The Jigsaw Man (1983)

Terence Young directs Michael Caine, Susan George and Laurence Olivier in this Cold War spy thriller were an ageing defector has plastic surgery so he can return to London and settle scores.

Dull and directionless. Squanders a slumming it cast. Only some good West London location work sticks in the memory.

2

Legion (2010)

Scott Stewart directs Adrianne Palicki, Paul Bettany and Dennis Quaid in this quasi-religious apocalyptic horror where a heavily armed angel, a pregnant diner waitress and a few survivors are besieged by possessed hordes.

Derided on release, this is the epitome of slick, CGI fuelled action with a few well played unsettling moments. There’s some business with a ravenous old lady and an ice cream man (Doug Jones cameo alert) that will chigger in your brain. It moves like a four issue comic book arc, conjuring up a serviceable ensemble, violent fantasy and a plausible last stand. I would never suggest Legion is an undiscovered treasure, or even worth seeking out but it killed 90 minutes in a brash, competent way. I’ll probably now give Priest by the same team a try somewhere down the line based on this watch.

5

Pumpkinhead (1988)

Stan Winston directs Lance Henriksen, Cynthia Bain and Jeff East in this hillbilly gothic horror where a grieving father unleashes a vengeance demon on the city kids who killed his son by accident.

This was one of those terrifying posters in the video rental shop of my childhood, a movie that existed as a nightmare in my imagination, unsullied by the realities of its actual limitations until now. A gory adult fairytale with excellent practical FX. Of course it has, it is directed by creature feature guru Stan Winston. Henriksen puts in a dedicated shift as the emotionally distraught dad. Florence Schauffer makes a good impression under mountains of make up as the hag who controls the curse. The kids though are rote, annoying and mere cattle. It looks pretty sweet, has some surprisingly humane moments but never really scares or escalates beyond its basic premise. Worth seeking out even if you won’t fall in love with it.

6

From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999)

Scott Spiegel directs Robert Patrick, Duane Whitaker and Raymond Cruz in this cheapquel where a group of bank robbers find themselves being turned one-by-one by the Titty Twister’s Mexican vamps.

Not a patch on the Tarantino / Rodriguez original and with only Danny Trejo’s Razor Charlie returning for a cameo. It is inessential and blocky… still, Robert Patrick makes a good masculine straight-man for all the quirky hoods and monsters to bounce off of. Spiegel tries to enliven things with off-kilter framing and plenty of neon but pretty soon you realise that that’s all he really has in his arsenal. Fine for a few beers.

4

Movie of the Week: Never Look Away (2018)

Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck directs Tom Schilling, Paula Beer and Sebastian Koch in this period drama following an artist’s development through Nazi Germany, the establishment of socialist East Germany and the conceptual freedom offered by the Düsseldorf Art Academy.

Called, somewhat ironically, ‘Work Without Author’ in its native tongue, here is a brilliant film about how tragedies, both personal and political, impact and inform an artist’s voice. The movie’s grand narrative is a blend of heart wrenching oppression, transgressive sexuality and glorious burst of soapy romantic freedom. The movie reminded me most of the ambitious scale and tone shared by The Shawshank Redemption or Doctor Zhivago. Social upheaval and the brutality of a system are observed within a cosy period accurate palette and the epic sweep of a master storyteller. The terminal cycle of callous bureaucracy a slightly overwhelmed young aunt finds herself trapped within during the Hitler period of Act One sets the tone for the next twenty years of escape, sex and creativity. The acting is fantastic – especially Koch as an SS doctor whose life run parallel with our young painter and Saskia Rosendahl as the doomed Elisabeth, misunderstood, fragile, desirable… she haunts the film entire, long after she is lost to history. This is a great traditional film -moving, unfussily told and beautiful.

9

White Material (2009)

Claire Denis directs Isabelle Huppert, Christopher Lambert and Isaach De Bankolé in this drama about a plantation owner trying keep her business viable during a violent uprising.

Set in an unnamed country. Making obvious points about colonialism. Slow and uninvolving. Huppert is good.

3

Annabelle Comes Home (2019)

Gary Dauberman directs Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman and Katie Sarife in this The Conjuring horror spin-off where the exorcising Warrens spend the night away and the babysitters unleash supernatural evil in their suburban home.

Tame yet surprisingly solid. You’ll never be shocked, you’ll never be bored. If it wasn’t the seventh entry in a franchise it would make good entry level horror for sheltered teens. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson turn up to bookend the fun in extended cameos … and are the best things in this. This reminded me of an old article about script doctors in Premiere magazine. They gave a fantasy example of how a script doctor might reduce costs of a Beverly Hills Cop / Die Hard crossover. The script doctor injured Axel Foley and John McClane in the first scene and then attributed all the action and dialogue to Judge Reinhold and Bonnie Bedelia thus saving the production $30 million dollars in star salaries … AS IF THAT MAKES ANY SENSE CREATIVELY OR FINANCIALLY?! Who is turning up to that film when it does not feature Eddie and Bruce? Who wants to see Holly Gennaro shout “yippee-kay-ay” as she ends a bad guy!?? As Judge would say “GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!”. This doesn’t suffer that hypothetical weirdness but the same disappointing dunceheadedness applies.

6