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Film Review 9th Nov

Here I am again, watching films (particularly of the streamed variety) so that you don’t have to! I’ve been not been watching too much recently so I think these reviews are more ad hoc than weekly (let’s face it, it doesn’t matter!!).

First up is, ‘Bedroom Window’, which you can see on Amazon. At nearly 2 hours this 1987 film is way too long for the thriller bracket. It was directed by Curtis Hanson (who went on to greater success with L.A. Confidential amongst others), who is doing his best to ape Hitchcock but comes off like a weak lemon drink version of Brian de Palma, which I actually think is the film’s intention. It definitely wants to take something like ‘Blow Out’ as it’s inspiration but instead of Travolta and Allen we get Guttenberg and McGovern – which, as said, is a diluted drink indeed.

Yes, I said Guttenberg! I am sure he is a lovely man but I’ve always disliked him as an actor – the smug Tom Hanks. Only passable in Short Circuit – the third best thing in it. He was in 3 Men and a Baby – unforgivable – as for those Academy movies…..He is OK here, but really unlikeable, when he’s supposed to be likeable. Elizabeth McGovern isn’t much better. Lucky to be in ‘Once Upon A Time in America’, the first section of her career was slowing down here. She struggles as the feisty love interest and when she tries to play ‘sexy’ in the barroom scene all I can see/hear is her vamping it in the style of Cora from ‘Downton Abbey’ – which brings a frisson which I don’t think should be there!!!! Also in the movie, and doing rather better, is Isabelle Huppert, who proves that she found her signature look when young and has stuck with it her whole life – some people are just lucky that way – I’m still waiting to find mine!!

The film is reasonable, it over reaches, but has that 80s cinematographic charm with lovely rich colours (very de Palma, who, himself,  was only being very Argento).

Rating: 3 …Afternoon killing fodder!

Next up, and one that I didn’t expect to recommend, is ‘El Camino’, the Breaking Bad sequel movie thing. I really wasn’t looking forward to this one. Don’t get me wrong I liked Breaking Bad, just not as much as other people and I think part of that was to do with my non-connect Jesse Pinkman, so the idea of a movie purely based on Aaron Paul’s character just didn’t thrill me…..

But, it works. Without the over-powering force of Bryan Cranston as Walt, Aaron Paul has the time and space to show us more of what he is capable of. 

The film looks at the time directly after the ending of the TV show and, through a succession of flashbacks, looks at what happened to Jesse during the final section of the last season. This gives the film the opportunity to briefly bring back several well-beloved characters, though at times these scenes could have been cut down a little. The running time of 2 hours is a little on the long side and there are definitely a few flashbacks that overstay their welcome a little.

Aaron Paul is great in this flick, but the highlight of the film for me is the cameo from Robert Foster, who sadly died last month, with ‘El Camino’ being his last film. He brings his usual hypnotising steadfast honest delivery to the role, wonderful.

Rating: 4..If you were a fan…don’t bother if you weren’t!!

On Netflix at the moment is Gasper Noe’s, ‘Climax’. I meant to see this last year at the cinema, but getting myself out proved to be difficult at the time. It’s a shame, as I think this would make a helluva experience in the darkness of a cinema. 

The film is based on a true story, which I don’t really want to mention too much for spoilers, and involves a bunch of dancers rehearsing for a show and partying afterwards. This being a Noe film you know you are going to be led on a colour-saturated nightmare journey. The film delivers the story over a series of sections – some dialogue to camera heavy, others purely contemporary dance pieces. This just about works increasing the tension and the that feeling that something is about to happen but at times makes things a little draggy. For example there are scenes of excess in this movie but they go on a little too long and I found myself wanting to fast forward to the next set up. 

Noe is an auteur, a rare thing in movies these days. You know it’s his movie from the get go. But, to steal another French phrase, he is a bit of an Enfant terrible, which means his films come with certain expectations and because of this I felt a little disappointed with this movie. There is a lot to like but it never seems to go that extra mile in either visuals or excess. I know there is no reason why he has to go the full ‘crazy’ but there’s always that expectation….That’s the problem with auteurs, they are often redeveloping their own art and therefore rework the same themes again and again. I would rather see this movie than a 100 Hollywood hack jobs though.

Rating: 3 Just for the dancing alone!

Talking of French auteurs that basically keep remaking the same film for the entirety of their careers, I also had another watch of Jean Rollin’s ‘Requiem For A Vampire’. Widely held to be his best film (but not by me!) it’s another of his ‘a couple (this time 2 female bank robbers dressed as clowns – don’t ask) fall into the clutches of an eccentric group of vampires’. It’s surreal and dreamlike with very little dialogue and a mid-section ‘erotic’ torture scene that still troubles the censors to this day. If you remember Hammer films not being able to compete with the ‘sexy’ vampire films from the continent, it was because of stuff like this. The movie is nice to look at but drags for me and that’s not because of the lack of dialogue

Rating: 2 There’s a piano in a graveyard!

OK, so fave film over the last 2 weeks was ‘El Camino’. 

Movie Week 27th Oct

Ok, so we overcame the hype and went to see ‘Joker’. Quite simply put, it’s the best movie of the year so far. It’s been a while since I’ve left a movie theatre feeling enriched for seeing a film and to think this was brought to you by the guy (Todd Phillips) that was responsible for the Hangover franchise. It’s also hard to imagine that this has come from within the DC universe. There is a great debate  at the moment about the worth of these superhero movies. Marty says they are not cinema and more like theme park rides. He’s kind of right though I think there is a difference between ‘cinema’ and ‘movie’. Marvel are movies, ‘Joker’ is cinema. Yes, the Marvel and DC cannons are trying to take on contemporary themes – good on them – it needs to be done but ‘Joker’ tackles it with far more weight.

Going in to see this film I was expecting to be disappointed. First there was the good reviews and then the backlash. Talk of incel, the shaking of the heads about the depiction of mental illness – it’s all smokescreen. I really believe some people out there don’t want you to see this movie. Some of the more average reviews complain that the movie is trying too hard to capture the zeitgeist. I’m not so sure that’s it goal. It seems to be a movie about mental illness, how we brush people aside for not fitting in to the capitalist plan and how we would like to pretend they didn’t even exist.

Joaquin Phoenix owns this movie and possibly now owns this character (sorry, Jared). His emaciated form dances through the film taking us on his journey of despair. My prediction is he will be nominated (and maybe even win) the Oscar next year. His mental illness is respectfully dealt with by the film – and as someone who struggles with depression and anxiety there was much to connect with – especially when he begs to have his medication increased simply because he wants to feel better. The frustration of having to deal with ‘the system’ is also addressed in a way that many of us can appreciate.

The main cast is fairly small, this film is ‘Joker’ after all but it was good to see Robert de Niro kind of hinting at his ‘King Of Comedy’ character. It’s been well documents that this film was inspired by Scorcese’s forgotten classic (I told you, Marty, this is cinema).

The movie looks great, Gotham has never been so New York and the soundtrack has plenty of interesting musical cues (but,again, the debate about the Gary Glitter song goes on). The use of ‘That’s Life’ is genius.

The film did well to stay with in the well known Joker backstory with a few twists, I would tell you one, but you wouldn’t get the joke!!!

Rating: 5       A huge recommend

We then tried to watch, ‘A Ghost Story’. It’s been added to the list of films we gave up on. It was not helped by the fact that we’d shared a bottle of wine but Casey Affleck with a sheet over his head  does not a movie make. I read one review that said that this film is 70% boring and 30% ……….. . I guess we were watching the 70% part. Not helped by the fact that we had to put subtitles on. Both Casey and Rooney Mara are kings of mumblecore.

Put the subtitles on!!!!

Ok, so it’s an easy winner this week. Go see ‘Joker

Film Week 20th Oct

First film. This week is American Psycho. I was inspired to watch this again after being disappointed by Lars von Trier’s movie ‘The House That Jack Built’ last week. I’ve not seen this film since it came out nearly 20 years ago (20 years!!!). I remember at the time being really reticent at the time about going to see it as I am a big fan of what was surely an unfilmable book. But, somehow they pulled it off and I think it’s become one of this book adaptations where fans of the book are satisfied with the outcome. OK,  so there was no way really could really get into the protagonist’s (Patrick Bateman) head and the scenes of violence would not get passed the cutting room floor but the film makers did well to push the book’s satirical look at capitalism.

Christian Bale delivers a bravura performance as the titular character. He has to dominate this movie and he does. There are also great supporting turns from Willem Dafoe and Chloe Sevigny.

Yes, the film is violent but actually seems pretty tame today. The film oozes of the lates 80s and director Mary Harron does a great job in recreating the times often subtle with camera angle choices and arranging the tableaux of the scenes. This was her last movie before she began work in the world of television.

A great little movie, the book though, is a classic!!

And that’s about it for this week. One lousy review! Illness is running rampant through the Hancox household so the planned trips to go see The Joker and Parasite came to nought. We did try to watch a couple of movies on Netflix, OK, so we had to peer round the mountain of cold-infused tissues that are littering the flat, but we gave it a go. We managed to give up on ‘Happy Death Day’ after about ten minutes. It’s a Groundhog Day meets Final Destination movie, we felt very old trying to watch it! We also watched a bit of ‘Futureworld’, but only because it had James Franco in it. For me and TheWife, James Franco is the new Nicholas Cage (high-pitched “What!”). Always overacting, always giving far too much of themselves to a role. No exception here. Franco is playing the villain (of course) and has gone for a novelty dirty teeth dental implant which only adds for his propensity to be ‘very real’. We gave up after 20 minutes, sated!!

The only other film I watched this week was Jesus Franco’s ‘Barbed Wire Dolls’. I’m not reviewing it as I’ll probably do a bigger piece of one of my favourite directors later on.  I recently bought the excellent book ‘Flowers of Perversion’ by Stephen Thrower which takes a look at the 2nd half of the maverick moviemaker’s career. For those of you that don’t know his work, Jesus made around 200 movies during his career, back in the day when it was all done on film. He is often described as one of the worst directors of all time. Yes, his films can be a bit dodgy, he was working on pitiful budgets, but usual during every movie there are unforgettable scenes, no, unforgettable moments of art that you never get when you watch the entire Marvel universe cannon back to back.

‘Barbed Wire Dolls’ is a WIP (women in prison) film. It was shot in a run down fort on the Cote d’Azur. It is sleazy, inane, deliriously camp but never boring and it features the greatest slo-mo sequence ever set to film (careful of the lightshade!!). A big recommend for Franco fans who haven’t seen it, the rest of you should give it a wide birth!!!!

Movie of the week: American Psycho – watch it on Netflix (and then buy the book)

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