Friday, 20 December 2019

More On Movies - December

Report To The Commissioner (1975)
Five years ago I'd never heard of Report To The Commissioner but thanks once again to the great Kino Lorber blu-ray label for bringing great cinema from the past to my attention. This is another fine 70s crime movie that's under the radar of most because it doesn't make the cannons or the lists. There's no good reason why it shouldn't though. It's just as good as the famous, popular or critically acclaimed crime films of the 70s. For a start it's co-written by the legendary Ernest Tidyman of Shaft, French Connection and High Plains Drifter fame. There is some stunning and totally unique action here. A Dude with no legs who only has a crappy trolly where he uses his hands on the ground to gain momentum ends up in an outlandish chase on the night streets of NYC. There's another crazy chase between a cop and a dealer, this time on foot across the top of the NYC skyline and eventually into the bustling streets. This is all captured with frenetic energy by the cinematographer Mario Tosi. The acting, huh the acting, we've got Yaphet Kotto and Michael Moriarty so it's what you would expect, exceptional. Bo Lockley (Moriarty) a sensitive rookie cop is given the job of finding a missing woman by the name of Pat Butler (Susan Blakely). Little does Bo know she's actually a cop deep undercover. All hell breaks loose from then on. The intense elevator sequence has to be seen to be believed, I mean it should be an all-time iconic 70s film scene that everyone knows because it's unforgettable. If you've seen the film you know what I mean. The more I watch this flick the better it gets. Report To The Commissioner has a wicked street funk score which is surprisingly by Elmer Bernstein. Also look out for Richard Gere in his debut film role as creep Billy. For the uninitiated I recommend.

The Irishman (2019)
Oh god this was tedious and I've still got over an hour left to watch but that's never gonna happen. I don't wanna trash my heroes so I'll just to say it's time to retire Marty. You're still one of the all time great film directors and quite possibly the best. I was confused by Al Pacino who was playing Jimmy Hoffa as an Italian-American. Being an Australian I had to look up who the fuck the real life Hoffa was. He was no Italian-American that's for sure he was an American coming from German & Irish stock. Frank Sheerin played by Robert De Niro is an American with a totally Irish background. So this all had me baffled. Am I being racist? I don't think so. I'm just into good casting decisions. These old-timers don't seem to be making them at this point. Marty had to put his old mate Bob in the role as The Irishman which is pure senility (yeah yeah I know it was De Niro who suggested the entire project). Let it go though, you can cast someone else who would fit the role properly, you know. Oh and really? Ray Romano in a proper film? Crikey, that's mental! It might also be time for good ole Al Pacino to retire too before it gets too embarrassing. One thing is for sure though Marty has not lost the knack of putting together a fabulous and fitting set of songs for the soundtrack. Martin Scorsese was asked five or six years ago "Do you watch movies?" He said he tried but they are too long and he's getting old so there is not enough time to waste. Well fuck me Marty why expect us to sit through the entirety of The Irishman if even you can't?

The Silent Partner (1978)
I was trying to get into the Christmas spirit by watching the best movie of 1978 the other day. It does not get much better than this movie-wise. I've seen this so many times I don't think I can even write about it objectively. This dark heist-thriller is a masterpiece. Turn your eyes away if you think Christopher Plummer is the embodiment of that is pure and good in the world because his character Harry Reikle is not a particularly nice fella even though he's employed as  Santa Clause at the local shopping mall. My minor quibble is that I don't understand Miles Cullen's (Elliot Gould) obsession with his workmate Julie Carver (Susannah York). She's a bit of an unlikeable mole (I mean that in the Aussie slang sense of the word) Anyway I guess that's Cullen's fallibility innit? It doesn't detract from the perfectly realised story-telling from Curtis Hansen (writer) in this film which never misses a beat. I'm always amazed that such troubled shoots can have such impressive outcomes. Bank teller Cullen stumbles stumbles upon a plan for his bank to be robbed so he devises a way to get a cut of the action. This causes a snowball of chaos with frightening consequences. His simple plan becomes a complex and thrilling game of cat and mouse. Gould is at his most nuanced here, probably his best ever performance.

IT: Chapter Two (2019)
OMFG! This nearly goes for 3 hours and it's only half the story! It is one of Emma's favourite books and even she said it could have been cut down to half the length. They even add stuff that's not in the book. Film-makers you are doing something very wrong if you are adding stuff to a Stephen King story, you need to be subtracting. It seems that every horror movie these days has to chuck in some Evil Dead type bits to show off and say I'm cool I love Evil Dead then I felt like I was in The Conjuring universe for a while followed by a visit to a Harry Potter film. I think that really I was just meant to be down a filthy sewer though. Suffice to say this was absolute tedious bullshit that should never need to be inflicted on anybody's eyeballs. The corny letter at the end read in a voice over made me want to be sick. If only the directer had been here to throw up on. This is for nostalgists who love the book's characters, who can will themselves to get past the generic filmmaking side of things. Having said that the acting and directing are good and hey it's got the brilliant Bill Hader but that's only consequential if you're an IT fan. Three hours back please.

Total Recall (1990)
This a hell of a rollercoaster ride of a movie that rarely lets up until the end. One of the original mindfuck movies before it all got trendy and became an actual thing with The Game (1997) Being John Malkovich (1999), Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004), Moon (2009), Inception (2010) and all the other ones I can't recall. Total Recall doesn't take itself too seriously and knows that it is just ultimately thrilling fun entertainment. Peak Sharon Stone rocks a stellar perm. The excitement lies in the frenetic action and trying to decipher what's real and what isn't. This is pure Pop Art.

Silent Night Deadly Night (1984)
This was a first time watch for me. I feel like Christmas tv viewing is more for British telly specials. The best in recent memory have been things like The Office Xmas Special, The Royale Family ones, Sherlock, Inside No.9 etc. Traditionally though the British specials weren't always Christmas-y just spooky stories like those of MR James. Anyway in the last fifteen years I've become a massive fan of a few North American Christmas films like cult faves Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972), Black Christmas (1974) and Silent Partner (1978). I always hated the cheesy American Xmas flicks and all those so called comedies which were shite. Anyway Yanks love a bit of Silent Night, Deadly Night at yuletide so I gave it a go. I wasn't disappointed either. Whereas those aforementioned Canadian & American favourites were sort of proper adult horror movies involving adults this one felt a bit transgressive as it involved a lot of little kids. I kept thinking what if you were 6 and you saw your parents watching this on Christmas eve? It would totally fuck you up. The first third of this is mainly through the eyes of a young boy Billy Chapman (Danny Wagner, Jonathan Best). Really disturbing shit happens to him during the Christmas holiday season. The rest of the flick when Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) is 18 then turns into a top tier slasher with plenty of boobs, blood, Billy's hairy arse, blind drunkenness and more. I think movies like this would have been so much more fun back in the day when you had outraged middlebrow American critics slamming these films as morally bankrupt. That taboo would have been so delicious at the time because it would have felt naughty, not so nice and a bit wrong when you got your hands on a VHS copy of this. Now that even the most demented horror movies seem to be totally acceptable the allure isn't as great. Still, this is fine fucked up Christmas fun.

The Strawberry Statement (1970)
A 60s campus radical film worth a look if you're interested in that kind of thing like Getting Straight (1970) or Zabriskie Point (1970). Quentin Tarantino took the opening tune The Circle Game sung by Buffy Saint Marie here and put it in his 2019 flick Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood. In the Tarantino flick it appears in the scene where Sharon Tate is cruising Hollywood and picks up a female hitch-hiker. It's a breezy breath of folky fresh air in both films. Simon (Bruce Davison) is an apolitical student at a Californian University in the late 60s. He eventually becomes entwined in campus political activism as he fancies Linda (Kim Darby). Events unfold from there. Despite a very cool soundtrack featuring Neil Young, Thunderclap Newman, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Plastic Ono Band and Buffy Saint Marie this film wasn't appealing to anyone at the time. I'd say it was a coupla years behind the times and was probably seen as phoney by real students and protestors of the time. The usual corporations trying to cash in on youth and counterculture. Now though it has that off kilter time capsule appeal.

Anguish (1987)
This is a whole lotta silly fun. You gotta love a movie within a movie within a movie, particularly if it's done well. Kudos has to go to editor Tom Saben and whoever did the sound design. Michaels Lerner (as John) and Zelda Rubinstein (as John's mum) are wonderful in their roles in the movie within the movie called The Mommy. John has a very strange controlling mum and becomes a murderer. I think I like that movie better than the actual movie, if that makes any sense. The movie within The Mommy is an actual ye olde monster movie The Lost World (1925). So in the actual movie Anguish we have a bunch of cinema goers watching The Mommy at a theatre called The Rex. This audience eventually become agitated as they may have been subliminally hypnotised by what they're watching. One man (Angel Jove) becomes totally unhinged and bloody chaos ensues. The plot of Anguish mirrors that of The Mommy which makes it an interesting watch with all the overlapping drama. This might sound slightly confusing or convoluted on paper but it's a testament to director Bigas Luna that watching this film is not one bit baffling. Well worth a look.

The Haunting Of Julia aka Full Circle (1977)
This film has a lot going for it ie. quite possibly the greatest score ever, the beautiful cinematography, fabulous acting, Mia farrow's hair, creepy houses, even creepier old people and stately direction. This is not going to be for everyone however as it moves at a slow pace and remains rather mysterious even by the time the final credits roll. There is spooky stuff and a death toll though. For 70s horror aficionados, haunted house enthusiasts and Mia Farrow fans.     

The Losers aka Nam's Angels (1970)
Well I wasn't expecting much from this so what a surprise that it wasn't just silly fun but a really good movie. I don't know why I was thinking that, maybe because it was a war movie but every Jack Starrett directed film I've seen has been fucking ace Race With The Devil (1975), The Gravy Train (1974), Hollywood Man (1976) etc. This had an absurd premise but was executed consummately and even had some unexpectedly touching moments. A gang of renegade bikers are unofficially hired by the US army to go into the Cambodian jungle to rescue an American agent. This motley crew get up to all sorts of wild antics ie. boozing, fighting & sex. They eventually rig up their motorbikes into insane military machines, one is a fusion of a harley at the front and a Volkswagen at the back suffice to say some mental action follows. The final assault to rescue the American (CIA?) agent Chet Davis (Jack Starrett) is spectacular although things don't go exactly according to plan. Look out for outstanding scenes in the jungle bar-disco with crazy 60s dancing and rock music. This has got to be a blueprint for the only other war movie I like Apocalypse Now, otherwise the similarities are a hell of a coincidence.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)
OK perhaps I've become fanatical to the point of obsession with Once Upon A Time... This was the sixth or seventh time I've watched it but the first time on my new blu-ray. It looked damn good too. My only quibble is, as mentioned originally here, the Steve McQueen scene. If that crappy 30 seconds was dropped I think we would have film perfection. The jump-cuts I can now deal with, they are fine and have their place within this film's context. Once Upon A Time... just gets funnier the more times you watch it. Every word out of Cliff Booth's (Brad Pitt) mouth is pure gold. Bruce Dern's cameo as George Spahn is champagne comedy. I'm loving the dance sequence at the playboy mansion with Mama Cass, Michelle Phillips and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) to the oh so catchy Son Of A Lovin' Man by The Buchanan Brothers. Everything about the period detail is just so right the cars, the fashions, the restaurants, the trailers, the interior design, the streets, The Theatres, the fucking dog food labels etc. That scene with Cliff Booth fighting Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) has got to be the movie highlight of the last 10 years surely. Then there's the histrionically insecure Rick Dalton (Leo DiCaprio) on the set of the pilot for the western Lancer with the 9 year old girl Trudi Fraser (Julia Butters) where he coughs, splutters, spits and eventually cries as they talk about the crappy paperback he's reading. Then he's hilariously eating chicken during a take where he's delivering his lines to some cowboys. Later he fluffs his lines during the saloon scene and admonishes himself into his trailer's mirror in a maniacal tantrum that is both comical and poignant. But then we get fist pumping victory as he slays a scene in the saloon with Wayne Maunder (Luke Perry) where he throws Trudi to the ground. She later whispers in his ear "That was the best acting I've ever seen." It's all so incredibly bittersweet. I haven't even mentioned the last section of the film where Cliff & Rick return from Italy to have the most bizarre alcohol and drug fuelled night of their lives where there's plenty more comic gold and some of the most satisfying violence ever captured on celluloid. Who would have thought I'd be saying a  Quentin Tarantino film is the best movie of 2019?

Enter The Void (2010)
I'm only ten years late on this one! My cousin couldn't believe that I said I didn't know who Noah Baumbach was the other day after she recommended his new film starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansen. I said I just haven't followed film closely since the 90s. Which is totally true. After getting bored of all those time loop/ultra twisty movies, never liking superhero flicks and getting diminishing returns from old faves Scorsese, The Coens, David Cronenberg, David Fincher et al. I didn't think there was anything out there for me on the big screen which didn't bother me one iota because television was fucking brilliant in the 00s. There was The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, Big Love, Breaking Bad, The Shield, The Office (UK), Peep Show, Ashes To Ashes, Black Books, Spaced, The Mighty Boosh, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Arrested Development, 30 Rock etc. and we had to buy each season on DVD (streaming wasn't a thing yet) so we could watch them over and over again. It turns out I had seen Greenberg (2010) a movie by this Noah chap which I fucking hated. He wrote The Life Aquatic which I also detested so I didn't really feel like I'd missed much. After watching Enter The Void though I really feel like I've re-entered the cinematic 21st century again. Although I've seen the films of Park Chan-wook (me love the most) Jonathan Glazer (me love), Panos Cosmatos (me like a lot), James Wan (me sometimes like) and Nicholas Winding Refn (me no like). I think perhaps Gasper Noé is the most visionary director I have ignored during the new millennium. I am aware and have also seen some of the the films of Jennifer Kent, Sandi TanTaika Waititi, Karyn Kusama, Kim Gee-woon, Bong Joon-ho, The Safdies, Jeremy Saulnier and Alejandro G Innaritu. I wouldn't have a clue what people think of Gasper Noé. He might be cool or he might be a complete arsehole I really couldn't give a shit. For starters Enter The Void has quite possibly the best soundtrack ever. I mean talk about appealing to my ears, the soundtrack contains music from Throbbing Gristle, LFO, Coil, Christopher Franke, Delia Derbyshire, Annea Lockwood, Christian Vogel, Alvin Lucier plus a bunch of other outer limits artists I don't even know (which excites me). Noé seems to have obviously taken inspiration from Stanley Kubrick, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Aaronovsky circa Requiem For A Dream, probably Antonioni circa Zabriskie Point and some ye olde avant-garde cinema for Enter The Void. Having said that this is a pretty straight forward narrative. It's the visual style in which it is delivered that is outfuckingstanding. This film is a life/death cycle that follows a brother and sister who live amongst Tokyo's seedy underbelly. Linda (Paz De La Huerta) is a stripper while Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) is druggie on his way to becoming a fully fledged dealer. Oscar & Linda's relationship borders on the incestuous. Their story unfolds in a psychedelic blaze of stunning vivid neon colour which is lurid and fantastical. Enter The Void is somewhere between absolute pretentious bullshit and mind-blowing innovation. We definitely see some stuff that's never been visualised previously in cinema. You'll either love it or hate it or both.

You're Next (2011?)
The Davisons gather for a family reunion in their mansion out in the sticks. What could go wrong? Horror/Thriller movies from the 2010s don't get much better than this. We get many creative ultra violent moments, bows & arrows (always a winner in my book), Barbara Crampton, cute animal masks, a tough Aussie chick (Home & Away's Sharni Vinson), many "aw that would have really fucking hurt" moments and a pearler of a climax. Good times.

Starry Eyes (2014)
This satanic/body horror movie is pretty grim with some very brutal violence. I had to look away at one stage as Sarah Walker (Alexandra Essoe) pulled off her fingernail because it was way too realistic. The story is a familiar tale of fame and what people are willing to exchange for it. Hollywood wannabe Sarah needs to sell her soul, suck the cock of an elderly man The Producer (Louis Dezseran), a Harvey Weinstein type character, then sacrifice her friends to become the movie star she's always dreamt of being. There is some pretty gross stuff here to make David Cronenberg proud but it doesn't contain the humour to go along with it, unless I'm missing something. Starry Eyes is noteworthy for two reasons. One is the fabulous synth score from Jonathan Snipes and the other is the extraordinary acting performance from Alexandra Essoe. She is this movie. I don't know who gets nominations and awards but she should have got all of them all in 2014!

Stoker (2014)
There's nothing wrong with this movie per se I mean it's made by possibly the world's finest film director Park Chan-wook. The acting's top shelf, the cinematography is gorgeous and the directing is of-course very fucking stylish. Stoker is based on the brilliantly suspenseful melodramatic thriller Shadow Of A Doubt (1943) directed by Alfred Hitchcock though so here lies a problem. From the moment the film started I was comparing it to Hitchcock. You don't really want to be compared to Hitchcock do you? I mean that's just setting yourself up for failure innit?  Suspense is not really intensely built up like the master would have done, so it's just a bit lacking in the vitality department. Style over substance is something I didn't want to write but exercises such as these are always a little empty. I mean did anyone even bother watching Spike Lee's remake of Park Chan-wook's very own undeniable classic masterpiece Oldboy? Perhaps if I'd never seen Shadow Of A Doubt or wasn't aware that Stoker was based upon it my judgment may have been different. It's still worth a look though.

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