That Sinking Feeling (1979)

Bill Forsyth directs Robert Buchanan, Billy Greenlees and John Gordon Sinclair in this crime comedy where a group of unemployed Glasgow lads plot to steal a warehouse full of stainless steel sinks.

A quirky little low budget number littered with nice moments but a bit too thin and amateurish to hold your attention for its entire feature length. The running joke about the boy who really gets into impersonating a cleaning lady for the sake of the score has aged the best, surprisingly.

5

The Wind Will Carry Us (1999)

Abbi Kiarostami directs Behzad Dorani, Farzad Sohrabi and Noghre Asadi in this Iranian arthouse drama about an engineer stranded in a remote village waiting for an elder to die while he struggles to acquire milk and phone signal.

Kiarostami sure loves middle aged men driving around outskirts of towns meeting people and considering their mortality! I’m not sure I do quite so much but this was watchable.

6

Mystify: Michael Hutchence (2019)

Richard Lowenstien directs Michael Hutchence, Kylie Minogue and Paula Yates in this found footage documentary following the life, lovers and decline of the INXS frontman.

INXS was my very much one of my sister’s bands but I have nostalgia for their bangers… of which they have enough to earn their place in pop history. This documentary by a friend of the subject is strange in that rather than being a celebration as intended it feels a collection of backhanded compliments focussing on the failures, tragedies and misfires rather than the hits. While it tries to paint a positive portrait of Hutchence and justify some of his worst behaviour and poor reputation, it unwittingly only proves the case for his diminished standing. Worst yet the hits are skipped over like distractions. Only very candid footage of an incognito romantic interlude with Kylie in the Orient has the right mixture of intimacy, heat and glamour that these muso documentaries need to fascinate us and humanise their subjects.

5

Halloween 2 (1981)

Rick Rosenthal directs Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance and Dick Warlock in this direct continuation of Halloween… will a hospitalised Laurie Strode survive until dawn with the invincible Micheal Myers still on the hunt?

As with Rocky II, the producers / writers (Carpenter and Debra Hill) weren’t overly confident the returning audience would remember where the principals were left in 1978, so cheaply just rerun the final five minutes again at the top. There are tweaks… that clumsy peek at Michael’s face when he adjusts his mask is trimmed out and the lawn he falls down on and disappears from is now a verdant green rather than patchy late October soil. Then we get an hour of idling -new characters we don’t care about being introduced and old survivors having their screentime diminished to a minimum of shooting days. Jamie Lee doesn’t wake up until the final act, by which time Myers has offed a group of nobody nurses and candy stripers with seemingly anything but his trademark big knife. He’s evolving, bless his soul. It is a cheap-ish cash-in sequel with all the compromises and reheating such a production entails. But the final 20 minutes when Laurie Strode is back in final girl mode are pretty effective and explosive. Pudding worth waiting for. There’s also some garbled guff about pagan evil and hidden family histories that the series latched on to but has never really made work… For a stock slasher sequel, I kinda appreciate its unashamed utilitarianism. Roll on Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, a true underrated gem.

6

Halloween (1978)

John Carpenter directs Jamie Lee Curtis, PJ Soles and Donald Pleasance in this slasher classic where mute spree killer Michael Myers returns to his hometown for a night of murderous carnage.

I’m going to get into trouble for this review. My wife loves Halloween. Where as I’m a little more ambivalent to the Michael Myers franchise. And that schism of thinking isn’t really permitted in our marriage. We had wedding vows that contracted I must show unwavering fealty to her slasher favourites. I think I watched this the first few times comparing it to its contemporaries and found it lacking. There’s none of the dark fantasy of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Your Texas Chainsaw Massacre is gorier, gloopier and intense-ier. Scream is funnier. Candyman more mythic. Hellraiser more mindfuck disturbing. Friday the 13th has more titties. Evil Dead has Bruce Campbell. Halloween just feels to jaded eyes simpler, slightly unspectacular.

Now… for many… that is part of its allure. The original Halloween is a pristine genre film, fuelled by uncut voyeuristic stalking and neat jump shocks and a unique in 1978 warping of suburban normality. A lot of the above series took what Carpenter achieved with his elegant gliding camera and persuasively creepy score and iconic masked ghoul and then upgraded all of it with creature FX bells and whistles. The grammar of modern franchise horror was being established here. It is a synoptic text. Whether these modifications by other filmmakers who used Halloween’s simplicity as a jumping off point are improvements is down to your own taste, I guess my horror palette was defined by violating trees and souls being torn apart… so The Shape popping in and out behind bushes and laundry for an hour feels a little… basic. Ketchup when you’ve got a bottle of Mesquite BBQ or Garlic Mayo on your condiments shelf already.

The violence is PG-13 (only five people bite it!) and the canter is of a leisurely spook story. I’ll admit seeing it at the Prince Charles Cinema a few years back on the big screen at least broke me out of my average opinion of it. Watching Carpenter’s cinematic confidence on 35MM wowed me in a way the small screen flattens out. They even had a hulking Michael Myers waiting for us in the back row on exit.

And you get PJ Soles wearing her red cap. Donald Pleasance hamming it up as the exposition spouting scientist/ dirty mac Captain Ahab hunting / obsessing about a troubled mental patient / evil incarnate avatar {delete as applicable}. And the biggest name to breakout in slasher horror history, Jamie Lee Curtis herself. She’s a perfect movie star – DNA to personality – and while H1 doesn’t utilise her comedy chops, she is the correct balance of fresh likability, convincing vulnerability and desperate pluck.

Do I find Halloween scary? No. Does Myers get the monstrous imagination pumping like Freddy or Leatherface? No. While it doesn’t sate my demonic lusts I can now appreciate its milestone importance and effectiveness as a Friday night thriller. And that ominous synth theme music really thumps.

8

Une Femme est une Femme (1961)

Jean-Luc Godard directs Anna Karina, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean-Paul Briarly in this romantic comedy where after one sap refuses to have a baby with his quirky stripper girlfriend one of their mutual friends tries to swoop in.

A pair of nerds squabble and neg Anna Karina for her heart. Very playful cinema but not much substance, pretension outways impact. Every woman is a stripper, in Godard’s world, ruled by her fantasising heart, so if there is substance, it is dully misogynistic. That doesn’t change how chic and magnetic and sexy Anna Karina is in a series of tricolour outfits. We aren’t watching for cod philosophy… non?

6

Movie of the Week: Porco Rosso (1992)

Hayao Miyazaki directs Michael Keaton, Cary Elwes and Kimberly Williams in this animated adventure were a gruff WWI fighter pilot has been turned into a pig but carries on battling seaplane pirates.

Thrilling action, broad comedy and sexy romance. The lead pig is a brilliant mixture of Humphrey Bogart or John Wayne. I watched the dubbed version and was glad I did for once. Keaton’s voicework really imbues a tough, taciturn manliness to the part. There are elements that are bonkers and fantasy stylings that come quite left of field but this is often as big and as captivating as an Indiana Jones adventure. The animation of the moving landscapes in particular is seductive. Thoroughly enjoyable blockbuster spectacle.

9

Seberg (2019)

Benedict Andrews directs Kristen Stewart, Anthony Mackie and Jack O’Connell in this biopic of the Sixties movie star whose private life was hounded by the FBI after she showed support to black militant groups.

So…. there are two ways to approach Seberg the film. 1. An opportunity to see Stewart – a magnetic movie star who makes daring choices of projects – in loads of lovely, chic outfits and a role that stretches her quiet, introspective persona. 2. A fumbled biopic that lacks veracity and prosecuting bite. When not focusing on Jean Seberg the movie does struggle. The depiction of the various men who exploited, abused and defamed her certainly lacks purpose. All but Vince Vaughn’s brutish fed are gifted a little too much humanity. These men either stalked her or abandoned her, they don’t deserve the strange objectivity the film affords them and it steals focus from the main event. Likewise the writers try a little to hard to disentangle Seberg from the Black Panther Party… a violent organisation even if you agree with their ultimate goals. Does anyone in 2020 care? And maybe that’s the hurdle Seberg the movie truly cannot leap. The similar Judy or Stan And Ollie appeal to a nostalgic older Grey Pound market, affording the lead mimics juicy roles and trading on the cache of still iconic figures. The persecution of Jean Seberg is a far more fascinating, heavy story to tell as she is hounded and destroyed by powers beyond her recognition. But the subject matter is no longer a household name. The tale of a forgotten star driven mad by a government agency she only became aware of when it was way too late means a lead role that lacks heroics and intercession. The biopics takes pains to change that or distract from it but then we wander too far away from the star attraction in doing so. I like Jack O’Connell, I don’t care that his fictitious spook had reservations about the lies and damage his surveillance was generating. In all honesty, I ignored a lot of Seberg’s flaws and inherent handicaps and enjoyed it the first way. Watching a luminous Stewart quietly dominate scenes of seduction and martyrdom was what I bought a ticket for and she delivered. Dial back the noise and Seberg is a solid showcase for her unique gamine talent. Like her subject matter, she is a mesmeric, risk taking star.

7

The Gentlemen (2020)

Guy Ritchie directs Matthew McConaughey, Hugh Grant and Colin Farrell in this London crime comedy where a retiring weed magnate finds his empire under threat just as he puts a pricetag on it.

Not Snatch or Revolver level but sits happily above Rock’N’Rolla which was perfectly adequate. It is all just a chaotic pantomime of The Long Good Friday. Silly as it is saucy, indulgent as it is incorrigible, naff as it is naughty and unoriginal as it is unoriginal. Imagine if Tarantino kept remaking Reservoir Dogs between gun for hire work on franchise fare for decades on end? It works to be honest (we took my parents and they both enjoyed it) and I think the main attraction of these dated, daft shaggy dog stories with hard man posturings is they give beloved stars showy turns where the pressure is off. Charlie Hunnam has never been better as the prim bagman. Farrell is a riot in a role that takes him away from his current mid budget arthouse community and let’s him misbehave a little. Michelle Dockery impresses as our queen of crime. A camp and verbose Hugh Grant walks away with the film in a body bag with his skeevy tabloid hack / narrator… the brilliance of ironic casting. Only McConaughey, the defacto headliner, feels a little underserved and lost in the shuffle. Ritchie’s formula still works for an undemanding, chuckle heavy, laddish night at the multiplex… even if attempts to obfuscate the plot and update the vibe (Drill! Fight porn?!) feel baggy rather than improvements. Probably the best thing you can see at a multiplex this weekend, certainly the finest attired cast.

7

A Taste of Cherry (1997)

Abbi Kiarostami directs Homayoun Ershadi, Abdolrahman Bagheri and Afshin Khorshid Bakhtiari in this Iranian arthouse drama where a man drives around the outskirts of his city trying to find someone to help him with a mysterious task.

Eating my greens? A Palme d’Or winner about a man contemplating mortality in a car on an obscure quest. Should be boring? Doubt I would have gotten much out of it back in 1997 with The Fifth Element and Face/Off frazzling my receptors. Even now these kind of pretentious, minimalist works aren’t my cup of tea but this one has a decent simple hook that keeps you attentive until the end. If you can avoid reading synopsis then the slow drip revelation of what Mr Badii wants from the men he picks up and the glimpses of their working lives on the outskirts of society are all pretty worthwhile. Philosophical discussions are awkwardly had, landscape explored. I wouldn’t hold this kinda thing to the high standard film critics and award panels do but if you did want to dip your toe into non-genre foreign cinema than this is about as good as it gets. Just have patience with it.

7