Sunday 30 June 2019

More On Movies - July


Freeway (1996)
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.

Penitentiary (1979) 
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, 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 CraleCarol 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.

Ramrod (1947)
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.

Contagion (2011)
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.

Wednesday 12 June 2019

More On Movies - June

The Shallows (2016)
Blake Lively V Shark. What more could you ask for? Forget the script and just get into the battle between woman and shark. Good little bit of entertaining, edge of your seat action fun to pass 90 minutes of your time.

Jaws 2 (1978)
Many horror enthusiast say 'Oh Jaws 2 is much more fun and less boring that the original'. That's not true though is it? They make two hours feel like three! Having not seen this since I was little, I was expecting a zippy little action packed 'When Animals Attack' movie. What did I get? Roy Scheider pondering and pensive with no particular reason or suspense for what seemed like at least half of this movie. When the cameras finally made it to the sea with the shark it was very entertaining. Forty Five minutes of fat could have been trimmed off this film to make it more watchable. Totally disappointing. The VHS nerds get it wrong once again. Let's face it most Sequels suck.

The House Of Whipcord (1970)
This is the sort of thing I remember horror was when I was little. Grim Old scary people in dilapidated mansions who were scary and doing strange things. A beautiful young French model who had previously been arrested for public nudity is lured to a country mansion by her new enigmatic boyfriend. It turns out to be some kind of renegade prison for permissive ladies though. This is some disturbing shit right here as many transgressive shenanigans take place. There are definitely Nazi vibes happening here. House of Whipcord is put together with finesse and sophistication for such a low budget exploitation flick. I highly recommend.

Friday The 13th (1980)
This is a tight lil slasher that does exactly what it says on the tin. A summer camp at Crystal Lake is re-opening after tragedy closed the camp down 20 years earlier. The camp counsellors arrive to make the camp ready for its reopening. Yet they have been forewarned by the town's nutbar (Walt Gorney) that they are all doomed and he is not wrong as the gory bodycount soon begins. Everything is right on here including the pacing, the tone, the characters, the kills and the funny 80s gore FX to place it into the top echelon of this reviled sub-genre. How frightening is Mrs Voorhees (Betsy Palmer)?

Schizo (1976)
Another fine Pete Walker directed movie (House Of Whipcord (1970), Frightmare (1974), House Of Mortal Sin (1978)). Schizo is a proto-slasher-thriller with a score from the fabulous Stanley Myers. This was when horror was more about adults than teens which makes it so refreshing in 2019. Set amongst the mid 70s posh London set where a beautiful young figure skater Samantha (Lynne Frederick) is stalked by a creepy old man (Jack Watson). A body count begins as we wonder if Samantha is being gaslit. Why is Pete Walker not a massive legend amongst exploitation, cult and horror movie fans? He's made at least four classic movies and probably should be as rated as someone like the fabulous Jack Hill.

Friday The 13th Part 2 (1981)
Quite possibly more entertaining than the first instalment. Along with Aliens perhaps this is the exception to the sequel rule. Part 2 has a similar premise to the original, a bunch of camp counsellors are setting up a camp next door to the old crystal Lake site where Part 1 took place 5 years earlier. Bloody mayhem ensues and the new camp never really gets off the ground as Mrs Voorhees' son Jason is on the loose with murder on his mind. Look out for the spectacular wheelchair death scene. There are many unanswered questions though. What happened to Ted (Stuart Charno) the nerdy drunk guy who stays at the bar? or Terri (Kirsten Baker) the skinny dipping chick? & most importantly why did Vickie (Lauren-Marie Taylor) choose those gross brown undies as her best sexy time knickers? The soundtrack from Harry Manfredini really adds to the outstanding final battle between Jason and the final girl Ginny (Amy Steele). Is this the second best final girl scene ever after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)?

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The most notorious film made during my lifetime. Is this the most terrifying movie ever made? I really am starting to think that just might be the case even though it's also a little bit funny. Just the sound of this film puts me on an edge that is too much for a human to bare. Strangely enough there is very little gore or violence onscreen, most of it is implied. So it's no mean feat that Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the most horrifying movies in the history of film. Brother and sister Sally and Franklin Hardesty set out on a road trip in a Kombi van with their friends Jerry, Kirk and Pam to see if their grandfather's grave has been robbed. They pick up a disturbed hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) then quickly turf him from the van after some abhorrent behaviour. Things start to get more weird  when they turn up at a gas station that has no petrol, then weirder still as they approach the farm house. The slaughter soon begins. Do movie critics ever discuss the cinematography? Because it's stunning and sometimes quite beautiful. Marilyn Burns should have won the Oscar for her outstanding and gut wrenching performance as Sally the final girl. That final Iconic scene of Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen*) flailing around maniacally with the chainsaw above his head in the sunset is so memorable, it's embedded into to my brain forever.

*Gunnar Hansen wrote a good book about the making of and continuing legacy of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre called Chain Saw Confidential (2013) which I recommend if you're a fan of the movie.

Silent Rage (1982)
In recent years I may have been converted to diggin me some Burt Reynolds and Charles Bronson flicks but fuck me here's where I draw the line - Chuck Fucking Norris. I think I watched over half of this movie and then thought 'Wait a minute, why am I watching this shite. This is the worst.'

Let's Scare Jessica To Death (1971)
I reckon I've watched this around twenty times in the last ten years. It has quite possibly become my favourite film of all time. Jessica has recently been discharged from a mental hospital so her and her husband decide to make a new beginning outside of New York by purchasing an old house in the bucolic countryside of Connecticut. Their new provincial town and back country are full of strange, unkind, creepy and possibly monstrous people. The rural idyll gradually begins to close in on Jessica in a sinister and nightmarish manner. She starts to question her mental stability and becomes unhinged or does she? The ambiguousness of whether or not the the locals are ghosts, demons or vampires or whatever doesn't matter if it's all in Jessica's head does it? This film is so atmospheric, eerie and compelling despite what detractors might say. The acting of Zohra Lampert who plays Jessica is phenomenal. I have very personal reasons for being so touched by this film. Lampert's depiction of someone having been through a breakdown and still experiencing all the alienation, paranoia, phobia, delusions and mania of mental illness is so incredibly nuanced, I cannot believe it's actually acting and not real. Zohrah Lambert's performance has to be one of the greatest performances of mental instability ever captured on celluloid.

Mad Max Fury Road (2015) dunno...just don't think I was in the right frame of mind for this or it might just be complete and utter shite. I'll reserve my judgement until I've watched it again, which could be a twenty years maybe.

Repulsion (1965)
More mental illness wonderfully portrayed on film. This time by the fabulous Cathy Deneuve. Carol Ledoux (Deneuve) is a young Belgian woman living in 60s London just before psychedelia happened. Carol is depressed, detached and forlorn. She has trouble dealing with everyday things like work, paying the rent, interest from men etc. She becomes unhinged, agoraphobic, starts hallucinating and it all becomes quite fucked up. Repulsion is another Roman Polanski gem that gets better each time I watch it.

*I love movies shot in London by foreign directors like Blow Up (1966), Deadly Sweet (1967) Deep End (1970), What Have You Done To Solange? (1972) etc. in the same way I enjoy films shot in Australia by non-Australian directors like They're a Weird Mob (1966), Wake In Fright (1971), Walkabout (1971) et al. You get an outsiders skewed but honest point of view of certain national characteristics that might be too close to the bone for an actual citizen to depict on celluloid.

Hellraiser (1987)
It's been a very long time since my eyeballs have been set on this movie so I was not expecting this to hold up in any way shape or form in 2019 but Hellraiser's a really enjoyable and unique movie. A weird sort of modern day gory S&M vampire/monster romance kinda thing (aren't they all?). This quintessential 80s occult classic includes a puzzlebox, hell, creatures called cenobites, a resurrection, a haunted house, different dimensions etc. 'Come To Daddy.'

The Thing (1982)
I've been thinking for a few years now 'Why is everyone so keen on The Thing these days? Wasn't that the world's most boring film?' So I finally braced myself to watch it again after over 25 years but I must have had John Carpenter's 1982 masterpiece confused with 1951's The Thing From Another World or something else entirely. Sci-fi-Action-Psychological-Horror doesn't get much better than The Thing. A bunch of American research scientists in Antarctica have their lives turned upside down when someone from the neighbouring Norwegian research station mysteriously shows up in a helicopter trying to shoot a runaway dog. It turns out an imitative alien virus is lurking in the icy wilderness making everybody in the camp nervous and vulnerable. Conditions then become very unsettling and tense for the rest of the movie. This film has aged like fine wine. I now totally understand why so many film buffs are obsessed with The Thing. The special FX, action, ensemble cast and cinematography are sensational as is the minimal Morricone does Carpenter score. I keep being surprised at how gross and gory 80s movies were. They seem more extreme now than they did back in the day. Were MacReady (Kurt Russell) or Childs (Keith DavidThe Thing and does it even matter?

Friday The 13th Part III (1982)
It's probably not as good as the first two instalments but it's still more fun than a Tarkovsky film innit? The opening tune is Friday The 13th goes electro which is is outfuckingstanding. Part III starts out very dodgy, quite funny and takes it's time to get to the usual maniacal killing spree. This time we don't have camp counsellors. Instead we get a motley bunch of friends going to a holiday house for the weekend. Harold (Steve Susskind) from the Crystal Lake shop is one of the grossest characters in 80s film. He eats fish food and is later filmed sitting on a toilet drinking booze while doing number 2s or what can only be described as plops (as The Hysteria Continues Podcast will attest). Why this scene is included, I do not know. Some highlights include a nasty biker gang wearing crazy 80s fashions, a mental eye-popping death and a pot smoking hippy couple who seem way to old to be hanging out with these doomed holidaying youngsters. Part III is probably not as gory as the previous two entries and it was made for 3D, making many of the scenes redundant for my normal telly. Still if you like the first two you'll probably enjoy this.

The Perfection (2019)
A very entertaining and inventive modern 'Horror Movie right there on my TV.' It stars Marnie (Allison Williams) from Girls and Logan Browning who put in fine performances. The Mrs thought The Perfection was gonna be a bit like The Black Swan (2010). I thought it was going to be a virus outbreak movie. It turned out to be much much more. The Perfection was unpredictable, didn't miss a beat and ended in a place I was totally not expecting. If only directors and producers would take note that 90 minutes is the perfect movie length. Best thriller/horror of 2019 so far!

Saturday 8 June 2019

Too Low For .215061

Listening to AFX's Analogue Bubblebath Volume 3 the other day and the first track .215061 had me thinking: 'What does this remind me of ?' I was thinking it actually could have been some kind of disguised tribute to Elton John's classic 80s tune Too Low For Zero. Am I right? Or just wrong in the head? Now I'm actually convinced he's sampled it.

Friday 7 June 2019

Holly Herndon - Proto

Holly Herndon creator of possibly the best record of the 10s Platform (2015) is back with a new LP. How excitement. Only one listen in...more thoughts about Proto later.