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. 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 set 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 stupid, 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.
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,...er 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 Crale. Carol 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.
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.
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 even though Marty Scorsese alerted me to them years ago in a documentary on American film. 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.