Jonathan Kaplan directs Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale and Bill Pullman in this teen drama where two holidaymakers find themselves in Thai prison when heroin is discovered in their backpack.
I watched this pretty much only for Claire Danes back in 1999… and I can’t think of any further motivation behind revisiting it now. It is a pretty uninspired weak tea prison drama with a constant thread of racism to it. Only the surprisingly non-Hollywood ending and a coy refusal to actually let us know if the girls are guilty proving in anyway memorable.
Emma Seligman directs Rachel Sennott, Danny Deferrari and Fred Melamed in this comedy where Jewish student tries to avoid having her bisexual call girl secret life exposed at the funeral afterparty from hell.
Amusing in spits and spots but outstays its welcome – mainly due to an incongruous and near constant horror score track. Rachel Sennott is a sympathetic presence playing a character who would be quite detestable in weaker hands. A solid indie directorial debut with the expertly judged final scene suggesting better things to come. The well observed final set piece of an entire neighbourhood begrudgingly cramming into a single minivan will evoke awkward memories for anyone has had to attend such an event’s aftermath.
Paul Schrader directs Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell and John Heard in this horror remake of the 1940s ‘woman might turn into a killer cat when aroused’ classic.
I made a previous comment about 1940s horror before that it all seems like a series of classy set ups for sex scenes that never happen. Schrader obviously felt the same way about 1942s Cat People as I did about 1943s I Walked With A Zombie. He expands on the original with excessive, erotic kink. Pumping every scene and entire acts with bonus incest, bondage, full frontal nudity, body horror and bestiality. The atmosphere is steamy, the fantasy elements are heightened. The few moments that recreate faithfully the traditional scares of the original are overwhelmed by fantasias of red desert dreamscapes from pre-history and a hard humping score from David Bowie and Giorgio Moroder. Is Cat People XXX scary? Very rarely. Is it utterly captivating? Yes indeed.
Stuart Rosenberg directs Paul Newman, George Kennedy and Strother Martin in this prison drama where a rebellious new inmate at the State Farm becomes a near messiah-like figure to both the convicts and those who must grind him down.
Peeling the tops of parking meters. For drunken laughs. Fuck you, society! VIOLATION! Harry Dean Stanton – a vision of youth. The man with no eyes. “No grab assin” or its a “night in the box!” That lightbulb’s gonna be annoying. Pa Walton’s pale sad butt. Is Dennis Hopper supposed to be retarded in this? Sexy car wash. “Oh boy, she knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s driving us crazy, and loving every minute of it!” The hairiest man ever in that shower scene. Dragline punches the shit out of Luke – sometimes its better to lose but keep coming (for your own dignity but the ultimate message of the movie suggests otherwise…) Ballsy poker plays earns new nickname. Shitty family prison visit. Tarmacking to Lalo Schifrin… if you are indentured labour then doing the work at a pace faster than the overseer wants is one way to take pride and ownership of it. 50 hard-boiled eggs! Luke means too much to these men, they feast off his rebellion and sense of freedom. He likewise craves being above them… and his vain need to appear free to one and all is his eventual downfall. Mom’s dead. Mourning in the box. The Great Escape! “What we’ve got here is… failure to communicate.” Pranks on the bloodhound gang. Photo from Atlantic City. Fixing a hole. The Christ allegories are overplayed, the breaking of Luke is a painful trudge to endure. I know this is one of the greatest rebellion movies ever… up there with One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest… but it is fascinating that both text end with their stubbly messiah’s being beaten brainless by the system, and abandoned by the outcasts they momentarily inspire? Hollywood likes spending time with a rule breaker but doesn’t want to actually endorse societal change? Possibly the blue-iest blue film ever made: Conrad Hall irradiates the clear skies, the denim, Newman’s eyes. Ultimate take home- You probably aren’t or cannot be a Cool Hand Luke without killing yourself, you are more likely to find yourself a convict or a boss. If you find yourself in the position where you are a boss, remember Luke’s words; “Nah – calling it your job don’t make it right, Boss.”
Everardo Gout directs Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta and Josh Lucas in this third sequel to The Purge where white supremacists decide to keep the annual night of lawlessness going well beyond the final whistle.
Every further Purge seems like a slight drop in quality from what has come before yet none have never not tickled my fancy nor left me satisfied. I’d rewatch them all (or any individual one) again in a heartbeat. These are a gory, frenetic and oppressive blend of John Carpenter and Mad Max, a seemingly Bobby Carroll tailor made combo of action, horror and social satire. I think in terms of consistency there’s not a modern franchise that can hold a candle to this under-appreciated perennial. This entry has a cowboy theme that is devilishly explored, plenty of Wild West iconography is utilised attractively and it all eventually builds to a race-to-the-border second half that reminds of Mad Max: The Road Warrior. So we’re not going to convert anyone who gave up on these in the Grillo years… but… fuck those jabronis. Bloody good popcorn and I’d wager potent dissertation fodder for Generation Alpha.
John Irvin directs Christopher Walken, Tom Berenger and Colin Blakely in this thriller where a mercenary investigates an African dictator and stages a coup for vested interests.
Talking of great openings…HOLY SHIT!… the explosive start of this pretty much out epics Apocalypse Now for at least five minutes. Bullets, napalm, vehicular mayhem, bad assery. Then it shifts into a neat little Grahame Greene rip-off espionager where Walken’s subdued, internalised expert organises a coup. If you are fan of The Day of the Jackal (both films are based on Frederick Forsyth books) you’ll appreciate all the meticulous prep and back channel dealings. Then the big action revs up again in a muscular invasion finale. Manville gun popping out grenades like it just don’t care! All in all, a solid night at the movies.
Michael Apted directs Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau and Judi Dench in this 007 spy adventure where Bond must protect an oil heiress from shadowy forces.
Starts strong with a nice little gunpoint transaction and then a neat trad stunt in Bilbao, then MI5 explodes and we are speedboating around the Thames. The first time James Bond had done any meaningful wet work on British soil and it is pretty glorious. Those first ten minutes really pump. I like Garbage’s dirge of a theme song, the CGI oil women that slink around the credits with a garish rainbow dazzlement. And then everything become forgettable and half arsed. The action is middling, the girls hollow and the plotting uninvolving. The twisty doomed romance driven narrative would suit Dalton’s 007 to a tee but Pierce seems a bit stiff here – there’s no-one game for him to bounce off of, some of the quips are so forced they’d make even Rog wince. The only moment that holds up is Desmond Llewelyn’s Q note perfect exit. Farewell lovely Quartermaster. Bond should never be boring but this very often is. There’s a reason TWINE rarely comes up in conversations about the franchise.
Jean-Paul Rappeneau directs Olivier Martinez, Juliette Binoche and Pierre Arditi in this French historical romance where an Italian colonel goes on the run through Provence while the countryside is ravaged by cholera.
In its day this was the most expensive homegrown French movie. I cannot think of any purely British production that matches it in sweep or scale. The first hour is a chase movie, a series of swashbuckling cliffhangers. The Austrian secret police are hot on our trail, death is everywhere, the authorities and the rabble turn into a rampaging lynch mob as pestilence grips. Packed with incidents and a fresh mini drama with each location shift – the first half flies by. Then top-billed Juliette Binoche turns up, things slow. Our deadly pursuers have already been thwarted by plague or pistol. We traverse the country with less urgency. Usually, Binoche is the highlight of any movie but she doesn’t seem to have much chemistry with Martinez. If the attempt was to make a Napoleonic The African Queen or Romancing the Stone then the heat just isn’t there. Two beautiful people who never have a meaningful interlude. The shift in pace wearies you. There’s still plenty of shots of lively animals, gorgeous dresses and bucolic scenery. There are still adventurous moments like when a murder of crows seem to dominate the landscape. Yet it is fair to say the entertainment value is sapped from the drawn out conclusion which again feels like it is out of rhythm with what started so well. As an evening filler though I’m surprised The Horseman On The Roof isn’t talked of more. It gets so much right and certainly feels like a quality release.
Ben Hozie directs Peter Vack, Julia Fox and Keith Poulson in this New York indie drama about a lonely loser who begins to stalk the dominatrix cam girl he thinks he has made a real connection with.
In a world of creepy flakes, maybe some men are the least worst out of a bad bunch. That’s the sum up of 80 minute’s worth of runtime. I think. For example – so much more could have been made out of the online gambling addiction subplot. It is a very masturbatory piece of work. I applaud its nudity, drab eroticism, frankness. Yet it feels very much like a film that doesn’t care about its audience. Maybe that’s a good thing? I watched for Julia Fox. Interested in what she did next after her visceral debut in Uncut Gems. Her and Vack put in a pair of brave and open performances. Often separate and exploited by their desires and isolation. There’s equal opportunity nudity. Both genders whack off for nobody in particular’s viewing pleasure. Reminds me of Hal Hartley, early Wong Kar-wai and Whit Stillman. Nowhere near as good as those names at their indie peaks. Yet the cheapness, the detachedness, the guerrilla location work, the drained out humanity. Yeah, it reminded me of the festival gems of yesteryear. It might only be costume jewellery itself, paste and wire, worthless, but at least it is emulating a forgotten mode.