Marcel Ophuls directs Pierre Mendès France, Anthony Eden and André Harris in this four and half hour documentary to investigate France’s collaboration with Germany after they surrendered during WWII.
All these talking heads are dead now. And as Ophul’s very rarely signposts who we listening to and whether they collaborated or resisted it can feel very overwhelming to start. Part of that must be down to our own historical ignorance, unable to recognise key players in French politics who would have no doubt been infamous 50 years ago. But eventually you get attuned to the rhythm of the monologues and the Pathe newsreel footage… and begin to realise that is the point. Nobody was sure who was against the Nazis and who was for Vichy? Some probably even had their choice made for them. As we go deeper into their lives over four years of occupation you begin to interrogate them less and yourself more and more. Would you submit or even profit from the fascist regime who may have potentially become your long term rulers? Or would you have risked everything and fought back? Watching this I don’t know how anyone who wasn’t there could stand in judgement. And someone please make a biopic of trans British spy Denis Rake! Pretty please!
Ridley Scott directs Matt Damon, Jodie Comer and Adam Driver in this historical epic where an unfavoured medieval knight charges his ally with raping his wife… leading to trial by combat where everyone’s life, word and honour hangs in the balance.
Good Will Hunting legends Matt Damon and Ben Affleck reunited on screen and behind the word processor at long last. Ridders doing big budget historical epic realness. TV star Jodie Comer’s first swing at carrying a movie and potential awards season glory… Twenty years ago this would have been the BIG release of its month. Front cover of Empire, nothing else out that weekend, see it on the widest screen… BIIIGGG!! This weekend it struggled to warrant two time slots in a 13 screen multiplex. Which is a shame as it indisputably is one of the year’s best movie. A really expertly crafted He Said, She Said and He Said #metoo drama punctuated with grand scale sword and shield, ultra violent set pieces. Plus Ben Affleck prancing around in gold slippers as a horny spoilt lord. He starts by doing a Jeremy Irons impression and pretty much steals the show throughout. My only criticism of this fine release is he is absent too noticeably often in the last hour. Treat yourself to a proper movie and get yourself a ticket now before its too late. Venom can wait, Affleck’s albino goatee cannot.
David Gordon Green directs Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer and Anthony Michael Hall in this sequel to a legacy sequel where Michael Myers kills some time while Laurie Strode is recuperating.
Am I the best person to judge a Halloween sequel? I begrudgingly respect the original and my faves of the franchise are the less beloved Season Of the Witch and those extreme Rob Zombie remakes. Clearly I want something different than… this. But I do like a good legacy sequel (see below)! And if you are wondering what I define a legacy sequel as then here I go;
1) Returning to “the well” after a least a dormant decade without fresh cinema releases.
2) Bringing back a retired key creative who was seemingly left behind or too big for previous rushed cash-in sequels.
3) Rolling back the mythology to either retcon studio mandated entries or make obsolete the messier directions other journeymen took the story in when the creator was not rehired.
Listen, Michael Myers is indestructible. He can’t be killed. So like the T-800, there’s always going to be sequels and reboots. But bringing Jamie Lee back as a Sarah Connor style warrior avenger was the exciting new hook last time that made this all spike. That and how well crafted it was. Both of David Gordon Green and Danny McBride’s films so far are impeccably well made in terms of technique. These movies look great, respectful of the aesthetic and sound of the original after so many low budget xerox copies. Case in point, fire damaged The Shape is just wonderfully grotesque to look at. John Carpenter has another pass at his iconic synth theme.
The plotting is pretty random. It is a movie the kicks off with five cold opens. And essentially this is an anthology asking “if you take away Laurie, Loomis and the babysitters, what exactly does the rest of Haddonfield get up to?” “Those other rare survivors… what do they do when Michael has one of his autumnal away days?” So there’s a lack of focus. But it makes sense as we need to give our vintage A-Lister time to recover. And luckily the original Halloween 2 spent most of the runtime in a hospital with Laurie zonked out. It also had Michael trying out inventive alternatives to his big chopping knife. So this is pretty faithful to the 1981 movie it needs to match. Where it swerves majorly is there is even more bodily damage than those unfairly derided Rob Zombie reimaginations. And also bleaker somehow? The first hour is a kill fest. With very little tension. But in a way it is nice to see a slasher that doesn’t ever focus on buxom teens. On that, Andi Matichak ain’t the best actress to be “leading” a franchise, but she is very pretty. You look forward to Greer, Hall and Will Patton’s scenes. And there are some busy moments of chaos when mob mentality takes over the support cast of Haddonfield. A thread not fully explored but which certainly adds a different spin on a moribund concept. And it all keeps Jamie Lee Curtis’ spot warm, ready for her to take centre stage for the already made, yet to to be released, Halloween Ends. And if you believe that, here’s another…
Kaouther Ben Hania directs Yahya Mahayni, Dea Liane and Monica Bellucci in this satire where a Syrian refugee signs a contract with a conceptual artist to have a visa tattooed on his back and be displayed as art so he can get to Belgium.
A very astute satire enlivened by Yahya Mahayni’s light comedy acting chops. Rather than focus on the atrocities and fallout of the Assad regime this finds an allegory that is accessible and universal. Well worth a watch.
Luigi Bazzoni directs Franco Nero, Pamela Tiffin and Silvia Monte in this Italian giallo where a journalist tries to figure out who is killing off the guests of a New Year’s Eve party he also attended.
More whodunnit than slasher, this ambles along until a rivetingly intense finale ramps up. Every shot is beautiful thanks to cinematographer Vittorio Storraro. I know its actually an old noir conceit but the brutalist architecture of Rome is used to trap the characters in a cage of constant lattices and parallel lines. Tiffin stands out as Nero’s suspect bit on the side.
Roger Donaldson directs Sam Neill, Warren Oates and Ian Mune in this dystopian thriller where a man goes on the run in New Zealand when a dictatorship and a rebellion movement begin to clash around him.
Supposed to be a allegory for the Vietnam war – imagining what New Zealand would be like if an occupying force, an extremist government and a resistance movement were to occur. And it actually starts quite strong with young Sam Neill trying to go “into the wild” and live on a deserted island while everything goes to shit. But the twists occur way too haphazardly, you never really get your bearings. The always welcome Warren Oates crops up as a fuck happy Yankee colonel, there’s a few relieving bursts of action… Eventually, it just disintegrates into thirty minutes of Neill and the lefty who is fucking his wife endlessly shouting “rack off, mate” at each other in a jungle. Boring.
José Ramón Larraz directs Marianne Morris, Anulka and Brian Deacon in this erotic horror movie where two bisexual wraiths hitch hike to lure middle aged men back to their creepy mansion.
More soft porn than terror-fest yet it ends in an absolute barnstormer freakout of blood letting. A real gear shift. Works for Hammer Horror fans who want something a bit more “Dirty Mac”, works for folk horror fans who don’t mind leaving their brains at the door. Not sure how I feel about the Nuts In May subplot following the boring couple in a caravan who are accidentally parked next to all this sex and murder… and the whole wrap-up actually churns up more questions than it does answers. But it has a winning hazy wet dream attitude and that kinda swagger ain’t ever going to cross all the Ts and dot all its Is. The most mindlessly enjoyable thing we’ve tried with my Arrow streaming subscription so far.
Vincent Ward directs Hamish McFarlane, Bruce Lyons and Chris Haywood in this time travel fable where a Cumbrian mining community dig through the earth to escape the Black Death and end up in Eighties New Zealand.
One I’ve waited decades to watch, probably building it up a little excessively in my head due Vincent Ward’s near infamous relationship with personal favourite Alien3. This is the movie that made 20th Century Fox bet the farm on a xenomorph threequel set on a wooden planet populated by monks… only to get cold feet weeks before the shoot started. Honestly, as much as I would love to have seen his unrealised iteration of Alien3 I think things worked out for the best… even if many people, including David Fincher, would disagree. The Navigator itself, away from its footnote status in one of the greatest movies franchises… is fine. A good concept, that often looks fantastic, especially the monochrome medieval sequence… yet doesn’t really have enough character work and incident to make it more than a one-watcher. Don’t give up on it though, it actually outgrows it calling card debut nature in the very final moments, delivering a surprise coup de grace when it should be powering down. A fine little indie movie matching the ambition of early Luc Besson but not quite as fun.
Dwight H. Little directs Steven Seagal, Keith David and Basil Wallace in this action thriller in which a DEA agent returns home only to find his old town is overrun with drug dealing yardies.
Has the same roulette wheel random plotting of any Seagal movie. The ball lands on a South of the Border foot chase, HELLO DANNY TREJO, then a whore gets shot between the exposed titties, then we are retiring, then we are back home, then we are… NO! Let the erratic journey sweep you along. It feels better than most bog standard Seagal product without jumping any of the expected rails. The violence is notably gorier. Hands are lopped off, heads carried about. It gives Predator 2 a run for it money as a major studio general release that goes full Grand Guignol. They’re both from 1990, they both feature Jamaican voodoo crime gangs. This one is far more racist. Almost knowingly so. Every act a character takes 10 seconds to pause, turn to camera and begrudgingly tell us not all West Indian immigrants are like THIS. But as movie villains go Basil Wallace utterly delivers as Screwface. Unpredictable, unwavering and imposing… he’s an unsung high point in late 20th century action cinema. Body parts and bad guy aside this otherwise is rote Seagal guff… but if Under Siege is unavailable… then Marked For Death has to be your next best choice.
Miloš Forman directs Jan Vostrčil, Josef Šebánek and Josef Valnoha in the Czechoslovakian satire where the annual piss-up goes awry when the committee members get distracted from the tombola and award ceremony by a beauty contest and a fire.
Recalling Dad’s Army as much as any satire. A silly damnation of leaving the old guard (and the patriarchy) alone to organise anything. It can feel a little one note and drawn out at times yet always finds a apocalyptic crescendo eventually. You can see why Forman was tapped on the shoulder by Hollywood to direct One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest after this. The marshalling of an unglamorous flock of faces and the mundanity of madness… well, he has commendable form.