Movie of the Week: Raging Bull (1980)

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Martin Scorsese directs Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty in this boxing biopic following the rise and fall of the always combative, Jake LaMotta. 

De Niro greatest performance, back when he fully inhabited roles rather tried to do some strange Bobby DeNiro impression. He and Scorsese know that Jake LaMotta (the tragic anti-hero, the restless champion, the misanthrope who everyone wants a piece of) is a modern day Shakespearean lead. He destroys all he touches, crushes the love out of any human interaction he has, leaves himself grief stricken as he closes off all relationships. The monochrome cinematography is beautiful capturing the blood, sweat and even more blood of the fights. They used chocolate sauce to recreate the gory spatter in some bouts. Scorsese plays with space surreally… the rings extend into eternity and traps us tightly from cut to to cut. Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing discombobutes with expert shifts of pace… ominous tranquility of the domestic conflicts gives way to rapid fire chopping on fight night. The penultimate scene where LaMotta has a chance encounter with his estranged brother, bullies him into accepting a pantomime conciliation is pure brilliance. It is a subtle moment of heartbreaking acting from De Niro and Joe Pesci, a form neither actor really embraced again afterwards.

10

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Hotel Artemis (2018)

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Drew Pearce directs Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown and Sofia Boutella in this futuristic crime thriller about a brewing Mexican stand-off in a secret hospital for injured yeggs.

An ensemble cast where any of the main 8 would get me into the cinema for their solo projects… especially Jodie, whose presence sets expectations for this particularly high. A chamber piece that exists in the just about the same underworld of secret rules and retro futurism as John Wick. But it frustratingly doesn’t gel. There’s a lot of moving pieces into position for an endgame that occurs abruptly and without memorable conflict. It is all flirting confrontation and tantalising cliffhangers, the chaos never truly comes, the characters never lose a breath. Considering the talent involved and the potential of the pitch you should leave the screen with more notable moments rattling around your head than Jodie’s waddling little old lady run.

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My Top 10 Jodie Foster Movies

1. The Silence of the Lambs (1990)

2. Inside Man (2006)

3. Contact (1997)

4. Taxi Driver (1975)

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5. The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane (1976)

6. The Beaver (2011)

7. Bugsy Malone (1976)

8. Sommersby (1993)

9. Maverick (1994)

10. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)

Skyscraper (2018)

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Rawson Marshall Thurber directs Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell and Chin Han in this action movie about a disabled security expert having to break into an on fire and terrorist held skyscraper to save his family. 

Hands up who wanted The Rock to become the next Arnie? I know that, ever since The Rundown, I did. It just hasn’t happened though… his best flicks are watchable but never threaten to become favourites… his own charisma and magnificent bulk carrying essentially average experiences. Skyscraper is one of his better ho-hummers. It does exactly what it says on the tin. But it is set in a universe that has a smoothness and an uncanniness that makes it all seem a little soft play, even when it looks like a vision of the apocalypse. Sets that only exist to house set pieces for our hero to overcome. Momentarily thrilling, one use ridiculous scale… if Skyscraper came on TV you’d definitely stop channel surfing and settle on it but it is never going to be anyone’s go to movie and that seems to be the ceiling Dwayne Johnson keeps hitting his head on.

7

 

My Top 10 Dwayne Johnson Movies

1. Fast Five (2011)

2. San Andreas (2015)

3. Rampage (2018)

4. Fast and Furious 6 (2013)

5. Pain & Gain (2013)

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6. Skyscraper (2018)

7. Welcome to the Jungle (2003)

8. Walking Tall (2004)

9. Moana (2016)

10. The Fate of the Furious (2017)

 

 

Tag (2018)

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Jeff Tomsic directs Ed Helms, Jon Hamm and Jeremy Renner in this comedy loosely based on the true story of a group of friends who carried on a game of tag for decades.

Bit of a shame this, as a decent concept and cast are mishandled in a film that dwindles away to nothing. The problem is we start with two big, admittedly funny, but overkill sequences… leaving what could have been quite a sweet and sharp farce nowhere to go but even further into the realms of overblown. Everyone gets lost in the wideshot, loud mix… except for Isla Fisher as the wife who takes the game all too seriously and because of her violent competitiveness isn’t allowed to play. She kinda saves a one note experience.

5

Bad Boys (1995)

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Michael Bay directs Will Smith, Martin Lawrence and Téa Leoni in the buddy cop action comedy about partners with 3 days to recover a stolen heroin haul. 

I went to see this at the cinema with my Dad when it first came out and we had a blast. I watched this with my boy Davey many times and had mindless, beer fuelled larks. I watched it with my wife just now and all of Bad Boys cracks and problems and pig headedness overwhelmed me. She hated it. I found it hard to defend. She’s no fan of Bay-hem, even though shimmering heat of the visuals and sultry persuasion of the soundtrack is glossily seductive. But the action is erratic and poorly told. Moments of conflict arise from nowhere. Allegedly the script was terrible when production began, meaning this is often a patchwork of nonsensical improvised scenes, obviously rewritten tangents that suggest Leoni’s witness was originally a call girl but either her or the studio balked at the idea, and trailer moments that work great out of context but do nothing for the watery plot. A lot of the time Will Smith stoically stands next to Martin Lawrence, while the more annoying star burbles on ridiculously. Grating and sloppy… it is still big, dumb fun. But if you don’t have a nostalgia for its place in the mid nineties cultural landscape you’ll struggle to key into it. I’ll save Bad Boys II for myself though.

6

Santa Sangre (1989)

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Alejandro Jodorowsky directs Axel Jodorowsky, Blanca Guerra and Thelma Tixou in this strange Mexican horror about a boy who grew up in the circus and who is driven mad by that past. 

What the fuck have I just watched? Circus soap opera that begins, middles and ends in gory tragedy. An elephant funeral parade. Mentally disabled lads bunking off to a Mexican red light district. Romance between a runaway mute and a boy who acts as a substitute for his vengeful mother’s severed arms. Giallo style murders with only one suspect. Lurid fever dream gutter surrealism. Not for everyone.

7

The Uninvited (1944)

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Lewis Allen directs Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey and Gail Russell in this diluted horror about an abandoned coastal house with dark secrets that leads to seances, romances and revelations. 

Jolly hockey sticks ghost story about posho siblings who buy a haunted house. The jokes and scares are both sparse, wet and dated. Unmemorable to modern eyes.

3

The Secret of Marrowbone (2018)

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Sergio G. Sánchez directs George MacKay, Anya Taylor-Joy and Mia Goth in this mystery yarn about a family of secretive orphans hiding out in a secluded house in the Sixties. 

From the writer of The Orphanage, this is a winning mix of The Famous Five and a few others spookier films (that if I named might reveal the twists to come). Now I’m usually quite negative about stories that are almost wholly determined by their con / third act reveal. But Marrowbone is pleasurable before, during and after the knots are unravelled. The prestige of the narrative conjuring frames sweet performances and moments of moody darkness that are winningly consuming. A beautiful young cast and a milieu that shifts expertly from tweedy twee to gripping darkness keep this from being just a formulaic exercise. Better than I expected.

7

Psycho III (1986)

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Anthony Perkins directs himself, Diana Scarwid and Jeff Fahey in this Norman goes berserk gorefest.

Trashy and unhinged, this traipses back over Hitch’s shots and concepts but with a brutish force, zero censorship and full colour. It makes for a gory, daft rehash of the original… not nearly as playful as Psycho II. Perkins is still loveable as disturbed Norman and his direction allows himself to go full throttle with the familiar ticks and some sexually fluid imagery.

6

Shogun Assassin (1980)

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Robert Houston and Kenji Misumi direct Tomisaburo Wakayama, Kayo Mautso and Akiji Kobayashi in this gory samurai exploitation flick where an executioner and his child go on the run from every killer in Japan. 

A sweaty happy nightmare of fantasy weaponary, paint red gore and dishonourable conduct. Choose the sword, not the ball, kid!

9