Roger Donaldson directs Sam Neill, Warren Oates and Ian Mune in this dystopian thriller where a man goes on the run in New Zealand when a dictatorship and a rebellion movement begin to clash around him.
Supposed to be a allegory for the Vietnam war – imagining what New Zealand would be like if an occupying force, an extremist government and a resistance movement were to occur. And it actually starts quite strong with young Sam Neill trying to go “into the wild” and live on a deserted island while everything goes to shit. But the twists occur way too haphazardly, you never really get your bearings. The always welcome Warren Oates crops up as a fuck happy Yankee colonel, there’s a few relieving bursts of action… Eventually, it just disintegrates into thirty minutes of Neill and the lefty who is fucking his wife endlessly shouting “rack off, mate” at each other in a jungle. Boring.
José Ramón Larraz directs Marianne Morris, Anulka and Brian Deacon in this erotic horror movie where two bisexual wraiths hitch hike to lure middle aged men back to their creepy mansion.
More soft porn than terror-fest yet it ends in an absolute barnstormer freakout of blood letting. A real gear shift. Works for Hammer Horror fans who want something a bit more “Dirty Mac”, works for folk horror fans who don’t mind leaving their brains at the door. Not sure how I feel about the Nuts In May subplot following the boring couple in a caravan who are accidentally parked next to all this sex and murder… and the whole wrap-up actually churns up more questions than it does answers. But it has a winning hazy wet dream attitude and that kinda swagger ain’t ever going to cross all the Ts and dot all its Is. The most mindlessly enjoyable thing we’ve tried with my Arrow streaming subscription so far.
Vincent Ward directs Hamish McFarlane, Bruce Lyons and Chris Haywood in this time travel fable where a Cumbrian mining community dig through the earth to escape the Black Death and end up in Eighties New Zealand.
One I’ve waited decades to watch, probably building it up a little excessively in my head due Vincent Ward’s near infamous relationship with personal favourite Alien3. This is the movie that made 20th Century Fox bet the farm on a xenomorph threequel set on a wooden planet populated by monks… only to get cold feet weeks before the shoot started. Honestly, as much as I would love to have seen his unrealised iteration of Alien3 I think things worked out for the best… even if many people, including David Fincher, would disagree. The Navigator itself, away from its footnote status in one of the greatest movies franchises… is fine. A good concept, that often looks fantastic, especially the monochrome medieval sequence… yet doesn’t really have enough character work and incident to make it more than a one-watcher. Don’t give up on it though, it actually outgrows it calling card debut nature in the very final moments, delivering a surprise coup de grace when it should be powering down. A fine little indie movie matching the ambition of early Luc Besson but not quite as fun.
Dwight H. Little directs Steven Seagal, Keith David and Basil Wallace in this action thriller in which a DEA agent returns home only to find his old town is overrun with drug dealing yardies.
Has the same roulette wheel random plotting of any Seagal movie. The ball lands on a South of the Border foot chase, HELLO DANNY TREJO, then a whore gets shot between the exposed titties, then we are retiring, then we are back home, then we are… NO! Let the erratic journey sweep you along. It feels better than most bog standard Seagal product without jumping any of the expected rails. The violence is notably gorier. Hands are lopped off, heads carried about. It gives Predator 2 a run for it money as a major studio general release that goes full Grand Guignol. They’re both from 1990, they both feature Jamaican voodoo crime gangs. This one is far more racist. Almost knowingly so. Every act a character takes 10 seconds to pause, turn to camera and begrudgingly tell us not all West Indian immigrants are like THIS. But as movie villains go Basil Wallace utterly delivers as Screwface. Unpredictable, unwavering and imposing… he’s an unsung high point in late 20th century action cinema. Body parts and bad guy aside this otherwise is rote Seagal guff… but if Under Siege is unavailable… then Marked For Death has to be your next best choice.
Miloš Forman directs Jan Vostrčil, Josef Šebánek and Josef Valnoha in the Czechoslovakian satire where the annual piss-up goes awry when the committee members get distracted from the tombola and award ceremony by a beauty contest and a fire.
Recalling Dad’s Army as much as any satire. A silly damnation of leaving the old guard (and the patriarchy) alone to organise anything. It can feel a little one note and drawn out at times yet always finds a apocalyptic crescendo eventually. You can see why Forman was tapped on the shoulder by Hollywood to direct One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest after this. The marshalling of an unglamorous flock of faces and the mundanity of madness… well, he has commendable form.
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck directs Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Muhe and Sebastian Koch in this German period political drama about a Stasi surveillance expert who begins to obsess over the actress and dramatist whose lives he is assigned to investigate.
The observer effect… seeing is changing. Even if here the changes most readily occur in the investigator himself. Being one floorboard above all this art, love and humanity opens him to the possibility that the state he works unwaveringly for might not have an individual‘s happiness at heart. von Donnersmarck’s perfectly crafted drama has so many moments of cinematic poetry and images repeated from different angles that it can feel overwhelmingly smarter than you or I. In a good way. My favourite I noticed for the first time this showing is how the playwright and actress’ home becomes a drama we are watching like theatre and how HGW XX/7 essentially become both audience and director for their little play… even arranging cues from his little backstage booth. This is a work of a consummate cinematic artist who has interrogated every image, line, interaction, casting and edit before committing it the screen. And despite being laboured in its construction, it never feels pretentious or overly showy. Like our grey little spy we get swept in the lives of others hoping for a reprieve or a glimmer of grace. Yet the “mighty wheel” of the GDR turns mercilessly, no matter what little swells of personal freedom spring up in each lead. The true irony of setting this in 1984 is not the cute Orwell parallel but that we the viewer know that the communist state is due for an imminent collapse. These characters only need to hold out five more years and their acts of rebellion and their tortuous consequences will no longer feel like life sentences. I instantly loved this on release and am kicking myself it took my 15 further years to revisit such an indisputable modern classic. Whenever we make it to Berlin we go to the Stasi museum which is used here as non-fictional location. Both that institution and this movie offer a fascinating insight into a regime that existed in our lifetime. Though obviously Koch and Gedeck mean the movie is a far sexier and meatier experience than walking around looking at exhibits.
Harley Cokliss directs Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Hamilton and Robert Vaughn in this action thriller where a master thief must recover a stolen prototype car from a gang of high-end chop shoppers who operate out of twin skyscrapers.
Why does the experimental super car look so rickety and basic? Why does beautiful Linda Hamilton always look constipated during her sex scenes? Why does this feel so so much like a slightly harder edged episode of Streethawk, Airwolf, Knightrider, The A-Team etcetera etcetera…? The cat burglar caper stuff works best. The baddies operate out of two office towers just so the electric razor on wheels can smash through one glass window and then glide over mid air to the other. Based on a script by THE John Carpenter.
Olivier Assayas directs Connie Nielsen, Charles Berling and Chloë Sevigny in this erotic thriller where a corporate double agent finds herself manipulated by everyone during the company takeover of an animated Japanese adult entertainment firm.
Even though it begins rather staid and muted this is not a film to watch on public transport. An uncanny mix of Videodrome and The Office the thriller aspects are undercranked but decent. Connie Neilsen’s business suited spy is slowly and emotionlessly exposed to extreme deviant pornography while being dominated by ever changing antagonists. Pretty much everyone pulls her strings at some point (controlling her like a cam girl in many ways), and because half the film she is casually watching hardcore imagery then by association so are we. Assayas is trying to make another one of his cold, detached essays on how modern life is rubbish. Everything we see from our POV clearly is not the full story, though you’ll probably guess how it is going to end very early on. It passes an evening neatly but doesn’t stick. It does however have a shot of Chloë Sevigny playing PlayStation in the nude so it certainly isn’t unworthy of a watch.
Navot Papushado directs Karen Gillan, Lena Headey and Paul Giamatti in this action movie where an assassin follows in her mother footsteps and goes rogue against “the firm” she works for.
Positives First… The ladies look spectacular – especially the librarian trio of Michelle Yeoh, Carla Gugino and Angela Bassett. The baddies are well cast. The production design of the whole thing has a quirky sensibility. Here clearly is a movie made by people who love exactly the same movies as you and I and aren’t ashamed of it. The eclectic soundtrack digs up a fair few forgotten favourites. All’s gravy then? Not exactly, sadly. The Kill Bill / John Wick-esque world building feels uninspired. The action is filmed and edited quite flatly. The whole thing feels pretty lifeless. Like a tracing exercise rather than a work of art in its own right. You desperately want to ignore the negatives, hail a new cult action classic but it actually gets boring by the midway mark. This is a project with so much going in its favour that you shouldn’t be looking at your watch quite so early on.
David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker direct Danny DeVito, Bette Midler and Judge Reinhold in this crime comedy where a sleazy millionaire’s shrewish wife is kidnapped and he hopes the criminals will save him the job of killing her.
Reagan’s America at its day-glo spandex bleakest. DeVito’s comedy chops smash through the convoluted plot and the scenes without him are noticeably weaker. Scabrous, a pitch perfect nasty piece of work, I laughed loads at this. The ending lands like Eighties Comedy Movie bingo – a cavalcade of police cars, cars careening off piers, a cuddle on a beach. The executive mandated soundtrack, featuring overly pacy cuts from Jagger and Joel… rediscover a priceless relic. I’m probably exactly the right age to enjoy this a little more than it deserves. There’s still a part of my brain that grew up thinking all cinema should feel, look, sound, play like Ruthless People.