Kiyoshi Kurosawa directs Hidetoshi Nishijima, Yūko Takeuchi and Teruyuki Kagawa in this Japanese thriller where a former detective looks into a cold case… meanwhile his wife becomes obsessed with their strange new neighbour.
An impressive slow burn mystery. I enjoyed it more than Kurosawa’s lauded Cure as it kept the same unsettling and foreboding air without derailing off into fantasy. Strange shit goes down in Creepy but it all stays just within the realms of believability and logic… Just! Kagawa’s discombobulating turn as the dodgy neighbour is the equal of Masato Hagiwara’s hypnotic enigma in Cure. Here the potential antagonist is a slippery, unctuous presence. He scuttles around like a crab and bursts into jovial friendliness like it is glitch in his programming. As Kurosawa calmly reveals what is going on next door you become enthralled with every fatal twist and teasing clue. A gleefully sure-handed thriller that would make a good double bill with Parasite.
Steve McQueen directs John Boyega, Steve Toussaint and Neil Maskell in this true story recreation of black British police constable Leroy Logan’s induction into the Metropolitan police in the 1980s.
I’m going to be a curmudgeon and say this is the first of the Small Axe series of films to feel more like television. With the exception of a paranoid one-shot steadicam pursuit through an industrial estate, this could be the anonymous work of a television journeyman prepping a pilot for a new series. Beyond Boyega (excellent as always) and Toussaint, the acting isn’t as universally accomplished as the first two movies either. McQueen settles on a very narrow arc… Logan realising his father’s combative and inflexible attitude towards the white police force as a racist oppressor is accurate. You can’t win over the Beast; not by being its equal or being its better, being its friend or playing its game. Much like being working class, the higher ups have rigged the rules. The Dirty Babylon is intractable. Watching that grind weaken a bright young man with such procedural successiveness is a flat, sobering watch. Maybe McQueen has intentionally, almost satirically, given this story the visual and texture of an episode of The Bill or Juliet Bravo but I kind of feel Leroy Logan and Boyega deserve a more expansive mode.
Guy Ritchie’s first film as a studio gun-for-hire. He seemingly has spent the second half of his career reimagining dusty properties and mangling them into his house style when possible. A bit like Tim Burton in many respects. His strength for deep drill ensemble work and bramble bush plotting survives here. It is a cheeky romp that suffers a few too many baggy scenes and constantly strives for a madcap “What Next?!” energy it never quite achieves. The non Conan Doyle sanctioned combat looks pulse-raising in a teaser trailer but leaves you just a little underwhelmed on your sofa. Downey Jnr. Holmes is ripped and roaring… Riggs to Jude Law’s Murtaugh. It isn’t a bad dynamic to update the classic pairing with but the sleuthing often seems an afterthought. If vague references to martial arts, cocaine and disguises can be dragged to the forefront, they are left there in place of Holmes outwitting a mystery through rigorous deduction. Hans Zimmer score is persuasively delinquent. Ajay Roy and Katie Spencer art direction quite deservedly was nominated for an Oscar. This is a handsome full tilt production, a fantasy ye olde ‘Lahndan’ to get lost in; whether chasing through the alleyways of Farringdon or duelling it out on the scaffolding of a half constructed Tower Bridge. There’s enough vim and spit to brush over the glaring flaws.
Spike Jonze directs John Cusack, Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener in this surreal satire where a puppeteer takes an office job only to discover a portal into Hollywood character actor John Malkovich’s head behind his filing cabinet.
More Charlie Kaufman. A movie that sits better in the memory a few days afterwards than while you are actually watching it. The unrestrained nuttiness of it all churns up some brilliant ideas and moments. Abelard + Héloïse through marionettes. The 7 and a 1⁄2 floor. “Shall we to the boudoir?” The chimp’s flashback. Malkovich in Malkovich. As a whole though, this is pretty bleak and abrasive stuff. Admirable in that it is never happy in itself, constantly moving to the next trap like shark seeking a new cage. Keener and Malkovich are excellent here. He is game in a way that feels like a coup even two decades later. Groundbreaking but not easy to love in actuality.
Charlie Kaufman directs Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons and David Thewlis in this surreal romance where a young lady accompanies her new-ish boyfriend to an awkward Christmas dinner; she is thinking of ending things, he is also lost in thought.
I’m going to give myself a big smug pat on the back for figuring out the solution to the cranium twisting puzzle very early on. What’s left is pretty indulgent – impressed with itself for leaping through a series of hoops ITOET has built only for itself. Then avoiding a satisfying conclusion. You can’t deny the perfectly designed bleak imagination of Kaufman’s world. Whether lurching into horror or sentimentality he pulls at your intellect and gets a deep psychological response. Much like the similarly depressing but accomplished Anomalisa or Synecdoche, New York you can only marvel so much at a film that burns it own rule book, a rule book that no other movie or storyteller bothers to follow. I prefer Adaptation or Eternal Sunshine as they have strong seams of warmth, hope and accessibility. Not in any way to diminish Kaufman’s incomparable achievements in modern Hollywood but much his shtick of a mediocre sad sack whose life falls apart with reality warping results doesn’t sit well with someone who has carved out such a precious and precocious niche within the industry. Comparable to Stewart Lee in stand-up comedy, you are watching an unusually victorious inventive outlier continually bemoan his lot and life in general. It doesn’t ring true when you permanently operate with budgets and technicians at the level his last three releases have enjoyed. You can’t be the voice of the loser AND have this much creative freedom. I find that worldview from people with massive loyal followings disingenuous. For those of us who look forward to his movies but haven’t drunk the kool-aid, this film only really is “entertaining” when Thewlis is behaving boorishly or when the implied terror at an ice cream parlour lurks just out of shot. That maybe adds up to 30 minutes total of a very gloomy, overlong, unruly yet undeniably gorgeous product.
John Huston directs Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet in this detective thriller where Sam Spade takes on a case to find the MacGuffin everyone wants their hands on.
A stone cold classic… that can feel a little stagey at first glance. The final twenty minute sequence is just the five principals waiting in a room and plotting as they do. That’s the movie’s spell though. The Maltese Falcon is what Tarantino would call ‘a hang out movie.’ You get a bunch of cool customers, some at odds with each other, most not exactly what they seem and then let them stew in the pot together for most of the running time. Bogart is pretty spicy as Sam Spade, always happy to try a bluff, not particularly scared even when he has the lowest hand showing. He makes quite a nice score in commissions and retainers off every conniver he meets. Lorre is awesome as the conman Joel Cairo, oily and reptilian – he is like a Disney jungle villain reverse-anthropomorphised. Mary Astor is the untrustworthy damsel. Elisha Cook Jnr. a pitiable bottom rung gunsel. Ward Bond is our friendly police investigator about five blocks behind everyone else on the case… especially when Spade spins him every point on the compass. Lee Patrick is the indomitable secretary cum confidant. You get the feeling she could be running Spade & Archer even if both gumshoes got blasted. And then there is the magnificent Greenstreet – jovial, verbose and predatory. Every gesture and aside is delivered with devilish flair by the master criminal. Allegedly he’s based on a real life overly ambitious swindler. The Fat Man here is a notorious pleasure. The sleuthing plot is impenetrable so just enjoy Spade’s bullshitting prowess when trapped in a room with all these jackals. 90 minutes in this company is “the stuff that dreams are made of.”
Michele Soavi directs Rupert Everett, François Hadji-Lazaro and Anna Falchi in this Italian horror comedy where a romantic slacker is in charge of a graveyard where the dead come back to life.
A bit like Evil Dead 2 or Braindead but with a more wistful, existential air. Everett makes for a quirky anti-hero… a kinda foppish Blackadder. The FX are good, no strange lurch in plot outstays its welcome. There are genuine surprises in this restless cult item.
James Foley directs Mark Wahlberg, Reese Witherspoon and William Petersen in this yuppie in peril thriller; here the family unit is threatened by an unusually nasty boyfriend their teenage daughter unwittingly brings home.
Like a key scene where RW❤️MW on a rollercoaster, this is a lot of awkward build-up, loads of bad choices at the peak and then we are thundering through a squidgy bloody fumble that is invasive and rushed. Marky Mark is better doing his fake little boy lost conwork than when convincing us he’s a full on psycho. Witherspoon and Petersen both struggle with characters who continually choose secret option: awful. The shockingly full on home invasion finale has multiple characters swap from cowardly to heroic to comatose within single scenes. As a teen Fatal Attraction or a slick Straw Dogs, it fills an evening. The cheesiest moments should become iconic if they aren’t considered as such already. Finger bang. Chest thump. Homemade tattoo. Dog’s head. Window toss. That doesn’t mean you should queue up and ride it again.
Daniel Kokotjlo directs Molly Wright, Siobhan Finneran and Sacha Parkinson in this British drama where a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses have their faith tested when both daughters come-of-age.
An immersive drama. You feel like you are taking a convincing peek into a subset of society you only see on high street corners and underpasses. The acting is attractive and uniformly convincing, especially after a couple of brave narrative choices. The cinematography by Adam Scarth is evocative without being particularly fussy. Not my cup of tea but faultless.
Phil Alden Robinson directs Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier and River Phoenix in this caper movie where a bunch of outsiders who test corporations’ security vulnerabilities are forced to steal a MacGuffin.
Hacking. Encryption. Surveillance. The first Brian De Palma Mission: Impossible owes this a sizeable debt. Though here the tone is kept breezily light. It is a nimble ensemble piece that fleet footed skips between comedy and conspiracy without ever wobbling into being too broad or too heavy. I watched this at the cinema as a young kid and it is family friendly only in that it is admirably bloodless and tells its shaggy tale with a clarity lacking from far superior films. I’ll probably be a pensioner next time I revisit it and I’ll gain just as much simple pleasures from it as pre-teen me did and middle aged me has.