Colin Higgins directs Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton in this workplace comedy where three put-upon female employees turn the tables on their misogynistic boss.
It has dated, it is bitty, the ending is about as neat as a Primark floor at 5.59pm. But Tomlin and Dolly are stellar, that theme song thumps and it makes you smile even at its weakest, broadest moments.
Diao Yinan directs Hu Ge, Gwei Lun-mei and Liao Fan in this Chinese crime romance where a gang leader on the run and a Wuhan Bathing Beauty prostitute try to scam the reward money for turning him in.
An absolute treat… dark and sexy. The set pieces are thrilling and slightly off kilter like The Coen Brothers of Blood Simple and Fargo times gone. This is a corking crime puzzler with unexpected twists, strange imagery and Lo-Fi but relatable characters. Well worth tracking down.
Abe Forsythe directs Lupita Nyong’o, Alexander England and Josh Gad in this ROM-ZOM-COM where a loser uncle goes on a school trip to an animal park plagued by zombies with only a perky Kindergarten teacher to protect him and the kids.
Maybe Alexander England is some big whoop in Australia but he hogs the first act of the film uncomfortably. I was sold on a bubbly Lupita Nyong’o taking on the undead with a ukulele and a bright smile. 20 minutes in and she was still a no show. We get the film we were advertised eventually but after a wearying schlep with a poor’s man Hemsworth bungling through a poor man’s episode of Nick Helm’s Uncle. The goods eventually arrive and it is all a pleasant, gory, silly watch. Not life changing, not Shaun of the Dead, not even Warm Bodies. But fine.
Michael Chapman directs Tom Cruise, Craig T. Nelson and Lea Thompson in this teen football drama where a cocky kid ruins his shot at a scholarship.
Known now only as a springboard on HIS leap to mega stardom and the film where you glimpse a flash of HIS “Top Gun”! A solid little high school drama… the romance between him and a superior Lea Thompson (he acts / she stars) is the best thing. I don’t entirely agree with the Hollywood politics that a working class existence is a prison to be escaped at all costs but in the main this is a Bruce Springsteen song come to cinematic life. And that’s always going to be a watchable vehicle.
Peter Weller direct David Caruso, Marg Helgenberger and Jeff Kober in this neo-noir where a criminal mastermind’s widow cannot keep her inheritance if she fucks anyone else… enter two very different bad guys.
A TV movie (directed by Robocop himself) made at the height of Elmore Leonard adaptation fever. It is not as slick or as finished or as cartoony as most Leonard adaptations but actually replicates the casual pace and flinty vibe better than most. A good Leonard book ain’t a page turner. He’ll set a dozen low level, big dream characters in motion in the first 80 pages then watch them square off, size each other up, fall for each other and more often than not wait each other out. Typically they just hang out until things come to an unavoidable head. This little movie gets that, gets the sleazy colours of Florida bad living, the rickety ethics of being a Detroit face. A fun Friday night on the couch, often better than watching A-List movie stars playacting grifters and molls like it is a scumbag pantomime. Caruso feels like a guy who done a little time, knows a few sharp angles and really just wants to work with dolphins. You never feel like you are watching an A-List movie star… but that’s his own cross to bear.
Stacie Passon directs Taissa Farmiga, Alexandra Daddario and Crispin Glover in this adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s 1962 chiller about a secluded family recovering from a scandalous tragedy who have to contend with the arrival of a handsome and controlling interloper.
We tried to see this on the big screen twice but at the time of each limited showing last year life somehow got in the way. Thank you streaming services for gifting us eventual access to it. Overlooked by critics and audiences, this is a very solid drama mystery that maybe had it thunder stolen by the recent similar likes of Marrowbone and various American Horror Stories. The imagery and beats of Jackson’s writing have been recycled and repurposed mucho in the past few years. A likeable cast (best career use of Daddario so far as a broken doll / Stepford Wife in the making) and a gorgeous evocative look get this respectably over the finish line. It has been sold as a supernatural horror but these elements are very reduced, it is far more approachable as a prestige adaptation of a modern classic in literature. Well worth digging up.
Josef von Sternberg directs Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook and Anna May Wong in this romantic thriller where a train carriage full of Westerners gets caught by a Chinese warlord.
Pre- Hays Code… so a bit naughtier and franker and salacious and adult than most B&W Hollywood films. This has a cracking plot (based loosely on a true story) that shifts with each act and increases the peril, drama and tragedy as it moves forward. There are some amazing shots of studio replicated China and the lighting is sublime. Dietrich sizzles as the bad girl with a better heart than her “respectable” compatriots. Warner Oland is a hissable villain as the hiding in plain sight dictator… modern eyes will have to get past the yellow face – and casual racism of the era. The only fault is Clive Brook’s stiff upper lip male lead really is not worth Shanghai Lily’s efforts, sacrifice or time. Too wooden and dim. Nice neat underplayed ending too… she buys him a watch but makes sure he’ll ultimately never know what the price she paid was… to keep him alive… ON THE SHANGHAI EXPRESS!
Brian De Palma directs Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Carice van Houten, and Guy Pearce in this thriller where an incompetent cop finds himself hunting a man who is seeking out Fundamentalist terrorists for revenge.
Flat production values, a dislikable protagonist and compromised storytelling choices really don’t help this. It often feels like a bang average Sunday night cop show from the 90s. There are moments of weakened De Palma that dominate the uneven pace. A blatant Hitchcock pastiche here and your odd split screen terror attack there. Even these feels like sequences executed better on storyboard than on film. In the main though this proves a waste of talent, servicing a tale that flirts with extreme racism a little too often to forgive.
Claire Denis directs Robert Pattinson, Mia Goth and Juliette Binoche in this sci-fi space drama where murderers and crackheads are sent into the unknown so sex experiments can be performed on them.
Starts out pretty well so I thought I was about to break the curse of Denis. She makes ponderous, harsh films that push the wrong buttons in me. The is full of semen and rape… it lost me. But the design of it all is strong.
Martin Scorsese directs Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette and Linda Fiorentino in this dark comedy where a yuppie travels across the city for a late night hook-up only to find himself trapped in an existential nightmare.
One of those comedies that is more awkward, disturbing and unsettling than laugh out loud funny… and this is all the better for it. Scorsese’s 1980s output has always been an overlooked bag of initially critically ignored classics and studio work. After Hours and The Color of Money are two of his finest films but because they are often written off as gun-for-hire projects taken while he was trying to get The Last Temptation of Christ off the ground nobody really champions them. These ain’t no holding pattern day jobs, these are fantastic films. Now watching After Hours with modern, mature eyes is a still very strange, unique, immersive experience. Dunne’s lead is a horrible human being, almost deserving of his night in urban hell and sexual frustration. The gender politics are murky, intentionally so. Dunne goes from a meet-cute with the warmly open and hotly desirable Arquette (perfect here) to downgrading every other scene change to a more disturbed, complex, domineering, demanding, dowdier woman. What does this say about masculinity /desire / relationships? I don’t know… but you feel his anguish as he crashes in and out of other human beings emotions, neuroses and lust. There’s violent escalation, manic mob mentality and slapstick paranoia. It is possibly the only big budget comedy where there is an odds on chance our hero will be lynched or castrated or imprisoned for life by the final shot. And who knows, maybe he is incarcerated at close of play? I reckon Paul Hackett will never let his dick take him on a walk on the wild side again. Awesome production design by Jefferey Townsend and Stephen Lineweaver. The score and editing by Howard Shore and Thelma respectively is utterly persuasive. The perfect Triple Bill with Adventures in Babysitting and Quick Change. What other Marty Scorsese flick could you say that about? And it is funny… watching John Heard’s bartender beat the shit out of his cash register is observational aggression at its chucklesome best.