John Carpenter directs Kurt Russell, Keith David and Wilford Brimley in this sci-fi body horror mystery where a remote Antarctic research base finds itself infiltrated by an alien who absorbs and replicates its prey indistinguishably.
Ennio Morricone’s doom laden score is beating like a dying heart. A gorgeous huskie races across the unforgiving white. A hair smothered helicopter pilot pours melting ice and blended scotch dregs into his chess game’s harddrive. I’m in now but I wasn’t always. As a teen Carpenter’s finest didn’t get me. A notorious flop on release, this like Blade Runner (they were released on the same weekend) saw its reputation grow once it hit VHS and telly. It is almost easier to see why The Thing failed even though I prefer it. A desolate, often silent then earsplittingly loud and always pessimistic, film that explodes in bursts of nauseous shock and dread inducing fatalism. Like Guinness and whisky, you need to grow your tastebuds into a flick that is essentially beardy, paranoid middle aged men bellowing at each other for 90 minutes. Who is human? Who ain’t? Do the copies even know if they themselves, or which of each other, are alien? It is 12 Angry Men with dynamite and shotguns. Death on the Nile where Poirot prefers kerosene to monologues. Ostensible hero R.J. MacReady ain’t no bastion of good in a white suit; reluctant, self serving and only sometimes one thought smarter than a creature that has survived eons. Listen, I love Kurt Russell in this but I cannot for the life of me think why he wants to burn the entire outpost down in the third act (spectacle aside). The Thing can survive freezing to death, humans can’t… UNLESS!?… The transforming monster FX work are gloopily mind blowing. Rob Bottin, just 22 at the time, uses every animatronic technique in the book and then camouflages them in slathers of Vaseline, skewed lighting and elliptical movement to convince you heads are becoming space spiders and organs are becoming snarling dog foetuses. Case closed for the defence of practical effect over CGI. Your honour, this is the final argument against folks who instantly write off any remake of a beloved genre film too. And having said that, I’m even quite perversely fond of the Mary Elizabeth Winstead prequel / remake. “Yeah, fuck you too!”
François Ozon directs Félix Lefebvre, Benjamin Voisin and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi in this French teen romance where two local lads in a seaside town fall hard for each other… but death is on the horizon.
A more down to earth yet heart pounding Call Me By Your Name. That was quite a calculated visual seduction, this lands the heady ups and downs of summer lovin’ and self discovery bang on. From the off, Ozon lets us know this is going to explore darker places than a September break-up. The second half is more grim, less compelling, but has a nice wood grain to it. Much like that heady rush of instant attraction is punctuated by sad flash forwards to the aftermath, the fallout of the midway tragedy has bursts of flashbacks to their warmer memories together. It isn’t a perfect movie… the lead is a little wet, a little creepy and I’m not sure that’s wholly intentional. But the support cast is uniformly strong with both Voisin and Bruni Tedeschi hitting their marks with aplomb as the confident wild boy and his slightly unhinged mum respectively.
Sofia Coppola directs Rashida Jones, Bill Murray and Marlon Wayans in this comedy where a writer suspects her husband of infidelity and enlists her puckish playboy father to help her uncover the truth.
A slight but consistently pleasurable chunk of lifestyle porn. Murray lights up the screen in his well rationed out scenes, Jones makes for a fine foil to his charming bad behaviour. If only we could all afford to live so classily.
Cory Finley directs Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney and Ray Romano in this true story of a New York multi-million dollar school embezzlement scandal.
Owing more than a passing wave in the school hallways to Election, this is a fine showcase for Hugh Jackman – Thespian, darling. The charming star here gets to do a bit of the old actual acting. There are a dozen scenes of spectacular monologues or hoodwinking double speak that display the talent his action franchises and romcoms never really tapped. We all knew he had the chops, it is just nice now Wolverine has hung up his claws that he can start utilising them. This is a keen, admirably low key, take on a white collar criminal enterprise falling apart; gleefully cataloguing the betrayals and brassnecked naughtiness of the greedy shared office perpetrators. I’d say the film does suffer from sidelining Allison Janney a little too early from the action. Her and Jackman’s platonic and conspiratorial energy is electric in the first act. Yet as (almost) forgivable fraudsters, these Wolves of Write-Offs, prove acidic but compelling company.
François Ozon directs Romain Duris, Anaïs Demoustier and Raphaël Personnaz in this cross dressing romance where a widower begins to find comfort in his dead wife’s clothes, while her best friend discovers that this new emerging personality will fill various voids in her life.
A sexy exploration of gender roles that never descends into obvious farce or trite melodrama. Playful, acted with subtle nuance and explicit nudity, this is a love letter to believing in who you are and embracing change. Undemanding and lovely to watch.
Clint Eastwood directs himself, Sondra Locke and Pat Hingle in this Dirty Harry sequel where Callahan is so tired at random attempts on his life in San Francisco that he goes to investigate a serial killer vigilante offing rapists in a seaside resort.
Comedy ugly dog. Sondra Locke’s best “acting”. Night time cinematography that is almost impenetrably shadowy. So, so lazily written. Crime just springs up in Harry’s locus every other scene. He cannot talk to a business owner or park his car without a violent felony occurring in his vicinity. Traditionally cops are called to the crimes after the fact, Harry is a tweed jacketed dowsing stick for random carnage. A man who can’t order coffee without the patrons transmogrifying into a five man heist team isn’t protecting and serving, he’s a menace.
David S. Ward directs John Goodman, Peter O’Toole and Camille Coduri in this comedy where a brash but sweet natured American accidentally inherits the British throne.
Better than its reputation, better than it has any right to be. Essentially four episodes of a well constructed teatime sitcom spliced together. Only the last section is pretty jokes free as it tries to tie up various subplots with dignity rather than farce. Goodman is fantastic value as always. The London location work is well exploited and evocative of the city I grew up in. We’ve all crammed into that Piccadilly Burger King that is now a Boots. Not game changing but gently pleasant.
Tinto Brass directs Teresa Ann Savoy, Ingrid Thulin and Helmut Berger in this notorious sexploitation hit about a real life Nazi brothel.
Sets out to unpleasantly shock in the first half hour – live animals are butchered, foetuses displayed, sex with deformed humans ogled. Then settles into a marathon of glitzy soft porn. The plot zeroes in on the sweet face and babyfat body of Savoy and not a lot else happens. The production design by Bond / Kubrick maestro Ken Adams is dazzling but all in the service of a bonking film that offers little human variety… very slowly. If Swastikas and lacy lingerie get you off… any 10 minutes out of context should do. The fact that the true story of Berlin’s espionage fuelled Salon Kitty would actually make for a fine film or miniseries, with some care and ambition, is the saddest indictment of this wasteful relic.
Tate Taylor directs Octavia Spencer, Diana Silvers and Juliette Lewis in this psychological horror where a group of teens start to party at a lonely middle aged lady’s house, only to discover their host wants a lot more from them than weekend company.
Very early on you realise the adult cast for this are far too prestigious for such small roles. It is strange watching Alison Janney in an insignificant tenth billed three scene-r part that should have went to some jobbing actress. That’s the queerest thing about Ma; a Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?-style hagspolitation update for the social media age. The film itself is uneven and uncertain. The lurches into violence seem tonally off rather than well calculated shocks. There are elements of the plot left vague and unexplored while we are distracted by a rote group of teens making poor decisions and gallingly surviving for far too much of the runtime. There are enough quality elements within not to write Ma completely off but it is an unsatisfying watch.
Pedro Almodóvar directs Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura and Lola Dueñas in this Spanish melodrama where two sisters deal with death… one has a dead body that turns her life around, while the other reunites with a dead person!
If you’ve never watched an Almodóvar before then this is probably the best entry to get a feel whether he is for you. You get all the primary colours, farce, sense of community, rape, murder, soap opera plotting, food and sexiness he’s known for with very little weirdness, rough edges or histrionic camp. The three female leads are on form and Cruz looks even more fantastic than usual.