Friday 16 August 2019

More On Movies XIX


Heat (1986)
Not the 90s nonsense from Michael Mann. This is the 80s film Heat that had something like six different directors. I was expecting a pretty messy generic crime movie with a past his prime Burt Reynolds but to my total surprise this was an excellent film. William Goldman wrote the screenplay but there was a hell of a lot of drama off camera so the fact that this film is any good at all let alone a flawed classic is a miracle. I think Heat might have been a massive flop at the box office only gaining a following once it hit the video shop shelves. Nick Escalante (Burt Reynolds) is an ex-military bodyguard for high rollers who visit Las Vegas. Nick is hired by Cyrus Kinnick (Peter MacNicol) so the duo hit the casinos. Nick's sex worker friend Holly (Karen Young) is abused by a sadistic gangster so now Nick has vengeance on his mind too. The emotion of this film is insidious while you're thinking "mmm I dunno about this..." all of a sudden you're hooked and all previous negative notions are gone. Then the gambling scene begins where you think Nick is just mucking around with his card dealing friend Cassie (Diana Scarwid) but then it turn's out to be an amazing central set-piece and by the scene's conclusion it'll hit you right in the stomach. Shenanigans ensue but will Nick be able to get out of Vegas before it destroys him?

Mona Lisa (1986)
Haven't seen this since the 80s. Fuck the British don't half know how to do grim do they? Bob Hoskins is brilliant here as the thug with a heart of gold as is Cathy Tyson, the hooker with a heart of gold. Michael Cane is particularly vile as miscreant Mortwell. Mona Lisa paints a very grisly portrait of the underworld of sex work. There are some amazing scenes at Brighton Beach. I remember this was quite a cult film in the 80s and was still screening at some places well into the 90s but that seems to have faded away but there's no reason why it should have. Bleak, brilliant and gripping crime drama. Highly recommended.

Alison's Birthday (1981)
Aussie satanic horror that turned out to be not too bad. Sort of Rosemary's Baby meets Freaky Friday in a Sydney backyard with a replica stonehenge. Loved the soundtrack, very hauntological.

Massacre Mafia Style aka The Executioner aka Like Father Like Son (1974)
When this got issued on blu-ray four years ago it was a total revelation. Apparently it was a big VHS success but I don't recall seeing it on the shelves at all. Maybe it was one of the alternate titles in Australia. It's been called the B-grade Godfather but I reckon it's better than that. If you love your mafia movies and tv, it's going to be hard not to be seduced by this lost slice of 70s celluloid. "You're in...or you're in the way." There are so many iconic scenes, classic snatches of dialogue, just plain barmy earnestness and loaves of bread here. If you've never seen it, Massacre Mafia Style may just become your new favourite film.

The Naked Spur (1953)
Pretty good Western directed by Anthony Mann. Howard Kemp (Jimmy Stewart) is a bit of an unhinged sheriff a long way outside of his territory looking for cop killer Ben Vandergoat (Robert Ryan). He runs into drifting gold prospector Jesse Tate (Millard Mitchell) and ex-Union soldier Roy Anderson (Ralph Meeker) so he teams up with them to track down Vandergoat and his lover Lena Patch (Janet Leigh). But this is no easy task. Who can and can't be trusted? All will be revealed in due course. The much darker and intense post-war Stewart continues to reveal himself here.

Family Plot (1976)
This has been one of my favourite Hitchcock movies ever since I saw it late one night as a teenager, probably presented by John Hinde on the ABC. Family Plot is a goofy crime comedy that is a whole lotta entertaining fun. The four main actors are brilliant. Fran (Karen Black) and Arthur (William Devane) are a smooth criminal couple who are involved in some serious kidnapping and robbery. Blanche (Barbara Harris) is a phoney psychic while her boyfriend George (Bruce Dern) drives a cab. The two couples intersect after Blanche is given the task of tracking down an heir for her client Julia (Kathleen Nesbitt) for the princely sum of ten thousand dollars. There is much mystery to solved, scams, stunts and deceit in tracking down Edward Shoebridge the heir to a massive fortune. This story unfolds perfectly and rarely misses a beat. Family Plot is the most delightful of Alfred Hitchcock movies.

Piranha (1978)
Scary classic about man eating mutant military fish that are accidentally released into the river system causing havoc and carnage amongst summer campers and swimmers at the local lake resort. Also a weird lizard/dinosaur thing in the secret government laboratory is seen only by you the viewer and is never explained, which is an exquisite touch. Who knows? I might eventually become a Joe Dante fan. I mean he's such a likeable and knowledgable guy. I love his podcast Movies That Made Me and his website Trailers From Hell, its just his films I don't much dig, but hey here's one I enjoyed immensely. Maybe I'll give Innerspace, The Burbs or Matinee another go as it's been over 25 years since I set my eyeballs on those. Maybe not though as I also recently watched Homecoming (2005) an hour long episode of Masters Of Horror that he directed. It was so tedious I wanted to smash the telly in and tear out my eyeballs due to the unsubtle and repetitive political message he was making.

Malone (1987)
Burt Reynolds steps into Charles Bronson revenge territory here and it totally suits him. Wicked story of an ex-CIA dude who has changed his name to Malone to try and disappear from his past and change his old ways but he inadvertently uncovers a sinister conspiracy in a picturesque small town. It's unlikely Malone will be able to leave this alone without consequences for these heinous culprits. Meanwhile the CIA are closing in on Malone with nefarious plans of their own. Revenge and vigilante movies are just Westerns with cars replacing horses aren't they? The pacing here is just spot on. We get some sensational action sequences including explosions in bucolic landscapes. Oh I nearly forgot this piece of eye candy: A ye olde gas station is filmed in an incredibly scenic part of the Pacific North-West countryside in America. Nice.

Ronin (1998)
Great crime action movie. Bob De Niro is in full smart-arse tough criminal mode here and it's all worth it just for that. John Frankenheimer was almost 70 when he directed Ronin, one of his best pictures, disproving my theory that all directors should be shot once they reach the age of 50. This is one of his 5 best pictures in my eyes. Ronin is pretty much action packed excitement all the way as a strange array of gangsters try to steal a much valued mysterious case from another team of gangsters. The car chases through the highly populated and tiny French streets are some of the most breathtaking in film history. Alright maybe it's half a star from a masterpiece but then maybe Psycho and The Godfather are also half a star away as well. What I mean is there is a snippet of dodgy acting from James Caan at one point in The Godfather and in Psycho there really was no need for the epilogue sequence explaining the psychological condition of Norman Bates. So in Ronin they could have gotten rid of all the pretentious Samurai bullshit including the opening written explanation of what a Ronin is, the bullet removal scene and the entire character of Jean Pierre (Michel Lonsdale) who's the nerdy samurai miniature model maker and "oh so philosophical" sage. Sometimes I wonder If there are really any perfect films, there's always something a little off somewhere. Anyway does this classic flick turn up in stupid canonical lists? If it doesn't ask yourself what is the relevance of this list and why am I reading it?

Deadly Hero (1975)
Why this film isn't as famous as Taxi Driver astonishes me...well maybe not that much as it's got a somewhat misleading and terrible title. The marketing is bad and I mean shite ie. The poster is just plain awful and there are no iconic photographs of the film to be found anywhere. Deadly Hero is so similar to Taxi Driver though it's almost like Paul Schrader cribbed all these themes and ideas and put them in his script but his script had been circulating since 1972 so...I guess I'll put it down to coincidence, something in the air perhaps or maybe it was the other way around. Sally (Diahn Williams) a conductor/music teacher/cellist  is menaced by Rabbit (James Earl Jones) a bizzare burley black man. Rabbit is subsequently killed by Lacy (Don Murray) a zealous cop who becomes more and more unhinged throughout the film. Deadly Hero's a fantastic story paired with a wonderful ensemble cast. The filmmakers capture mid 70s New York splendidly on celluloid. This is probably the best 70s American film you don't know unless you do know it that is.

Remember My Name (1978)
You will not forget this movie in a hurry. This was the last great performance I discovered in my Anthony Perkins investigation of a few years back because after this I watched Psycho 2 & 3 and despite what some film buffs think those are pretty shite films. So I discovered four outright post-Psycho classics starring Perkins: Five Miles To Midnight, Pretty Poison, Play It As Lays and this unheralded 70s classic. Perhaps I'll continue looking into his oeuvre again soon. Anyway check out this poster, you would think it's a Robert Altman film wouldn't you? I mean they call it one but he's only a producer. Talk about living in someone else's shadow. Alan Rudolph who was Altman's former assistant directed this forgotten 70s crime gem. Rudolph never really shook off the Altman connection as he was also very stylistically indebted to him. A psychotic woman Emily (Geraldine Chaplin) is stalking a married couple Neil (Anthony Perkins) and Barbara Curry (Berry Berenson) and just generally menacing anyone who crosses her path. Everything is revealed in due course, unexpected scenarios occur and this flick never really misses a beat. It's best to watch this film with no more plot information than that. The cast are all brilliant. Geraldine Chaplin is genuinely terrifying as the mental Emily and Jeff Goldblum is terrific as her boss. More crazy women films please. Remember My Name is probably the other best 70s film you don't know unless of course you do know.

Deep Cover (1992)
In the 90s it felt like there was an excellent new movie every week and at least one masterpiece every month. While I haven't been able to sit through Reservoir Dogs or Clerks recently because I've thought they were so shite and totally dated in a bad way there are other 90s films that have aged like a 71 Grange Hermitage. Deep Cover sits in this elevated position. It's one of the 5 best crime films of the 90s in my book. It's very 1992 but in the best way possible. Policeman Russell Stevens (Larry Fishburne) is asked to go deep undercover, to expose an international drug ring, by DEA agent Gerald Carver (Charles Martin Smith). Whilst living amongst the drug underworld judgment gets a bit blurry for Stevens and he becomes somewhat morally ambiguous. Has he gone rogue? This should have won an oscar for best script as the dialogue here is just perfection. It was co-written by Michael Tolken the man responsible for the book and screenplay of The Player (1992). We get great performances from a wonderful ensemble cast with a special mention going to Jeff Goldblum who is Russell's degenerate drug dealing partner and lawyer David Jason but everybody is outstanding here. Deep Cover was directed by Bill Duke who was last seen acting in Mandy (2018) as the character Caruthers, the huge black dude in the caravan who sells Nic Cage weapons. Highly recommended.

Harley Davidson & The Marlboro Man (1991)
Damn! I was on such a roll with the quality of the previous 13 films in this post until I decided to watch this. It's not all bad though. There is some pretty amazing OTT 80s action here and the plot's not half bad. I know it says 1991 but it's still an 80s movie. There is some kind of self awareness in the script of how moronic this movie and its characters are but does that get the filmmakers off the hook? Buddies Marlboro Man (Don Johnson) and Harley Davidson (Mickey Rourke) need a whole lotta cash to save their favourite bar (a ghastly looking place) from closing down. They plan an armoured car heist but guess what? It all goes wrong. This flick is a curiosity for an early performance from Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad's Gus Fring), some of the worst fashion in the history of film and quite possibly the worst music ever used on a soundtrack.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)
It's no secret I've been off Quentin Tarantino and sometimes loathing him and his cinematic output since his one true masterpiece Jackie Brown so I was totally expecting this flick to be no great shakes. I thought I was going to be fairly ambivalent about it but to my absolute surprise it was a really good costume drama. I love the period detail which is pretty fucking impeccable. If Paul Thomas Anderson can do it with There Will Be Blood (2007) & Boogie Nights (1997) and Martin Scorsese with The Age Of Innocence (1993) & Casino (1995) why isn't Tarantino allowed do it? I mean wasn't every single Western a period piece/costume drama? Brad Pitt is fantastic and getting old is suiting him darn well. Emma said "He's like a better looking version of Robert Redford, if that's possible?" He steals the show for sure which is pretty incredible as he's up against a Leo DiCaprio performance for the ages. DiCaprio has to do that double acting thing where his character is an actor so he has to do that character doing acting, know what I mean? Tricky actoring shit! Margaret Qualley is terrific as Pussycat as is Lena Dunham in her short appearance as Gypsy and Dakota Fanning is frightening as Squeaky. Don't go in expecting a Manson family biopic. This is sort of an art film character study that's basically a day or three in the life of actor Rick Dalton (Leo DiCaprio) and his stunt double/gofer Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) in/and 1969 Los Angeles. Look out for spectacular homage to Don't Go In The House (1979). Over and above everything else this is Brandy's movie, that's Cliff Booth's dog! Once Upon A Time... is on several occasions unexpectedly touching and emotional. I can't say much more than that without spoiling it and it's probably best to know as little as possible before going into the cinema. Foot fetishists needn't worry as many feet feature prominently throughout, Tarantino at his most feet-y. I'm reserving judgement until I've seen it seven times and sure I know it's flawed (they overdid the jump-cuts a lot, the clunky Steve McQueen exposition of the Sebring/Tate/Polanski nexus was unnecessary etc.) but I think it's the best thing Tarantino's done since Jackie Brown.

Bob And Carol And Ted And Alice (1969)
Well I guess a lot of people watched this recently as part of the Quentin Tarantino presents The Swinging Sixties series which is now about halfway through. This series includes nine movies from the Columbia Pictures vaults presented by QT & American film critic Kim Morgan on the SBS World Movies channel. This movie is the kind of thing I loved when I was a teen and in my early 20s because it was "Oh so interesting, adult and kitsch." Now it just makes me feel a whole lot of awkward and quite depressed. Some of this stuff is too close to adult bones and a lot of it is just embarrassing. You have to watch it at least once though for historical purposes and because it's quite good. Bob and Carol go to some kind of new age openness and honesty therapy retreat for a weekend and come back to LA with their lives changed. They try to convince their uptight best friends Ted and Alice how good it was, which ultimately leads to the suggestion of the foursome having an orgy. Worth watching for Elliot Gould's stoned dancing which is quite possibly the most unfunky dancing ever put on celluloid. It's quite funny at the start and you think Gould is just going to be a brilliantly hilarious smart arse for the rest of the flick but then it all goes serious adult drama. The cast are all fabulous though, Natalie Wood wears a bikini, Dyan Cannon is fantastic as the rigid Alice Henderson trying hard to shake off her hang ups to keep up with the times, the script is excellent, Elliot Gould shows off his hairy back, Robert Culp plays the disingenuous but handsome Bob Sanders and upwardly mobile 1969 is captured impeccably on film.

Sorority House Massacre (1986)
As far as Halloween (1978) rip offs go you're either in or you're out but this is a pretty good one and it'll keep you entertained for a swift 74 minutes. I thought I'd seen this before but I hadn't. There are a hell of a lot of slashers out there with very similar titles. I would say this is better than House On Sorority Row (1982) which is what I must have been confusing it with. It starts off a bit slow but by a third of the way through it really picks up steam. The 1986 era is a problem hair and fashion wise. The slashers from 78-82 had great hair and clothes but this a nadir as far as all that is concerned. Also all the girls boyfriends are such gormless dorks. Actually most of the chicks are not cool either. However there is boobage plus a naked dude. This is as generic as it comes. The most outstanding element of Sorority House Massacre is that it contains one of the great post-Halloween soundtracks. I've never even heard of composer Michael Wetherwax and I can't believe one of these horror soundtrack reissue labels has not rediscovered this hidden treasure.

Friday The 13th: Part IV - The Final Chapter (1984?)
I used to think this was alright along with the first three but tonight it just annoyed the hell out of me but hey, I'm trying to give up smoking so perhaps I hate everything right now or is it just my appetite for infantile gory fun? However you can't go past a bit of Crispin Glover dancing which is a sight to behold. Then again you can probably just find that clip on youtube.

Cactus Flower (1969)
Never seen this film which was based on an American play which was based on a French play. It was part of the QT presents The Swinging 60s series so I thought why not? Cactus Flower is a complicated sex farce. I haven't enjoyed a romantic comedy since I last watched Annie Hall (1977) five or six years ago. I can't watch anything from the genre made in the last 20 years at least because those films are all full of unlikeable and unfunny characters. So Cactus Flower was an absolute delight. As Kim Morgan points out Ingrid Bergman steals the show as dental nurse Stephanie. She achieves this with great comic timing, poignancy and dancing. Goldie Hawn and Walter Matthau are comic gold too as lovers Toni and Julian. Jack Weston as Harvey Greenfield is brilliant and got totally overlooked in awards nominations of the day. It's topped off nicely with the very classy soundz of maestro Quincy Jones. Has to be seen.

Dream Lover (1994)
I don't even think I remember the video cover for this and I can't believe I didn't watch it on the first day it was released. I mean it's stars Shelley Fucking Johnson (M├Ądchen Amick) from Twin Peaks. I could watch her doing nothing for two or maybe seven hours. Plus peak creepy James Spader! Anyway I found it on Stan and to my absolute surprise it was a top notch erotic thriller, like one of the best films of the 90s. This outdoes all the other Hitchcock acolytes at their own game. I recommend.

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