscious of its comic-book origins and doesn’t take itself seriously. Especially kids will be thrilled. This was the follow-up to BATMAN FOREVER.

Batman Begins (2005, USA) C-141m. Scope **½ D: Christopher Nolan. Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe, Mark Boon Junior, Linus Roache, Morgan Freeman. Star-studded action blockbuster goes back to the winged crusader’s roots, more or less ignoring the previous BATMAN films. As title indicates, this is one long prologue, following Bruce Wayne’s frustrations after his parents’ murder, his ritualistic exile and his decision to go back and fight crime in the streets of Gotham City. Takes a long time to get going and never really hits its stride, despite high-octane action scenes and a typically intense turn by Bale. One may also wonder why the film shows hardly any comic book style. The choice of the villain (Scarecrow Murphy) is slight as well. Coscripted by director Nolan (MEMENTO).

Batman Forever (1995, USA) C-122m. **½ D: Joel Schumacher. Starring Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, Chris O’Donnell, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Drew Barrymore, Rene Auberjonois, Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson, Ed Begley Jr. Schumacher took over from Burton for this third BATMAN entry. Kilmer, replacing Keaton, has two new adversaries: Two-Face (Jones) and the Riddler (Carrey), both of whom have reason to go against Bruce Wayne and Batman. Kidman plays a psychologist with a definite interest in all of them. Stunning set design, eye-popping special effects cannot camouflage undramatic, strangely uninvolving plotting. Besides, the villains are not potent enough to make this work (in fact, they are rather annoying). Still, a rollercoaster ride of a movie, especially for kids. Followed by BATMAN & ROBIN (with much more potent villains).

Batman Returns (1992, USA) C-126m. *** D: Tim Burton. Starring Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Michael Murphy, Pat Hingle, Vincent Schiavelli, Paul Reubens. Batman returns in this darker, meaner sequel and must face ruthless industrialist Schreck (Walken) and ugly, evil freak The Penguin, who intend to plunge Gotham City into chaos. Meanwhile, the Caped Crusader faces his biggest challenge yet in seductive Catwoman (Pfeiffer), who is beset by revenge. This entry in the series emphasises horror and stands as another triumph of style and production design. A definite improvement over its predecessor, especially in its treatment and conceptualization of good and evil. Well-acted by all, even Keaton is more convincing as Bruce Wayne this time, but Pfeiffer is most impressive and steals the show. Elaborate score by Danny Elfman, special make-up effects by Stan Winston. Followed by BATMAN FOREVER.

Battaglia di El Alamein, La (1969, ITA/FRA) C-96m. Scope ** D: Calvin Jackson Padget (=Giorgio Ferroni). Starring Frederick Stafford, George Hilton, Robert Hossein, Michael Rennie, Ira von Fürstenberg, Enrico Maria Salerno, Sal Borgese, Tom Felleghy. Standard war actioner detailing the strategies of the opposing forces in WW2 Africa and subsequent title battle. No depth whatsoever, but at least production values are adequate. Cast is quite interesting. Score by Carlo Rustichelli, executive produced by Sergio Martino. English titles: DESERT TANKS, THE BATTLE OF EL ALAMEIN.

Battaglia di Maratona, La (1959, ITA) C-85m. Scope ** D: Jacques Tourneur. Starring Steve Reeves, Mylène Demongeot, Miranda Campa, Sergio Fantoni, Ivo Garrani, Daniela Rocca, Daniele Vargas. Colorful but emptyheaded spectacle, set 490 B.C., as Greeks have to fend off attacks by the Persians. Of course, the battle of Marathon is the climax of the film. Instead of concentrating on historical events, director Tourneur has muscleman Steele fall in love with beautiful blonde Demongeot. Interesting for fans of cinematographer Mario Bava, who photographed the film splendidly and also completed the film in Tourneur's absence. He may be responsible for increasingly violent scenes towards the end. English title: THE GIANT OF MARATHON.

Battle Beyond the Stars (1980, USA) C-104m. *½ D: Jimmy T. Murakami. Starring Richard Thomas, Robert Vaughn, John Saxon, George Peppard, Darlanne Fluegel, Sybil Danning, Sam Jaffe, Jeff Corey. Or, JOHN BOY AND THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN IN SPACE. When his planet is under siege from spaceships by warlord Saxon, Thomas sets out to recruit mercenaries to help defend it. Sci-fi movie probably seemed okay in 1980 and five years later, but today it just seems ultra-cheesy. Notable only for some big names involved in the making. John Sayles cowrote the script, Roger Corman coproduced, James Horner composed the music and James Cameron did the art direction (this was his first screen credit). Has a minor cult following, but any ‘Star Trek’ episode is better.

Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973, USA) C-87m. Scope **½ D: J. Lee Thompson. Starring Roddy McDowall, Claude Akins, Natalie Trundy, Severn Darden, Lew Ayres, Paul Williams, Austin Stoker, John Huston, John Landis. Fifth and final installment in the PLANET OF THE APES saga has orang-utan lawgiver Huston narrate around 2600 what happened after Caesar’s revolution some 600 years ago. He has to deal with rebellious Gorillas led by Akins and radioactive humanoids attempting to win back dominance on the surface of the Earth. Almost nothing is left of the appeal of the first films (best sequence: the descent into the Dead City), but this is still a must, if you are a fan. Some prints feature two additional scenes. The series was followed by two television series.

Battle Royale (2000, JAP) C-114m. *½ D: Kinji Fukasaku. Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto, Masanobu Ando, Kou Shibasaki, Chiaki Kuriyama, Beat Takeshi (Kitano).
Some thousand years in the future (which looks more like present day, however), a school class is chosen to be the contestants of a grueling competition. They are flown to a remote island, where they are supposed to kill each other within three days, as there can only be one survivor. Of course, the spectacle will be televised. Lots of shoot-outs and screaming teenagers, but plot and character development is practically non-existent. What’s more, it’s not fun at all. Kitano’s dead-pan performance doesn’t help, either. Uncut print runs 122m. Film’s success prompted a sequel in 2003.

Baxter (1989, FRA) C-82m. **½ D: Jérôme Boivin. Starring Lise Delamare, Jean Mercure, Jacques Spiesser, Catherine Ferran, Jean-Paul Roussillon, Sabrina Leurquin. A movie with a quite daring premise: the dog (a pitbull terrier) is the main character, who narrates the film, giving us his life story as he is passed on from owner to owner. Some interesting observations of the human-dog relationship are offered, but plot is underdeveloped and mostly pointless.

Beach, The (2000, USA) C-119m. Scope **½ D: Danny Boyle. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tilda Swinton, Virginie Ledoyen, Guillaume Canet, Robert Carlyle. Thrill-seeking youngster (DiCaprio) goes to Thailand and hears of a mysterious, Paradise-like beach. He decides to travel there with a French couple and finds something beyond his expectations. Adventure drama is off to an energetic start and maintains interest until the final thirty minutes which are kind of odd and turn DiCaprio into a Col. Kurtz-like madman. Two thirds of a good movie, well-handled by director Boyle (unless you disagree with his off-beat touches). Based on Alex Garland’s novel. Score by Angelo Badalamenti, photographed by Darius Khondji.

Beach Blanket Bingo (1965, USA) C-98m. **½ D: William Asher. Starring Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Deborah Walley, Harvey Lembeck, Marta Kristen, Linda Evans, Timothy Carey, Don Rickles, Buster Keaton. A group of slim, handsome teens hang out at the beach, go surfing and live through minor adventures. Beach comedy isn’t much in terms of plot but actors are nicely suibdued and scenery is beautiful. A cult film for 60s surf and beach movie lovers, this was actually the fifth in a whole series of films produced by AIP.

Beast Must Die, The (1974, GBR) C-93m. *** D: Paul Annett. Starring Calvin Lockhart, Peter Cushing, Charles Gray, Marlene Clark, Anton Diffring. Lockhart invites several people to a remote mansion, where he tells them that one of them is a werewolf. He plans to kill the monster during a full moon. The audience is also given a guess at who might be it. Horror draws most of its suspense from the premise. Several redundant sequences but above-average. Not very violent, either. Based on the short story 'There Shall Be No Darkness' by James Blish.

Beast Within, The (1982, USA) C-98m. ** D: Philippe Mora. Starring Ronny Cox, Bibi Besch, Paul Clemens, Don Gordon, R.G. Armstrong, Katherine Moffat, L.Q. Jones, Luke Askew. Not-bad horror film about Cox and his wife Besch, who got raped 17 years ago by a maniac in the woods. Today, Besch’s son Clemens is showing disturbing tendencies, which the couple tries to investigate in the small town where the rape occurred. What is the populace trying to hide from them? Start out quite well, then becomes redundant and finally outright absurd. A okay view for horror aficionados. Tom Holland (FRIGHT NIGHT) scripted from a novel by Edward Levy. Elaborate score by Les Baxter.

Beatrice Cenci (1969, ITA) C-99m. **½ D: Lucio Fulci. Starring Adrienne Larussa, Antonio Casagrande, Tomas Milian, Raymond Pellegrin, Georges Wilson. In 1599, the aristocratic Cenci family are accused of heresy and must flee from the wrath of the Pope. When the tyrannical head of the family falls prey to an intrigue and dies, his daughter, beautiful Beatrice (Larussa) is accused of murder. Confusing narrative hampers proceedings, but drama is well-acted, generally not bad. Surprisingly straight stuff from Fulci, the sixth filmization of the story (1956 version was directed by Riccardo Freda). Also known as PERVERSION STORY.

Beau Serge, Le (1958, FRA) 97m. *** D : Claude Chabrol. Starring Gérard Blain, Jean-Claude Brialy, Michèle Meritz, Bernadette Lafont, Edmond Beauchamp. Claude Chabrol’s first film is also the first film of the French Nouvelle Vague. Dramatic story concerns Brialy’s return to his home village in the country. He encounters old friend Blain, who has started drinking, being unable to pull himself out of his misery. Not among the directors best films, but still highly recommended to cineastes. Philippe de Broca was first assistant director, Chabrol also wrote and produced.

Beautiful Girls (1996, USA) C-113m. *** D: Ted Demme. Starring Timothy Hutton, Matt Dillon, Noah Emmerich, Annabeth Gish, Lauren Holly, Rosie O'Donnell, Max Perlich, Martha Plimpton, Natalie Portman, Michael Rapaport, Mira Sorvino, Uma Thurman, David Arquette. Pleasant-enough drama about Hutton returning to his hometown for a high school class reunion and finding his old pals haven't changed since. Most of them are unhappy with their lives, and he begins to doubt whether his relationship with his wife is so perfect. Good cast in bitter-sweet drama, which will appeal mostly to U.S. Americans, who can identify with the characters. Overlong but worthwhile. Good choice of songs on the soundtrack.

Beautiful Mind, A (2001, USA) C-135m. *** D: Ron Howard. Starring Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Paul Bettany, Adam Goldberg, Josh Lucas, Anthony Rapp, Judd Hirsch. Very well-directed biographical drama about real-life Math genius John Nash, whose schizophrenia prevented him from having a proper career. He imagined himself being part of a clandestine post-WW2 operation and his social life suffered immensely. Crowe’s performance brought him the Academy Award. Other Oscars went to director Howard, supporting actress Connelly, producers Howard and Brian Grazer, as well as screenwriter Akiva Goldsman. Score by James Horner, photography by Roger Deakins.

Beauty and the Beast (1991, USA) C-84m. *** D: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise. Starring (the voices of) Robby Benson, Jesse Corti, Rex Everhart, Angela Lansbury, Paige O’Hara, Brian Cummings. Fine Disney version of the famous fable is perfect for kids. Free-sprited Belle opts to stay with ugly beast in his castle, so that her father gets released. The beast has reason to change his brisk behavior as his time on Earth is running out. Well-made, engrossing, though adults should stick with the more poetic Jean Cocteau version. The first animated feature ever to receive a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. Later extended to 90m.

Becoming Jane (2007, GBR/USA) C-120m. Scope ** D: Julian Jarrold. Starring Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Julie Walters, James Cromwell, Maggie Smith, Joe Anderson, Lucy Cohu, Laurence Fox, Ian Richardson. Plodding drama about famed writer Jane Austen, whose letters provide the basis for this feature film. Hathaway plays the novelist, who is confronted with doubts and sexism in late 18th century England. Production design is superb, but the plot shows very little development and moves at a snail’s pace. Richardson’s last film.

Bedhead (1991, USA) B&W-9m. n/r D: Robert Rodriguez. Starring Rebecca Rodriguez, David Rodriguez. Early short from the director of EL MARIACHI (1992) and FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996). A girl gets her revenge on her brother, when she suddenly acquires psychic powers after he made her fall on her head. Interesting to watch how Rodriguez is trying for some directorial style here (at the age of 22!), but otherwise pretty flat. Filmed with Rodriguez family members in the cast and crew.

Bed Sitting Room, The (1969, GBR) C-91m. ** D: Richard Lester. Starring Rita Tushingham, Ralph Richardson, Peter Cook, Harry Secombe, Dudley Moore, Spike Milligan, Roy Kinnear, Marty Feldman. Absurd post-apocalyptic satire set in a wasteland (or, rather waste dump) that was once London. A family – with pregnant Tushingham – travel around and meet all kinds of weird characters. Some funny bits, but plot is a mess. A curio at best. Based on Spike Milligan and John Antrobus’ play. Feldman’s film debut.

Bedtime Stories (2008, USA) C-99m. SCOPE **½ D: Adam Shankman. Starring Adam Sandler, Keri Russell, Guy Pearce, Courtney Cox, Lucy Lawless, Jonathan Pryce, Carmen Electra, Rob Schneider. Feel-good Disney movie about janitor Sandler, who works for his father’s hotel business but it now belongs to someone else. One day his sister Cox asks him to look after her kids, and when every bedtime story they concoct together comes true, Sandler sees a way to change his sullen life. Not completely believable, but fairly entertaining and warm-hearted. Okay family fare.

Bee Movie (2007, USA) C-90m. *** D: Steve Hickner, Simon J. Smith. Starring (the voices of) Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Patrick Warburton, John Goodman, Chris Rock, Kathy Bates, Barry Levinson, Larry King, Ray Liotta, Sting, Oprah Winfrey, Megan Mullally, Rip Torn, Jim Cummings. Animated blockbuster from Dreamworks about a simple bee (Seinfeld) who doesn’t want to be one of zillion honey workers and dreams of greater things. On a trip through New York City he befriends florist Zellweger, who can’t believe that bees can talk (can you?). It all comes down to a court hearing where it’s humans vs. bees. If you can get past the movie’s silly plot twists and implausibilities, you’ll be wonderfully entertained, because it has a lot of funny scenes, and that’s what counts in this genre. Animation is first-rate, too.

Beetle Juice (1988, USA) C-92m. *** D: Tim Burton. Starring Alex Baldwin, Geena Davis, Annie McEnroe, Maurice Page, Hugo Stanger, Michael Keaton, Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones, Winona Ryder. Horror comedy with stop-motion effects, from the director of NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993). Baldwin and Davis die in an accident but live on as ghosts in their house. When the new owners arrive they try to scare them away – to no avail. Then they turn to restless spirit Beetlejuice (Keaton), who has a few nasty tricks up his sleeve. Colorful, elaborate fantasy with a fine score by Danny Elfman. Plot doesn’t quite hold up, but there’s so much to see and marvel at, you won’t mind. Keaton is terrific. Oscar winner for Best Makeup. Followed  by an animated TV series.

Before Sunrise (1995, USA/AUT) C-105m. *** D: Richard Linklater. Starring Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Andrea Eckert, Hanno Pöschl, Tex Rubinowitz, Erni Mangold, Peter Ily Huemer. Wonderful romance about Generation X protagonists Hawke and French girl Delpy, who meet on a train to Vienna, fall in love and spend an unforgettable night in the Austrian capital, aware that after they part on the next day, they might never see each other again. Simple but touching drama, well-acted and shot on typically Viennese locations. This cult film for the nineties may be what BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S was for the sixities. Cowritten by director Linklater.

Before Sunset (2004, USA/FRA) C-80m. *** D: Richard Linklater. Starring Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Vernon Dobtcheff. Nine years after BEFORE SUNRISE (1995) Hawke has become a quite successful writer, and he is advertising his latest book in Paris when he meets Delpy again. On an hour-long odyssey through the French capital they exchange their philosophies and try to analyse what they have become. Charming, telling conversation piece unfolds in real-time and perfectly captures the fleeting moments of life as two former lovers re-unite. Contains some bitter truths about life and love. However, the short running time and the fact that it is subordinate to the first film wears it down a bit.

Before the Rain (1994, MAK/GBR/FRA) C-114m. Scope ***½ D: Milcho Manchevski. Starring Katrin Cartlidge, Rade Serbedzija, Gregoire Colin, Labina Mitevska. Intelligent, perceptive drama focusing on the lives of three people, who are all affected in a different way by the war in former Yugoslavia. Film is structured in three parts, which are linked together in a most unusual way. Well-made, beautifully photographed drama, which demonstrates the effects of war on a very personal level. Winner of the Golden Lion in Venice.

Begotten (1991, USA) B&W-71m. n/r D: E. Elias Merhige. Starring Brian Salzberg, Donna Dempsey, Stephen Charles Barry. Bizarre, almost legendary video experiment from the later director of SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (2000). Dialogue-free, black-and-white, with often distorted visuals, this is extremely difficult to watch, as it has little coherence and contains explicit violence and nudity. The “plot” starts with a “god” who kills himself with a razor, then “Mother Earth” gives birth to a deformed creature called the “son of Earth”. Impossible to rate, this – like all of expressive visual art – will depend on how you see it. One might ask why this is stretched out beyond short film length. Like it or not, this has become a cult item. Also shown at 78m.

Beguiled, The (1971, USA) C-105m. *** D: Don Siegel. Starring Clint Eastwood, Geraldine Page, Elizabeth Hartman, Jo Ann Harris, Darleen Carr, Pamelyn Ferdin. Unusual drama about wounded civil war soldier Eastwood, who comes to a girls' school in the South, where his wounds are treated despite him being a Yankee. The fact that he is a man causes much more upheaval (and jealousy) among the women. Engrossing drama, based on the novel by Thomas Cullinan, has a disappointing ending, but is highly recommended to fans of the off-beat. Good score by Lalo Schifrin.

Being, The (1983, USA) C-82m. *½ D: Jackie Kong. Starring Martin Landau, Marianne Gordon, Rexx Coltrane (=Bill Osco), José Ferrer, Dorothy Malone. Pretty bad horror film about a town which is terrorized by a slimy monster, a mutation caused by toxic waste. Basically an ALIEN-ripoff, only with a different setting. Actors are dull, so is script. Horror freaks might enjoy gory effects (and frequent nudity). Filmed in 1980. Alternative titles: FREAK, EASTER SUNDAY, THE POTTSVILLE HORROR.

Being John Malkovich (1999, USA) C-112m. ***½ D: Spike Jonze. Starring John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, Orson Bean, John Malkovich, Mary Kay Place, Charlie Sheen. Extraordinary, intelligent fantasy about brilliant but penniless puppeteer  Cusack, who takes the job of sorting files on floor 7½ (!) of a skyscraper and subsequently discovers a strange, mind-expanding portal… Funny, even philosophical one-of-a-kind movie, highlighted by many offbeat characters, including Diaz as Cusack’s ugly, animal-obsessed wife, Bean as his mysterious boss and lots of celebrities, who appear as themselves (Charlie Sheen, Brad Pitt, Dustin Hoffman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Gary Sinise, Winona Ryder). A must-see. Jonze’s first film, perhaps influenced by Terry Gilliam’s BRAZIL.

Beiqing Chengsi (1989, TIW) C-157m. ** D: Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Starring Tony Leung. Deadening chronicle of the hard times a Taiwanese family have to live through when the Japanese emperor resigns after World War Two. Quite ambitious but never lives up to its intentions. Uninvolving direction (the majority of scenes is shot from a far distance) gives the impression of an indifferent approach by the film-makers. This is about as exciting as a history book, but nevertheless won a prize at the Venice film festival.

Bell Boy, The (1960, USA) 72m. ** D: Jerry Lewis. Starring Jerry Lewis, Bill Richmond. Plotless comedy about bell boy Lewis and his misfortunes in a hotel in Florida. Hardly funny, although it was quite popular and successful when originaly released. Richmond does a scary impression of the comedian Stan Laurel (of Laurel & Hardy fame). Lewis’ first film as a director; he also wrote and coproduced.

Belle Américaine, La (1961, FRA) 100m. ** D: Robert Dhéry. Starring Robert Dhéry, Colette Brosset, Alfred Adam, Louis de Funès, Christian Marin, Michel Serrault, Jean Carmet, Jean Lefebvre, Claude Piéplu, Pierre Tchernia, Grosso et Modo. Mild, dated comedy about factory worker Dhéry, who buys a used American car, which leads to his becoming the talk of the town. Slowly paced, old-fashioned nostalgia for fans of French cinema. Of interest mainly because of appearances of Serrault and de Funès (pre-stardom). Serrault gives a terrific performance, de Funès offers one of his pantomime routines. Also shown in computer-colored version. English titles: THE AMERICAN BEAUTY, WHAT A CHASSIS.

Belle de Jour (1967, FRA/ITA) C-101m. ***½ D: Luis Bunuel. Starring Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli, Geneviève Page, Pierre Clémenti, Francoise Fabian, Francisco Rabal, Francis Blanche, Bernard Fresson, Luis Bunuel. Outstanding character study and examination of bourgeois morals is one of master surrealist Bunuel’s most famous films. Young Deneuve’s seemingly perfect marriage and relationship with her husband, doctor Sorel, is flawed by masochistic tendencies inside herself. She flees into the world of prostitution and starts leading a double life. Her descent and guilt is followed consequently by director Bunuel. Altogether fascinating treaty on the corset of the bourgeoisie was a scandal when originally released. Today it is a key film of the mid-1960s. Photographed by Sacha Vierny, costumes by Yves Saint-Laurent. For a similar examination of sexual fantasies and obsessions turn to Stanley Kubrick’s EYES WIDE SHUT (1999), for which this may have been an influence.

Belle Epoque (1992, SPA/POR/FRA) C-109m. Scope **½ D: Fernando Trueba. Starring Penélope Cruz, Miriam Díaz Aroca, Gabino Diego, Fernando Fernán Gómez, Michel Galabru. Seems familiar: In 1931 Spain a deserted soldier meets and falls in love with four sisters who happen to be visiting their father at his rural estate. Many amusing complications ensue until the man finally knows which girl to prefer. A hit in many countries but plot is overlong and not very stimulating (the actresses are, though). Nevertheless won a Best Foreign Film Oscar. For a more subtle (and sensuous) love comedy watch SIRENS (1994).

Belly of the Beast (2003, CDN/HGK/GBR) C-91m. D: Ching Siu-Tung. Starring Steven Seagal, Byron Mann, Monica Lo, Tom Wu. Almost completely worthless actioner with Seagal an ex-CIA agent going to Thailand to recover kidnapped daughter. Buddhist clichés abound, a fat, old “hero” and a plot that is a throw-back to 80s video store bombs. Photography and direction (by genre-great Ching) is actually quite good, but it can’t save this turkey.

Belphégor – Le Fantôme du Louvre (2001, FRA) C-97m. Scope **½ D: Jean-Paul Salomé. Starring Sophie Marceau, Michel Serrault, Frédéric Diefenthal, Julie Christie, Jean-Francois Balmer, Juliette Gréco. An Egyptian mummy is brought to the famous Louvre in Paris, replete with ancient curse and angry pharao. Marceau, a young woman who lives near the museum is temporarily possessed by Belphégor… can her new lover Diefenthal help, or old expert Serrault? Well-produced, flashy horror suffers from overly realistic, hi-tech setting but pace is swift, and Serrault and Christie are fun to watch. Based on the novel by Arthur Bernède, which was filmed before as a mini-series in the 1960s. English title: BELPHEGOR – PHANTOM OF THE LOUVRE.

Belva dalla Calda Pelle, La (1982, ITA) C-92m. ** D: Bruno Fontana. Starring Angelo Infanti, Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Giovanni Brusadore, Salvatore Lago. Pure exploitation about a group of mercenaries who are double-crossed and must fend for themselves in hot countryside (probably somewhere in Greece). Soon the men’s loyalty to each other is put to a test, especially after they are seemingly seduced by a beautiful stranger (Gemser). Improves slightly after the appearance of Gemser (rather late in the movie). Exploitation fans watch this sleaze because of the dialogue (like “How long has it been since you had a hot cunt?”), others needn’t bother. Also known as THE DIRTY SEVEN, and EMMANUELLE, QUEEN OF THE DESERT.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970, USA) C-95m. Scope ***½ D: Ted Post. Starring James Franciscus, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, Linda Harrison, Paul Richards, Victor Buono, Charlton Heston. After the startling revelation at the end of PLANET OF THE APES, Heston has traveled on into the wastelands of the Forbidden Zone. Astronaut Franciscus, on a mission to find out what happened to Heston and his crew, retraces his steps, meets the ape characters of the first film and stumbles into a mysterious subterranean maze. Is Heston, or at least an explanation for everything to be found there? Riveting sequel is fast-paced, tightly edited and even shocking and frightening, especially in the second half. The most violent and horror film-like of the series. Stunning sci-fi, best-enjoyed right after the 1968 original. Followed by ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES.

Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens (1979, USA) C-93m. *** D: Russ Meyer. Starring Kitten Natividad, Ken Kerr, Stuart Lancaster, Henry Rowland, Uschi Digard, Russ Meyer. Typically engaging, tongue-in-cheek sex movie from the genre’s master about Small Town, U.S.A., where the citizens have typical problems, mostly related to sex. Worker Kerr can’t look his sexy wife Natividad in the eyes during the act, so he searches for a cure at a most unusual radio station. Fast-paced, with outrageous characters and ideas, and a purple-prose narrative that holds it all together. One of Meyer’s best. This was his last theatrical film, despite the announcement of a sequel JAWS OF THE VIXEN, which was never made. Meyer made one more movie (for the video market) three years before his death, PANDORA PEAKS (2001). Cowritten by Roger Ebert, who had collaborated with Meyer for the classic BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1970) and the lesser UP! (1976).

Beowulf (2007, USA) C-113m. Scope *** D: Robert Zemeckis. Starring Ray Winstone, Robin Wright-Penn, Anthony Hopkins, Sebastian Roché, John Malkovich, Crispin Glover, Angelina Jolie, Chris Coppola, Alison Lohman. Computer-generated adaptation of the epic medieval poem, much like director Zemeckis’ earlier THE POLAR EXPRESS (2004). Aging king Hopkins makes a call out to heroes to free his people from monstrous creature Grendel that comes down from his mountain lair every once in a while to wreak havoc on the community. Enter heroic warrior Beowulf (Winstone), who might even become the king’s successor if he can kill the monster. A bit simplistic storywise, but these flaws are quickly forgotten in bombastic action sequences, all set to a majestic score by Alan Silvestri. CGI effects are not entirely seamless, but with such a sweeping spectacle it doesn’t really matter. A powerful movie experience, which was also shown in 3-D. Screenplay by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary. Filmed several times before, most recently as BEOWULF & GRENDEL (2005).

Bersaglio Altezza d’Uomo (1979, ITA) C-79m. ** D: Guido Zurli. Starring Luc Merenda, Gabriella Giorgelli, Kadir Inanir, Paola Senatore. Third-rate actioner about inspector Merenda, who’s a tough crime fighter. One day, the syndicate blackmail one of his colleagues into assassinating him. Guess what happens next. Tired plot somehow kept alive by rythmical Stelvio Cipriani score. Original version may run longer. English title: TARGET.

Berserker (1987, USA) C-84m. ** D: Jefferson Richard. Starring Joseph Alan Johnson, Greg Dawson, Valerie Sheldon, Shannon Engemann, George ‘Buck’ Flower. Mid-80s slasher fodder. Several teens go camping in the woods (so much for originality) and finds themselves stalked by a msyterious creature. Adequate acting saves this, although it is rather slowly paced. Also known as BERSERKER: THE NORDIC CURSE.

Besat (1999, DAN) C-95m. **½ D: Anders Ronnow-Klarlund. Starring Ole Lemmeke, Kirsti Eline Torhaug, Ole Ernst, Niels Anders Thorn, Udo Kier. A Danish virologist investigates the mysterious death of a Romanian in Copenhagen and travels to Bucarest, where a similar case has been recorded. Was it a virus? And does enigmatic priest/astrologer Kier want to detroy the world with it? Good-looking horror thriller bears the mark of a talented but incomplete director. Interest comes and goes, but pace and suspense in finale will keep you watching. Not bad, but certainly not good either (it’s closer to a ** than a *** rating). Aka POSSESSED. Produced by Lars von Trier’s Zentropa Company.

Bestia Uccide a Sangue Freddo, La (1971, ITA) C-83m. Scope D: Fernando Di Leo. Starring Klaus Kinski, Margaret Lee, Rosalba Neri, Jane Garret, John Karlsen, John Ely. Extremely weak giallo set at an insane asylum, where a maniac is stalking the mostly female patients. Sloppily made, devoid of suspense, with only the score by Silvano Spadaccino showing class. This seems almost like Jess Franco directed it. Also available in more sexually explicit 97m. version (which is said to contain hard-core footage). Also known as THE BEAST KILLS IN COLD BLOOD, THE COLD-BLOODED BEAST, SLAUGHTER HOTEL and ASYLUM EROTICA.

Best Laid Plans (1999, USA) C-92m. *** D: Mike Barker. Starring Alessandro Nivola, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Gene Wolande, Jonathan McMurtry. Noirish thriller about down-on-his-luck worker Nivola, who chances to meet an old friend (Brolin) from college. One night this guy calls him up and asks him a favor: A pretty blonde (Witherspoon) has spent the night with him and now threatens to accuse him of rape. How can the situation be resolved? Nothing is as it seems in this well-made, unpredictable sleeper. Script by Ted Griffin has an interesting narrative structure.

Best Men (1997, USA) C-90m. Scope ** D: Tamra Davis. Starring Dean Cain, Andy Dick, Sean Patrick Flanery, Mitchell Whitfield, Luke Wilson, Fred Ward, Raymond J. Barry, Drew Barrymore, Brad Dourif. Strictly unbelievable, even ridiculous comedy-thriller-drama mix about a group of buddies who get mixed up in a bank robbery on their way to a marriage and have to discover that one of their best friends is the most sought after criminal in the States. He goes by the name of Hamlet and keeps quoting verses from the Shakespeare classic! Derivative, especially the ending, film rips off several classics like RESERVOIR DOGS, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and TRUE ROMANCE, but remains mildly entertaining throughout.

Bête, La (1975, FRA) C-98m. *** D: Walerian Borowczyk. Starring Sirpa Lane, Lisbeth Hummel, Elisabeth Kaza, Pierre Benedetti, Guy Tréjan, Roland Armontel, Marcel Dalio. Outstanding horror/sex drama about the carefully planned wedding between a beautiful heiress (Lane) and the unattractive, brutish son of an impoverished count. When she comes to meet him in his castle for the first time, she is infatuated by the scenery – and an old fable that is said to have happened to one of her spouse’s ancestors: A beast from the woods allegedly attacked and raped a young woman 200 years ago. Lane dreams up the scenario, in the context of her sexual awakening. The (semi-)pornographic content made many critics turn away from a proper interpretation. In fact, this is a highly erotic parable about the fear of losing one’s virginity and a paraphrase of the classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’. It produced a scandal, simply because the filmmakers chose such a crass presentation. In fact, direction, camerawork, production design and set decoration are first-rate. Had the film been a technically inept, quick-shot porn production, it would certainly have disappeared in the X-Rated section of videostores without stirring emotions. Also notable for its frank (and surreal) depiction of female sexual fantasies. English title: THE BEAST.

Better Than Sex (2000, AUS/FRA) C-80m. *** D: Jonathan Teplitzky. Starring David Wenham, Susie Porter, Catherine McClements, Kris McQuade, Simon Bossell. A bit slight but intelligently observed sex comedy about Wenham and Porter, who agree on a brief fling, as Wenham will leave the country in three days. What follows is a nicely commented examination of a budding relationship that is absolutely true to life. Wenham had a key role, of course, in THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003). Written by the director.

Better Tomorrow, A (1986, HGK) C-90m. *** D: John Woo. Starring Chow Yun-Fat, Ti Lung, Leslie Cheung, Waise Lee. The film that marked director Woo’s and Chow Yun-Fat’s breakthrough in Hong Kong and would later turn them into Hollywood stars. A dramatically charged action thriller about a corrupt cop and his brother, who blames him for the death of their father. Action scenes are relatively rare, but dramatic plotting and Yun-Fat’s star-making performance as the brothers’ best friend are main attractions of the film. A box-office smash in Hong Kong. Followed by two sequels, only the first of which was directed by Woo. The director also cowrote the screenplay.

Better Tomorrow 3, A (1989, HGK) C-105m. **½ D: Tsui Hark. Starring Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung, Anita Mui, Shih Kien. Prequel to the hit series initiated by John Woo, who only functions as a coproducer here. During the Vietnam War, Chow tries to bring his uncle back to Hong Kong and falls in love with mysterious Mui, who involvement with a gang leader allows no time for romance. Confusing story-setup, average action scenes, this one is not as kinetic as Part One and not as unrelenting as Part Two. A little disappointing given the fact that none other than Tsui Hark wrote and directed this overly melodramatic action film. 

Bewegte Mann, Der (1995, GER) C-94m. ** D: Sönke Wortmann. Starring Til Schweiger, Katja Rie-mann, Rufus Beck, Joachim Król, Ralf König. Quite funny sex comedy based on comic strips created by Ralf König about macho Schweiger who is dumped by his girlfriend Riemann after she finds out he’s screwing other women. With no place to sleep, he agrees to move into the flat of a homosexual (Beck), which soon leads to complications because his (pregnant) girlfriend thinks he has turned gay! Sure to please fans of the comic strips, but to others film’s plot will seem artificial, with the characters superficially drawn. Besides, Schweiger looks good but is no actor. Direction is above average. Quite obviously a matter of taste. Released in the U.S. as MAYBE ... MAYBE NOT.

Beyond Hypothermia (1996, HGK) C-86m. *** D: Patrick Leung. Starring Lau Ching Wan, Wu Chien Lien, Han Sang Woo, Shirley Wong. Cult action romance about a cold-blooded killer (Lau Ching Wan, star of BLACK MASK) who discovers warm feelings inside her when she falls in love with an ordinary cook. However, as a professional hitman it is most dangerous to get emotionally involved with someone. Does their love have a future? Stylish, well-made, even touching; the romance is much more interesting than the action here, though film scores in both departments. One of the best entries into this sub-genre since it was established by John Woo with his classic THE KILLER in 1989. Nice score by Ben Cheung.

Beyond Rangoon (1995, USA) C-100m. Scope **½ D: John Boorman. Starring Patricia Arquette, Frances McDormand, Spalding Gray, U Aung Ko, Adele Lutz, Victor Slezak, Charley Boorman. Impressively filmed drama about American Arquette, who has lost her son and husband and joins her sister in a trip to Burma, where the military turns the country into a battlefield. When she goes ‘beyond Rangoon’ with a tourist guide, she soon has to run for her life. Not very compelling, perhaps because of Arquette, who we are just not used to seeing in a dramatic role. Plot is too much reduced to her flight.

Beyond Re-Animator (2003, USA/SPA) C-96m. **½ D: Brian Yuzna. Starring Jeffrey Combs, Jasno Barry, Simón Andreu, Elsa Pataky. Long-awaited sequel to RE-ANIMATOR (1985) and BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR (1990) is surprisingly good splatter movie about doctor Barry, who comes to work in a state prison, where he wants to collaborate with inmate Combs, who was responsible for the death of his sister before his arrest. And yes, he has brought the original green liquid that will turn dead people into zombies. Plot becomes increasingly wild and confusing, but characters are colorful and effects are outrageous. Splatter fans will find this a welcome re-animation of the series. Filmed in Spain.

Beyond the Limits (2003, GER) C-100m. **½ D: Olaf Ittenbach. Starring Darren Shahlavi, Russell Friedenberg, Hank Stone, David Creedon, Joe Cook. Ambitious independent horror film shot on 16mm, about a journalist and her interview with a caretaker at a cemetery, who spins two related tales. In the first, a dinner party among gangsters ends up in a bloodbath, in the second, set in medieval times, a sinister inquisitor tries to unlock the secret to a mysterious heart that is said to endow you with supernatural powers. Plot is uneven and some of the actors wooden, but if you forgive the cheapness of some scenes (and have a tolerance for gore), you won’t have a bad time. The quite good effects are not the film’s only drawing card here, thank God. Second story is better than the first. Ittenbach also produced and cowrote the script.

Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979, USA) C-114m. Scope D: Irwin Allen. Starring Michael Caine, Sally Field, Telly Savalas, Peter Boyle, Jack Warden, Shirley Knight, Shirley Jones, Karl Malden, Slim Pickens, Veronica Hamel, Angela Cartwright, Mark Harmon. Poor sequel to the exciting THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972). Caine and Savalas enter the sinking luxury liner The Poseidon in order to raid the ship. Artificial disaster scenes, preposterous plotting, made at a time when the disaster movie had run its course. Only for fans of the cast members.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970, USA) C-109m. Scope *** D: Russ Meyer. Starring Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Marcia McBroom, David Gurian, John LaZar, Michael Blodgett, Edy Williams, Erica Gavin, Phyllis Davis, Charles Napier, Haji, Pamela (Pam) Grier, Russ Meyer, Strawberry Alarm Clock. Lively, colorful adult drama about three female musicians who make it to stardom only to discover the dark side of fame. This remake/spoof of VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1967) takes time to get moving but when it does, it is just as dramatic and outrageous as director Meyer’s best work. An indelible time capsule, with good songs and nice sets. John LaZar shines as a flamboyant, classical dialogue-spurting homosexual. Having said this, you might agree that this originally X-rated film may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Written by Roger Ebert, story concocted by Ebert and Meyer. Meyer also produced the film.

Bianco, il Giallo, il Nero, Il (1975, ITA/SPA/FRA) C-112m. Scope **½ D: Sergio Corbucci. Starring Giuliano Gemma, Tomas Milian, Eli Wallach, Manuel de Blas, Jacques Berthier, Romano Puppo, Cris Huerta. Lighthearted attempt at spoofing Sergio Leone’s 1966 classic IL BUONO, IL BRUTTO, IL CATTIVO about three rascals who go after a chest full of money and must fend off several adversaries (when not battling each other). Worth watching for Milian’s comic performance as a Jap (il Giallo) but script is mild and goes on too long. For fans. Also known as THE WHITE, THE YELLOW AND THE BLACK, and SHOOT FIRST, ASK QUESTIONS LATER.

Biches, Les (1968, FRA/ITA) C-99m. ***½ D: Claude Chabrol. Starring Stéphane Audran, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jacqueline Sassard, Henri Attal, Dominique Zardi, Claude Chabrol. Extraordinary adult drama marked the beginning of director Chabrol’s most important phase of filmmaking. Young, naïve street artist (Sassard) is taken in by a rich, bored lesbian (Audran). They withdraw to Audran’s villa in St. Tropez, living a carefree existence, until a man (Trintignant) enters their lives and changes them forever. Just about the final word on triangular relationships in cinema history, this has first-rate direction, photography and a subtle script (by Chabrol and Paul Gégauff) to compensate for deliberate pace. A stunning achievement, one of Chabrol’s best, most acclaimed films. Photographed by Jean Rabier (assisted by Claude Zidi), score by Pierre Jansen. Also known as BAD GIRLS, THE DOES, and GIRLFRIENDS.

Big Bad Mama (1974, USA) C-84m. *** D: Steve Carver. Starring Angie Dickinson, Wililam Shatner, Tom Skerritt, Susan Sennett, Robbie Lee, Tom Signorelli, Sally Kirkland. Good BONNIE AND CLYDE imitation about criminal Dickinson, mother of two young daughters, who goes on the lam, picking up bank robber Skerritt and pseudo-gentleman Shatner along the way. Fast-paced, well-scored action comedy with lots of nudity. A frivolous, exciting cult film. Paul Bartel was second unit director, Bill Paxton decorated the set. Produced by Roger Corman. Followed by a sequel in 1987.

Big Boss, The (1971, HGK) C-103m. Scope **½ D: Lo Wei. Starring Bruce Lee, Maria Yi, Han Ying Chieh, Tony  Liu. Lee, in his first starring role, plays a young man who has sworn to his mother to keep out of harm’s way. When he discovers that his new employer is a druglord who unscrupulously kills workers, Lee is forced to break his oath. Kung fu action film spends too much time on its (admittedly ambitious) plot and is therefore short on action, but the charismatic Bruce Lee makes it well worth watching. Alternative title: FISTS OF FURY. Not to be confused with FIST OF FURY, which Lee made the following year.

Big Bounce, The (2004, USA) C-88m. Scope **½ D: George Armitage. Starring Owen Wilson, Sara Foster, Charlie Sheen, Vinnie Jones, Morgan Freeman. Willie Nelson, Gary Sinise, Bebe Neuwirth, Harry Dean Stanton. Elmore Leonard adaptation is silly but enjoyable. Screw-up Wilson loses his job on Hawaii and must leave the island, but judge Freeman wants him to stay and work for him. And there is rich Sinise’s (incredibly sexy) girlfriend Foster, who wants him to help her steal some money. Good-looking thriller, shot by Jeffrey Kimball, is quite amusing. Score by George S. Clinton. Filmed before in 1969 with Ryan O’Neil.

Big Brawl, The (1980, USA/HGK) C-94m. Scope **½ D: Robert Clouse. Starring Jackie Chan, José Ferrer, Kristine DeBell, Mako, Ron Max. Acceptable action film set in Chicago of the 1930s starring Jackie Chan as son of Chinese immigrants who is selected by gangsters to compete against a wrestler in a brutal tournament. Obvious parallels to ENTER THE DRAGON, but film is hardly as successful. For one, Jackie Chan is likeable but no Bruce Lee, and fight scenes are hardly spectacular. Period flavor nicely captured, however. Screenplay by Clouse. Score by Lalo Schifrin. Produced by Raymond Chow.

Big Bus, The (1976, USA) C-88m. Scope ** D: James Frawley. Starring Joseph Bologna, Stockard Channing, John Beck, Rene Auberjonois, Ned Beatty, Bob Dishy, José Ferrer, Ruth Gordon, Harold Gould, Larry Hagman, Sally Kellerman, Richard Mulligan, Lynn Redgrave. Strained spoof of disaster movies puts the title vehicle in all kinds of danger. The nuclear-powered bus has 180 passengers on board, who are entertained in a piano bar, eat in the dining-room or go swimming in a pool! Of course, there’s sabotage involved. Good idea aside, this movie is hardly funny. Photographed by Harry Stradling Jr. B-movie icon Larry Cohen did not produce this movie (it was his namesake Lawrence J. Cohen).

Big Combo, The (1955, USA) 89m. *** D: Joseph H. Lewis. Starring Cornel Wilde, Richard Conte, Brian Donlevy, Jean Wallace, Robert Middleton, Lee Van Cleef. Straightforward crime thriller about police detective Wilde, who plans to pin down and arrest elusive master criminal Conte. He finds help in the gangster’s lover Wallace. Swift pace and interesting characters raise this film above par. Wallace is fine as the kingpin’s frustrated, suicidal lover.

Big Daddy (1999, USA) C-93m. ** D: Dennis Dugan. Starring Adam Sandler, Joey Lauren Adams, Jon Stewart, Cole Sprouse, Dylan Sprouse, Josh Mostel, Rob Schneider, Kristy Swanson, Joseph Bologna, Steve Buscemi, Tim Herlihy, Dennis Dugan. Amiable, if not credible comedy about work-shy slacker Sandler, whose friends have all become successful lawyers. When his girlfriend leaves him, he seems all the more disoriented – until a little boy enters his life. Since Sandler’s roommate – the kid’s real father, who has no idea about his son’s existence – is away on business, Sandler takes up the chore of spending time with the boy. Comedy goes completely overboard in ludicrous courtroom scene at the end. Sandler and the boy are appealing, though.

Big Doll House, The (1971, USA/FIL) C-95m. **½ D: Jack Hill. Starring Judy Brown, Pam Grier, Roberta Collins, Brooke Mills, Pat Woodell, Sid Haig. Exploitation cult classic about several female inmates of a prison in the middle of the Filipino jungle and their struggles with sadistic, lesbian personnel, and lecherous delivery guys. Some cheesy moments, but a guilty pleasure most of the way, with showers, catfights, mud wrestling and torture scenes. One of the earliest – and best – W.I.P. (women in prison) movies. Grier’s first major role after a brief bit in BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1970). Roger Corman and Cirio H. Santiago were among the producers. Followed by THE BIG BIRD CAGE. Also known as BAMBOO DOLLS HOUSE, and WOMEN’S PENITENTIARY I (and III).

Big Empty, The (2003, USA) C-94m. ** D: Steve Anderson. Starring Jon Favreau, Joey Lauren Adams, Bud Cort, Jon Gries, Daryl Hannah, Adam Beach, Gary Farmer, Rachael Leigh Cook, Brent Briscoe, Sean Bean, Patti Smith, Danny Trejo. A good cast does not make a cult movie: Minor crime drama about luckless actor Favreau, who accepts the job of bringing a suitcase to a twon in the middle of nowhere, gets involved in murder and alien abductions. Starts out nicely, but final third is a letdown. Do not wait for the STP song of the same title. Written by the director.

Big Fish (2003, USA) C-125m. **** D: Tim Burton. Starring Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter, Alison Lohman, Robert Guillaume, Marion Cottilard, Matthew McGrory, Steve Buscemi, Danny DeVito. Marvelous, touching drama, vintage Burton. Crudup is at odds with his tale-spinning father Finney, who’s been telling fantastic stories about himself all his life. Now, after three years, Crudup returns home with his pregnant wife, trying to come to terms with his father, who’s dying of cancer. In flashbacks, we are told the fantastic stories that Finney insists are true, with McGregor playing the younger Finney. Outstanding fantasy based on the novel by Daniel Wallace, weaves a world of awe and wonder, much less dark and brooding than we are used to from Burton, but with performances so great and a mood so consistent, this is more than welcome. There’s even a touch of Coen to detect. Fine score by Danny Elfman, excellent cinematography by Philippe Rousselot. Trivia note: The man playing the Banjo tune from DELIVERANCE (1972) is the boy from that movie!

Big Heat, The (1988, HGK) C-95m. *** D: Andrew Kam, Johnny To. Starring Waise Lee, Philip Kwok, Chu Kong, Ken Boyle, Roy Cheung, Kirk Wong. Tsui Hark. Lee plays a troubled cop, who is about to resign, when he learns of the murder of a friend by a crime syndicate. Along with three colleagues he takes up the task to bust their boss. Somewhat familiar plot, but film is well-directed, has some good action, and it also includes some softer tones. Convincing performance by Lee (A BETTER TOMORROW, BULLET IN THE HEAD). Recommended viewing. Producer Hark reportedly also directed some parts.

Big Hit, The (1998, USA) C-91m. **½ D: Che-Kirk Wong. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christina Applegate, China Chow, Avery Brooks, Bokeem Woodbine, Lainie Kazan, Elliot Gould. Juvenile but entertaining, exciting action comedy about hit man Wahlberg, who has a bad weekend: First his two(!) girlfriends give him trouble, and then the planned kidnapping involves him in even deeper trouble, when the girl's godfather turns out to be a crime lord. Film has its moments, but story is barely credible, which will bother anyone but action fans. Produced, among others, by Wesley Snipes and John Woo. Original version may run longer.

Big Lebowski, The (1998, USA) C-117m. **½ D: Joel Coen. Starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Jon Polito, Ben Gazzarra, Harve Presnell, Flea, Sam Elliott, Peter Stormare. The Coen brothers’ 7th film is a totally unconventional (and wildly uneven) comedy about lazy sleazeball Jeff Lebowski (Bridges), who gets involved in a kidnapping when he is mistaken for the millionaire Jeffrey Lebowski. Some truly off-beat moments, oddball characters (Goodman is terrific as a neurotic vietnam vet) and a meandering storyline make this a feast for the filmmakers’ fans, but the fact that so much happens in the movie, not all of which makes much sense, wears it down a bit. Slightly overlong and not really funny enough, though you have to admire the Coens for not trying to make a mainstream movie after FARGO. At the very least, film is a most unusual, satirical homage to bowling.

Big Mouth, The (1967, USA) C-107m. *½ D: Jerry Lewis. Starring Jerry Lewis, Harold Stone, Susan Bay, Buddy Lester, Del Moore, George Takei. Sloppily directed comedy made by Lewis at the decline of his skill. He plays the character he had portrayed for almost two decades, an idiot, who learns of a diamond loot from a dying criminal. He checks into the hotel where the diamonds are supposed to be, taking up another identity (one awfully similar to his ‘Buddy Love’). Hardly funny, needlessly long, only his fans might find some value here.

Big Sleep, The (1946, USA) 114m. **** D: Howard Hawks. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely, Martha Vickers, Louis Jean Heydt, Regis Toomey, Peggy Knudsen, Dorothy Malone, Bob Steele, Elisha Cook, Jr. Raymond Chandler’s first novel is brilliantly brought to the screen, with Bogart a subdued Philip Marlowe, who begins investigating a black-mail case and stumbles into a complicated murder mystery. Excellent pacing, atmosphere make this one of the great detective thrillers. Superb dramatic score by Max Steiner. Script by William Faulkner, Jules Furtham and Leigh Brackett. A 116m. pre-release version of the film exists, which is slightly different from the original.

Big White, The (2005, USA/CDN/NZL/GER) C-105m. **½ D: Mark Mylod. Starring Robin Williams, Holly Hunter, Giovanni Ribisi, Tim Blake Nelson, W. Earl Brown, Woody Harrelson, Alison Lohman. Attempt at a cult movie about loser Williams, who hopes to cash in insurance money for his lost brother. When he finds a dead body in the trash, he decides to ‘use’ it for his purpose but hasn’t reckoned with company’s geeky agent Ribisi, who smells something fishy. Some funny scenes, mostly due to the professional cast, but just a tad too forced and contrived. Music by Mark Mothersbaugh.

Bijo to Ekitainingen (1958, JAP) C-79m. Scope **½ D: Ishirô Honda. Starring Yumi Shirakawa, Kenji Sahara, Akihiko Hirata, Koreya Senda. Not-bad Japanese companion piece to THE BLOB (1958), about the hysteria that ensues when people in Tokyo disappear, leaving only their clothes behind. It turns out that a mysterious, radioactive liquid is dissolving them. Good, colorful cinematography, interesting effects, although plot does drag a little. Originally ran 87m. Title translates as BEAUTY AND THE LIQUIDMAN. Also known as THE H-MAN.

Bin-jip (2004, KOR/JAP) C-90m. **½ D: Kim Ki-duk. Starring Lee Seong-yeon, Lee Hyun-kyoon, Kwon Hyuk-ho, Choi Jeong-ho. Typically low-key yet quirky drama from Korea’s Kim Ki-duk. He follows an unusual burglar, who breaks into people’s apartments and spends a few days there without stealing anything. One day he is discovered by a young woman who is abused by her husband. They form a bond and become companions. Very little dialogue, not easy to watch, but has lots of interesting, touching ideas. For the director’s followers, this won multiple awards in Venice. Kim also scripted, edited and produced the picture. English title: 3-IRON.

Bird on a Wire (1990, USA) C-110m. Scope *** D: John Badham. Starring Mel Gibson, Goldie Hawn, David Carradine, Bill Duke, Stephen Tobolowsky. Entertaining, fast-paced action comedy with Mel Gibson in great form. He plays a man living a new existence (thanks to the witness protection program), which is disrupted when criminal Carradine finds him. He must take it on the lam with former lover Hawn. Lots of action, enjoyable. Could have been a bit shorter, though.

Birds, The (1963, USA) C-120m. *** D: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, Tippi Hedren, Veronica Cartwright, Ethel Griffies, Charles McGraw, Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock’s second horror film after 1960’s PSYCHO has naïve blonde Hedren and lawyer Taylor fend for their lives in a remote coastal town, when thousands of birds start attacking the population. Given the fact that plot is well-known, the story setup takes too long. Hedren, in her first major film, looks like a puppet on a string, but Hitch’s direction, extraordinary cinematography and lighting, as well as color dramaturgy and unnerving sound effects (credited to Bernard Herrman) make this a must-see, even if the story does not fizzle. Provided the pattern for nearly all ecological horror thrillers and disaster movies that were to follow (notably those of the 1970s). George A. Romero let zombies attack in a similar fashion in his horror classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Based on a story by Daphne Du Maurier. Followed by a made-for-TV sequel in 1994.

Birds of Prey (1973, USA) C-81m. ** D: William A. Graham. Starring David Janssen, Ralph Meeker, Elayne Heilveil, Harry Klekas. Made-for-TV thriller about war veteran and helicopter pilot Janssen, who happens to witness a hold-up and pursues the robbers by air. Tired plot has very little to offer, at least it aims for a relatively swift pace. Some daring helicopter stunts. Photographed by Jordan Cronenweth (BLADE RUNNER).

Birth (2004, USA) C-100m. *** D: Jonathan Glazer. Starring Nicole Kidman, Cameron Bright, Danny Huston, Lauren Bacall, Alison Elliott, Arliss Howard, Michael Desautels, Anne Heche, Peter Stormare, Ted Levine. Kidman’s husband dies while jogging in Central Park. Ten years later, as she is about to remarried, a ten-year-old boy steps into her life claiming that he is none other than her deceased husband. This baffling allegation throws Kidman off-balance and jeopardizes her relationship. Can it be true? Quietly fascinating psycho drama with echoes of such classics as SECRET CEREMONY (1968), ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968), and DON’T LOOK NOW (1973) keeps you pondering. Has cult film possibilities. Written by director Glazer (SEXY BEAST), Milo Addica, and Bunuel collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière. Fine score by Alexandre Desplat.

Bite the Bullet (1975, USA) C-131m. Scope ***½ D: Richard Brooks. Starring Gene Hackman, Candice Bergen, James Coburn, Ben Johnson, Ian Bannen, Jan-Michael Vincent, Robert Donner, Paul Stewart, Sally Kirkland. Several disparate characters compete in a 700-mile horse race circa 1906. The tough conditions let the bitter enemies form a bond that was unthinkable at the beginning of the race. Inauspicious but really flawless western adventure drama. Could have been a little more dramatic and tense perhaps. Fine score by Alex North, epic-scale photography by Harry Stradling, Jr. Written by the director.

Bitter Moon (1992, GBR/FRA) C-139m. *** D: Roman Polanski. Starring Peter Coyote, Emmanuelle Seigner, Hugh Grant, Kristin Scott Thomas, Victor Banerjee, Sophie Patel, Stockard Channing. Polanski's tale of an obsessive love with the frame plot taking place aboard a cruise ship heading towards India, where wheelchair-bound American writer Coyote tells stiff, conservative Brit Grant about his intensive affair with lascivious Frenchwoman Seigner. The story, an attempt to come to terms with their own life, shocks and transforms the Englishman, who find himself drawn toward the sexy woman, despite being married to Thomas. Spell-binding, intelligent study of love and destruction is, unfortunately, also slowly paced and slightly pretentious. Wonderful, hypnotic score by Vangelis. Photography by Tonino delli Colli. Written by Polanski, and Gérard Brach, based on the novel Lunes de Fiel by Pascale Bruckner.

Black and White (1999, USA) C-99m. **½ D: James Toback. Starring Scott Caan, Robert Downey Jr., Stacy Edwards, Allan Houston, Gaby Hoffmann, Jared Leto, Joe Pantoliani, Bijou Phillips, Claudia Schiffer, Brooke Shields, Ben Stiller, James Toback, Elijah Wood, Mike Tyson. Writer-director Toback (FINGERS) wanders Spike Lee territory in this episodic, well-cast drama about interaction of blacks and whites on several levels. Freelance filmmaker Shields wants to film a documentary about white kids who are fascinated by black (hip-hop) culture. Not terribly coherent or inspiring, but worthwhile, especially for those who enjoyed Spike Lee’s CLOCKERS or JUNGLE FEVER.

Black Caesar (1973, USA) C-87m. ** D: Larry Cohen. Starring Fred Williamson, Gloria Hendry, Art Lund, D’Urville Martin, William Wellman Jr. Blaxploitation take on THE GODFATHER (1972) and LITTLE CAESAR (1930) pales(!) in comparison. Relatively ambitious film follows rise of shoeshine boy Williamson to crime kingpin Black Max. Some bloody shoot-outs, but far too talky and self-conscious to score better. Rick Baker did the special effects. Followed immediately by HELL UP IN HARLEM (1973).

Black Cat, The (1934, USA) 62m. *** D: Edgar J. Ulmer. Starring Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, David Manners, Jacqueline Wells (Julie Bishop), Lucille Lund, John Carradine. Although officially "suggested by the story by Edgar Allan Poe", this classy chiller bears hardly any resemblance to it. After an accident on an Austrian road, an American couple on their honeymoon spend the night at sinister Karloff's mansion, along with a doctor (Lugosi), who has some personal feelings towards the landlord. It turns out he is the leader of a secret society of devil worshippers. Direction, plot not without flaws, but Karloff's excellent performance made this horror film a cult favorite. Uncut print, which runs 65m. or 70m. is said to be even better.

Black Cauldron, The (1985, USA) C-80m. Scope *** D: Ted Berman, Richard Rich. Starring the voices of Grant Bardsley, Susan Sheridan, Freddie Jones, Nigel Hawthorne, Arthur Malet, John Byner, narrated by John Huston. Interesting fantasy from Disney about young hero Taran, who finds himself in the middle of an adventure when the Horned King attempts to get the Black Cauldron, which would give him power over the world. Plot is familiar but well-told and effects, action animation are first-rate. A darker (PG-rated) Disney movie, with a rousing score by Elmer Bernstein. Based on the novel by Lloyd Alexander.

Black Christmas (1974, CDN) C-98m. ** D: Bob Clark. Starring Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Marian Waldman, Andrea Martin, James Edmond, Doug McGrath. Horror movie with a reputation set in a sorority house around Christmas time, where a psychopath makes obscene phone calls and then starts dispatching the students. Not very suspenseful, devoid of highpoints, but still notable for being one of the first slasher movies. The ending is the best part. Interestingly, director Clark would later make the family classic A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983). Remade in 2006. Also known as SILENT NIGHT, EVIL NIGHT, and STRANGER IN THE HOUSE.

Black Crowes, The - Who Killed That Bird Out On Your Window Sill ... The Movie (1992, USA) C-87m. *** A look at rock band ‘The Black Crowes’, who were at the peak of their stardom in 1992. Less a movie than an assortment of video clips, live performances and interviews, but sure to satisfy the Crowes’ fans and also interesting as a look at some important protagonists of rock music in the early 1990s. Concert footage is from Moscow and Atlanta, including a cover version of John Lennon’s Jealous Guy.

Black Dahlia, The (2006, USA/GER) C-121m. Scope ***½ D: Brian De Palma. Starring Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Mia Kirshner, Mike Starr, Fiona Shaw, Patrick Fischler, James Otis, Angus McInnes, Rachel Miner, Gregg Henry, Rose McGowan, k. d. lang. Tour-de-force by director De Palma, his best film in a long time. Typical James Ellroy crime maelstrom about boxer-turned-cop Hartnett and his partner Eckhart, a former boxer himself, who investigate a murder case in 1940 L.A. Superbly directed, stylishly shot (by Vilmos Zsigmond) and well-scored by Mark Isham, movie scores in almost all departments. Great voice-over narration adds an inimitable 1940s crime feel. Inspired by a real murder case. Written by Josh Friedman.

Black Hole, The (1979, USA) C-95m. Scope *** D: Gary Nelson. Starring Maximilian Schell, Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms, Yvette Mimieux, Ernest Borgnine, voices of Roddy McDowall, Slim Pickens. Sci-fi adventure marks Disney’s attempt at copying George Lucas’ success with the STAR WARS movies. Captain Forster and his crew are startled to find a long-missing space vessel near the event horizon of a black hole. It turns out that (traditional mad-scientist) Schell is preparing to go beyond the hole – where no man has gone before. Well-produced adventure aimed at kids (even more so than the STAR WARS movie) is quite exciting. Maybe a bit too simple plotwise, but definitely intriguing, recommended to sci-fi fans (and those fascinated by black holes). Main theme by John Barry is magnificent but used too seldom. Fine effects. The first PG-rated Disney movie.

Blackjack (1998, CDN/USA) C-113m. *** D: John Woo. Starring Dolph Lundgren, Kate Vernon, Phillip Mackenzie, Kam Heskin, Fred Williamson, Padraigin Murphy, Tony de Santis, Albert Schultz, Andrew Jackson, Janet Bailey, Saul Rubinek. Highly aesthetic action drama about bodyguard-on-demand Lundgren, whose latest job has him keeping an eye on beautiful fashion model Vernon, who is targeted by a deranged assassin. A little overlong perhaps, but some spectacular stunts and John Woo’s expert direction make the difference. Woo also co-executive produced this film, made for television or video.

Black Mama, White Mama (1972, USA/FIL) C-87m. ** D: Eddie Romero. Starring Pam Grier, Margaret Markov, Sid Haig, Lynn Borden. OK, fairly exciting actioner about a black and a blonde inmate (Grier and Markov) who escape from a Filipino prison chained together at their wrists. Some nudity, enough shoot-outs. For prison/exploitation fans. This is actually a remake of THE DEFIANT ONES. Coscripted by Jonathan Demme.

Black Mask (1997, HGK) C-86m. *** D: Daniel Lee. Starring Jet Li, Lau Ching Wan, Karen Mok, Françoise C.J. Yip, Patrick Lung, Anthony Wong. Truly sensational action film, fast-paced, technically and artistically at the highest level: A former elite soldier (Li), now living a peaceful life, is shocked to hear that his ex-partners have formed a syndicate which wants to kill all crime bosses of Hong Kong. Li, compelled to help his policeman-friend, becomes ‘Black Mask’, a kind of Chinese BATMAN, swearing to stop his former brothers-in-arms. The gimmick: The soldiers’ nervous systems were initially removed, which means that they can feel no pain and thus are the ultimate fighting machines. Stylish direction and editing keeps this crackerjack thriller at a lightning pace. A must for action fans. First-rate choreography by Yuen Wo-Ping. Tsui Hark produced the film and cowrote the screenplay.

Black Moon (1975, FRA/GER) C-100m. ** D: Louis Malle. Starring Cathryn Harrison, Therese Giehse, Alexandra Stewart, Joe Dallesandro. Grotesque, little-known experiment from French master director Malle about a girl (Rex’s granddaughter Harrison, who was 15 when this was made), who drives through a ravaged countryside, where men and women seem to be at war. She ends up in a country mansion, which is inhabited by a strange old bed-ridden lady. A kind-of Alice in Wonderland drama for adults with lots of unexplained grotesqueries, which wears thin after about an hour. However, if a 15-year-old breastfeeding a 75-year-old is your cup of tea, then seek out this rare film. There is no score, and the photography (by Sven Nykvist) is rather bleak (although it did win the César). Fellow director Chabrol made a similar experiment a year later in ALICE OU LA DERNIERE FUGUE. Actress Giehse’s last film.

Blackout, The (1997, USA/FRA) C-98m. **½ D: Abel Ferrara. Starring Matthew Modine, Claudia Schiffer, Dennis Hopper, Béatrice Dalle, Sarah Lassez. Movie star Modine, a drug addict and alcoholic, is slowly destroying his life in this unrelenting drama by cult director Abel Ferrara. Technically first-rate and well-acted, but depressing and one-note in its message. Might have been brilliant if the plot had been extended to other characters beside Modine’s. Hopper is fine in a strong role as a video artist who parties with Modine but doesn’t really care about him. Super model Schiffer ‘survives’ her film debut.

Black Sheep (2006, NZL) C-87m. Scope D: Jonathan King. Starring Nathan Meister, Danielle Mason, Peter Feeney, Tammy Davis, Glenis Levestam, Tandi Wright, James Ashcroft. It took New Zealand 14 years to rip off their Peter Jackson cult hit BRAINDEAD (1992) and the result is quite lamb, ah, lame. The son of a sheep farmer comes back to his parents farm (with a sheep phobia!) only to discover that his elder brother has taken to genetic engineering, which turned the sheep into blood-thirsty monsters. And their bite is contagious... Derivative, self-conscious horror comedy that wants to be a lot of fun, but just isn’t. After the umpteenth close-up of a supposedly aggressive ‘killer sheep’, you’ll be ready to count them in order to fall asleep.

Black Snake (1973, USA) C-82m. Scope *** D: Russ Meyer. Starring Anouska Hempel, David Warbeck, Percy Herbert, Thomas Baptiste, Milton McCollin, Bernard Boston, Vikki Richards, David Prowse. Typically outrageous pulp melodrama from producer-director Meyer, this is one of his rarest films. It’s set on an 19th century Caribbean plantation run by dominatrix Hempel, which thrives on slavery. Enter new bookkeeper Warbeck, who soon finds a rival in ultra-sadistic supervisor Herbert. Absolutely intense acting coupled with fast editing and a distinct comic-book directorial style makes this a powerful experience, even though this is B-movie fare and its plot negligible. A must for Meyer fans (although there is not much nudity). Also known as BLACK SNAKE: THE WHIP, DUTCHESS OF DOOM, SLAVES, and SWEET SUZY.

Black Sunday (1977, USA) C-143m. Scope *** D: John Frankenheimer. Starring Robert Shaw, Bruce Dern, Marthe Keller, Bekim Fehmiu, Fritz Weaver, Steven Keats, John Frankenheimer. Long but engrossing, very well-acted thriller about Israeli terrorists Keller and Dern, who painstakingly prepare a terror act during the Super Bowl. Shaw plays their adversary, who develops a personal grudge. Not very spctacular, but good storytelling, excellent cast make this a winner. Adapted from Thomas Harris’ novel. Well-scored by John Williams. This is similar to (but better than) TWO MINUTE WARNING (1976).

Blacula (1972, USA) C-92m. **½ D: William Crain. Starring William Marshall, Denise Nicholas, Vonetta McGee, Thalmus Rasulala, Ketty Lester, Elisha Cook, Jr. Blaxploitation cult about black vampire stalking the streets of Los Angeles . Stylish title design, good songs, plot is quite entertaining but not really original. The direction is also below average. Followed by a sequel (SCREAM, BLACULA, SCREAM).

Blade, The (1995, HGK) C-110m. ** D: Tsui Hark. Starring Chiu Man Cheuk, Xiong Xin Xin, Moses Chan, Valerie Chow, Austin Wai. Flawed martial arts epic from genre icon Hark. Chiu plays an orphan, who is offered to become boss of a sword factory but sets out to avenge the death of his father instead. When he loses one arm, he must learn the art of one-armed swordfighting. Violent, raw and yet aesthetic extravaganza is brought down by uneven plot and irritating, overdirected fight scenes. Reportedly, Hark changed the narrator's perspective completely after having shot half of the film already - never a good sign. Fans ought to give this one a look, though. Originally titled DAO. A remake of the Chang Cheh/Wang Yu classic ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN (1968). Produced by Raymond Chow.

Blade (1998, USA) C-120m. Scope ** D: Stephen Norrington. Starring Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N'Bushe Wright, Donal Logue, Udo Kier, Traci Lords. Flashy, stylish action thriller with Snipes playing (comic-strip) superhero 'Blade', who is half-man, half-vampire and battles a vampire syndicate, one member of which (Dorff) wants to initiate an ancient ritual that enables them to summon the 'blood god'. Not much plot, very little entertainment apart from the zippy action scenes, film remains bloodless until the final third, despite the tons of gore that are spilt in the proceedings. A mean-spirited movie, like Norrington's earlier DEATH MACHINE, and despite cast and big budget, not much better. Sequel in 2002.

Blade II (2002, USA) C-117m. ** D: Guillermo del Toro. Starring Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman, Leonor Varela, Norman Reedus, Thomas Kretschmann, Donnie Yen. Sequel to the above is an even more visceral (and forgettable) blood feast as half-vampire, half-human Snipes joins his original enemies to battle an army of mutated bloodsuckers. Seems like a shoot’em-up videogame and has as much plot. Flashy and stylish, to be sure, which makes it attractive for its target audience. Difficult to believe that del Toro (CRONOS, MIMIC) agreed to direct this.

Blade Runner (1982, USA) C-117m. Scope **** D: Ridley Scott. Starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Brian James, Joe Turkel, Joanna Cassidy, James Hong. Los Angeles of 2019 is a dark, wet urban hell-hole. Police detective and ‘Blade Runner’ Rick Deckard (Ford) is called back to duty to retire (read: kill) six ultra-sophisticated androids (so-called replicants), who have hijacked a space ship and flown back to Earth from an off-world colony. During this quest, Deckard is faced with the question of his own troubled existence and falls in love with Rachael (Young), a replicant with an implanted memory. Astounding science-fiction noir, brilliantly designed, written and directed, a haunting parable on mankind’s aspiration for greatness and ultimate downfall. Crammed with amazing ideas and never-to-be-forgotten shots, if not the greatest science-fiction movie ever made, this is certainly the best one of the 1980s, and generally up there with the best films of all time. An existential masterpiece that rivals Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) and whose immaculate symbiosis of style and substance was unmatched except, perhaps, by Adrian Lyne’s JACOB’S LADDER (1990). BLADE RUNNER was re-released in 1992 as a ‘Director’s Cut’, which drops Deckard’s original voice-over narration and the optimistic finale. That version is still missing some violence. Screenplay by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, who adapted Philip K. Dick’s brilliant novella Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Unforgettable score by Vangelis, impressive cinematography by Jordan Cronenweth, stunning visual effects by Douglas Trumbull.

Blades (1989, USA) C-102m. **½ D: Thomas R. Rondinella. Starring David Aldrich, Hank Berkheimer, Ron Butko, Kara Callahan, Peter Cosimano. Amusing JAWS spoof released through Troma Films is very much like their funny MONSTER IN THE CLOSET (1986). Someone – something – is killing people on a golf course, it seems to be a lawnmower out of control. How can it be stopped? Film deliciously plays out its absurd premise (gleefully copying entire scenes from JAWS), although it remains a bit too self-conscious. Incredible how the actors could keep such straight faces. Stay tuned until after the closing credits.

Blades of Glory (2007, USA) C-93m. *** D: Josh Gordon, Will Speck. Starring Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Jenna Fischer, William Fichtner, Craig T. Nelson, Rémy Girard, Luke Wilson. Raucously funny comedy about two figure skating stars (Ferrell and Heder), who are ousted from competition after using their fists on each other at an awards ceremony. Some years later, the former arch-enemies (who couldn’t be more different from each other) hook up for the team competition. Sound silly, and it is, but Ferrell is a hoot as a sex-addicted, rock’n’roll skating superstar. Similar in spirit to DODGEBALL (2004). That movie’s star Ben Stiller was among the producers.

Blair Witch Project, The (1999, USA) C/B&W-81m. **½ D: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez. Starring Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, Joshua Leonard. Made on a shoestring budget, this chiller became one of the biggest hits of the year because of a clever, internet-based marketing strategy. Three college students decide to make a documentary about the Blair Witch, a child murderer, who is supposed to be haunting the Maryland woods. When the kids gets lost hiking through, they are scared out of their wits, especially when strange noisescan be heard at night. Someone – something – is out there! Shaky camera-shots provide a feeling of authenticity (Dogma style), which makes the film really scary at times, but in this case the plotting is obviously and unfortunately neglected. Not bad and certainly recommended to those who like a good scare. Followed by a sequel.

Blastfighter (1984, ITA) C-87m. ** D: Lamberto Bava. Starring Michael Sopkiw, Valentina Forte, George Eastman, Mike Miller, Ottaviano Dell’Acqua, Michele Soavi, Massimo Vanni, Hoyt Pollard, Lamberto Bava. B-actioner about ex-cop Sopkiw, who – after serving a 10-year sentence for killing the murderer of his wife – goes to the wilderness to forget. However, the local thugs don’t like what he thinks about their slaugthering off deer. Quite ambitious film in the mold of DELIVERANCE (the banjo kid of that film has a cameo!) but shows its true face in unnecessary RAMBO-style finale. A handful of stylish shots – from the son of the great Mario Bava – but film treads far too familiar ground. Actor Soavi also functioned as an assistant director. Written by Dardano Sacchetti. Also known as FORCE OF VENGEANCE.

Blast from the Past (1999, USA) C-112m. Scope **½ D: Hugh Wilson. Starring Brendan Fraser, Alicia Silverstone, Christopher Walken, Sissy Spacek, Dave Foley, Joey Slotnick. Quite cute if overlong comedy about Fraser’s family, who entered a bunker when the Russians had missiles installed on Cuba in 1962 and has not left their shelter for more than 30 years. When they finally do, it’s a shock for them. The 60s meet the 90s in this predictable but likable comedy. Coproduced by Renny Harlin. A 103m. version was prepared for the international market.

Blast of Silence (1961, USA) 77m. **½ D: Allen Baron. Starring Allen Baron, Molly McCarthy, Larry Tucker, Peter Clume, Danny Mechan. Interesting B-movie about contract killer Baron, who comes to New York City to kill someone and must battle his own conscience and weaknesses apart from getting the job done. Typically brassy, jazzy score, unusual voice-over narration. Worth a look for those interested in independent films. Baron also scripted.

Blind Date (1959, GBR/GER) 94m. **½ D: Joseph Losey. Starring Hardy Krüger, Stanley Baker, Micheline Presle, Robert Flemyng, Gordon Jackson. Titled CHANCE MEETING for U.S. release, this murder mystery is well-plotted (based on a novel by Leigh Howard) but poorly paced. Painter Krüger becomes prime suspect in a murder case, and tries to prove his innocence to police inspector Baker. Starts OK, bogs down, but delivers a good conclusion. Jack MacGowran appears briefly as a seedy postman.  

Blind Fists of Bruce (1981, HGK) C-94m. *½ D: Kam Bo. Starring Bruce Li, Yuen Siu Tien, Tiger Yueng. Poorly plotted eastern about a fighter who gets his lessons from a blind master so that he can beat the bad guys in the neighborhood. Fight scenes are lame, skip this one. Also known as BLIND FIST OF BRUCE.

Blindness (2008, CDN/BRA/JAP) C-121m. **½ D: Fernando Meirelles. Starring Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Alice Braga, Yusuke Iseya, Yoshino Kimura, Don McKellar, Danny Glover, Gael García Bernal, Sandra Oh. In contemporary America, people suddenly go blind. Nobody knows why and the people affected are quarantined, among them doctor Ruffalo and his wife Moore, who can still see and becomes a kind of guardian in their ‘ward’. Downbeat but fascinating vision of apocalypse, hampered considerably by the ending. Good performances. Based on the novel by José Saramago, adapted by co-star Don McKellar.

Blind Terror (1971, GBR) C-89m. **½ D: Richard Fleischer. Starring Mia Farrow, Dorothy Alison, Robin Bailey. Well-crafted thriller with Farrow a blind girl whose family has just been knocked off by a lunatic. Subsequently, the killer stalks her too. Your appreciation of this film will largely depend on whether you are easily manipulated by the going-ons, or whether you can identify with the hapless victim. Released in the U.S. as SEE NO EVIL.

Blonde Köder für den Mörder (1969, GER/ITA) C-94m. D: Harald Philipp. Starring Dean Reed, Fabio Testi, Ini Assmann, Leon Askin, Werner Peters, Nadja Tiller, Anita Ekberg, Adolfo Celi, Riccardo Garrone, Mario Brega, Hélène Chanel, Femi Benussi, Tom Felleghy, Teodoro Corrà. In an Italian holiday resort young Testi is a real lady ‘killer’. He is protected by his sister Tiller, but there’s a witness to the latest crime. Pretty harmless mystery, closer in spirit to the KOMMISSAR X movies than the Italian giallo, it’s too tame and rather uninteresting. Big-name cast given nothing to do, with static TV-style direction making things even worse. Score by Piero Umiliani. English titles: DEATH KNOCKS TWICE, THE BLONDE CONNECTION.

Blondie’s Number One (1971, GER) C-80m. D: Robert van Ackeren. Starring Gabi Larifari (=Gabriele LaFari), Barny O’Brian, Tom Snigger, Dolores Makonda, Chris Little. A young woman is searching for someone who is willing to marry her because else the law will require her to leave Germany. Aimless, slack and poorly acted portrait of the post-hippie generation. Director and cinematographer van Ackeren (DIE FLAMBIERTE FRAU/A WOMAN IN FLAMES) doesn’t go beyond the premise. This was his first film as a director.

Blood & Donuts (1995, CDN) C-90m. **½ D: Holly Dale. Starring Gordon Currie, Justine Louis, Helene Clarkson, Fiona Reid, Frank Moore, Hadley Care, David Cronenberg. Strangely appealing low-budget horror movie about grungy vampire Currie, who hide himself from the world after the moon landing in 1969 and reappears in contemporary Toronto. Good use of (littered) locations, but Currie looks a little too dull to make this work. Various subplots (including Cronenberg as a gangland boss) add up to very little. Several oldies on the soundtrack enhance film’s mood.

Blood & Wine (1997, USA) C-100m. **½ D: Bob Rafelson. Starring Jack Nicholson, Michael Caine, Judy Davis, Stephen Dorff, Jennifer Lopez, Harold Perrineau, Jr.  Standard crime movie with a first-rate cast. Dorff competes with his stepfather Nicholson, his slimy partner Caine and Cuban mistress Lopez for a necklace worth more than a million dollars. For fans of Rafelson/Nicholson collaborations.

Blood Cult (1985, USA) C-89m. M D: Christopher Lewis. Starring Juli Andelman, Charles Ellis, James Vance, Bennie Lee McGowan. Ultra-low-budget stinker shot on video about the search for a slasher by detective Ellis. The first movie produced directly for the home video market… if that’s not something. Repellent gore effects, amateurish acting throughout. Followed by a sequel (REVENGE). Also released as SLASHER.

Bloodeaters (1980, USA) C-88m. M D: Chuck McCrann. Starring Charles Austin (=Chuck McCrann), Beverly Shapiro, Dennis Helfend, Paul Haskin, John Amplas. When local authorities intend to wipe out illegal marihuana plantation, the hippie-like owners turn into zombies after inhaling the chemical sprayed on the field. Idiotic splatter-movie, much too reminiscent of Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (even the budget was not much higher). For masochists only. Director McCrann perished in the 2001 World Trade Center attack; this was his only production. Alternative titles: TOXIC ZOMBIES, BLOOD BUTCHERS, FOREST OF FEAR.

Blood for Dracula (1974, ITA/FRA) C-101m. ** D: Paul Morrissey, Antonio Margheriti. Starring Joe Dallesandro, Udo Kier, Arno Juerging, Maxime McKendry, Milena Vukotic, Stefania Casini,  Vittorio De Sica, Roman Polanski. Companion piece to Andy Warhol’s FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN is just as slow. Kier chews up the scenery as Count Dracula, who travels to Italy in search of virgins (and their blood). Again, the cinematography (by Luigi Kuveiller) is not bad, Claudio Gizzi’s score is moody. For the curious. Director Roman Polanski has a funny cameo. Uncut print runs 106m. Also known as ANDY WARHOL’S DRACULA, YOUNG DRACULA, and simply DRACULA.

Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb (1972, GBR) C-94m. *** D: Seth Holt, Michael Carreras. Starring Andrew Keir, Valerie Leon, James Villiers, Hugh Burden, Tamara Ustinov. Obscurely plotted but effective horror chiller about group of archaeologists who make plans to resurrect ancient Egyptian mummy. Leon is young woman who looks like the mummy and tries to stop the scientists. Well-made, with the scene in the insane asylum the highlight. Director Holt died shortly before shooting was finished, Carreras took over. Based on Bram Stoker’s story Jewel of the Seven Stars. Remade twice. 

Blood Legacy (1971, USA) C-90m. *½ D: Carl Monson. Starring Rodolfo Acosta, Merry Anders, Norman Bartold, Ivy Bethune, John Carradine. Poorly directed, cheap horror thriller about several people who gather for the reading of a will (Carradine’s) and are forced to stay for a few days if they want to get their hands on the inheritance. Needless to say, people start to die one after the other. Amateurishly staged and boring despite interesting plot, with some feeble attempts to make this bizarre. Rightfully forgotten trash, whose director went on to make the sex horror comedy PLEASE DON’T EAT MY MOTHER (1973). Also known as LEGACY OF BLOOD.

Bloodline (1979, USA/GER) C-117m. **½ D: Terence Young. Starring Audrey Hepburn, Ben Gazzara, James Mason, Claudia Mori, Irene Papas, Michelle Phillips, Maurice Ronet, Romy Schneider, Omar Sharif, Beatrice Straight, Gert Fröbe, Wolfgang Preiss, Marcel Bozzuffi, Pinkas Braun, Walter Kohut, Ivan Desny, Vadim Glowna, Hans von Borsody, Gabriele Ferzetti. Flawed international production by the James Bond director about Hepburn, hapless heir to a multi-million dollar pharmaceutical company, who finds herself targeted by her own family, who’d rather have her sell the stocks instead of continuing her father’s work. Gazzara plays her love interest. Globe-trotting, glossy soap opera is pretty trivial but still fascinating to watch, thanks to a highly interesting cast. Seems a bit choppy, especially towards the end. 40 minutes of footage were later included in TV version. Based on teh novel by Sidney Sheldon.

Blood Link (1982, USA/CDN/ITA/GER) C-98m. **½ D: Alberto De Martino. Starring Michael Moriarty, Penelope Milford, Sarah Langenfeld, Martha Smith, Cameron Mitchell, Geraldine Fitzgerald. This concoction is a notch above the average psycho chiller: Moriarty brings conviction to his role as doctor, who has frightening visions of murder and discovers that this may be because of a psychic link to his (siamese!) twin brother, who is stalking women in Germany(!). He sets out to find the lost sibling and break free from him forever. Plot is reminiscent of Brian De Palma’s SISTERS (1973) and quite trivial, but Moriarty’s performances, Ennio Morricone’s score make this worthwhile for cult movie buffs. From the director of HORROR (1963) and ROMA COME CHICAGO (1968). Aka THE LINK and EXTRASENSORIAL.

Blood Relatives (1977, CAN/FRA) C-100m. *** D: Claude Chabrol. Starring Donald Sutherland, Aude Landry, Lisa Langlois, Laurent Malet, Micheline Lanctot, Stéphane Audran, Donald Pleasence, David Hemmings, Claude Chabrol. When a girl is murdered brutally in a dark alley, detective Sutherland sets out to find the killer and is aided in his search by the girl's cousin, who has witnessed the crime. In the proceedings he uncovers the murdered girl's incestuous relationship with her cousin. Chabrol creates another interesting and captivating mystery, that is not without flaws, however (the flashback sequence illustrating the contents of the girl's diary is too long). Well-acted, well-directed, if typically low-key and distanced. Based on a novel by Ed McBain. French original title: LES LIEUS DE SANG.

Blood Salvage (1990, USA) C-98m. *½ D: Tucker Johnston. Starring Danny Nelson, Lori Birdsong, Christian Hesler, Ralph Pruitt Vaughn, John Saxon, Laura Whyte, Ray Walston, Evander Holyfield. Poor horror film rips off TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) and MOTEL HELL (1980): Country hick Nelson sees himself as a bio-mechanic and operates on his abducted victims in his barn – all in the name of the Lord! Saxon’s family are his latest victims. Gruesome, mean-spirited (but not very graphic) horror thriller that is boring to the bone (no pun intended). May have worked better without the humor. Other title: MAD JAKE.

Blood Shed, The (2007, USA) C-73m. *½ D: Alan Rowe Kelly. Starring Alan Rowe Kelly, Terry M. West, Joshua Nelson, Mike Lane, Susan Adriensen. Demented indie-horror about an “average inbred, hillbilly, cannibal family” wants to be a spoof of the TCM movies, but becomes obnoxious before long. Plot only consist of vignettes about the weird characters. Better acted than other amateur efforts; director Kelly comes off best as a middle-aged pervert, who thinks he’s a twelve-year-old girl. Some disgusting effects. Made for video.

Blood Simple (1984, USA) C-95m. *** D: Joel Coen. Starring John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, M. Emmet Walsh, Samm-Art Williams, Holly Hunter (voice). The Coen brothers’ debut feature is a highly interesting exercise in film-noir atmosphere, about a pair of lovers, who try to escape the wrath of McDormand’s cuckolded husband Hedaya. Well-directed thriller, stylishly shot by Barry Sonnenfeld, well-scored by Carter Burwell. Not entirely successful, perhaps, maybe even overrated, due to some pacing flaws and not entirely logical plot twists, but certainly original and generally well-wrought, a harbinger of things to come from the Coens (the subject matter was somewhat reworked later in their thriller FARGO). The Coens also coedited the picture (under their pseudonym Roderick Jaynes). Originally released at 97m., recut to present length in 2000.

Blood Sucking Freaks (1978, USA) C-92m. M D: Joel M. Reed. Starring Seamus O’Brien, Viju Krem, Niles McMaster. Absolutely sickening splatter movie about a side show hosted by O’Brien, who tortures his victims on stage. A disgusting and gross non-movie. Will make you feel ashamed of being a horror fan. Also known as HERITAGE OF CALIGULA, HOUSE OF THE SCREAMING VIRGINS, THE INCREDIBLE TORTURE SHOW and SARDU, MASTER OF THE SCREAMING VIRGINS.

Blood Tide (1982, GBR/GRE) C-83m. *½ D: Richard Jefferies. Starring James Earl Jones, José Ferrer, Lila Kedrova, Mary Louise Weller, Martin Cove, Deborah Shelton. Boring horror film set on a Greek island, where young couple come in search of a missing sister, only to find under the thrall of sect-like community led by Ferrer. Will they sacrifice her to some kind of monster? Hardly any action or suspense, a downer. Only the cast is remotely interesting. Coproduced by Nico Mastorakis (also cowriter), Brian Trenchard-Smith. Original British version runs longer. Also known as DEMON ISLAND, THE RED TIDE.

Blood Work (2002, USA) C-110m. Scope *** D: Clint Eastwood. Starring Clint Eastwood, Jeff Daniels, Anjelica Huston, Wanda de Jesus, Tina Lifford, Paul Rodriguez, Dylan Walsh. Good thriller featuring producer-director Eastwood as a retired police detective, who had a heart attack while chasing a serial killer. After a heart transplantation (and two years later) Eastwood is approached by a woman who claims to be the sister of one of the killer’s victims… who incidentally also provided the heart for Eastwood’s transplantation. The aging detective finally decides to take up the chase for the killer again. Suspenseful film has a crackling good story (lifted off Michael Connelly’s novel), and only lets the viewer down in the final fifteen minutes. Good job by all involved.

Bloody Birthday (1981, USA) C-85m. *½ D: Ed Hunt. Starring Lori Lethin, Melinda Cordell, Julie Brown, Joe Penny, José Ferrer, Susan Strasberg, Michael Dudikoff. Illogical horror thriller whose only novelty is the premise: Three children are born at the exact same time, during a lunar eclipse. Just before their 10th birthday they embark on a killing spree. Dumbness takes away most of the edge of this cruel story. A feeble attempt at a slasher movie, (needlessly) elaborately scored by Arlon Ober (the guy who did the music for HOSPITAL MASSACRE). Also known as CREEPS, or CREEPERS.

Bloody Mission (1974, USA/TUR) C-88m. *½ D: Peter Maris. Starring Gordon Mitchell, Frances Chandler, Bo Taras, Bee Anderson, Tony Carrell. Unintentionally funny C-movie about the wife of a rich sheik, who holds the key to a much sought-after gem called the “red butterfly”. When he is killed, the dumb blonde tries to find it in Istanbul. Amateurish, filled with violent action. Aims for James Bond flair and earns only a couple of chuckles. Also known as DER TODESTANZ DES ROTEN SCHMETTERLINGS.

Bloody Murder (2000, USA) C-88m. M D: Ralph E. Portillo. Starring Jessica Morris, Peter Guillemette, Patrick Cavanaugh, Cristelle Ford. Bottom-of-the-barrel horror movie tries to be FRIDAY THE 13TH, as several youngsters who work at a summer camp, which reopens after a murder series happened there years ago, are attacked by a psycho. Poorly acted, poorly made (for video). Even the blood looks fake. Followed by a sequel in 2003! Also known as SCREAM BLOODY MURDER.  

Bloody Wednesday (1985, USA) C-96m. *½ D: Mark G. Gilhuis. Starring Raymond Elmendorf, Pamela Baker, Navarre Perry, Teresa Mae Allen. Low-budget thriller about a psychopath, who gets prematurely released from a clinic. He takes up a job at a deserted hotel and soon meets characters that are not really there. All this ends in a massacre. Obviously inspired by the classic SHINING (1980), but not intended to be creepy. Some odd scenes may evoke your interest, though. Also known as THE GREAT AMERICAN MASSACRE.

Blow Out (1981, USA) C-108m. Scope *** D: Brian De Palma. Starring John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz, Peter Boyden, Curt May. Another fine thriller by expert De Palma: Sound effects engineer Travolta happens to record a fatal car accident, which may have been an assassination. Along with naïve Allen, who he saved from the car, he investigates the case. Beginning is best part in this well-directed thriller, the contrivances begin to show only towards the end. Especially fun for film buffs, as references range from Antonioni (BLOWUP) to Hitchcock and Argento. Photographed by Vilmos Zsigmond, score by Pino Donaggio.

Blowup (1966, GBR/ITA/USA) C-111m. ***½ D: Michelangelo Antonioni. Starring David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles, John Castle, Jane Birkin, Gillian Hills, Peter Bowles, Verushka. Fascinating landmark film set in London, where high-strung, impulsive fashion photographer Hemmings goes for a stroll in the park where he intends to escape his every day life. He snaps some pictures of a couple and is approached by the woman, who wants to have the photos at all costs. Then he realizes that he may have photographed a murder, and starts to investigate. More character and lifestyle drama than murder mystery, this film made Hemmings an international star. Antonioni deviates from plot occasionally and enters a stream-of-consciousness mode and just follows his protagonist around. Lack of score is also atypical. Nominated for two Oscars (Director, Screenplay), and winner of the Golden Palm at Cannes.

Bluebeard (1972, FRA/ITA/GER) C-114m. **½ D: Edward Dmytryk. Starring Richard Burton, Raquel Welch, Virna Lisi, Joey Heatherton, Nathalie Delon, Karin Schubert, Sybill Danning, Jean Lefebvre, Matthieu Carrière. Famous ladykiller Bluebeard (Burton) tells his story to his American wife (Heatherton) in this trashy and sometimes hilarious horror melodrama. Horror and trash elements are what make this international production recommendable - to tolerant viewers. It’s too bad Mario Bava couldn’t have directed this. The dead bodies in the freezer will remind you of his CINQUE BAMBOLE... movie. The sets are as colorful, the costumes inimitably 70s. Score by Ennio Morricone is nice, too. The women are sexy. Original version runs 125m., though Austrian TV version seemed uncut, since one gory sequence (bird picks adam’s apple) was intact. Best/worst scene: Burton wants to make love to a woman who doesn’t stop singing. His sweater is a scream. Who has an uncut print? French original title: BARBE BLEU.

Blue Bird, The (1976, USA/RUS) C-99m. SCOPE **½ D: George Cukor. Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Fonda, Ava Gardner, Cicely Tyson, Robert Morley, Harry Andrews, Todd Lookinland, Patsy Kensit, Will Geer, Mona Washbourne, George Cole. Interesting (to say the least) Russian-American fairy tale about two children, who embark on a quest to find the Blue Bird. Along the way they are helped by fairy Liz, some humanimals and some inanimate objects that come to life. Lots of singing, little plot thrust, but philosophical touch makes up for lack of movie magic. This is no WIZARD OF OZ (1939), but has lots more stars in cameos. Photographed by Freddie Young.

Blue Blood (1973, GBR/CDN) C-86m. M D: Andrew Sinclair. Starring Oliver Reed, Fiona Lewis, Anna Gael, Derek Jacobi, Meg Wynn Owen. Reed plays a diabolical butler, who might or might not want to overthrow his lord Jacobi. Some (laughably pretentious) horror elements and obvious parallels to Mario Bava’s LISA AND THE DEVIL may lure buffs into this trap. An almost unbearable pseudo-drama, one of the films that helped destroy Reed’s career. Based on Alexander Thynne’s novel The Carry-Cot. Photographed by Harry Waxman.

Blue in the Face (1995, USA) C-84m. **½ D: Wayne Wang, Paul Auster. Starring Harvey Keitel, Lou Reed, Michael J. Fox, Roseanne, Mel Gorham, Jim Jarmusch, Lily Tomlin, Jared Harris, Giancarlo Esposito, Jose Zuniga, Victor Argo, Madonna, Mira Sorvino, Keith David, RuPaul. Immediate follow-up to SMOKE isn’t nearly as good. Like its predecessor it centers around Keitel’s cigar shop, where amusing vignettes unfold. Rather incoherent, but those who liked SMOKE will find this a welcome return to its kind of humor. The situations were more or less improvised by Wang and Auster (the screenwriter of SMOKE).

Blue Velvet (1986, USA) C-120m. Scope *** D: David Lynch. Starring Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, Hope Lange, Dean Stockwell, George Dickerson, Brad Dourif, Jack Nance, Angelo Badalamenti. Upon discovering a human ear in a meadow, naïve villager MacLachlan is drawn into a tale of kidnap and sexual perversions involving a prostitute (Rossellini) and a perverted lunatic (Hopper). This follow-up to David Lynch’s DUNE (1984) provides the first glimpse of a typical Lynchian universe of perverted characters and lives, as he would later explore in his cult series ‘Twin Peaks’ and other projects. This cult film lives off jarringly intense situations and performances, its plot merely serves as a basis for powerful, fascinating sequences. Not for all tastes, to say the least, but a must for Lynch’s fans and cult film lovers in general. Hopper gives a radical performance. Rough cut ran about 4 hours.

B.Monkey (1999, GBR) C-94m. ** D: Michael Radford. Starring Asia Argento, Jared Harris, Rupert Everett, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Tim Woodward, Ian Hart, Juliet Wallace, Bryan Pringle. Young, attractive girl B.Monkey (Argento) wants to break away from a world of crime and falls in love with conservative primary school teacher and jazz-fan (Harris) who can't believe his luck. The Italian-born girl finds it difficult, however, to free herself from the protective grasp of her friends (Everett and Meyers) who live in constant danger. Poorly timed drama uneasily combines two different worlds by making two contrastive personalities fall in love with each other. It's the credibility that suffers. A disappointment from the director of IL POSTINO. Some striking camerawork by Ashley Rowe cannot save this marginally interesting film. Based on the novel by Andrew Davies.

Bobby (2006, USA) C-117m. **½ D: Emilio Estevez. Starring Harry Belafonte, Joy Bryant, Nick Cannon, Emilio Estevez, Laurence Fishburne, Brian Geraghty, Heather Graham, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, Joshua Jackson, David Krumholtz, Ashotn Kutcher, Shia LaBeouf, Lindsay Lohan, William H. Macy, Svetlana Metkina, Demi Moore, Freddy Rodriguez, Martin Sheen, Christian Slater, Sharon Stone, Jacob Vargas, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Elijah Wood. Ambitious project for writer-director-actor Estevez, which took him seven years to complete: He follows the last day in the life of Robert F. Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in June 1968. Film introduces a slew of people who are all there in GRAND HOTEL style and succeeds in painting a vivid picture of the time and place (great costumes, decoration, even the outdoor lighting is superb, recreating the look of 60s TV), and gives us ample time to meet Kennedy through archive footage, but film loses its focus in the mid-section and not all of the stories are interesting. Great as an homage to the late Kennedy, less successful as a drama. Score by Mark Isham.

Bob Roberts (1992, USA/GBR) C-102m. *** D: Tim Robbins. Starring Tim Robbins, Giancarlo Esposito, Alan Rickman, Ray Wise, Brian Murray, Gore Vidal, Tom Atkins, David Strathairn, James Spader, Helen Hunt, Peter Gallagher, Jack Black, Susan Sarandon, Fred Ward, John Cusack, Bill Balaban. Scathing political satire marked actor Robbins’ directorial debut. He plays a folk singer- turned-politician, who uses his wits to deceive the American public into electing him Senator of Pennsylvania. Intelligent observation of the power of the media (and the dumbness of many people) never fully realizes its brilliant potential but remains intriguing throughout. Robbins cowrote the engaging songs with his brother David.

Body Bags (1993, USA) C-91m. *** D: John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper. Starring John Carpenter, Tom Arnold, Tobe Hooper, Robert Carradine, Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, David Naughton, George ‘Buck’ Flower, Stacy Keach, David Warner, Sheena Easton, Debbie Harry, Mark Hamill, Twiggy, John Agar, Roger Corman, Charles Napier. Horror anthology à la TALES FROM THE CRYPT, hosted by corpse Carpenter, who presents the tales in a morgue. The first one is a slash’n’stalk story, as a young student does her first night shift at a gas station and makes the acquaintance with a killer. The second one is wickedly funny, as Keach picks the wrong organization to help him get over his balding head. The third one (by Tobe Hooper) is a quite serious but standard horror drama about baseball crack Hamill, who has an eye implantation with predictable results. All three are watchable, the only thing the second one lacks is a good punchline. Surprisingly well-acted, this one ought to have made it to the big screen (it was produced for television). For horror fans, who will savor the cameos by big names in the business.

Body Double (1984, USA) C-109m. **½ D: Brian De Palma. Starring Craig Wasson, Gregg Henry, Melanie Griffith, Deborah Shelton, Guy Boyd, Dennis Franz, Jeff Daniels. Jobless, luckless actor Wasson is put up by a friend (Henry) in an ultra-modern villa and watches a beautiful lady (Shelton) through a telescope every evening. He finds out she may be the subject of a murder plot and tries to protect her – to no avail. Stylish, suspenseful thriller with atmosphere to spare maintains interest for two thirds, then bogs down and even becomes ludicrous at the finale. Too bad, since Hitchcock disciple De Palma manages to transfix you at times. Watch for Jeff Daniels in a cameo (if you don’t catch him, there’s a second chance).

Body Melt (1993, AUS) C-81m. *½ D: Philip Brophy. Starring Gerard Kennedy, Andrew Daddo, Ian Smith, Regina Gaigalas, Vincent Gil. Splatter comedy about a company which experiments with special vitamin ingredients and sends out some samples to unsuspecting people in suburbia. The physical reation is explained in the movie’s title. Rather inept, not very funny, with a nod to T.C.M. in a second, almost completely unrelated plot thread. Gore hounds should watch it for the grisly effects, but this is light years from BRAIN DEAD (1992).

Body Puzzle (1992, ITA) C-99m. ** D: Lamberto Bava. Starring Joanna Pacula, Hugh Quarshie. A mad killer is on the loose who takes several body parts of his victims, and it’s detective Quarshie’s job to track him down. Sound familiar? Well, it is. Though the screenplay is slightly more intelligent than others of this genre and Bava shows some style, this is a strictly-by-the-numbers thriller. Filmed in English.

Body Shop, The (1973, USA) C-75m. *½ D: J.G. Patterson Jr.. Starring Don Brandon (=J.G. Patterson Jr.), Jenny Driggers, Roy Mehaffey, Linda Faile. Uproariously campy FRANKENSTEIN version, where doc Brandon puts his victims in aluminum foil and connects them to an electric current. There’s hunchback Gregory, who hopes to get a mate in the doctor’s ultimate creation, a sexy woman made of different body parts. This movie is actually a romance! Some gory scenes, but pretty ridiculous, for camp movie fanatics, although Patterson brings conviction to his role. Music and special effects by William Girdler. Alternative titles: DOCTOR GORE, SHRIEKS IN THE NIGHT.

Body Snatchers, The (1993, USA) C-87m. Scope **½ D: Abel Ferrara. Starring Terry Kinney, Meg Tilly, Gabrielle Anwar, Reilly Murphy, Billy Wirth. Second(-rate) remake of the classic INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) is set on a military base, where teenager Anwar soon learns that soldiers are taken over by alien life forms. B-script (coauthored by Stuart Gordon) fails to involve, but film is slickly photographed and boasts some chillingly effective scenes. Larry Cohen is credited with the screen story.

Boeing (707) Boeing (707) (1965, USA) C-102m. *** D: John Rich. Starring Tony Curtis, Jerry Lewis, Dany Saval, Christiane Schmidtmer, Suzanna Leigh, Thelma Ritter. Funny comedy set in Paris about womanizer Curtis, who has affairs with three flight stewardesses – simultaneously. Then his calculated schedule doesn’t work out anymore, and everything ends in chaos when his colleague Lewis shows up. Ritter is fun as overtaxed housekeeper. This marked Lewis’ last film for Paramount Pictures, after 17 years. His character is decidedly more mature than in other films of his. Based on a stage play by Marc Camoletti. Photographed by Lucien Ballard. Score by Neal Hefti. Also known as BOEING BOEING.

Boksuneun Naui Geot (2002, KOR) C-121m. **½ D: Park Chan-Wook. Starring Song Kang-ho, Shin Ha-kyun, Bae Du-na, Lim Ji-Eun, Han Bo-bae. Kim Se-dong. First part of the director’s revenge trilogy is about a deaf-mute man and his dying sister, who is in desperate need of an organ transplant. When all attempts to get her an operation fail, they kidnap the daughter of the brother’s employer, the owner of a large company. Then things get out of hand. Low-key, quiet, deliberately paced drama has many striking images, but overall effect is depressing. Followed by OLDBOY (2003). English title: SYMPATHY FOR MR VENGEANCE.

Bolt (2008, USA) C-103m. *** D: Byron Howard, Chris Williams. Starring (the voices of) John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Malcolm McDowell, James Lipton, Greg Germann, Randy Savage. Bolt, an American White Shepherd, is the star of an action TV series, only he doesn’t know, and believes firmly in his superpowers. When he escapes into the real world, he soon realizes that life is much harder than he thought, especially when he has to trek across America to find his owner, a young girl, again. Some dazzling action sequences alternate with less thrilling character interaction, but overall, film is quite funny. Co-executive produced by John Lasseter.

Bom Yeoreum Gaeul Gyeoul Geurigo Bom (2003, KOR/GER) C-103m. *** D: Kim Ki-duk. Starring Oh Yeong-su, Kim Ki-duk, Kim Young-min, Seo Jae-kyeong, Ha Yeo-jin. Lyrical examination of a master-student relationship, done in various stages, from childhood of the student to adulthood. Although plot is minimal, images alone can arrest you, and underlying (buddhist) philosophy is well-worth discovering. As this is set on a lake and a woman is important to the story, this makes an interesting companion piece to the director’s earlier SEOM (2000). English title: SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER... AND SPRING.

Bone Collector, The (1999, USA) C-118m. Scope **½ D: Phillip Noyce. Starring Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, Queen Latifah, Michael Rooker, Mike McGlone, Luis Guzmán, Ed O’Neill, Phillip Noyce. Thriller about forensics expert Washington, who is paralyzed and confined to his bed after a near-fatal accident. He radios his instructions to agent Jolie, who is about to track down a serial killer who behaves like a butcher. Director Noyce makes the going-ons extremely suspenseful, but subtracting this asset leaves an illogical, shallow mess. Still, well-made and the suspense might be enough for undemanding viewers.

Bone Daddy (1998, USA) C-91m. **½ D: Mario Azzopardi. Starring Rutger Hauer, Barbara Williams, R.H. Thomson. Formulaic but well-paced, fairly exciting thriller about pathologist-turned-writer Hauer, whose latest bestseller brings to life a serial killer who picks bones from his living (gulp!) victims. Hauer teams up with cop Williams to solve the crime. Few novelties in this one but quite suspenseful.

Bonfire of the Vanities, The (1990, USA) C-125m. Scope **½ D : Brian De Palma. Starring Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith, Kim Cattrall, Saul Rubinek, Morgan Freeman, John Hancock, Kevin Dunn, Clifton James, Donald Moffat, Rita Wilson, Kirsten Dunst, Emmanuel Xuereb, F. Murray Abraham. Adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s satirical bestseller about Wall Street hotshot Hanks, whose sins come to the surface after a hit-and-run accident in the Bronx, which gives reporter Willis the story of his life. Quite amusing, but never hits bull’s-eye. Excellent photography by Vilmos Zsigmond.

Bonheur et dans le Pré, Le (1995, FRA) C-106m. **½ D: Etienne Chatiliez. Starring Michel Serrault, Eddy Mitchell, Sabine Azéma, Carmen Maura. Serrault plays a producer of toilet seats(!), who is having problems with his factory and his nagging wife Azéma. One day he sees by chance a family on TV, who are looking for their lost father and husband. Since the resemblance between him and the wanted man is more than striking, he decides to leave everything behind and move to the trio of women, who live in the idyllic countryside. There he learns to cherish life for the first time. Handsomely photographed comedy drama unfortunately takes too long to get where it’s going. Similar in theme to LE RETOUR DE MARTIN GUERRE, but uneven and not very entertaining. Eric Cantona has a small role as a rugby player(!).

Bonnie and Clyde (1967, USA) C-111m. **** D: Arthur Penn. Starring Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Denver Pyle, Dub Taylor, Evans Evans, Gene Wilder. Complex, intelligent, influential, simply classic action drama about the famous lovers and criminals Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, who along with their gang robbed banks in Texas of the 1930s. A moving account of the pair’s relationship, brilliantly acted, stylishly directed and shot. Violent, shocking and controversial for its time; it influenced such later filmmakers as Joel Coen and Quentin Tarantino. Morgan Fairchild (as Dunaway’s stunt double) and Gene Wilder’s first film. Written by Robert Benton, David Newman and Robert Towne. Produced by Warren Beatty. Oscar winner for Best Cinematography (Burnett Guffey) and Best Supporting Actress (Parsons).

Boogeyman, The (1980, USA) C-82m. **½ D: Ulli Lommel. Starring Suzanna Love, Ron James, John Carradine, Nicholas Love. Interesting slasher movie from German Fassbinder disciple Lommel. Twenty years after James killed his mother’s lover, he and his sister Love (witness to the original crime) have settled down on a farm. When someone starts killing local women, Love realizes that the past is still haunting them. Suspenseful, creepy horror film is too low-key for most of the time. Best part is the finale. Explanation for the murders is ludicrous, however, if not absurd. Still, horror buffs should definitely check this out. Followed by a sequel in 1983.

Boogie Nights (1997, USA) C-154m. Scope ***½  D: Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, Luis Guzman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Alfred Molina, Philip Baker Hall, Robert Ridgely, Ricky Jay, Jack Riley, Joanna Gleason. Well-made, realistic drama about young stud Wahlberg, who with a giant sex organ climbs up the ladder of success to porn film stardom in the late 1970s. He is supported by director Reynolds and drug-addicted porn-queen Moore. Daring subject matter, filmed as smoothly as Anderson’s HARD EIGHT. Very well-acted, highly original drama. The soundtrack is priceless.

Boondock Saints, The (1999, USA) C-110m. Scope **½ D: Troy Duffy. Starring Sean Patrick Flanery, Willem Dafoe, Norman Reedus, David Della Rocco, Billy Connolly, David Ferry, Brian Mahoney, Bob Marley, Richard Fitzpatrick, Troy Duffy. Two Irish-American brothers, deeply religious, decide to go on a warpath with the Boston mafia and eradicate crime with extreme violence. Neurotic, gay FBI detective Dafoe is on their trail. Ultra-violent action-thriller is the bastard son of Tarantino and Woo movies. It doesn’t make much sense, but cult movie buffs should give this one a look. Written by the director. There’s also a documentary on this film called OVERNIGHT (2003).

Bordello of Blood (1996, USA) C-87m. *½ D: Gilbert Adler. Starring Dennis Miller, Erika Eleniak, Angie Everhart, Chris Sarandon, Corey Feldman, William Sadler, Aubrey Morris. Vampires have infested a bordello and young Feldman falls prey to them, so Miller is hired his sister Eleniak to find out what has happened to him. Lots of wisecracks, some gore scenes and pretty vampires in a poor story that was written by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis. Lame second feature of the TALES FROM THE CRYPT series.

Born Free (1966, GBR/USA) C-95m. Scope *** D: James Hill, Tom McGowan. Starring Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers, Geoffrey Keen, Peter Lukoye, Omar Chambati. Wilderness classic about a married couple in Africa, who take in 3 lion cubs after their parents are shot down. Two of the cubs are later sent off to the Rotterdam zoo, one stays with them and becomes their pet. Plays like a semi-documentary, but story is compelling and John Barry’s Oscar-winning score magnificent (Barry also took the award for Best Song). Based on the autobiographical book by Joy Adamson. Followed by the 1971 documentary THE LION AT WORLD’S END, a TV series in 1974 and three sequels, LIVING FREE (1972), BORN FREE: A NEW ADVENTURE (1996) and TO WALK WITH LIONS (1999).

Born to Defend (1987, HGK) C-87m. *** D: Jet Li, Tsui Siu-Ming (action sequences). Starring Jet Li, Zhao Er-Kang, Song Jia, Kurt Roland Petterson, Paulo Tocha. Li (in his directorial debut) plays an army soldier who returns to his homeland after the war and finds it occupied by the U.S. army. The marines treat the inhabitants with contempt, and Li has to fight for respect. Well above-average eastern with a typically likable performance by its young star. Further plus: There’s an unusual amount of drama in the plot.

Borrowers, The (1997, GBR) C-83m. *** D: Peter Hewitt. Starring John Goodman, Jim Broadbent, Mark Williams, Hugh Laurie, Bradley Pierce, Flora Newbigin, Ruby Wax. Amiable, stylish children’s comedy, based on the novels by Mary Norton. The Borrowers are little humans, 5 inches tall, and live in a house, borrowing (not stealing!) all kinds of needful things. Here, they help their landlords to battle villain Goodman, who has stolen their house. Episodic script works only intermittently, but effects are superb and kids will certainly fall in love with the tiny family of Borrowers.  Even adults will have a good time.

Borsalino (1970, FRA/ITA) C-124m. ** D: Jacques Deray. Starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, Alain Delon, André Bollet, Michel Bouquet, Nicole Calfan, Mireille Darc, Henri Attal, Daniel Ivernel. Two gentlemen gangsters in 1930s Marseille work their way up in the hierarchy of the underworld and go through all kinds of troubles together. Static, much too slowly paced film that resembles a (shallow) drama more than an actioner. Delon’s low-key performance doesn’t help. His teaming with Belmondo is the only reason to watch this one. Produced by Delon. Script cowritten by Claude Sautet (based on the novel Bandits a Marseille). Followed by a sequel in 1974.

Bosco, Il (1988, ITA) C-85m. M D: Andreas Marfori. Starring Coralina C. Tassoni, Diego Ribon, Luciano Crovato, Elena Cantarone, Stefano Moliari. Amateurish horror movie about two young vacationers, who dispel all warnings and wander into woods. There they (almost) meet their demise by the hands of an ugly demon. Or something like that. Splatter movie draws its inspiration from Sam Raimi’s EVIL DEAD (1983), but director Marfori shows his ineptitude early on. Surreal scenes don’t work and the actors seem like non-professionals. Avoid this cheapo. Distributed by Troma Films. English titles: EVIL CLUTCH and HORROR QUEEN.

Boss, Il (1973, ITA) C-105m. **½ D: Fernando Di Leo. Starring Henry Silva, Richard Conte, Gianni Garko, Antonia Santilli, Corrado Gaipa, Marino Masé, Howard Ross, Pier Paolo Capponi, Fernando Di Leo. Gritty Italian crime film, from one of the genre’s busiest directors, about two rivaling crime syndicates and hitman Silva, who becomes a key figure in the kidnapping of the daughter of a mafia boss. Uneven plot hampers proceedings, but violent scenes provide a tough feel and progressive rock score by Luis Enríquez Bacalov is amazing. English titles: MURDER INFERNO, THE BOSS, and WIPEOUT!

Boucher, Le (1970, FRA/ITA) C-93m. *** D: Claude Chabrol. Starring Stéphane Audran, Jean Yanne, Antonio Passalia, Pascal Ferrone. The prototypical bourgeois crime drama by Chabrol, this is one of his most famous films. Set in a small village, film is about  independent school teacher Audran and simple-minded butcher Yanne, who become friends. There’s a serial killer on the loose and Audran is about to find out his identity. Chabrol also scripted this quiet observation of bourgeois manners and the face of crime. Some consider this his best film. Bizarre, disquieting score by Pierre Jansen.

Bounce (2000, USA) C-106m. **½ D: Don Roos. Starring Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tony Goldwyn, Alex D. Linz, David Dorfman, Natasha Henstridge, Jennifer Grey. Affleck surrenders his plane ticket to Goldwyn, who wants to be with his family. When the plane crashes and Goldwyn dies, Affleck feels guilty and turns into an alcoholic. Months later he feels he must make up for it and visits his widow (Paltrow) and slowly falls in love. Contrivances and improbabilities aside, this is a touching story about an impossible love, well-acted by the leads. Written by the director.

Bound (1996, USA) C-108m. ***½ D: Larry and Andy Wachowski. Starring Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano, Richard Sarafian. Intricate story about a lesbian being seduced by a woman whose lover (Pantoliano, in a tour-de-force performance) is involved with the mafia. The two plan to cheat him out of the two million dollars he has to deliver to the mafia boss (Sarafian) of the city. Once things get started in this thriller (and it takes a while) it never lets up thanks to Pantoliano’s flamboyant performance and an atmospheric, if sometimes overly melodramatic soundtrack. An impressive debut for the Wachowski brothers (THE MATRIX), who also wrote the screenplay and produced the picture.

Bourne Identity, The (2002, USA/GER) C-119m. Scope *** D: Doug Liman. Starring Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles. Based on Robert Ludlum’s novel, this spy thriller is well-made. After being pulled from the sea half-dead, amnesiac Damon finds himself to be a spy for the CIA. Before he can adjust, he is being pursued and attacked from all sides. On the run with chance acquaintance Potente, he must try to get his memory back and figure out his mission. Smoothly directed, well-edited thriller, with plot that is often all chase and little explanation. Filmed before in 1988 (as a TV mini-series).

Bourse et la Vie, La (1966, FRA/ITA/GER) C-90m. *½ D: Jean-Pierre Mocky. Starring Heinz Rühmann, Fernandel, Jean Poiret, Jean Carmet, Michel Galabru, Henri Attal, Dominique Zardi, Marilú Toló, Michel Lonsdale, Darry Cowl. The cast provides only interest in this lame comedy about two bank clerks (Rühmann and Fernandel), who are to collect more than a million Francs from the bank, which their colleague Poiret is planning to keep for himself. He chases after them seemingly through the whole of France. Unfunny complications, tired direction, the dust is inches high on this one. Shot by Jean Tournier.

Bowling for Columbine (2002, USA/CDN/GER) C-120m. ***½ D: Michael Moore. Featuring Michael Moore, Charlton Heston, Dick Clark. Eloquent, near-brilliant documentary (a deserving Oscar-winner) in which filmmaker Michael Moore takes the high school massacre at Columbine High in Littleton, Colorado, as a starting point to discuss the question why Americans are fascinated by guns and why more than 10,000 people are killed by firearms every year. At times shattering examination of a nation’s sentiments, a must-see, even if Moore tends to see a conspiracy around every corner sometimes. Well-chosen climax leaves you with goosebumps. Also won awards in many other countries. Moore followed this with the even more controversial FAHRENHEIT 9/11 (2004).

Boxer, The (1997, USA/EIR) C-113m. *** D: Jim Sheridan. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Emily Watson, Brian Cox, Ken Stott, Gerard McSorley, Eleanor Methven. Another thought-provoking drama from director Sheridan (IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER). Lewis plays a boxer whose release from prison and return to his community after 14 years carries strong implications, especially since he was an active IRA member. All he wants is peace and love, but his old sweetheart (Watson) has married and the country is still war-torn. Interesting, compelling throughout. Good cinematography by Chris Menges. Filmed in Dublin.

Box of Moonlight (1997, USA) C-112m. **½ D : Tom DiCillo. Starring John Turturro, Sam Rockwell, Catherine Keener, Lisa Blount, Annie Corley, Dermot Mulroney. Charming but slight comedy about Mr. Clockwork Turturro, an married engineer who can feel the midlife crisis coming closer. One day he goes looking for a lake he once loved as a boy… and stumbles upon social drop-out Rockwell, who has set up his existence in the woods. Well-acted, especially by Turturro, but overlength emphasises lack of plot, despite several truly funny moments. Written by the director.

Boy and His Dog, A (1978, USA) C-90m. SCOPE ** D: L.Q. Jones. Starring Don Johnson, Susanne Benton, Jason Robards, voice of Tim McIntire. Terminally weird (and slow) post-apocalyptic cult movie about drifter Johnson who is looking for women in barren landscape ravaged by World War IV. His dog speaks to him telepathically – mostly cynical wisecracks. Then he discovers a secret society, who are in need of young men. The budget was too low to make this convincing, nevertheless this has a cult following.

Boys Don’t Cry (1999, USA) C-118m. *** D: Kimberly Peirce. Starring Hilary Swank, Chloe Sevigny, Peter Sarsgaard, Brendan Sexton III, Alicia Goranson. Hilary Swank won an Oscar for her impressive performance as a 19-year-old girl who wants nothing more than being a boy but encounters barriers because of her social background and poor financial outlook. She finds temporary refuge at Sevigny’s family trailer but is unable to camouflage her desires and needs. Compelling psycho drama, well-scripted by director Peirce. Slightly overlong perhaps, but fascinating all the way.

Boys from Brazil, The (1978, GBR/USA) C-125m. *** D: Franklin J. Schaffner. Starring Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier, James Mason, Lilli Palmer, Uta Hagen, Steve Guttenberg, Denholm Elliott, Rosemary Harris, John Dehner, John Rubinstein, Anne Meara, Jeremy Black, Bruno Ganz, Walter Gotell, David Hurst, Wolfgang Preiss, Michael Gough, Joachim Hansen, Guy Dumont (=Sky Dumont), Georg Marischka, Günter Meisner, Prunella Scales, David Brandon. International thriller based on the novel by Ira Levin (ROSEMARY’S BABY). In Paraguay, infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele (Peck) is up to no good, as aging Nazi hunter Lieberman (Olivier) is informed in Vienna. Why is he plotting to kill 65-year-old family fathers around the world? Which evil scheme is behind all this? Some uneven stretches, unbelievable development almost ruin film, whose greatest asset are the brilliant performances, especially Peck’s frighteningly intense portrayal of one of the Nazis’ most heinous criminals. Futuristic undertones make it further interesting for cult movie buffs. Script by Heywood Gould (ROLLING THUNDER). Solid score by Jerry Goldsmith. Photographed by Henri Decae.

Brain Damage (1988, USA) C-86m. **½ D: Frank Henenlotter. Starring Rick Hearst, Gordon MacDonald, Jennifer Lowry, Theo Barnes, Kevin VanHentenryck. Ambitious horror comedy from the director of BASKET CASE (1982) about a phallus-like parasite that leaves its previous “owners” and enters the life (and brain) of neighbor Hearst. It turns out he provides a special drug for the young man in order to be fed his favorite dish – fresh human brain. Clever satire is prevented from soaring by low production values and self-conscious plotting that is sometimes merely grotesque. Still, an interesting addition to Henenlotter’s oeuvre. Some even consider this his best film.

Braindead (1992, NZL) C-102m. *** D: Peter Jackson. Starring Timothy Balme, Diana Penalver, Elizabeth Moody, Ian Watkin, Brenda Kendall. This is it: The best splatter movie ever made. When a rat monkey is imported to New Zealand and Balme’s mother is bitten accidentally, she turns into a hungry zombie, ... and her son keeps her hidden in the cellar! Soon visitors fall prey to the undead lady. Climactic party scene is a blast. Well-plotted, well-directed film is extremely gory but also incredibly funny. Just when you think ‘gross-out’ is achieved, it adds an even bigger effect. Films like this just don’t get better. Released in the U.S. as DEAD ALIVE (cut down to 85m./97m.).

Brain Machine (1977, USA) C-84m. ** D: Joy N. Houck Jr. Starring James Best, Barbara Burgess, Gil Peterson, Gerald McRaney. Tame science-fiction film where the producers asked the screenwriter to keep the budget low: A group of unrelated people (all without any relatives) are hired for several experiments with their minds in a government lab. Needless to say, they ultimately go wrong. Not uninteresting, with okay acting, but still unconvincing and rather boring. Also known as MIND WARP, TIME WARP, GREY MATTER, GRAY MATTER, and THE E-BOX.

BrainWaves (1982, USA) C-77m. *½ D: Ulli Lommel. Starring Keir Dullea, Suzanna Love, Vera Miles, Ryan Seitz, Tony Curtis. Feeble horror thriller that is much too preoccupied with its plot. Love has a near-fatal accident and her only chance of recovery is through brain transplantation. However, the brain she receives is that of a murdered woman, and Love begins to have visions of the killing. You know something is wrong when he film is draggy even at this running time. Also known as MIND GAMES, SHADOW OF DEATH.

Braveheart (1995, USA) C-177m. Scope *** D: Mel Gibson. Starring Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, Catherine McCormack, Brendan Gleeson, James Cosmo, David O’Hara, Ian Bannen. Epic drama about 13th century Scottish rebel leader William Wallace (Gibson), whose charisma and strategic skills help the united clans to drive the despotic English out of Scotland. Action scenes are very well-made and balanced by passionate drama that allows the viewer to feel and even identify with the national hero. Film’s liabilites – overlength and the fact that Gibson can’t quite shake off his ironic LETHAL WEAPON image – keep it from being in the same league as Michael Mann’s THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, which it in many ways resembles. Winner of five Oscars, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Cinematography (John Toll).

Brazil (1985, GBR) C-143m. ***½ D: Terry Gilliam. Starring Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Michael Palin, Ian Richardson, Peter Vaughan, Kim Greist, Jim Broadbent, Barbara Hicks, Charles McKeown, Terry Gilliam. Outstanding science-fiction satire about desk clerk Pryce, who is a mere number in an overly complicated system of totalitarian bureaucracy. However, he is different. He has dreams of himself being a superhero and a mysterious woman, who suddenly materializes in the form of Helmond, a possible rebel and threat to the system. The hapless clerk sets out to find her and goes on an odyssey through office-block mazes and bleak city alleys. Gilliam’s own version of George Orwell’s 1984 is a visually astounding film, whose substance is made up of countless small wonders, which hold the unreal plot together. Less a traditional science-fiction film a la BLADE RUNNER (1982) – which it ostensibly quotes – but social fiction. Not all of the grotesque, bizarre sequences can escape their 80s origin, but you can’t help but marvel at them. Works best as a display of Gilliam’s creative world. It brings his MONTY PYTHON roots to maturity. Scripted by Gilliam, Tom Stoppard and Charles McKeown. Photographed by Roger Pratt. Excellent score by Michael Kamen. Also shown in edited versions.

Breakdown (1997, USA) C-93m. Scope ** D: Jonathan Mostow. Starring Kurt Russell, J. T. Walsh, Kathleen Quinlan, M. C. Gainey. When Russell’s car breaks down in the middle of nowhere his wife Quinlan joins a trucker to get help – and never reappears. Russell’s frantic search for her brings no results at first, but then it becomes clear that she is held hostage by some ruthless rednecks. Compact, suspenseful thriller is also manipulative and derivative. It all depends on whether you swallow that premise. If you don’t you’ll wince at every turn and shake your head at the exaggerated finale (like the writer of this review).

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961, USA) C-115m. ***½ D: Blake Edwards. Starring Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, Martni Balsam, José Luis de Villalonga, Mickey Rooney. Cult romance based on Truman Capote’s novel about penniless writer Peppard and his growing infatuation with the girl next-door, extrovert but really unhappy playgirl Hepburn. Scores as comedy, drama and romance and delivers a memorable conclusion. Hepburn is exceptionally good. Oscar-winning score by Henry Mancini (‘Moon River’).

Breakfast of Champions (1999, USA) C-110m. ** D: Alan Rudolph. Starring Bruce Willis, Albert Finney, Nick Nolte, Barbara Hershey, Glenne Headley, Lukas Haas, Omar Epps, Buck Henry, Vicki Lewis, Ken Campbell, Jake Johannsen, Will Patton, Chip Zien, Owen Wilson, Alison Eastwood, Shawnee Smith, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Shapeless satirical comedy about car 'czar' Willis, who's losing his grip on reality and wants to kill himself, but is not the only crazy guy around his palace of a store. Sales manager Nolte and writer Finney are about to lose their marbles, too, and it seems a head-on collision at the finale is inevitable. There's not a single person in the picture who seems to be in their right mind. Creative, to be sure, but too few punchlines really work and film has no real point. Written by Rudolph.

Breaking and Entering (2006, GBR/USA) C-120m. Scope ** D: Anthony Minghella. Starring Jude Law, Juliette Binoche, Robin Wright Penn, Martin Freeman, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga. Depressing drama about London architect Law, whose company’s headquarters are constantly burglarized. He follows one of the (teenage) thieves home one day and makes the acquaintance of his mother, a Bosnian immigrant. His own daughter with Penn is in the early stages of autism. A drama with good intentions, but it’s difficult (and pointless) to watch so much misery (there’s not a single identifiable character). Deadening. Written by director Minghella (THE ENGLISH PATIENT).

Breaking the Waves (1996, DAN) C-159m. Scope ***½ D: Lars von Trier. Starring Emily Watson, Stellan Skargard, Jean-Marc Barr, Udo Kier. Simple, yet totally extraordinary story of a young Scottish woman, whose marriage to an oil rig worker changes her life, especially after he is paralyzed in a tragic accident. Not easily accessible but completely winning drama is superbly acted by all, but Emily Watson clearly stands out as the God-fearing Bess, whose unconditional love for her husband eventually destroys her life. Sloppy, documentary-like style brings immediacy to the film, though you have to tune in to it at first. Writer-director von Trier (EUROPA, RIGET/THE KINGDOM) is proving himself to be one of the most important contemporary filmmakers.     

Break-Up, The (2006, USA) C-106m. ** D: Peyton Reed. Starring Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston, Joey Lauren Adams, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, Judy Davis, Justin Long, Ivan Sergei, Ann-Margret, Cole Hauser, Vincent D’Onofrio, Elaine Robinson, Jane Alderman, Peter Billingsley. Aniston and Vaughn have been a couple for two years, when an argument leads to a break-up, which, surprisingly for both, lasts longer than they would have expected. Is it the end of their relationship? Okay romantic comedy drama has a few truths to tell but peters out without a satisfactory conclusion. What is the point of it all? The alternate ending on the DVD is even weaker. Ironically, Vaughn and Aniston were real-life lovers when this was made and broke up mere months after film’s release. Vaughn receives co-story credit and also produced.

Bride of Chucky (1998, USA) C-89m. M D: Ronny Yu. Starring Jennifer Tilly, Katherine Heigl, Nick Stabile, John Ritter, Alexis Arquette, Gordon Michael Woolvett, Kathy Najimy, Brad Dourif (voice). Stupid, needless – and endless – sequel to the CHILD’S PLAY series, made by renowned Hong Kong action director Yu, who should have stayed in Asia. The diabolical doll Chucky is revived by Tilly, who is transformed into a puppet herself. Together they try to get an amulet that would enable them to reclaim a human form. An innocent couple taking them along is soon suspected of being responsible for a gruesome killing spree. Plot is rock-bottom and ludicrously suggests another sequel – SON OF CHUCKY?

Bride of Re-Animator (1990, USA) C-99m. ** D: Brian Yuzna. Starring Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott. Weak sequel to the 1985 horror hit RE-ANIMATOR has the doctors collect body parts in order to create new human life. Scenes of comic horror blend into scenes of serious horror, with superb make-up and splatter effects. After a nice start, however, film becomes slower and slower, until the finale, which is not for the squeamish (and missing in part from the R-rated version, which runs 3m. shorter).

Brides of Dracula, The (1960, GBR) C-85m. **½ D: Terence Fisher. Starring Peter Cushing, Martita Hunt, Yvonne Monlaur, Freda Jackson, David Peel. Some effective sequences highlight this otherwise tame continuation of the Dracula saga, as a young woman unknowingly sets free a vampire. Cushing as the vampire hunter van Helsing tries to stop him. Not really a sequel to the classic 1958 DRACULA, if also made by Hammer films. Recommended to horror fans. 

Brides of Fu Manchu, The (1966, GBR) C-85m. *½ D: Don Sharp. Starring Christopher Lee, Douglas Wilmer, Heinz Drache, Marie Versini, Howard Marion-Crawford, Tsai Chin, Roger Hanin, Harald Leipnitz, Burt Kwouk. Don Sharp’s sequel to the successful (and still popular) FACE OF FU MANCHU (1965) is a big come-down. Lee hams it up as the title character, Wilmer seems as if he was giving an Inspector Clouseau interpretation. Despite swift pace, this is pretentious and unintentionally funny from start to finish. Followed by three more Fu Manchu sequels: VENGEANCE OF FU MANCHU (1967), BLOOD OF FU MANCHU (1968) and FOLTERKAMMER DES DR. FU MANCHU (1969). The latter two were directed by Jess Franco! In 1980, another Fu Manchu film was produced: THE FIENDISH PLOT OF FU MANCHU, starring Peter Sellers. Original running time: 95m.

Bride Wars (2009, USA) C-89m. ** D: Gary Winick. Starring Kate Hudson, Anne Hathaway, Bryan Greenberg, Chris Pratt, Steve owey, Candice Bergen, Bruce Altman. Two childhood friends, who have always dreamed of white weddings happen to get proposed to at the same time, but there’s only one available date for the ceremony at the Plaza Hotel. Friendship turns to hatred when they try to sabotage  each other’s wedding. Doesn’t exactly sound great, and it isn’t. Even the stars aren’t especially likable.

Bride With White Hair, The (1993, HGK) C-92m. Scope *** D: Ronny Yu. Starring Brigitte Lin, Leslie Cheung, Francis Ng. Stunning blend of fantasy, horror and love story: A swordsman and a killer fall in love, must content with their rivaling clans. Awe-inspiring cinematography by Peter Pau won’t mean a thing on TV (at least in fullscreen). Popular Hong Kong actioner won several awards and was followed by a sequel that same year. Based on a Chinese myth.

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001, GBR/USA) C-97m. Scope **½ D: Sharon Maguire. Starring Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones, Honor Blackman. Bitter-sweet (with the emphasis on bitter) comedy drama about thirty-ish woman (Zellweger), who is frustrated about being alone and dating the wrong guys. The love affair with her boss Grant briefly gives her back the hope for a better future, but life isn’t treating her gently. Helen Fielding cowrote this adaptation of her best-selling novel but film resorts too often to silliness and cannot seem to decide if Bridget’s life will make a turn for the better or not (blaming it all on fate). Zellweger is likable in the lead role. Salman Rushdie appears as himself.

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004, GBR/USA) C-104m. Scope **½ D: Beeban Kidron. Starring Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant. Sequel to the 2001 hit continues Bridget Jones’ diary in a lighter tone, as the thirtysomething is head over in heels in love with Firth, then breaks up with him, only to be challenged by womanizer Grant. Some really funny scenes, but film is weighed down by some not-to-be-believed plot twists, like the Thai prison scenes and the lesbian revelation. Good fun for fans, though.

Bridge to Terabithia (2007, USA) C-95m. *** D: Gabor Csupo. Starring Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Zooey Deschanel, Robert Patrick, Bailee Madison, Kate Butler, Devon Woods. Heart-warming adaptation of the Katherine Paterson best-seller about a young boy (Hutcherson) from a working-class background, who finds a first real friend in new neighbor Robb. Together they imagine a magical kingdom where they are prince and princess. An ode to childhood innocence and the power of imagination, this is flawed only by an occasional lack of continuity and the effects of a harsh (but important) plot twist, from which the movie doesn’t fully recover.

Brigade des Mœurs (1985, FRA) C-95m. ** D: Max Pécas. Starring Thierry de Carbonnières, Jean-Marc Maurel, Lillemour Jonsson, Bernard Rosselli, Brigitte Lahaie. Extremely violent and profance action film, set in the Parisian netherworld of prostitution and gangland war fare. A cop goes on a rampage when his sister is killed. Descends almost to a Lucio-Fulci-level of degradation and violence. For die-hard action addicts.

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974, USA) C-112m. *** D: Sam Peckinpah. Starring Warren Oates, Isela Vega, Gig Young, Robert Webber, Helmut Dantine, Emilio Fernandez, Kris Kristofferson. Fascinating action drama about head hunt for title character, initiated by rich Mexican patriarch, whose daughter is expecting a child from the man. Oates, whose lover knows Garcia’s whereabouts, is hired by some killers and embarks on a odyssey through rural Mexico. Slowly paced but engrossing, unpleasant in tone but well-handled by director Peckinpah. Oates delivers a stand-out performance. At its core, film deals with revenge and how it affects even people who have nothing to do with it. Peckinpah also coscripted.

Brokedown Palace (1999, USA) C-100m. Scope **½ D: Jonathan Kaplan. Starring Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Pullman, Jacqueline Kim, Lou Diamond Phillips, Paul Walker. Prison drama about two teenage tourists in Thailand, who are caught smuggling marihuana (unknowingly) and brought to a state penitentiary. Their families’ desperate attempts to get the out are fruitless until Pullman tackles the case. Not bad, with cute leads, but overly reminiscent of MIDNIGHT EXPRESS (1978) and RETURN TO PARADISE (1998).

Broken Arrow (1996, USA) C-108m. Scope ** D: John Woo. Starring John Travolta, Christian Slater, Samantha Mathis, Delroy Lindo, Bob Gunton, Frank Whaley, Howie Long, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Jack Thompson. Action film for action fans, typically energetic for director Woo, but this time with a stupid plot. Travolta plays a maniacal pilot who kidnaps two atomic bombs and threatens to blow them up if his demands are not met. His colleague Slater proves a tougher opponent than in the opening box fight. Pace is fast enough, explosions plenty, but do not think about the plot. Then you might enjoy the going-ons.

Broken Flowers (2005, USA/FRA) C-106m. **½ D: Jim Jarmusch. Starring Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Julie Delpy, Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy, Christopher McDonald, Chloe Sevigny, Chris Bauer, Tilda Swinton, Mark Webber. Typically laconic and slow Jim Jarmusch movie about a tired, middle-aged man (Murray) who receives an anonymous letter one day, telling him that he has an 18-year-old son. His neighbour then eggs him on to look for the possible mother and visit some old flames. Road movie with the inimitable Murray is typical Jarmusch fodder, slight, ponderous stuff that grows on you. That’s Murray’s real son Homer staring at him from the car at the end.

Brood, The (1979, CDN) C-92m. **½ D: David Cronenberg. Starring Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle, Cindy Hinds, Nuala Fitzgerald, Susan Hogan. Typically sick Cronenberg stuff: In a remote clinic psychotherapist Reed is cloning child-like monsters who are telepathically linked to Eggar. It takes a lot of tolerance to accept this plot (many critics dumped on this horror film when it was released), but apart from that, it’s another show of Cronenberg’s talents. Direction creates good suspense, the acting is not bad, and Howard Shore’s score is fine. The filmmaker’s followers should enjoy this one (I did).

Brother Bear (2003, USA) C-86m. Scope ***½ D: Aaron Blaise, Bob (Robert) Walker. Starring (the voices of) Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Suarez, Jason Raize, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, D.B. Sweeney, Joan Copeland, Michael Clarke Duncan, Harold Gould. First-rate Disney animation takes an old legend from a different culture (much like MULAN) and fashions a terrific adventure story. Adolescent warrior Phoenix sees his brother killed by a bear, then kills it in revenge. He is then transformed into a bear and must learn to see life from a different perspective. Terrific animation (doing without CGI wizardry) and a storyline that thrills make this fine family fare. Unfortunately lost out to less thoughtful, more hip Pixar feature FINDING NEMO (2003) at the Oscars. Aspect ratio changes to widescreen after some 20 minutes.

Brother Bear 2 (2006, USA) C-74m. *** D: Benjamin Gluck. Starring (the voices of) Patrick Dempsey, Mandy Moore, Benjamin Bryan, Michael Clarke Duncan, Catherine O’Hara, Rick Moranis, Jim Cummings, Wanda Sykes, Jake Weber. Remarkably good video sequel to the 2003 Disney hit has Kenai (Dempsey) and his bear brother (Bryan) travel to a waterfall place with a childhood friend so that she can burn the amulet that has tied them together as kids (in order to be able to marry). Warm-hearted tale of friendship and love, very well-animated, almost as good as the original. Nice songs by Melissa Etheridge.

Brothers Grimm, The (2005, GBR/USA/CZE) C-118m. *½ D: Terry Gilliam. Starring Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Lena Headey, Peter Stormare, Jonathan Pryce, Laura Greenwood, Monica Bellucci. Terry Gilliam’s first film since the disastrous FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS (1998) is almost as bad, with Damon and Ledger playing the title characters, who at first make a living as phony exorcists in early 19th century Germany, then get hired/forced by nobleman Pryce to find out what made 10 innocent children disappear in the nearby woods. Inexplicably, this fantasy/horror concoction (with elements from the Grimm fairy tales) is meshed with inane comedy, which almost makes this a spoof, but of what? Further downed by use of all-too-obvious digital effects. You never properly find your way into the story, only the atmosphere and settings intermittently catch your attention. The production was put on hold in 2004, so Gilliam made TIDELAND (2005) in between.

Bruce Almighty (2003, USA) C-101m. ** D: Tom Shadyac. Starring Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Baker Hall, Catherine Bell, Lisa Ann Walter, Steven Carell, Nora Dunn, Sally Kirkland, Tony Bennett. Typical Carrey comedy features him as a newscaster whose life is going down the drain. Just when he is about to throw it all away, God (Freeman) approaches him and gives him the gift of changing and influencing everything apart from the human will. Will he use it for his own purposes or to help others? Preposterous in the first half, improves later, but is no more than a recycled Hollywood concoction. Carrey’s fans should get what they expect.

Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave (1976, HGK) C-84m. ScopeD: Lee Doo-Yong. Starring Bruce Lea, Deborah Chaplin (=Deborah Dutch), Hwang Jang Lee, Philip Kennedy. A young philosophical fighter (obviously modeled after the legendary Bruce Lee himself) arrives in the States to meet a friend but must learn that he has committed suicide. He befriends a woman who might know more. Another film exploiting the real Bruce Lee’s image, starts okay but gets stuck in a love story. Some sources credit Umberto Lenzi with the direction. Alternative title: THE STRANGER.

Bruiser (2000, USA/FRA/CDN) C-99m. **½ D: George A. Romero. Starring Jason Flemyng, Peter Stormare, Leslie Hope, Nina Garbiras, Andrew Tarbet, Tom Atkins, Jonathan Higgins. Strange, unconventional, strangely unsettling thriller drama about thirty-something Flemyng, who’s in an identity crisis. He works for a fashion magazine (called Bruiser), and when he finds out that his wife is cheating on him with his boss, ego-maniacal Stormare, he cracks and takes on the identity (and mask) of a killer, an avenging angel. Thoughtful script, moody direction by Romero, whole film is undermined in shrill punk-rock finale (that serves as an excuse to feature horror rock-band The Misfits) which stands in jarring contrast to the stoic, intelligent rest of the movie. Romero’s first film in seven years shows that he’s still able to capture the audience, but this is rather for his fans (but not those of his zombie horror movies).

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002, USA) C-92m. **½ D: Don Coscarelli. Starring Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce, Heidi Marnhout, Bob Ivy, Edith Jefferson, Reggie Bannister. In a Texas retirement home, a guy who thinks he’s Elvis Presley (Campbell) and a black (!) man who says he’s JFK (Davis) are faced with an Egyptian mummy that prowls the hallways at night. They must gather their waning strengths and wits to battle the monster. Funny idea (from a short story by Joe Lansdale), good performances, but execution is heavy-handed and slow, like its main characters. Still, enjoyed acclaim with many fans and critics.

Bucket of Blood, A (1959, USA) B&W-66m. **½ D: Roger Corman. Starring Dick Miller, Barboura Morris, Anotny Carbone, Julian Burton, Ed Nelson. Roger Corman classic about a nerdish busboy and would-be artist Miller, who accidentally kills a cat and makes a clay sculpture with it. When the local art scene finds his work excellent, he moves on to bigger things – humans. Interesting to watch at times, but as a horror film it is much too tame and unexciting. Captures the spirit of the Beat Generation, but that might mean nothing to you. Some people consider this a spoof of HOUSE OF WAX (1953).

Bug (1975, USA) C-99m. ** D: Jeannot Szwarc. Starring Bradford Dillman, Joanna Miles, Richard Gilliland, Jamie Smith-Jackson, Alan Fudge. Patty McCormack, William Castle. Eco-horror film about bugs which can set things (and people) on fire, threatening an entire village. Thanks heavens there’s specialist Dillman around. Solidly made thriller moves – like its monsters – at a slow pace and is rather unpleasant. Worth a look for buffs, though. Based on the novel The Hephaestus Plague by Thomas Page. Producer, co-writer Castle’s last movie.

Bug's Life, A (1998, USA) C-97m. ** D: John Lasseter. Computer-animated cartoon feature about the life of an ant colony dwelling on an island with the constant threat of evil grasshoppers, which ask for a sacrifice (food) every now and then. A brave ant sets out to find warriors in the city, who would take up the challenge of fighting the grasshoppers. He returns with some circus artists that have no idea what they are getting themselves into. Irritating, hectic, headache-inducing film features violent scenes that are sure to scare small kids to death. Quibbles aside, the direction is good and some of the animation is stunning. If you want your children to spend an endearing 90 minutes with some insects, make them watch ANTZ or JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH (or MICROCOSME, as a documentary alternative).

Buio Omega (1979, ITA) C-93m. M D: Joe D’Amato. Starring Kieran Canter, Cinzia Monreale, Franca Stoppi, Sam Modesto. Would-be horror drama about rich orphan Canter, who is devastated when his fiancée dies of a voodoo curse and goes on to stuff her. More murders are to follow. Slow, poor horror movie with some gross-out gore. Highly regarded among D’Amato’s followers (mainly because of some softer tones in the film). Absolutely dreadful for others. Score by Goblin is okay. English titles: BLUE HOLOCAUST, BEYOND THE DARKNESS, BURIED ALIVE and THE FINAL DARKNESS.

Bullet in the Head (1990, HGK) C-130m. ***½ D: John Woo. Starring Tony Leung, Jacky Cheung, Waise Lee, Simon Yam, Fennie Yuen, Yolinda Yam, John Woo. Absolutely exhausting action melodrama, director Woo’s follow-up to his masterpiece THE KILLER (1989). In 1967 Hong Kong, three friends are forced to flee to Vietnam and plan to make their fortune there. However, the country is war-torn and their friendship is soon put to a test. One of the most emotionally intense movies in film history, this marks a very personal film in Woo’s oeuvre. The drama and the action (functioning as intensifier) remain at such a high pitch that the plot is pushed into the background and it gets to be too much at times. Still, an outstanding achievement, a must for followers of the director, who compared the making of this to that of Francis Ford Coppola’s APOCALYPSE NOW (1979). Woo also cowrote, edited and produced the picture. Watch out for edited prints. Original title: DIE XUE JIE TOU.

Bunker de la Dernière Rafale, Le (1981, FRA) C/B&W-26m. n/r D: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro. Starring Jean-Marie de Busscher, Marc Caro, Patrice Succi, Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Post-apocalyptic short movie from the masterminds behind DELICATESSEN (1991). Film takes place in a bunker, where a group of soldiers and commanders must contend with a possible enemy attack. One of them finds a machine with a countdown timer and sets it off... and everything ends in chaos. No dialogue, film relies heavily on strong visuals and eerie sound effects. Some flashes of genius in this study of panic and madness, a must for the directors’ followers. Movie references range from METROPOLIS (1927) to A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1973) and THE TENANT (1976), perhaps even ERASERHEAD (1978). English title: THE BUNKER OF THE LAST GUNSHOTS.

Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965, GBR) B&W-107m. Scope *** D: Otto Preminger. Starring Laurence Olivier, Carol Lynley, Keir Dullea, Martita Hunt, Anna Massey, Clive Revill, The Zombies, Adrienne Corri. Intriguing mystery about American Lynley, who has just moved to England when her young daughter goes missing. A search is initiated, but soon the detective on the case (Olivier) starts having doubts about the woman. Does the girl even exist? Slow pace, detached mood offset by good performances and chilling finale. BAsed on the novel by Marryam Modell. Referenced (if not remade) in FLIGHTPLAN (2005).

Buona Notte, Avvocato! (1955, ITA) 70m. *** D: Giorgio Bianchi. Starring Alberto Sordi, Giulietta Masina, Mara Berni, Andrea Checchi, Tina Pica. Engagingly performed comedy about lawyer Sordi who is happy when wife Masina leaves the city for a few days, because he wants to enjoy himself (going out with other women). When a lascivious blonde steals into his appartement, claiming to be on the run from her jealous husband, he thinks his time has come. In the morning, however, she is gone, along with 200,000 Lire. Not always on target but funny and likeable. Screenplay by Ettore Scola, Alberto Sordi and three others. Nice black-and-white cinematography by Corrado Bartoloni and Mario Bava. 

Buon Funerale, Amigo … Sartana Paga! (1970, ITA/SPA) C-95m. Scope **½ D: Anthony Ascot (=Giuliano Carnimeo). Starring Gianni Garko, Daniela Giordano, Helga Liné, Franco Ressel, George Wang, Roberto Dell’Acqua. Sort-of sequel to SONO SARTANA, IL VOSTRO BECCHINO (1969) about Garko’s title character, who witnesses the killing of a family just before he can buy their land. In the nearby town he seeks out those responsible. Director Carnimeo has some funny ideas, and plot is less of a drag this time. Above-average spaghetti western fare with a Morricone copycat score by Bruno Nicolai. English titles: A PRESENT FOR YOU, AMIGO… A COFFIN FROM SARTANA, GUNSLINGER, STRANGER’S GOLD and HAVE A GOOD FUNERAL, MY FRIEND… SARTANA WILL PAY.

Buono, il Brutto, il Cattivo, Il (1966, ITA/SPA) C-178m. Scope ***½ D: Sergio Leone. Starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach, Aldo Giuffrè, Luigi Pistilli, Rada Rassimov, Aldo Sambrell, Mario Brega, Frank Brana, Romano Puppo. Conclusion of Leone’s DOLLARI trilogy is the ultimate cult western, if not cult movie: Lonesome cowboy Eastwood, Mexican bandit Wallach and cunning villain Van Cleef are contending for a gold loot, whose whereabouts are only partially known to them. Amid the confusions of Civil War, each of them tries to get the last laugh on the others. Probably the most influential western, cool, funny, with some rich historic flavor and unforgettable performances (especially Wallach’s). Ennio Morricone’s superbly orchestrated score also features moviedom’s most often-quoted theme tune. Film’s only fault is overlength. Superb cinematography by Tonino delli Colli. Director Leone perfected his style and storytelling in the haunting follow-up C’ERA UNA VOLTA IL WEST (1969). Cut to 161m. for foreign release, restored to 178m. for 2003 DVD re-release (with Eastwood and Wallach dubbing their lines). English title: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY.

Buque Maldito, El (1974, SPA) C-88m. ** D: Amando de Ossorio. Starring Maria Perschy, Jack Taylor, Carlos Lemos, Barbara Rey, Manuel de Blas, Blanca Estrada, Margarita Merino. Third entry into the horror film series (following EL ATAQUE DE LOS MUERTES SIN OJOS) is set on a ghost ship, where the Templar Knights are attacking a group of people looking for two lost models. Rich atmosphere makes this one acceptable for fans, although there is only one gore scene. English title: HORROR OF THE ZOMBIES. Followed by LA NOCHE DE LAS GAVIOTAS.

Buried Alive (1990, USA/SAF) C-91m. ** D: Gérard Kikoine. Starring Robert Vaughn, Karen Witter, Donald Pleasence, John Carradine, Nia Long, Ginger Lynn Allen. Interesting horror thriller based on motifs of stories by Edgar Allen Poe. Vaughn runs a school for girls, and new teacher Witter soon starts to be suspicious when students disappear without a trace. It turns out they end up in the cellar – behind a wall. Well-directed, with some effective scenes of horror, but story is too uninvolving and lacks suspense. Not bad. John Carradine’s last film appearance. Filmed in South Africa.

Burn After Reading (2008, USA/GBR/FRA) C-96m. *** D: Joel and Ethan Coen. Starring George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, Elizabeth Marvel, David Rasche, J.K. Simmons, Dermot Mulroney, . Fresh from their Oscar-winning triumph NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007) the Coens deliver a quirky comedy about a retired CIA man (Malkovich), whose memoir draft is lost in a fitness studio, where two opportunists (unhappy McDormand and brainless Pitt) find it and intend to cash in on it. The lives of several other characters intertwine with theirs in this farcical, original take on the Coen’s usual crook formula. Nothing great, but undeniably funny, with Pitt getting the best lines. Other stars are fun, too. Score by Carter Burwell, photography by Emmanuel Lubezki.

Burning, The (1981, USA) C-91m. *½ D: Tony Maylam. Starring Brian Matthews, Leah Ayres, Brian Backer, Larry Joshua, Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens, Holly Hunter. Typical slasher movie, whose plot seems directly copied from FRIDAY THE 13TH. Summer campers are killed one by one by a mad janitor, who was burnt severely many years back. Endless stretches of teen camp life, and some quite effective scenes (with make-up effects by Tom Savini). Stupid flick, only for genre addicts. Hunter’s film debut. Edited by Jack Sholder (THE HIDDEN).

Burnt Offerings (1976, USA) C-116m. *½ D: Dan Curtis. Starring Karen Black, Oliver Reed, Burgess Meredith, Eileen Heckart, Lee Montgomery, Dub Taylor, Bette Davis, Joseph Riley. Endless haunted-house thriller about parents Reed and Black, their son Montgomery and aunt Davis, who move into a beautiful house in the countryside and are strangely affected by it (SHINING-like). Very slowly-paced, hardly suspenseful, strictly by-the-numbers chiller isn’t chilling. Good cast wasted. Based on the novel by Robert Marasco.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969, USA) C-112m. Scope ***½ D: George Roy Hill. Starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Strother Martin, Henry Jones, Jeff Corey, George Furth, Cloris Leachman, Ted Cassidy, Kenneth Mars, Christopher Lloyd, Sam Elliott. Melancholy western drama about outlaws Newman and Redford, who are continually on the run from the law. Sensitively handled by director Hill (THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP), an ironic view of the decline of the Wild West. Oscar-winner for cinematography, score, song (‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head’) and screenplay. Followed by a prequel in 1979 (BUTCH AND SUNDANCE: THE EARLY YEARS).

Butcher Boy, The (1997, USA/EIR) C-110m. *** D: Neil Jordan. Starring Stephen Rea, Fiona Shaw, Eamonn Owens, Alan Boyle, Andrew Fullerton, Aisling O’Sullivan, Ian Hart, Sinéad O’Connor, Milo O’Shea, Patrick McCabe. Red-haired Owens grows up in a small idyllic Irish town in the 1960s, but his childhood is not a happy one. He is left alone by his parents, who are both unable to cope with life. The boy reacts with extroversion and plagues the population with mean pranks, some of which are not harmless at all. Original point-of-view makes drama seem less depressive than it is. Director Jordan and Patrick McCabe adapted McCabe’s novel. Production design by Anthony Pratt and Adrian Biddle’s photography are first-rate. Not for every taste, but definitely worth watching.

Butterfly (1981, USA/CDN) C-108m. ** D: Matt Cimber. Starring Stacy Keach, Pia Zadora, Orson Welles, Lois Nettleton, Edward Albert, James Franciscus, Stuart Whitman, June Lockhart, Ed McMahon, Paul Hampton, George ‘Buck’ Flower. Keach plays a loner, who guards an abandoned silver mine in the Nevada desert. One day lolita Zadora arrives and tries to seduce him – even though she is supposed to be his daughter! Will their relationship go unnoticed? Trivial melodrama, based on the novel by James M. Cain. Zadora’s looks, Welles’ performance as a judge make forgettable film worthwhile. Inauspicious score by Ennio Morricone.

Butterfly Effect, The (2004, USA) C-120m. *** D: Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber. Starring Ashton Kutcher, Melora Walters, Amy Smart, Elden Henson, William Lee Scott, Eric Stoltz. As a child and teen Kutcher kept suffering from strange black-outs, and with a history of madness in his family, he and his mother fear for the worst. Later, as a psychology student he discovers that he can lapse back into the black-outs by reading his old journals – and thereby change the past and present! Not always credible and sometimes downright silly, but this stylish thriller with horror and sci-fi touches keeps you watching until the end. A definite cult candidate, like the sort-of similar MEMENTO (2000). Also shown at 113m. with a different ending.

Butterfly Kiss (1994, GBR) C-89m. **½ D: Michael Winterbottom. Starring Amanda Plummer, Saskia Reeves, Paul Bown, Freda Dowie, Fine Time Fontayne, Des McAleer, Ricky Tomlinson. Psycho drama about a mentally disturbed woman (Plummer) who moves from one gas station to the next looking for her imaginary girlfriend. Often her encounters end in murder. Naive, easily impressionable Reeves follows her around, and a strange relationship between the two develops. Well-acted (especially by Plummer, who turns in an impressive, brave performance), but there’s not really enough plot to make this work. Plummer’s past is not at all explored, which is dangerous in so far as it could be read as ‘she’s just crazy’. With a little more psychology, the film would have been compelling. Good soundtrack features The Cranberries with several songs from their hit album No Need to Argue.

Butterfly Murders, The (1979, HGK) C-88m. Scope ** D: Tsui Hark. Starring Lau Siu-Ming, Michelle Mee, Wong Shu Tong, Zhang Guozhu, Chen Qiqi. Hong Kong icon Tsui Hark’s first film is a plodding thriller about hordes of butterflies who kill(!) everyone in the way. Several characters try to solve the mystery in a subterranean dungeon. Plot is so complicated that entire film is almost incomprehensible. Very, very strange. For Hark completists and horror movie buffs. Maybe Hark saw Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS prior to filming this?