Robert Hamer directs Dennis Price, Alec Guinness and Joan Greenwood in this Ealing comedy where an underwear salesman begins bumping off his estranged relatives in the hope of working his way up the lineage to inherit a dukedom.
The critics’ final word on this is Alec Guinness performs eight roles and that is genius. He’s very good when given a few scenes as one of the D’Ascoyne clan but half of his workload are near voiceless cameos. And it’s not like the hair and make-up girls have been given strict instruction to make any of the dislikable brood different or unrecognisable from each other. Far more fascinating is Price’s treacle voiced psycho and the women he loves. Valerie Hobson and especially Joan Greenwood give wonderfully slippery, sexually frank performances. Greenwood’s manipulative Sibella, who prematurely and rather bitchily chooses a more secure suitor over our anti-hero and then regrets her marriage the moment Price starts moving up the social rankings is a deliciously cruel creation. Their power struggle / seductive interactions in particular have a heat and worldliness not really acknowledged outside of noir films. The whole thing is bleakly witty, playing with irony and class consciousness with a very modern glee and abandon. Most comedies before the 1960s one respects more than actually enjoys while sitting through them. Kind Hearts & Coronets stands with The Marx Brothers, Laurel & Hardy and It Happened One Night as a still potently entertaining romp.
Edward Yang directs Cora Miao, Ma Shao-chun and Wang An in this Taiwanese drama where a photographer, a novelist, a hustler and a hospital administrator’s lives intersect in curious ways.
Every frame is like an Edward Hopper painting. Lonely people lost in urban isolation. Yang holds on them patiently whether populated or not. The best shots are silent, we have to figure out how they further the various dramas along. Then when lives do crossover it proves illicitly exciting. There’s plenty of low stake crime, sexual tension and urban malaise. It proves a compelling couple of hours. Truly cinematic but with the rewarding intertwining of a big novel and the gentle magic of poetry.
Courtney Hunt directs Keanu Reeves, Renée Zellweger and Gugu Mbatha-Raw in this courtroom drama where a criminal lawyer must defend a family friend’s non-cooperative teenage son… for killing the family friend.
Solid, unspectacular stuff. Makes full use of three locations so you do not realise quite how low budget it is until the midway point. Reeves probably isn’t the ideal lead here, blank but as likeable as ever. The Whole Truth is a little too staid, giving you far too many redundant scenes which grant you room to think ahead, guess the possibility of the twist outcome. Still this is a sub-genre that has been in short supply in recent years, so even watching a basic run through of the format fills an evening adequately.
Richard Donner directs Mel Gibson, Danny Glover and Rene Russo in this action comedy sequel where Joe Pesci tries to sell the Murtaugh mansion.
Of course I loved this as a kid. It was more Lethal Weapon. Who wouldn’t want more Lethal Weapon?! But this gets the settings out of whack a lot of the running time. The sitcom elements dominate, it is almost reminiscent of a Police Academy sequel for swathes… long gone are the PTSD suicidal leanings of a wild eye Riggs. He’s more mischievous Jack In The Box now than ticking time bomb. At least he gets a decent romantic interest after two entries of having to make mooney eyes at a gravestone and Patsy Kensit. Rene Russo rocks here. A superior actress to both chiselled masonry and Hounslow wood. Sexy and combative, she benefits from Carrie Fisher sprucing up her parts in the otherwise often surprisingly lacklustre script. The starring duo really lean into their chemistry and goodwill here. Only a bomb disposal opener genuinely generates “the magic.” Glover’s Rog gets a heavy subplot where he guns down a child in the course of duty. “I killed that kid, I killed that boy. Oh yeah, oh you killed a lot of people, you kill a fuckin’ lot of people. You ever kill a baby?” It is a misguided, sentimental bolt-on that feels distasteful among all the ass kicking, shoot out, quips and nuttiness. Now that we all know how the LAPD was behaving in ‘92 it isn’t just a butt numbing downer but a frankly wrongheaded slice of liberal handwringing from Donner and co. Still it takes up the middle act, giving Riggs and Russo’s Cole welcome room to flirt and compete rather than solve the mystery. Joe Pesci is gallingly back as Leo Getz and as annoying as ever. Really crowbarred in. His paycheck could have paid for another decent action sequence… something the middle section lacks. Is there a deserving nemesis for them all to face off with, at least?… No. He’s an afterthought, not worth mentioning. Jan De Bont’s is DoP and the best action sequence on an incomplete metro system and overpass feels like dry run for Speed. Otherwise action fans are better served waiting for Lethal Weapon 4 where Jet Li’s people smuggler feels like a consistently worthy threat for the invincible buddy cops. Mindlessly acceptable.
Stella Meghie directs Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield and Chanté Adams in this romance where a commitment shy journalist and a curator begin a tentative affair while both investigate the life and loves of a recently deceased photographer that has ramifications for them both.
An ever so classy riff on The Notebook that is a little too somber and too distant for its own good. The acting is uniformly attractive, the jazz soundtrack by Robert Glasper is outstanding. Just a shame Stella Meghie rarely generates enough heat to cook all the quality ingredients. Constantly threatens to be a really great film, yet ends up a bit boring.
Hong Sang-soo directs Kim Min-hee, Lee Eun-mi and Song Seon-mi in this Korean arthouse drama where a woman takes a break from her husband to visit three old friends, only for an overbearing man to interrupt each catch-up.
One joke told three times over, each time at length. There’s a stunning feral cat in the first segment. Everyone has some nice drinks and snacks. The conversations are self consciously non-important mumbling with vague allusions to gender expectations and happiness. I don’t think there’s going to be a movie that ever unlocks this particular director’s work for me.
John Landis directs Anne Parillaud, Robert Loggia and Anthony LaPaglia in this horror comedy where a female vampire with a conscience only drinks the blood of criminals, which is a fine plan until she leaves a mafia don to turn…
Half the supporting cast of The Sopranos mooch around waiting to get bit in a release that is nowhere near as scary as An American Werewolf In London and nowhere near as funny as An American Werewolf In London. The one thing it gets right are the very special FX. The gore is flowing, eyes glow eerily and when a baddie gets a suntan… all bets are off. The sequence where Don Rickles crumbles into glowing ash is iconic. There’s a reasonable amount of sex and nudity too but these sequences often seem there in place of the plot coming to any kind of boil. It really just idles about noisily, lewdly and then just ends. I have a teenagers’ nostalgia for this from my video rental days but if you aren’t of the very particular vintage where boobs, bush, blood and Goodfellas parody acting seemed like mind blowing good value for £2.50 then you probably aren’t going to get a lot out of it. Was meant to be La Femme Nikita’s big Hollywood break, she’s probably the best performance in Innocent Blood despite struggling with certain foreign words and shifts in emotions.
Steven Spielberg directs Tom Cruise, Samantha Morton and Colin Farrell in this sci-fi chase thriller where a future cop, who solves crimes before they happen using images from psychics brains, finds himself on the run when he is predicted to be a murderer.
Not as spectacular as I remember. A fantastic opening sequence where Cruise manipulates the dream imagery of a flash forward to a crime is the high point. We are right beside the dependable star scanning the Hitchcockian Plus Plus homage to find its location before it occurs. Spielberg shows us the concept with a masterful, playful elan and as a mini-movie in its own right – it is among his best work. The rest of the film is a choppy prestige take on The Fugitive. Cobbled together from set pieces from jobbing writers’ various drafts that are tonally inconsistent and often inconsequential. A barney through a factory is resolved with Cruise slowly gliding out in an automated car, as slowly and as casually as a man turning into a traffic jam. A grim eye transplant set piece where Cruise cannot remove his blindfold for twelve hours, as we and he are warned he will go blind if he does, ends with zero ramifications. This often feels like Spielberg behind the pace… the plot strands tighten together in the strict formation of a Shyamalan narrative rug pull. The mega corporation defined world building has the distinct air of Verhoeven (the earliest drafts of the script were developed as a Total Recall sequel). There’s nothing inherently wrong with Spielberg taking in new influences but he used to set the trends or exist well above them, so it can’t help but feel like a step backwards for the groundbreaking wunderkind to start cribbing from such recent talents. There are positives… the noir-ish elements, a regular respite from the haphazard dash, where Cruise meets a series of ageing suspects to further his investigation are given room to make impact. The finale feels cheekily oblique on rewatch (much like Total Recall… reality is called into question long before the happy ending unspools far too neatly into place). Before production started Spielberg invited a panel of scientists and commentators to suggest the cultural and technological advances we might see in fifty years time. That attention to detail shows throughout. The vision of 2054 is sober and believable, sieved through the emergent security concerns of the early 21st century as much as genre classics that have gone before it. The Gap still exists, Vomsticks are a thing, yoga has evolved nightmarishly. Samantha Morton is memorable as the weird, closeted psychic accuser. Minority Report is a reasonable one watcher made by a craftsman… though the overwhelming brightness of it all is another choice that is quite questionable. Why Janusz Kaminski painfully bathes so many of the settings in almost blinding light is beyond me? Maybe he knows this is a blockbuster that promises a lot but doesn’t warrant looking into for too long. You wouldn’t question someone if they said it was their favourite movie, equally you wouldn’t be surprised if it were a pointless answer on the quiz show Pointless if the category was Tom Cruise or Steven Spielberg movies.
Edith Carlmar directs Liv Ullmann, Atle Merton and Rolf Søder in this teen romance where an upright young man takes his delinquent girlfriend away to a remote country cabin, only for the adults to interrupt their idyllic getaway.
Future arthouse royalty Ullmann kickstarts her career in this piece of cheesecake fluff. You can broach it as a low energy drama but it clearly has been made with at least one eye on the international exploitation circuit. The quick scenes of frolicking nudity are innocent enough as Ullmann romps through the Norwegian countryside starkers. But the endless lingering shots of her in her scanties and tight hotpants have clearly been lensed with the dirty mac brigade in mind. The Soho regulars must have struggled through the lengthy interludes where the kids make daisy chains and steal a sheep during its two week run at the Cameo-Royal on Charing Cross Road in the early Sixties. They probably breathed a grunting sigh of relief when the enigmatic older drifter turned up at the halfway mark to lead our eponymous protagonist astray again. Once he moves in with our temporary Adam & Eve the sexual tension rises steadily.