Robert Rodriquez directs Ben Affleck, Alice Braga and William Fichtner in this mind bending chase movie where a cop tries to stop a hypnotist who makes innocent citizen rob banks and is somehow involved in the kidnapping of the hero’s daughter.
Robert Rodriquez’s first boring movie. Quite surface level ambitious but feels limited by budget and lack of originality. There are big world changing twists at the start of both the second and the third act… none of which will surprise you massively. I definitely preferred it when it was just a frazzled cop versus a spooky master criminal crime flick, to be honest. Rebel Rodriquez score at least pumps a bit of thrust into the proceedings.
Rob Marshall directs Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King and Melissa McCarthy in this live action remake of the Disney Renaissance classic.
Ugh. Swings between ugly and murky digital miasma to faded Fatface high street surf shack tones. The one highlight is Kiss The Girl… you could say Under The Sea matches the energy of the original number but the anatomical sea life dancing chorus is nightmarishly Cronenberg-esque. The leads are bland, pretty… Bailey has decent set of pipes on her. Melissa McCarthy is well cast but smothered by some of the worst CGI animation to find its way into a wide release recently. Javier Bardem is comically intense, especially when he has to stand still in a water tank, glowering damply, for two extraneous epilogues. All the extra plot bobbins added, add nothing. I don’t want to be part of this world.
Joseph Kosinski directs Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wildein this belated sequel to the rebellion inside a video game cult favourite.
Perfect surfaces glide towards nothing slowly. Cod-philosophical exposition. Daft Punk score. Olivia Wilde looks nice. There’s very little here to cling onto. Like the original if you’ve seen the trailer you’ve already gotten all of what the full length experience had to offer. Boring.
Michael Caton-Jones directs John Hurt, Joanne Whalley-Kilmer and Bridget Fonda in this British dramatisation of The Profumo Affair where a British MP and possible Russian spy were revealed to be sleeping with the same model.
This made a big impact on release when I was young. Like most mainstream movies that dabble in sex it couldn’t possible live up to its horny reputation. Sure, there are a dozen nude extras and unconvincing body doubles but it is hardly Showgirls. What the movie does get right is the seedy atmosphere of underground London circa the early Sixties. A world where the rich and powerful indulge their illicit whims behind closed doors and in their secluded country houses. You can tell the establishment is due for a nasty shock, their hypocritical apple cart is ripe to be upturned. Yet the two key characters caught at the centre of the eventual storm, Hurt’s Stephen Ward and Whalley-Kilmer’s Keeler, remain enigmatic. You never know what their true motivations are. Making their decisions, appetites and martyrdom a little inert over three acts. Blaming the whole tabloid furore that brought down a government on them is unfair. But the injustice never really kicks in to life. It all feels a bit procedural… and very sad.
Carl Franklin directs Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman and Jim Caviezel in this courtroom thriller where a tough lawyer realises she doesn’t know her husband all that well when she has to defend him for war crimes.
As a movie this doesn’t work – Judd and Caviezel are too bland to care about and their characters are as about as consistent as jelly with bacon bits in it. But it is an airport novel courtroom thriller, no matter how garbled, no matter how slick looking… I like that party. AND the support cast of Freeman, Amanda Peet and Adam Scott are bringing it big time. So not a complete write-off.
John Hough directs Bette Davis, Christopher Lee and Kim Richards in this Disney sequel where those alien good kids visit L.A. – Tia joins a gangs of cute rough boys and Tony gets kidnapped by a mad scientist and his benefactor.
Full of cheesy SFX and broad, gentle humour. The kinda movie that was in heavy rotation at holiday camps and kids clubs on rainy days when I was a lad. Finds time for a comedy goat and a timely nuclear meltdown finale. Held up better than I expected.
Dean Semler directs Howie Long, Scott Glenn and William Forsythe in this forest fire action flick.
Hard Rain meets Backdraft. William Forsythe’s enjoyable evil, overly capable villain breaks out prison using a forest fire as his cover to disappear. Howie Long (who played American football and was unmemorable as one of John Travolta’s goons in Broken Arrow) makes his failed bid to be the next Steven Seagal. Rote dialogue, coy action, sloppy edits. Firestorm makes good on very little that it sets up and is far too orange thoughout. Has the colour palette of an Outspan and all the thrills of peeling one.
Perfect Double Bill: The Taking Of Beverly Hills (1991)
Henry King and Otto Lang direct Jennifer Jones, William Holden and Torin Thatcher in this Hong Kong set romance based on the true story of a biracial doctor who finds neither the European or Chinese cultures accept her when she begins an affair with a married American journalist.
Tough one this. A very handsomely assembled big studio slice of orientalism. What must have felt like quite a progressive discourse on race at the time now feels utterly inept. The casting of Oklahoma born white bread Jones (who is very capable in the lead in every other respect) as a Eurasian completely fails to modern eyes. And considering this as a film where the protagonist’s racial status affects every interaction, story development and emotion… nah… it just can’t work.
Robin Hardy directs Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland and Christopher Lee in this folk horror cult classic about a devout policeman who investigates a Highland isle which celebrates pagan beliefs.
The ultimate mood movie – depending on your state of mind you can approach it as a dreadful chiller, a hippy musical, a goosebump dappled sex comedy, an essay on religion vs beliefs or a nihilist detective story. And you might come at The Wicker Man one way on Tuesday and leave in another mind about it on Thursday. Its mangled reputation helps. The fact you watch it cobbled together from the distributors edit with whatever lopped off extra sequence have been recovered inserted awkwardly in since. It makes you take on The Wicker Man like a lost artefact. Where every extra degraded clue on the treasure map feels more pertinent and entertaining than the originally released whole. The movie’s uniqueness both in tone, narrative and reputation feed into its special thrall. We’ve all been a stranger in a small town, we’ve all glimpsed strange customs that us as outsiders can’t quite fathom. Of course, Woodward’s man of God could be a lot less of a prig. There’s definitely an early point where you lose all sympathy for him. You do have to wonder though if Woodward just got his fuck on, how would the movie end? He was given his chance. And once you know the joke, the pleasure comes in the retelling. The teasing sidebars and red hare-rings on the way to the totemic punchline. It all leads to this before you’ve even bought your ticket. The wyrd conclusion is the title, the poster, is the lobby card. Imagine if Fight Club was called The Same Dude. Christopher Lee is glorious as the villain of the piece – suave, informed but gleefully fanatical. As I get older I like more and more all the curvy European blonde ladies who populate the infrastructure of Summerisle. And Paul Giovanni and Magnet’s often diegetic music is seductive, creepy and memorable. The Wicker Man isn’t for everyone but I reckon if you even merely only like it on first watch then eventually you’ll love it! “You did it beautifully!”