Darren Aronofsky directs Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood in this character study where an ageing wrestler of fading fame tries to live out his last few matches before his body gives in and the sport is no longer an option.
A bleach blonde resurrection. Eighties Christ juiced on the corner post. Possibly the greatest movie star comeback ever, Mickey Rourke is sweetly amazing here. Almost never off screen, Maryse Alberti handheld vérité camera moves with him, stays on his back like an addiction, tracking him from trailer park to ring and back. From tramp to king. There’s a simple brutal magic to this. A man feels like a god but his living dream is killing him. He’s near homeless keeping up on the payments on a body punishing routine of ‘roids, insulin, fake tan and pumped iron. His aged flesh tortured into some long forgotten myth of macho perfection. Just so he can step into the spotlight and convince in a sequence of choreographed violence. The moves might be planned but the mutilation he and others inflict on him to make the ballet seem true is destroying him. Yet this is where he feels alive, feels like who he truly is. Rourke’s lumbering freak is a good gentle soul out in the cold, harsh every day. We want him to have his dream, just wish it wasn’t fatal. He has been a deer in wrestling’s headlights for too long. He has been too distracted to foster any kind of relationship with his estranged daughter, she has been hurt by being a distant second to the call of the ring too many times. His only meaningful contact with another human is his tentative relationship with Marisa Tomei’s ageing stripper. Both know their time has passed and they aren’t really match fit for their respective games anymore (though I doubt any punter would be disappointed in reality if middle aged Tomei did work their local strip bar). She doesn’t want to be “Cassidy” anymore, doubts whether a romance with a customer is the best leaping off point. What else is there for him but the love of the crowd? They are misfits like him, happy to fill a school gymnasium or decrepit concert hall to see the face and the heel go at it. He only wants to be their Randy The Ram, nobody including him really has any love for the name on his social security card, Robin Ramzinski. Even though it will kill him, Randy has to chose between the heartbreaking chill of reality or celebrated immortality in the ring.
Ruggero Deodato directs Robert Kerman, Francesca Ciardi and Luca Barbareschi in this extreme Italian horror where a professor leads an expedition into the South American “Green Inferno” to rescue some missing students, what he finds is sacrifice, rape, barbarism and exploitation.
Yeah… no. The horror has no tension, the protagonists are deeply unlikable. Just 90 minutes of unrelenting grimness. A mixture of cheap adventure, mondo fake found footage and animal cruelty. Rather boldly the movie head on addresses white imperialism, the violence of modernity and the viewer’s own “sick” voyeurism. But really Deodato is using academic terms as a wet paper bag, meant to house atrocity after atrocity after atrocity into an acceptable package. Just read the Wikipedia page for 10 minutes to uncover all the lore and legends around the production, what you imagine the film is like will be far more entertaining than the final nasty product.
Robert Zemeckis directs Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly and John Goodman in this airplane crash drama where an alcoholic pilot performs a near impossible landing during a midair malfunction but his toxic lifestyle becomes the centre of the following investigation.
The curse of Denzel Washington is he is such an acclaimed and proven talent that often the projects he is in don’t feel fully worthy of him. Or the stellar performances he commits to can feel like business as usual. Flight suffers from the latter issue. If Tom Cruise or Harrison Ford did half of what Denzel achieves here it would be Oscars all round. Yet as great as he is as the bad boy, past-his-prime pilot, it ain’t quite of that Mo Better Blues, Malcolm X or The Hurricane standard. He’s almost better off taking the paycheck and excelling in expert schlock like Inside Man or Man Of Fire rather than wasting big swings in merely solid projects like this. Or not working at all unless he knows it is a diamond role in a platinum film. Flight has a really impressive opening act where Denzel’s sleazy and sweaty Whip Whitaker flips into calm expert mode and saves 100 passengers performing a stunning piece of flying. Zemeckis revels in recreating the chaos in the cockpit and standard class, it is a sustained sequence up there with Fearless and Alive for its immersive shock. After that though the movie gets lost in the woods. The soundtrack is too on the nose, an ill fated romance goes nowhere, we aren’t having fun anymore. For a film about a spectacular ditching of an aircraft, Flight really struggles to stick the landing after a generous and often spectacular approach.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa directs Tadanobu Asano, Eri Fukatsu and Masao Kamatsu in this Japanese supernatural romance where a widow’s dead husband returns after three years and they go on a journey helping other ghosts let go of their past lives.
This one can be a little listless and cold at times but there’s a brilliant lynchpin performance by Eri Fukatsu and a few Five Star scenes that belong in a far stronger film.
Gavin O’Connor directs Ben Affleck, Al Madrigal and Janina Gavankar in this drama where an alcoholic begins to mend his life when he is asked to coach his old high school basketball team.
Featuring a good central turn from a hulking Affleck and impressive production values, this fills a hole nicely. It is by default a miserable prospect but often finds wit in the pits of despair. The sporting aspect seems like an afterthought – the athleticism is secondary to the final score, likewise no other character enjoys anything but a thinly sketched subservient relations to Afleck’s struggling fuck-up. It is an engaging if sometimes shameless mix of The Fighter and Moneyball, so if you like them you’ll no doubt be entertained. I was.
Hou Hsiao-Hsien directs Kenny Bee, Chiang Ling and Chen Mei-feng in the gentle Taiwanese drama where a substitute teacher spends a year teaching a bunch of harmless mischief makers and falling in love in a rural posting.
Innocent pranks, minor romance and air of pastoral innocence. A sweet little movie.
Mario Bava directs Barbara Steele, John Richardson and Andrea Checchi in this gothic horror where an executed witch is brought back to life and wants the nubile body of her descendant.
You can tell this was a hot potato back in its day. The uncut version wasn’t available on home video in the U.K. until the mid-nineties due to censorship. It is like a Hammer movie with flashes of extreme gore. A Hammer movie that is actually still disturbing and uneasy at times. Barbara Steele looks resplendent. The comic book set design is full fat spooky. This is what all horror movies should look like. The perfection of the graveyard opening has influenced Richard Donner, Tim Burton and the Silent Hill games for good reason. So it may not captivate for its entire runtime anymore, it is nice to see an aged whack of schlock that still feels a tad transgressive.
David Fincher directs Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker and Kristen Stewart in this one location thriller where burglars break into a mother and her child’s new home and they seek refuge in an impenetrable panic room.
Slick glossy stuff, a domino rally of domestic cliffhangers. A minor film for Fincher but one of Jodie’s best pure entertainments. Turns its screws with maximum efficiency but never truly twists to a point were it breaks away from its initial home invasion concept. Jared Leto’s two short planks mastermind is the only weak acting link and he seemingly is copying Brad Pitt’s physicality from Fight Club. Which raises all kinda questions; Did Fincher instruct him to play it like that? If not, why didn’t he stop him?
Stephen Sommers directs Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz and Arnold Vosloo in this adventure movie where treasure hunters uncover the resting place of a cursed but angry mummy.
Will always hold a fond place in the memories of my generation. The summer blockbuster that unexpectedly filled the entertainment deficit that The Phantom Menace left in its wake. This is vibrant and simple stuff, delivered with an almost shameless chutzpah. Any other year it might have been written off as a rubbery Indiana Jones rip-off, it certainly goes on far too long and tries to get away with too much. Yet keeping their heads energetically above all the messy, unoriginal, slightly racist fakeness is a self aware bit of brio by peak Brendan Fraser and a star making turn by a game Rachel Weisz. They have fizzing old school chemistry and you kinda wish there were half a dozen less doomed characters and fifty less ropey CGI shots so they can have even more room to spark off each other.
Robert Zemeckis directs Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer and Jahzir Bruno in this second adaptation of Roald Dahl’s childrens’ classic about a boy who finds himself in a hotel full of murderous witches.
A relatively faithful retread which lops off some of the creepier embellishment but pretty much just remakes the Angelica Huston / Nic Roeg variation for current tastes. I usually like Anne Hathaway but she’s way too much here. The only element that raised a smile rather than bored was Chris Rock’s overly enthusiastic narration. What was that weird Roald Dahl ident in the middle of the credits? Why was it at such a jarring moment rather than the very start or the very end? Smooth and unnecessary, worst of all… often tedious.