Thursday, 3 October 2019

More On Movies - October


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1978 version which I now believe is vastly superior to the original bloated cut from 1976 which was promptly withdrawn from cinemas.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 it 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 & its viewers and you. 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 on youtube, twitter and old school media 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 can'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 (note to self: must purchase that).


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.

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