Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack direct King Kong, Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong in this fantasy adventure where a film crew sail to Skull Island in search of the mysterious giant beast the natives worship and fear.
The first 15 minutes of ropey, hokey dialogue and blunt exposition always trick me. I assume King Kong is going to creak, show its age, unravel like an ancient scroll. Then we get to Skull Island and it is blockbuster heaven. A magical, spectacular and action packed adventure. As entertaining as anything made these recent summers. Sure, you can see how all the special FX are achieved but the lantern show is gamely complex and detailed. It is a rollercoaster of monster fights and dangerous deaths. Fay Wray screams her lungs out… she is quite the sexually frank character… the willowy innocent… one hot meal away from whoring herself out in Manhattan… to scantily clad lure for our furry titan. No wonder the dinosaur stomping, native chewing old romantic can’t wait to make her his. Yes, the iconic ending in New York is still as tragically sad as it is utterly thrilling. The limitations of 1930s filmmaking aside, this still feels a very modern, mature piece of popcorn hokum. Old furry butt has stood the test of time as a top afternoon watch!
Paul Dano directs Carey Mulligan, Ed Oxenbould and Jake Gyllenhaal in this 1960s-set family drama where a teenage boy starts to realise his parents are fallible human beings.
“Boy, boy, boy! Boy!” Confession – I don’t really rate Carey Mulligan. I might have to reassess that opinion. She is a powerhouse here. Shifting personality from Madonna to Whore in her son’s eyes when in reality she’s just surviving. Gyllenhaal is superb as usual as the depressed, unreliable father. His performance reminded me of Brad Pitt in The Tree of Life but this film is far subtler and controlled in its pretensions. Like The Ice Storm, this gets a sense of time, humanity and loss of innocence from the POV of a teenager absolutely correct. Dano is going to be a sensitive director of actors with a nicely restrained visual sense – his use of both colour and long shots are excellent. This is tense, heartbreaking but non-judgemental piece of debut filmmaking. I’m excited to see what he does next. Amanda Ford’s costume design is also spot-on.
Joseph Losey directs Jeanne Moreau, Stanley Baker and Virna Lisi in this Venice-set drama where a young author with inner demons falls for a malicious high class call girl.
Lust becomes a warzone. Jeanne Moreau’s enigmatic and callous siren manipulates, berates and destroys her prey. She slinks about to jazz records like a jigsaw puzzle piece. She appears at Venice landmarks like a phantom. She laughs in your face with animalistic glee as you forsake your last shred of dignity. It is a great physical performance by Jeanne Moreau who looks fabulous. Stanley Baker is a bit of a lunk so you have no real sympathy for him as the brainwashed victim of her sexy bullying. Italy looks damp, ornate and harsh – still very beautiful. Losey’s direction experiments with jump cuts and symbolism. Everything is desolate, and yet even the desolation is gorgeously enthralling. Would make a great double bill with Don’t Look Now.
Don Taylor directs Linda Hamilton, Geena Davis and James Franciscus in this TV movie espionage melodrama where young Russian girls are trained to be KGB honeytraps.
So an early crack at the plot of Nikita or Red Sparrow or Anna… but without any of the sex or violence. I guess you are supposed to get caught up in the across-the-superpowers romance. The direction is pretty flat, understandable for a TV production but Don Taylor directed Omen II and The Island of Doctor Moreau the decade before. Canada stands in awkwardly for Mother Russia. I watched mainly for Linda Hamilton but she’s pretty glum here.
Jean-Jacques Annaud directs Everett McGill, Ron Perlman and Rae Dawn Chong in this prehistoric adventure where three cavemen are sent out on a mission to save their tribe by stealing fire.
A genuinely captivating, pleasingly violent romp. Filmed on location in the wildest reaches of the globe, acted in grunts and made-up nonsense designed by Anthony Burgess. This is an epic production where you are intimately drawn into the leads quest, fears, vulnerability, arcs, lusts, desire and evolution.
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon directs Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler and Olivia Cooke in this teen drama where two film nerds befriend a school kid dying of cancer.
Cute… a little too cute. Jon Bernthal lightens things up as the least likely history teacher in cinema ever. RJ Cyler and Olivia Cooke put in really sweet turns. There’s a definite vision here. It is The Fault in Our Stars for yoots who think they are way too smart and too sophisticated for such manipulative fare. I actually prefer the schmaltzier, more mainstream doomed teen romance. The mawk here is a little too try hard, a little to too cool for school! The homemade spoofs of arthouse classics are fun. There’s no way these seventeen year old dorks have better and more expansive moving image tastes than… me. It is a false note like when in other teen movies there’s that precious 14 year old cutie who is into The Pixies and The Stone Roses. It just doesn’t ring true. Let’s make teen movies for the kids, the references shouldn’t reflect the fantasies of middle-aged screenwriters. Desperate that their tastes are still relevant. Gripe aside, this is cute. And sweet. And mawkish.
Ingmar Bergman directs Ingrid Bergman, Liv Ullmann and Lena Nymanin this Swedish drama about a quiet, near suicidal daughter confronting her feckless yet domineering mother when she visits her country home for a rare stay.
More bloody miserablism. Well acted though… especially the still elegant and glamorous Ingrid Bergman in her challenging swansong. Some of the formal experimentation I liked (the background character of the husband’s third person introduction to our lead), some I hated (endless shots of a screaming disabled woman being ignored).
Gus Van Sant directs Nicole Kidman, Matt Dillon and Joaquin Phoenix in this indie crime satire where a local weather girl persuades some horny high schoolers to off the husband holding her back from fame.
Like contemporaries The Young Poisoner’s Handbook and Heavenly Creatures, this is one of those mid- 90s ambivalent true crime adaptations that doesn’t want to stand in judgement of the murderers so much as the society that inspired them to commit such awful acts. In all honesty, while the acting is consistent in a deadpan camp kinda way and the direction quirky… I, Tonya pretty much takes the same elements and creates a funnier, darker and more scathing romp. No discredit to anyone involved here but the tales and tone are so similar you might as well just watch the superior version.