Although the great Burt Lancaster has been dead for over twenty six years his movies hold a special place in my heart as one of the true film legends of the screen, an iconic presence, cheeky smile and steely eyes that could melt or pierce a heart at a thousand paces : starting his career back in the late 40s in Robert Siodmak’s fantastic noir film The Killers Burt Lancaster went on to have a glorious movie career acting with Hollywood legends such as Kirk Douglas, Gary Cooper, Deborah Kerr, Lee Marvin, Claudia Cardinale and so many more : my absolute top four is a small sample in the excellence of his work and in truth I could name so many more movie gems that I consider bonafide classics, films such as The Professionals with the great Lee Marvin, 1968’s The Swimmer, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral alongside Kirk Douglas, Sweet Smell of Success with Tony Curtis, Sydney Pollack’s wonderful Castle Keep and John Frankenheimer’s The Train : my absolute favorite and it’s a Burt Lancaster film I’ve watched more than any other is 1960’s Elmer Gantry directed by Richard Brooks, the film went on to win 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Burt taking home the Best Actor that year : so if you’ve not seen many of his movies and fancy a trip back to time when acting legends were truly that then take a peek at some of the films mentioned : Hope you enjoyed another of my Absolute Top Four till the next one….
A couple get stranded in an abandoned 6-meter pool alongside a deadly Crocodile that has recently escaped captivity : I love watching world cinema and recently discovered the work of Thailand’s Ping Lumpraploeng an excellent writer/director who’s latest work THE POOL captured my imagination, so without further ado here’s my movie thoughts : Theeradej Wongpuapan is one of Thailand’s most popular stars and his performance in The Pool is one of the main reasons the movie is so damn watchable, from it’s opening shots of Wongpuapan’s character Day slowly opening his eye’s to find himself in the depths of the drained pool and as he tries to fend of the jaws of this gnarly crocodile with a bucket I knew instantly this would be my movie jam : what I really look for in a good survival movie is whether it’s filmmaker can bring something new to the party and keep the film from being the same old…. well Lumpraploeng’s The Pool is certainly not stale, it’s inventive and for it’s 90mins runtime your truly on the edge of your seat : I love the way the film shifts it’s dynamic and goes from Day’s crocodile attack at the beginning to “6 Days Earlier…” it’s quite brilliant as we not only discover how Day and Koi find themselves at the bottom of this abandoned pool but we also get the build up to the events of those opening survival shots : along with it’s cast and location another triumph in creating the film’s high anxiety levels is the film’s sound, of course the growl of the Crocodile or the crack of thunder is effective and nerve jangling but it’s the atmospheric score that really does ramp up the tension levels : some of my favorite moments in the movie include that scene with an injured Day crawling through the underground drain tunnels and manages to get through an adjacent manhole… also that moment when Day tries to retrieve the tape from the open jaws of the basking Crocodile is nail biting… in these type of movies you can usually call a few things before they happen but I have to say that what happens to Lucky the dog absolutley floored me, it came right out of the blue and what followed straight after was insane and tough to swallow : so if you love your survival movies then look no further than Ping Lumpraploeng excellent THE POOL it’s SUPERB and highly ENTERTAINING ★★★★
For me the rules of a great Festive Movie are quite simple : try and make the person who’s watching feel good, put a big Cheshire Cat smile on their face and spread that heartfelt message of love, hope and well wishes far & wide : each year around early December our home is full of Christmas Cheer and we love nothing more than to revisit some of our favorite movies : alternate festive treats such as Die Hard and Gremlins, classics of yesteryear such as The Goonies and Raiders but without question each and every year the Absolute Top Four always get a looking : Richard Donner’s magnificent Scrooged, Frank Capra’s emotionally acclaimed It’s a Wonderful Life, The Griswalds send me into hysterics in Christmas Vacation and Ron Howard magical family movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas : for me these movies embody everything that makes this time of year so special……. what’s you favorite festive movies?
Following the loss of their son in a freak accident, a retired sheriff and his wife leave their ranch in Montana to rescue their young grandson from the Weboys, a dangerous family living deep in the heart of the Dakotas : if it’s action or light hearted entertainment your after then Let Him Go is certainly not for you, the sombre tone throughout is backed up by it’s hard hitting narrative, you’d think you were watching something by Taylor Sheridan but instead it’s directed by Thomas Bezucha based on a novel written by Larry Watson and what an excellent job he does too : watching two old pros in Lane and Costner deliver screen magic by simply talking around a breakfast table, drinking a coffee whilst on a roadtrip or sleeping the night in an empty prison cell is what I call BLISS and luckily for me there’s plenty of character investment in Watson’s sombre driven story, a real hearty, honest picture that examines getting old, loosing loved ones, abuse and fighting for what you believe in no matter what the cost : one of my favorite moments in the movie is when George & Margaret arrive at the Weboy’s for dinner and sit around the table, it’s polite until it’s not and your just made to feel as uncomfortable as the characters in the scene watching it all play out : overall Let Him Go is a real belter of a movie, it’s a slow paced, character driven mystery western that delivers an intense final act with stunning photography and a powerhouse display by Lesley Manville as Blanche Weboy ★★★★½
After falling in love, an infamous bank robber known as the In-and-Out Bandit agrees to return all the money he has stolen in exchange for a reduced sentence. But when two unsavoury FBI agents set him up for murder, he has no option but to go on the run and clear his name : although the film’s storyline is predictable, similar to those that have come before it’s Liam Neeson’s presence & acting chops that carries the movie forward, still looking convincing in a genre he’s owned for the last ten years or more and that saying something considering the veteran turned sixty eight in June, he’s also well supported by his knockout co-star Kate Walsh who’s not only a delight to watch but the chemistry between the two is extremely evident from the moment their characters first meet in the storage facility, the scenes between the two are superb : there’s also Jeffrey Donovan’s FBI Agent and his pet dog who make for a great double act, Jai Courtney’s turn as a dirty agent is fun if not a little samey and the fight in the hotel room and subsequent chase scenes with the rogue FBI agents trying to catch their man are pacey and well filmed : I would have liked to have seen more of Robert Patrick but overall Honest Thief is an entertaining, well oiled and effective action thriller that I had fun with and enjoyed ★★★½
A filmmaker seeks solace from her down spiraling career in a remote New York lake house, hoping to find some good old fashioned inspiration : It’s only fitting in the strangest of years that we should have one of the strangest of movies : BLACK BEAR is certainly that, mixed with it’s weird and mind bending plot Lawrence Michael Levine’s film is incredibly frustrating, thought provoking and full of the most unlikeable characters in a movie this year, but somehow Levine pulls it off Albeit with the help of it’s stunning location and engaging cast including Christopher Abbott’s Gabe, Sarah Gadon’s Blair both of whom are annoyingly bodacious in that first segment, to say their relationship is stormy is putting it mildly and last but not least Aubrey Plaza who plays the lead role of Allison, along with Ingrid Goes West and Safety Not Guaranteed this is Aubrey Plaza at her captivating, irresistible best, especially in the movies second half where she finds herself as the lead actress, a bit of a diva in a feature film being directed by Gabe : Black Bear is one of those rare movies that I don’t quite understand what went on, although I’m guessing it went something along the lines of a washed up artist who is struggling to find work decides to take a break in remote Long Lake New York to reinvent herself and hopefully find some inspiration so in the movie Levine shows us what’s actually manifesting in Allison’s mind and how certain things may have played out…. it’s only my interpretation of the goings on in Black Bear but nevertheless the movie certainly scores extra points for the performance level and it’s intriguing narrative, as days later I still find myself thinking of what went on in that lake house and what happened to Allison and that big Black Bear ★★★★
Two women in South Korea who are from different times connect through a phone call which interchange their fates in an unexpected & devistating way : the horror genre in South Korea is insanely exciting, beautiful and shocking at times and THE CALL from director Lee Chung-hyun continues that trend with it’s blistering violence, originality and crazy twists that leave you breathless when the film ends and your pondering what on earth just happened? : I love the way Chung-hyun slowly builds the tension making you belive one thing and then quickly turning the screw with flashes of diabolical cruelty that has an effect on both main characters in the movie, Kim Seo-yeon played by the wonderful Park Shin-hye recently seen in #Alive and Oh Young-sook played by the tremendous Burning actress Jeon Jong-seo, both actresses are top notch with Jong-seo delivering a searing display that’s quite unforgettable in the film’s final third : the camera work around the house by Jo Young-jik is tremendous giving each & every scene a darkness, a sense of foreboding and combine this with the film’s lightening and sound The Call really is a tense, agonising watch : there are loads of haunting moments in the movie but the highlights for me are Young-sook and the strawberry guy when he discovers the bags in the freezer is utterly bone chilling, those scenes with Young-sook being whipped by her adpotive shaman mother is terrifying, Kim’s dad disintegrating whilst sat in the passenger seat of a car she’s driving is mouth wide shocking and those final ten insane minutes will blow your mind : so if you love your South Korean horror or you’ve not seen any and want a superb introduction then check out Lee Chung-hyun The Call it’s SUPERB ★★★★
To save his declining business, Chris Cringle, also known as Santa Claus, is forced into a partnership with the U.S. military : There’s something strangely wonderful watching the legendary Mel Gibson play Santa in a Hitman Christmas movie that’s insanely dark yet mighty festive, filmed with lots of heart, a teeny-weeny bit of tongue in cheek and a wickid mind by those Nelms brothers who gave us Small Town Crime a few years back : along for the Sleigh Ride is the sublime Walton Goggins who collects authentic Santa pressies whilst filling out his calendar carrying out hits for anyone who requires his demented service, the stunning Marianne Jean-Baptiste who’s crazy good as Ruth Cringle, Santa’s devoted wife and Eric Woolfe aka: Elf 7 the foreman in Santa’s workshop : EVERY scene between Marianne and Mel is an absolute delight, talk about chemistry, the film’s finale is bloody and Goggins Skinny Man is central to all the mayhem and Chance Hurstfield who’s spoilt and cruel Billy is fantasic : so if you love your festive movies to include a side dose of Christmas magic featuring elves, cookies and that ever so sweet naughty or nice seasonal message mixed with a rather dark and brooding evil tone then FATMAN should be earmarked as a must watch this Festive Season : IT’S BRILLIANT ★★★★
A homeschooled teenager who is confined to a wheelchair begins to suspect her mother is keeping a dark secret from her : After enjoying 2018’s Searching I’ve been waiting for Aneesh Chaganty’s latest movie and let me say the wait was worth while : RUN is a messed up psychological thriller with two fabulous performances in Kiera Allen & Sarah Paulson, a terrific pace that quickens to white knuckle time early on and a premise in many ways that’s similar to Reiner’s epic horror Misery : Kiera Allen is remarkable in her film debut, she captures the torture her character Chloe endures throughout the movie and that scene when she attempts to escape through the window to reach another part of the house is anxiety racing, jaw dropping brilliance : and what can I say about the AMAZING Sarah Paulson, a wonderful character actress who’s roles in American Horror Story and Ratched have shown her depth as a top class performer, in RUN her psychotic side comes out to play, cruelty spilling from every pore and those moments in the pharmacist and nearing it’s finale in the hospital will have you on the edge of your seat : needless to say I highly recommend RUN and can’t wait to see what it’s filmmaker Aneesh Chaganty delivers next ★★★★
A former policeman wrestles with his personal demons and slow becomes obsessed with a hauntingly mysterious woman : So why is Alfred Hitchcock’s VERTIGO amongst the top tier of the great man’s work? yes Coppel & Taylor’s screenplay is as good as any in the genre, the way the great Jimmy Stewart tackles Scottie’s infatuation & fear of heights is superbly played out, the magnificent striking color’s used throughout literally take your breath away, it’s San Francisco backdrop add’s a certain comfort to each scene and Barbara Bel Geddes gives a career best in playing Scottie’s best friend Midge : all of these give VERTIGO it’s energy but for me the real spark comes from Chicago born Kim Novak and she is why us cinephile’s still talk about this GREAT 50s thriller today, it’s as alluring a performance I’ve seen in any of Hitchcock’s movies, her mystery, beauty and character switch still gives me chills each & everytime I revisit this cinematic classic : I love that moment when Scottie lays eye’s on Madeleine for the first time in the restaurant, Novak’s beauty against the red decor is a sight to behold : and take the moment around 95 minutes in by which time Madeleine has died, Scottie has spent some time in a hospital recovering and upon his release spots a young lady walking down the street that he thinks resembles his lost love, he follows her, knocks on her hotel door only to find a startled Judy Barton standing before him…. the acting from Novak in this scene is captivating, her mind working overtime, the dreaded guilt, the excitement and the possibility are all laid out bare by a vunerable yet driven Kim Novak performance : I truly love revisiting the GEMS from yester-year and there’s not many that better Alfred Hitchcock’s thrilling VERTIGO for it’s towering achievement in suspense, the camera work including the terrific zoom out effect and it’s undoubted beauty ★★★★★
To be honest I still find it hard to choose between Taxi Driver and Goodfellas as my favorite Scorsese movie so I have decided to pick the film that I watched first and although it came out in 1976 I didn’t get to watch it till the mid 80s and you know something? it hasn’t aged one bit, if anything it’s got better, it’s still as compelling and shocking as it was when I first loaded that VHS tape into my video player back then and pressed play : everytime I’ve revisited Taxi Driver since I drool over the way the film’s dark narrative takes you on this emotional rollercoaster that ends with a sharp jolt, relief and in some ways sadness, the way the seedy, dark streets of New York are captured, the innocence of Jodie Foster and the power & excitement a certain Robert De Niro brings to Travis Bickle, a complex character and a role that may just be his finest….
Born on the 17th November 1942 in Queens New York Martin Scorsese has directed some of my favorite movies of all times, he’s part of My Mount Rushmore of Movie Directors and is still one of only a handful of filmmakers that I would pay good money to watch his movies numerous times play out on the big screen : his pictures tend to use camera moves that are huge in scale, fill the screen and engulf you with this wonderful creation, some of his films use voice-over narration to only enhance the experience, my favorite’s include Goodfellas and Casino and he always uses the cream of the crop to bring his work alive, getting the very best out of stars such as De Niro, Keitel, DiCaprio and Day-Lewis : he’s been nominated 9 times for Best Director at the Academy Awards sadly only winning once for his 2006 remake of The Departed, and although I enjoyed it for me it’s bottom tier Scorsese : his next film Killers of the Flower Moon comes out next year and is a 1920’s crime thriller based on David Grann’s book of the same name and star’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro
One of my favorite Martin Scorsese quotes : I have a desire to tell stories. And I’m never quite satisfied
Number 2 of My Top 31 Horror Movies : After a struggling writer get’s a job looking after the Overlook Hotel as a caretaker for the winter, something happens to him and his family in extreme & unforgiving ways : Based on Stephen King’s best selling novel of the same name and directed by Stanley Kubrick THE SHINING is an unforgettable journey into the mind of addiction, isolation, family and supernatural terror that has effected me over the years since it’s release back in 1980, I don’t think I’ve ever drooled over or talked about a movie more than this horror masterpiece : very much like Jaws that was written by Peter Benchley The Shining is an example where the movie is better than it’s original source and the changes they made when bringing it to the screen were not only in my eyes justified but add so much to the film’s scare factor, it’s scale and overall stigma : take the main differences for example, the infamous twins that scare the life out of Danny in the movie are not in the book, the blood filled elevators spilling out into the hallway is not in the book, the atmospheric maze and clever icy cold climax is not in the book and the words Jack was typing all Work And No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy is not in the book, of course I have always been of the opinion that writers should never allow their work to be messed with & for some reason Stephen King allowed big chunks of his book to be altered, but I do believe that the changes made add so much to the terrifying nature of Kubrick’s masterpiece that watching The Shining without these would be a poorer experience : in fairness as with the Top Five Movies on the list The Shining could easily be Number One, it’s scares me because it’s about a family, their isolation and the effect The Overlook has on them all through the harshest of winters in Colorado : from it’s opening shots of the camera following Jack’s car up the mountain road to The Overlook accompanied by it’s hair raising score, Jack breaking down the bathroom door with an axe whilst reciting Little pigs, little pigs, let me come in. Not by the hair of your chiny-chin-chins? and the epic confrontation on the stairwell that involves a baseball bat there are just so many memorable scenes in The Shining but one of them always manages to mess me up and it’s when Jack chastises Wendy for disturbing his place of work in the hotel, you can see the pain etched onto Wendy’s face as her husband says “Wendy let me explain something to you, whenever you come in here and interupt me your breaking my concentration, your distracting me….” the scene is emotional as you not only start to fear for Wendy’s safety but also feel sorry for her and the way that she is being treated, it’s scary because you are now seeing the changes manifesting themselves in Jack and it’s sensational because of it’s deliverance by two actors on top of their game in Nicholson and Duvall : other factors that make The Shining such an amazing movie experience range from it’s eye catching us of color, including The Gold Room’s bathroom with it’s stunning red decor, Room 237’s evocative green & orange bathroom & the mesmerising carpeted hallways throughout, a terrific performance from Danny Lloyd who plays Danny, those tricycle scenes are just Iconic and his psychic abilities lend to some rather creepy, blood soaked images & that moment Wendy is trying to comfort her son and then sees the word REDRUM reversed in the bedroom mirror is unbelievably chilling : overall The Shining is an emotional rollercoaster ride, a character driven horror piece that’s as visually disturbing as it is stunning ★★★★★
Number 4 of My Top 31 Horror Movies : Fifteen years after murdering his sister on Halloween night, a young man escapes from a mental hospital and returns to Haddonfield to kill again : I’ve lost count how many times I’ve watched John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN : to me it’s the greatest slasher movie of them all, influenced no doubt in a small way by Bob Clark’s Black Christmas it just ooozes a tour de force in the horror genre that’s been emulated many times but never surpassed : Halloween was developed and put to film by Carpenter & Hill, on a shoe string budget of $300,000 and is the finest use of lightening, sound and music in the genre, with it’s eerie atmosphere, suspense that drips from each scene like the blood from Myers knife, Jamie Lee Curtis movie debut and an alluring, chilling score that cranks up the mood perfectly when required : from those early scenes of a young Michael Myers butchering his sister to it’s nerve jangling, exciting climax, there’s nothing quite like this slice of late 70s horror to get your heart pumping : John Carpenter’s Halloween is not gory or drenched in blood like many of the slashers that succeeded it but instead relies heavily on it’s suspense and effective story telling : it’s also the most immersive experience I’ve felt watching a horror movie in a theater, from it’s wide & open interiors to the creepy neighborhood shots capturing the street’s autumn look and the scene’s of Michael Myers masked figure stalking Laurie Strode at every turn, the photography combined with Carpenter’s score really does make you chew your nails frantically as the pace slowly builds to it’s terrifying crecendo : if like me you love your slasher movies then why not check out the newly remastered edition of this 1978 masterpiece, even after all these years it’s still the perfect slasher movie ★★★★★
Sean Connery was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1930 and died in The Bahamas this morning in 2020 : the film world has lost a legend, a hero to many including myself and an actor that spanned a 60 year career….. he escaped from Alcatraz, was a British Secret Agent, an Irish-American cop, a Soviet Submarine Captain, an Immortal Swordsman, was King Arthur, Robin Hood and Indiana’s dad….. may you rest in peace Big Tam…..