Friday, 16 August 2019

More On Movies XIX


Heat (1986)
Not the 90s nonsense from Michael Mann. This is the 80s film Heat that had something like six different directors. I was expecting a pretty messy generic crime movie with a past his prime Burt Reynolds but to my total surprise this was an excellent film. William Goldman wrote the screenplay but there was a hell of a lot of drama off camera so the fact that this film is any good at all let alone a flawed classic is a miracle. I think Heat might have been a massive flop at the box office only gaining a following once it hit the video shop shelves. Nick Escalante (Burt Reynolds) is an ex-military bodyguard for high rollers who visit Las Vegas. Nick is hired by Cyrus Kinnick (Peter MacNicol) so the duo hit the casinos. Nick's sex worker friend Holly (Karen Young) is abused by a sadistic gangster so now Nick has vengeance on his mind too. The emotion of this film is insidious while you're thinking "mmm I dunno about this..." all of a sudden you're hooked and all previous negative notions are gone. Then the gambling scene begins where you think Nick is just mucking around with his card dealing friend Cassie (Diana Scarwid) but then it turn's out to be an amazing central set-piece and by the scene's conclusion it'll hit you right in the stomach. Shenanigans ensue but will Nick be able to get out of Vegas before it destroys him?

Mona Lisa (1986)
Haven't seen this since the 80s. Fuck the British don't half know how to do grim do they? Bob Hoskins is brilliant here as the thug with a heart of gold as is Cathy Tyson, the hooker with a heart of gold. Michael Cane is particularly vile as miscreant Mortwell. Mona Lisa paints a very grisly portrait of the underworld of sex work. There are some amazing scenes at Brighton Beach. I remember this was quite a cult film in the 80s and was still screening at some places well into the 90s but that seems to have faded away but there's no reason why it should have. Bleak, brilliant and gripping crime drama. Highly recommended.

Alison's Birthday (1981)
Aussie satanic horror that turned out to be not too bad. Sort of Rosemary's Baby meets Freaky Friday in a Sydney backyard with a replica stonehenge. Loved the soundtrack, very hauntological.

Massacre Mafia Style aka The Executioner aka Like Father Like Son (1974)
When this got issued on blu-ray four years ago it was a total revelation. Apparently it was a big VHS success but I don't recall seeing it on the shelves at all. Maybe it was one of the alternate titles in Australia. It's been called the B-grade Godfather but I reckon it's better than that. If you love your mafia movies and tv, it's going to be hard not to be seduced by this lost slice of 70s celluloid. "You're in...or you're in the way." There are so many iconic scenes, classic snatches of dialogue, just plain barmy earnestness and loaves of bread here. If you've never seen it, Massacre Mafia Style may just become your new favourite film.

The Naked Spur (1953)
Pretty good Western directed by Anthony Mann. Howard Kemp (Jimmy Stewart) is a bit of an unhinged sheriff a long way outside of his territory looking for cop killer Ben Vandergoat (Robert Ryan). He runs into drifting gold prospector Jesse Tate (Millard Mitchell) and ex-Union soldier Roy Anderson (Ralph Meeker) so he teams up with them to track down Vandergoat and his lover Lena Patch (Janet Leigh). But this is no easy task. Who can and can't be trusted? All will be revealed in due course. The much darker and intense post-war Stewart continues to reveal himself here.

Family Plot (1976)
This has been one of my favourite a Hitchcock movies ever since I saw it late one night as a teenager, probably presented by John Hinde on the ABC. Family Plot is a goofy crime comedy that is a whole lotta entertaining fun. The four main actors are brilliant. Fran (Karen Black) and Arthur (William Devane) are a smooth criminal couple who are involved in some serious kidnapping and robbery. Blanche (Barbara Harris) is a phoney psychic while her boyfriend George (Bruce Dern) drives a cab. The two couples intersect after Blanche is given the task of tracking down an heir for her client Julia (Kathleen Nesbitt) for the princely sum of ten thousand dollars. There is much mystery to solved, scams, stunts and deceit in tracking down Edward Shoebridge the heir to a massive fortune. This story unfolds perfectly and rarely misses a beat. Family Plot is the most delightful of Alfred Hitchcock movies.

Piranha (1978)
Scary classic about man eating mutant military fish that are accidentally released into the river system causing havoc and carnage amongst summer campers and swimmers at the local lake resort. Also a weird lizard/dinosaur thing in the secret government laboratory is seen only by you the viewer and is never explained, which is an exquisite touch. Who knows? I might eventually become a Joe Dante fan. I mean he's such a likeable and knowledgable guy. I love his podcast Movies That Made Me and his website Trailers From Hell, its just his films I don't much dig, but hey here's one I enjoyed immensely. Maybe I'll give Innerspace, The Burbs or Matinee another go as it's been over 25 years since I set my eyeballs on those. Maybe not though as I also recently watched Homecoming (2005) which is one of the episodes of the Masters Of Horror telly show that he directed. It was so unsubtle in its political message it was totally tedious.

Malone (1987)
Burt Reynolds steps into Charles Bronson revenge territory here and it totally suits him. Wicked story of an ex-CIA dude who has changed his name to Malone to try and disappear from his past and change his old ways but he inadvertently uncovers a sinister conspiracy in a picturesque small town. It's unlikely Malone will be able to leave this alone without consequences for these heinous culprits. Meanwhile the CIA are closing in on Malone with nefarious plans of their own. Revenge and vigilante movies are just Westerns with cars replacing horses aren't they? The pacing here is just spot on. We get some sensational action sequences including explosions in bucolic landscapes. Oh I nearly forgot this piece of eye candy: A ye olde gas station is filmed in an incredibly scenic part of the Pacific North-West countryside. Nice.

Ronin (1998)
Great crime action movie. Bob De Niro is in full smart-arse tough criminal mode here and it's all worth it just for that. John Frankenheimer was almost 70 when he directed Ronin, one of his best pictures, disproving my theory that all directors should be shot once they reach the age of 50. This is one of his 5 best pictures in my eyes. Ronin is pretty much action packed excitement all the way as a strange array of gangsters try to steal a much valued mysterious case from another team of gangsters. The car chases through the highly populated and tiny French streets are some of the most breathtaking in film history. Alright maybe it's half a star from a masterpiece but then maybe Psycho and The Godfather are also half a star away as well. What I mean is there is a snippet of dodgy acting from James Caan at one point in The Godfather and in Psycho there really was no need for the epilogue sequence explaining the psychological condition of Norman Bates. So in Ronin they could have gotten rid of all the pretentious Samurai bullshit including the opening written explanation of what a Ronin is, the bullet removal scene and the entire character of Jean Pierre (Michel Lonsdale) who's the nerdy samurai miniature model maker and "oh so philosophical" sage. Sometimes I wonder If there are really any perfect films, there's always something a little off somewhere. Anyway does this classic flick turn up in stupid canonical lists? If it doesn't ask yourself what is the relevance of this list and why am I reading it?

Deadly Hero (1975)
Why this film isn't as famous as Taxi Driver astonishes me...well maybe not that much as it's got a somewhat misleading and terrible title. The marketing is bad and I mean shite ie. The poster is just plain awful and there are no iconic photographs of the film to be found anywhere. Deadly Hero is so similar to Taxi Driver though it's almost like Paul Schrader cribbed all these themes and ideas and put them in his script. Both films were made around the same time though so I guess I'll put it down to coincidence, something in the air perhaps. I mean fuck there is even a scene of the New York anti-hero talking to himself in the mirror! Sally (Diahn Williams) a conductor/music teacher/cellist  is menaced by Rabbit (James Earl Jones) a bizzare burley black man. Rabbit is subsequently killed by Lacy (Don Murray) a zealous cop who becomes more and more unhinged throughout the film. Deadly Hero's a fantastic story paired with a wonderful ensemble cast. The filmmakers capture mid 70s New York splendidly on celluloid. This is probably the best 70s American film you don't know unless you do know it that is.

Remember My Name (1978)
You will not forget this movie in a hurry. This was the last great performance I discovered in my Anthony Perkins investigation of a few years back because after this I watched Psycho 2 & 3 and despite what some film buffs think those are pretty shite films. So I discovered four outright post-Psycho classics starring Perkins: Five Miles To Midnight, Pretty Poison, Play It As Lays and this unheralded 70s classic. Perhaps I'll continue looking into his oeuvre again soon. Anyway check out this poster, you would think it's a Robert Altman film wouldn't you? I mean they call it one but he's only a producer. Talk about living in someone else's shadow. Alan Rudolph who was Altman's former assistant directed this forgotten 70s crime gem. Rudolph never really shook off the Altman connection as he was also very stylistically indebted to him. A psychotic woman Emily (Geraldine Chaplin) is stalking a married couple Neil (Anthony Perkins) and Barbara Curry (Berry Berenson) and just generally menacing anyone who crosses her path. Everything is revealed in due course, unexpected scenarios occur and this flick never really misses a beat. It's best to watch this film with no more plot information than that. The cast are all brilliant. Geraldine Chaplin is genuinely terrifying as the mental Emily and Jeff Goldblum is terrific as her boss. More crazy women films please. Remember My Name is probably the other best 70s film you don't know unless of course you do know.

Deep Cover (1992)
In the 90s it felt like there was an excellent new movie every week and at least one masterpiece every month. While I haven't been able to sit through Reservoir Dogs or Clerks recently because I've thought they were so shite and totally dated in a bad way there are other 90s films that have aged like a 71 Grange Hermitage. Deep Cover sits in this elevated position. It's one of the 5 best crime films of the 90s in my book. It's very 1992 but in the best way possible. Policeman Russell Stevens (Larry Fishburne) is asked to go deep undercover, to expose an international drug ring, by DEA agent Gerald Carver (Charles Martin Smith). Whilst living amongst the drug underworld judgment gets a bit blurry for Stevens and he becomes somewhat morally ambiguous. Has he gone rogue? This should have won an oscar for best script as the dialogue here is just perfection. It was co-written by Michael Tolken the man responsible for the book and screenplay of The Player (1992). We get great performances from a wonderful ensemble cast with a special mention going to Jeff Goldblum who is Russell's degenerate drug dealing partner and lawyer David Jason but everybody is outstanding here. Deep Cover was directed by Bill Duke who was last seen acting in Mandy (2018) as the character Caruthers, the huge black dude in the caravan who sells Nic Cage weapons. Highly recommended.

Harley Davidson & The Marlboro Man (1991)
Damn! I was on such a roll with the quality of the previous 13 films in this post until I decided to watch this. It's not all bad though. There is some pretty amazing OTT 80s action here and the plot's not half bad. I know it says 1991 but it's still an 80s movie. There is some kind of self awareness in the script of how moronic this movie and its characters are but does that get the filmmakers off the hook? Buddies Marlboro Man (Don Johnson) and Harley Davidson (Mickey Rourke) need a whole lotta cash to save their favourite bar (a ghastly looking place) from closing down. They plan an armoured car heist but guess what? It all goes wrong. This flick is a curiosity for an early performance from Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad's Gus Fring), some of the worst fashion in the history of film and quite possibly the worst music ever used on a soundtrack.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)
It's no secret I've been off Quentin Tarantino since his masterpiece Jackie Brown so I was totally expecting this flick to be no great shakes. I thought I was going to be fairly ambivalent about it but this is one of the best best costume dramas ever made. I love the period detail which is pretty fucking impeccable. If Paul Thomas Anderson can do it with There Will Be Blood (2007) & Boogie Nights (1997) and Martin Scorsese with The Age Of Innocence (1993) & Casino (1995) why can't Tarantino do it? I mean wasn't every single Western a period piece/costume drama? Brad Pitt is fantastic and getting old is suiting him darn well. He steals the show for sure which is pretty fucking incredible as he's up against a Leo DiCaprio performance for the ages. DiCaprio has to do that double acting thing where his character is an actor so he has to do that character doing acting, know what I mean? Tricky thespian shit! Margaret Qualley is terrific as Pussycat as is Lena Dunham in her short appearance as Gypsy and Dakota Fanning is frightening as Squeaky. Don't go in expecting a Manson family biopic. This is sort of an art film that's basically a day or three in the life of actor Rick Dalton (Leo DiCaprio) and his stunt double/gofer Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) in 1969 Los Angeles. Look out for spectacular homage to Don't Go In The House (1979). Also this is a dog hero movie. Once Upon A Time... is on several occasions unexpectedly touching and emotional. I can't say much more than that without spoiling it and it's probably best to know as little as possible before going into the cinema. Foot fetishists needn't worry as many feet feature prominently throughout. I'm reserving judgement until I've seen it again but I think that perhaps it's the best thing Tarantino's done since Jackie Brown. Quite possibly his best movie. ???

Bob And Carol And Ted And Alice (1969)
Well I guess a lot of people watched this recently as part of the Quentin Tarantino presents The Swinging Sixties series which is now about halfway through. This series includes nine movies from the Columbia Pictures vaults presented by QT & American film critic Kim Morgan on the SBS World Movies channel. This movie is the kind of thing I loved when I was a teen and in my early 20s because it was "Oh so interesting, adult and kitsch." Now it just makes me feel a whole lot of awkward and quite depressed. Some of this stuff is too close to adult bones and a lot of it is just embarrassing. You have to watch it at least once though for historical purposes and because it's quite good. Bob and Carol go to some kind of new age openness and honesty therapy retreat for a weekend and come back to LA with their lives changed. They try to convince their uptight best friends Ted and Alice how good it was, which ultimately leads to the suggestion of the foursome having an orgy. Worth watching for Elliot Gould's stoned dancing which is quite possibly the most unfunky dancing ever put on celluloid. It's quite funny at the start and you think Gould is just going to be a brilliantly hilarious smart arse for the rest of the flick but then it all goes serious adult drama. The cast are all fabulous though, Natalie Wood wears a bikini, Dyan Cannon is fantastic as the rigid Alice Henderson trying hard to shake off her hang ups to keep up with the times, the script is excellent, Elliot Gould shows off his hairy back, Robert Culp plays the disingenuous but handsome Bob Sanders and upwardly mobile 1969 is captured impeccably on film.

Sorority House Massacre (1986)
As far as Halloween (1978) rip offs go you're either in or you're out but this is a pretty good one and it'll keep you entertained for a swift 74 minutes. I thought I'd seen this before but I hadn't. There are a hell of a lot of slashers out there with very similar titles. I would say this is better than House On Sorority Row which is what I must have been confusing it with. It starts off a bit slow but by a third of the way through it really picks up steam. The 1986 era is a problem hair and fashion wise. The slashers from 78-82 had great hair and clothes but this a nadir as far as all that is concerned. Also all the girls boyfriends are such gormless dorks. Actually most of the chicks are not cool either. However there is boobage plus a naked dude. This is as generic as it comes. The most outstanding element of Sorority House Massacre is that it contains one of the great post-Halloween soundtracks. I've never even heard of composer Michael Wetherwax but I can't believe one of these horror soundtrack reissue labels has not rediscovered this hidden treasure.

Friday The 13th: Part IV - The Final Chapter (1984?)
I used to think this was alright along with the first three but tonight it just annoyed the hell out of me but hey, I'm trying to give up smoking so perhaps I hate everything right now or is it just my appetite for infantile gory fun? However you can't go past a bit of Crispin Glover dancing which is a sight to behold. Then again you can probably just find that clip on youtube.

Cactus Flower (1969)
Never seen this film which was based on an American play which was based on a French play. It was part of the QT presents The Swinging 60s series so I thought why not? Cactus Flower is a complicated sex farce. I haven't enjoyed a romantic comedy since I last watched Annie Hall and Manhattan five or six years ago. I can't watch anything from the genre made in the last 20+ years because those films are all full of unlikeable and unfunny characters. So Cactus Flower was an absolute delight. As Kim Morgan points out Ingrid Bergman steals the show as dental nurse Stephanie. She achieves this with great comic timing, poignancy and dancing. Goldie Hawn and Walter Matthau are comic gold too as lovers Toni and Julian. Jack Weston as Harvey Greenfield is brilliant and got totally overlooked in awards nominations of the day. It's topped off nicely with the very classy soundz of maestro Quincy Jones. Has to be seen.

Dream Lover (1994)
I don't even think I remember the video cover for this and I can't believe I didn't watch it on the first day it was released. I mean it's stars Shelley Fucking Johnson (M├Ądchen Amick) from Twin Peaks. I could watch her doing nothing for two or maybe seven hours. Plus peak creepy James Spader! Anyway I found it on Stan and to my absolute surprise it was a top notch erotic thriller, like one of the best films of the 90s. This outdoes all the other Hitchcock acolytes at their own game. I recommend.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Movies - August

Burnt offerings (1976)
A very underrated haunted house movie. I reckon it's top five in the sub-genre. An extended family of four which includes Ben (Oliver Reed) & Marian (Karen Black) who are husband & wife move into a mansion for a summer with their 12 year old son and their elderly Aunt Elizabeth (Bette Davis). The only catch is they have to share the massive dwelling with the reclusive old lady who owns the place. She'll be holed up in her room and wont be around so long as they leave her 3 meals a day outside her door. I hear you saying 'Who the fuck would do that?' This is a 70s slow burner but immensely enjoyable with a great climax.

When A Stranger Calls back (1993)
A classic telly movie from the 90s that's a precursor to Scream sans the fun. This 1993 "Have you checked the children" sequel is a really fascinating Showtime telly movie that deserves your attention. Julia (Jill Sholean) is menaced by a stalker whilst on a baby sitting job and just manages to survive. Five years later Julia is in college where she believes the same stalker is on her trail. Carol Kane and Charles Durning return as Jill and John, their original characters from the original When A Stranger Calls (1979)When A Stranger Calls Back is pretty harrowing and disturbing stuff. You can't help but think if it had been released theatrically that it would have been a pop culture phenomena. 

Coogan's Bluff (1968)
A small town sheriff from Arizona Coogan (Clint Eastwood) hits the big apple to extradite a prisoner and finds himself in all kinds of strife. First of all the prisoner is in a psych hospital after tripping badly on LSD, then Coogan is knocked out, has his gun stolen, there's prostitutes, spaghetti, a great scene in a funky psychedelic discotheque, a good motorbike chase scene etc. Probably not Donny Siegel's best movie but it's a pretty entraining lil action thriller. I think the problem lies with Coogan. I don't mind morally ambiguous protagonists, its just that I have to like them a little bit. I mean, quite often I like the villains especially if they're particularly vile degenerates. Coogan is some kind of cad who thinks he's a lady's man but his overconfidence is just off putting. Maybe I just don't dig Clint Eastwood. I mean apart from his good looks, what else does he have to offer? I don't find him charismatic or charming and his acting is a bit one note innit? I can't like every actor. Actually I'm surprised I don't hate more of them. I like ye olde popular legends like Humphrey Bogart, Carey Grant, Robert Mitchum, Jimmy Stewart, Burt Lancaster, Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Walter Matthau, Dustin Hoffman, Elliot Gould, Gene Hackman et al. but I just don't dig Eastwood that much. Kinda like I don't dig more recent actors like George Clooney and Vince Vaughn. Give me Burt Reynolds any day.

Tower Of Evil aka Horror On Snape Island aka Beyond The Fog (1972) 
Wow, I stumbled across this on youtube. Why has nobody ever alerted me to this absurd movie? More 70s British horror, perhaps not of the the usual gold standard though. This one is a bit more on the campy side of the genre. A bunch of scientists visit the remote and supposedly uninhabited Snape Island to investigate a series of recent deaths. Once they reach the Island things start to get eerie and go awry. The tone here is weird going from sharp dialogue laced with much sexual innuendo to spooky scares and very unconvincing kills. For 70s British horror completists and proto-slasher enthusiasts. Quite the curio.

The Mad Bomber aka The Police Connection (1973)
Quentin Tarantino alerted me to this classic demented 70s exploitation flick on a recent episode of the Pure Cinema Podcast. The Mad Bomber is really enjoyable with a great soundtrack and a mental plot. This is sleazy to the max. The police have to track down a rapist in order to find a mass murdering bomber. We know who the bomber is right from the beginning and he's got that funny/grumpy thing going on which is very entertaining and makes him likeable. Look out for sensational photo-fit sequence where they nail the bomber's id right down to his spitting image. I recommend.

The Meg (2018)
I was excited to sit down and watch a good ole (new) shark movie. We got 20 minutes in and fuck me this was the worst lowest common denominator hollywood shite with some of the worst dialogue and acting witnessed since Twister (1996). Maybe kids will dig it.

Phantom Thread (2017)
I finally got around to watching the final acting performance of Daniel Day Lewis. I was glued to the screen for two hours. Lewis plays a very strange man Reynolds Woodcock who makes dresses for the well to do. He finds a muse in Alma (Vicky Krieps). A peculiar relationship triangle develops from there between Reynolds, his meddling sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) and Alma. I would say they are all pretty mental and the situation just gets more and more abnormal. I'm not sure why it was so compelling and I'm not sure about the ending. I do know it was a beautifully put together movie with a fabulous script and visually stunning cinematography. Watching Daniel Day Lewis for 2 hours is a joy no matter what he does. Phantom Thread would would be nowhere without the brilliance of Lesley Manville though, who I believe is the dramatic heart of this film. The the ending though...

CC & Company (1970)
Not a bad lil biker movie. This film is worth watching for the opening scene alone where CC Ryder (Joe Namath) makes a sandwich inside the supermarket, eats it, helps himself to a drink, then puts all his groceries from his trolley back on the shelves and leaves the shop spending just 10 cents on some gum. This reminded me of being young and just eating whatever in the supermarket whilst doing the shopping. Anne McCalley (Anne Margaret) gets hassled by two rapey bikers but their fellow gang member CC comes to her aid. Mucho soundtrack goodness, motor cross races, kidnapping, punch ups, fashion shoots, crazy dancing, Wayne Cochrane getting funky's got the lot. The climactic scene is pretty fucking insane and well worth the wait.

The Walking Hills (1949)
A good border town Western directed by John Sturges. A complicated motley crew of criminals, cowboys, coppers, ex-lovers, drifters and even a bar tender head into the sand dunes of Death Valley in search of Five million dollars worth of mythological gold. The best part of this film is the inclusion of the incredible Josh White who contributes a number of songs in his wonderful distinctive style of country blues. I've seen a few Westerns from the 40s and 50s and he is a rare example of an African American starring in the genre. If only more westerns had blues singers and soundtracks, the film landscape could have had a whole other reality.

Gunman's Walk (1958)
Classic Western directed by Phil Karlson starring Tab Hunter, Kathryn Crosby and Van Heflin. Fifteen minutes in I was thinking 'I'm not really into westerns about rustling cattle and horses' but lucky for me Gunman's Walk soon took a dark path. There are some sensational and dangerous stunts done here on horses that are as good as any 70s car chase. Holy shit this is another fine discovery and contender for best Western. They sure knew how to make make a good movie back in the day. You know what else? They knew how to end a film too. 90 mins of Americana pop culture perfection.

Blood On The Moon (1948)
Noir Western of the highest order. A Feud causes much double crossing, bad romance, shoot outs, a violent cattle stampede and a siege. Young Bob Mitchum stars.

High Noon (1952)
Sheriff Will Kane (Gary Cooper) & Amy Fowler (Princess Grace) get married and are set to leave town and start afresh in another town but Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) a con Kane sent to prison is set to arrive in town on the midday train to exact vengeance. What will Kane do? Is this a little overrated? I mean it's good, I like it and the cinematography is cool but number 1 or 2 in best Westerns of all time...I don't think so.

Sweet Kill aka A Kiss From Eddie aka The Arousers (1972)
Totally unusual exploitation movie that I can't believe isn't a massive cult it is, I don't have the stats on what is or what isn't a cult film.  Eddie Collins (Tab Hunter) is in a downward spiral as he can't perform with the attractive women he cavorts with. When he accidentally kills a woman his spiral gets even darker. Brilliant minimal soundtrack from Charles Bernstein. Written and directed by the enigmatic Curtis Hanson, the man responsible for writing my favourite 1978 movie The Silent Partner and directing the 90s thriller The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. I recommend

John Wick (2014)
I really wanted to like it. Killing a dog that I fell in love with then making a movie that looks like a video game about the revenge is not that good as far as I can see. I'd rather have just watched two hours of that puppy sans death or Keanu.

Model Shop (1969)
Strange film. I know I've talked about this before but ever since I discovered it over a year ago thanks to Twilight Time, I just keep wanting to watch it. Model Shop is directed by legendary French director Jaques Demy. This is s french existential drama set in the 60s streets of LA. The thing is the film title is pretty misleading, this is not a film about a model shop. The model shop is just one incidental part of the film. Model Shop is about the highly educated but directionless and broke twenty something George Mathews (Gary Lockwood) who faces being drafted into the US army to go and fight in Vietnam. The film then unravels from there. Totally worth watching for the late 60s LA time capsule. Includes soundtrack and cameo from cult LA rock band Spirit. Check out the threads, the interior design, the hair, the streets, the cars and the melancholy philosophical vibe man.

Possible Worlds (2000)
This movie was mentioned somewhere the other day online so I dug out the dvd and well what a weird flick it is. It's in in my sweet spot of somewhere between Cronenberg & Lynch but maybe just falling short of the brilliance of those two legends, then again maybe not. Well if you hate the Davids you will most definitely hate this, but if you keep an open mind you might just enjoy it and see a unique cinematic voice emerging. Director Robert Lepage is an interesting artistic specimen of the Renaissance kind. He's better known for avant-garde theatre, multi-media, Shakespeare and opera productions than his forays into the world of directing movies. Tilda Swinton stars with Tom McCamus in this mysterious movie about parallel zones, serial killings and brains living in jars. Do not expect a linear narrative, you might not fully get it but it's fucking fascinating. The sort of movie to become obsessed with...well I watched it three times this week. Was it different each time?

The Wrecking Crew (1969)
A kitsch action crime comedy in the faux James Bond style. While it's not half as clever or funny as an episode of Get Smart, it works quite well as an action flick. The action really ramps up to exciting levels towards the end. It is directed by the unsung but legendary Phil Karlson who was no slouch with gems such as Scandal Sheet (1952) Kansas City Confidential (1952), 99 River Street (1953) Tight Spot (1955), 5 Against The House (1955), The Phenix City Story (1955), The Brothers Rico (1957) and Gunman's Walk (1958) amongst many others already under his belt. The Wrecking Crew is hardly in the league of those aforementioned movies though. This 1969 flick stars Dean Martin as spy Matt Helm for the fourth and final time along with iconic ladies Sharon Tate, Nancy Quan, Elke Sommer and Tina Louise. There's a great soundtrack from Hugo Montenegro featuring heaps of easy soundz, fuzz and crime jazz. Not to mention the fantastic but racially insensitive opening tune by Mack David Devol which has to be heard to be believed, it's so darn catchy though, just don't get caught singing it around your Asian friends.

Hollywood Man (1976)
A biker movie about making biker movies. Hollywood Man doesn't miss a beat. This is compelling from start to to finish. Film maker Rafe Staker (William Smith) is told biker films are old hat by his usual producer so Rafe ends up going to the mafia for financing instead. Suffice to say this isn't the greatest move as all hell breaks loose with bad weather, bad cops, bad bikers, bad mafia and ultimately bad collateral damage. Directed by Jack Starrett who also helmed the classics Cleopatra Jones (1973), The Dion Brothers aka The Gravy Train (1974) and Race With The Devil (1975) amongst others. Well worth a look.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Metabolizm - Ekoplekz

So now there's this. Celebration time. 

Sunday, 30 June 2019

More On Movies - July

Freeway (1996)
Surprisingly compelling modern take on Little Red Riding Hood. Tonally it's in an odd liminal zone sort of seriously gritty but sort of ironic, a bit OTT but reigned in so it's not too absurd. Grim yet funny. It is very of its time but much more watchable and just plain better than say something else of the same ilk and era like Kalifornia (1993)Freeway's violent, disturbing, silly and pretty entertaining. I can't remember if the fairytale had pedophilia or revenge but Freeway does. Great performance from Reece Witherspoon.

Needful Things (1992)
Starts out great but ends just ok. Stephen King is hard to nail cinematically as the writers/directors don't know how to streamline his hefty tomes. They get confused about which sub-plots and characters to drop or keep or how to wind up the story without it being rushed. Needful Things was pretty entertaining though. The cast and direction were fairly on point. Special mention to Max Von Sydow who was fantastic as per usual. Not the worst way to spend a winter's afternoon.

Bringing Out The Dead (1999)
I hadn't seen this much maligned Martin Scorsese/Paul Schrader collaboration since it was originally in cinemas twenty years ago. It's getting a bit more love these days from film buffs but I'd guess the consensus would be pretty polarised and probably still tilted toward derision. Emma couldn't stand it and gave up with 45 mins remaining. There were stretches where my mind wandered off and I thought 'Am I wasting my time here?' By the time I was halfway through I wanted to know what was going to happen even though it's not really a plot driven film. It's a character study of a sleep deprived NYC paramedic Frank (Nic Cage) and his driving partners over a 48 hour time period in the early 90s. Schrader's script is a black comedy adaptation that's just not his usual high standard but there are some funny, fucked up, bleak and emotional moments. At other stages it was pretty silly, lame and corny. They could have dropped Larry, John Goodman's character, as he was the weakest link and you don't really want to start off a film with boring scenes do you? The film gets a much needed jolt when Marcus (Ving Rhames) enters the scene to replace Larry in the ambulance's driving seat. With half an hour chopped off and a script editor this could have been another classic. I gotta say though I do prefer this film to more recent Scorsese efforts such as Gangs Of New York (2002), The Departed (2006) and Wolf Of Wall Street (2013).

Side Effects (2013)
Nifty psychological thriller. Steve Soderbergh gets a bit overlooked by cinephiles I reckon. Has he done too many dull commercial blockbuster movies to be taken seriously as the great director that he is. He's also a fabulous cinematographer and editor. He does all three on Side Effects and he hits near perfection. An experimental drug trial goes awry after Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) stabs her husband while sleepwalking on the new medication. The story then unfolds in an unexpected manner from there. It's got Cathy Jones and Jude Law. Highly Recommended.

Stripped To Kill (1987)
This is basically a time capsule of stripping routines and ladies underwear fashion from the 80s. Oh and they add in a thin plot of a stripper murderer for some reason.

Penitentiary (1979) 
In the first ten minutes I was thinking 'This is so not for me!' Ten minutes later I was totally hooked and enjoyed every remaining minute of this late-blaxploitation/prison/boxing film. Too Sweet (Leon Isaac Kennedy) lands in the clink after killing a man in a fight. Gritty realism is mixed with comedic absurdity in this strange but compelling film of prison life in the 70s. Too Sweet may have a chance at early parole if he can perform well in the prison boxing tournament so he teams up with a wise old long term inmate Seldom Seen (Floyd Chapman) as his trainer. Weird shenanigans take place including mucho violence, boxing, a visit from inmates of a women's prison ensuring sex scenes and more. Good soundtrack too.

No Name On The Bullet (1959)
I can't press play on the Deadwood movie because I don't wanna be disappointed like I was at the end of season 3 which was an out and out anti-climax, nothing happened. So I'm just warming up watching a few real Western gems instead and this one just gets better with time. John Gant (Audie Murphy) is a renowned contract killer. He rides into the western town of Lordsburg making everybody nervous. Why is he there? Who has he come to kill? No Name On The Bullet is a Noir Western with a fabulous premise that's expertly executed. This film is so tight there's barely a second wasted here at all. One of the best westerns in my book.

Winchester '73 (1950)
Joe Dante reminded me of this terrific Anthony Mann directed Western when he mentioned it the other day in an interview on The Pure Cinema Podcast. A gun competition in Dodge City brings together and tears apart Lin McAdam (Jimmy Stewart) and Henry Dutch Brown (Millard Mitchell). Along the way there's a battle with an Indian tribe, a woman that goes from man to man and a classic climax.

The Man From Laramie (1955)
Will Lockhart (Jimmy Stewart) comes to the town of Coronado looking to avenge the death of his brother. Only trouble is he doesn't know who he's come to kill. Another classic revenge Western directed by Anthony Mann.

3:10 To Yuma (1957)
Suspenseful Western of the highest order. Dave Evans (Van Heflin), a down on his luck rancher, has to escort the murderous outlaw Ben Wade (Glenn Ford) to a train station to board the 3:10 To Yuma so he can earn $200. This is not going to be an easy task. Will he make it, give up or be killed by Wade's gang? This is top 10 Western.

Terror In A Texas Town (1958)
A top little Noir Western story of bittersweet vengeance. The only problem here is that the main protagonist George Hansen played by Sterling Hayden puts in an all time bad acting performance. In the last year I've been able to stomach Keanu Reeves, Nicholas Cage and Gillian Anderson without wanting to smash the telly in but this Hayden performance, Jesus Christ! To contrast his performance with Ned Young's is extreme as Young puts in a sterling performance as hitman for hire John CraleCarol Kelly as Molly and Sebastian Cabot as McNeil are also outstanding. Totally worth watching though as it's a classic with a legendary finale.

The Furies (1950)
If you can get used to the OTT operatic tone of this Western you are in for something outstanding and epic otherwise forget it. A demented melodrama with more two faced arseholes than the cast of Dallas. The Furies is a creepy family story of betrayal, vengeance and a whole lotta wrong.

Ramrod (1947)
A couple of ranch owners Connie Dickason (Veronica Lake) and Preston Foster (John Ivey) have a violent feud over a range in this Noir Western. Connie is the femme fatale here playing the men for her own gains in this sordid tale. What lengths will she go to? Will Connie get all that she wants in the end?

The Killers (1946)
Cracking noir classic that nailed reverse story telling way before Tarantino and Nolan. A payroll robbery goes awry and much double crossing ensues. This was Burt Lancaster's first movie role. Ava Gardener is the femme fatale. What more do want?

Bad Day At Black Rock (1955)
Worth watching for the splendid widescreen cinematography alone. Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Anne Francis, Walter Brennan etc. star in this creepy crime thriller. John Macreedy (Spencer Tracy) gets off the train in the tiny isolated desert town of Black Rock. The fifteen or so locals are suspicious, hostile and nervous as Macreedy is looking for a bloke named Komoko. The tension unravels from there. Claustrophobic to the max and it's all effectively done and dusted in a tight 81 minutes.

Edge Of Eternity (1959)
Good lil crime story directed by Don Siegel. Shot in wonderful Cinemascope. Murder in the Grand Canyon brings together Deputy Sheriff (Cornel Wilde) and gold mining heiress Victoria Shaw (Janice Kendon). The plot continues with more murder, robbery and gold smuggling but who's responsible? It all culminates in an amazingly dangerous fight scene in a cable car high above the canyon. Well crafted, fine entertainment. This is like a blueprint for what action TV shows were to become 20 years later. That doesn't take away from the film it means it was innovative and much admired as everyone wanted to copy this style of action-crime-drama. Imitation, flattery and all that.

The Nun (2018)
Totally absurd OTT nonsense. This is easily the worst of The Conjuring/Annabelle movies. I'm pretty sure they got a five year old to write the script. However we do get a showcase of stunning set pieces eg. lots of jump scares, boos, monster nuns, a frightening coffin scene, a cool spooky score and even someone spitting the blood of Jesus Christ at an evil sister. The Nun's a ninety minute rollercoaster of silly fun.

Contagion (2011)
A sufficient film but... you know...the suspense could have been ramped up to much more exciting levels but Soderbergh is happy for some reason to keep you at arms length. A virus outbreak film that's neither here nor there. So many name actors kept popping up here, it was pretty distracting but maybe that was a good thing...  

I watched 5 of the 6 Ranown Cycle which are a bunch of films directed by Budd Boetticher starring Randolph Scott made between 1956 - 1960. Some people include Westbound (1959) in the cycle but according to Boetticher it is not to be included in the cycle. The only one not in my watch list below is 7 Men From Now (1956).  These movies were a revelation to me as I'd never seen them before. They are now amongst some of my favourite Westerns of all time. Each film has great unsavoury villains and there's rarely sappy sentimental bullshit. Sergio Leone fans take note - he must have been particularly influenced by these movies. These are tight films that are trimmed down to their essential elements. Read about these lean & mean flicks below.

The Tall T (1957)
Twenty minutes in I was thinking 'this is some corny shit right here. I need something more hardboiled with nasty villains.' The baddies arrived just in time for me not to switch off the movie and boy are they bad. This is a terrific tale of bull riding, serial-murder, betrayal, abduction and ransom. The Tall T goes pretty dark. Fine performances all round. My Favourite was scumbag Chink played by Henry Silva. This is another fine Elmore Leonard adaptation bought to the silver screen, this time, in fine stylee by Budd Boetticher.

Decision At Sundown (1957)
Another Boetticher/Scott revenge film but this one just didn't do it for me for some reason. Apart From Scott's unusually unhinged character Bart, his partner Sam (Noah Beery) and the drunk guy, I thought most of the rest of the cast were a bit too bland. This is the only movie that's just ok in the exceptional Ranown Cycle of 6 movies.

Buchanan Rides Alone (1958)
Great movie. Westerns don't get much better than this. This is Possibly my favourite of the Boetticher/Scott Ranown cycle of films. Buchanan (Randolph Scott) rides into the corrupt border town of Agry. He finds himself robbed, in gaol and charged with murder. Will he make it out of this strife alive?

Ride Lonesome (1959)
Revenge Boetticher/Scott style. Ben Brigade (Scott) a bounty hunter tracks down the wanted man Billy John (James Best). Then saves an abandoned lady (Karen Steele). Two outlaw cowboys Sam (Pernell Roberts) & Whit (James Coburn) tag along for the journey to Santa Cruz but they want Billy John for themselves. Just what is Brigade going to do? Great story with an incredible finale. Quite possibly the best Western.

Comanche Station (1960)
The final film in the Ranown Cycle and it's another bewdy. Jefferson Cody (Randolph Scott) rides out in search for a woman who's been abducted by Comanches. He trades goods including a gun with the Indians for her return. It's not so easy though, on his way back to town with the lady, he runs into three bad cowboys who are willing to cross Cody as there is a $5000 reward for Nancy Lowe's (Nancy Gates) return dead or alive. Fine performances from everyone and brilliant film-making with not a second wasted. I recommend.