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? 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. This is another 70s masterpiece. Sometimes it's very funny but the situation feels pretty real and something that could totally happen. Matthau is brilliant as the Lt Garber. David Shire provides an exquisite score.
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.
Fuck I haven't seen Dolemite for ages but there's a new biopic on Rudy Ray Moore 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 around the edges first cinematic outing from 1975. Dolemite is the chunky ladies man/pimp who was framed by his enemy Willie Green who is working for Mayor Daley. He was found with stolen furs, firearms and drugs because they were planted by his enemies and ended up in prison with a 20 years sentence. He gets an early release though so he can help can capture the goons who framed him and clean up the neighbourhood. His first order of business upon release from gaol is to get changed in the street back into his pimp-alicious threads, now that is a man with the right priorities! Oh boy, we get some stunning stuff such Dolemite's blue proto-rap performance poetry, a harem of Kung Fu hookers, the hamburger guy with the world's funkiest drug walk, dodgy politicians, a black separatist sex fiend Reverend, crazy sexy time with Dolemite, supreme 70s fashion, shoot outs, cool cars, the funkiest soundtrack, wild dancing, incredible 70s dialogue, an amazing bit of violence where Dolemite breaks through Willie's skin with a karate punch 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, interior design to die for, shoot outs etc. Look out for spectacular truck crushing man in a phone box sequence! We even 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's wilfully obtuse and unnecessarily convoluted 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 evrything 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 perhaps we're meant to ride in his confused stoned shoes for the duration of this flick. It's an adaptation though so maybe he was just follows 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, Magnolia and There Will Be Blood were instantly satisfying so perhaps Inherent Vice requires more than one watch to get a full appreciation of the film. Maybe it's just not quite his usual high standard. I'll watch it again someday and reassess the situation.
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. Hooper (Burt Reynolds) is a stuntman extraordinaire at the top of his game but it is time to quit while he's ahead with a body that works relatively well. An upstart newcomer to the stunt game Ski (Jan-Michael Vincent) has arrived on Hooper's movie set to make him 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 Hooper. John Marley (The Godfather, Deathdream) is fabulous as the old timer and the film's producer Max Berns. This film is enjoyable from start to finish with satisfaction guaranteed. I might even be persuaded to give Smokey & The Bandit another go after watching Reynolds and Field here but I never could get into that movie for some reason. The final stunt scene is one of the greatest action sequences of all time, so much happens. We get explosions, many car crashes, fires, imploding buildings, motorbike crashes, blown up bridges and ultimately a rocket car that jumps a river....what more do you need? Oh and a nod to the camera from Burt at the end who does the ok symbol just to top off a crowd pleasing good time. This would have been great to see in cinemas upon first release in 1978. The crowd would have lapped it up.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)
I reckon Breaking Bad seasons 1 - 4 are some of the best seasons of telly ever made. It always flummoxed me that they continued after the perfect ending of season four. Season five and five and a half were alright but it just wasn't the same. There were a couple of outstanding episodes amongst these 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 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 evil himself. I would have loved a Breaking Bad movie with Gus or Tuco as the main character rather than Jesse. El Camino was an ok revenge flick but it was nowhere near the magnificence of most of the episodes of the first four seasons of the telly series. Jesse escapes all the bloody mayhem of the final episode to go in search of cash stashed somewhere in Todd's apartment. Things then take a strange turn. In the end he seeks revenge upon Neil (Scott MacArthur) a character who was a minuscule player and I don't even think he 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 urban western shenanigans. Then 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.
Robert Forster died (13/7/41 - 11/10/19) just as he was getting the love and recognition he always deserved. I watched my favourite Forster film Walking The Edge (1985) a couple of weeks ago so I decided to go for my second favourite and then my third (see below this review). 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) are in a vigilante gang to try and bring peace and order to their 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 short appearance from Joe Spinell as Lawyer Eisenburg and Woody Strode as prison inmate Rake. This Bill Lustig directed gem has become a top Ten 80s film for me.
Jackie Brown (1997)
This masterpiece of a film is just perfection. It was great role for Robert Forster. While this ensemble 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 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 as Max Cherry. I'm not going into it, you know it, you've seen it and it's still as fresh today as the day it was released. This is the only film Quentin adapted from a book and it's the best thing he ever did so...er...read between those lines folks.
Small Time 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 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 total creep Orthopedic played superbly by Jeremy Ratchford. I recommend.