Paycheck (2003)

John Woo directs Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman and Aaron Eckhart in this sci-fi thriller where a man has his memory wiped to delete the corporate espionage he has committed – only to wake up and find he has forfeited his million-dollar paycheck for an envelope of small random everyday objects.

Based on a Philip K Dick story. And it has that familiar shape. Man has his brain messed with. Tries to figure out who he is while the insidious authorities chase him all over town. Problem is everyone is off form and out of sync. The “future” is too subtle… no Total Recall or Minority Report world building here… and therefore underwhelming. The central conceit of the hero escaping scrape after scrape using his ingenuity to figure out which trinket gets him out of which trap never really has a bold enough pay-off to be worth championing. Woo reigns back the action. Only a kinetic motorbike chase has the old The Killer magic. He’s more interested in making a romantic, suave riff on North By Northwest or To Catch A Thief. But Affleck (who you know I like) is too smarmy and jock-ish to be a Cary Grant… while Thurman is not given enough screentime. The frustrating thing is if even two of these missteps were rectified then there would be quite a decent action romance here.

5

Perfect Double BIll: The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Reprise (2006)

Joachim Trier directs Espen Klouman Høiner, Anders Danielsen Lie and Viktoria Winge in this Norwegian drama about two friends who are each young authors who struggle with the reaction to their first novels.

Starts with a real energising kick but ends up feeling like a literary circle American Pie. More often boorish rather than smart (though that may be the point) and it is hard to care about these poor little rich kids with their doubts and issues.

6

Perfect Double Bill: Listen Up Philip (2014)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Movie of the Week: L.A. Confidential (1997)

Curtis Hanson directs Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe and Kevin Spacey in this 1950s period Neo-Noir where three very different police detectives approach a labyrinthian case.

Brian Helgeland’s keen script and Hanson’s skill at shorthand storytelling shine in this crisp Hollywood police mystery. One of those 90s releases that was a success on every level. Box office hit, critical acclaim, award darling, has remained part of the cinematic conversation… so when I say I really, really like it, it feels like I’m somehow doing it a disservice.

The cast is perfect. I get the feeling Brian Helgeland (who adapted James Ellroy dark, dense, engorged novel) had the most pleasure with building and introducing these characters. Each one flawed by the very psychology that drives them, that defines them. Pearce’s clean cut Ed Exley, is greedily ambitious and without loyalty. Crowe’s Bud White a white knight for a damsel-in-distress whose urge to violence pigeonholes him. Spacey’s fame hungry sharp is all surface, no heart, until his conscience is ressurected.

The mystery resolving itself is done slickly, with an iconic and fantastic third act reveal (“Rollo Tomasi?”), but it isn’t the later cool stuff that clings to the memory banks. After we meet everyone, get the measure of them and their foibles, there is minimal fat on the storytelling. Which is a slight shame as the more indulgent moments are the highlights and the action sequences are lean rather than beefy. L.A. Confidential moves at such a clip that very few individual moments stick… you are left days and weeks later more with a vibe and a feeling rather distinct memories of classic scenes.

This is popcorn for adults. Debonair, crafted, polished, wise. The nasty edges of Ellroy’s text are smoothed, the allure of sleaze and corruption dominate over the violence. Hanson builds a ‘straight out of central casting’ world of fresh lines, unsmudged suits, not a hair is out of place. Like Kim Basinger’s prostitute made to look like Lana Turner, an immaculate forgery, taking us to us to a lost era of glamour and unattainability, making its forbidden erotic nature at the very least almost touchable for a couple of hours.

9

Perfect Double Bill: Mulholland Falls (1996)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022)

Halina Reijn directs Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova and Rachel Sennott in this murder mystery at a Gen Z party where bratty rich kids keep turning up dead.

Self-centered. Glowstick hoops. Lit by never ending cell phones in invincible flashlight mode. Figured out the whodunit mystery aspect very early doors so this held very little for me. There’s no set-pieces per se (Do not go in expecting a hipper Scream) just a lot of running around in the dark, screeching and saying buzz words. Good ensemble playing irritating characters and I’m a bit too old to care about what is being satirised. Rachel Sencott is MVP – a screechy, whiny, bouncing Energiser bunny. Not sure it can be categorised as ‘Horror’ in even the loosest sense?

4

Perfect Double Bill: Spree (2020)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Little Dieter Needs To Fly (1997)

Werner Herzog directs Dieter Dengler, Eugene Deatrick and himself in this documentary character study where a poor German immigrant who became a U.S. fighter pilot talks about his capture by the Viet Cong.

“Duane, my friend, he was gone, and from then on my motions, my progress, became mechanical. In fact, I couldn’t care less if I would live or die. But then later on, there was this bear, this beautiful bear that was following me. It was circling me in fact sometimes. It was gone and I missed it. It was just like a dog, it was just like a pet. Of course I knew this bear was there, he was waiting to eat me. When I think about it, this bear meant death to me. And it is really ironic. That’s the only friend I had at the end, was death.” I could listen to Dieter Dengler talk about his series of unfortunate events for hours in that teutonic upbeat monotone. Herzog knows he has gold. Full of wonderful moments, bleak and humane.

9

Perfect Double Bill: Rescue Dawn (2006)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Fear Street Part 3 1666 (2021)

Leigh Janiak directs Kiana Madeira, Elizabeth Scopel and Benjamin Flores Jr. in this time hopping slasher conclusion to the cursed town trilogy.

We go back in time (astral projection shit I think) and learn that if a straight white man did a curse 500 years ago then his ancestor is definitely still up to nefarious deeds. No further questions! Picks back up with a bright finale in the 1990s mall. This whole trilogy feels like rough first draft towards something superior.

5

Perfect Double Bill: Fear Street Part 2 1978 (2021)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Shirley (2021)

Josephine Decker directs Elisabeth Moss, Odessa Young and Michael Stuhlbarg in this fictionalised representation of horror writer Shirley Jackson’s toxic marriage.

Fine cast, especially Moss, and you definitely feel like you are seeing a film by an auteur. Decker’s house style is tactile, fraught, intimate and discombobulated. I’m not sure I’m a fan of it but the film is her own and it feels remarkable that such stand alone voices are emerging within the current marketplace. Jackson’s marriage is reimagined, viewed through the spectrum of a fictional younger couple… who poetically mirror the real Jackson / Hyman pairing from only slightly better, earlier days. Personally I’d prefer a bit more horror rather than the trauma of a sour relationship but I can’t fault that Decker has achieved her intentions.

6

Perfect Double Bill: Mary Shelley (2017)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

The Walker (2007)

Paul Schrader directs Woody Harrelson, Kristin Scott Thomas and Lauren Bacall in this Washington D.C. drama where a gay gent who escorts and gossips with the wives of Capitol Hill is embroiled in a murder.

Robin Williams. John Goodman. Woody Harrelson. A rare breed of sitcom stars who transcended their famous breakout roles, became cinema A-Listers, who are as comfortable in drama as in comedy. When Fred Gwynne turns up in a flick you can only think of Herman Munster… there’s no need for green face paint or bolts in the neck. Could Courtney Cox BE any more like Monica? Yet Woody has had a prolific and admirable career traversing genre and prestige nimbly. Natural Born Killers and The Walker are the two times he really pushes himself. Neither film is wholly successful but Woody is consumate throughout.

Is Schrader particularly comfortable with a homosexual protagonist? His understanding of the gay scene seems to spring fustily from Friedkin’s Cruising and Tom of Finland. This aside though, it is a boon to see a movie where the lead happens to be gay (camp but complex) but the legs of the plot would work just as well however the sexual orientation of the character is defined. Schrader is far more happier muck raking through Guantamano and Industrial Military complex in general rather than deep diving into his character’s love life. So there’s that.

As a murder mystery it never really gels. As a delivery system for Harrelson’s velvety charmer sharing the stage with three ladies of Hollywood royalty, it is a hoot. These scenes of catty bonhomie fade away in the second half. What replaces them is pretty bog standard. There’s definitely a better movie in here. But as a showcase for Harrelson, it is well worth a look.

6

Perfect Double Bill: The Card Counter (2021)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

The Hot Chick (2002)

Tom Brady directs Rob Schneider, Rachel McAdams and Anna Faris in this body swap comedy where a bitchy but beautiful teen swaps bodies with a schlubby scumbag dude.

Not as awful as I suspected but it is pretty telling that the funniest gags barely involve Schneider at all.

4

Perfect Double Bill: Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigilo (1999)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

The Lost Daughter (2021)

Maggie Gyllenhaal directs Olivia Coleman, Jessie Buckley and Dakota Johnson in this drama where a grumpy academic goes on holiday and makes an enemy of a family of tourists who act like they own the place.

A low key film with some really compelling plot developments and moments of character study. I agree with some of its overall sentiments on how not everyone is cut out to be a good parent and very few children are good company to be around for prolonged periods. Having said that… it is pretty miserable throughout and Dakota Johnson (who may not be the best actress in the world) plays the only cog in the ensemble who is complicated enough to be appealing. Fine performances but not enough joy to make you watch twice.

6

Perfect Double Bill: The Glass Castle (2017)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/