Susan Seidelman directs Rosanna Arquette, Madonna and Aidan Quinn in this comedy where a dissatisfied housewife assumes the life of a punkish free spirit after banging her head on a lamppost.
Possibly the best movie that tries rebottle the spirit, cool and energy of a pop star into a cinematic container. It helps that Madonna is the support and not the lead. She represents both Tinkerbell and Peter Pan, art punk and disco, the taste of a new generation. She flits in and out of the story but she really is there as an aspirational figure. A representation of everything Rosanna Arquette’s gorgeous drip is not but could be. But we all know, there’s only one Madonna. The movie of a child woman finding herself via the clothes of another maybe isn’t going to hold up to modern or mature interrogation. But this is for teenage girls… showing them two paths and knowing the one they are being shuffled away from is way more fun, glamorous and dangerous. The crime and romance subplots are incredibly scrappy. The whole thing relies on coincidence in a way that feels beyond parody. Then Get Into The Groove kicks in. Who cares? New York is alive. Vintage stores and grindhouse cinemas… This is all attitude. And in that respect it has aged wonderfully. A fairytale sponsored by Cheez Doodles.
Joel Coen directs Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand and Corey Hawkins in this black and white Shakespearean adaptation of the Scottish play.
A Coen Brother does Shakespeare. That’s going to be an instant five stars. Denzel plays Macbeth. That has to be a must see. Frances McDormand plays Lady Macbeth. Take! My! Money! The actual result. Perfectly alright. Strange watching a Joel Coen movie about murder which contains zero tension and minimal set pieces. The story does not flow, even if each scene bleeds into each other in a bold, playful way. You kinda watch knowing all the big lines and scenes will have their spotlight. And this spotlight is harsh. Recalling in every shot German Expressionism, Kurosawa and Welles… we watch characters trapped in the abstract, rattling around claustrophobic mazes of clean lines and deep shadows. Powdery, stark, undetailed. It looks wonderful. Every frame a painting, an infinite stage unstuck from any audience’s vantage point. Washington and McDormand are both fine, making their marks even when the text is a bit rushed and recited. Yet it is the unknowns who really steal the crown. Kathryn Hunter’s unnerving take on the witches will be difficult to forget. Her creepy broken voice seems to be playing from inside your head rather than any Dolby speaker. Alex Hassel’s unfixable Ross proves equally as supernatural and untrustworthy. And Carter Burwell was born to score a bard’s tragedy, so there’s that.
Matthew Vaughn directs Ralph Fiennes, Harris Dickinson and Gemma Arterton in this spy adventure prequel following the establishment of The Kingsman secret organisation over the course of World War One.
This should be a romp through alternative history but it stops and starts, sputters then leaps. It is certainly straining for emotional high points and tasteful reverence to the tragedy of The Great War but these lurches seem out of place among the zanier stuff we bought our tickets for. At its best when it appears to be teenaged Vaughn translating his “the long and short term causes of WWI” homework into a comic strip. There are three grand action set pieces: a trouser-less, whirling ballet duel with Rasputin; a knife fight in No Man’s Land; and the cliff hanging finale. But at over two hours, three throbs of action just don’t cut it. Good cast, nice idea, wobbly execution.
Bob Clark directs Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin in this Christmas movie following a Norman Rockwell-style December from an anxious nine year old’s point-of-view.
A tradition in America, this movie means very little to us on this side of the Atlantic. It is cheap but charming, has a lovely way with words and actually gets better as it goes a long but I can’t see it justifying its “classic” status outside of the country that has it on a 24 hour loop over two channels every Christmas. Madness. Imagine if we did that with The Snowman?! The queue to see a department store Santa is a cracking little sequence.
Mike Figgis directs Melanie Griffith, Sean Bean and Tommy Lee Jones in this British neo-noir where a waitress and a nightclub cleaner get in embroiled in a gangland face-off to gentrify Newcastle.
A curious thriller in that it sets up half a dozen potent mini-plots, lets them casually cross paths and yet nothing really comes of it. Sure, there’s torture, a shoot-out and a bomb but none of these incidents reach the level of violence that the brooding atmosphere forebodes and threatens. It just never coalesces and delivers on its nasty promise. Figgis drapes Newcastle in extreme Americana; neon, the Stars and Stripes, visual lifts from Edward Hopper and Weegee abound. Yet we also get some Polish experimental jazz to create a further strange juxtaposition. Griffiths looks delectable, as always, in an underwritten part. Bean does fine in the naive protagonist role. Sting actually is surprisingly effective as the local gangster being hounded off his turf by the Yankee big dogs. It may be that Figgis is aware of the pop star’s limitations and directed him this way, but his Mr Finney has a detached coolness that feels unique in the annals of crime cinema. Not great but noteworthy.
Henry King directs Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones and Cameron Mitchell this Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about a wife-beating carny who retells his failures from the afterlife.
What the fuck is this? The hook would appear to be ghost comes back from heaven to help his wife and daughter yet that only takes up a rushed final 20 minutes. There’s not an impressive song and dance sequence to be seen in the first act. The ultimate message is sometimes a woman deserves a whack. Ugh! Aside from the tonal issues, this is made with all the bells and whistles of a big budget Technicolor release of its era. The “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” sequence belongs in a better film. But in general, Carousel is almost trying to be obtuse and unlikable.
Marina Sargenti directs Rainbow Harvest, Karen Black and Yvonne De Carlo in this teen horror where a goth girl begins to abuse the vengeful powers which her new demonic mirror grants her.
Boy, oh Boy! Somebody watched Beetle Juice. A bargain basement Winona Ryder cosplays in that Lydia Deetz look for an all new spooky adventure… just don’t expect wisecracking Michael Keaton or zany FX. The movie itself is cheap and predictable but not without a TV movie level of competency. It is unlikely to thrill horror aficionados apart from one particularly nasty shower kill but fills 90 minutes adequately and then ends on a bonkers twist.
Youssef Chahine directs himself, Farid Shawqi and Hind Rustum in this Egyptian melodrama following the attempts to set up a baggage handler union and a crippled newspaper seller who obsesses over women.
Switches into thriller territory for the last 30 minutes. Pretty accurate study of toxic masculinity and labour organisation. That makes Cairo Station sound preachier than it is. As a big ensemble work combining lots of mature threads and themes this does a fine job. Nippy too at under 75 minutes.