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Doc says I'm better now, I'm free to roam in society again :-)
Me? Middle aged British punker who is heavily in love with anything punk related circa 1976 - 1982. Film fanatic who indulges in any genre of film but specialises in film-noir, westerns, war and big - bold - historical epics.
I like writing reviews, even having some published in British newspapers and I have received nice emails from people associated with films that I have reviewed. While my mantra here is quite simply lets be here to learn and share.
The Director Titans
Alfred Hitchcock Robert Aldrich Anthony Mann Sam Peckinpah Jacques Tourneur
The Director Gods
John Ford Budd Boetticher Robert Siodmak Billy Wilder Joseph Losey
The Director Royalty
Edward Dmytryk Nicholas Ray Fritz Lang John Sturges John Carpenter
The Director Gurus
Preston Sturges Frank Capra Howard Hawks Marcel Varnel Carol Reed
Modern Director Legends In Waiting
David Fincher Michael Mann
Stay Cool Peeps, See You On The Boards.
Blood and Wine (1996)
There's no such thing as honour among thieves. It's a myth.
Blood and Wine is directed by Bob Rafelson and Rafelson co-writes the screenplay with Nick Villiers and Alison Cross. It stars Jack Nicholson, Stephen Dorff, Jennifer Lopez, Judy Davis and Michael Caine. Music is by Michal Lorenc and cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel.
A failed father and husband enlists an oily accomplice to enact the theft of a precious necklace. But when his wife and son get involved in the shady dealings, things quickly spiral out of control.
Bob Rafelson once again turns to his muse, Nicholson, to bring about another venture down the neo-noir lane. Unfortunately, just like the "The Postman Always Rings Twice" remake and "Black Widow", this also flatters to deceive.
Nothing wrong with the acting or story as such, Nicholson and Caine bounce off each other with scummy character glee, while Lopez and Dorff offer up some sexy sizzle in the supporting slots. In true noir fashion the pic is ripe with unlikable characters, while the vagaries of noirville fate comes into play. Yet as it plays out more as a character study than anything edgy or thrilling, it ends up being like a fine wine that has been corked.
Some nifty complexities in the narrative and the fine perfs ensure it's above average, but really it's not a must see for the noir faithful. 6/10
Enemy of the State (1998)
The government's been in bed with the entire telecommunications industry since the forties. They've infected everything.
Enemy of the State is directed by Tony Scott and written by David Marconi. It stars Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, Regina King and Lisa Bonet. Music is by Harry Gregson-Williams and Trevor Rabin, and cinematography by Dan Mindel.
A lawyer becomes targeted by a corrupt politician and his N.S.A. goons when he accidentally receives key evidence to a politically motivated murder.
Superb action thriller, we find Tony Scott on fine story telling form, backed up by Smith (how great to see the actor and not the star) and the always awesome Hackman adding his character driven gravitas to the stew. We are frighteningly drawn into a very real hi-tech world, which in turns becomes thought provoking and intriguing.
Scott knows how to work an action scene and edge of the seat sequences, and he doesn't disappoint here. The running time of 2 hours 10 minutes is arguably a touch too much, but there is never any moments of extraneous sequences or pointless filler, the screenplay ensures that all conversations and character activities mean something, and therefore should be noted.
A hot buck roll call of rising actors are in on the fun, namely Barry Pepper, Scott Caan, Jake Busey, Jamie Kennedy and Jack Black, which leaves us with a smart and thrilling pic that's served at a breakneck pace. Enemy of the State delivers wholesome genre entertainment. 9/10
Gojira vs. Supesugojira (1994)
Godzilla! I still have something to settle with you!
Gojira vs. Supesugojira (Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla) is directed by Kenshô Yamashita and written by Kanji Kashiwa, Hiroshi Kashiwabara and Shinichirô Kobayashi. It stars Megumi Odaka, Jun Hashizume, Zenkichi Yoneyama and Akira Emoto. Music is by Takayuki Hattori and cinematography by Masahiro Kishimoto.
Godzilla faces two new foes, Mogera - a UN built giant robotic machine, and Space Godzilla - a beast spawned from Godzilla's particles in space...
Oh how nutty it is, here we have part of what is known as the Heisei period of "Zilla" movies, and it's utterly bonkers. Is it meant to be a comedy, serious, thrown together quickly to make some money? Who knows? Who cares? Very divisive in Godzilla fan circles (totally understandable), pic throws a number of action series staples at the piece, slots in Godzilla's kid (a goofy looking Godzuki monstrosity), and pitches the moody big lizard against two foes that creates ultimate fire and destruction mayhem.
Godzilla stomps the city of course, all while trying to keep out the telekinetic skills of the yummy Miki Saegusa (Odaka). There's some truly great matte shots in the mix, mad science, a nifty score that the likes of Williams and Barry wouldn't be ashamed of, and a traditional laser show of a finale smackdown. It's not great, in fact it's pretty dumb and maybe even lazy, but there is merit here for entertainment purpose. So strap yourself in, leave the brain at the door and enjoy the colourful carnage, it's trippy man! 6/10
The only thing we can do is be there for each other when we do fall down to pick each other up.
Trust is directed by David Schwimmer and written by Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger. It stars Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Liana Liberato, Jason Clarke, Viola Davis, Gail Friedman, Chris Henry Coffey and Tristan Peach. Music is by Nathan Larson and cinematography by
A teenage girl is targeted by an online sexual predator, causing the family untold trauma...
For his second fully fledged studio feature film as a director, former "Friends" star Schwimmer showed courage in bringing a very real and touchy subject onto the big screen. He has crafted a sensitive piece about a hot topic, there's no titillation or firm answers to the problem to hand, and in young Liberato (Annie) and trusty pro Owen (Will), he has actors turning superbly heart aching performances.
Pic follows the trajectory of girl meeting what she thinks is a teenage boy on line, and as she falls for him, the predator slowly begins to unfurl his deception to the point where she's lost, confused and jelly in his hands. Once the "relationship" comes to light, the parents are shredded, the strain unbearable, with father Will reacting how any father would.
The narrative deals with parental upheaval and that of young Annie, the latter of which is thrust into a world of confusion and hateful attention from her peers. Screenplay dangles other sexual predator strands, without force feeding us, while the denouement is refreshingly sour and not afraid to ask the pertinent question of who do you trust? More so given that these predators are in our midst and often living a false facade of a life.
A family under duress mingles with the invasion of a monster into their lives, for what is not a comfortable watch, but certainly one well worth digesting. 7/10
Prime Cut (1972)
Beefy Burgers and Meat Market Malarkey.
Prime Cut is directed by Michael Ritchie and written by Robert Dillon. It stars Lee Marvin, Gene Hackman, Sissy Spacek, Angel Tompkins, Gregory Walcott and Janit Baldwin. Music is by Lalo Schifrin and cinematography by Gene Polito.
A vicious Kansas City slaughterhouse owner (Hackman) and his hick family are having a bloody war with a Chicago crime syndicate over profits from their joint illegal operations. Chicago heads decide to send top enforcer Nick Devlin (Marvin) to straighten things out.
1972 was something of a tricky year for Lee Marvin, he had made "Pocket Money" with Paul Newman, which was a mess of a film and subsequently failed across the board. He then made "Prime Cut", a film so offbeat and tonally all over the place it still today divides fans of Marvin's work. Yet time has been much kinder to it, not like it's a hidden gem type of thing, but a real culter that if one can embrace the nature of the beast, and forgive it the stench of misogyny, then there's some rewards awaiting.
It wasn't an easy shoot, Marvin absolutely hated director Ritchie, and he even refused to take the character arc between himself and Spacek's (in her debut film and superb) young waif that step too far. The resulting film, of what was passed via the censors, is an uneasy blend of sleaze and irreverence. The juxtaposition between the bustle of Chicago and the hick country file of Kansas brings about a sort of battle for America's soul. So who better than Marvin and Hackman to serve up the polar opposites of Americana?.
The violence hits hard, as does the sex slave trading kink in the narrative, all set to the wonderfully airy backdrop of homespun countryside life. Marvin is superb, all machismo and gives us a protag one can easily get on board with. Pic is difficult to recommend with complete confidence, but I for one am happy to join the cult that thinks it's great. 8/10
Now You See Me (2013)
The closer you think you are, the less you'll actually see.
Now You See Me is directed by Louis Leterrier and collectively written by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin and Edward Ricourt. It stars Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mélanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Michael Kelly. Music is by Brian Tyler and cinematography by Mitchell Amundsen and Larry Fong.
An F.B.I. Agent and an Interpol Detective are tracking a team of illusionists who appear to be pulling off bank heists during their performances. Real magic? Or elaborate criminology?.
We are in the realm of the fantastical, where illusions and impossible tricks reside. It's a nifty backdrop to this splendidly flashy slice of misdirection hokum. Our four magicians, each with their own personal skills - and calling themselves "The Four Horsemen" - enact a number of elaborate stage shows that has all members of the law baffled.
Their rich benefactor played by Caine, is smug about his charges, Freeman is the myth buster trying to unearth the secrets of the "four", while the cops are constantly pulling their hair out. What does it all mean? How will it pan out at the end?. Well it's great fun, the tricks are expertly staged, the cast give gravitas to their respective characters, if only the big reveal at the end wasn't a bit too far out there...
There's a bit of a steal and a nod to another heist caper film, while that finale can make or break your overall opinion of the piece. Yet the journey is so enjoyable and intriguing, it's kind of forgivable anyway... 8/10
The Lusty Men (1952)
There never was a bronc that couldn't be rode, there never a cowboy that couldn't be throwed. Guys like me last forever.
The Lusty Men is directed by Nicholas Ray and co-written by Horace McCoy and David Dortort from a suggested story by Claude Stanush. It stars Robert Mitchum, Susan Hayward, Arthur Kennedy, Arthur Hunnicutt, Frank Faylen and Carol Nugent. Music is by Roy Webb and cinematography by Lee Garmes.
Retired rodeo champion Jeff McCloud (Mitchum) agrees to mentor novice rodeo contestant Wes Merritt (Kennedy) against the wishes of Merritt's wife, Louise (Hayward), who fears the dangers of this rough sport. All that and affairs of the heart start to become just as rough.
Nicholas Ray picks up a love triangle core and sets it to the backdrop of the ferocious world of Rodeo. Pic is in turn touching and realistic, bringing strong human drama and splicing it with real life rodeo action - with the bull sequences quite something to behold. Ace cinematographer Garmes ("Shanghai Express/Nightmare Alley") photographs the rodeo sequences with a beauty that still manages to exude the harsh hum-drum life of the main protagonists out on the circuit.
In reality we are following three characters on the road to destiny, actually lyrically so, this is no soap opera tale infused with action sequences. In fact location filming went out on the road to film real Rodeos (with genuine Rodeo stars strutting their stuff). This is three characters in search of an exit, a meaning in life, but naturally harsh lessons are to be learned before the day of reckoning can come.
Super perfs, direction and photography, if it wasn't for the irritatingly repetitious use of the same music each time a "contestant" leapt out the stalls, then it would be a point higher. 8/10
Gemini Man (2019)
You made a person out of another person, then you sent me to kill him. You made a choice to do this to me.
Gemini Man is directed by Ang Lee and co-written by David Benioff and Darren Lemke. It stars Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen and Benedict Wong. Music is by Lorne Balfe and cinematography by Dione Beebe.
Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is an aging but elite assassin who's ready to call it quits. However, his plans are put on hold when he suddenly becomes the target of a mysterious operative who can seemingly predict his every move. The assassin who stalks him has a very familiar feel to him...
Lets not beat around the bush, Smith and Winstead deserve a better screenplay than this. The writing is weak and lazy, Lee is clearly the wrong director for such a high concept action film, while the action scenes are shoddy in effects. In fact the storyline, as trite as it is, is unfairly in a constant battle against the CGI on show.
However, film never sits still and refuses to let boredom take a hold. The lead actors are engaging enough to hold attention throughout, and even as the sugary coatings fill out the final throes, we at least can acknowledge there were earnest intentions to make an existential clone thriller here. But with Jerry Bruckheimer on production you can see there's a popcorn action film trying to break free of the literary treacle.
Hardly the worst clone sci-fier that some have called it, but it's not memorable either. Think of it more as a time filler for the curious about the subject to hand. 6/10
This is where the law stops and I start, sucker!
Cobra is directed by George P. Cosmatos and written by Paula Gosling (novel Fair game) and Sylvester Stallone. It stars Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen, Brian Thompson, Reni Santoni, Andrew Robinson, John Herzfeld and Lee Garlington. Music is by Sylvester Levay and cinematography by Ric Waite.
A tough-on-crime street cop must protect the only surviving witness to a strange murderous cult with far-reaching plans.
Cobra is a tantalising peek as to just what Stallone's "Beverley Hills Cop" would have looked like. He had turned in a gritty and ballsy action screenplay but the studio balked at the cost and thus went with the comedic Eddie Murphy route (which worked great as it happens).
This truncated 1hour and 20 minute Cobra just hints at what a dark edgy action film we should have had before the scissor suits at the studio got panicky and cut out a third of the pic.
What we have left though is still good fun, Stallone is on cocky and cool bad dude mode, the villain is OTT (Brian Thompson actually looks like Arnie in some facial shots), Nielsen is in her natural bodily state... while the action we do get is high octane. It's hardly a stinker, if a little frustrating with a "what might have been hanging" over it, and of course the editing is shoddy. 6.5/10
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
When you're back in England with the fleet again, you'll hear the hue and cry against me. From now on they'll spell mutiny with my name.
A tyrannical ships captain takes his reluctant crew on a two-year voyage that will change British maritime law forever...
Directed by Frank Lloyd and starring Charles Laughton, Clark Gable and Franchot Tone, this 1935 version of the often filmed tale of the "Mutiny on the Bounty" (book by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall) is the template by which other adaptations would come to be judged.
We are in safe hands from the off due to the casting of Laughton as the strutting evil peacock that is Captain Bligh, and Gable as Fletcher Christian, the handsome hero who decides enough of tyranny and raises a sailor army to usurp the tyrannical Bligh. The pic positively thrives on the characterisations, instead of giving over to fanciful sea faring shenanigans, it's more concerned with the principal players and the conflicts that said characters partake in.
Based upon an actual real life instance, there's a realism factor on show as the sailors of The Bounty deal with the harsh realities of sea voyage in the 1700's, this before their captain thinks nothing of flogging an already dead shipmate!. We witness the best and worst of men at sea, this be a time where loyalty and harsh discipline were in turn expected and meted out as a course of nature.
It's a tragic tale, though it's a little let down in the mid-section when the ship gets to Tahiti and it's all jolification and frivolity, which belies the harsh nature of the core beast. Yet once Laughton and Gable square up against each other, we are in the presence of greatness, mortal enemies are born and they take us to a finale that asks us the audience if it is indeed justified? 9/10
Sister Act (1992)
Mary Clarence? Like Clarence Williams III from The Mod Squad?
When a worldly singer witnesses a mob crime, the police hide her as a nun in a traditional convent where she has trouble fitting in.
Whoopi Goldberg is the sister act of the title, and boy does she have a great time with the characterisation. It's hardly pulling up any trees, and it holds few surprises, yet it's so warm and gentle with its humour it's near impossible to dislike.
The laughs obviously come from Goldberg's street wise gal trying to adapt to life in a convent. The big message that unfolds, as she gets more at ease with her surroundings, is that not only can earthy girls come to be honourable by learning new fortitudes, but also that they can positively affect those around them in a perceived stuffy environment.
The trajectory of the nunnery choir under Goldberg's tutorship - from wailing cats to cherubic angels - is the film's highlights, while Maggie Smith as the prim and proper Mother Superior is class unbound. Harvey Keitel as the gangster who is after our sister's blood is wasted, and the ending is never really in doubt, yet this is a good pick me up movie, undemanding fun for those after a quick smiley fix. 7/10
Tin Cup (1996)
Sex and golf are the two things you can enjoy even if you're not good at them.
Directed by Ron Shelton and starring Kevin Costner, Rene Russo and Don Johnson, Tin Cup is the golf rom-com sports movie that even none golf fans (me) can enjoy. Costner is a washed up ex pro golfer who upon happening upon Russo's - eager to please her golfer boyfriend (Johnson) - psychiatrist, finds a new lease of life for the sport and for potential romance. But first he has to deal with the cocky nemesis that is Johnson's star laden showy golfer.
The sports based movie is a tough nut to crack, the margins for narrative worth are thin, there's only so much one can take such a genre to. Here we have one of the staples of said genre, that of a washed up sportsman getting a second shot at glory. It really should have been a bore to rival that of the sport in reality (sorry golfers, I just don't get it), yet Shelton, backed by superb lead actors, creates a thoroughly charming, exciting and thoughtful sports rom-com.
The characterisations are white hot, people you can easily root for, or in the case of Johnson's David Simms, boo and hiss at. It is testament to the director and writers (Shelton and John Norville) that these characters manage to rise above stereotype status, and crucially they are given sharp dialogue to spout. The sport of golf isn't the crux of the matter here, it really is the characters and how they adapt to the changing of basic human emotions that drives this pic forward.
Some famous golfers of the time make appearances, rewardingly so, while the always ace Cheech Marin gets a part he can nail with aplomb. You haven't got to love golf or sports movies in general for this one, it really is just a crowd pleasing delight. 8/10
The Brave One (2007)
There is no going back, to that other person, that other place. This thing, this stranger, she is all you are now.
Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) survives a vicious subway attack that saw her intended husband killed. Unsatisfied with the police efforts to catch the killers, and submerged by grief, she decides to take matters into her own hands and clear the streets of criminal vermin...
Well there's no getting away from it, this is basically a feminist version of Death Wish. Director Neil Jordan pitches the always great Foster right into the moral quagmire of vigilante justice. This is a smart and provocative vigilante thriller at the core, yet the preposterous machinations on show render it somewhat annoying - none more so than with the finale which is just ridiculous.
Erica takes up a gun, it becomes her comfort blanket, and as she battles with self loathing of what she is doing, she amazingly starts ridding the streets of scumbags. We are also asked to swallow that she becomes very tight to the lead detective investigating the vigilante crimes, played by Terence Howard (superb).
Unfortunately, Jordan seems to run out of guts to follow through in creating something worth saying. Instead pitching Erica in increasingly daft situations, with dialogue to match, for a film with a lady lead kicking butt, the whole thing actually lacks balls. The lead actors ensure it's no stinker, and who doesn't feel a punch the air moment in them as scumbag criminals gets what's due? But really it's an above average vigilante film at best. 6/10
Crawl is not small!
The latest in what is proving to be a long line of Croc/Gator horror films, this one holds its head above water (hrr hrr hrr). The premise and setting puts a new slant on things, which is nice to see. It's a two hander, where as a father and daughter pairing, Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario make up the bulk of the narrative - they are also under or in water for 98% of the film! The effects work is nifty, the blood letting attention grabbing and thrills are never ever far away. 7/10
Enchanted - indeed!
Disney blends live action and animation for a tale that subverts all their own big fairytale hits of old for heart warming results. Basically it's a fish out of water tale as a princess (the heart achingly yummy Amy Adams) is thrust into modern day New York and proceeds to change the life of everyone she comes into contact with. While of course nefarious baddies have followed her from "animation fairytale land" to attempt assassination for crown grabbing purpose. The ending is a joy, as is the big theatrical musical number in Central Park. 8/10
life's what you make it!
Looking forward to my next viewing of this. Martin Lawrence once again proves that given a co-star to work off he can deliver, and here he does as he gets Eddie Murphy on prime form to work with. It's a very funny and bittersweet picture, a tale of friendship under duress. A great supporting cast fills out the other convict characters. 8/10
Bad Boys (1995)
What you gonna do when they come for you?
Just great high octane action entertainment. You could argue it's a shallow exercise, but with outstanding action set pieces and a couple of leads hitting chemistry gold, it's an action junkies dream. 8/10
Lucky Jo (1964)
Lucky Jo - He's Not Slow
Lucky Jo is directed by Michel Deville and adapted to screenplay by Nina Companeez and Michel Deville from the novel "Main pleine" written by Pierre-Vial Lesou. It stars Eddie Constantine, Pierre Brasseur, Georges Wilson, Christiane Minazzoli, Jean-Pierre Darras, Françoise Arnoul and André Cellier. Music is by Georges Delerue and cinematography by Claude Lecomte.
Lucky Jo (Constantine) and his three friends are petty criminals who try to get by from small burglaries. But they never seem to have any luck, with the source of misfortune usually accountable to Jo. While Jo is in prison once again, they decide they'd better do without him in future, but he decides to help them from afar - with less than successful results - again!
As most serious film noir lovers will tell you, the French continued making film noir movies throughout the 1960s - with outstanding rewards. What is evident here with Lucky Jo, is that a French production also managed to achieve that rare old skill of making a crime/noir/comedy that works.
To emphasise the comedy aspects is kind of under selling the pic, for it has great drama, action, tragedy and fulsome characterisations. You may find upon viewing this one that you be laughing uneasily for darkness is never too far away. The initial capers at pic's start have a splendid hapless whiff to them, but once the trajectory of Jo's bad luck starts to take shape, the narrative ups the ante for dramatic purpose with that devilish noir trait of coincidence biting hard.
Sure enough, our main protagonist ends up in all sorts of trouble, hunted for ghastly crimes purely because noir has dealt its crafty hand. Cue great punch ups, cool moments as Jo (Constantine is great) goes about trying to prove his innocence, even gathering a smart and loyal canine partner (hello "High Sierra") in the process. Hell, he even has time to rescue a bar dwelling dame (Anouk Ferjac) from drunken male suitors.
There's a clinical turn of events that belies the comedic strands that drift in and out, and it's here where the Jo character comes alive. All of which leads to a finale that doesn't disappoint. Hugely enjoyable pic for like minded genre/style fans, that is on proviso it is ultimately an odd blend of genres that will not appeal to the casual film fan. 7/10
Dial M for Murder (1954)
No, I'm afraid my murders would be something like my bridge: I'd make some stupid mistake and never realize it until I found everybody was looking at me.
Middle tier Hitchcock it may be, by his own admission, but it's still one of the finest mystery thrillers around. Ray Milland plays Tony Wendice, a former tennis player married to Grace Kelly's Margot, who is the source of his wealth. Fearing his lifestyle is about to come to an end due to her dalliances with American mystery writer, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummins), Tony hatches a plan to have her murdered by an old acquaintance whom he has over a barrel with blackmail. However, the plan backfires and a whole new strategy is needed to save Tony from suspicion.
Based on the popular and successful play by Frederick Knott (who adapts for the screenplay here), Dial M For Murder was a film Hitchcock had little time for. In fact, having already started work on Rear Window, Hitch treated Dial M For Murder as a jobbing assignment. His mood was further darkened by Jack Warner's insistence that the film be shot in 3D, with all the camera restraints that such a production brings. Perhaps unsurprisingly though, the restraints and general mood of the director brought about very pleasing results. Choosing to go for a claustrophobic single set shoot, Hitchcock resisted the urge to launch things around for 3D effects, instead he used the process to highlight props and angles of the Wendice home. His use of colours here first rate, particularly around his new found favourite actress, Grace Kelly.
Having never seen the 3D version (who has I wonder?) I can't say what impact, if any, the gimmick had. But regardless of Hitch's grumblings and general disdain towards the film, he rose to the challenge by challenging himself and actually produced a fine and technically sound picture. Ray Milland is icy cold yet debonair, while John Williams as Chief Inspector Hubbard strides in and walks off with the film. Kelly is adequate enough, it's her least effective turn for Hitch, so early in her career, she was a bit free with her physical love on the set (source "A Life in Darkness and Light"), but this highly appealed to (and amused) Hitch and he of course would use her for better rewards post this production. Sadly Cummings is awfully bland and threatens to lose the film momentum when things start to spice up in the last quarter.
Hugely entertaining picture though, one that is ripe with characterisations and of much interest to Hitchcock purists in how he works around the 3D format for his own filmic senses, Dial M For Murder holds up well today as a disquieting mystery thriller. 8/10
The Hard Way (1991)
Will you open up? I just want to know what it feels like to be inside your skin.
The Hard Way is directed by John Badham and collectively written by Lem Dobbs, Michael Kozoll and Daniel Pyne. It stars James Woods, Michael J. Fox, Stephen Lang, Annabella Sciorra, Luis Guzman, LL Cool J and Delroy Lindo. Music is by Arthur B. Rubinstein and cinematography is by Don McAlpine and Robert Primes.
An action movie star researching a role is allowed to tag along with a hardboiled New York City policeman, who is less than enamoured with his company as he looks to stop the serial killer known as "The Party Crasher".
Given John Badham's CV, The Hard Way looked to be right up his street, his career containing solid if unspectacular buddy buddy action comedy pictures. This is just above average thanks to the Woods and Fox pairing and some nifty dialogue one liners. The concept of a Hollywood star tagging along with a grizzled real copper is smart, but the pic ends up over stuffed, even if the action and comedy - courtesy of some high energy set-pieces - rewards enough to stop tedium setting in.
Lang's maniacal villain is over the top, though he seems to be enjoying himself, while such is the brisk pace for the most part, when it sags into its quieter periods it strains the patience - the blend uneasy. Yet the finale rewards on basic action terms, with suspense intact, to ultimately give us a just above average pic of its type. 6/10
Personal Shopper (2016)
Well, how's within that, that the soul, continues to exist, after death?
Personal Shopper is written and directed by Olivier Assayas. It stars Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaziz, Anders Danielsen Lie, Ty Olwin and Hammou Graïa. Cinematography is by Yorick Le Saux.
A personal shopper in Paris refuses to leave the city until she makes contact with her twin brother who previously died there. Her life becomes more complicated when a mysterious person starts to contact her via text messages.
Personal Shopper is a film that's impossible to recommend with any confidence, even if I personally liked it well enough. It was booed on first showing at Cannes, yet upon the second main screen viewing of it, it got a five minute standing ovation. If you look at the reviews on sites such as IMDb you will see plenty of 1/10 reviews mixed with high scoring ones, evidence of the divisive nature of Assayas' picture. A lot of people went into it expecting a "Paranormal Activity" type of film, but it's far from that.
It's a meditation on grief and the complexities of the mind and the human condition under duress. Stewart gives her all for the director, a real bravura performance. Yes, the ending is either going to make or break your faith in what you have just witnessed, but if you buy into, and think about the narrative's trajectory, this has haunting and ethereal rewards. 7/10
Oh my god, you've made the tower of Twinkie! Is that in a stalker's handbook somewhere?
As the all mighty great and powerful Hollywood continued to mine "Hitchcock's" works for inspiration, they landed upon the idea of re-imaging "Rear Window" for a modern audience. Directed by D.J. Caruso, Disturbia actually turns out to be a solid suspense thriller. The first half of the pic is all jocular with hormonal character introductions that come with giggly slices of humour, and then there's the big shift to the thriller that most viewers were expecting, as the makers manage to pull it off with a great final act that is edge of the seat viewing.
There's nothing new on offer here, the formula has been (and will for ever more be) done a zillion times, but the two fold splicing of genres works well and the makers aren't trying to fool anyone with their approach work. Cast are fine, Shia LaBeouf's follows on from his enjoyable turn in "Transformers" with this pleasing on the eye show, he shows signs of some good acting chops around some rougher edges. Sarah Roemer is solid enough, and nails down that teen love interest characterisation, whilst Carrie-Anne Moss puts a bit of meat onto the adult bones of the Mother character.
Unfortunately, in what is one of the key roles, David Morse is underused, he does OK with what he has to work with, and convinces in a two layer role, but one feels his talent doesn't quite come to the fore here. Still, it's a minor complaint, for this is a solid genre entry with both halves of the film never less than entertaining - even if you might find yourself yearning for some "Hitchcock" genius afterwards. 7/10
Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)
We're all hurt someplace and we're all looking for a painkiller.
Looking for Mr. Goodbar is directed by Richard Brooks and Brooks adapts the screenplay from the Judith Rossner novel of the same name. It stars Diane Keaton, Tuesday Weld, William Atherton, Richard Kiley, Richard Gere, Alan Feinstein and Tom Berenger. Music is by Artie Kane and cinematography by William A. Fraker.
Theresa Dunn (Keaton) is a dedicated schoolteacher to deaf children by day, but at night she cruises bars looking for abusive men with whom she can engage in progressively violent sexual encounters.
First off it should be noted that the Judith Rosner novel is based on the real life case of the 1973 murder of New York City schoolteacher Roseann Quinn. Also of note is that Rossner was not enamoured with this filmic adaptation.
What we have here is a tragic tale set in the promiscuous pre AIDS era of 1970s America. It's a bleak observation of the swinging singles scene of the era, providing caution of patriarch pressures, religious suffocation and the dangers of casual encounters for sexual gratification. Is it any wonder the big hitting critics of the time were nonplussed by it?...
The pic generated a lot of buzz for handsome new actor, Richard Gere, even if he does overact, it actually works in context to the brashness of the period. It also introduced Tom Berenger, in what is a frightening portrayal of a very sexually confused man. Tuesday Weld got a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for playing Theresa's sister, which was richly deserved, so much so one wishes she was in the film more.
Yet it's Keaton who absolutely shines here, lifting an overlong picture to greater heights. Proving she had more in her armoury than merely playing kooks, Keaton imbues Theresa with a desperation and loneliness that is shattering for viewing purpose. The whole narrative bites with a crushing inevitability, that the nihilistic back drop can only bring pain and misery, and so it proves.
Richard Brooks should have sliced at lest thirty minutes from the run time, especially given that the "Theresa fantasy sequences" just come off as pointless and take one out of the heartbeat of the story. Yet this is still a fine movie, not one to be cheered up by of course, but poignant, relative and with the real life story at the core, important. 7/10
G.I. Jane (1997)
Listen, you moron! I am here to stay and if you don't wanna be in my life, you've got two choices. Move out or Ring out! That's it! End of File!
G.I. Jane is directed by Ridley Scott and written by David Twohy and Danielle Alexandra. It stars Demi Moore, Vigo Mortensen, Anne Bancroft, Jason Beghe, John Michael Higgins and Kevin Gage. Music is by Trevor Jones and cinematography by Hugh Johnson.
A female Senator succeeds in enrolling a woman into Combined Reconnaissance Team training (Navy Seals) where everyone expects her to fail.
Having made a telling feminist mark with his excellent Thelma and Louise in 1991, Ridley Scott picks up the lady baton once again only to drop it half way through. This is a film of confused messages, what starts out as a worthwhile story involving a woman trying to overcome extreme prejudices in one of America's elite fighting forces, ends up as a gung-ho hoorah movie with Jane having "manned" up.
Things aren't helped by the sheer ridiculousness of the treatment meted out to Jane by her superior in training, Master Chief John James Urgayle (Mortensen suitably vile), so much so you would like to think if that sort of stuff goes on then arrests should be made. Daftness also comes by way of the superior officers prancing around training camp in the world's tightest shorts, one would think they must be on their way to "The Blue Oyster Bar"...
Things are further compounded by the fact that as committed as Moore is in the title role, and she is and gives it her all, one can't buy into the characterisation because you simply are watching Demi Moore the actress. Shaved head and beefed up she may be, but this is still one of the highest paid actresses of her era, the characterisation thin on the ground with no depth. The political machinations at work barely get time to breath in fact the key mid-point tonal political shift is given short shrift.
Stylisation as one would expect from Scott, is super, as is his control of top draw action sequences. But the cock-eyed view of a woman in a man's world is hard to swallow, and although it mostly entertains, it's ultimately a shallow exercise. 5/10
Breakdown is directed by Jonathan Mostow and Mostow co-writes the screenplay with Sam Montgomery. It stars Kurt Russell, J.T. Walsh, M.C. Gainey, Kathleen Quinlan, Rex Linn, Jack Noseworthy and Ritch Brinkley. Music is by Basil Poledouris and cinematography by Douglas Milsome.
When his SUV breaks down on a remote Southwestern road, Jeff Taylor (Russell) lets his wife, Amy (Quinlan), hitch a ride with a trucker to get help. When she doesn't return, Jeff fixes his SUV and tracks down the trucker -- who tells the police he's never seen Amy...
Sometimes all you need is an unflashy thriller that soars because it keeps it simple. Mostow's thriller is a nail biter, preposterous at times for sure, but with Jeff (Russell superb) frantically trying to find what has happened to his wife - out in the desert landscape of America - we get a guy we can totally root for. As the cards get dealt we come to be aware of scumbag predators in his midst, the suspense gets ramped up and we are never quite sure how it's all going to pan out.
This has no ideas above its station, and as the heat gets turned up bit by bit, come the thrilling finale you may find it's time to breath easy again... 8/10