Sunday 13 October 2019

More On Movies - XXII


The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
What can I say? It's one of the best crime action thrillers of all time innit? This is another 70s masterpiece. Four men in disguises high-jack a subway train in New York city. Then hold a carriage of nineteen passengers hostage for a ransom of a million bucks. Mister Blue (Robert Shaw) the criminal kingpin is in radio contact with the head of transit police Lieutenant Garber (Walter Matthau). The clock is ticking though as they have only an hour to deliver the cash before hostages start getting killed. The tension created here is palpable and you are kept guessing right up until the end. Sometimes it's very funny but the situation feels pretty real like something that could totally happen. Matthau is brilliant as the Lt Garber. David Shire provides an exquisite score.

Hopscotch (1980)
After watching Taking of Pelham... A Walter Matthau fest was in order and you can't go past this very clever and beautifully realised movie. This is probably top five Matthau. Miles Kendig (Walter Matthau) is a disillusioned CIA agent who decides to write a memoir exposing espionage secrets and particularly the incompetence of his old boss Myerson (Ned Beatty). A spectacular global game of cat and mouse ensues. Kendig travels the world shaking off Myerson and his cronies as they try to stop him publishing his exposé. Kendig is always one step ahead though making him pretty conceited. Will he be caught or remain at large? If you've never seen this cold war comedy/thriller it's worth a look. Matthau's character treads a fine though you'll either find him irritatingly smug or hilariously arrogant. 

Dolemite (1975)
Fuck I haven't seen Dolemite in a long time but there's a new biopic on Rudy Ray Moore coming soon to Netflix that got me in the mood. Celebrity biopics are pretty much all same aren't they? So I can't say I'm too excited about that but it was a treat to revisit Dolemite's rough and ready first cinematic outing from 1975. Dolemite is the chunky ladies man/pimp who was found with stolen furs and half a million dollars worth of narcotics because they were planted by his enemies. He ended up in prison with a 20 years sentence. Two years later he gets an early release though so he can help can capture Willie Green (D'Urville Martin) and the rest of the goons who framed him. His first order of business upon release from gaol is to get changed, in the street just outside the prison gates, back into his pimp-alicious threads. Now that is a man with the right priorities! Oh boy, we get served up some stunning stuff in this movie such as Dolemite's blue proto-rap performance poetry, a harem of Kung Fu hookers, the hamburger pimp (Vanius Rackstraw) with the world's funkiest drug walk, a dodgy mayor, a black separatist sex fiend Reverend Gibbs (West Gale), crazy sexy time with Dolemite, outlandish 70s fashion, shoot outs, cool cars, a great funk soundtrack, wild dancing, incredible 70s jive talk, an amazing bit of violence where Dolemite breaks through his arch enemy Willie's skin with a karate chop revealing his insides and much more. This is an amazing example of what can be done in DIY film making with kinetic energy, a bit of self belief, raw talent and hell of a lot of charisma.

Friday Foster (1975)
Young Pammy is delectable and delightful as the photographer come amateur sleuth Friday Foster. This isn't the greatest blaxploitation movie ever made but it's fun and looks a million bucks compared to its counterparts (Olive also seem to have done an incredible restoration job for the blu-ray). It comes with the usual accoutrements of fine funky threads, boobs, classic cars, pimps, hookers, dialogue unique to the time, glamour, funky soundtrack, black politics, violence, rooftop chases,  stunning 70s interior design, shoot outs etc. Look out for spectacular truck crushing man in a phone box sequence! We get some icons in Pam Grier, Yaphet Kotto, Scatman Crothers and a very funny OTT performance from the one and only Eartha Kitt...oh and that dude from the love boat as a pimp! It's just the plot that's scatty and a little confusing with its political intrigue and strange conspiracy. It all gets wrapped up neatly and cheese-illy in the final minutes Giallo stylee though but that's not really the point is it? Friday Foster is just a great excuse for some outrageous cinematic scenes for the target audience to enjoy.

The Plumber (1979)
This is a good little psychological thriller directed by Peter Weir. When I say little I mean that literally, The Plumber is done and dusted in a zippy 77 minutes. A crazy plumber Max (Ivar Kants) enters an academic couple's apartment for a maintenance job and gradually turns the wife's (Judy Morris) life upside down. Weir creates a whole lot of claustrophobic awkwardness and a great sense of invaded personal space. This film really puts you at unease. It's hard not to read this as an absurd look at champagne socialists, class systems in Australia and civil/uncivil behaviour etc. You can try to just enjoy The Plumber on a surface entertainment level but Weir's un-subtlety tends to encroach upon your brain. I know what I think about stuff. I don't need someone to patronisingly tell me to think about a certain social or political subject. Guess what Pete it doesn't make you deep or provocative. It just makes you seem like a naive tool which perhaps you were.

Sleeping Dogs (1977)
My first thought was what a funny little entertaining movie. I didn't know what to expect going into this except that this was the first feature film Roger Donaldson directed and it was some kind of historical milestone in NZ film-making. I didn't even know Donaldson was an Australian who moved to NZ in his 20s. Sleeping Dogs is a terrific political action movie. A civil war unfolds in New Zealand and a fascist police state is imposed. Smith (Sam Neil) is living on an island with his dog not wanting to be a part of any of it. That doesn't last long as he's framed then captured by the totalitarian government. The plot unfurls from there suffice to say there are police escapes, American allies helping the government including Willoughby (Warren Oates), riots, sheep, violence, torture, bombs and a classic finale. Donaldson went on to international success later in his career directing Cocktail (1988), Species (1995), Dante's Peak (1997), The Bank Job (2008) etc. This was also Sam Neil's feature film breakthrough. He got famous after this, you might have heard of him.

Hobo With A Shotgun (2011)
Hyper-stylised, hyper-violent, hyper-vivid, hyper-gory, hyper-fucked up and a pretty entertaining vigilante movie. Sometimes you gotta watch what the kids are up to. Hey, I'm only eight years late and they really pulled off something extraordinary here. This is incredibly well executed and the action never really lets up so there is no time for distraction. Rutger Hauer is fantastic as the titular character and the rest of the cast are spot on too. Hobo With A Shotgun is a hundred times better than John Fucking Wick. As far as modern day revenge movies go this is right up there.

Inherent Vice (2014)
This was a first time watch for me and my immediate thoughts were that it was wilfully obtuse, unnecessarily convoluted and way too long for what turns out to be a relatively simple story in the end. What I mean is it was a pretty tedious journey to get to the conclusion which made everything clear. Perhaps Paul Thomas Anderson made it deliberately less coherent than it should have been as the main protagonist Doc (Joaquin Phoenix) is a heavy pot smoker and maybe we're meant to ride in his confused stoned shoes for the duration of this flick. It's an adaptation though so he might have just been following the beats of the novel. Who knows? Inherent Vice however has an ensemble cast to die for who perform at an elevated level. Excellent performances from his actors is something PTA seems to be very adept at achieving, a gift he has. Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Katherine Waterston, Reece Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Joanna Fucking Newsome, Martin Short, Martin Donavan, Eric Roberts and many more star in this rambling neo-noir. Doc is a hippie Private Investigator in 1970 LA. He takes on several cases at once which all end up intersecting Altman stylee. After Punch Drunk Love (2002) PTA went and studied/worked with Robert Altman for a few years didn't he? So that's no surprise. Boogie Nights (1997), Magnolia (1999) and There Will Be Blood (2007) were instantly satisfying so perhaps Inherent Vice requires more than one watch to get a full appreciation of the film. I'm more inclined to think it's just not quite his usual high standard though.

Hooper (1978)
Now this is enterfuckingtanment! Some of the most fun to be had at the movies in the 70s. This is pure 70s Americana pop culture gold. Sonny Hooper (Burt Reynolds) is a stuntman extraordinaire at the top of his game but is it time to quit while he's ahead with a body that's still functioning? An upstart newcomer to the stunt game Ski (Jan-Michael Vincent) has arrived on the set of The Spy Who Laughed At Danger (Where Sonny Hooper is the stunt co-ordinator/lead actors stunt double) to make Sonny threatened, escalate one-upmanship but ultimately think about bowing out while he's still number one in the profession. Sally Field is charming as his girlfriend Gwen. James Best is his doctor buddy Cully always with painkillers on hand for HooperJohn Marley (The Godfather, Deathdream) is fabulous as the old timer and the film's producer Max Berns. Hooper is enjoyable from start to finish with satisfaction guaranteed if you're into action-comedy with absurd stunts that is. I might even be persuaded to give Smokey & The Bandit (1977) another go after watching Reynolds and Field here but I never could get into that movie for some reason. The final scintillating action sequence is one of the greatest ever caught on celluloid, so much happens. We get explosions, many car crashes, fires, imploding buildings, motorbike crashes, blown up bridges and ultimately a rocket car attempting to jump a river....what more do you need? Well what about Burt smiling into the camera and throwing  us the ok sign right at the very end to top off a crowd pleasing good time. Pop Art!

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)
Breaking Bad seasons 1 - 4 are some of the best seasons of telly ever made. It always flummoxed me that they continued after the absolute perfection of season four's finale. Season five and five and a half were alright but it just wasn't the same. There were a few outstanding episodes amongst those final sixteen episodes though. A Breaking Bad film without Walt or Hank or Tuco or Gus or Hector or Skyler or Saul or Mike in major roles is hardly a Breaking Bad movie at all is it? It's a fucking Jesse show and if I was the director I would have called it Jesse Rides Again. You know what? I think he was one of my least favourite characters in the show because he was always trying to be this moral compass that we were all supposed be sympathetic towards. He somehow thought he was better than all the other despicable characters but had been just as ferociously lethal himself. I would have loved a Breaking Bad movie with Gus or Tuco as the main character rather than Jesse. Anyway the Breaking Bad moment has passed. Is anybody still watching Better Call Saul? Telly's now all about Killing Eve, Line Of Duty, Mindhunter, Chernobyl, Happy Valley, Mr Inbetween, Atlanta, Fleabag, Horror, True Crime, Nordic-Noir etc. El Camino was an ok revenge flick but it was nowhere near the magnificence of the classic episodes of the telly series. Jesse (Aaron Paul) escapes all the bloody mayhem of the final episode to go in search of cash stashed somewhere in Todd's (Jesse Plemons) apartment. Things then take a strange turn. In the end he seeks revenge upon Neil (Scott MacArthur) a character who was a minuscule player who I don't even think was in an episode the show, was he in the show? Anyway he was apparently the guy who rigged up the apparatus for Todd and his uncle that made sure Jesse was fully chained up like a dog, could never escape but was still able to cook methamphetamine for them. There's some gunslinging urban western shenanigans. The great Robert Forster reprises his role as Ed Galbraith and he (Forster) quite possibly died while we were watching this internet movie. RIP Robert Forster.

Vigilante (1983)
Robert Forster died (13/7/41 - 11/10/19) just as he was getting the love and recognition he always deserved. He'd recently starred in the highly acclaimed television shows Twin Peaks: The Return (2018) and El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019). I watched my favourite Forster film Walking The Edge (1985) a couple of weeks ago so I decided to go for my next favourite. Vigilante just gets better each time I watch it. Eddie Marino (Robert Forster) is a hard working nice guy who's a husband and a father in Cesspool era NYC. Some of his work colleagues including Nick (Fred Williamson, yep that's John Shaft. Can you dig it?) are in a vigilante gang to try and bring peace and order to their unsafe neighbourhood. Eddie disputes their motives until one day when he comes home to find his eight year old son shot dead and his wife in intensive care due to a gang home invasion. Eddie is soon on the revenge trail. Look out for special appearance from Joe Spinell as Lawyer Eisenburg and Woody Strode as prison inmate Rake. The splendid score is from Jay Chattaway. This Bill Lustig directed gem has become a top Ten 80s film for me.

Jackie Brown (1997)
This film is just perfection. Max Cherry was a great role for Robert Forster. While this cast all contribute brilliantly, it's the chemistry of Max Cherry (Robert Forster) and Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) that gets us in our feelings. They play their middle aged, world weary, quietly romantic characters with such poise and sensitivity. Melanie (Bridget Fonda) and Louis (Robert De Niro) provide the comedy gold, Ordell (Samuel L Jackson) is just plain heinous and Ray (Michael Keaton) is a jerk off but strangely likeable. Forster was nominated for an Oscar and a golden globe for his role here. I'm not going into it, you know it, you've seen it, Pam Grier's so charismatic and it's still as fresh today as the day it was released. This is the only film Quentin Tarantino adapted from a book and it's the best thing he ever did between those lines folks.

Small Town Crime (2017)
Robert Forster is not the lead here but he does play a bad arse muther fucker of a grandfather whose granddaughter has been killed by a nefarious ring of paedophiles. He is on a vengeance bent with his very old School weaponry and he doesn't disappoint. However this film belongs to Sol (John Hawkes) from Deadwood. He plays Mike Kendall an ex-cop who's a total drunk fuck up. Mike accidentally becomes embroiled in a complicated extortion beef after finding a half dead girl by the side of the road. This is a tremendous little neo-noir-western/thriller/crime drama. The entire cast here are on point but a special mention must go to vile degenerate Orthopedic played superbly by Jeremy Ratchford. I recommend.

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