Movie of the Week: Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Martin Brest directs Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold and John Ashton in this blockbuster action comedy where a fast talking Detroit cop finds himself taking down a rich and respected art importer in Beverly Hills.

Beverly Hills Cop is part of my DNA. A movie that takes me back to my childhood, that feels like one of my true measuring sticks to everything entertaining that comes after it. It is a pretty cynical, executively mandated vehicle, yet it works perfectly. All movies in the mid Eighties had this kinda hero. The wisecracking working joe. Smartest guy in the room, keen on pranks and improvising fake personas, sticking it to the bad guys and authorities with a witty insult, occasionally winking to camera when a plot cliche was essential. Irwin Fletcher. Pete Venkman. Mahoney. Axel Foley. Eddie Murphy is fierce in this. Fantastic in 48 Hrs and Trading Places but those were double acts, this is his sole fucking movie. Every sequence has space for him to breakout and improve the script – and he does. Every montage feels like a good friend sharing the weird shit he saw out and about that day, through the filter that we and Eddie conspiratorially know exactly what shit we find ridiculous. Two men, black and white, wearing matching yet inverted leather jumpsuits. HUUUHHH -HUHHHH- HUUURRHHH- HURRRHHH! BHC is a warm film made for working class people where the grafter takes down the big boys, were we get to treat the posh and powerful like the freak show they are. That doesn’t need to be a fantasy. The soundtrack is post-Motown, post-Disco banger after banger. The Pointer Sisters! Glenn Frey! Harold Faltermeyer! The sheer big dick energy of the tunes, the summer of 1984, the good time sonically defined. The thing is so beautifully cast that it is hard to pick out a best support character. Bronson Pinchot’s absurdly self-important art gallery assistant Serge? Jonathan Banks’ slouching killer? Real life police inspector Gilbert R Hill as Axel’s fatherly but foul mouthed superior? Damon Wayans one-shot camp fruit buffet server? It has to be the odd couple cop double act of Ashton and Reinhold though. They do deadpan banter, they do slapstick. There is so much great shit packed into this film. Even the Reagan era standard of a comedy ending in a 1000 cop cars crashing into each other feels fresh. This is a machine tooled product, yet Murphy with his support ensemble sneak a vibrant soul into it. A standard bit of kit, a suit’s creation, that transcends its committee design and becomes one of the greatest night’s in you can have. And the reason is… Eddie Murphy.

9

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

André Øvredal directs Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza and Gabriel Rush in this tween horror film where some Sixties kids face down the ghouls conjured by a book of horror tales written in blood.

This was an (un)pleasant surprise – nice use of the Nixon / Vietnam era backdrop, unfussy child performances, excellent creature design (with one glaring exception) and some dreadful (in all the right way), prolonged scare sequences. A genuinely fear inducing horror flick. Only the last monster let’s the side down… where as the other threats feel tangible, the final aggressor has that uncanny CGI smoothness that is about as terrifying as an Amstrad CPC loading a game. In the main though, this is well worth seeking out. Although it is less ambitious than the current IT franchise, it actually hits the same genre high notes being aimed for with far more elan and popcorn power. It probably helps that this B-Movie is quite happy to off younger members of the lead ensemble with shocking regularity meaning as a viewer you are left feeling unbalanced. All bets are off by the second kill and no part two feels preordained and saving everyone for some grander narrative. That’s really what a horror should be all about.

7

Certified Copy (2010)

Abbas Kiarostami directs Juliette Binoche, William Shimell and Adrian Moore in this arthouse drama where a middle age antique dealer and art critic go on a first date to a Tuscan Village only to reveal this isn’t their first encounter after all.

The boring shit I’ll sit through to look at a beautiful, talented French actress, hey? Before Midnight for the pretentious. Still she is radiant, ain’t she?

4

The Young Poisioner’s Handbook (1995)

Benjamin Ross directs Hugh O’Connor, Ruth Sheen and Anthony Sher in this true crime tale of the 1960s “The Teacup Murderer” – a young boy who poisoned his family, neighbours and colleagues in two dastardly sprees.

Treats the period and the murders in that slightly parodic, sitcom-my forced style. Part Rising Damp, Part Heavenly Creatures in tone. I think this approach to sympathy-less portrayals of past scandals actually originates with Pedro Almodovar’s early farces. He wraps dark subject matter in a bright, unjudgemental pantomime and 1990s independent directors clearly found this a format ideal to explore real evil and darkness in an emotionally cold, yet accessible way. As unique as the Graham Young story is, it isn’t particularly cinematic. You can’t help but think the ground might be covered better in a decent true crime podcast like All Killa, No Filla.

6

The Wayward Cloud (2005)

Tsai Ming-liang directs Lee Kang-sheng, Chen Siang-chi and Sumomo Yozukora in this Taiwanese arthouse film about pornography, boredom and watermelons.

Some pretty extreme fuck scenes and some playful musical non-sequiturs slice up hours of boring waiting about. There are symbolic points here about the human condition, commodification and lust… but lost in an intentionally draggy whole. A modern classic perhaps, but not for me or the casual viewer. If you own a dirty mac or a Derrida Reader maybe you can jack off a part of your body to it that I just can’t.

5

Gotti (2018)

Kevin Connolly directs John Travolta, Spencer Lofranco and Kelly Preston in this crime biopic of “The King of New York” / “The Teflon Don” John Gotti.

A poorly made film. Not the utter clusterfuck of repute but pretty irredeemable. The wavering positives are Travolta works hard not to rely on his charms and the ageing make-up is award worthy. Yet the structure is random, uninvolving. And the tone seems to suggest this thug and profiteer from misery is some kind of misunderstood folk hero. When the events at best present him as a half hearted bully. Then we waste time exploring his son, suggesting his prison time was some kind of conspiratorial injustice akin to Mandela or Steve Biko. Getthefuckouttahere! He lived the mafia life, was ‘made’, committed violence. Who cares if he wanted to go straight when his Dad got cancer and the Feds got evidence. He was as dirty as the next goombah, and the poor mope playing him can’t play – shit actor.

3

Stone Cold (1991)

Craig R Baxley directs Brian “The Boz” Bosworth, Lance Henriksen and William Forsythe in this undercover cop who owns a pet komodo dragon takes on a racist, criminal biker gang actioner.

Shoot-outs! Chases! Titties! Stone Cold is lowest common denominator stuff. The kinda film that Season 2 Homer Simpson might watch, only it actually has been made and released in this reality. The kinda film that only troubled cinemas for a fortnight but had its own bigger than life cardboard standee at the video shop for a year. The kinda film that actually kinda delivers on all the mayhem and energy that its once-glimpsed trailer promised back in 1992. Stone Cold is a bad film that does what it sets out to really well. The Boz is unconvincing as a human being but utterly convincing as a direct-to-video action hulk. He is no Arnie but the same vibes are there. Lance Henriksen, William Forsythe and Mac’s Dad from Always Sunny make for an deliciously OTT group of Hell’s Angels terrorists. Threatening, despicable but cool enough to be cult icons. The biker subculture feels more accurately represented here in this bubblegum comic book than Sons of Anarchy. And we end on a finale where motorcycles are driven through fourth storey windows at helicopters and people are shotgun blasted off balconies with gay abandon. The very last tracking shot even suggests some cinematic wit and artistry. Stone Cold is a guilty pleasure, yet one that has aged well, has stayed valid for the simple reason it is never for a single second boring.

6

Ida (2013)

Paweł Powilkowski directs Agatha Trzebuchowska, Agata Kulesza and Dawid Ogrodnik in the monochrome arthouse drama about a nun exploring Iron Curtain Poland before she takes her vows.

Beautiful B&W cinematography. Sexy nun. Sexier alcoholic bureaucratic aunt. A road trip. An investigation into the holocaust. And guilt. Tragedy. Romance. Decisions. A real breath of fresh air to sit on the couch with my wife and enjoy this human, subtle piece of moviemaking amid my own self inflicted big dumb blockbuster catch-up.

7

Fast & Furious Present: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)

David Leitch directs Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and Vanessa Kirby in this buddy action spin-off where the hulking international cop and spy turned hardnut criss-cross the globe chasing after a technology that might kill humanity.

As I type right now, helicopters are thundering around my tenement flat, filming stunts for F&F9. Edinburgh, infamous for its illegal street race scene, is home to the next of these dumbly OTT crowd pleasers. In theory, a The Rock / The Stath side mission should be the best of the series given the charisma, chemistry and action cache of the headliners. And at its intermittent best Hobbs & Shaw feels like the Arnie V Sly crossover that should have happened around 1992. Did happen in this pubescent’s imagination on a daily basis.

It is bombastic and full of PG-13 ‘tude. Yet also a bit stingy. The epic and daft set pieces feel a little too thriftily spaced apart. The scenes where Dwayne and Jase banter go on aimlessly for too long, without covering new ground. Often they are interrupted or subservient to some big name cameos (both from stars I find grating rather than gratifying – but I realise I’m in the minority, they are both very popular and coups for this production.) There’s no line as memorable as “I’m gonna beat you like a cherokee drum”: the juicy fruit of their previous face off.

The best moment is when Hobbs fights Shaw’s spry sister (Kirby – notably standing out in this kinda of summer ramtam again). At one point the hero lifts the speedy little dynamo up like Mac does to Sweet Dee in a recent Always Sunny. They blow up entire industrial complexes and race down the windows of a skyscraper yet the most memorable individual frame was already done better here…

“It made me feel teeny tiny. Like Thumbelina.” Sweet Dee is happy. The Gang would like this too. It is totally Thunder Gun Express. So it is hard to be disappointed by something only fictional characters would have high expectations for.

5

Good Boys (2019)

Gene Stupnitsky directs Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon in this adult comedy where three innocent kids find themselves getting lost in a madcap chase of E, sex toys and dangerous stunts to recover a valuable drone.

The joke is they only half understand the transgressive adult world they have to navigate but that runs pretty thin, pretty early. It is cookie cutter product with the colour and the shape of Superbad and the soundtrack of Booksmart. Keith L. Williams is notable for finding a bit of adorable nuance in the repetitive material, his rules loving nice boy steals the otherwise average show.

4