Michael Gough

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Konga Review


Terrible
Ah, Konga. When I saw this film as an impressionable youngster -- if my memory serves correctly it was an afternoon "horror show" on a local cable channel -- I was both mildly frightened and incredulously stunned. Watching it today, well... let's just say it's like an overdose of Cap'n Crunch cereal.

The plot is B-movie simple: Doctor Charles Decker (Michael Gough), presumed deceased, returns from dark and mysterious Africa with a formula to grow things big. We're talking a laboratory of man-sized plants and other nasty mutations. And when Decker giganitsizes his pet chimp Konga, all of London is in dire trouble.

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The Phantom Of The Opera (1962) Review


Good
It's Phantom time again in this '60s adaptation, a straightforward version with Herbert Lom (who?) as the masked man. Notably, the phantom's costume is at it's simplest here: a getup that looks an awful lot like the guy put a bag over his head. The story's pretty straightforward and unsurprising, though the music is good and the performances are all perfectly acceptable. Not what you might expect from Hammer Films.

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Batman & Robin Review


Terrible
This fourth episode in the Batman series isn't a movie so much as a theme park. It wasn't scripted so much as run through the Hollywood script mill, where every line of dialogue is reduced to a catchphrase. "Allow me to break the ice," says Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger), "My name is Freeze. Learn it well. For it's the chilling sound of your doom." That groaner is representative of pretty much every line of Batman's arch-nemesis. He later posits such zingers as, "Tonight, hell freezes over!" and "You're not sending me to the cooler!" This is not character development so much as paint-by-numbers screenwriting, where you can imagine the gang sitting around wondering what incorrigible pun they'll come up with next.

Tim Burton's first two Batman films were all about this nerd auteur playing with a gigantic train set, so even though the stories were threadbare and superficial, at least Burton brought a highly stylized pop Gothic look. Jack Nicholson hammed it up nicely as the Joker and Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman was an unforgettably sexy femme fatale who was able to hold her own in a power struggle with the caped crusader. Say what you will, the films had their moments, and even miscast Michael Keaton was an enjoyable wild card.

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The Man In The White Suit Review


Good
Cute and a little too pat, The Man in the White Suit offers Alec Guinness trapped in an undercooked story with so much wasted potential. Guinness plays Sidney Stratton, a textile researcher who -- after years of effort -- develops a miracle fabric that doesn't wear out or get dirty. Rather than find himself the company hero, he's immediately the subject of various lynch mobs: The company doesn't want such a fabric because they won't be able to sell new clothes every year, and neither do the workers, who know they'll soon be out of a job. Even the cleaning ladies are pissed. Funny stuff, but that's about the end of it. Ultimately you feel it could have gone miles further.

The Cherry Orchard Review


Very Good
Actors understandably welcome the opportunity to perform Chekhov, whose plays are painfully funny in their quiet observation of human folly. In Uncle Vanya and The Three Sisters, we recognize some part of ourselves. Renowned director Michael Cacoyannis, who helmed Zorba the Greek in 1964, assembles a powerhouse international cast for his screen interpretation of The Cherry Orchard, including Alan Bates (Gosford Park), Katrin Cartlidge (Breaking the Waves), and Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures). That great horror actor Michael Gough is well typecast as an ancient butler, and grand dame Charlotte Rampling's timeless iconic presence lends itself beautifully to the tragic Madame Lyubov Andreyevna Raneskaya.

Despite the remarkable assemblage of talent, Cacoyannis' Cherry Orchard feels self-aware of adapting a renowned classic from stage to screen. The cinematography is handsome and stately, but more appropriate to the colorful orchards and vast family estate, the 1900 costumes, the theatrical entrances and exits, than to the intimacy of Chekhov's vivid characters. (It almost makes one long for the hand-held documentary treatment of Louis Malle's seminal Vanya on 42nd Street.) The stylistic choices here take a while to get used to, especially during a drawn-out prologue, absent in the original text, as Madame Lyubov and her buoyant teenage daughter Anna (Tushka Bergen) make elaborate preparations to return to their Russian estate after a self-imposed exile. Some may be exhausted by this Masterpiece Theater treatment (lingering over every piece of luggage) before Chekhov's social entanglements kick in -- which happens shortly after the dozen major characters have assembled at their estate.

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Alice In Wonderland (1966) Review


OK
It doesn't take the Ravi Shankar soundtrack to cue you that this version of Alice in Wonderland -- just an hour long, shot for the BBC -- hails from the 1960s. Taking the story's thinly veiled drug metaphors to their ultra-serious limit, the movie has a bit of a Cheech and Chong feeling to it, and the star power of John Gielgud, Peter Sellers, and Peter Cook (among many others) conspire to ensure that Alice (Anne-Marie Mallik) doesn't even got top billing. This was one of the first of director Jonathan Miller's numerous BBC teleplays, and his greenness is apparent -- it's neither kid-friendly (the actors don't wear animal costumes, they just allude to them) nor particularly clever, coming across in the end like a kind of Alice's Greatest Hits. Finally, I know it was 1966 television, but Alice just never works in black and white. It's like The Wizard of Oz without the yellow brick road.

St. Ives Review


Good
Take one Merchant-Ivory flick and stir in about 20 pounds of marshmallow crème -- and you've got St. Ives.

Pronounced "sahn TEEVE," the film is based on a Robert Louis Stevenson tale about a Napoleonic Era French captain named Jacques St. Ives (Jean-Marc Barr) who is captured by the British during the war, sent to P.O.W. camp in Scotland, and falls in love along the way, of course. The object of his affection is a local girl (the forgettable Anna Friel), who lives under the protection of her mother (Miranda Richardson), a woman who is having a dalliance with the stiff prison camp boss (Richard E. Grant), who is oddly enough receiving lessons in the ways of love from our very own, very Frahnch St. Ives.

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Batman Forever Review


Weak
Batman's reins have been turned over from director Tim Burton (now producing) to Joel Schumacher, from lead Michael Keaton to Val Kilmer, and from an old, baroque Gotham to a heavily stylized, kiddie-pop city.

A lot can be said for the idea that the setting of a picture thoroughly controls its tone. What we Batman Forever is an attempt to make Gotham more like Los Angeles, full of neon, black lights, and people sporting primary-color wigs. Unfortunately, something has been lost in translation.

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Batman Returns Review


Excellent
It was the end of an era. The year was 1992 and the movie was Batman Returns. It marked the end of the Batman franchise as a series of good movies. It was, friends, the last great Batman.

Gotham was dark and so was the script. Darkly comic, darkly romantic, and darkly dramatic. This tale told of Michael Keaton as Batman in a love/hate relationship with Catwoman, of a freak raised by penguins, of a power hungry industry giant who sought to leave the legacy of a polluting power plant. The Penguin: a man raised by what became his namesake, seeks to discover the identity of his parents, and then exact vengeance upon the world. Selina Kyle was a lowly secretary who got pushed out of a window for opening her mouth: exhausting one of nine lives, and then becoming Catwoman. And Bruce Wayne was a man haunted by his past and compelled to fight crime at night as Batman.

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Sleepy Hollow Review


OK

Who better to revamp Washington Irving's classic spook tale of the Headless Horseman than Tim Burton, the modern maestro of movie macabre?

A little tweaking here (a conspiracy plot), a little re-writing there (Ichabod Crane is now a nervous police detective instead of a nervous school teacher) and -- ta-da! -- it's "Sleepy Hollow," a sumptuously stylized, oddly traditional, darkly comical, and unmistakably Burton-esque take on this uniquely American fairy tale.

Taking place in 1799, this inventive reinterpretation of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" -- written by "Fight Club" scripter Andrew Kevin Walker and polished by "Shakespeare In Love" scribe Tom Stoppard -- features Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane, an ungainly, outcast, New York City constable come to the upstate hamlet of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a spate of beheadings that local legend has pinned on the noggin-less ghost of mad a Revolutionary War mercenary.

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Michael Gough

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Corpse Bride Movie Review

Corpse Bride Movie Review

"Tim Burton's Corpse Bride" returns the director to his roots in the giddy macabre, and...

Sleepy Hollow Movie Review

Sleepy Hollow Movie Review

Who better to revamp Washington Irving's classic spook tale of the Headless Horseman than Tim...

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