Twins (1988)

Ivan Reitman directs Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito and Kelly Preston in this high concept comedy that imagines what if Arnold and Danny were somehow brothers.

When I was a kid we queued around the block to watch this. It was a genuine blockbuster. The poster told us “Only their mother can tell them apart” but the upshot actually was “What if Arnie played a straight off the boat dork?” and the movie soon gets bored of even that and just decides to remake Rain Man… with Danny DeVito more convincing in the Tom Cruise role. Does it matter?… Nah. This is a really sunny, pleasant watch. Well made, deftly focussed on keeping momentum.


Long Shot (2019)

Jonathan Levine directs Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron and O’Shea Jackson Jr. in this romantic comedy where an undisciplined journalist falls for the woman most likely to be the first female President of the USA.

An hour into Long Shot and it had completely won me over. The hooking up of idealistic but messy loser Rogen with the immaculate and successful Theron was tee’d up convincingly. The laughs came thick and fast – hitting highs of slapstick and cattiness that never punctured the bubble of the (quite a sweet) odd couple pairing. An hour in, I would have said we had one of the funniest and engrossing rom-coms since Norah Ephron’s heyday. It even had a built-in third act dilemma. Even if we and Theron can be won over by Rogen’s bumbling, loudmouth pothead, that doesn’t mean there’s any reality where he would play with the media and the voting public. And that’s where the movie goes off the rails. In the final act we get two sequences that feel like the very worst of that Judd Apatow fratpack formula. What if the the Secretary of State had to negotiate a life and death crisis high on MDMA? What if something really vulgar about Rogen was leaked to the press? The excessive, crudeness of both set pieces feel at least 10 years off base and I’m not sure any real laughs are hit during these hurdles. They feel like spitballed ideas that could have been lost in an earlier draft or in the edit. Why? They rob the film of its hardfought for warmness, scupper the movie logic verisimilitude. Long Shot still reaches a satisfying ending but you don’t trust it quite so much. It sacrifices that rare seductive spark between Rogen and Theron for potential cheap laughs. There’s still a really witty romance here for 80% of the running time, one well worth seeing. Long Shot is one of the better entertainments of the year and the finest recent example of the form. But its missteps glaringly hold it back from instant classic status. At its rawest parts it evokes the feeling all men feel about their better halves… we are unbelievably lucky to have them as part of our lives and can’t believe they see our better qualities through our shambolic, childish lifestyles.


Black Dynamite (2009)

Scott Sanders directs Michael Jai White, Tommy Davidson and Salli Richardson in this spoof of blaxploitation cinema.

White and Sanders have created an almost too studied parody of the sub-genre. They celebrate the inherent excess of films like Shaft or Superfly with a faithfulness that is amusingly on point. Sometimes that’s the joke, sometimes the jokes are left out and sometimes the jokes are so subtle they feel at odds with tone of overall production. I get the feeling Black Dynamite works best as a cult movie. Watch it on repeat and the intentional flaws and busy forgery wins you over. As a one watcher though it just lacks the relentless zingers and shameless silliness of a Naked Gun.


Movie of the Week: From Dusk till Dawn (1996)

Robert Rodriguez directs George Clooney, Harvey Keitel and Juliette Lewis in this Tarantino scripted crime / horror mash-up where two criminal brothers take a family hostage and end up in a vampire strip bar.

Tarantino says he writes two kinds of movies. His real world movies like Pulp Fiction or True Romance. And his “movie movies” where he makes the sort of grindhouse cinema that his fictional character like Alabama Worely or Jules Winfield might watch, discuss and emulate. Who knows where Inglorious Basterds resides in this dichotomy but From Dusk Till Dawn is a definite QT movie movie. So much so he got peer, buddy and genre flick rebel punk Robert Rodriguez to direct it. Rodriguez is a blunter movie maker, he’ll cover up cheap sets and adequate acting with toe tapping editing and brash colourful action. He’s like a down and dirty Tim Burton… his visual touchstones are Peckinpah sweat, Mezcal bottle labels and seared meat going into a burrito. Juicy, colourful, throwaway… but solely his – a Rodriguez movie looks like a Rodriguez movie… and if you don’t believe me here’s Danny Trejo to authenticate it. His movies are no cutlery or place settings needed. They move, they pump. He rides Tarantino’s longueurs of dialogue and hangout hard. Keeps things moving. And when the violence starts, it is lurid, memorable, kinky, RELENTLESS. The prosthetic FX are brilliant but the CGI is under developed. The fatalism and the anti-heroics endearing. Tarantino donates himself an acting role that fits his limited capabilities… a foot fetish perv looking for trouble. Clooney translates his eye-catching TV work on ER into his first big screen score. He is a fucking movie star in this, carries the film through jarring transitions and downward nihilistic moods. As is Salma Hayek in her demonic striptease, she does as much impression making in one sultry scene as Clooney does throughout. This is a great Friday night at the movies. I can’t believe I went to see Tarantino sucking whisky from a stripper demon’s toes with my parents as a teen. MOVIE MOVIE!


My Top 10 Robert Rodriguez Movies

1. Sin City (2005)

2. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

3. Desperado (1995)

4. El Mariachi (1992)

5. Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

6. Roadracers (1994)

7. Planet Terror (2007)

8. Machete (2010)

9. The Faculty (1999)

10. Once Upon a Time In Mexico (2003)

Hatchet (2006)

Adam Green directs Joel David Moore, Mercedes McNab and Tamara Feldman in this swamp slasher where a tour group are decimated by indestructible retard Victor Crowley.

Cameos from horror legends and some very gory kills elevate this cheap, broad horror spoof. The flashback to the legend of Victor Crowley and the make up effects belong in a far less camp film. There are some shamelessly cartoonish dumps of acting that hold Hatchet back… but it is silly, fast and director Green’s heart is in the right place.


Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

Burr Steers directs Lily James, Sam Riley and Jack Huston in a horror / period romance mash-up.

The book was a joke gift people bought for loved ones who vaguely liked Austen and horror (that’s most people, right?). A bit like The Ladybird book of Brexit or the Crazy Frog ringtone, there’s little surprise that a modern fad does not a great night at the movies inspire. I guess when Natalie Portman was involved there could have been a better movie birthed from such ignominious circumstances. I can’t tell Lily James and Lily Collins apart, I think the one here is the more talented and less insipid but this isn’t the showcase for that. There aren’t really enough zombies or action sequences. Leaving us with a film that is 80% straight Pride and Prejudice adaptation. Matt Smith and Sally Phillips noodle interesting performances in the wings, the production values are solid. The only time this threatens to come to life though is in a saucy tooling up montage involved blades and frilly corsets. Redundant.


The China Syndrome (1979)

James Bridges directs Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas in this conspiracy thriller about news reporter who uncovers dangerous corruption in the safety procedures of a nuclear power plant.

The China Syndrome should really fly. Attractive leads chasing down a story. Small scale peril as the powers that be try to muffle the damning footage, big scale peril as the plant threatens to overload. The satire of a Fail-Safe or a Network aimed for in its deadpan doomsaying. A sweaty, shattering chunk of committed acting from Jack Lemmon as the plant supervisor who slowly realises corners have been cut on his complex safety system. Yet it never grips. Side characters are often the ones tagging in for the action sequences, Bridges loses his nerve when everything reaches boiling point. Leaving us with a thriller that only ever threatens to be thrilling.


Ash is the Purest White (2018)

Jia Zhangke directs Zhao Tao, Liao Fan and Feng Xiaogang in this modern gangster melodrama following the on-off relationship between a gangster and his loyal moll.

The 21st century is navigated by encroaching western influences, mobile phone evolution and architectural expansion. A faltering relationship between a rising criminal and his lover goes through many twists and turns. To reveal the first big one here would rob the film of some of its power. I was glad I went in relatively blind. At two and a half hours, the epic and the intimate… the cliched and the enigmatic… work themselves into quite a spellbinding net. Zhao Tao’s lead role is distinctly rich and complex. Meaty enough that I bet every female Hollywood star is itching to get the remake rights. The final act set in the present day lacks the glamour and the natural propulsion of the earlier more gripping chapters but this is a strong piece of arthouse cinema. Well worth hunting down.


The Decameron (1971)

Pier Paolo Pasolini directs Franco Citti, Ninetto Davoli and Maria Gabriella Maione in this anthology of bawdy mediaeval tales based on the classic text by Boccaccio.

Carry On style larks with arthouse production values. Daft, erotic and spirited. I really enjoyed this despite a horrid collection of the worse teeth in any movie ensemble ever.