James Wan directs Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson and George Young in this horror where a woman begins to have visions of brutal murders as they happen.
A real sweet and sour experience. The sweet is just how extreme it all is. There are shocks and brutality that feel like something from a few decades ago. If Saw was gory and The Conjuring was classy then this is Wan at his most unhinged and untethered. I’d love to see the studio notes some poor executive had to feedback on any cut of this. Joseph Bishara pumps up the giallo mood with a vigorous score, the whole thing has the colour scheme and erratic plotting of Argento or Fulci at their least coherent. The sour though is constantly irritating. Terrible, flat acting across the board, a sense of unreality that never bares fruit. A horrendous over reliance on CGI that smothers some really disturbed practical FX stuff. You know where Malignant is going from the very start yet it does surprise you quite often, the story beats it emphasises are so full fat and histrionic you want to overlook all that is… a bit shit… about it.
Liesl Tommy directs Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker and Marlon Wayans in this bog standard Aretha Franklin biopic.
I had high hopes for this as Hudson is such unsurpassable casting in the central role. Yet it ploughs the musical life story sub-genre’s well dug furrows with a complete lack of imagination. Scenes after scene of quite traumatising tragedy is given little impact as it feels like a box ticking exercise rather than a storytelling challenge. Towards the end there is the unintentional vibe that Aretha actually needed a domineering violent man in her life to stop her going off the rails. That can’t be what they were hoping to convey, surely? The middle section where she finds her sound and develops her voice and autonomy allows Hudson to shine. The other stuff is very meh considering it takes in child abuse, wife beating and alcoholic breakdowns. Welcome support from Whitaker and Marc Maron keep Respect from being a complete disappointment. And, it almost goes without saying, the soundtrack is exceptional. Lacking the cheese of Bohemian Rhapsody or the rare qualities of Walk The Line this truly needed to make more definitive narrative choices to standout.
Joseph Ruben directs Elijah Wood, Macaulay Culkin and Wendy Crewson in this thriller where a grieving nephew stays with his extended family only to discover his cousin is a budding psycho.
Dull and ridiculous, a very difficult combination to pull off. Culkin is trying to play against brand and it just doesn’t work. The genesis of the project is far more fascinating than the end product. The first draft of the screenplay was written by great novelist Ian McEwan. Heathers’ Michael Lehmann was fired from the director’s chair very late into pre-production. There are a couple of shots and moments that do suggest a visual and psychological sophistication but they stand out like sore thumbs within the rest of the thin gruel result. Special mention must go to the late great Elmer Bernstein’s atrociously incongruous score. If you ever need proof that nobody had a handle on what they were making here then the jarringly upbeat and old fashioned soundtrack is the smoking gun.
Luc Besson directs Anne Parillaud, Jean-Hugues Anglade and Tchéky Karyo in this action thriller where a young woman, facing a life sentence in prison, is press ganged into becoming an assassin for the French government.
The action is still spectacular (the restaurant hit is an all time amazing set piece) but this sits in the memory more comfortably than the actual viewing experience plays out. Parillaud looks delectable but her acting is annoyingly all over the shop, downright irritating in a lot of scenes. And Besson seems to think that being convicted for maliciously shooting someone in the head in cold blood is the height of establishment injustice… which doesn’t ring true at all. Those dated, whiny aspects aside… this still looks superb. And we want the style not the substance.
Alex Cox directs Emilio Estevez, Harry Dean Stanton and Tracey Walter in this sci-fi satire where a new repo man is shown the ropes by an old hand with his own philosophy… meanwhile a car makes their list with something extra-terrestrial in the boot.
It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World meets Kiss Me Deadly meets a Warren Oates movie. Iggy Pop theme tune that shreds. About as punk as any studio released movies ever got. It isn’t particularly well made but if someone told you it was their all time favourite you wouldn’t blink an eye. There’s just something about the energy and the attitude that puts it ahead of slicker, more crafted productions of its time. “Look at those assholes, ordinary fucking people. I hate ’em.”
Richard Benjamin directs Cher, Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci in this coming of age period movie about matriarch-led family of kooks who never settle in one town for long.
A blank turn by Cher is orbited by three generations of fine character actors. Bob Hoskins is probably the stand-out as the open hearted love interest. Although he has one topless scene where he is so hairy it looks likes someone has drawn a crayon outline roughly around his shoulders. Nothing much happens and quirky affectations are the order of the day but this is still very sweet. Cher’s The Shoop Shoop Song dominated school discos for my generation, the music video made many clips from this film all but indelible in my memory .
Marco Brambilla directs Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes and Sandra Bullock in this sci-fi action comedy where a violent cop and his nemesis are defrosted in a peaceful, fascist future.
The first half of this amps up the satire and is a lot of laughs. Shame the action is so uninspired. Very much a case of loud scenes where one star shoots endless projectiles at the other name who outruns them with a perturbed look on their face. The finale feels like that shot stuck on a loop. The tongue-in-cheek world building has aged far better; swearing fines, the three seashells, Taco Bell. Snipes gives flamboyant villain, often dressed as kid TV show presenter (a look that is never explained). Bullock is the highlight in a significant pre-fame role as Stallone’s 20th century obsessed partner.
Wong Kar-wai directs Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tony Leung and Faye Wong in this Hong Kong diptych where two lovelorn cops start strange new romances anchored around a late night takeaway joint.
Easily Wong Kar-wai’s best – this treats the backstreets, bright lights and plastic picnic furniture of HK as oils in an expressionistic painting. The crime story aspects are dialled back, this is about heartbreak and fate. Real quirky romance. Faye Wong’s breaking and entering interior designer is the original manic pixie dream girl, the adorable stalker with keys to your home. Tony Leung is the beat cop who only seems to converse freely with his dishrag. Takeshi Kaneshiro is eating a month’s worth of expired tinned pineapples to get over his lost amour. Brigitte Lin is the hyper hot femme fatale; she’s heard all the lines and is on the run after her drug smuggling scam has gone wrong. California Dreaming on such a winter’s day. Like the lyrics of that song, which becomes near anthemic to this movie, Kar-wai sees the poetry in everything, the apposition in the everyday, the magic in yearning. Like Jim Jarmusch and Robert Altman, this feels almost anti-genre, a very difficult trick to pull off but here executed with masterful elan.
Garry Marshall directs Richard Gere, Julia Roberts and Jason Alexander in this fairytale romcom where a fat cat and a prostitute spend the week together.
Everywhere she walks heads turn. As if LA has a deficit of leggy stunners, as if 5 star hotel guests never pay for sex work. M-MERCY! A star is born. Roberts is vivacious here playing the cleanest, most wholesome, healthiest looking streetwalker of all time. That aspect of the con never ever convinces and it has taken repeated viewings for me to get over the unreality and iffy-ness of it all. Yet the gloss works, the sexiness works, the jokes land and the yacht rock soundtrack absolutely slaps. It is Cinderella, ain’t it? Cinderella with references to crack and condoms… but Cinderella all the same. Made three decades after Breakfast At Tiffany’s and now the same passage of time old, I’d say it is about as dated and honeyed and forgivable. As well made and perky as it all is I don’t know what I want from it. A hard hitting drama? No. Slightly less pristine sex? The piano scene is perfect. A more believable ending? Truth is abandoned the second the wonderful shopping / makeover montage begins. Every outfit from the start of the second act = chef’s kiss! Sometimes you just gotta let the confection be the confection. This time, for the first time, I valued the sweetness.