Darius Marder directs Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke and Paul Raci in this drama following a drummer who loses his hearing.
Yeah… everyone stating that good drama and mature stories are only told on premium TV these days should wind their neck in. Showcasing a superb central performance by Ahmed and a world and experience both alien yet convincing, Sound of Metal rocks pretty hard. There are three scenes in quick succession that occur when most movies would be gearing up for their happy ending that are absolutely devastating.
Ilya Naishuller directs Bob Odenkirk, Aleksey Serebryakov and Christopher Lloyd in this action movie where a seemingly sad sack suburban man has his violent past reawakened by a burglary.
Around the early Nineties, Hollywood began experimenting by casting actors known for their talent rather than their testosterone in mid-budget action fare. Meryl Streep rode The River Wild, Jeff Bridges was Blown Away… Keanu Reeves, Liam Neeson and Charize Theron proved such capable alternatives to your JCVDs and Segals that they are now more known for their fighting and running work than their dramatic achievements. Pretty much every established name now gets their shot to be Arnie. Why not Better Call Saul’s brilliant Bob Odenkirk? Following the John Wick model (writer Derek Kolstad wrote both scripts) this has the same emphasis on highly choreographed mayhem and violence, criminal underworlds with a sense of mythological pomposity, anti-heroes forced to give up the camouflage of self imposed tameness. Endless streams of Russian mafia goons die in set pieces that mimic The Equalizer, The Dark Knight and bizarrely Home Alone. It has a 15 rating but feels hardcore. Some of the gore is so full on that you do wonder what extremes a mainstream release has to go to get an 18 certificate these days? And once it gets going (which admittedly takes a while) everyone seemingly has a lot of infectious fun being unlikely wraiths. Especially Russian actor Aleksey Serebryakov who somehow matches both Odenkirk and Lloyd in the charismatic quirk stakes. Though nothing particularly special, Nobody is a hard film to not enjoy and if its sole mission was to verify Odenkirk’s big screen credentials… then mission very much accomplished!
John Krasinski directs Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Cillian Murphy in this sequel to the post-apocalyptic sci-fi horror where a family continues to survive in a world terrorised by aliens who hunt any audible sound.
As classy and as gripping as the first one, with more patience to rinse each set-up for maximum tension. Krasinski wears his influences on his sleeve proudly (Spielberg, King, J.J. Abrams) and delivers a continuation that expands and bolsters the original. Deaf teen actress Simmonds proves again what a fine lead she is, the likes of Murphy, Djimon Hounsou and an unrecognisable Scoot McNairy always add value to franchise fare. Conversely Noah Jupe’s highly slappable kid brother is a continually frustrating liability and true star Emily Blunt ends up with a smidge less screentime than the poster suggests. The monsters, however, never disappoint.
Francis Ford Coppola directs Tim Roth, Bruno Ganz and Alexandra Maria Lara in this philosophical fantasy where an elderly academic is reborn as a young(-ish) man in wartime Europe and… eventually… starts a relationship with a woman regressing through past lives.
Someone whose soul travels through time, out of sync and off pace with the deterioration of their body. Coppola returns to this theme in Peggy Sue Got Married, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Jack. Both The Outsiders and Twixt exist within a narrative time loop where the opening shots mouth snakes around to swallow the tale of the ending. The Conversation is a meta narrative of a man who captures a moment in time and obsesses and re-edits it to the point where it loses all meaning and reality. It is fair to say temporal matters mean a lot to FFC. Not that he makes much more than an overly earnest, pretentious hash here of his theme. My God, this is a boring movie. There’s rarely a shot or visual choice that doesn’t take you out of the film and question the intention behind it. A lot of the interiors are fudged as Coppola has filmed them at his vineyard using obvious green screen. The lifeless digital compositions reminded me of Fassbinder’s endless Berlin Alexanderplatz. Set in the same period and locale and with a similar sense of bludgeoning artificiality. At least this has the good grace to last less than two hours. The acting is also all very Brechtian. Roth is solid, coming alive in the scenes where he performs opposite discordant mirror images of himself. The performers that orbit him though are flat, obtuse puzzle pieces, shuffled around but never forming a complete picture. It is a head scratcher with no workable solution. Makes you wish the Movie Brat wunderkind had just carried on with gun-for-hire work for the studios… or retired. One final thought on that… Spielberg, De Palma, Marty, George Lucas and Francis all used to watch each other’s latest movies in rough cuts and give notes… so which Francis Ford Coppola project did this tradition end on? I wonder was it Captain EO, Jack or this?
Lizzie Borden directs Honey, Adele Bertei and Florynce Kennedy in this independent feminist sci-fi film where a group of women rebel against the quiet revolution that oppresses them in future New York.
Cobbled together from whatever off cuts, one takes, stock footage and random home movies Borden got her hands on, I’m genuinely going to struggle to find many positive to note here. It reminded me of the outsider techniques and restrictions of Edward D Wood Jnr. Whereas Wood wanted to entertain with unchecked ambition and wayward quality control, this wants to regurgitate didactic politics at you. It can feel near incomprehensible at times… when it ends abruptly on a bang, you do wonder whether a bit more focus might have at least made us care how we got there. This patchwork agit prop belongs in a museum where you can at least walk off to the next exhibit once you realise its a work of threadbare incoherence.
Lynne Ramsay directs Samantha Morton, Kathleen McDermott and Raife Patrick Burchell in this Scottish drama where a quiet shelf stacker steals her dead boyfriend’s novel and savings and goes to Ibiza.
Bored me to tears when it came out. Watched now, late night, with lowered expectations, I can see what a sensual experience it is. But it is also a middle class wallow in working class limitations and inappetence. Morton’s performance remains enigmatic throughout – like the alien in Under The Skin or prisoner in A Prophet you are never really sure what she is feeling, thinking or planning…
Blair Hayes directs Jake Gyllenhaal, Marley Shelton and Swoosie Kurtz in this teen road movie satire where a boy with no immunities, raised in a plastic bubble, hits the road to find his true love.
Starts with a jarring midshot of a baby’s dick and gets increasingly horny and freakish from there. In a parallel universe this would have been the film that broke Gyllenhaal out into mainstream stardom and Donnie Darko would have been the little seen cult oddity. This is pretty blunt force trauma comedy and weirdness – like someone mixed up the script pages of Tommy Boy and Edward Scissorhands. You will laugh… but the best joke is unintentional… Here Fincher’s Zodiac killer is playing his anti-hero’s loving Dad! Would make a challenging triple bill with Freaked and Joe’s Apartment, in a season of “Some Executives Definitely Lost Their Jobs” comedies.
Francis Ford Coppola directs C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon and Ralph Macchio in this period teen gang drama where the tensions between the Greasers and the Socials causes one group of brothers to fracture.
And Patrick Swayze. And Tom Cruise. And Diane Lane. And Emilio Estevez. And Rob Lowe. And Tom Cruise’s car crash teeth. Did I miss anyone?! The greatest cast assembled… mainly through prescience… hug, cry, rumble, bicker and behave all sweatily sincere. It is a manly film very in touch with its feeling… far more gushingly sensitive than even your Stand By Me’s or even Beaches’. It really is a tough boy weepie. Such a strong flavour that I’d say you’ll either be in by Stevie Wonder’s dreamy but overtly earnest theme song or you’ll reject it whole heartedly. Maybe that explains why it was more one of my sister’s movie than mine own growing up. Then again that might have had to do with shots of Rob Lowe getting out of the shower than any of the gauche male bonding. The acting is pretty variable, with Tom Cruise amusingly turned up to ELEVEN whenever he thinks he is being lost in the middle ground. Beyond the casting coup, Coppola seems happy playing this one relatively straight. There are some baroque edits and an over reliance on pathetic fallacy but in general this feels like an exercise in restraint after the excesses of Apocalypse Now and One From The Heart. Oh… And Tom Waits.
John Schlesinger directs Tom Courtenay, Wilfred Pickles and Julie Christie in this British kitchen sink drama where a restless lad fantasises about a life less ordinary but reality is catching up on all the lies he has told.
God, Schlesinger hates these characters. Looking down on their values and limitations with a brutish derision. Only Christie’s free spirit and Finlay Currie’s ageing voice of disjointed reason get any kind of sympathy. Schlesinger always attacks both the status quo and the change in his assessments of the Sixties. This film has somehow gained a reputation for being quaint and cosy yet it is absolutely scabrous. The ending is a gut punch… even though it only involves milk, a suitcase and a train leaving a station.
Harold Becker directs Al Pacino, Ellen Barkin and John Goodman in this cop thriller where a detective tries to find a serial killer who is selecting their victims from the lonely hearts ads and then falls for the only suspect he hasn’t cleared.
Becker struggles to find a consistent tone here with Richard Price’s script. Scenes shunt awkwardly from hard boiled policier into the realms of erotic thriller and then over to romantic comedy with little grace. The whole shebang is essentially a heterosexual Cruising. Yet Pacino feels untethered, struggling to match the unusually aggressive heat generated by an outstanding Barkin or that natural charisma of Goodman. It proves a grand movie for character actor spotting; half the cast of The West Wing is floating about while Richard Jenkins, Michael Rooker and Samuel L Jackson get memorable moments. Shame that as both a star vehicle for Al and a straightforward genre piece in general it is pretty meh.