Danny Boyle directs Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner and Robert Carlyle in this Scottish classic where a group of working class friends while away their twenties with heroin, violence, drinking, theft, Seventies music and bad sex.
In 1996 we were, for just a moment, all smackheads from Leith. Me and a mate snuck into the wrong screen at the multiplex to see this underage and it was a defining experience. The soundtrack of Lou Reed and New Order paragons was the soundtrack of that summer. The Irvine Welsh book, much of it written in colloquial Scots, was a codex to struggle through and decipher – much like A Clockwork Orange, cracking the language and revealing the illicit thrills within made the book feel like a private treasure you had excavated. Yet John Hodges adaptation is so agile that it keeps the spine of the book’s non-linear short story structure while moving with a chewing purpose. Scenes smash into each other like dominos. You keep up with the rush and ride the downers. An immersive experience where every shot now feels like an iconic tableau. Boyle makes this fantasy period Edinburgh look bright yet destitute. You can feel the crust on the carpets, the sweat lashing oafay Sick Boy in every sequence. Some are terrifying but it never betrays the simple fact that people wouldn’t get addicted to heroin if it didn’t feel quite so good. Every generation needs their On the Road or Easy Rider. A rebellion against the life more ordinary at least in media form. Trainspotting (the novel and the film) was mine. Rather than hit the road it takes the tracks. But the philosophy of it sums up a lot of my feelings towards being working class, friends (we all know a Begbie), Britain and nationalism. It has stood the test of time shockingly well. A flawless slice of cinema.
John Waters directs Edward Furlong, Lili Taylor and Christina Ricci in this semi-autobiographical comedy where a young outsider photographer from Baltimore is courted by the New York art world when his candid photos of sleazy living are scouted by a dealer.
Christina Ricci playing an angry Baltimore laundromat owner who hates anything that ain’t Baltimore or laundry related is very much my crush. Always has been, probably thanks to her in this film. Give me a furious pretty face any day of the week. This is a really sweet, funny, inclusive movie – the best and most accessible example of Waters’ belief that everyone is deep down in their heart of hearts a dirty, degenerate freak… so why can’t we all just get along? Furlong gives an against type performance as the gauche naive camera genius. I have a huge fondness for the film’s madcap scattershot mood. A rollercoaster of sitcom framed filth from pubic hair to teabagging, sugar addiction to puppet Mary, Mother of God. None of it shocks me, it is bad taste in a comforting, almost nostalgic, form.
Charlie Bean directs Tessa Thompson, Justin Theroux and Sam Elliott in this Disney live action remake of their animated classic where a posh dog and a scruff fall for each other.
Thank goodness Disney didn’t bother waiting for the talking dog technology to work before they cashed this one in! When your aren’t horrified by the CGI strangefest of watery dog faces moving unnaturally this is amusing but redundant. Nice cast, nice production design.
Rich Cowan directs James Spader, Matt Davis and Robin Tunney in this thriller where a property developer finds himself in the pocket of a mansion-bound Machiavelli when he hits a bank robber with his car.
Saturday night is Yuppie-In-Peril night at Casa Del Carroll. And Natalie certainly doesn’t need a specific day of the week to watch a James Spader flick. This is one of a series of DTV cheapies he made as his star power waned at the start of the new century. Cheap, unfocused and truncated. Spader plays various white boys off against each other so he can keep all the town’s mover and shakers, officials and oligarchs in his pocket. There’s a hint he’ll stick his dick in their wives, daughters or even them just as a perk. Maybe Spader brings that unspoken rule into the script. The problem is Matt Davis is absolute lumber and even a better performer couldn’t carve a sympathetic character out of his part as written. Bank robberies, million dollar scams and murders are mentioned in passing but this is 90% people mooching behind desks.
Dario Argento directs Michael Brandon, Mimsy Farmer and Jean-Pierre Marielle in this giallo where a rock musician is framed for murder.
Shot for shot this is acceptable slasher action… but the mystery is a little too random to be worth investing in or engaging with. The always welcome Bud Spencer turns up and appears to be running his own hobo detective consultation service. As you do!
Barry Levinson directs Mickey Rourke, Ellen Barkin and Steve Guttenberg in this comedy drama where a group of friends hangout on in a diner in 1959, their lives on hold while they drink, make wagers and talk the night away.
A rich and pleasurable and attractive movie that constantly slips its leash. You can’t really tie down or get a fix on what it is. A nostalgic exploration of masculinity in flux. A teen comedy in the mould of American Graffiti or Porky’s only the characters are half a decade too old, they aren’t coming-of-age so much as actively avoiding it. A stunted romance hidden among slathers of male braggadocio and bullshit so the triangle between Rourke, Barkin and Daniel Stern is barely acknowledged by any character. Barkin’s frustrated bride is the character with the fullest internal and external life – thanks as much to the talented actress as Levinson’s extra care to write her so humanly. Or is it a movie about nothing? What Tarantino would call ‘a hang-out’ movie? An excuse for Baltimore biographical moments and great dialogue to be committed to celluloid. Very few of Levinson’s subplots are resolved. Even characters as well defined as Bacon’s drunk or Rourke’s charmer have moments that betray their personalities as we and their intimate friends know them. What do the interruptions of magical realism and thick metaphor really mean? The ending as a bouquet glides over faceless, scrabbling hands but lands in front of a collection of boy men we have grown to care about…?… I don’t know… Maybe it is all just an accidental showcase for the bottom billed but wonderful Paul Reiser to riff. Whatever Diner is I know I really like it. And I like how it avoids pigeonholing or easy definition with a nimble wit and alluring bonhomie.
Vittorio De Sica directs Carlo Battisti, Maria-Pia Casilio and Alina Gennari in this Italian Neo-Realist classic where a pensioner faces poverty and destitution when his landlady decides she want him and his little dog out of her apartment.
A cute dog movie I’ve avoided over years. Who wants to see a lovely mutt caught in the grinding cogs of uncaring capitalist ‘progress’? Of course that is just one of the ironies that De Sica is playing with here. Why do we care more about a pet falling through societies cracks than we do a man who has worked and lived with dignity all his life? A brutishly sentimental film with moments of astounding beauty. Non-actor Carlo Battisti gives one the great ‘one time only’ lead performances. He sells Umberto’s humanity, frustration and desperation with a stoic magic. His relationship with his little dog is hope personified. The turns their situation take do lurch into uncomfortable darkness and the film offers no real solution to their plight. Running parallel is the story of his landlady’s maid. A child with her own financial ruin pending. A sequence where she wakes up and sets up the kitchen for the day in silence, tears in her eyes, has to be one of the finest moments in arthouse cinema.
Burt Kennedy directs Raquel Welch, Robert Culp and Ernest Borgnine in this rape revenge western where a wronged woman trains with a bounty hunter to avenge her husband’s death and her assault.
A strong Western, bizarrely produced by British horror outfit Tigon. Maybe that explains Christopher Lee’s lovely little interlude as a benevolent gunmaker. Nice to see him in a rare good guy role. The main meat of the film sees an excellent Robert Culp training up a beautiful Raquel Welch. Obviously there’s an irritation that the movie is clearly a vehicle to ogle Welch in ponchos and chaps but she is by the very dictation of the story a widow who has only just survived a brutal gang rape. If you can get past that paradox then the shoot-outs and mythic air make this ever so watchable.
Stuart Baird directs Kurt Russell, Steven Seagal and Halle Berry in this action thriller where a special forces team breach a mid-Atlantic flight that has been taken hostage.
This is more like it – though I suspect the dull title shaved $100 million off the middling box office. CABIN PRESSURE! SEALS ON A PLANE! BREACHERS! Anything might have sounded more dynamic and enticing to the multiplex crowds that two random words than happen to crop up in the script once in a scene featuring none of the stars. Russell tries out a Jack Ryan type role… the analyst we know will step up when the bullets start flying. The tuxedo and glasses cosplay is a strange fit for Snake Plissken but it works. Halle Berry enjoys her most screen time yet, relishing a role where she gets to display some emotions rather than just cleavage. David Suchet is an unmemorable villain – avoiding ham and relatively sensible in his apocalyptic fanaticism. Oliver Platt makes a little out of a lot with “the scientist who gets stuck with the commandos by mistake” nerd role. And Steven Seagal… well either you know about that first act twist by now or you don’t… but it is still, 25 years later, an absolute doozy. Beyond THAT infamous moment, Executive Decision is actually quite a dry game of cat-and-mouse. The pyrotechnics and bullet ballets are constantly threatened but the bulk of the narrative sees everyone waiting on edge until the villains are in the only probable position where a takedown will work. Problem solving takes precedent over kung-fu. We are gripped by trying to figure out which passenger has the dead man’s switch, how to disable the bomb, which compartment Suchet’s leader will be in and how to stop the US airforce from shooting the flight down when we no longer have radio contact. It does result in a whole hour where the heroes seemingly bicker behind luggage endlessly and that ain’t exactly Die Hard! Executive Decision works best as a disaster movie first, a thriller second and action flick distant last. It is a strange combination – hidden in solid Warner Bros clothing, full of unpredictable moments. Some work (Platt’s amateur bomb disposal, Seagal’s surprise), others stick out like sore thumbs (the flashback sequence to Suchet’s introduction that seemingly happens from Russell’s imagined POV). But the lavish production coalesces into a workable and pleasingly erratic slice of hokum.