François Truffaut directs Jeanne Moreau, Henri Serre and Oskar Werner in this French New Wave classic, set before and after WWI, where two friends fall for the same woman yet attempt to find a more egalitarian way to all exist together.
The movie starts at a relentless pace. Zippy to the point of breathlessness. We are running around a gallery, dashing over train tracks, moving into the future like a sugared up shark. By the end things are grinding and sputtering. Time and ageing has defeated our three lovers. They are resigned to repeating lost memories and old conquests. Life has lost its zest. The whirlwind of lust and discovery is over. Maturity and knowledge and history has worn these youths down and away. Oskar Werner’s Jules doesn’t like the sound of clocks, he has an hourglass in his room. Later, once married, when we first enter the marital home, all we can hear is the cogs of a clock turning ominously. The boys’ performances are nowhere near as wondrous as the gorgeous Jeanne Moreau. The ending is genuinely a slap in the face but it has a poetry. One of my favourite arthouse classics…I’m more a Hollywood blockbuster guy yet Truffaut tinkles all my emotions with his buzz and mastery.
Olivier Assayas directs Asia Argento, Michael Madsen and Kelly Lin in this globetrotting thriller where a sex worker turned assassin hooks up with her former boss.
Coming from an arthouse director, this is allowed to noodle around in a narrative liminal space where it seems too little is happening. The dryness, ambiguity and corporate flatness can make it very dull at times. It doesn’t help that Madsen’s two big scenes play out like wannabe Mamet plays where neither lead has the energy to pull off the frisson needed. There’s kink and a couple of decent minimalist set pieces, Argento always catches the eye whether imperilled or seducing. It feels like a diluted Bourne or Haywire spin-off. Doesn’t live up to the movie poster’s dangerous promise but not a complete disappointment.
Ron Underwood directs Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward and Finn Carter in this low budget but big hearted monster movie where something deadly is stirring beneath the desert.
This was a gateway horror movie for little Bobby Carroll. While I wasn’t a fan of ghouls and scares at 11, this had enough adventure and comedy for me to embrace it as a beloved VHS favourite. And it has aged fantastically. The neat practical trick FX hold up, the location shoot make it almost a timeless watch . It could be set in the 1950s, it could be now. Lovely ensemble work, with Fred Ward walking away with the movie. Bacon and Carter have nice chemistry and smooth looks but you really only care about the boys’ “business partnership”. That’s slightly unfair actually… as the efficient, gag heavy script manages to make every member of Perfection, Nevada’s rapidly diminishing population sparkle. Tremors is just good old fashioned fun that understands the need for escalating the threat level regularly. The running theme is Bacon’s feckless grafter needs to start planning ahead and when faced with the “motherhumpers”, who approach their next meal with a problem solving zeal, he has to rise to the challenge and outsmart some very capable “graboids”. Charm, pace and thrills – this is as about as entertaining as a Saturday night in can get. The rental cover parodied Jaws and that sells the movie perfectly.
Anne Fletcher directs Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds and Betty White in this romantic comedy where a tough editor needs to pose as her assistant’s fiancée for… reasons.
Bright but uneven. The comedy is undercooked but dominates, the romance half of the equation is an afterthought. Bullock gets a lot more scenes than Reynolds and nearly all the comedy skits. She looks great but her “bitch boss” character softens way too quickly and with minimal catalyst.
Fritz Lang directs Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame and Lee Marvin in this classic film noir where a police detective is taken to the edge trying to bring down corruption.
Absolutely savage. The level of violence and the hard narrative choices this casually makes would feel shocking even if it were made 30 years later. Glenn Ford’s obsessed straight arrow destroys the lives of every woman he touches, even more so than the crime ring he wants to break. Obviously the callous extremeness of this rubs against the slightly staid normality of the mainstream form of its day. Maybe that’s the point. Lang seems to be pushing himself here. There are showy shots to rival Citizen Kane (the opening feels like a direct homage) and even in talkier scenes his camera swoops gently in and out from the players. Gloria Grahame’s ditzy but combative moll absorbs all the focus in her scenes, of which there should be even more. If you’ve got dynamite, why not blow up as much as you can?
Márta Mészáros directs Isabelle Huppert, Lili Monori and Jan Nowicki in this 1930s set Hungarian drama where a Jewish shopgirl is paid by a society couple to have their baby.
The period detail and hazy looks are fine… the jealousy, desire and eventual intrusion of history are all handled with a delicate touch. Huppert is superb as always and looks particularly delectable here. Mészáros is one of the great unsung storytellers – she has a rare gift for sexually frank yet psychologically ambiguous characters.
Gilbert Cates directs Karen Allen, Jeff Fahey and Keith Carradine in this erotic thriller where an unfaithful wife and her PTSD suffering husband find themselves caught in a neo-noir trap.
Bonkers plotting scrapes against staid TV production values, nightmarish gore pops up more often than the much promised nudity. As wobbly and creaky as it all is, I kinda liked it. Only Carradine puts in an above average performance but Fahey and Allen at least look hot.
Takashi Miike directs Kôji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada and Yûsuke Iseya in this historical samurai adventure movie where a small group of Japanese warriors take on an army in an attempt to kill a psychotic future Shogun.
Proof that the usually grainy and untethered Miike can do lush, classy prestige filmmaking to rival even Ridley or Kurosawa. That’s not to say his trademark shock tactics are in any way muted. We witness not one but three examples of the antagonist’s exceptional cruelty in the first act… any single one of these disturbing flashbacks would feel uncomfortable in the hands of a respectable auteur. The finale is 40 minutes of non-stop carnage; blood, booby traps and blades. This extended sequence can feel a little deadening at points. It is probably also fair to say at least 6 out 13 of the titular assassins don’t really take shape as fully fledged characters. Quibbles aside, this is the real deal.
Daryl Duke directs Elliott Gould, Christopher Plummer and Susannah York in this crime caper where a bank teller realises he is about to be robbed… and so swindles both his employer and the criminal.
What if The Apartment was a heist movie? What if Elliot Gould was seemingly the most irresistible guy in the world but also a lowly bank clerk with minimal morals? What if Christopher Plummer was a sadist who really liked dressing up? What if he were the only character whose motivations you were ever truly certain of? What if every other scene was utterly, viciously unpredictable? What if the screenplay was an early apprentice job for the future director of Bad Influence and LA Confidential’s Curtis Hanson? What if you realised this is exactly the sort of movie you wanted to watch any night of the week?
Paul Verhoeven directs Rutger Hauer, Jeroen Krabbé and Susan Penhaligon in this WWII drama following the fortunes of a group of college friends who become Dutch resistance fighters when the Nazis occupy Amsterdam.
Another one off my bucket list. Feels like a miniseries that has been condensed into feature length, a bit rough in the edit. Then you add in Verehoeven’s love of kink, filth and sympathy for the devil. It often feels simultaneously both simplistic yet sophisticated. If you approach Soldier Of Orange just as a rousing boy’s own adventure (with bonus nudity) it satisfies. Hauer’s character is a strange protagonist in that even though everyone treats him as the hero of the piece you’d struggle to put your finger on any single thing, positive or proactive, he attempts in the first two hours. He is just kinda swept along by history, ironically offering little resistance to the greater forces that drag him from one intrigue to the next. Once there is a clearly laid out mission for him to execute though the final 40 minutes takes stronger shape. Verhoeven is a fascinating storyteller in that he rarely judges any of the young people… even the Dutch friend who becomes a Nazi officer or the Jewish girl who survives by any means necessary. Except in the final shot where one forgotten cohort is revisited, his camera holds on two very different faces, and we are silently asked whether anyone should have sat out the effort to free oneself and one’s country from tyranny?