Friday, 29 November 2019

MOVIES XXIV

BUT TELLY THOUGH...


I've been watching so much tv that my movie watching has been somewhat curtailed. I finally decided to properly watch The Americans (2013-2018) from start to finish after seeing random episodes on the telly every now and then over the years, thinking I should watch the whole thing one day. Now The Americans has grown in my estimation to become hands down what I believe to be the best drama of the 2010s, crime or otherwise, from the USA. 


Writing about tv is a bit redundant now innit? It probably became obsolete somewhere during the early 00s. When it was announced that Clive James was dead, I thought he lived through an interesting time television-wise. He was at the inception of serious and some not so serious television analysis. Then he was at the forefront of its serious criticism only to see it become obsolete as everyone with a laptop and a mouth became an instant television expert and their well articulated thoughts were immediately expressed and sent out to every corner of the world seconds after an episode of peak television had aired or even during the airing of an episode. By the time we got to read Clive's reflections on his latest box set it was redundant. We had moved on, heard it all before ad nauseam. This is not a criticism of Clive, merely an observation of the swift change of media platforms, how they're consumed and peoples attitudes towards telly. Clive made us all Mini-Clives and that was that.

 

Having said that I am curious as to what Clive James thought of the third series of The Crown as there was none more eloquent than our dear departed Clive. The Crown #3 was finally dumped on Netflix a week ago and well, you all have your own opinions on the matter but for me it was slightly anti-climactical. I did not love or enjoy the cast changeover. When it was announced a couple of years back that they were going to meddle with what had been two seasons of television perfection I couldn't believe it. Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby, Victoria Hamilton and John Lithgow had all been impeccable in their roles as royal and political figures. I thought if Netflix can spend a hundred million dollars on an internet telly show why can't they just do some amazing make-up on these actors to get them looking a bit older? Surely that's not too hard. It also seemed like such a risky decision considering the amount of money being spent but they went ahead and did it.


First of all the choice of Helena Bonham Carter was the weirdest. She's a divisive actor, actually I don't know anyone who would utter the words "I love Helena Bonham Carter. She's fantastic!" In the end I didn't hate her I was just indifferent to her as Princess Margaret. Vanessa Kirby had been scintillating and unforgettable as the polymorphously perverse and recalcitrant Margo in the first two seasons. Then there was Olivia Coleman. Everybody loves her and she's brilliant in Peep Show, Hot Fuzz, The Night Manager, Broadchurch, Fleabag etc. It's very hard to get past the fact that you are watching Olivia doing the queen though. Coleman's natural charisma and cheeky sunny smile can't help but escape onto the screen. She just has too many qualities that the actual Queen doesn't seem to possess. They didn't change John Lithgow as Winston Churchill thank heavens although 'spoiler alert' he was only in a couple of scenes before his demise. I can live with the new Queen mum, Lord Mountbatten and Prince Charles. The revelation in season three cast-wise has been Tobias Menzies as the belligerent Prince Philip. He is just fantastic and very similar in looks and demeanour to the previous actor playing Prince Philip Matt Smith. I feel like Menzies really did his homework to make this transition the smoothest of all the character change overs. The other great new edition to the cast is Erin Doherty as Princess Anne. Although I don't know anything about the real Anne, Doherty is a great lookalikey and inhabits her apparent frank character with vigour.


My perceptions of the royal family probably differ to that of many Australians and most of the British. I never followed them with interest but they were always in my house from the day I was born to this very day in the form of pictures in magazines mainly and on the telly. I always thought they were fucking dull, inbred and didn't deserve their status in life. So it feels like this show has made them much more cool and likeable than they really are. I mean in this latest season I started thinking Charles was honourable and I absolutely loved Anne. Philip is the one though who I now think is so fucking cool but isn't he just a grumpy backwards twerp in real life? They even manage, particularly in the first two seasons, to make the Queen sexy...ew!


Anyway season three was mostly very good but I'm sorry it cannot compare to the television superiority of the first two seasons of The Crown. The famous faces and casting choices were just too distracting. I would have gone for less famous people than Olivia Coleman and Helena Bonham Carter to ensure a cohesive transition from season two to season three. Still it's a testament to the show runners that I watched it at all, didn't immediately switch it off and rather enjoyed it.  

I've also just caught up with The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story which was from last year. Hey I'm only a year behind on this one! While the tv series is excellent there are a couple of problems. For a start the title is very misleading. It is not a show strictly about the assassination of Versace. It is a series about the serial killer Andrew Cunanan. He killed five people, one of which was Gianni Versace. I would have called it The Killing Of Versace & Other Murders: The Story Of Andrew Cunanan. The telly-makers also make the show unnecessarily confusing by jumbling the narrative to a stupidly knotty degree. There are so many flash backs and flash forwards it becomes tedious and almost unwatchable. If it wasn't for the sublime cast particularly Darren Criss as Cunanan I think I would have switched it off. The story is so bizarre, it is totally compelling. It would have benefitted from a straight chronological telling of the tale with perhaps the flashback device being used only once or twice. Emma and I thought that the suspense would have been much higher had it been a linear narrative. The Assassination Of... is pretty disturbing stuff, unlike say Mindhunter this mainly follows the life and events of the murderer not the detectives investigating the case. You are stuck in Cunanan's world to a frightening degree. This is a depraved and depressing place to dwell. It's almost enough to put you off serial killer shows and movies altogether. The police really only come into it during the final episode. If the last two episodes of this series had been released as a theatrical film it would have gone down in history as an instant classic. 

*I'm well aware of the irony of this article. Go ahead say it. "This is so redundant man."

RECENTLY RE/WATCHED MOVIES

Cobra (1986) 
Berserk entertainment 80s stylee. Panos's dad George P Cosmatos directs this over the top ultra violent action/renegade cop movie with a whole lotta style and pizazz. First of all we get a siege inside a supermarket so Cobra (Sylvester Stallone) is called in for his special services. He is part of an elite team of the LAPD known as The Zombie Squad. Cobra finds out that an evil organisation known as The New World are not only responsible for this hostage situation but a whole bunch of other crimes. The New World might just be an army of serial killers. Holy Shit! What can be done? Cobra & The Zombie Squad need to track down and kill New World's leader The Night Slasher (Brian Thompson) but who is he? And have The Zombie Squad been infiltrated by a Mole? An edge of the seat of your pants delight.


Magnolia (1999)
An epic melodramatic dirge that's very of its time. Speaking of time, is three hours and nine minutes long enough for ya? Magnolia is surely designed to make you anxious and put you at maximum unease which nearly pushes it into horror territory. It's full of OTT actoring from an incredible ensemble cast that includes Phil Seymour Hoffman, Felicity Huffman, John C Reilly, Julianne Moore, Tom Cruise, Philip Baker Hall, William H Macy, Jason Robards and quite a few more. Magnolia is all about flashy film craft ie. the directing, cinematography, editing and soundtrack are all at a supreme level. This movie seems to be a meditation on people who think parents fucked me up so I'm gonna have a little cry about it instead of taking responsibility for my own actions and life. Magnolia's basically a film full of arseholes who give themselves way too much morbid self attention and who are almost all unlikable. So now I'm done with this  movie for the rest of my life so thanks Paul Thomas Anderson...er...I've probably watched it eight or nine times, that's a lot of hours. Worth watching at least once to experience 90s film-making at its highest level, if you have enough time left on earth that is.

In The Tall Grass (2019)
More Netflix bullshit. There is no need to press the play button on this internet horror movie. Is it time to perhaps consider a Netflix subscription cancellation?


Hard Ticket To Hawaii (1987)
El cheapo 80s exploitation but made with obvious chops. The director Andy Sidaris was originally an award winning director of sports TV. This is deliberately cheesy and somewhat endearing. A tale of good versus evil of biblical proportions to be watched off yer head with friends who are in a similar state of inebriation. Hard Ticket To Hawaii includes boobs, a very young Ridge from The Bold & The Beautiful, some pretty funny dialogue, tits, strange acting, a mutant killer snake, smuggling of drugs & diamonds, norks, frisbees of death, jacuzzis, bazookas, nefarious skateboarders with blow up sex dolls, crappy death scenes, breasts and I think there was some kind of kung-fu. Late night movie of the week.


The Laughing Policeman (1973)
This film doesn't get any less odd the more times you watch it. It's interesting for the outstanding performances of Bruce Dern & Walter Matthau. Then you wonder whether the story warrants such an extravagant production that gets into the minutiae of criminal street life in early 70s San Fransisco. Then you think yeah of course it does because it's more of a true indication of what cops have to go through during a murder investigation. Real investigations are not brilliantly twisted crowd pleasing narratives. The world is complicated, not everything is easily explained away and there are not always straight answers. Police work is full of puzzling dead ends, frustration, grimy characters, sad lives, senseless actions, boring stakeouts, daily routines, arsehole shenanigans, casual violence, psychological collateral damage etc. The script is pretty bloody 1973 and it's so good. You can't really fuck up the cinematography in the always scenic San Francisco can you? Jake Martin (Matthau) the grumpy ageing laconic gum chewing cop who's seen too much and Leo Larsen (Dern) the young tactless smart-arse are the two unlikely cops who are partnered up with each other. This cop duo are thrust together after Martin's previous partner was shot dead in a spree killing on a night bus. We get a whole lotta underground 1970s San Fransisco here in gay leather bars, drag queens, male strippers, pimps, hookers, drug dealers, creepy businessmen, jaded cops etc. Amongst the gritty urban realism we get fabulous 70s cars, furniture, fashion and vernacular. Director Stuart Rosenberg is an underrated film-maker probably because his work is so diverse thus not fitting neatly enough into the American 70s auteur model. Critics and fans alike need to drop these antiquated terms and just rate directors on their batting average I reckon. An absolute must watch for any fan of 70s crime films.


The Driver (1978)
Every now and then I have to check if my favourite movies are still great. Check! Bruce Dern's character here could almost be a continuation of Inspector Larsen who he played in The Laughing Policeman (1973). The Driver includes cars, fast cars, car stunts, car chases, car POV shots and car crashes...oh and some robberies, trains, gunslinging shootouts western stylee and Isabelle Adjani! This is a film stripped down to an elemental level. Minimal. You either know The Driver as one of the best movies of the 70s and one of Walter Hill's finest works or you probably don't care.

Stick (1985)
Wow this is just bad. At the start I thought Stick was gonna be some good trashy 80s crime fun but after an hour I couldn't take it anymore. How on earth do you cock up an Elmore Leonard screenplay? After Burt Reynolds directed the near masterpiece Sharkey's Machine (1981) his directing career ground to a halt here with this epic fail. For all I know maybe something bad was going on behind the scenes and maybe this was a troubled shoot. George Segal, Burt Reynolds, Candice Bergen, Alex Rocco and Charles Durning all reach the nadir of their careers in the same movie no less. Avoid like the plague.


Sorcerer (1977) 
All you ever seem to hear about this movie is its hard luck story. I feel like you're meant to feel sorry for Sorcerer and rate it way higher than it should be because Star Wars (1977) killed it. Let's get real here. This film was never destined to become a box office smash. For a start the first quarter of the film is all pretty much in subtitles. You know how much Americans love subtitles? They fucking don't. The first half of the film is basically flab that could have been condensed into five or ten minutes. The second half is where it's at and is pretty much masterful but hey!, that's only half a good movie. Now I can understand that a movie like The Thing (1982) really did miss out on success because it's a film that is great from the get go and could have had mass appeal. Sorcerer not so much. William Friedkin's earlier classics The French Connection (1971) and The Exorcist (1973) had real crowd pleasing exciting/horrific moments that made them instant classics of their respective genres but Sorcerer is pretty much a movie about a truck trying to cross a rickety bridge. Sorcerer was always a difficult film and has been quite lucky to become a critically rehabilitated cult film due to some clever hindsight marketing and repositioning. Four dodgy criminal blokes hiding from their own four countries strangely all end up in the same village of Porviner in the South American jungle. This foursome are also all recruited by an oil company as truck drivers for a perilous journey to move some shonky dynamite a few hundred miles to an oil well. The tension created during this dangerous trip is fantastic, all actors are outstanding and the film finally comes alive. Be on the lookout for Joe Spinell in a tiny role as Spider, a dude who tries to get the the truckin gig but fails the driving test. Why is it called Sorcerer? It's a terrible title that seems to have nothing to do with the film whatsoever. It sounds like some daft fantasy movie which would have been another handicap for its commercial chances.


Impulse (1984)
Now this is what I'm talking 'bout. Impulse is a mysterious sci-fi/rural horror kinda thing that was a total surprise packet in the very best way possible. Once again Kino Lorber (a blu-ray label) pull out a barely known undervalued gem and shine a light on it by giving the film a beautiful blu-ray transfer. A quiet and isolated little country town is rocked by a small earthquake. The town's population then become erratic or as the title suggests start acting impulsively. The usually anodyne community become mean, suicidal, uninhibited, anti-social, violent and even homicidal. What's going on? How can it be stopped? Stars Meg Tilly, Tim Matheson, Bill Paxton and Hume Cronyn. A fantastic premise that's expertly executed. I recommend.

*Weird footnote. Meg Tilly plays a character called Jennifer. So I kept thinking it was Jennifer Tilly. Now I wonder if Jennifer Tilly has played a character named Meg.


Busting (1974)
Why isn't this film considered a cult movie or a classic movie or something? It's quite possibly my all time favourite cop film. Hey it has stiff completion too particularly from the same era in The French Connection (1971), The Laughing Policeman (1973), Electra Glide In Blue (1973) Freebie & The Bean (1974), Report To The Commissioner (1975) et al. Elliot Gould (Michael) and Robert Blake (Patrick) have extraordinary chemistry and are brilliant in this funny lil' caper as the smart-arse, burnt out, politically incorrect, recalcitrant and incompetent LAPD vice squad detectives. I wish they'd made a Busting sequel for every following year up until, I dunno, 1982. Detectives Michael and Patrick just feel like real lived in characters with their warts and all, funny and some not necessarily nice characteristics. They are not meant to be role models. They are flawed and inadequate human beings and thank god for their depiction of these mortal characteristics. You probably wouldn't be able to portray such nuanced individuals in a Hollywood movie in this day and age with all their rules and committees and what not. I recommend.


The New Centurions (1972)
This is a serious cop drama and it's seriously great. Another 70s crime gem that doesn't make the canonical lists. Richard Fleischer's finest film in my book. Roy Fehler (Stacy Keach) is fresh out of the police academy and is paired up with veteran copper Andy Kilvinski (George C Scott). Roy is intending to only work for the LAPD temporarily while he studies law at night school. Roy becomes obsessed with his work as a copper though which causes problems in his marriage. Cops and robbers shenanigans ensue with shoot outs, car chases, hold ups, unorthodox police methods, hookers, unfair gay arrests, alcoholism, illegal immigrants, depression etc. The drama meets the action in The New Centurions and it doesn't disappoint. Also stars Erik Estrada, Scott Wilson, Clifton James, Jane Alexander etc. with a tasty soundtrack from Quincy Jones.


St Ives (1976)
I was thinking 'Did Charles Bronson appear in more movies than anybody else in history?' but before he even popped up on the screen Elisha Cook Jr reared his head and I thought well hang on he's probably been in even more movies. Raymond St Ives (Charles Bronson) is a likeable ex-copper come crime-writer. His solitary life is interrupted by the shifty Abner Procane (John Houseman) who hires him to do a simple go-between job that involves the return of some stolen goods. Things are not what they seem though and soon the plot boils over with murder, shonky cops, a femme fatale (Jacqueline Bisset), a dodgy psychiatrist (Maxmilian Schell), more murder and some kind of confusing conspiracy. Look out for Jeff Goldblum and Robert Englund in tiny roles as a hoods #3 & #1 respectively. There are some choice 70s locations including Raymond's Hotel, a laundromat, a Drive-In and a classic dodgy cafeteria all captured rather nicely on celluloid. The Lalo Schifrin score is fabulous. St Ives is an ok movie with some crucial evidence withheld from the viewer thus taking the solving of the mystery out of your hands which was a bit of a shame because it had a cool atmosphere and the film felt like it was leading up to a big ending but that was a little anti-climactical. The ending has a Murder She Wrote type of wrap up which was kinda fitting as Raymond St Ives was writing a crime book.


Sexy Beast (2000)
This is all about the optimum powerhouse actoring, particularly the interaction between the two main characters Gal Dove (Ray Winstone) and Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) then later the brilliant Ian McShane in a small but pivotal role as Teddy Bass. I hadn't watched this since it was in cinemas and totally forgot what a fucking bizarre movie this is. Thankfully it's also very entertaining. Like the aforementioned Magnolia this is all about the flashy film-making but unlike that film Sexy Beast has a plot to compliment its flash. Gal Dove was a successful now retired British gangster who specialised in cracking safes and is now living the good life in sunny Spain. He gets a a call from his old pal Don Logan the psychotic criminal kingpin asking him to join his gang back in England for one last heist. Gal declines the offer. Does he have a choice though? Don eventually arrives in Spain unannounced to menace Gal into taking part in this future criminal endeavour. The plot then unfurls in a spectacular display of pure sound and vision. Don is so vile that his heinous gangster colleagues don't even like him. Ben Kingsley as Don goes all the way and over the top here and is truly terrifying, deranged and absurd. Amanda Redman, Cavan Kendall, Julianne White, James Fox and Alvaro Monje are fantastic as the supporting cast. Sexy Beast is an incredibly assured debut film for the idiosyncratic director Jonathan Glazer who has only made two films since.


Night Moves (1975)
The grubbiest neo-noir of the 70s. This movie's vibe feels just as gross as the extreme horror and exploitation flicks of the same era. This new hollywood apex from the great Arthur Penn is where the nefarious intrigue reaches a cesspit and the bleakness is infinite. Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman) is an LA private detective hired by Arlene Iverson (Janet Ward) to find her missing sixteen year old daughter Delly Grastner (Melanie Griffith). Just what the hell is Delly up to? Twisted and delirious antics ensue. The plot really thickens from here but never gets bogged down in being too convoluted. We go from LA to Florida and back again and then back again to Florida as the mystery unfolds. Most of the characters here participate is an array of unhinged roguery. Sometimes I think this is the best film of the New Hollywood era or at least the most emblematic. Gene Hackman's greatest role is right here folks plus a terrific score from Michael Small.

Sisters (1973)
I thought I'd give this film another shot after 15 or so years but it seems I just don't like Brian De Palma movies very much. This starts out with an intriguing premise and blows it halfway through going from absurd to ridiculous and back again but not in a good way, in an unsatisfying manner. Margot Kidder is damn fine though as is the OTT sonics of the score from Bernard Hermann.



Villain (1971)
Film script writer Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, Man On The Moon, Dolemite Is My Name) alerted me to this film months ago calling it a masterpiece. I finally got round to watching it. Villain is a whole lotta wrong and yeah it's pretty pretty fucking good. Right up there in the British gangster pantheon along with Get Carter, The Long Good Friday, Mona Lisa and Sexy Beast. I don't get why it isn't as famous as those aforementioned titles because the script is full of great quotable dialogue that should be absolutely iconic to gangster film buffs across the world. Maybe the British particularly East Londoners were put off by having the Welshman Richard Burton play the vile cockney crime boss Vic Dakin. Burton as the loving mummy's boy Dakin is an incredibly entertaining miscreant of a character though. The conflicted Dakin's sordid relationship with Wolfe Lissner (Ian McShane) which involves a bit of rough stuff is just one aspect of his brutal, sadistic and disturbed personality. Along with the sordid we get kinky sex parties, crooked MPs, murdered people hung out of windows, sunny days with mum at the pier, blackmail, a payroll heist, snitches, car chases, toilet scenes, smart arse cops, an excellent soundtrack from Jonathan Hodge and general degeneracy.....what's not to love?


The Friends Of Eddie Coyle (1973)
Cops and robbers crime drama in excelsis directed by Peter Yates. This is not action packed so it's not going to be for everyone. It's a low key drama about the daily grind and minutiae of small time criminal life. We get crooks with short term goals making deals with cops to improve their hopes of longevity or at least less time in prison. Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle put in sterling understated performances as criminals and informants in 1970s Boston. The rest of the cast are spot on too. It's refreshing to see a crime movie of this era not set in the usual NYC or LA. We get some terrific urban Boston locations ie. neighbourhood bars, dodgy cafeterias, tunnels, car parks etc. This film goes along at a leisurely pace but the tension builds in the last fifteen minutes to a good lil climax. Dave Grusin provides an excellent soundtrack. This feels like a Sopranos (1999-2007) blueprint. If you just replaced each character here with a Sopranos cast member this could easily be an episode of that classic HBO television show. Not only that it would be one of its best. The Friends Of Eddie Coyle is probably for 70s crime enthusiasts and Robert Mitchum fanatics only.


Reflections In A Golden Eye (1967)
This film is probably most famous for having Robert Forster riding naked on a horse. It was also his film debut. Reflections In... is a strange and perverse epic. Adult themes include voyeurism, depression, gas-lighting, homosexual repression, stalking, animal cruelty, mental illness, heterosexual repression, eruptive violence, psychological abuse and much more. This is set on an isolated military base where Major Weldon Penderton (Marlon Brando) is a lecturer. Somewhere within the grounds away from the barracks are some lovely houses. One contains Major and Leonora Penderton (Liz Taylor) and the other is the home of another married couple Lieutenant Colonel Morris (Brian Keith) and Alison Langdon (Julie Harris) with their Filipino house boy Anacleto (Zorro David). Needless to say the wives are bored. Leonora has her eyes on Lt Col Langdon while The Major becomes intrigued by Private Williams (Forster) after seeing him starkers on that horsey. Private Williams on the other hand is a creepy perv with an obsession for Leonora and lord knows what else. One outrageous scene has Liz whipping Marlon across the face with a riding crop in front of all of her party's guests. Suffice to say a tumultuous climax is imminent. Liz is at her playful and outlandish best here and Marlon is at his most uniquely Brando-y. Sometimes I wonder what demented person allowed Marlon Brando onto our cinema screens. I can never tell if he's just shite, the strangest creature the world has ever known or some kind of genius. It probably depends on the role. His voice and accent here are just pure fucking alien-ese. Julie Harris puts in an impressive performance as Alison Langdon, a woman who's been through severe depressive episodes after a traumatic miscarriage but sometimes she is the most sound minded character in the entire film. Then there's the wonderfully exotic Zorro David as the über-flamboyant Anacleto making the uptight husbands irritated and resentful. I can't help but think that American Beauty (1999) stole a thing or two from this curious classic.


The Thing (1982)
It's Friday night and the 3 and a half hours of Scorsese's The Irishman (2019) just seemed way too daunting for tired eyes. 1 hour and 48 minutes of The Thing felt just right though. This movie gets better each time you watch it. Masterful film-making trimmed of all fat for your superior scary entertainment needs. Added ice, snow, fire and explosions to further enhance your viewing pleasure. The fucking best.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

The Sisypheans - Xylouris White


Saturday, 2 November 2019

Movies - XXIII

RECENTLY RE/WATCHED


The Human Tornado (1976)
If you loved Dolemite (1975) you are gonna love this because it's more of the same but improved by 150 percent and at least 50 percent more bonkers. They've also upped the sleaze quota. The kung fu choreography is even not too bad plus they discovered sound effects which makes it extra outstanding. Rudy Ray Moore once again serves up his proto-rap boasts and toasts throughout. At the opening of the movie we get a taste of Rudy's blue standup routine with many a fat and dick joke. The trouble begins in Alabama where the white honky police are none to pleased with some black people having a good time. It also turns out the racist sheriff's wife is paying Dolemite to service her in the sexual department. Uh-oh, now Dolemite and his brothers are on the run, Dolemite does some impressive stunts in the nude then they highjack a swishy white guys car and head for California. The sheriff and his cronies are in hot pursuit. That's just for starters. In California Queen Bee played by the incomparable Lady Reed is in trouble so it's DOLEMITE TO THE RESCUE. There's kidnapping, torture, mafia, mucho kung fu action, shoot outs, nude exercising, another great funk/soul/jazz soundtrack, crazy house collapsing sex and Dolemite even beats the world nunchaku champion with his funky karate. On a technical level we even get some very cool jump cuts, action replays and reverse footage of some of the ridiculous stunts. Most of the kung fu and car chase action is sped up to insane levels. This is a whole lot of silly and the world is better for it. There should be more people like Rudy Ray Moore.


The Don Is Dead (1973)
Richard Fleischer doesn't make bad movies he just takes his time and doesn't seem to give a fuck. I guess at this stage he was heading into his twilight with only one true masterpiece to come after this in the following year's Mr Majestik (1974)The Don Is Dead is a good lil mafia story which is pretty slow and talky in the first half but the action and violence pick up in the second half. Frank (Robert Forster) gets his grass cut by the Don (Anthony Quinn) while he's away on an  overseas trip. When Frank returns home he is tipped off that his woman Ruby (Angel Tomkins) has done the dirty and a rift between the mob families follows. For mafia movie completists and Robert Forster fans.


The Package (1989)
Remember Sunday nights in the late 80s and 90s. That was movie night and the networks would battle it out with a first release movie every week. Sometimes you'd watch stuff that you would never pay a cinema ticket for like political thrillers, action thrillers, sexy thrillers, legal thrillers etc. and they would be fine entertainment. These movies were a dime a dozen and at least one if not three were on your telly every Sunday night. The Package is that kind of movie but it's in the top echelon of the the political thriller sub-genre. This is a really captivating film with plenty of political intrigue, bombers, false identities, cold war conspiracies, snipers, double crossing, clandestine military activities, a patsy, good cops, bad cops, assassins etc. We even get a Mikhail Gorbachev and George Bush Senior lookalikies. All the intrigue keeps you on the edge of your seat right up until the finale. The Package doesn't miss a beat. It stars Gene Hackman (of course), Tommy Lee Jones (of course), John Heard, Joanna Cassidy, Pam Grier, Denis Franz etc. who are all on top of their game. Most people have probably forgotten this flick but it's well worth un-forgetting.


The Big Fix (1978)
This was about to get switched off as I was finding Richard Dreyfuss just too fucking irritating. At one point Moses Wine (Richard Dreyfuss) is called a dick by his ex-girlfriend Lila (Susan Anspach) which had a double meaning, one that he was a private detective and two that he was an annoying turd. Some have called this a comedy but I wasn't getting any laughs. I prefer to see it as a neo-noir/political-thriller kind of thing. Anyway somewhere near the halfway point the tone changed from obnoxious whimsy to pretty much hardboiled so I was able to stay for the duration. The capricious tonal change wasn't just in the mood and acting, the score all of a sudden dropped the light vaudeville vibe to the sounds of crime funk. In the end The Big Fix was a good little story and I was just able to forgive the aggravating scenes from early on. It's also pretty hard to get past the sometimes misty eyed nostalgia for extreme left 60s politics. There also seems to be some kind over correcting going on here as people who once supported terrorism are now trying to stop terrorism. Moses gets a case to track down the culprit of a public smear campaign against Californian governor candidate Miles Hawthorne. The investigation uncovers an entire political conspiracy that goes all the way back to the mid 60s and includes campus radicalism, murders, framing, planned terrorist attacks and a whole lot more. John Lithgow with fantastic hair and beard is brilliant as Sam Hawthorne's campaign co-ordinator. This film had great potential to become a classic as the story is very compelling but its chances were ruined because some of the stuff in the script sucked along with the casting of Dreyfuss. A missed opportunity.


You Were Never Really Here (2017)
Unusual neo-noir-crime-thriller. Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) is a haunted veteran whose job is finding missing girls by any means necessary and returning them to their homes. His latest job is to rescue Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov), a senator's daughter from an underage brothel. This is no easy task and things go haywire. A trail of bodies eventually leads us to the end. This is on the artier side of the revenge movie spectrum so it's not going to be for everyone but it's pretty bloody good. Joaquin Phoenix is once again at a rarefied level of acting and is a pleasure to watch. Now that Philip Seymour Hoffman is dead and Daniel Day Lewis is retired the contender for the crown is here and I'll back him all the way!

Funhouse (1981)
I thought I'd probably seen this but couldn't remember and maybe I have I just can't remember. This captures to perfection the creepy atmosphere of a run down carnival with its crappy, sleazy, tired and ominous sideshows. A special mention must go to the distinguished cinematography of Andrew Laszio. The only problem is after the wonderfully squalid vibe has been set in the first half of the film the rest of the movie flounders. Tension just isn't built properly with pacing that's all over the shop. There's even a great monster who is just wasted, he could have had so much more of an impact. There is a problem with beats in the script, the editing is not up to scratch and the soundtrack is not compatible with the visuals. Four older teenagers perhaps in their twenties attend this seedy travelling carnival looking for a laugh. They dare themselves to stay overnight in The Funhouse which is a knackered old ghost train. The slasher then begins as the youths are stalked by a murderous deformity and his dad. We get murder and mayhem but no excitement or emotional investment in anybody who's being being chased down except for the main protagonist Amy (Elizabeth Berridge). We want Amy to survive but that's not enough to save this flick. Elizabeth Berridge and most of the actors who play the carny folk are on point. The Funhouse just doesn't deliver on its promise though. Some horror fanatics wish this was good, so they rate it but they know it's no Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween or Friday The 13th Part II.  



The Sisters Brothers (2018)
I'm definitely on a Joaquin Phoenix kick ever since I watched his brilliant performance in Inherent Vice (2014). Here he gets to play alongside another actor who can scale similar acting heights in John C Reilly. This duo play a couple of ruthless assassins Eli (Reilly) and Charlie (Phoenix). They are brothers with the surname Sisters. This is a western set in the north-west during the mid 19th century. The Sisters brothers are on the hunt for Herman Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed) under the employment of a wealthy bloke by the name of The Commodore (Rutger Hauer). After HBO's Deadwood (2004 - 2006) you would think that you would never be able to call another western weird but I gotta say this is pretty fucking strange. We do get the usual western motifs of hard drinking, gunsling violence, allegiance switching, prostitutes, cowboys tired of the frontier life, gold digging and horseys. Then there are the odd moments like the bizarre chemical formula to find gold, Eli's almost deadly encounter with a spider which he swallowed whilst sleeping, unusual dialogue and subject matter, idealogical mumbo jumbo, the introduction of teeth brushing, nocturnal bear attacks on the horseys and uncommon sensitivity amongst the machismo. Don't let that put you off though it's still a pretty good western where much havoc is wreaked. Oh and Jake Gyllenhaal.



To Die For (1995)
Two movies in one plus theres another movie within this movie. Don't worry thanks to great editing and directing this is not confusing one bit. In fact it feels like a really straight forward film. This was Nicole Kidman's game changing role. This was also Joaquin Phoenix's comeback after he had retired from being a child actor and what a great performance to bring him back to prominence. I hadn't seen this since it was first in cinemas when I called it an instant classic. At the time It really felt like a fresh satire and commentary on telly and fame now it just appears to be normal reality. It's still good though and works well as a neo-noir. A cunning yet sometimes thick regional TV weather woman Suzanne (Kidman) wants fame at any cost needless to say she is a femme fatale who to leaves a trail of devastation behind her.  The scary thing is this is loosely based on a true story.


Chained Heat (1983)
This women in prison flick is a sleazy exploitation extravaganza. Carol (Linda Blair) is new to the prison system. How is she going to survive the violence, sexual abuse, corruption and a whole new way of living? Includes adult themes like rape, murder, porn, shower scenes, crooked prison staff, boobs, bush, drugs, racism, hot tubs and more. Chained Heat is a depraved film that is OTT but done very well. Stars Henry Silva, Sybil Danning, Tamara Dobson, John Vernon etc. What more do you need? Late night movie of the week.

Rocketman (2019)
Fuck celebrity biopics! I will never watch another one. If you like yourself some Elton just go and listen to your favourite Elton John record or watch an Elton concert dvd instead of wasting your time on this absolutely tedious bullshit! Musicians are really good at making music. Film-makers are really bad at making films about musicians. That's all I've got to say.

Friday, 1 November 2019

HOLLYWOOD - Nick Cave

We interrupt this programming because best song:


Wait for the 8.55 moment. Wow. He gets into outré Scott Walker Territory here while retaining the song within a Bad Seeds framework somehow. Heartbreaking and uplifting. Nick Cave has become some kind of spiritual sage and it's a beautiful thing.

Messiah Of Evil



Hey here it is once again! For Halloween!

One my favourite horror movies.

Bill & Maitland discuss it with Mike at The Projection Booth.



Sunday, 13 October 2019

More On Movies - XXII

RECENTLY RE/WATCHED


The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
What can I say? It's one of the best crime action thrillers of all time innit? This is another 70s masterpiece. Four men in disguises high-jack a subway train in New York city. Then hold a carriage of nineteen passengers hostage for a ransom of a million bucks. Mister Blue (Robert Shaw) the criminal kingpin is in radio contact with the head of transit police Lieutenant Garber (Walter Matthau). The clock is ticking though as they have only an hour to deliver the cash before hostages start getting killed. The tension created here is palpable and you are kept guessing right up until the end. Sometimes it's very funny but the situation feels pretty real like something that could totally happen. Matthau is brilliant as the Lt Garber. David Shire provides an exquisite score.


Hopscotch (1980)
After watching Taking of Pelham... A Walter Matthau fest was in order and you can't go past this very clever and beautifully realised movie. This is probably top five Matthau. Miles Kendig (Walter Matthau) is a disillusioned CIA agent who decides to write a memoir exposing espionage secrets and particularly the incompetence of his old boss Myerson (Ned Beatty). A spectacular global game of cat and mouse ensues. Kendig travels the world shaking off Myerson and his cronies as they try to stop him publishing his exposé. Kendig is always one step ahead though making him pretty conceited. Will he be caught or remain at large? If you've never seen this cold war comedy/thriller it's worth a look. Matthau's character treads a fine though you'll either find him irritatingly smug or hilariously arrogant. 


Dolemite (1975)
Fuck I haven't seen Dolemite in a long time but there's a new biopic on Rudy Ray Moore coming soon to Netflix that got me in the mood. Celebrity biopics are pretty much all same aren't they? So I can't say I'm too excited about that but it was a treat to revisit Dolemite's rough and ready first cinematic outing from 1975. Dolemite is the chunky ladies man/pimp who was found with stolen furs and half a million dollars worth of narcotics because they were planted by his enemies. He ended up in prison with a 20 years sentence. Two years later he gets an early release though so he can help can capture Willie Green (D'Urville Martin) and the rest of the goons who framed him. His first order of business upon release from gaol is to get changed, in the street just outside the prison gates, back into his pimp-alicious threads. Now that is a man with the right priorities! Oh boy, we get served up some stunning stuff in this movie such as Dolemite's blue proto-rap performance poetry, a harem of Kung Fu hookers, the hamburger pimp (Vanius Rackstraw) with the world's funkiest drug walk, a dodgy mayor, a black separatist sex fiend Reverend Gibbs (West Gale), crazy sexy time with Dolemite, outlandish 70s fashion, shoot outs, cool cars, a great funk soundtrack, wild dancing, incredible 70s jive talk, an amazing bit of violence where Dolemite breaks through his arch enemy Willie's skin with a karate chop revealing his insides and much more. This is an amazing example of what can be done in DIY film making with kinetic energy, a bit of self belief, raw talent and hell of a lot of charisma.


Friday Foster (1975)
Young Pammy is delectable and delightful as the photographer come amateur sleuth Friday Foster. This isn't the greatest blaxploitation movie ever made but it's fun and looks a million bucks compared to its counterparts (Olive also seem to have done an incredible restoration job for the blu-ray). It comes with the usual accoutrements of fine funky threads, boobs, classic cars, pimps, hookers, dialogue unique to the time, glamour, funky soundtrack, black politics, violence, rooftop chases,  stunning 70s interior design, shoot outs etc. Look out for spectacular truck crushing man in a phone box sequence! We get some icons in Pam Grier, Yaphet Kotto, Scatman Crothers and a very funny OTT performance from the one and only Eartha Kitt...oh and that dude from the love boat as a pimp! It's just the plot that's scatty and a little confusing with its political intrigue and strange conspiracy. It all gets wrapped up neatly and cheese-illy in the final minutes Giallo stylee though but that's not really the point is it? Friday Foster is just a great excuse for some outrageous cinematic scenes for the target audience to enjoy.


The Plumber (1979)
This is a good little psychological thriller directed by Peter Weir. When I say little I mean that literally, The Plumber is done and dusted in a zippy 77 minutes. A crazy plumber Max (Ivar Kants) enters an academic couple's apartment for a maintenance job and gradually turns the wife's (Judy Morris) life upside down. Weir creates a whole lot of claustrophobic awkwardness and a great sense of invaded personal space. This film really puts you at unease. It's hard not to read this as an absurd look at champagne socialists, class systems in Australia and civil/uncivil behaviour etc. You can try to just enjoy The Plumber on a surface entertainment level but Weir's un-subtlety tends to encroach upon your brain. I know what I think about stuff. I don't need someone to patronisingly tell me to think about a certain social or political subject. Guess what Pete it doesn't make you deep or provocative. It just makes you seem like a naive tool which perhaps you were.


Sleeping Dogs (1977)
My first thought was what a funny little entertaining movie. I didn't know what to expect going into this except that this was the first feature film Roger Donaldson directed and it was some kind of historical milestone in NZ film-making. I didn't even know Donaldson was an Australian who moved to NZ in his 20s. Sleeping Dogs is a terrific political action movie. A civil war unfolds in New Zealand and a fascist police state is imposed. Smith (Sam Neil) is living on an island with his dog not wanting to be a part of any of it. That doesn't last long as he's framed then captured by the totalitarian government. The plot unfurls from there suffice to say there are police escapes, American allies helping the government including Willoughby (Warren Oates), riots, sheep, violence, torture, bombs and a classic finale. Donaldson went on to international success later in his career directing Cocktail (1988), Species (1995), Dante's Peak (1997), The Bank Job (2008) etc. This was also Sam Neil's feature film breakthrough. He got famous after this, you might have heard of him.


Hobo With A Shotgun (2011)
Hyper-stylised, hyper-violent, hyper-vivid, hyper-gory, hyper-fucked up and a pretty entertaining vigilante movie. Sometimes you gotta watch what the kids are up to. Hey, I'm only eight years late and they really pulled off something extraordinary here. This is incredibly well executed and the action never really lets up so there is no time for distraction. Rutger Hauer is fantastic as the titular character and the rest of the cast are spot on too. Hobo With A Shotgun is a hundred times better than John Fucking Wick. As far as modern day revenge movies go this is going to be hard to top.


Inherent Vice (2014)
This was a first time watch for me and my immediate thoughts were that it was wilfully obtuse, unnecessarily convoluted and way too long for what turns out to be a relatively simple story in the end. What I mean is it was a pretty tedious journey to get to the conclusion which made everything clear. Perhaps Paul Thomas Anderson made it deliberately less coherent than it should have been as the main protagonist Doc (Joaquin Phoenix) is a heavy pot smoker and maybe we're meant to ride in his confused stoned shoes for the duration of this flick. It's an adaptation though so he might have just been following the beats of the novel. Who knows? Inherent Vice however has an ensemble cast to die for who perform at an elevated level. Excellent performances from his actors is something PTA seems to be very adept at achieving, a gift he has. Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Katherine Waterston, Reece Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Joanna Fucking Newsome, Martin Short, Martin Donavan, Eric Roberts and many more star in this rambling neo-noir. Doc is a hippie Private Investigator in 1970 LA. He takes on several cases at once which all end up intersecting Altman stylee. After Punch Drunk Love (2002) PTA went and studied/worked with Robert Altman for a few years didn't he? So that's no surprise. Boogie Nights (1997), Magnolia (1999) and There Will Be Blood (2007) were instantly satisfying so perhaps Inherent Vice requires more than one watch to get a full appreciation of the film. I'm more inclined to think it's just not quite his usual high standard though.


Hooper (1978)
Now this is enterfuckingtanment! Some of the most fun to be had at the movies in the 70s. This is pure 70s Americana pop culture gold. Sonny Hooper (Burt Reynolds) is a stuntman extraordinaire at the top of his game but is it time to quit while he's ahead with a body that's still functioning? An upstart newcomer to the stunt game Ski (Jan-Michael Vincent) has arrived on the set of The Spy Who Laughed At Danger (Where Sonny Hooper is the stunt co-ordinator/lead actors stunt double) to make Sonny threatened, escalate one-upmanship but ultimately think about bowing out while he's still number one in the profession. Sally Field is charming as his girlfriend Gwen. James Best is his doctor buddy Cully always with painkillers on hand for HooperJohn Marley (The Godfather, Deathdream) is fabulous as the old timer and the film's producer Max Berns. Hooper is enjoyable from start to finish with satisfaction guaranteed if you're into action-comedy with absurd stunts that is. I might even be persuaded to give Smokey & The Bandit (1977) another go after watching Reynolds and Field here but I never could get into that movie for some reason. The final scintillating action sequence is one of the greatest ever caught on celluloid, so much happens. We get explosions, many car crashes, fires, imploding buildings, motorbike crashes, blown up bridges and ultimately a rocket car attempting to jump a river....what more do you need? Well what about Burt smiling into the camera and throwing  us the ok sign right at the very end to top off a crowd pleasing good time. Pop Art!


El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)
Breaking Bad seasons 1 - 4 are some of the best seasons of telly ever made. It always flummoxed me that they continued after the absolute perfection of season four's finale. Season five and five and a half were alright but it just wasn't the same. There were a few outstanding episodes amongst those final sixteen episodes though. A Breaking Bad film without Walt or Hank or Tuco or Gus or Hector or Skyler or Saul or Mike in major roles is hardly a Breaking Bad movie at all is it? It's a fucking Jesse show and if I was the director I would have called it Jesse Rides Again. You know what? I think he was one of my least favourite characters in the show because he was always trying to be this moral compass that we were all supposed be sympathetic towards. He somehow thought he was better than all the other despicable characters but had been just as ferociously lethal himself. I would have loved a Breaking Bad movie with Gus or Tuco as the main character rather than Jesse. Anyway the Breaking Bad moment has passed. Is anybody still watching Better Call Saul? Telly's now all about Killing Eve, Line Of Duty, Mindhunter, Chernobyl, Happy Valley, Mr Inbetween, Atlanta, Fleabag, Horror, True Crime, Nordic-Noir etc. El Camino was an ok revenge flick but it was nowhere near the magnificence of the classic episodes of the telly series. Jesse (Aaron Paul) escapes all the bloody mayhem of the final episode to go in search of cash stashed somewhere in Todd's (Jesse Plemons) apartment. Things then take a strange turn. In the end he seeks revenge upon Neil (Scott MacArthur) a character who was a minuscule player who I don't even think was in an episode the show, was he in the show? Anyway he was apparently the guy who rigged up the apparatus for Todd and his uncle that made sure Jesse was fully chained up like a dog, could never escape but was still able to cook methamphetamine for them. There's some gunslinging urban western shenanigans. The great Robert Forster reprises his role as Ed Galbraith and he (Forster) quite possibly died while we were watching this internet movie. RIP Robert Forster.



Vigilante (1983)
Robert Forster died (13/7/41 - 11/10/19) just as he was getting the love and recognition he always deserved. He'd recently starred in the highly acclaimed television shows Twin Peaks: The Return (2018) and El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019). I watched my favourite Forster film Walking The Edge (1985) a couple of weeks ago so I decided to go for my next favourite. Vigilante just gets better each time I watch it. Eddie Marino (Robert Forster) is a hard working nice guy who's a husband and a father in Cesspool era NYC. Some of his work colleagues including Nick (Fred Williamson, yep that's John Shaft. Can you dig it?) are in a vigilante gang to try and bring peace and order to their unsafe neighbourhood. Eddie disputes their motives until one day when he comes home to find his eight year old son shot dead and his wife in intensive care due to a gang home invasion. Eddie is soon on the revenge trail. Look out for special appearance from Joe Spinell as Lawyer Eisenburg and Woody Strode as prison inmate Rake. The splendid score is from Jay Chattaway. This Bill Lustig directed gem has become a top Ten 80s film for me.



Jackie Brown (1997)
This film is just perfection. Max Cherry was a great role for Robert Forster. While this cast all contribute brilliantly, it's the chemistry of Max Cherry (Robert Forster) and Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) that gets us in our feelings. They play their middle aged, world weary, quietly romantic characters with such poise and sensitivity. Melanie (Bridget Fonda) and Louis (Robert De Niro) provide the comedy gold, Ordell (Samuel L Jackson) is just plain heinous and Ray (Michael Keaton) is a jerk off but strangely likeable. Forster was nominated for an Oscar and a golden globe for his role here. I'm not going into it, you know it, you've seen it, Pam Grier's so charismatic and it's still as fresh today as the day it was released. This is the only film Quentin Tarantino adapted from a book and it's the best thing he ever did so...er...read between those lines folks.


Small Town Crime (2017)
Robert Forster is not the lead here but he does play a bad arse muther fucker of a grandfather whose granddaughter has been killed by a nefarious ring of paedophiles. He is on a vengeance bent with his very old School weaponry and he doesn't disappoint. However this film belongs to Sol (John Hawkes) from Deadwood. He plays Mike Kendall an ex-cop who's a total drunk fuck up. Mike accidentally becomes embroiled in a complicated extortion beef after finding a half dead girl by the side of the road. This is a tremendous little neo-noir-western/thriller/crime drama. The entire cast here are on point but a special mention must go to vile degenerate Orthopedic played superbly by Jeremy Ratchford. I recommend.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

More On Movies - October

RECENTLY RE/WATCHED


Going In Style (1979)
This is a whole different tone to the remake from 2017. The remake was good but this 1979 original is a stone cold classic. It's so bittersweet, naturally sad, pretty fun and just a wonderful piece of filmmaking. Three old retired men are bored with the ho hum of senior citizen life in the suburbs of NY so they organise a bank robbery in the city to add a little pizazz to their lives. Time's running out so what have they got to lose? This is made with a special touch and wonderful low key acting that is totally charming. Starring George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg.


Can't Buy Me Love (1987)
A lil rom-com/teen angst/high school cliques suck movie. I kept expecting to recall certain scenes but I really don't think I saw this while I was in High School. By 1987 Dogs In Space and Blue Velvet had already been released so this shit had no chance. I was never into John Hughes and his clones anyway it all just seemed so phoney, serious, corny and wanky. "I'm an adult film director and I've got a message for you kids that's going to change your world and I'm not being patronising honest." These type of films were sort of in ideal fantasy land where reality was wished away. The acting here's good though and I suppose it's a fair example of the sub-genre. One thing I do like is that it's not set in the usual LA or NYC. It's refreshingly set in Tuscon with a cast not full of your typical 80s teen actors. This is for other people though, the nostalgists who were the right age at the time of originally viewing this flick.

Quick Change (1990)
Excellent premise for a bank heist movie. Was it meant to be funny though? There's gotta be nothing worse than a comedy without any laughs. Am I the only person in the world who can't stand Bill Murray? Randy Quaid is awful as the overacting Loomis, there's even less laughs from him. Geena Davis is always good though with her charisma all over the place and Jason Robards is great but that can't save this bollocks though. Quick Change gets a bit of love from the VHS nerds which mystifies me.


Killing Of A Chinese Bookie (1976/78)
I watched the the shorter re-released 1978 version which I now believe is vastly superior to the original bloated cut from 1976 which was promptly withdrawn from cinemas. The 1976 theatrical release of this was just a bit much, way too self self indulgent, containing too many unnecessary scenes and obviously not well edited. The 1978 version tightens up the whole thing, removes the tripe, rearranges scenes around and generally turns it into a bleak mini masterpiece. This is a prime example of how important editing is. John Cassavetes and his editor turning an almost unwatchable and boring flick into a gem is an incredible feat. Cosmo (Ben Gazzara) owns a strip club in LA but is a degenerate gambler. He owes Mort (Seymour Cassel) and his goons tens of thousands of dollars. They will let him wipe out his absurdly high debt if he can do their dirty work of killing Harold Ling a Chinese bookie for them. All is not as it seems though. Supreme acting from everyone particularly the aforementioned Ben Gazzara and Seymour Cassel.


American Grindhouse (2010)
Wow they try to cover over a hundred years of film-making in just eighty minutes. You could do a doc on each of the exploitation sub-genres covered here ie. nudie cuties, biker movies, Nazisploitation, porn, women in prison flicks, sex hygiene films, horror, blaxploitation, roughies etc. But for a quick and breezy look inside America's contribution to exploitation cinema it's ok. It's like an exploitation sampler, see what you like then go for a deeper search on that subject later in your own time. All cinema is exploitation though innit? John Landis and Joe Dante could talk about a polo match and I'd be into it. We also get Kim Morgan, Alison Anders, Bill Lustig, Jonathan Kaplan, Jack Hill, Larry Cohen as talking heads plus some boring dudes who wrote some books on the subject. Robert Forster narrates and Alligator (1980) rates a mention toward the end. This is definitely for neophytes. 

The Killers (1964)
I know I've seen this before but I just couldn't get into it tonight at all as it was way too melodramatic and the pacing seemed strange. I usually enjoy everything Don Siegal does, even though his casting choices are sometimes dubious his end product is usually fairly superior but this... Angie Dickinson is so bad right? John Cassavetes even gave me the shits tonight. Perhaps I was having a bad day but then again maybe I wasn't. Lee Marvin however is always fabulous and on point. Stick to the legendary 1946 version with Burt Lancaster & Ava Gardner.


A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (1995)
Marty goes through his personal history of American pictures with his usual eloquence and enthusiasm. If you know a lot or very little about American Cinema this is essential viewing. Going to film school must be so disappointing because Scorsese is not your professor and anything less would just be an inferior education. I hear people on podcasts who are teachers, lecturers and professors and think fuck who would pay to sit in a lecture theatre to hear these  semi-moronic twits with no original thoughts or insights of their own. They just regurgitate shit they've heard and you've probably already heard too. Anyway A Personal Journey... is fantastic. Marty is my professor.


White Line Fever (1975)
This is not what I was expecting at all. I suppose I was thinking this was going be a good time 70s trucker action flick but hell no, not with Jonathan Kaplan, the man behind Truck Turner (1974), Over The Edge (1979) & The Accussed (1988), directing. As you might expect this is actually pretty dark stuff, addressing grim social issues of the time. It's still totally worth watching though. Carrol Jo Hummer (Jan-Michael Vincent) buys an expensive truck to start a career in the truckin' business. He soon soon discovers corruption is rife in the long haul game but he will not toe the line to their criminal ways. Many violent shenanigans ensue with some fine trucking action. Watch out for the iconic scene of Carrol and his rig named The Blue Mule crashing through a corporate sign. Gritty entertainment.


The Wrecking Crew (2008)
Another rock doc. This was released around the time this sub-genre was reaching critical mass. If you haven't read all the books and the magazines and need to know about The Wrecking Crew then go ahead check this out. Did you know Brian Wilson liked Be My Baby? This documentary does however feature Carol Kaye the world's most famous unknown bass guitarist and best. She most likely played bass on one of your favourite pop songs or all of them. Also she most likely played on your favourite soundtrack too. Now that I'm writing about her, I reckon a documentary on Carol Kaye would have been a much better idea as she really is the most fascinating human specimen here. Is she the coolest woman to have ever walked the earth? I mean she played bass on These Boots Are Made For Walkin' AND Wichita Lineman plus literally Ten Thousand other recordings.


The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Political intrigue thriller with a fair amount of comedy too. Doris Day and Jimmy Stewart are the draw cards but the rest of cast were fantastic too, however beware of bad child actor Christopher Olsen. The 40s & 50s were a nadir for kids acting in films. I've not seen this classic in over thirty years. My dad had a video of it along with some other Hitchcock gems like Rear Window (1954) and North By North West (1959). I'm amazed at how much of the movie I remember so it must have got quite a thrashing on the old VCR. It's not quite in the league of the aforementioned two films but it's still pretty bloody suspenseful. I'm going to say it again: Alfred could have trimmed 20+ minutes of fat here but hey he still makes such marvellous pictures that are a pleasure to watch.


Citizen X (1995)
Well this is magnificent. Forgotten crime drama gold that totally surprised me so that was fucking cool. This is a HBO made for tv film that is quite possibly the best in its field. This is based on the true story of Russian serial killer Andre Chikatilo but like this years Chernobyl mini series also on HBO it focuses on the the absurd obstacles in the way of the investigation due to the incompetence and corruption of the Communist Party and its bureaucracy. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if Citizen X was used as a blueprint for Chernobyl (2019). If this movie had been theatrically released I get the feeling it would show up in best films of all time lists and cannons but it languishes in the telly movie ghetto. I recommend.


Smash Palace (1981)
Grim New Zealand family/crime drama that takes a strange turn. A race car driver Al (Bruno Lawrence) runs a car wreck yard called Smash Palace but his life is not turning out the way he would have liked and he gradually becomes more and more unhinged, endangering his wife, daughter and friends. Incredibly put together film that includes some great car racing scenes and the rustically charming but isolated NZ countryside. Shazza O'Neil contributes mucho 80s pop to the soundtrack. Smash Palace is highly regarded and usually considered one of the top five films to ever emanate out of the land of the long white cloud.


Money Movers (1979)
Aussie heist classic based on a true story directed by Bruce Berresford. Corrupt cops and robbers movie that flopped at the box office but is probably in the top 10 Australian crime movies of all time now. Star studded cast with Terry Donovan leading the great roll call that includes Bryan Brown, Bud Tingwall, Lucky Grills, Tony Bonner etc. This may well be the first in Australian Film & TV to document our ridiculous police corruption that has been rife throughout my lifetime particularly in the 70s, 80s and 90s in the states of Victoria and New South Wales. Some of the script is just perfection capturing the smart arse Aussie language of the time. A convoluted plot to describe on paper but not hard to follow whilst watching suffice to say there's an inside job on a payroll company planned and all hell breaks loose. Money Movers is also fucking brutal. Look out for sensational scene where Robert Conway (Lucky Grills) slaps the arse of female co-worker and does some smooth sexy talk. Money Movers probably shouldn't have been set in Sydney because it just looked like it was set in Adelaide where it was actually filmed.


One-Eyed Jacks (1961)
Elisha Cook Jr. alert! He has a brief role here as a bank-teller. This is the only picture Marlon Brando directed and it was unbelievably auspicious. What could have been? One-Eyed Jacks is an epic of biblical proportions and is beautifully crafted. Rio aka The Kid (Marlon Brando) is stitched up by his partner in crime Dad (Karl Malden) and is left to be captured by the law. Rio ends up spending five years of hard labour until he escapes with vengeance on his mind. The epic tale then continues to unfurl. We get a dash of comedy as well as some romance amongst the usual western tropes of brotherhood, revenge, gunslinging violence, hard drinking and betrayal. Marlon Brando is totally creepy and charismatic at the same time. David Lynch named the casino/brothel in Twin Peaks after the film's title, surely that's enough of a recommendation to watch this unique film.


7 Men From Now (1956)
I reckon this is such a bad title and kinda pretentious which the film definitely is not. The first of the Ranown Cycle of westerns teaming up director Budd Boetticher and actor Randolph Scott. Ben Stride (Randolph Scott) is an ex-sheriff out in the middle of nowhere in Arizona where he runs into villains and a clueless couple from the East who all end up accompanying one another to the border town of Flora Vista. Stride is a somewhat morally ambiguous man who has revenge on his mind and the full picture of why incrementally unfolds. Suffice to say there's stolen gold, threatening Indians, shoot outs and even some chaste romance. Lee Marvin is impressive as the slippery trouble maker Bill Masters.


eXistenZ (1999)
Ellegra Gellar (Jenny Jason Leigh) creates an amazing bio-tech virtual reality game called eXistenZ. The game plugs into your spine via a bio-port. Things then swiftly get strange and confusing as to what's real and what is the game. I love the all encompassing vibe of this movie. The ensemble cast that includes Jude Law, Don McKellar, Willem Dafoe, Oskar Hsu etc. put in a hell of a collective performance. It's a Cronenberg film so theres some weird, grotesque and icky stuff such as the anus-like bio-ports, the weapons made out of a disgusting Chinese meal of mutant amphibians and human teeth, the gross infected genitalia/internal organ-esque game pods etc. When it was originally in cinemas I went to see it, then after it finished I watched it again. Cronenberg could have kept this game loop going for another hour or for eternity really. The deliciousness of this film lies in you trying to you figure out what's real and what isn't. Quite possibly my favourite film directed by the great David Cronenberg.


Black Widow (1987)
Very enjoyable thriller that fits neatly into that genre's era particular to the late 80s/early 90s time frame. Why has Bob Rafelson only made 10 movies? I mean he's been in the game for over fifty years. The first half of Black Widow is pretty much a police procedural while the much improved second half is a neo-noir. This could well be Theresa Russell's finest performance, I don't think she did any shonky acting at all in the entire film! Debra Winger is outstanding. 



Black Rainbow (1989)
Whilst watching this, which I'd never seen, I kept wondering why is this not famous or cult-y like Blood Simple (1984), Angel Heart (1987) or even Red Rock West (1993)? Black Rainbow is not a film that fits easily into a category or one particular sub-genre plus the ending is not going to be for everyone. In fact it's going to downright infuriate many. Black Rainbow is such a fantastic film though, perhaps it's best to give the ending the benefit of the doubt. I mean it's directed by Mike Hodges of Get Carter (1971) fame and he does a splendid job. A medium Martha Travis (Rosanna Arquette) ends up not just talking to the dead but predicting death and eventually stumbling across a conspiracy. This causes reporters, sinister businessmen and hitmen to all become involved in this supernatural southern gothic noir-ish thriller. Martha's dad and business partner is played by Jason Robards who is great as per usual.


Crash (1996)
Don't expect a much of a plot or anything, this is a portrait of a bunch of people obsessed with masochism and car crash fetishisation. This David Cronenberg flick adapted from a JG Ballard story shocked viewers back in the day with its car crash injury sex amongst scrap metal. These were the days before the my little pony sex people and loli so now it all seems rather tame and laughable that there was ever an outrage over this film. If you've always wanted to watch James Spader have sex with a bevy of car crash victims in various states of physical injury then Crash is for you. While eXistenZ has gained in my estimation since the 90s Crash has not. What happens when your so called provocative film loses its purpose?


I, Madman (1989)
Not to be confused with the z-grade slasher Madman (1981). This is a pretty good horror movie where reality and fantasy intermingle. Virginia's (Jenny Wright) reading a couple of obscure horror novels by Malcolm Brand but the stories start bleeding into her reality. Some good strange scary stuff and even a monster. Like a cross between In The Mouth of Madness (1995), a monster movie and a slasher. Well worth a look 30 years later if you've never seen it or even if you have. This is a very charming lil flick, so much so that I can't believe this wasn't one of the biggest box office hits of 1989.

Network (1976)
A bunch of yelly people proselytise their way through two hours plus of OTT drama. A satire as subtle as a sledgehammer, Network takes potshots at news media, global politics, mental illness, TV and its viewers. Perhaps it's not half as clever as it thinks it is though as one man claims there are no longer ideologies but when it came down to it he was pretty much preaching the ideology of globalisation. These themes are totally prescient though. This might have been mind blowing stuff in the mid 70s but these concepts and ideas are still hashed out in the old school media, youtube and twitter on a daily basis. Network is hardly cinematic at all. The dialogue is a dense word barrage that would probably have worked better as a radio play. Hey it's got Faye Dunaway and it's directed by Sidney Lumet though.


Alone In The Dark (1982)
I like surprises and this was unexpectedly engaging. Maybe I shouldn't have been amazed though, as it was directed by Jack Sholder who a few years later would make the underrated mini classic The Hidden (1987) plus it's got the starpower of Donald Pleasance, Martin Landau and Jack Palance. I guess it it's hard to beat Halloween (1978) in the slasher stakes so why not chuck in not one escapee from the asylum but four? Including a paedophile named Fatty (Erland Van Lidth). The foursome break free when there's a blackout. They've been told that the new Psychiatrist Dr Dan Potter (Dwight Schulz) murdered the previous doctor which is wrong but they are on a rampage to kill him and his family anyway. It feels like Donald Pleasance is reprising his Halloween role as Dr Loomis here except he's called Dr Bain. It's got modern day use of a bow and arrow as a murder weapon which always tickles me. Alone In The Dark is well put together and very bloody entertaining.


Upgrade (2018)
I gotta say I was worried fifteen minutes in, Upgrade just felt too slow, generic, retro and boring but sometime in the following ten minutes it occurred to me that I'd become transfixed and was unable to be distracted for the rest of the movie. We get a lot of Melbourne, with heaps of Richmond and Australian actors who couldn't hold down their American accents for very long if at all. The mum from Offspring doing an American accent was weird. This is another mega-mix pastiche movie that James Wan and Leigh Whannell are so fond of but this time it's sci-fi like Terminator, RoboCop, Total Recall, Nightrider etc. For Upgrade Whannell is out on his own for both directing and writing duties. Remember 80s terms like cyber-punk and body horror well that's what Upgrade is indebted to. The only way I can describe it is that it I felt like I was watching Kit (from Nightrider) intermingle with Michael Knight's mind and body in a Robocop kinda way.

Lost Gully Road (2017)
What can I say about this movie? er...Clare Moore & Dave Graney provide an excellent score.

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Taxi Driver (1976)
Little known film starring Bob De Niro as Travis Bickle, a delusional psychopathic cab driver who becomes an accidental anti-hero in mid 70s NYC. It's not too bad.

The Making Of Taxi Driver (1999)
You know the drill they made a movie then they made another one about making that one. I don't know that I can recommend it but if you're a film buff you've seen it or you're gonna see it anyway. Here's some iconic pics from behind the scenes of one of the greatest films ever made.


Oh my God how handsome are these two? Bob so young plus that's gotta be the coolest picture ever taken of Marty.


Iconic photo that has done the rounds. Cybill Shepherd with icy pole I love you. Puts in perspective how little Marty is, an artistic giant however.


Now this is interesting because I always think of Paul Schrader (left) as mentally ill, physically ill, fucked up on alcohol and drugs, socially inept, living in his car and generally living in a skank. That all must have been when he was writing the script of Taxi Driver though which was several years before filming took place. So he'd obviously sold a few scripts and got his shit together by 1975. I mean look at him, he's lookin v suave. Good Job Paul!


Now this is interesting too. That's Jodes and her sister Connie who was much older but pretty much the same size. Connie was her stand in during inappropriate scenes for the then 12 year old Jody Foster who was playing a child prostitute. This was a very touchy subject that involved The Welfare Board, Governor Pat Brown, psychiatric assessments and the eventual requirement to have a social worker on set at all times.


Just love this photo. This was the late 20th century folks and these were artists who were masters in their field. History.


I love the relationship between these two as Travis and Wizard (Peter Boyle) in the film. Wizard's like Bickle's only connection to reality and that's not a hell of a lot is it?


Travis Bickle and Sport (Harvey Keitel). What astounds me here is that in Taxi Driver (1976) these two are entirely different people from Johnny Boy & Charlie Cappa from Mean Streets (1973). Two great actors that were in the midst of reaching incredible artistic achievements.