John Madden directs Diane Lane, Mickey Rourke and Thomas Jane in this Elmore Leonard crime thriller where a separated couple enter witness protection together after they square off against a mafia hitman and his protege.
A pretty unspectacular but straight adaptation of a lesser Leonard thriller. Some of the characters who popped in the book are given short shrift (Rosario Dawson’s middle aged moll… middle aged?!?) and the dour tone probably muffles the potency of the source material’s dialogue. Still there are worse ways to spend a Friday night in such classy company and the low energy approach has its benefits too. If the plot were more streamlined and focused, this would become very predictable very quickly. Can’t help but think the second chance at romance under duress aspects between the handsome leads would have been the most fruitful aspect to target directly in on though. But then you’d have less Joseph Gordon- Levitt… and his itchy twitchy scumbag steals the show.
George Huang directs Kevin Spacey, Frank Whaley and Michelle Forbes in this indie drama where a powerful movie executive bullies his new assistant.
“You are nothing! If you were in my toilet I wouldn’t bother flushing it. My bathmat means more to me than you!” Time has been very kind to this insider dark comedy. Whereas there are elements that shows its age (Whaley’s miscasting, the unnecessary discombobulated timeline to fake a twist is very post-Reservoir Dogs), the unwittingly prescient #metoo aspects and the fact that Spacey’s powerhouse Buddy Ackerman is an utter shit actually now chimes so well with his current reputation, mean this has lost little relevance over its 25 years. The bruising wit of the constant nastiness is pretty seductive. What probably started out as a calling card, a poor man’s The Player, now works as a Tinseltown Glengarry Glen Ross. If you are hitting that David Mamet sweet spot and allowing Spacey room to do what he did best then you’ll always have something pretty special on your hands. The first hour is such a haranguing nightmare of insults and degradations you kinda miss the bastard being allowed room to hit full flow when the tables start turning towards a resolution.
Randa Haines directs William Hurt, Marlee Matlin and Philip Bosco in this adaptation of the Tony Award winning play where a speech therapist at a deaf school and a Deaf cleaner start a tempestuous romance.
Marlee Matlin’s Oscar winning performance is still outstanding but the movie it is submerged within is very much “of its time”. People think the worse excesses of the Eighties are crimped hair or synth music, but for me it is narratives like these where issues of “otherness” can be solved by the right over confident posh honky rocking up for a few weeks. For example – why is all of the signed dialogue interpreted aloud by Hurt’s right-on horn dog? It means all the views and declarations of the Deaf characters are filtered through the mouth of a hearing WASP. Ick! If you can move past the dated attitudes (this really should be a story told mainly from the Sarah character’s perspective) then there are good scenes and occasional spikes in heat and grit that interrupt the formula.
Mel Gibson directs Nick Stahl, himself and Margaret Whitton in this coming of age drama where a troubled boy spends his summer being tutored by the town outcast, a mysterious man whose face and body have been scarred beyond repair.
Now I’ve no doubt that Dead Poets Society is empirically the finer production, but I always had a soft spot for this similar story from since I was a kid. Mel stretches himself acting (probably his best dramatic performance) and tries the director’s chair out for the first time. He has proven a dab hand behind the camera ever since – with all his oeuvre sharing a melodramatic tone, a taste for body horror violence and a rebellious humanity that few other modern directors seem interested in. If your very worst film is the all out experiential assault of The Passion then you are a pretty consistent, noteworthy auteur in my opinion. Here’s a movie that never allows its inherent schmaltz enough room to overtake the fine acting and production values, always going for the tougher narrative decisions and therefore yielding some pretty impressive, psychologically astute moments in the heartbreaking last act. Well worth hunting down if you missed out on it back in the day.
Nathan H. Juran directs Kerwin Mathews, Torin Thatcher and Kathryn Crosby in this fantasy adventure where the heroic sailor must take on an island of fantasy monsters to return his cursed shrunken princess fiancée to regular size.
The acting is awfully wooden and the whitewashed casting of characters of colour absolutely damning… but nobody is watching for these aspects. You’ve come for Ray Harryhausen’s “DYNAMATION” creations and this delivers them boys and girls in spades. The double headed Roc bird, early versions of the swashbuckling skeleton and blue snake lady, a cyclops fights a dragon. Even the non-stop motion FX tricks gift us a sexy thumb sized princess, seafaring peril and an annoying baby faced genie. I must have watched this so many times as a child that its vision is hardwired into my soul. The framing plot and characterisation is hokey and problematic but the gems of fantasy embedded within it are priceless, treasures beyond measure. A Bernard Hermann score only adds further shine and sparkle to the adventure.
Larry Clark directs Brad Renfro, Rachel Miner and Nick Stahl in this teen true crime story where a group of hapless Florida teens, some of whom barely know their target, conspire to kill the local bully.
If you can move past the sheer amount of just legal nudity that marinates a Larry Clark joint (and some people enjoy that blasé pornography of his movies) then this is a strong teen drama that is in good company with River’s Edge and Mean Creek. The acting is naturalistic and pretty brave, nobody courts our sympathy excessively, with Miner and a spaced out, unguarded Michael Pitt really impressing. And for a movie that is hardwired to visually exploit its young casts’ flesh and bodies, the murder itself and the aftermath is carried out with a chilling lack of sensationalism. Everyone involved whether giddily enthused or uncommitted to the violence during its lengthy and amateur planning is brought crashing into reality. What seemed as indifferent and wasteful a pastime as going to Pizza Hut, playing Mortal Kombat or driving around on acid becomes a shocking wake up call once the loss of life kicks in. Clark revels in an amoral world but he doesn’t deny these youths the chance to realise their callous, feckless lifestyles have equally over the top consequences.
Darius Marder directs Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke and Paul Raci in this drama following a drummer who loses his hearing.
Yeah… everyone stating that good drama and mature stories are only told on premium TV these days should wind their neck in. Showcasing a superb central performance by Ahmed and a world and experience both alien yet convincing, Sound of Metal rocks pretty hard. There are three scenes in quick succession that occur when most movies would be gearing up for their happy ending that are absolutely devastating.
Ilya Naishuller directs Bob Odenkirk, Aleksey Serebryakov and Christopher Lloyd in this action movie where a seemingly sad sack suburban man has his violent past reawakened by a burglary.
Around the early Nineties, Hollywood began experimenting by casting actors known for their talent rather than their testosterone in mid-budget action fare. Meryl Streep rode The River Wild, Jeff Bridges was Blown Away… Keanu Reeves, Liam Neeson and Charize Theron proved such capable alternatives to your JCVDs and Segals that they are now more known for their fighting and running work than their dramatic achievements. Pretty much every established name now gets their shot to be Arnie. Why not Better Call Saul’s brilliant Bob Odenkirk? Following the John Wick model (writer Derek Kolstad wrote both scripts) this has the same emphasis on highly choreographed mayhem and violence, criminal underworlds with a sense of mythological pomposity, anti-heroes forced to give up the camouflage of self imposed tameness. Endless streams of Russian mafia goons die in set pieces that mimic The Equalizer, The Dark Knight and bizarrely Home Alone. It has a 15 rating but feels hardcore. Some of the gore is so full on that you do wonder what extremes a mainstream release has to go to get an 18 certificate these days? And once it gets going (which admittedly takes a while) everyone seemingly has a lot of infectious fun being unlikely wraiths. Especially Russian actor Aleksey Serebryakov who somehow matches both Odenkirk and Lloyd in the charismatic quirk stakes. Though nothing particularly special, Nobody is a hard film to not enjoy and if its sole mission was to verify Odenkirk’s big screen credentials… then mission very much accomplished!
John Krasinski directs Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Cillian Murphy in this sequel to the post-apocalyptic sci-fi horror where a family continues to survive in a world terrorised by aliens who hunt any audible sound.
As classy and as gripping as the first one, with more patience to rinse each set-up for maximum tension. Krasinski wears his influences on his sleeve proudly (Spielberg, King, J.J. Abrams) and delivers a continuation that expands and bolsters the original. Deaf teen actress Simmonds proves again what a fine lead she is, the likes of Murphy, Djimon Hounsou and an unrecognisable Scoot McNairy always add value to franchise fare. Conversely Noah Jupe’s highly slappable kid brother is a continually frustrating liability and true star Emily Blunt ends up with a smidge less screentime than the poster suggests. The monsters, however, never disappoint.
Francis Ford Coppola directs Tim Roth, Bruno Ganz and Alexandra Maria Lara in this philosophical fantasy where an elderly academic is reborn as a young(-ish) man in wartime Europe and… eventually… starts a relationship with a woman regressing through past lives.
Someone whose soul travels through time, out of sync and off pace with the deterioration of their body. Coppola returns to this theme in Peggy Sue Got Married, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Jack. Both The Outsiders and Twixt exist within a narrative time loop where the opening shots mouth snakes around to swallow the tale of the ending. The Conversation is a meta narrative of a man who captures a moment in time and obsesses and re-edits it to the point where it loses all meaning and reality. It is fair to say temporal matters mean a lot to FFC. Not that he makes much more than an overly earnest, pretentious hash here of his theme. My God, this is a boring movie. There’s rarely a shot or visual choice that doesn’t take you out of the film and question the intention behind it. A lot of the interiors are fudged as Coppola has filmed them at his vineyard using obvious green screen. The lifeless digital compositions reminded me of Fassbinder’s endless Berlin Alexanderplatz. Set in the same period and locale and with a similar sense of bludgeoning artificiality. At least this has the good grace to last less than two hours. The acting is also all very Brechtian. Roth is solid, coming alive in the scenes where he performs opposite discordant mirror images of himself. The performers that orbit him though are flat, obtuse puzzle pieces, shuffled around but never forming a complete picture. It is a head scratcher with no workable solution. Makes you wish the Movie Brat wunderkind had just carried on with gun-for-hire work for the studios… or retired. One final thought on that… Spielberg, De Palma, Marty, George Lucas and Francis all used to watch each other’s latest movies in rough cuts and give notes… so which Francis Ford Coppola project did this tradition end on? I wonder was it Captain EO, Jack or this?